NFL betting: News, information, odds shifts

NFLbets is all about how the action in America’s professional football league relates to betting and though the opportunity to get real insider information is more limited all the time, the NFL bettor must keep up-to-date on the latest news – particularly injuries. NFLbets will be focusing on news stories which involve immediate relevance to the games ahead.

We’ve all seen what results when a team loses a starting left tackle, free safety or “skill player” to injury or suspension. In addition, NFL football of the 21st century increasingly runs into another issue taking away players, namely suspensions for drug-related and/or violent activity. Again, though the window of opportunity to leverage injury and suspension information is quite brief indeed, knowing ahead of time always beats ignorance.

NFLbets also seeks to cater to fans of one of the NFL’s 32 teams, and our news stories are compiled for each NFL market within our “team pages” so that fans may follow the progress of their favorites – not to mention check our track record, win or lose. And hopefully we’ll demonstrate throughout that our only bias is toward making money. We’re cheering for the bettors against the house here, and week to week we care only that our picks come through – for the readers and us.

Finally, NFLbets pledges to keep all speculation and opinion to the “Rants” section. In this area, we’ll try to keep things purely informational (no mean feat in a “post-fact” world) – just the facts and no “fake news” here.

NFLbets wishes all bettors the best of luck; let’s all make some money out there, okay?

Final results NFL 2021 week 2 (adjusted for point spread)

Wednesday, 22 September 2021 16:55 EST

To enjoy success, the NFL bettor must avoid the more commonly-held irrational beliefs about NFL football. You know, stuff like “Team X always wins at home” or “Team Y will be as good as/worse than last year” or the classic “Team Z always screws me.” Bettors must, as they say in football land, take these games one at a time.

And do the research.

Rethinking the preconceptions is particularly well done after week 2 games. NFLbets is fairly well certain everyone’s sick of losing in weeks 1 and 2. Fair enough, these opening weeks are not a time of the NFL season for the fainthearted but it is now imperative to adjust expectations.

Below runs the official weekly recap from NFLbets, with results adjusted for the point spread. Game results in bold are those in which the SU winner failed to cover the spread.

• New York Giants 29 at Washington Football Team 26½
A not-so-fascinating Thursday Night Football matchup on paper turned out to be fun for fans, punishing for NFL bettors. Who besides the homers had the Giants money line (ML)? Who bet the over? As for prior-held expectations, NFLbets is dialing back on Washington FT: Last year’s world-beating defense giving up 29 points to Danny D. Jones is a very bad sign.

• Dallas Cowboys 20 at Los Angeles Chargers 14
Sooooooo, the Cowboys win the NFC East? All right, then…

• Carolina Panthers 26, New Orleans Saints 4
NFLbets has been down on the 2021 Saints since the preseason, but we’ll have to admit to potentially sleeping on the Panthers a bit. Last season, Carolina jettisoned Cam Newton and revamped the coaching staff with a troika from the college ranks: HC Matt Rhule, OC Joe Brady and DC Phil Snow. This is year 2 of the rebuild and they now have a quarterback (if not *the* quarterback) whom Rhule et al chose. Carolina might be dangerous.

• Buffalo Bills 31½, Miami Dolphins 0
• New England Patriots 19 at New York Jets 6
Aaaaaaaaaaand just like that the pecking order in the AFC East seems pretty well determined – except that Buffalo and New England won’t meet until December, in week 14, when both should be about 9-4…

• Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35½, Atlanta Falcons 25
NFLbets is very, very ashamed that we took the 2021 Atlanta Falcons seriously as a viable franchise. Nothing looks good in Atlanta, and we have to wonder if Kyle Pitts becomes the first-ever NFL player to demand a trade before his rookie season is up. Meanwhile, yep, go ahead an pencil in the Buccaneers for the NFC Championship Game at very least.

• Indianapolis Colts 24 at Los Angeles Rams 23½
• Tennessee Titans 33, Seattle Seahawks 26½
• Minnesota Vikings 33 at Arizona Cardinals 30½
• San Francisco 49ers 14 Philadelphia Eagles 11
. After dominating their individual competitions in week 1, the teams of the NFC West were collectively getting much hype going into week 2, when they … well, they pretty much dominated again, going 3-1 SU. While only Seattle lost outright, the Cardinals probably would have had not the Vikings vikingsed, and neither the Rams nor the 49ers crushed the other side as they should have. No real adjustment of expectations here necessarily, but bettors may want to think twice about giving too many points against decent competition.

