NFL Matchup Predictions


AFC Championship – Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs – preview, predictions, bets

Friday, 22 January 2021 15:32 EST

Betting on the NFL playoffs can prove quite profitable – if one can recognize the truth among a forest of blaring narrative pumped out by media outlets. This is the time of year when we have the opportunity to realize that historical performance is not necessarily indicative of future results; postseason play may differ significantly from that of the regular season, but mathematics and certain realities never really change.

To this end, the recommendations that NFLbets is making for the AFC and NFC Championship Games go against the grain of common wisdom – but we’re confident that we’ll be banking moneys as the mean happily regresses in the late game…

Buffalo Bills +3 at Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 53 points

NFLbets hears the arguments for covering the Chiefs minus the points in this game: Patrick Mahomes is a freakish, generational talent; Andy Reid has been in this spot oodles of times; they haven’t been blowing opponents in the season’s second half (they’re on a 9-0 SU/1-8 ATS run) but doing just enough to win; and of course the current 24-1 SU (13-11-1 ATS) run.

But here’s a theory I’ve been expounding upon to anyone who will listen: Repeating as conference champions is difficult. In this century, the only team not named the New England Patriots to do so is the 2003-2004 Seattle Seahawks, and NFLbets dares say that team had a defense substantially superior to what the 2020 Kansas City Chiefs are bringing.

Meanwhile, all the Bills have been doing since their week 6 loss to K.C. is winning in any conditions, by any means necessary. They’ve won at day and at night, at home and away, in Pacific and Eastern Time Zones.  In the wildcard game against the Indianapolis Colts, Josh Allen produced 376 total yards, two passing TDs, a running TD and zero turnovers to overcome 450 yards of total offense from Philip Rivers & Co. Last week, it was the defense battening down the hatches, limiting the NFL’s leading rushing game to 150 yards and nearly pitching the shutout.

Add to the Chiefs’ disadvantages in this game the dinged-up state of at least three “skill players” on the offense: Mahomes will be going in at less than 100% with both foot and head/neck injuries. Sammy Watkins and Clyde Edwards-Helaire will both be returning from injuries as well. All three have been limited or non-existent at practices through Friday.

Finally, consider the Bills performance in 2020 thus far: Against playoff teams, Buffalo has now gone 5-2 SU/4-3 ATS, but hasn’t lost SU since the aforementioned week 6 match against Kansas City. The quarterback has made the proverbial Leap, flipping from near the bottom to near the top of the completion percentage charts during an MVP-type season. Stefon Diggs proved a perfect superstar addition and, with the Patriots fading, a changing of the guard in the AFC East is happening. Looking back on this team, we may realize the inevitability of the “upset” looking to take place on Sunday night.

So, yeah, NFLbets is saying take the Buffalo Bills +3 at Kansas City. Furthermore, we’re going out on a serious limb and throwing a few moneys on Bills to win by 14 or more points at 5/1; we’ll look like goddamn geniuses for cashing that one…

For NFLbets’ predictions and betting recommendations on Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3½ at Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, click here.

–written by Os Davis


NFC Championship – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers – preview, predictions, bets

Friday, 22 January 2021 15:19 EST

Betting on the NFL playoffs can prove quite profitable – if one can recognize the truth among a forest of blaring narrative pumped out by media outlets. This is the time of year when we have the opportunity to realize that historical performance is not necessarily indicative of future results; postseason play may differ significantly from that of the regular season, but mathematics and certain realities never really change.

To this end, the recommendations that NFLbets is making for the AFC and NFC Championship Games go against the grain of common wisdom – but we’re confident that we’ll be banking moneys as the mean happily regresses, starting with…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3½ at Green Bay Packers, over/under 52 points

When the numbers were totaled, the Packers ended the 2020 season having played against the NFL’s easiest schedule by opponents’ winning percentage on the way to earning the no. 1 seed in the NFC. Fair enough, but NFLbets isn’t sure why a similar emperor’s-new-clothes mentality isn’t taken toward the Buccaneers.

Until last week’s win against a New Orleans Saints team sporting a aged Drew Brees and crippled Michael Thomas, the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers had gone 1-5 SU/2-4 ATS against teams with a winning record. The sole SU/ATS came against these Packers in week 6, as Aaron Rodgers put in his single worst performance of the season. How much of an outlier was that game? The Green Bay offense has surrendered 11 turnovers *all season*; two came in week 6.

Consider: Under typical circumstances, when wouldn’t you bet on a cold-weather team with a Hall of Fame-level quarterback leading the NFL’s no. 1 offense on a 9-1 SU/6-3-1 ATS run against a warm-weather team prone to penalties and dependent on the bad play? Tampa Bay was down 10 points before the Thomas fumble essentially ended New Orleans’s season, and the hapless Washington Football Team shut down the Bucs offense for an entire quarter to get the FT to within 2 points going into the fourth quarter of their wild-card game.

