NFL Matchup Predictions


Betting over/under proposition bets, part 6: Tennessee Titans, 9½ wins

Friday, 11 June 2021 18:27 EST

Julio Jones on Tennessee Titans -- odds affectedSo you’ve certainly heard about the Tennessee Titans’ acquisition of Julio Jones for, most significantly, a second-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. You may have additionally noticed that the Titans’ odds in the “To Win Super Bowl LVI” have gone from as high as 50/1 to as low as 25/1 in some markets – insane!

Seriously, aren’t NFL fans supposed to be obsessed with fantasy football? If so, why have Jones’s deteriorating numbers and last year’s injury gone unnoticed? Jones has been steadily getting fewer receptions nearly week to week since his last great year of 2018 – and that’s as this QB Matt Ryan’s completion stats increased for two straight seasons. How much effect can Jones have on an offense that’s already top-10 in most key offensive categories?

Plus, the way NFLbets figures things, the only way the Titans get to the postseason is as AFC South winner: We’ve penciled in two AFC East (some combination of Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots) and one AFC West (the “Los Angeles” Chargers as it stands or maybe the Las Vegas Raiders with  Aaron Rodgers).

The question, then: Can the 2021 Tennessee Titans win the AFC South? NFLbets begins with the lines in the over/under proposition bet…

Tennessee Titans, over/under 9½ wins (+110/-130)

In the Mike Vrabel era, the Titans have come to embody the classic football cliché “offense wins games, defense wins championships.” In Tennessee, a sputtering low-watt Marcus Mariota-led offense had given way to a top-10 high flyer behind the suddenly stunning Ryan Tannehill; on the other side, however, a hard-hitting top-10 defensive juggernaut has become a hapless bunch which allowed 30 points or more eight times in 2020.

Bu the Titans chased their shocking run to the AFC Championship game with an 11-5 regular season and a weak bowout to the Baltimore Ravens last year – though one should also note that the ’20 Titans had 9.1 Pythagorean Expectation (PE) wins, indicating a net positive in the are of luck.

Or perhaps that’s just the Derick Henry Effect, i.e. the dude’s worth at least two wins a season. At least thus far.

The Titans ranked second in rushing yards last season behind only the Ravens, who start a quarterback with a license to run on any snap. Henry accounted for over 75% of Tennessee’s rushing yards and just under 33% of all yards. Any would-be Titans backer will need to consider Henry’s team-carrying capabilities in light of the 681 carries accrued over the past two seasons alone.

Considering the 2021 Tennessee Titans schedule

Naturally, the no. 1 advantage the Titans enjoy – along with the presumed main rivals – are the four games scheduled against the AFC South’s bottom-feeders. Tempted to just give the Titans a 5-1 here, but playing this bet conservative, NFLbets can imagine a scenario when, likesay, the Jaguars squeak out their first win of 2021 in week 5 in Jacksonville or the Texans dodge an ignominious 0-17 regular season with a fluke W in week 18 in Houston. Call it 4½-1½ for the Titans’ AFC South intradivisional games.

The NFL schedule makers seemingly give the Titans a decent chance to start strong with a run of vs Arizona, at Seattle, vs Indianapolis, at the Jets, at Jacksonville, vs Buffalo and vs Kansas City – Fair enough, that first seven games includes four playoff teams of last year, but three are at home. NFLbets’ll again play this conservative as well and give Tennessee a 1-3 mark against the four non-AFC South teams here.

From week 8, Tennessee’s schedule gets dicier for both the Titans themselves and those who bet the over in this prop. Week 9 has them going to Indianapolis, followed by at the Los Angeles Rams (for Sunday Night Football), vs New Orleans, vs Houston and at New England going into the bye. NFLbets’d cover the Rams minus the points in the week 10 game right now and we’re predisposed to believing in the ’21 Patriots, so we’re assessing another two losses and a win here.

After the week 13 bye, Tennessee closes out the season with vs Jacksonville, at Pittsburgh, vs San Francisco, vs Miami and at Houston. (Imagine if that last Texans game is a make-or-breaker for the Titans. With a loss, does Vrabel get fired before he gets to the locker room or…?) NFLbets is figuring the Steelers’ season will be finished by December, but the real question this far out is what the 49ers and Dolphins will look like at this point in the season.