• Chicago Bears 18½, Cincinnati Bengals 17
• Denver Broncos 17 at Jacksonville Jaguars 13
OK, so not *every* game taught bettors something about relevant teams. (Nope we’re still not believing in Denver after games against the Giants and Jaguars…)

• Houston Texans 21 at Cleveland Browns 17½
• Las Vegas Raiders 26, Pittsburgh Steelers 11
• Baltimore Ravens 36, Kansas City Chiefs 31
We’re not making too much of the Browns loss ATS against a too-high spread or the Ravens win SU/ATS against a nearly non-existent Chiefs defense, but surely no one save the Pittsburgh homers honestly believe the Steelers are contenders this season.

• Green Bay Packers 23½, Detroit Lions 17
Putting “against the Lions” at the end of any sentence in an NFL betting piece really minimizes the achievement, doesn’t it? As in, “Hey, the Packers were giving double-digit points and still won ATS by almost a touchdown … against the Lions. (Sound of deflation.)

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Here’s your four-team 6-point teaser for betting NFL week 2

Saturday, 18 September 2021 18:20 EST

NFLbets has already decided that this week’s line of Arizona Cardinals -3½ vs the Minnesota Vikings is about as good an offering as bettors are likely to see this NFL season and so we’re wagering accordingly. Additionally, a good number of games seem designed for playing in a 6-point teaser bet. Below are listed three goodies for week 2 in NFL betting – take ’em on point spread bets are lump ’em together in a tease with Cardinals +2½ and we figure you’re set for one profitable weekend of betting…

Seattle Seahawks retro logoSeattle Seahawks -6½ vs Tennessee Titans

For this game, NFLbets’ll dispense a few stats; the theme will become rapidly apparent. Since Pete Carroll took over as Seahawks head coach in 2010,

•  Seattle is a ridiculous 19-2 SU/16-5 ATS at home in weeks 1-4;

•  in the first home game of the season, Seattle is 11-0 SU/8-3 ATS;

•  as favorites at home in weeks 1-4, they’re 14-1 SU/10-5 ATS; and

•  as favorites of 5½ points or more in these games, they’re 10-0 SU/6-4 ATS.

Last week, the Titans defense continued in the downward trajectory fallen into since Mike Vrabel became HC and got 38 points run up on them by the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks are meanwhile still running with Russell Wilson and a top-5 receiving corps.

NFLbets can frankly not imagine a realistic scenario in which the Titans win this game – among the unrealistic scenarios might be Derrick Henry of 2019 time-traveling forward a couple of years to sub in for Derrick Henry 2021 version. However, if you’re not necessarily confident of Wilson & Co. covering a touchdown, take the Seattle Seahawks -½ in a 6-point teaser bet!

Los Angeles Rams bettingLos Angeles Rams -3½ at Indianapolis Colts

The Rams are dealing with the minus of a noon CT start time, but all other advantages point in the Rams direction. Sure, Carson Wentz looked pretty good after coming off an injury to go 25-of-38 for 251 yards with 2 TD passes against zero interceptions … against a middling pass defense. Los Angeles was the no. 1 overall defense and the no. 1 passing defense in the league last season with no indication that anything is different there.

And while the Rams offense may not be the league’s best, Sean McVay will certainly be enjoying his newfound freedom to open the playbook for his new QB Matt Stafford for a good couple of months at least. Stafford didn’t need to do too much against the Bears, throwing just 26 times and hitting on TDs three times to three different receivers. We’d guess that Stafford’ll attempt more passes yet should achieve similar results.