So why is this line so low at all? Simply put, an irrational respect for the magic of Tom Brady. The truth is, however, that no one should bet on respect for career – ask anyone who covered Drew Brees’s team last week or Ben Roethlisberger’s the week before. Brady may be enjoying a more talented offense than he’d ever teamed with in New England, but his new team is hardly a model of Belichickian efficiency. Tampa Bay is just 14-of-31 on 3rd down in the past two games and, after getting a handle on excessive penalties in the season’s second half, seven mostly stupid flags kept the Saints in the game well beyond their expiration date.

The majority of action at the sportsbooks has been on Green Bay, driving the line to its present Tampa Bay +3½ from the +3 of Sunday night; this is the sole factor that gives NFLbets pause. But hey, maybe the masses aren’t blinded by the hype this time around. Take the Green Bay Packers -3½ vs Tampa Bay.

For NFLbets’ predictions and betting recommendations on Buffalo Bills +3 at Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, click here.

–written by Os Davis


Betting NFL divisional round games: Will Packers, Bills or Chiefs lose…?

Friday, 15 January 2021 14:19 EST

Betting profitably in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs in any season shouldn’t be too difficult – in a typical season. Through the past 10 years’ worth of divisional games, the favorite is an unsurprising 29-11 SU, but just 19-21 ATS which works out to very nearly exactly 3-1 SU/2-2 ATS annually.

Unfortunately, a closer look shows a reality far messier year to year: Four times, favorites only managed a split in the divisional round, but in three years swept the underdogs and the remaining three got a 3-1 SU result. Making things easier for NFL bettors is the remarkable consistency favorites hit. Since year 2000, only once have favorites gone 1-3 in a single divisional round and that was in 2009 – following the season in which Tom Brady was taken out in week 1 and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots missed the playoffs.

Divisional-round favorites are naturally even more consistent: Favorites have neither swept nor been swept ATS in this century. And favorites are currently on a blistering run in this round: After a brief run of 1-4 SU/ATS in 2017-18, top dogs are 8-1 SU/6-3 ATS.

Adding the numbers gives NFLbets boundaries, a frame of reference in which to bet this weekend’s games. We’re confident enough in our pick for Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints on Sunday night – in fact, we’ll more than likely be doubling down on ol’ Touchdown Tom provided Covid doesn’t torch Tampa Bay’s roster – to figure we’ve got the minimum number of SU “upsets” set. But can any of this round’s other underdogs cover the spread? Things don’t look great in the weekend’s dream offense vs defense matchup…

Los Angeles Rams +7 at Green Bay Packers, over/under 45½ points

If you ask NFLbets, the best money in this game would be in the proposition bet “number of players to throw a pass”, a staple in Super Bowl betting; we’d be willing to take the over on as high a line as 3½. Blake Bortles seems an extremely likely substitute for Jared “Pinthumb” Goff, particularly if the Rams are getting blown out at halftime. Meanwhile, we’re figuring Sean McVay will have to depend on at least a bit of trickery with such onus on the defense to win ballgames. (P.S. Johnny Hekker has yet to throw a pass in 2020-21 after averaging nearly 3 attempts per in his first eight seasons.)

In all seriousness then, the pertinent questions become a) How many points will the Packers score and b) To what extent can Aaron Rodgers & Co. be contained?

Exactly what can contain this Green Bay team, which is currently enjoying a crazy 8-1 SU/5-3-1 ATS run in which their only loss was in overtime at Indianapolis. At 13-3 SU, the Packers lost just once by more than 6 points – at Tampa Bay in week 6, certainly to be brought up ad nauseum should we get the rematch in the NFC Championship.  

And if you think weather could be a factor, consider that in 31 games played at 30°F or colder, Rodgers’s Packers are 24-7 SU and a sick 20-10-1 ATS; further denying expectations is the over, which has hit in 22 of the 37 games. Snow is not expected in Green Bay until Sunday, but since Bortles may arrive on Saturday, we’re thinking the Packers win handily; no upset here. Take the Green Bay Packers -7 vs the Los Angeles Rams.

Baltimore Ravens +3 at Buffalo Bills, over/under 49½ points

To double down or not to double down…? With bets on Buffalo to win the AFC Championship (at 6/1) and the Super Bowl (8/1), the smart play for NFLbets here would be to take the Ravens plus the 2½ and be done with it – but we’d be foolish not to consider the alternatives...

Truth is that even a few weeks ago, few bettor would think twice about giving the points in favor of the home team but after a too-close-for-comfort win over the Indianapolis Colts in a wildcard game, the Buffalo bandwagon emptied faster than you can say “Leon Lett is a no-good showboat.”

NFLbets isn’t exactly sure why. The truth is, the Colts put up 473 yards of offense with zero turnovers and enjoyed an absolutely terrible fourth-quarter performance from the Buffalo defense and still couldn’t pull out the win. The Bills are now on a 10-1 SU/8-3 ATS run; they’re 4-2 SU/3-3 ATS against playoff teams in 2020-21 and haven’t lost to one since the Chiefs game in week 6.