The truth is that figuring several of these over/under win props, one cannot account for chaos. As much as NFLbets would like to wager against, likesay, the Titans by dint of an irrational feeling that Derrick Henry can’t play at 2019-2020 levels yet again. And if you can tell us with any sort of certainty who either San Francisco or Miami will be starting on quarterback in weeks 16 and 17, well, please do. In the meantime, let’s say the Titans get the win at Pittsburgh and one of the two aforementioned.

This all would put the Titans at 8-8-1, a believable enough scenario, as is the AFC South at least temporarily assuming the mantle of weakest division in football (in competition with the NFC North, we’d figure). NFLbets thus advises that bettors take under 9½ wins for the Tennessee Titans. Then again, we may lean back on our old dogma regarding this whole damn division, namely *stay the fuck away from the AFC South altogether*…

--written by Os Davis


Betting over/under win total prop bets, part 1: Pittsburgh Steelers, 8½

Wednesday, 26 May 2021 18:38 EST

With nothing more productive to do for a couple months, NFLbets will begin filling the spacetime with closer looks at several of the over/under win total proposition bet odds. Today’s line:

Pittsburgh Steelers over/under 8½ wins (+105/-125)

Pittsburgh Steelers betting -- logoNFLbets will admit the truth: We’ve been waiting for the schedule – and thus this line – to come out ever since they ignominiously closed out their 2020 season on a 2-5 SU/ATS run backward. Absolutely certain we’d see the Steelers overrated and overvalued. Sure enough, the offerings were usually set at 8½ or 9, and so we’re taking the under wholeheartedly.

Those with memory and/or attention span issues may forget that portentous backslide, might dimly recall the 11-0 opening SU win streak – and perhaps more impressively 9-2 ATS. All the historical record says that the Steelers went 12-4 SU in the regular season and finished first in a competitive AFC North. Further, since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, Pittsburgh’s never finished below .500.

All very impressive. Also mostly irrelevant.

Firstly, consider the schedule. By dint of first-place finish, the Steelers draw the Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans; the former could be quite a week 1 draw: Tomlin’s Steelers have gone a decent 8-5-1 SU (though just 5-8-1 ATS) in week 1 games, but four losses and the tie were away games for an overall mark of 4-4-1; the Steelers kickoff at the Buffalo Bills in week 1. Since NFLbets is figuring on a downturn for Seattle and Tennessee, let’s be generous and give Pittsburgh a 2-1 mark in these three games.

The Steelers got a break from the scheduling system in drawing the NFC North: The Lions are expect by the sportsbooks to finish as one of the worst two teams in the league, and the Green Bay Packers may be Rodgers-less and reaching deep (so to speak) for a starting quarterback. The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears could go either way, so again say 3-1 for the Steelers.

Then are four games against the AFC West teams: week 2 vs Las Vegas, week 5 vs Denver, week 11 at the Chargers and week 16 at Kansas City. NFLbets’d be willing to take the Chargers and Chiefs in wins in these games right now; plus, these guys coming out of the block 5-1, only to collapse is hardly unimaginable – the Steelers get at Buffalo, vs Las Vegas, vs Cincinnati, vs Denver, vs Seattle – only to flame out at season’s end. So we’ll give the Steelers a 2-2 mark for these games.

But the real trouble in the Steelers schedule comes from within their own division.

Pittsburgh has gone 11-7-1 SU/11-8 ATS in all games against the AFC North since 2018 (choosing Baker Mayfield taking over as starting QB in Cleveland as an arbitrary starting point) against the three teams of the AFC North. The caveat here is the 5-1 SU mark against the Cincinnati Bengals, who should be giving Joe Burrow more weaponry and much more OL protection this season. And at 6-6-1 against the Ravens and the Browns, the Steelers trend to the edge of average against the above-average.

Are the 2021 Browns and Ravens better than .500? NFLbets figures absolutely so. If we’re honest, we give the Steelers a 2-4 in-division mark at best.

This all totals to, naturally, a 9-8 mark, depending on how you feel about that week 6 SNF game against Seattle.

Looking specifically to these Steelers, we can first say that defense is rarely the main problem. Tomlin’s Steelers have only four times failed to finish in the top 12 in points allowed and yards allowed – and three were 2013-2015.

The Pittsburgh offense, meanwhile, just ain’t what it once was. First-round draft pick Najee Harris will be expected to immediately improve the non-existent running offense, which finished dead last season. Pittsburgh RBs were so breathtakingly efficient – topping 95 yards just once in the last 11 games – that all other 2020 Steelers statistics are warped. Maybe.