NFLbets loves the Rams minus the points here – but if you believe the Colts can pull off the home upset, take the Los Angeles Rams +2½ in a 6-point teaser bet or even take the Indianapolis Colts +9½ in the tease…

Kansas City Chiefs logo bettingKansas City Chiefs -3½ at Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens turned what will probably go down as a net negative in the 2021 offseason; in game 1, the biggest name acquisition still standing, WR Sammy Watkins did well enough with 96 receiving yards on four catches – though out of eight targets. Marcus Peters is of course on IR, with the results obvious in the Baltimore opener, i.e. Derek Carr throwing 56 times for 435 yards engineering three scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

This is the defense expected to stop Pat Mahomes, Travis Kelce (Las Vegas TE Darren Waller, a badass to be sure but no Kelce, caught 10 passes for 105 yards and a TD against Baltimore last week) et al – even before we get to the historical aspect.

Which is this: Lamar Jackson has played these Kansas City Chiefs three times since entering the league in 2018; the Ravens are 0-3 SU/1-2 ATS in those games. As head coach of Baltimore, John Harbaurgh is just 1-5 SU/3-3 ATS against Andy Reid-coached teams, with the sole win coming against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008.

Finally, the beat the mainstream sports media’s dead horse a bit more, consider that Reid’s Chiefs have gone an impressive 20-13 SU/19-14 ATS in regular-season primetime games whereas, as you may have heard, the Ravens are on a 2-3 SU/ATS run in primetime since 2020.

NFLbets believes the Chiefs will cover easily here but again, if you take the Kansas City Chiefs in a 6-point teaser bet, you get them at +2½, what amounts to an alternative point spread…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

NFL week 2 Sure Bet: Arizona Cardinals -3½ all day vs Minnesota Vikings

Saturday, 18 September 2021 10:10 EST

After stumbling through the first week-and-a-Thursday of the 2021 NFL season, NFLbets would like to thank the bookmakers for sending NFL bettors an easy, near can’t-miss line in week 2:

Minnesota Vikings +3½ at Arizona Cardinals

Minnesota Vikings bettingThe way NFLbets sees it, this point spread looks nearly good enough to win a Too Easy label. Not to overreact but our two hot-take takeaways from a combination of 10% offseason and 90% game 1: The Cardinals are looking like the team the NFL was promised in 2020, while the Vikings (and head coach Mike Zimmer) resemble a franchise in a terminal stage of decline preceding the rebuild.

It is this latter trend that makes this line particularly baffling. The truth is that Mike Zimmer has made the playoffs three times against four seasons of 8-7-1 SU or worse. And since 2018, the Vikings defense has gone from a top-10 unit to last year’s point-hemorrhaging side. Talk about injuries all you like, but Coach Z’s guys last weekend grabbed zero turnovers while letting a QB in his 12th game and a rookie WR who reportedly couldn’t catch a beach ball at training camp in his debut have their way. Five sacks may impress defensive line coach Andre Patterson (if he doesn’t consider the competition) but can’t win.

As to how the Vikes offense couldn’t put the ball in the end zone more than twice is also confusing – until we remember Kirk Cousins. A first-ballot inductee into the Good Stats/Terrible Results Hall Of Fame, Cousins somehow managed to go 36-of-49 for 351 yards, three TDs against zero picks and still lost. Yes, the Bengals defense could well be bottom-5 or so in 2021 but the Vikings running just 22 attempts for 67 yards and Cousins posing zero threat whatsoever (0 attempts for 0 yards in this game) bodes badly against any team with a pass rush.

Arizona Cardinals bettingAaaaaand here comes Chandler Jones, he of the five sacks against Tennessee in week 1. NFLbets isn’t suggesting back-to-back career days for Jones, though he had to be stoked when watching tape of the Bengals/Vikings game this week.

Need more? How about four passing TDs (two each to DeAndre Hopkins and Christian “Captain James T.” Kirk) and one running TD from Kyler Murray; this was Murray’s first five-TD game in the NFL, and the Cardinals have scored 38 or more (38, to be precise) just twice before last week. NFLbets would be more surprised if Arizona’s game 1 performance were a fluke than not.

Early on, the Arizona Cardinals look like a Super Bowl contender; the Minnesota Vikings look like a 6-11 team at best – and in such a scenario, regardless of point in the season, the smart money is always on the former. Take the Arizona Cardinals -3½ vs Minnesota.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Do not go gentle into that Thursday Night: Betting NY Giants +3 at Washington FT

Thursday, 16 September 2021 14:57 EST

So NFL Thursday Night Football has another ho-hum matchup that few outside the home markets care much about and on which the betting prospects aren’t necessarily all that amazing. You’d think that in the day of the 17-game schedule, The Shield would simply declare a full-on ratings grab and start flexing games like

Washington Football Team -3 at New York Giants, over/under 40½ points

right out of the primetime slot. Granted, few marquee games are on the card for week 2, Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens is set for Sunday night, and many (including NFLbets) figured that Washington might be an interesting sleeper contender.