But nearly as hot are the Ravens with streaks of 6-0 SU and 7-0 ATS, though the win over the Tennessee Titans was their first against a playoff team since week 11, bringing their record against contenders up to 4-4 SU/ATS for the season. Additionally, the Ravens have averaged a big 34.6 over the aforemtioned six-game run, albeit against defenses including Dallas, Cincinnati and Jacksonville.

Then there’s the weather (sensing a theme here…?). Upstate New York is looking at a situation like Wisconsin’s: No show or precipitation is due for game time, but temperatures in the 20s mean Lamar Jackson should be worry-free in romping against a well below-average Buffalo fun D which ranks 26th in yards per attempt and 27th in rushing TDs allowed – easily worst among remaining teams.

So while NFLbets isn’t ready to get off the Buffalo bandwagon, we do believe in the hedge. We’re saying take the Baltimore Ravens +3 at Buffalo (though maybe not if you don’t have Bills futures tickets already) and look to take the over in any “Lamar Jackson rushing yards” prop; most sportsbooks online don’t yet offer this one, but a line should be available by game time…

Cleveland Browns +10 at Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 57½ points

 Now NFLbets has boxed ourselves in to covering the Chiefs, crummy line and all. We can’t imagine that too many bettors are taking the Browns seriously at all, and we wonder if this overlooking is particularly wise.

Even beyond the crazy yardage-accumulating and point-scoring potential of an offense powered by Patrick Mahomes and which includes statistical studs Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and, from out of nowhere, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the well-touted career record of head coach Andy Reid following a bye week and with good reason: The career mark of 23-4 SU/ 18-9 ATS is pretty unassailable and includes a 5-1 SU/4-2 ATS record after getting the wildcard week bye.

On top of this, the Chiefs are riding a continuously more ineffable 1-7 ATS run in which they’ve also gone 7-1 SU. With any other team, NFLbets would be leaning on regression to the mean in a big way – and this is the freakin’ Chiefs, well capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions, we’re talking here.

So can Cleveland keep matters to within a touchdown and a half? These Browns have been wildly inconsistent in terms of scoring, going for 42 against the Ravens in week 13, only to not see that many points in subsequent games against the Giants and Jets combined. Weather is no indicator, either, with conditions at kickoff in Kansas City essentially identical to those for the aforementioned games.

At 1/5, the Kansas City money line is hardly worth betting and, though we realize the Browns are no slouches, 10 points against this arsenal doesn’t seem like much. Therefore, we’re going for the fun pick: take the over on an O/U of 57½ points. We’re thinking/hoping that Mahomes will open the track meet early and Baker Mayfield’s side will look to keep pace.

–written by Os Davis


Looking for upsets on wildest wildcard weekend ever (Part II)

Saturday, 09 January 2021 15:06 EST

Note: NFLbets is writing this up on Sunday morning and so can never complain about bad beats or chase after losses – both plusses for the bankroll, no matter how Saturday went.

As with Saturday’s games, NFLbets is attempting to scope out some upsets. Since 2000, underdogs have gone a respectable enough 32-48 SU but are an excellent 43-36-1; in a 4-game wildcard round, that translates out to about 1½ SU and 2 ATS wins per year. Theoretically, in this year’s round of six, history says we’re looking at 2½ underdogs to win SU and ATS.

Yesterday, we tapped the underdog Los Angeles Rams as a good bet SU and ATS, so one or two more mathematically seem likely for Sunday (again, writing this before Saturday’s games…) – and o yes, we’ve found some good opportunities for betting beginning at the top with…

Baltimore Ravens -3½ at Tennessee Titans, over/under 54½ points

NFL bettors and general NFL fandom alike are taking for granted that this is a guaranteed barnburner and so pound away at the over – particularly as the sportsbooks have this point spread set the shorterst by a significant margin.

So how does the under hit here at all? Mike Vrabel’s Titans have played just three games against the Ravens, with an inconclusive 2-1 SU/ATS mark going into this game. The over has hit once, in the 30-24 overtime win of week 11 this season.  

No matter: The 2019 Tennessee Titans defense, which was good to excellent most of the year and dominant in their first two playoff games, evaporated at some point in August. What’s left is a New York Jets-level D that’s bottom-5 in overall DVOA, total yards allowed, opponent time of possession, first downs and nearly any passing statistic you can think of. As a result, overs are an incredible 12-3-1 in 2020 Titans games. About the only plus the Tennessee D is getting here is that the Ravens’ game plan is seriously straightforward: After all, only one team in the league outdid the otherworldly Derrick Henry & Co.

As for Baltimore on the defensive side, begin with their having seen the third-least number of runs all season. The Ravens with their multiple run formations, ridiculous run blocking and the craftiness of Lamar Jackson don’t so much score lightning-quick as score efficiently, ranking 9th in points per possession (and 2nd in the stat in the season’s second half) and 3rd in time of possession.