Diontae Johnson was second-high in receptions with 88, but saw his yards per catch plummet as defenses needed not fear the run. Johnson caught just 39 passes on 63 targets in the final six games. JuJu Smith-Schuster was re-signed in the offseason, but his third season was his worst statistically in most yardage areas. Chase Claypool was briefly a fantasy football darling after going for 110 yards and three TDs in week 4, but only caught five the rest of the way.

And utterly insane are a couple of numbers on Ben Roethlisberger’s stat line, namely 608 attempts for 3,303 yards; in the two previous seasons that he went for more than 600 attempts, *he led the league in passing yardage*. Roethlisberger finished 16th in the stat category in 2020, 70 yards ahead of Teddy Bridgewater and 149 behind Jared Goff.

Again, it’s impossible to separate the deleterious effect of getting next to nothing from the running game on Roethlisberger’s passing. However, throwing 600-plus passes the season after one missed due to elbow surgery surely isn’t positive in most scenarios. Plus there are these realities: Everyone (except Tom Brady) gets old, every dynasty (even Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots’) falls. Impressive winning streaks always terminate. Time always wins.

And in 2021, NFLbets that, for a little while, the Steelers’ time is up. Take under 8½ wins for the Pittsburgh Steelers.


Super Bowl LV betting – Buccaneers +3 vs Chiefs – Final score, pointspread prediction

Saturday, 06 February 2021 16:33 EST

Prediction: Super Bowl LVHere’s the thing: Sentimentality and winning money in NFL betting are essentially mutually exclusive. NFLbets can say (write?) with confidence that no bettor ever became prosperous wagering on feelings and hunches. The proper bettor must place the emphasis on the numbers, the trends, the facts and information.

Yet for this Super Bowl, virtually every pregame show, ESPN gabfest or gambling-centered podcast since the conference championship games, the would-be Nostradami are pleased to inform that LV will be a great game, a close game and the Buccaneers might just win because Tom Brady. Get caught up in too much of the noise and the mantra of “Brady the GOAT, Brady the GOAT, Brady the GOAT” threatens to obfuscate rational thought about the point spread, which on Bowl Eve still reads

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 at Kansas City Chiefs

NFLbets implores bettors to stay sane, particularly as regards a certain player wearing the number 12 jersey. When considering how to bet the actual outcome of Super Bowl LV, we’d advise trying to strip away the names and labels. Consider:

•  In getting to the final game, Kansas City first ran up a 19-3 lead against Cleveland before holding on for a win with a perennial backup at QB; they then smoked the Buffalo Bills, who had been looking like the AFC’s hottest team. Tampa Bay meanwhile let the 7-9 Washington FT stay within a score in the wild-card round, took care of business against a crippled New Orleans side and got past Green Bay because Matt LaFleur forgot how math works.

•  In the NFC championship, Aaron Jones fumbled early in the 3rd quarter to allow the Bucs to earn a 28-10 lead after a single 8-yard TD pass. Thereafter, the Buccaneers starting quarterback went 6 for 13 for 70 yards – 29 yards of which came on a single reception to a guy considered the greatest TE ever to play the game – and 3 interceptions.

•  The Chiefs are currently on a 31-6 SU (21-15-1 ATS) run since kickoff 2019; they’re also on a 25-2 SU run, with one of the two losses coming with second-stringers starting in week 17 of this season; the closest comparison in recent NFL history would be the 2003-04 New England Patriots’ mark of 34-4 SU (28-8-2 ATS). Further, in this two-year span, the Chiefs are 6-1 SU (5-2 ATS) when favored by 3½ points or less and are 28-4 SU (19-13-1 ATS) in all games when favored.

•  And from the What Happened to this Statistic Department: For his career, Andy Reid-coached teams are now a ridiculous 24-4 SU after a bye week and 16-13 SU/18-11 ATS in the postseason. With the Chiefs, he’s 6-2 SU (5-3 ATS) including 5-0 SU/4-1 ATS since 2019..

You can see how NFLbets – or even those merely considering these general trends – would favor Kansas City in this game. Of course, there is the actual football to take into account. Putting aside the mystique of Touchdown Tom, the real advantage(s) Tampa Bay has in Super Bowl LV is all in the trenches.

The truth is that the Chiefs defense ranks 31st against the run by the DVOA metric and dead last in the red zone; not exactly the stats you want when facing the twosome of Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, guys who have been damaging unprepared run Ds all 2020.