The reason why flexing doesn’t happen for TNF is of course because Thursday night already messes with expected outcomes. In these games from week 1 2016 through week 1 ’21, for example:

betting New York Giants football•  underdogs have gone 23-50 SU for a winning percentage of just .315 on Thursday Night Football, significantly worse than the expected 40% to 43% chance in an average NFL game;

•  underdogs perform slightly below average expectations ATS as well, at 34-39-2 ATS;

•  home teams are 47-27 SU (a .635 winning percentage) on Thursday nights and 41-31-2 ATS, whereas historically, the homers have a 57% to 60% to win SU in a typical NFL game; and

• the under is 39-35 in the 74 TNF games, but the pendulum is swinging back to the over, which since 2018 is on a 28-21 run.

As a home team favorite, then, the pick would appear to be Washington giving the points; unfortunately, some rather weird trends make the decision not so clear – even before discussing Washington now no. 1 QB Taylor Heinicke, 0-1 SU/ATS as a starter with 92 passing attempts in the NFL, including 57 in three seasons ago with the Carolina Panthers.  

In the Danny Dimes Era, i.e. 2019 through week 1 of ’21, the Giants are a pitiable 10-23 SU, though an expected 16-17 ATS. The under in Giants games in the span is 20-13.

Against Washington, though, the results are not quite dictionary-definition outlier, but definitely extreme: 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS with overs going 3-1. NFLbets wouldn’t suggest that the G-men become a different team against Washington these past three seasons, but rather that a sub-.500 team such as Washington these past three seasons can expect to lose to inferior teams like the Giants.

NFLbets’ll tell you one guy who’d like to flex to a Sunday: Ron Rivera. NFLbets considers coaching records in short-week situations very seriously. Teams coached by Ron Rivera in his 12 seasons are 4-5 SU and it’s all downhill from there. Rivera’s teams are 3-6 ATS on Thursday nights, including an 0-4 ATS/1-3 SU record when playing as a 3- or 3½-point favorite.

Finally, what can be made of the week 1 games the two NFC East teams played? New York’s offensive line performed a bit better than expected (or was the Broncos pass rush worse…?) in allowing only two sacks. And Danny Jones Danny Jonesed again, losing a fumble to lower his per game average to 1.11 – no, really – on the way to a 14-point loss as 3-point underdogs.

Washington’s vaunted defense looked quite good against the Chargers in Los Angeles, registering two sacks and an interception against the dangerous Justin Herbert before tuckering out in the fourth quarter. (Is it a question of conditioning…?)

In the final analysis, NFLbets is sticking with our original, preseason assessment of both teams until either proves us wrong – and Heinicke is one heck of an X-factor. Though Rivera’s record is quite distressing, we’ll put our money with the greater Thursday Night trends and say Rivera finally wins ATS as a TNF favorite: Take the Washington Football Team -3 versus the Giants.

The better play, though, is certainly to take the under on an O/U of 40½ points. That’s not a lot, but consider that the under in Giants games since 2019 is 20-13, in Washington FT games 20-14 and in games at Washington is 10-6. Not only this, but under-40½ would have hit in 13 of the 33 Giants games and 18 of 34 FT games regardless of opponent.

NFLbets likes those odds…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Monday Night Football betting: Baltimore Ravens -4 at Las Vegas Raiders

Monday, 13 September 2021 16:58 EST

Now do you see the futility of betting in week 1? Going into Monday Night Football, underdogs in week 1 of the 2021 NFL season are 8-7 SU and 11-4 ATS. Of the *nine* games kicking off with a point spread of 3½ points or less, the so-called underdog was 7-2 ATS/SU.