Now, getting to 55 points should require at least six touchdowns along with five field goals or seven TDs and two FGs. The latter seems more likely, but even both Henry and Jackson et al romping freely through helpless defenses may not be enough for this many scoring opportunities. Many are bandying about the tidbit these are 2020’s top 2 rushing offenses, but NFLbets is focused on how both offenses are bottom 3 in attempts – even these two mighty running teams average only about 1.5 rushing touchdowns per game apiece.

NFLbets’ conclusion: If you’re betting the over here, you may as well also bet on a prop like “Game Will Go into Overtime” or “Defensive/Special Teams TD by Either Team.” But we’re going counterintuitive and pro-math: Take the under on an O/U of 54½ points.

Chicago Bears +10 at New Orleans Saints, over/under 47½ points

Before beginning, let’s get one thing straight: When the sportsbooks establish a point spread like this in the wildcard round, they’re not fucking around. Just eight wildcard games have kicked off with a point spread of 9½ or higher; such a line hasn't been seen since Miami Dolphins +11 at Pittsburgh in 2017. 

In those nine games, underdogs are 1-8 SU/ATS. The sole exception was in none other than the Beast Mode Activated game when the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks upset the seemingly Super Bowl-bound New Orleans Saints (imagine that) in a 41-36 seat-edger. Note, too, that the Seahawks’ win represented the sole instance of a double-digit home underdog in the round ever.

So is it as simple as deducing that no Chicago player can work miracles like Marshawn Lynch and therefore bet Saints minus the points? After all, the Bears took New Orleans – including Alvin Kamara, who’s back after a week in Covid protocol – to overtime in week 6, right? And the Bears were just one of the six teams of .500 or worse record that the Saints played to within 6 points.

Additionally, NFLbets can’t be alone in bafflement at how exactly the 2020 New Orleans Saints got to 12-4 in the regular season – though their 10-1 mark against non-playoff teams certainly comprises much of this. These Saints, crippled by cap space, have been in whatever-it-takes gear most of this season; NFLbets is certainly not expecting a Bears upset, but we’ll be damned if we can guess a margin a victory. So try this: Take the New Orleans Saints to win by 13 points or less at +127.

Cleveland Browns +6½ at Pittsburgh Steelers, over/under 47½ points

Yes, the Steelers have been particular victims of the schedule-wreaking effects of Covid, at one point playing five games in 3½ weeks – but the fact that Pittsburgh’s starters have played two good quarters in the last six games is at least slightly disconcerting for would-be Steelers backers. In fact, about a month ago, this matchup would have been the vogue upset pick of this year’s first round.

But Cleveland not only played limply against the Pittsburgh second-string in week 17, the Browns are going into this game down two OL starters (not great news against a pass rush spearheaded by T.J. Watt) and a head coach; here’s Covid insanity tipped in the Steelers’ favor. As much as NFLbets distrusts the Saints, however, these Steelers are looking like the archetypical team who peaked too soon.

After starting out 11-0 SU/8-3 ATS, Pittsburgh enters the postseason on a 1-4 SU/2-3 ATS skid – fair enough, four of these games were against playoff teams, but the fifth was an ugly loss to Cincinnati in which Bengals QB Ryan Finley went for 73 yards. Asking a team with a long past of failure and a roster composed of mostly inexperienced guys to win their first playoff game without a head coach may be a big ask, but keeping things to within a touchdown when temperatures are in the low 30s? That’s probably doable. Take the Cleveland Browns +6½ at Pittsburgh and take the under on an O/U of 47½ points.

–written by Os Davis


Jared Goff won’t play for Rams on Sunday and that’s worth 5 points because…?

Saturday, 02 January 2021 16:44 EST

Since the 2020 NFL season’s start, most fans and bettors have figured that the Arizona Cardinals-Los Angeles Rams game in week 17 would be crucial for both teams and the entire NFC playoffs – just how crucial was certainly bargained on by few. And so the current line of...

Arizona Cardinals -3 at Los Angeles Rams, over/under 40½ points

…would make sense from nearly any vantage point during this season. Except that the line opened at Arizona +1½, despite the suspicion that the thumb injury taken by QB Jared Goff in the Rams’ week 16 game would keep him out for this one. Once the injury was confirmed – and Blake Bortles(!) brought back in from the Denver Broncos practice squad – this line rapidly flipped and then widened to as much as Cardinals -3½ at some sportsbooks.

So in the minds of most NFL bettors, Goff’s absence (plus other Rams offensive starters) is worth 4½ to 5 points?

Utter nonsense, NFLbets would suggest.

The truth is that when Troy Freakin’ Aikman, who wouldn't call out a fellow quarterback if he was caught in flagrante with Mrs. Aikman, is calling you out on a Fox Sports broadcast, you’re having a brutal season – and whoa, has Goff been terrible. At least two losses (at San Francisco, vs Seattle), either of which would likely have already clinched a playoff spot for his team, can be pinned directly on his poor play. As leader of the Rams offense, Goff has gone from leading an NFC-winning offense capable of going for 48 points against the Kansas City Chiefs to a team that can’t manage a touchdown against the 2020 New York Jets.

