NFL Matchup Predictions

Betting Thursday Night Football: Underestimate Cam Newton’s Panthers at your own peril

Thursday, 08 November 2018 16:23 EST

From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department, NFL fans are presented with a genuine beauty of a Thursday Night Football game, as the Carolina Panthers play at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Should be good viewing, but the betting isn’t exactly simple.

Carolina Panthers +3 at Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL bets Pittsburgh Steelers logoA default search for any immediate regression to the mean for these two teams reveals little: Carolina and Pittsburgh are both 5-3 ATS this season. The Steelers are 2-2 ATS at home; the Panthers are a serious outlier at home at 4-0-0 ATS (and NFLbets’ll certainly be looking at the opposition in the next Carolina home game), but are hardly unusual at 1-3 ATS (2-2 SU) on the road.

So let’s talk some offense and defense. In a year of offense, Carolina has nevertheless put together a pretty decent defense, particularly against the run: The Panthers are top 10 in most rushing categories defensively as well as no. 4 overall in interceptions.

Such stats may be irrelevant on this given Sunday, however, as Ben Roethlisberger will throw the ball a lot regardless of opposition. James Conner may capture the mainstream media's imagination, Roethlisberger is second in the NFL in pass attempts this season and fourth in completions. And Steelers are 3-1-1 SU (3-2 ATS) in games when Ben *does* throw an interception.

Pittsburgh also brings a top-10 rushing defense statistically to face Christian McCaffrey, Cam Newton and the league's top ground attack. However, this D's impressive-looking numbers are likely heavily due to the Steelers' passing game on offense. In terms of efficiency, they're a mid-pack 14th in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric -- and below-average against the innovative Newton and oft unstoppable McCaffrey won't really cut it.

NFL bets Carolina Panthers logoAs for the potentially gnarly Pennsylvania weather, the forecast for Pittsburgh calls for lows around 36° with an 80% chance of rain, snow and/or some variant on precipitation thereof.

But in cold weather, Cam & Co. aren't nearly as bad as the average South-based team: In games played in temperatures of 45° or lower at kickoff, the Panthers are 7-3 SU/6-4 ATS going back to 2014 and are currently on a 5-1 SU/4-2 ATS run. Seemingly perpetually underrated by the sportsbook, the Panthers have won SU their last four games as an away underdog in cold weather games.

One final consideration: Are you more likely to believe in a 6-3 -- and therefore on pace for a 11-5 or 10-5-1 final regular-season record -- Panthers or Steelers team? We’re saying it’s the Panthers, and to do so, they’ll have to win this one with a tough schedule remaining. Cover the Carolina Panthers ML at +160 or so, and hedge with a bet on the Panthers +3 at Pittsburgh.

We’ll even predict next week’s storylines: Steelers welcome back Le’Veon Bell after Conner stuffed by Panthers and Is Cam Newton the NFL MVP…?

Sure bet: Kansas City Chiefs -8½ and well more at Cleveland Browns

Thursday, 01 November 2018 08:48 EST

NFLbets didn’t even need the firings of Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson and/or offensive coordinator Todd Haley to have decided about halfway through last week’s 33-18 throttling given them by the Pittsburgh Steelers that the Kansas City chiefs were set to turn this one into a blowout. Imagine our surprise when, after the dismissals of the not-so-dynamic duo and the ascension of Gregg “That’s Not the Way I Wanted It Done” Williams to top dog spot, the point spread on this game got to -8½.


Kansas City chiefs a great betSo for just the second time in 2018 (the first was a preseason proposition bet based on Todd Guley’s touchdown total which looks like money in the bank at this point), NFLbets is proclaiming a “Sure Bet” in week 9: Take the Kansas City Chiefs -8½ at Cleveland. In fact, we be doing quite a bit more in hopes of attaining a better payout in quite an advantageous situation.

First, a couple of stats just in case you need numbers to back up what you already suspect. In stints as head coach, assistant head coach and/or defensive coordinator with Tennessee, Buffalo, Washington, Jacksonville, New Orleans and the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, Gregg Williams has led his teams to a 5-7 SU record and 5-6-1 ATS against Andy Reid-coached team in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Of note about that ATS mark, however: four wins and the came when Williams was with Washington between 2004 and ’07.