And so with the huge dollop of humility now required of most NFL bettors, NFLbets considers the evil line for Monday Night Football:

Baltimore Ravens -4 at Las Vegas Raiders, over/under 51 points

As NFLbets dogma dictates, week 1 is when bettors and fans learn, what, 75% of everything they’ll know about each team by season’s end. So to bet this edition of MNF, NFLbets went to the historical record and considered the 35 MNF games played since 2001. (Remember way back when the NFL had a Monday night doubleheader in week 1? Yeah, man, ancient history…)

The most superficial of the stats are none too encouraging…

  • In the 35 Monday night games considered, home teams are 18-17 SU; and
  • the over is 18-17.

But a slightly deeper dig reveals seemingly more helpful infomraton.

  • Since 2001, home teams on Monday Night Football week 1 are 14-19-2 ATS;
  • favorites are 20-15 SU but a seriously bad 12-21-2 ATS;
  • favored visiting teams are 9-7 SU and 5-11 ATS; and
  • in games with point spreads of 2½ points or less, home underdogs are 5-1 SU/ATS.

With the unpredictably of week 1 in mind, these trends compel one to take the Raiders +4 and the Ravens on a money line (ML) bet at weak odds of -190 or so. But if you’re getting squeamish about covering the as-yet sight-unseen 2021 Las Vegas Raiders with their steadily eroding defense, you’re hardly alone – and one glaring trend backs you up nicely.

In short, we can say this: John Harbaugh – with possibly competition from Andy Reid – is probably the best NFL head coach in week 1. In his 13 seasons as head coach, Harbaugh has helped get his Ravens to a 10-3 SU/ATS rate in opening games. Gruden has won SU/ATS his last two opening day games, but in all games 1, his teams are just 5-9 SU/5-8-1 ATS.

Now fair enough, the Ravens will enter this game short RBs J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill and Gus Edwards, all going down to season-ending injuries in the past two weeks – but the 2020 Raiders had a bottom-3 defense in points allowed and turnovers generated as well as a bottom-10 run defense in virtually every statistical category.

Baltimore may hardly be world-beaters in 2021, but these particular Vegas bunch will have to prove that they can stop Lamar Jackson and Gruden that he can again coach on Harbaugh’s level in this game before NFLbets would throw money at the Raiders here. Take the Baltimore Ravens -4 at Las Vegas.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Five picks ATS for your NFL week 1 Point Spread Pick ‘Em card

Thursday, 09 September 2021 16:49 EST

As NFLbets has ranted before, nothing good usually comes from betting week 1 in any NFL betting season. Then we get signed up for one of these point spread pick ‘em contests in which we’re obligated to pick *five* games weekly with (usually inflated) ’spreads. Twist NFLbets’ arm, why don’tcha?

The following are the picks on NFLbets’ ticket for week 1 of Point Spread Pick ‘Em…

• Tampa Bay Buccaneers -9 vs Dallas Cowboys
NFLbets detailed our thinking on Cowboys +7½ elsewhere on this site. Suffice to say that, since posting ot that piece, the Covid reserve list of “America’s Team” has grown to include more names than at any point during the 2020 season. Nine points is well more than we’d wager in a normal situation in this game, but a double-digit win by the Bucs is certainly believable.

• Atlanta Falcons -3 vs Philadelphia Eagles
NFLbets isn’t sure whether this line is about underestimating the Falcons, overestimating the Eagles or sheer bafflement at how either team will look when hitting mid-season coherence We get the feeling that Eagles backers wil be lamenting their fortunes by early in the third quarter. After all, wouldn’t you take the established quarterback with a potential top TE over, let’s face it, a rebuilding team quarterbacked by a dude with Alabama pedigree and little more…?

• New England Patriots -3 vs Miami Dolphins
Here’s a line with about as much WTFery as that of the Eagles-Falcons game. Fair enough, the typical NFL observer does not want to face the possibility of another postseason run by the Patriots – but this is where the bettor’s emotional distance can prove profitable. And if young Mac Jones, old Bill Belichick and an apparently stellar defense are good for 11 or more wins this season, this is the sort of game that goes in the W column – and probably by more than 3 points…

• Denver Broncos -3 at New York Giants
NFLbets has zero faith in the 2021 New York Giants, one of four likely utter washouts devoted to rebuilding and about the only one who will admit it. Teddy Bridgewater may not be the most exciting switch at quarterback but is certainly skilled enough to lead the Broncos offense to a few scores in this game. And a few scores may be enough against one of the league’s worst offensive lines; the smart bet in this game is on the under…