As mundane as Goff’s stats appear and as awful as he’s looked, a deeper dive into the stats reveals with profound depth literally just how useless he is in most game situations. His QBR is dead last in pressure situations at under 30.0, as his miniscule 4.5 yards per scramble. With a 19.6% completion rate under pressure, Goff’s on a par with Mitchell Trubisky and Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom might miss the playoffs altogether. No disproportionate share of blame is due the OL, either: at 23 sacks, Goff’s taken half as much abuse as, likesay, Russell Wilson (sacked 45 times) or DeShaun Watson (ditto).

Granted, this week’s Rams offense will be slightly makeshift for first-time starter John Wolford. Dominant WR Cooper Kupp is currently listed on the reserve/Covid list and will likely be out. RB Cam Akers is definitely out; Malcolm Brown may not play and instead the Rams may be depending on rookie Xavier Jones in the backfield. LT Andrew Whitworth is also out again this week.

But you know what? This team has been about defense first, second and third since Aaron Donald’s name hist the roster. The Rams D has been a force in 2020, going top-3 statistically in points allowed, passing yards allowed, passing TDs allowed, rushing yards allowed, rushing yards per attempt and opponents time of possession.

In the Rams’ last five *losses*, the L.A. D has allowed just 17.2 points per game while the offense has managed just 16.4 in those games. Considering that just one offense has averaged under 16 points in 2020 – whose else but the New York Jets’, at 15.3 ppg – Wolford has a pretty low bar, needing to show little more than competence as his defense can carry this game alone, particularly against Kyler Murray’s stumbling and inconsistent Cardinals offense. Not only does the 38-28 win at Arizona in week 13 represent the last 400-yard game for Rams offense, it’s also the last occasion on which the defense generated more than 1 turnover.

So call it addition by subtraction, call it rallying around the new guy, call it whatever you like; NFLbets believes that Goff to just about any current starting quarterback in the NFL is an improvement from Jared Goff. (Well, OK, maybe not Bortles.) Take the Los Angeles Rams +3 vs Arizona and take the under on an O/U of 40½ points.

--written by Os Davis

 

 


Week 16 Sunday games: Confusion in Indy, solution(?) in Philly

Sunday, 27 December 2020 11:12 EST

Nice cover there, Vegas (both the Raiders and the sportsbooks) – that SU loss/ATS win sure did wonders for the bankroll as well as the team’s immediate future. Truly, the best possible time for your defense to wake up is in a week 16 game after you’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. You certainly have to love the way Jon “Chucky” Gruden has brought back that winning culture to the Black and Silver, too: After 15 seasons in which the team went 81-159 (for an average season of 6-10 or 5-11) – but, hey! Since Gruden’s return, the Raiders have gone 13-29, meaning *6.12* wins per year.

And then there’s the freakin’ Arizona Cardinals, limply losing to a depleted team essentially trapped in a bubble in Arizona and bringing a third-string QB with a 1-9 (now 2-9) lifetime record as a starter. Four weeks ago, Tony Romo opined that Arizona and Buffalo were the two teams who might test Kansas City’s so-called inevitability of repeating as champion; now the Cards are in mortal danger of losing a playoff spot to the Chicago Bears, which would be just about the grandest belated Xmas gift the New Orleans Saints with the no. 2 seed could’ve hoped for.

Not that NFLbets is bitter or anything.

Sunday means a comeback and NFLbets feels pretty good about two games. Firstly, there’s…

Indianapolis Colts +2 at Pittsburgh Steelers, over/under 44½ points

It’s Playoffs 101: At least one team – and typically one in each conference – peaked out too early in the season and backs into the playoffs on a losing jag. NFLbets believes it’s quite obvious that that team in 2020 is Pittsburgh (and if the aforementioned low Cards manage to survive Chicago, they’d be the second).

The Steelers may have escaped the Ravens in week 11, but that 5-point win kicked off this team’s decline. Now on a 3-game SU/4-game ATS losing streak, the Steelers offense in particular has been badly exposed and the inability to run (since week 6, Steelers RBs have managed to combine for over 90 yards just once) is clearly stifling game plans: They’re 17 of 55 on 3rd down in those games – and if you think a 31% conversion rate is crazy, consider that Pittsburgh *has faced 55 3rd downs in four games*.

Somehow the Steelers defense remains no. 1 in DVOA but has faced the NFL’s second-easiest schedule, and, assuming Washington FT wins the NFC East, Pittsburgh has dumped three straight ATS against playoff teams.

Suffice to say that NFLbets was loving the opportunity to bet against the reeling Steelers even before considering the opposition, but injury reports from the Colts side flipped the line a whopping 4 points to favor the home team. Indianapolis will be playing without OTs Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith – quite the unfortunate news after enjoying a nice 5-1 SU/4-2 ATS run. Suddenly, the Colts with still-shaky-but-better Philip Rivers look like one of those low-ranked offenses the Steelers have been feasting on thus far in 2020.