And then there’s the well-publicized shuffling of the K.C. offensive line, beginning with left tackle where Mike Remmers moves from RT in the wake of Eric Fisher’s injury and affecting four of the five spots. Center Austin Reiter is the sole starter in the same position from last year’s Super Bowl win. But recall that a) the Chiefs get a bye week, b) Reid himself played on the BYU OL, and c) Chiefs line coach Andy Heck is an 8-year veteran of the Chiefs and considered one of the NFL’s best. NFLbets believes Kansas City has time to formulate a plan, even one that entails stopping Jason Pierre-Paul and compadres.

But hey, forget the facts if you must. You want a compelling narrative? Try this: In Super Bowl LV, we’ve got a generational matchup of Hall of Fame-level quarterbacks that might only be compared to Namath vs. Unitas, Bradshaw vs. Staubach, Manning vs. Wilson – now recall whose team won those matchups. This very game may be the flashpoint moment, the turning point, the changing of the guard from the Brady/Roethlisberger/Rodgers lot (and peers like the Mannings, Brees and Rivers already gone) eclipsed by a surprisingly massive wave of exciting young QBs starting with two-time Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and including Josh Allen, DeShaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, etc.

And with a win, the fledgling would-be GOAT will have led his team to this first Super Bowl championship repeat since who else but those 2003-04 Patriots. Who, except for maybe Gisele Bundchen, not appreciate such a narrative? Take the Kansas City Chiefs -3 vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and enjoy the history of the moment.

–written by Os Davis


Super Bowl LV player props – Super Bowl MVP odds, predictions, longshot picks

Friday, 05 February 2021 14:06 EST

Super Bowl MVP propNFLbets’ favorite Super Bowl proposition bet is certainly the good old “Super Bowl MVP” market: Winning this prop on a perceived longshot can save your Super Bowl or can recoup lotsa losses on a well-played hedge. With two ultra-hyped quarterbacks drawing most of the action, Super Bowl LV has a number of scintillating opportunities for the wagering. We’ll start with the obvious, namely…

• Patrick Mahomes, 20/23
• Tom Brady, 2/1
. At 2/1, Brady is getting longer odds in this prop than in any Super Bowl he’s played in after 2002; he’s therefore an excellent double-down bet if you’re backing Tampa Bay as well as a great loss-recouping hedge for Kansas City bettors. The danger in betting Brady for MVP is if he more closely resembles the game-managing, defense-dependent Peyton Manning of Super Bowl 50 rather than the unafraid airing-it-out Peyton manning of Super Bowl XLI – though we have the former possibility covered as well; see below.

By contrast, Mahomes at lower than 1/1 really only makes a decent hedge if you’re firmly in the Buccaneers camp. Given that the next-nearest Chief in the MVP prop opened at 10/1 odds, the sportsbooks are essentially telegraphing that a Kansas City win most likely results in a second straight Mahomes MVP title. With Chiefs -3½ at -105 and Chiefs ML at -170, if you believe in a last-second 3-point or less win by his team, the Mahomes MVP bet is a great play. Even better for Chiefs backers, though, are the other two studs K.C. is bringing…

• Tyreek Hill, 17/2 (down from 10/1)
• Travis Kelce, 21/2 (up from 10/1). Considering the stats these two have put up in the playoffs, in week 11 versus these Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, and essentially all season, these odds are well too long.

The betting reflets this take; the odds posted herein are courtesy My Bookie. Certainly not too many other sportsbooks are seeing a swing of -150, but Hill is clearly getting some love from the betting public. Hill is a decent value bet here based on his record-breaking performance in the week 11 game, but one can’t help imagine that Bruce Arians will cook up double teams and serious coverage on Tyreek, particularly in the first half so as to remove that part of the playbook for Kansas City.

But then there’s Kelce who spent the entire AFC Championship Game against Buffalo burning double- and even triple-coverages to the tune of 13 receptions, 118 yards receiving and two TDs; Hill meanwhile was good for 152 yards on 8 catches versus Buffalo. For the Super Bowl, the return of Sammy Watkins can only make things more difficult.

So if Kelce is such a great bet in the Super Bowl MVP prop, why are his odds increasing? Common wisdom seems to be that, with the Chiefs having to rejigger the offensive line somewhat for this game, Kelce will be deployed as a blocker. After his 2020 season as essentially the NFL’s most productive receiver plus Andy Reid’s point-a-minute philosophy since coaching Mahomes, this doesn’t feel like the most plausible scenario – nor does Kelce becoming the first-ever TE to win this MVP seem far-fetched at all.