This time, though, Williams doesn’t have the 2005 Washington team – his head coach in 2018, Gregg Williams, is a far cry from Joe Gibbs. He doesn’t have Drew Brees as did his 2010 New Orleans Saints – he’s got a quarterback who’s on his second offensive coordinator before his seventh NFL start.

And speaking of offensive coordinator, your man in Cleveland is now one Freddie Kitchens, who has been coaching in NFCAA and NFL football since 1999 … strictly as a position coach. Kitchens was promoted from within from the running backs coach spot. In 18+ seasons as a coach, he was a QBs coach for four: In 2013 through ’16 with the Arizona Cardinals, which included the ’15 team, a top-3 offense statistically.

betting against the Cleveland BrownsBut is that enough behind the likes of Gregg Williams, who’s spent most of this season up to last week apparently looking for opportunities to subvert Haley in hopes of climbing over him to get the doomed Hue’s job? We dare say that Kitchens, like ol’ Head Coach Bountygate and the rest of us, has never seen anything like this Kansas City offense before.

Even against the still-underwhelming Chiefs defense (they’re dead last against the run by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, for example), the Baker Mayfield-led Browns offense can’t be liking their chances. This team has scored just under 17 points per game in the past four games. The Chiefs have yet to score under 27 all season.

In terms of trending, despite taking the ATS loss last week against Denver, Kanasas City still tops the ATS standings board at 6-1-1, making them the NFL’s outlier thus far. One would expect Reid’s guys to trend downward, figuring the Chiefs to lose at least four or five more games ATS in 2018. However – you guessed it – the Browns with Huey at the wheel (yikes) have performed well above expectations; Cleveland’s 2-5-1 SU record belies a more reasonable 4-4 ATS mark. Most telling of al for the NFL bettor is the 3-1 ATS at home this team has managed to stumble through into week 9.

The line seems way too good to be true, and maybe it is – but NFLbets will wait for the later clarity of hindsight. We’re bumping this line up to Chiefs -13½ or -14 to increase the payout. Sorry, Browns fans, but the misery looks to continue, at least for one more week.

Carolina Panthers +3 vs the Baltimore Ravens? Damn straight that’s NFLbets’ Pick of the Week!

Saturday, 27 October 2018 13:36 EST

NFLbets knows we should stay away from Baltimore Ravens games (statistics to back this up below), but this week’s line on the Ravens at Carolina game is simply irresistible. In fact, this is such an inexplicable point spread that we’re going to have to simply place bets so as to srop grinding mental wheels over exactly why this line looks like this:

Baltimore Ravens -3 at Carolina Panthers, over/under 44 points

Baltimore Ravens alternate logo for NFL betsEven more ineffably, this line was -2 on Monday and by the Saturday before kickoff, the enterprising NFL bettor can even find Ravens -3 at some sportsbooks. Why, folks, why? Why is a prospective playoff team entering this game a home underdog against a side that’s a whopping 1-2 SU/ATS against quality opponents in 2018? (The answer is probably the same as that to the more-than-reasonable question of last week, “How was this team giving 2½ points to the Saints?”, but damned if we know it.)

Consider that going back to 2014, Ravens are 14-22 SU in away games; if they’d spotted all opponents 3, as they are this week, that mark drops to 12-23-1 SU. With a winning percentage right at 33.3%, the first of NFLbets’ best bets for Sunday is to take the Carolina Panthers ML at +120 or so.

Why not take the Panthers plus the points as well? Again, NFLbets is baffled by this line, with the sole rational explanation based simply in regression to the mean: the Panthers are 2-0 ATS at home thus far into the 2018 season. But that’s it. What do the bookmakers know that we don’t…?

Sure, Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense looked decent against the New Orleans Saints in last week’s losing effort, but have we been blinded to the fact that the Saints D has the capacity to look like a shabby bottom-5 unit on any given Sunday? New Orleans brought next to no pass rush against a mediocre offensive line and thus sacked Flacco zero times. This week, not only will the Panthers play more aggressively than the Saints (how could they not?), the Panthers OL is minus starters LG Alex Lewis and RT James Hurst.