NFLbets jumped on the Colts too early, but still believe the “upset” is rather likely. Again, Pittsburgh has been brutal on offense lately. To cite just one particularly ill statistic – Remember Chase Claypool? The overnight fantasy darling hasn’t gone for more than 69 yards in a game since week 6 and has caught barely more than half – 36 of 67 – his targets.

But we can’t really recommended taking the Colts in good conscience, so we’ll say (write?) take the under on an O/U of 44½ points, and you might consider some defensive player props on either team’s side as well.

Philadelphia Eagles -3 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 50 points

Two questions about the Philadelphia Eagles: Is the insertion of Jalen Hurts at quarterback enough to rally this team and eke out a playoff berth? And didn’t the Eagles just do the same late substitution and ride Carson Wentz’s backup to a Super Bowl win?

Lost among the jokes and witticisms ragging on the woeful NFC East, what’s lost in the Eagles’ case is the insanely difficult schedule they’ve faced, manifesting in this, their 11th consecutive game against either playoff teams or division mates. As for Hurts, a 1-1 SU/ATS hardly makes for a decent sample size, but the 24 points the Eagles put up against the Saints two weeks ago were the most they’ve scored as well as the first over since playing the Ravens in week 6.

So yeah, excitement over a score in the mid-20s succinctly indicates how low Philly’s bar currently stands – and surely required a bump in this game’s over/under line as Hurts looks to feast on the Cowboys’ next-to-nonexistent defense.

How bad is the Cowboys defense? Bad enough to resist easy quantification. Simply put, the Dallas D ranks 31st in points allowed, better than only the Detroit Lions (hey, didn’t their head coach used to be Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator?). Take out the game at Cincinnati two weeks ago and opponents can look forward to scoring 32.8 points on average – yet somehow overs for Cowboys games are a hardly bizarre 8-6. Perhaps this is why they’ve gone 0-5 SU/1-5 ATS against playoff teams (0-7 SU/1-6 ATS if including Washington).

In short, then, we can’t imagine this game’s result to look much different from week 8’s Eagles 23, Cowboys 9 – unless Hurts has a big game, in which case things could get even more lopsided. Take the Philadelphia Eagles -3 at Dallas.

–written by Os Davis


Thursday Night Football in 2020 makes no sense; luckily Belichick vs. Goff does

Wednesday, 09 December 2020 17:01 EST

Like many of you, NFLbets can’t help thinking of Super Bowl LIII whenever the dread New England Patriots-Los Angeles Rams matchup comes down the pike. And as much as we eschew history when betting week-to-week, we may have to fall back on a championship game gone nearly two years hence because Thursday Night Football has been about as illogical as everything else in the Covid-ravaged 2020 NFL season.

The lines for week 14’s TNF currently stand at

New England Patriots +5½ at Los Angeles Rams, over/under 44½ points

In 12 Thursday games in 2020, home teams have been even more pitiful ATS than generally, at an incredibly bad at 5-7 SU/3-9 ATS; home favorites are much better at 4-4 SU/2-6 ATS. Favorites have a more expected mark at 6-6 SU/5-7 ATS. O, and homers are on a 1-5 SU/ATS “run.”

The over/under in some ways appears more representative of NFL Football As We Know It, with overs having hit in 7 of the 12 games – but while the league tends to lower-scoring games in the final third of the season, Thursday games have gone over in 4 of the last 5.

Initially, the thought was to cover the Patriots plus the points in addition to the under; however, bettors have apparently come to similar conclusions, as the Patriots have shed 1-1½ points from that handicap since lines opened on Sunday night – and what sharp in their right mind goes with the flow of guppies betting?

That low 44½ points as well as the under’s Thursday winning streak gives NFLbets pause, but we’ve got two words to ease the nerves about this bet: Jared Goff. How the Rams remain an 8-4 time while “boasting” an offense that’s bottom-10 in turnovers, interceptions, tackles for a loss and time of possession?

Goff additionally ranks dead last among qualifying QBs in QB rating under pressure. Weak pass rush aside, you’ve got to believe Bill Belichick will exploit Goff’s poor play in the area, particularly with center Brian Allen to play hurt if at all. Heck, with an all-star secondary like the Patriots’, Belichick might simply be willing to dump receivers deep all night and let the Rams quarterback use his less-than-adequate improv skills.

But Belichick’s got a whole other cold fish to fry, i.e. Cam Newton’s missing arm strength: In the past two games, Newton has managed just 153 passing yards combined with one passing TD against three interceptions and four sacks – and in both games ran as often or more as he completed a pass. Gee, guess there’s a reason the Patriots rank no. 3 in time of possession and top-10 in both 3rd-down and 4th-down conversion rate.

Belichick will have to break out his best playcalling against the monstrous Rams defense just to stay competitive, though. Despite handing out a 45-0 beatdown to the “Los Angeles” Chargers, the Pats have topped 23 points in a game just twice since the week 5 bye. On the other hand, on their current 4-4 SU run, six times has the final score been within 7 points either way, including against offenses (likesay, Buffalo, Seattle and Arizona) well scarier than the Rmas’ on anything less than a perfect day from Goff.