• Devon White, 25/1 to 30/1
• Jason Pierre-Paul, 30/1 to 80/1
. So say Brady does throw a game akin to Peyton Manning’s in Super Bowl 50, and say the Chiefs’ stapled together offensive line succumbs to Tampa Bay’s relentless pass rush early and often. With Brady likely to divide up targets as per normal with these Bucs while Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones similarly split the bulk of the carries in a, likesay, 20-17 win, two or three key plays from a defender could win him the award.

Pierre-Paul will certainly receive much of the media’s and Kansas City OL’s attention throughout the first half in lining up against Mike Remmers, who moves from RT to LT in the wake of Eric Fisher’s injury. Early into the Bowl, we should see quite clearly the effect this matchup will have on the game’s complexion. A couple of sacks on Mahomes to go with a turnover or even a forced turnover will certainly win some MVP voters over after a low-scoring game.

Devon White has meanwhile been on a Von Milleresque trajectory in the season’s second half and straight through three playoff games. And while statistically the Buccaneers D has been average, at this point in the season, Tampa Bay may even be considered a defense-first team. White’s main competition here in a Bucs win – even a low-scoring win – would, ironically, be Brady.

Only 10 defensive players have won the Super Bowl MVP award, and only four in the 21st century. Of these four, only one (Malcolm Smith in Super Bowl XLVIII) had a top-10 quarterback (Russell Wilson) at his team’s helm. Smith’s Seahawks turned in perhaps the most dominant performance by a defense in the ’Bowl, however, in shutting out the Denver Broncos for the game’s first 45 minutes. Figure the Chiefs will be good even on their worst Sunday for at least 9 points; after all, with Mahomes at quarterback, these Chiefs have scored fewer than 21 points just twice – and average 35.2 points per postseason game. Brady might not have to do more than throw a TD pass and make no mistakes, even in another 13-3 snoozer…

– written by Os Davis


Super Bowl LV betting – Buccaneers vs Chiefs – “Anytime touchdown” props odds

Tuesday, 02 February 2021 18:07 EST

Yesterday NFLbets confidently asserted that our favorite bet for Super Bowl LV is the over, despite the  quite high 56½-point offering. In fact, just once has the over been higher at Super Bowl kickoff time: For Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

Nevertheless we’re sticking to our over bet if only for the sake of cheering for scoring. As much fun as betting on the under can be, a 13-3 Super Bowl or even a jittery first half ending in 10-10 usually makes for a bummer of a Super Bowl unless you’re talking about two killer defenses, which neither the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nor Kansas City Chiefs truly bring to this game.

So NFLbets is expecting touchdowns, many touchdowns indeed – we’re looking for so many TDs that we’re concentrating our player proposition betting on “Anytime Touchdown” props. The best thing about these bets is that they’re utterly independent of pointspread and money line betting; in our case, it doesn’t matter much who wins (remember, you can tease both teams with either over or under and have both teams getting points: The Chiefs go to +2½ or +3 and the Bucs to +9 or +9½.

Who will score touchdowns in Super Bowl LV? NFLbets likes…

Travis Kelce, -175

In the last 10 games, Kelce’s averaging 8.6 receptions and 112.4 yards per to go with 9 TDs; against Buffalo in the AFC Championship game, the TE put on a crazy show with 13 catches on 15 targets for  118 yards and 2 TDs – while drawing double coverage on most plays. Kelce is enjoying a run at TE that perhaps no one other than possibly, well … Rob Gronkowski has ever pulled off. The Buccaneers statistically are reasonably decent against TEs at 12th overall in fantasy points surrendered and Kelce turned in an average performance – for him – against Tampa Bay in week 12 with eight catches for 80 yards, but the return of Sammy Watkins opens up the deep ball opportunities, good news for Kelce as well as…

Tyreek Hill, -175

 As fantastic as Hill has been in 2020, he enjoyed a career day in the week 12 game with 13 receptions for an incredible 269 yards and 3 TDs, the latter as many as the Buccaneers entire offense managed in the game. We absolutely cannot expect Hill to produce anything like that – half as many yards plus 1 touchdown would be impressive enough in a ’Bowl – but Hill went for 172 yards against Buffalo when Kelce and he were essentially the sole options against a top-10 passing defense. With Watkins back, the Bucs D is forced to chose their poison, and Tyreek has looked deadly in two playoff games thus far.