• Los Angeles Rams -7.5 vs Chicago Bears
7½ points is a bit high – most sportsbooks have the Rams giving 6½ -- but Rams defense vs Bears offense is one of week 1’s bigger mismatches. Beyond this is Sean McVay, armed with Matt Stafford and thus about 62% more p;laybook than with Jared Goff. The Rams might score more points than any team this week and NFLbets has no fear these Bears can keep pace…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

NFL Week 1 betting: Exclusive Welcome Bonus on NFLbets

Thursday, 09 September 2021 09:15 EST

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Week 1 betting: Dallas Cowboys -7½ at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tuesday, 07 September 2021 17:37 EST

NFL Opening Day 2021 bettingSo if you’re reading this, you’re probably not heeding NFLbets’ most strident warning about betting week 1, namely You Do Not Bet on Week 1 NFL Games. Too little knowledge plus too much leeway for upsets equals enough unknown variables to make betting week 1 akin to straight-up gambling.

But hey, the truth is that NFLbets can’t take this reasonable advice either. Who can stay away from wagering on real football after months of bending the mind on these preseason proposition bets? And thanks to the schedule-makers and sportsbooks, the 2021 NFL season will open with a real potential money drain, i.e.

Dallas Cowboys -7½ at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Up until a week ago, Cowboys -6½ was still available at some sportsbooks, but the Cowboys are looking at some potential holes on the offensive line. OG Zach Martin is out for the opener due to Covid protocols as is his backup Brandon Knight. OT Ty Nsekhe has been limited in practice this week.

Additionally, history says that Dallas is looking at quite the challenge in facing a defending Super Bowl champion on Opening Day Thursday. Since the now-tradition began in 2006,

  • favorites are 13-5 SU/10-4-4 ATS;
  • home teams are 15-3 SU and 11-3-4 ATS; and
  • the defending Super Bowl champion is a whopping 13-1 SU/9-2-3 ATS.

Furthermore, only twice has the home team lost both SU and ATS on NFL Opening Day: The New England Patriots against Kansas City in 2017 and the Chicago Bears against Green Bay in ’19.

So even before we get to the specifics of this year’s Opening Day game, things look dark for the Cowboys. Assuming that the Buccaneers are a reasonable facsimile of the team that closed the 2020 season on 8-0 SU (6-2 ATS) and 9-2 (8-3 ATS) runs – an as has been well hyped already, the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the first ever Super Bowl champion to return all 22 starters – Dallas is in some trouble.

Not only is Ezekiel Elliott vital to the Cowboys’ offensive plans and not only will the run blocking be at least wounded if not crippled, but the Bucs were the no. 1 defense against the run in 2020, not to mention top-10 in total offense, first downs allowed, turnovers generated, tackles for loss … essentially all numbers measuring the potential suffering of an underprepared offense.

As for the Cowboys defense, the bottom-5 unit of 2020 has been rebooted but is anyone ready to suggest that Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette et al will be stopped by any but the top defenses this season? And does anyone believe Dallas has improved that much?

A 7½-point spread may generally be a lot to cover in any NFL game but at any other point in the season, the offering would be jumped at what with the Cowboys’ likely patchwork OL. If you must bet on the Opening Day game, take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -7½ vs Dallas.  

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Betting team over/under bets, part 10: New England Patriots, 9½ wins

Tuesday, 31 August 2021 18:04 EST

Right: It’s high time to discuss the elephant in the room – or is that the former elephant? Maybe the once and future elephant…?

Metaphor and phraseology aside, this line is looming large in NFLbets’ thoughts:

New England Patriots, over/under 9½ wins (+105/-125)

Sad Cam NewtonThroughout the preseason, NFLbets has personally informed anyone who’ll listen that 9½ wins is seriouslylow to start the betting on the 2021 New England Patriots in a 17-game season. The Pats had a league-topping eight players opt out of ’20 due to Covid concerns, among them Dont’a Hightower, who looked pretty good back in ’19 with 71 tackles, 8 for loss and 5½ sacks. And you may have heard about the Patriots’ unprecedented near-$160 million splurge in free agency.