And you saw what he did in that Super Bowl...

Consider taking Belichick, Newton & Co. on 6-point teasers if you must, but NFLbets is going to wager on  low-scoring battle of wills. We’re saying take the under on an O/U of 44½ points.

–written by Os Davis


Super Contest pick-5: Lots to choose from in week 10

Saturday, 14 November 2020 16:44 EST

Last week in the My Bookie Pick-5 Super Contest, NFLbets was … well, never mind how NFLbets did. We’ve got to trust the process … um, the mathematics, and try not to get bogged down by unwarranted superstition, i.e. never trust the Tennessee Titans and “Los Angeles” Chargers. We’ve got to forget how many times we’ve overestimated the Seattle Seahwaks, we’ve just got to take these one game at a time, etc8.

We’re playing multiple cards in the ’Contest; we’re trying the sawed-off shotgun approach this week. We already covered Indianapolis Colts +1 at Tennessee, and the following are our favorite picks otherwise…

Philadelphia Eagles -3 at New York Giants. This one NFLbets is playing based on sheer absurdity. If the Eagles lose this game, they’ll be 3-5-1 – and still 1 game up on the Giants! Beyond this, apparently NFL bettors are getting geeked on the G-men, who are playing well above expectations and are currently on a 5-1 ATS run.  

Arizona Cardinals -2½ vs Buffalo Bills. Here’s another case of bettors distorting a line. Sure, the Bills’ 44-34 win over the Seahwaks was impressive, but this week their role is reversed: The Bills travel west as marginal underdogs rather than vice versa. O, and Arizona actually plays with a defense.

Miami Dolphins -1½ vs “Los Angeles” Chargers. In back-to-back showdowns of young stud QBs for Tua Tagovailoa, we’re backing the upwardly trending side in what is essentially a “pick ’em.”

Carolina Panthers +6 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The way NFLbets sees it, the assimilation of Antonio Brown alone will take a couple of weeks to get past – or maybe the first real contender the Bucs played heretofore simply badly exposed an offense that can’t handle a pass rush. Would you believe Tampa Bay went 1 for 12 on 3rd and 4th down?

Minnesota Vikings -3 at Chicago Bears. Sure, the Vikings are on a 5-1 streak ATS, but who hasn’t been waiting for the offense-less Bears to regress to the mean already?

Las Vegas Raiders -4 vs Denver Broncos. Working theory on Denver’s ostensible homefield advantage: It only exists when the team is actually competitive, which, come to think of it, is how homefield advantage usually works. In 2020, the Broncos are 1-3 SU/2-2 ATS in Denver and NFLbets is thinking that the only airing out by a QB this week will be from the visitor’s side.

–written by Os Davis


Waiting for Thanksgiving Day 2020 and/or the normalcy of tradition

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 18:55 EST

Too early to start think about betting on Thanksgiving Day football? Ha! Especially in 2020, NFL football on Thanksgiving well be a reminder of normal tradition-y things – and, in NFLbets case, a decent opportunity to make some bank.

The slate for Thanksgiving Day 2020 football features, sadly, four teams assuredly entering their game with losing records (and likely finishing the season sub-.500 as well) but caps with a dandy in-division battle for supremacy. In chronological order, Thanksgiving Day 2020 games, with lines completely guessed at by NFLbets, include:

Houston Texans +2½ at Detroit Lions

The Lions are, of course, the original Thanksgiving Day home team. In terms of straight-up wins, Detroit is the all-time leader in Thanksgiving Day wins with 37. However, their cumulative win-loss record in the traditional game is 37-41-2 from 1934 through 2019; since 1970, they’re 24-26 SU/26-24 ATS. These may not be mind-blowing figures for most teams, but these Thursday games are a relative literal holiday for the Lions: Since 1970 in all games, Detroit is just 329-466-5 SU for a winning percentage of .414.

NFLbets doesn’t rely very much on meaningless history, but in the case of the Lions on Thanksgiving, one wonders if some institutional memory may factor. Lions backers certainly hope so with the discombobulated Texans are coming to town and Matt Patricia’s teams a weak 12-27-1 SU/18-22 ATS. This could very well represent Detroit’s last SU win of the 2020 season.

Washington Football Team +1 at Dallas Cowboys

One of the more common Thanksgiving Day matchups, 2020 sees the 10th meeting between Washington and Dallas in a “rivalry” that’s been all Cowboys since 1968. Dallas in 8-1 in the 9 games to date and is 6-2 Ats since 1970.

But in 2020, neither of these teams are heavyweights – to say the least. Washington may be deployed a 3rd-string quarterback, while NFLbets is guessing that Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys will be turning back to Garrett Gilbert after a couple games with a dinged-up Red Rifle at the helm.

Baltimore Ravens +3½ at Pittsburgh Steelers

For this could-be-classic, NFL bettors would be best off considering rivalry-specific records – and the odds of the Steelers potentially getting to 11-0 with a win. Even with wins at Tennessee and vs New England, Baltimore will likely still be a game or two back of the division lead and will be playing desperate.