Indeed, typically the Baltimore offense has had to play near perfectly to even have a shot at a win: In games when the Ravens accumulated just *two* or more turnovers, they’re 12-20 SU since 2014 regardless of TO differential. The Carolina defense has produced 10 turnovers per game in ’18 for a 1.66 average.

Speaking (writing?) of defense, the Ravens D has been one serious Jekyll-and-Hyde unit this season. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric has Baltimore at no. 3 in the NFL in defensive efficiency, but paradoxically lists the Ravens at no. 26 in the FO variance metric measuring consistency of performance week to week – this is a nice stat that neatly mathematically quantifies how a defense can, likesay, hold the Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans to single digits but allow the Cincinnati Bengals to run up 34.

This defense did perform fairly well against stud RB Alvin Kamara last week, limiting him to 3.7 yards per carry, but still allowed over 100 yards rushing for the fourth time in six games. Kamara and the Saints represent the first opponent with a true running game (no, we’re not including the LeVeon Bell-less Pittsburgh Steelers, who managed a pitiful 19 yards in week 4), but the combination of Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey is certain to present unique challenges to a side which hasn’t faced Newton since 2014 and has never played McCaffrey.

NFL betting Carolina Panthers logoIn terms of running, Newton’s production is down from past fireworks-inducing seasons but remains respectable at 42.8 yards per game and an impressive 4.9 yards per carry, only bolstered by his nifty 21-yard scurry last week. McCaffrey, meanwhile, has been putting together some fantastic stats with a smidge under 20 touches per game, 4.8 yards per carry, 7.2 yards per reception, 111.1 total yards per game. Oddly, McCaffrey can claim just one TD in 2018, thus far but we wouldn’t be surprised if he finally broke through to the end zone on a nice run this week.

Also of note: Ravens starting CB Marlon Humphrey will not play in this ball game, an advantage neutralized by the absence of Torrey Smith, who’s also out. In this situation, Devin Funchess will be getting the downfield opportunities, but we’re looking for the Panthers to grind it out on the ground in this one.

Again, we simply cannot find any reason not to take the Carolina Panthers +3 vs Baltimore; we’ll now officially call this the NFLbets Pick of the Week for week 8. The over/under of 44 points is a bit too low to cover, but the must-choose choice would be on the under. The sportsbooks are projecting a final score of 24-20 or 24-21 and this certainly seems reasonable as a max score in a showdown of top-10 defenses.

Los Angeles Rams -7 vs Minnesota Vikings: Easy money? The math says different

Wednesday, 26 September 2018 21:18 EST

To the everyday fan – not to mention the overreacting hype machine of mainstream sports media churning out those “narratives” – betting on week 4’s Thursday Night Football game should be easy, right?

You've got the Los Angeles Rams, as good as advertised and looking all the world like an 0-16 team, at home. Coming to the West Coast are the Minnesota Vikings, chasing a gut-wrenching huge-ass loss to the 31st-"best" team in football and entering this game an underachieving 1-1-1 SU early. This is an easy one, reckons John Q. Sportsbar!

Except when the seasoned gambler looks this game a little more closely, he/she finds … this Thursday Night Football game should be easy.

Aside from their generally unstoppable awesomeness, the Rams also have the following going for them in terms of betting the spread…

• A 3-0 SU record comprised of nothing but double-digit wins, along with a 3-0 ATS record in 2018.

• A home game in L.A., where they’re on a 5-1 SU/ATS run in meaningful games dating back to last season, where “meaningful games” does not include last year’s week 17 game for which basically all Rams starters sat.

• Not only is this a West Coast game, it’s a primetime game. West Coast teams in primetime between 2012 and ’17 won ATS over 70% of the time.

• Favorites on Thursday night are up to 21-10-1 ATS for a .672 winning percentage going back to opening week 2016, way up from the usual .550 mark by favorites on Sundays and Mondays.

And yet, all this suggests that the smart money is on the Minnesota Vikings +7 at Los Angeles. Why? Simple mathematics…

Gregg Easterbrook’s Theorem at the Sportsbook

Gregg Easterbrook, the longtime columnist of the oft-traveled Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, released a very simple formula for predicting SU winners for the weekly office pool. The theorem went like so: Team with better record wins, if records equal, home team wins. This formula allows one to pick the winners without knowing anything about the teams playing at just over a 60% clip.