Leonard Fournette, +120

For a guy who appears untacklable at times, Fourneette hasn’t exactly blown stat junkies’ minds in his first season with Tampa Bay. He’s topped 100 total yards just thrice this season (albeit in two of the past three games), but NFLbets likes Fournette to score here for three reasons: Sheer volume of carries, i.e. he’s had 12 or more carries in four of the past six games; his 6 TDs in the past six games; and, most compellingly, the Kansas City D’s league-worst performance in the red zone. How difficult is it to imagine a scenario in which Brady benefits from a questionable pass-interference call in the end zone, followed by a 1-yard plunge by Fournette? Right.

Rob Gronkowski, +260

In weeks 6 through 16 in his reunification with Brady, Gronkowski was good for 3 catches on just under 6 targets per game with 7 TDs to boot. In the past four games, however, he’s totaled just 4 catches. So why does NFLbets like this bet so much? Here’s the theory: At this point in his career, Cameron Brate is a well better receiving TE but few still block as well as Gronk. In the NFC Championship game, he played four snaps, threw three killer blocks and caught one key pass for 29 yards. We believe that there is a special part of the playbook earmarked for Gronkowski and that Brady will be looking for the safety valve, possibly early and probably late. After all, the man was Brady’s best receiver – with 106 yards on 8 receptions – the last time these teams met…

–Os Davis


Super Bowl LV betting – Buccaneers vs Chiefs – Over/under, prediction; teaser bets, props

Monday, 01 February 2021 09:23 EST

Super Bowl LV betting over/underNFLbets is thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to calling Super Bowl LV prediction-proof. Numbers, trends and rationality all wither under the white-hot brilliance of Tom Brady’s career. Near as NFLbets can tell, the no. 1 reason in betting the Bucs with (current) lines of

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3½ vs Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 56½ points

Is “Never bet against Tom Brady.” Not exactly the hard numbers we’d rather see, and there are certainly arguments for, likesay, betting on Patrick Mahomes and his all-star offense coached by Andy Reid, but we’ll save those for last, because this one’s probably a Super Bowl when we’ll be doing very little pointspread betting relative to props – and the point total.

NFLbets may as well not bury the lead: Take the over on an O/U of 56½ points or even wait until it sinks to 56 at this rate. Crazy that a single $2.3 million bet on the Buccaneers at BetMGM made headlines but couldn’t budge Kansas City -3½, while the over/under has shed ½ to 1 point in the first week since the conference championship games. NFLbets is clearly paddling against the tide on this one.

But hey, since after the wild-card round NFLbets has been pushing the over, no matter the number, regardless of matchup – and for good reason. With four teams remaining in the postseason, not one sported a defense that was top 10 against the pass, against the run or in defensive DVOA. “Defense wins championships”? In 2021, defense may be optional for the winner.

Kansas City is particularly egregious in one statistical area: Though going 10th in points allowed, the Chiefs ranked dead last in red-zone defense – this is what you’re giving Brady? Add to this a well below-average defense – they rank 21st in yards allowed despite seeing just the 19th-most attempts – facing off against the increasingly unstoppable Leonard Fournette, and NFLbets expects the Chiefs to be surrendering some points.

But if Tampa Bay is scoring, we can certainly bet on Kansas City keeping pace. Until last week, Mahomes & Co. had done a 7-1 SU/0-8 ATS run which was costly for a lot of gamblers but also sent a distinct message, i.e. the 2020 Chiefs can play any style and always does enough to win. Purely pragmatically speaking, K.C. has scored 27 or more in 5 of the last 9, 9 of the last 14.

The knock, if any, on the Chiefs offense for the second half of the season has been no running game. Fair enough but geez, what will the Bucs D do against Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, who caught for a combined 22 catches for 290 yards and two TDs. Hell, NFLbets’ latest theory is that the Chiefs allow themselves to get behind 1 or 1½ touchdowns just so they have to throw for the rest of the game.

The point: Both teams are going to throw a lot, both could well be quite successful, and points will be scored. NFLbets may be optimistic here just two years removed from New England Patriots 13, Los Angeles Rams 3 but we’re thinking barnburner. In week 7, these teams played to 27-24 in Tampa. Would, likesay, Buccaneers 30-27 or Chiefs 30-27 be an unreasonable result? So we’re also saying bet YES in the Both Teams score over 24½ points proposition bet.

One final note. With an over/under this high and a game apparently too close to predict securely, teasers look great. Betting Tampa Bay and the under, for example, gets you lines of Bucs +9½ and under 63 points, while Kansas City and the over gets Chiefs +2½ and over 50½, both extremely tempting bets – so tempting NFLbets covered both…

–written by Os Davis


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