Since John Harbaugh became coach of the Ravens, his battles with Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have made for must-see football viewing, if not necessarily easy wagering: SU the teams are an even 14-14, while the Ravens are marginally better ATS with a record of 15-13. The under is 15-12-1, but sinks to 11-10-1 when the line is 45½ points or lower.

So unless conditions change and we don’t see an outrageous over/under, we’ve got our eye all over the Ravens breaking up an undefeated mark (or even a 9-1) that’s significantly better than the Steelers have shown.

–written by Os Davis

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NFL Odds Preview: Cincinnati Bengals +13 at Baltimore Ravens

Friday, 09 October 2020 13:29 EST

    When: Sunday, 1 PM ET
    Where: M&T Bank Stadium
    TV: CBS
    Radio: Siriusxm.com/nfl
    Stream Option: TV
    Opening NFL Lines: Cincinnati Ravens +13 at Baltimore Ravens (over/under 51)

Last season
Baltimore had the best record in the NFL in 2019 and Cincinnati the worst, so no surprise that the Ravens swept the season series. The game in Baltimore was close, though, a 23-17 final. Lamar Jackson threw for 236 yards and rushed 19 times for 152 yards and a score. The Ravens had 269 yards and two scores on the ground. Andy Dalton was the Cincinnati QB then and wasn’t good. Cincinnati also rushed for just 33 yards.

The Ravens lead the all-time series with Cincinnati, 25-23. Baltimore has won five of the past eight meetings (including three straight). Under Coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 12-12 vs. the Bengals. Since 2010, 14 of the teams’ 19 meetings have been one-score decisions, by eight or fewer points.

Why Bet on Cincinnati? | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis
Heisman winner Joe Burrow comes off his first NFL victory last week, 33-25 over Jacksonville. Burrow completed 25-of-36 passes for 300 yards with a touchdown and an interception – Burrow became the first rookie QB to ever throw for 300 yards in three straight games. His touchdown was a checkdown to Joe Mixon, who scored all three of the Bengals’ TDs. Through four games, Burrow is on pace for 4,484 yards with a 24:8 TD/INT ratio.

Burrow and the Bengals’ offense stole the show against Jacksonville by posting 500 yards of offense, including 205 on the ground and 300 through the air. It was just the fourth time in team history, and the first since the 1988 season, that the Bengals recorded at least 200 rushing yards and 300 passing yards in a game. However, the Bengals need to care for the franchise guy much better, given Burrow has been sacked 15 times. Only the Texans’ Deshaun Watson has been dropped more after four games (16).

Mixon became the first Bengal since Giovani Bernard in 2013 to score both a rushing and receiving TD in the same game. He also posted a season-high 181 yards from scrimmage against the Jaguars, including 151 on the ground and 30 through the air.

This will be Burrow’s first-ever start against fellow Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, last year’s NFL MVP.

It will mark the fifth instance in NFL history in which the reigning league MVP and the most recent No. 1 overall pick meet as starting quarterbacks. The reigning MVP has won three of the previous four meetings.​

Why Bet on Baltimore? | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis
The Ravens had little trouble winning 31-17 at Washington last week. Lamar Jackson completed 14-of-21 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, adding seven rushes for 53 yards and a touchdown. His day was highlighted by a career-long 50-yard rushing score. Jackson, with the Ravens up big, watched the final few drives from the bench.

Both of Jackson’s TD passes last week were to tight end Mark Andrews. Dating to the start of last season, he has an NFL-best 14 receiving TDs. He has tallied 4 this season, tying (four players) for the NFL’s second most, entering Week 5.

Jackson was held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday this week with a knee injury, only the third and fourth missed practices of his NFL career, but he will play. The team is simply being cautious. As noted above, Jackson and Burrow were both Class of 2015 recruits but not considered sure-fire stars. Burrow barely cracked the ESPN 300 ranking that year at No. 298 and Jackson didn’t make it at all.

Even though Jackson has been in the league for three years, he’s about a month younger than Burrow. The two have never met personally, much less in a game. Jackson is 3-0 vs. Cincinnati. In those games, these games, Jackson is 49-of-69 passing (71.0%) for 609 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT (106.5 rating). He has also rushed for 336 yards and 2 TDs.

Since Jackson became Baltimore’s starter on 11/18/18 vs. Cincinnati, the Ravens have rushed for at least 200 yards in 15 games. This output triples the NFL’s next best figure. Two of Baltimore’s 200-yard games have come vs. the Bengals.

For the eighth time (2009-12, 2014, 2016 & 2018) in head coach John Harbaugh’s 13 seasons, the Ravens are off to a 3-1 start. Baltimore is 26-11 vs. the AFC North under Harbaugh.
Game Trends

    Underdogs are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games.
    Cincinnati is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games.
    The over is 4-1 in the last 5 games.
    The road team is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games.
    Cincinnati is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games in Baltimore.

Expert Prediction
Baltimore Ravens 33, Cincinnati Bengals 23.