But check this out: If we just slap in the “ATS” after “better rcord” and “wins” in Easterbrook’s theorem, the reverse ends up true. This year “better record ATS/home team wins ATS” is, through three weeks 24-23-1. “Home team wins ATS”, meanwhile is 28-19-1. Obviously this is a) a small sample size and b) a pretty extreme one at that, but the trends bear out going back through 2016, when “better record/home team wins ATS” is just as barely over .500 at 283-275-18.

Further, considering that home dogs win ATS at about 55%, a sizable percentage of those winners ATS were comprised of home teams in equal-record games to the point where plain ol’ “team with better record ATS wins ATS” works as infrequently as 45% of the time.

As to why this seemingly counterintuitive math works, think about the nature of the point spread. Whereas in a given NFL season, you’ll likely have one team at 14 wins; between 8 and 11 teams of 10 wins or more; between one-third to one-half of the teams with records between 9-7 and 7-9; and one team with two wins or fewer. However, when considering win-loss records ATS, the opposite happens because the goal of the sportsbooks is to apply an evening effect. Only in the extremest of extreme cases does the house win almost all the money; likewise, the players.

Going back to 2014, just one team has finished better than 12-4 (the 2017 New England Patriots, wouldn’tcha know?) and no team has finished worse than 4-12 – to think what Cleveland Browns fans might have done to reach the lofty heights of 4-12 SU at some point in those years…

The tl;dr version and NFLbets' recommendation

The “tl;dr” version: Regression to the mean, the numbers gotta balance out, and this is one hell of an imbalanced matchup statistically. And if you need to justify betting Vikings +7, just remember that L.A.’s stud CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib will be playing hurt at best on a short week. Of course, the question as to whether Kirk Cousins can take advantage of this handicap in the literal face of a ridiculous pass rush remains.

But it’s also a Thursday night game, and NFLbets hates betting TNF games. Plus, these Rams look real good. Like, sportsbook-breaking good. We’d recommend that NFL bettors stary away from this one.

Oakland Raiders (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-0): Something's gotta give...

Saturday, 22 September 2018 11:13 EST

In a shocking turn of events, the Miami Dolphins have started their season 2-0 and sit atop the AFC East. Granted they beat the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets, not exactly the NFL’s elite, but a win is a win and as the Dolphins prepare for their week 3 matchup as a 3-point favorite against the Oakland Raiders. This point spread is likely the result of the three-point advantage traditionally given by sportsbooks to the home team, may be due to recent Dolphins success, or could have more to do with the Raiders’ weak 0-2 (SU; 1-1 ATS) start.

Miami offense versus Oakland defense

Miami Dolphins alternate logo bettingThe Raiders messed up big with Khalil Mack, huh? Jon Gruden himself was recently quoted as saying, “it’s hard to find a great one. It’s hard to find a good one,” when asked about the team’s lack of pass rusher. This does not reflect well on the Oakland defense, and it’s deserved, with only 2 team sacks and 17 quarterback pressures to the Raiders’ credit. Outside of pass rushing, the backfield has been unimpressive as well, with only 1 interception and only 10 passes defended.

Ryan Tannehill is back in full force, and he is a man on a mission. He is currently sporting a 104.9 quarterback rating, has a 72.5 total completion percentage, and is averaging close to 200 passing yards per game.

As impressive as his stats are, Tannehill’s receiving corps is even more special. With 4 receivers making tangible impacts on the Dolphins roster, it’s no wonder he has been so good early on in 2018: Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson have each garnered 58 and 68 receiving yards so far this season. While Wilson is the only one of the three with a touchdown, these players spread out defenses and create coverage mismatches that help star WR Kenny Stills in a big way. Stills already has 123 yards, and 2 touchdowns to lead the Dolphins offense.

Oakland offense versus Miami defense

Las Vegas Raiders logoIf the Raiders have any redeeming qualities, they’re all in the offense. The Derek Carr-led Raiders offense got rolling in week 2. Carr completed 29 of 32 passes and had three receivers above 40 receiving yards, including Amari Cooper’s 116. Marshawn Lynch got rolling in week 2 as well with 65 rushing yards on 18 carries and a TD.