Since the NFL Draft, NFLbets was figuring that 1) the Patriots would be armed with a solid (if not brilliant) 1-2 combination at quarterback no matter which way the internal competition sorted itself, and 2) that if Bill Belichick decided to run with Mac Jones as starter, thus deeming him NFL-ready, the rest of the NFL was in some proper trouble.

For about a week prior to today, NFLbets knew that Cam Newton’s shenanigans involving him dodging team Covid-testing protocols would more or less kill his chances of keeping the starting QB job. At least until the US is Covid-free, which will be approximately forever.

Then this morning:

Chances are Belichick might’ve started Jones regardless of Cam Newton’s status, but Newton’s flat-out jettisoning from the team muddies the waters around Jones. Maybe Belichick wants to know immediately if Jones is a bust, though not even the NFL’s Dark Emperor would be allowed to throw a potential $12.4.5 million at Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to test a theory.

NFLbets’ premise begins with Jones as an average quarterback for the Patriots in 2021, which is more than they got out of Newton in ’20: Cam ranked 18th in completion percentage, 34th in TD passes, 23rd in yards per attempt and 30th in QBR, just to name a few telling metrics. To help Jones along, the Patriots added the aforementioned TEs and WRs, and are apparently happy enough with rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson to go with James White and Damien Harris that they could afford to let go of Sony Michel.

The New England defense in 2020 was quite the dichotomous beast: The pass D incredibly faced the fewest pass attempts in the NFL, but ended up tops in interceptions. Overall, the Pats D ranked 7th in the league in scoring allowed, but the front seven were a bottom-10 unit in virtually all significant running D stats. To this end, the springtime splurge of the Patriots welcomed in LBs Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy, DTs Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy, and DE Henry Anderson. Coming over in the draft were DT Christian Barmore and DE Ronnie Perkins. Together with Hightower, the Patriots could literally go with an entirely transformed front 7.

The 2021 New England Patriots schedule

The already Most Hyped Game of the Season takes place in week 4, Tampa Bay at New England. But while all eyes are on this probably ultimately mostly inconsequential game, few are noticing what a number of winnable games the Patriots get early on in 2021.

The schedule starts with vs Miami Dolphins, at New York Jets and vs New Orleans Saints. Week 5 begins a second triad running at Houston Texans, vs Dallas Cowboys and vs the New York Jets. For NFLbets, the sole loss that might be expected is the Cowboys game when presumably we’ll see how good the run defense is against Ezekiel Elliott. (Note, too, that three of the Patriots’ first seven come against bottom-5 teams in the Jets and Texans.) We’d say New England goes at very worst 4-3 in these games.

The schedule makers seemed to stuff week 8 through 16 full of potential playoff teams (if not necessarily bona fide Super Bowl contenders) for the Patriots: They’ll go at “Los Angeles” Chargers, at Carolina Panthers, vs Cleveland Browns, at Atlanta Falcons, vs Tennessee Titans, at Buffalo Bills, bye, at Indianapolis Colts and vs Buffalo

Even the eight-game gauntlet should be manageable for a would-be playoff contending team, however. NFLbets has difficulty imagining that the Bills can push a winning streak against the Patriots beyond three games or that Belichick’s team will lose coming out of a bye week. The game in Los Angeles will certainly have a Pats-favorable crowd and kicks off at 4:30pm ET. And if the Titans continue getting more one-dimensional, they’ll likely have run Derrick Henry into the ground before week 13.

Playing this conservatively, we’ll pencil the Patriots in for a 4-4 run over this stretch, giving them a cumulative mark of 8-7 going into the final two games of their season vs Jacksonville Jaguars and at Miami.