The one issue with the Raiders offense is inconsistency: In week 1, Carr completed only 29 of 40 passes and threw three interceptions. While Jared Cook had 180 receiving yards in week 1, the rest of the team struggled mightily.

The Dolphins defense is almost shockingly good. Kiko Alonso is once again a force at inside linebacker after his comeback season with Miami last season. While not yet recording a sack, Alonso has run up 19 tackles so far in 2018. This ranks him second in the NFL just behind Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts. Along with Alonso, the rest of the Dolphins defense has been extremely effective. Outside of their low sack total (only 3), they have been a dominant force.

Raiders +3 at Miami: The NFLbets pick

NFLbets says take the Oakland Raiders +3 at Miami. While the Raiders struggle in a lot of areas their offense can and will keep games close.

New England Patriots are a “pick ’em” at Jacksonville. OK, we’ll pick ’em! [UPDATED]

Saturday, 15 September 2018 13:36 EST

[UPDATE/Editor's note: Since posting, the line has this game has moved to New England Patriots -1. But we're not changing our pick. We got in earlier enough, but we're still advising to take the New England Patriots -1 at Jacksonville.]

[UPDATE #2: On the morning of gameday, that line is now Patriots -1½ points. We're still saying take the Patriots -1½ at Jacksonville. By the way, does Jalen Ramsey know about this...?]

As far as excitement goes, this may be the game to watch in week 2: A rematch of last year’s AFC title game when the Jacksonville Jaguars nearly dethroned the New England Patriots in a close match. Will this game end with Jacksonville getting their revenge, or will New England prove they still are a Super Bowl contender? Even the oddsmakers don’t know, as the point spread has been reduced to “pick ’em”. The over/under is currently at 44½ points, which in my opinion is much too low.

Jacksonville Jaguars offense vs New England Patriots defense

Jacksonville Jaguars betting logoThe Jaguars have offensive talent and loads of it. Unfortunately, if the captain of your ship is bad at his job, no amount of first mates will right that ship. Yes, I’m talking Blake Bortles, the enigma of the NFL.

Is Bortles a starting NFL QB? No. Will he once again be the starter for Jacksonville this season even though there were a plethora of better options available via trade and free agency? Unsurprisingly, yes.

In week 1, Bortles completed 18 of 33 passes for only 54.5% accuracy. Luckily for the Jaguars and Bortles, their strength lies in their running game. Having one of the best young RBs in Leonard Fournette is huge and he is the key to a Jaguars win Sunday.

Star players are overrated, right? The New England Patriots defense, while stocked with a lot of talented players such as Stephen Gilmore or Dont’a Hightower, does not have any marquee talent. Instead, they have opted for a defense that succeeds based on system and committee. Their defensive stats for week 1 speak for themselves: Three Patriots had 7 or more tackles, and seven players had 5 or more. The key to the Patriots winning is to just keep the ball rolling. If they can keep Bortles pressured, he will throw at least one interception, and probably more like three.

New England Patriots offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars defense

New England Patriots betting logoI don’t understand how the Patriots continue to make decent receivers out of nothing, Brady has a superpower or a cheat code somewhere, as he elevates his teammates’ performances. Phillip Dorsett, who last season had 194 total yards and has so far peaked at 528, is now the Patriots #1 wideout (until Julian Edelman returns). Dorsett kicked that off by catching 7 passes, as many as Rob Gronkowski, and had 66 offensive yards. Gronk came back with a vengeance-netting 123 yards.

At running back, Rex Burkhead and James White once again form a powerful duo. The Patriots offense should hold up well against the Jaguars defense. *Should.*

Myles Jack had himself a game last week, didn’t he? The budding MLB had an astonishing 7 solo tackles and scored himself a pick six. Teamed with Jalen Ramsey, these two are quickly becoming one of the best defensive duos in the NFL. If Jack can continue to dominate in the MLB position and clog the middle, Ramsey will have a much easier time dealing with Dorsett. This could be the key that wins the game for the Jaguars: Stopping the passing game will largely make the Patriots offensive machine extremely ineffective.

New England Patriots at Jacksonville: The pick

In a “pick ‘em” scenario like this, anything goes. The numbers tell me to bet on the Patriots because Bortles will most likely falter against a well-run Patriots defense. On the flip side, however, if Ramsey and Jack, along with the rest of their defense, can force Brady not to pass the football, it will give Jacksonville a huge advantage.

Make the safe bet and take the New England Patriots in a “pick ’em” at Jacksonville; they are the more well-rounded team and betting on a very good defense to hold the Patriots is never a good strategy – just ask the Falcons. [Not to mention all those NFL bettors who covered Atlanta Falcons +3 in that game! –Ed.]

As far as the over/under goes, we’re advising to take the over on an O/U of 44½ points.

Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints: Is NFLbets really going back to that well…?

Friday, 14 September 2018 09:23 EST

With an interesting week 1 of the 2018 NFL season now in the books, let’s look at some matchups in week 2. The Cleveland Browns now have a second opportunity to get that elusive win after a heartbreak finish week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints also look to get one in the win column after an embarrassing loss to the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The point spread unsurprisingly has the Browns as 9-point underdogs. As far as the under/over, it’s currently sitting at 49.5 points.

Cleveland Browns offense vs New Orleans Saints defense

Betting on the Cleveland Browns doggieIn one of the biggest shockers so far of this young season, the Saints defense (a strong suit in 2017) imploded on them, giving up a whopping 48 points. Luckily for the Saints, the Browns’ offensive unit was not great, either. Largely due in part to Tyrod Taylor’s rough outing wherein he completed only 37.5% of his passes. For comparison, Drew Brees completed 82.2% of his passes

One main way that the Saints can properly stop Cleveland is from the defensive line. If Taylor once again struggles to pass and is forced to run, he’ll be very vulnerable. If Taylor is forced to run, it will be up to the Saints defensive line to haul him in – though in week 1, the Saints defense was an absolute turnstile. Pro Bowl DE Cameron Jordan was near invisible after posting an impressive 13 sacks and 48 solo tackles in 2017, managing 3 solo tackles and 3 assists.

The Browns offensive machine did not do well in week 1. This may sound counterintuitive, considering the score against Pittsburgh, but the numbers don’t lie. To go along with Taylor’s bad passing numbers the receivers suffered as well. Luckily for them, the Steelers had Jarvis Landry’s 106 yards because the next best receiver had 38…

Yes, while Landry had 7 receptions, Josh Gordon, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins had a combined 2. To put it bluntly, if Cleveland can right their passing game they have a good shot at winning. [Hey, here’s a great idea. Why don’t they try out that first-round draft pick that dudes like Tony Romo and Drew Brees dig so much…? –Ed.]

New Orleans Saints offense vs Cleveland Browns defense

New Orleans Saints retro logoThis is a toss-up. Both Cleveland’s defense and New Orleans’s offense were firing on all cylinders in tehir week 1 games. This battle is going to largely dictate who emerges on top in this matchup. Cleveland’s defense led the way for them on week 1 with an impressive 6 turnovers generated from fumbles and interceptions. New Orleans on the other hand put up 40 points in a losing effort against Tampa Bay.

Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were very impressive in week 1. Kamara earned 112 receiving yards to go along with his 29 rushing yards, he also led the team in touchdowns with 3. Thomas was very impressive in racking up 180 receiving yards and a touchdown. Brees continues to defy age, as he was a model of efficiency in completing 37 of 45 passes and three TDs. If the Saints offense stays this hot, they have a good chance to win.

As for Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward … holy crap, they both had themselves a game in week 1. Ward especially impressed as a rookie going up against Antonio Brown, with not 1 but 2 interceptions. He only really got beat by Brown clean on one touchdown pass. Garrett was a monster; while only having 6 tackles on the day, 2 were sacks, and one led to a fumble recovery by the Browns. The injury to Emmanuel Ogbah will hurt them, but they are still going to be tough for the Saints to crack.

Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints: The bets

This game is all going to come down to how well the Browns can limit the Saints’ high-powered offense. Taking the Cleveland Browns +9 at New Orleans and hoping for a close game seems like the safe bet, especially with Cleveland on a 4-1 run ATS against the Saints. In terms of the over/under, we’re hedging on that Browns offense. Even if Taylor and his offense don’t go off the rails and can’t convert points, not much is going on the scoreboard in this game. Take the under on an O/U of 49½ points.

Our new contributor has stones enough to pick the Cleveland Browns versus Pittsubrgh in his first NFLbets piece

Saturday, 08 September 2018 09:48 EST

NFLbets welcomes a new staff writer coming aboard just in time to give some outrageous advice to bettors for the 2018 NFL season. Readers, meet Ryan Boonstra, who fearlessly starts his ternue with this website by arguing the case of none other than the Cleveland Browns against those world-beating Pittsburgh Steelers...

First off, no, I'm not crazy. But I believe that you absolutely should take the Cleveland Browns +4½ vs the Pittsburgh Steelers. I know the Browns have a long long long history of not winning opening week: They are a staggering 1-18 SU since returning to Cleveland in 1999. However, I firmly believe that this Browns team is the sleeper team to watch this season, and it starts in week 1.

Steelers: Lots of receiving, but who’s running?

Sad Pittsburgh Steelers fansPittsburgh's offense has been nothing short of brilliant on the field for the past couple of campaigns. Ben Roethlisberger headlines an offense consisting of Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and new draftee James Washington. That receiving duo must be among the best since Welker and Moss were catching bombs from Brady. Adding Washington to that mix gives the Steelers some dynamic options at receiver. This is key because it will be the biggest way they can pull out a big win against the Dog Pound.

At running back, Pittsburgh has a big problem, Le’Veon Bell once again has entered a contract dispute with the Steelers, resulting in him holding out week 1. This is a huge blow to their offense because it eliminates some of their mismatch capabilities against a young Browns defense. If they can exploit that defense in the air, they have a good chance of winning. Be that as it may, the Steelers’ lack of running game might prove the Achilles heel that prevents a victory.

On defense, some lingering questions and concerns remain. The loss of Ryan Shazier to a devastating neck injury was a big blow, and Pittsburgh made a stop-gap acquisition of Jon Bostic but will that band-aid hold? The Steelers defense is very youthful, with a staggering seven of 12 starters under the age of 25. While that sets them up well for the future, it raises questions about how well they'll be able to produce over a season and right out of the gate.

Cleveland Browns: Changing for the better

The much-maligned Cleveland Browns enter a new season after coming off another embarrassing 2017 in which they went winless. Big changes were necessary and for the first time they actually went ahead and made drastic changes over the summer that should make an immediate and noticeable difference on the field and in the future.

On offense the Browns added veterans Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor and Carlos Hyde to a group of young offensive talent and draftees that includes Antonio Callaway, Josh Gordon, David Njoko, Nick Chubb, Rashard Higgins, and Baker Mayfield. This represents an actual NFL team's starting offense. If Tyrod gets in a groove, he can be very dangerous,and this team has the weapons in its arsenal to do some damage. Look for the Browns to test the inexperienced Steelers secondary early and do some damage with their passing game.

Defensively the Browns, much like the Steelers, have questions. They have talent oozing out of their defensive line and secondary with players like Denzel Ward, Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, Damarious Randall, and Emmanuel Ogbah, but it's young talent – extremely young. In spite of the youth, though, the coaching staff seems to believe they can get the job done, as most outside additions have been for depth purposes. These young players are all slated to be starters in 2018 and it will be interesting to see if that youth will be their strength or fault.

Al Villanueva: He can see Myles

At least one Steelers player appears worried about the Browns defense going into week 1:

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: The bet

Statistically speaking while the Browns have a terrible week 1 winning percentage SU, the numbers for the Steelers aren’t great either. in 2017, the Steelers did not do well on the road, going 4-4 ATS (3-4 as a favorite) which to me suggests that may be susceptible to a possible Cleveland upset. they also have not had a good betting record as of late against Cleveland.

date Spread Result (w/spread)
Jan. 1, 2017 PIT -3 Cleveland 27, Pittsburgh 27
Sep. 10, 2017 PIT -10 Cleveland 18, Pittsburgh 11
Dec. 31, 2017 PIT -5 Cleveland 24, Pittsburgh 23

The uncertainty of the Steelers roster combined with their record against the Browns this past season suggests, believe it or not, to take the Browns plus the points in week 1.