At this point, even the most stoic of bettors can see the opportunities inherent in taking the over in this prop: Assuming that the defensive acquisitions and Mac Jones make for the slightest of improvements gets the ’21 Patriots to at least 9 wins. If you believe Belichick, Jones & Co. can do even slightly better than this minimum, you’re getting with NFLbets to take the New England Patriots over 9½ wins. Plus, hedging appropriately on the Dolphins vs a 9-7 Patriots team will help make week 18 a glorious one for bettors…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

Betting team over/under wins, part 9: Baltimore Ravens, 10½ wins

Monday, 30 August 2021 19:00 EST

“Well, that was fun,” said no backer of the Baltimore Ravens as J.K. Dobbins was getting carted off the field in the opening minutes of Saturday’s preseason game against Washington. In fact, in 2021, the Ravens may end up as Exhibit A in a hearing to determine the futility of expecting to win money on team futures in the preseason. Those who waited to bet on

Baltimore Ravens over/under wins totalBaltimore Ravens, over/under 10½ wins (-150/+125)

(or thereabouts) have got to be liking these odds today. Already the odds on under were too long and the win total too high. With Dobbins out of the picture for 2021, covering the over suddenly seems quite the tall task.

But, hey, every NFL team takes hits from injuries, right? And sure, Dobbins was set to fill the no.1 halfback position but this is the 20s and passing offense is everything! Besides, the 2021 Baltimore Ravens, like so often in the past, are supposed to be about defense first…

So go the protestations that might be valid about most any other of the 31 NFL teams – but these Ravens are quite the special case, indeed.

In 2021, the Baltimore defense ranked no. 2 in the NFL in points allowed and no. 7 in yardage allowed; again, quite typical of Ravens teams traditionally: Since Brian Billick stepped in as head coach in 1999, the Ravens ranked in the top-10 in both categories in 16 of the 22 subsequent seasons. Pretty impressive statistically, but note that in the 2012 season prior to winning Super Bowl LXVII, the Baltimore ranked just 12th and 17th, respectively, in the aforementioned statistical categories.

Meanwhile, the Ravens offense is about as unconventional as any we’ve seen in the 21st century. Baltimore is somehow armed with a top-10 quarterback (at very least in terms of name recognition) yet “boasted” the no 32-ranked passing offense in the NFL in 2021 – and this with the *no. 7* offense in scoring. This is of course down to the heavily-imbalanced run-pass option-based offense the Ravens and the singularly uniquely talented Lamar Jackson have been forced to adopt.

Last season, Jackson and Dobbins combined for a 1810 yards and 16 touchdowns on 293 carries – an average of 6.18 yards per carry. With Dobbins going for 6.01 ypc, the Ravens became the first team in the Super Bowl era to have two of the league’s top-3 in the stat. Add in Gus Edwards tacking on 723 yards at a 5.0 ypc clip after taking over the starting HB role for Mark Ingram beginning in game 10, and you’ve got three guys representing over 42% of all Ravens yardage *on the ground.*

Again, the reminder – and this cannot be stressed too stridently – *this is 2021*.

Edwards has signed a two-year extension and will presumably be bumped back up to no. 1 HB on the depth chart, but where will 150 more carries come from? NFLbets is more than slightly skeptical about the hot-take names like LeVeon Bell and Todd Gurley which were bandied about on NFL twitter last weekend.

The sole “skill” players of note added by the Ravens in the offseason were Sammy Watkins, primarily a deep-threat receiver for a QB who threw as many 40+-yard completions as Ben Roethlisberger, Nick Mullens and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and first-round draft pick Rashod Bateman of Minnesota. The OL got rejiggered in losing Orlando Brown, DJ Fluker, Matt Judon and Matt Skura while picking up Alejandro Villanueva, Ja'Wuan James, Michael Schofield and Kevin Zeitler. We’ll see whether the lineside shuffle works (NFLbets didn’t necessarily dig the Orlando Brown trade, but Villanueva and James are probably excellent pickups…)

But the ultra-talented and nearly as unorthodox Lamar Jackson is the alpha and omega to betting this Ravens team and the energies spent on speculation should be directed here. Forget about his so-called choking in playoff games (especially since we’re more interested in over/under wins here, anyway): The NFL bettor should be far more concerned about those 482 carries in 2½ regular seasons’ worth of games. That’s about 193 carries on average per 15 games, a pace that would have placed him 12th among all runners last season.

As it stands, Jackson’s workload was down slightly in ’20 to “just” 159. However, with Dobbins gone and no legitimate no. 2 back on the roster, the conclusion must be either that Jackson gets his totes back up to that 200-carry danger zone or that the Ravens simply fall short on offense.

In fact, as NFLbets sees things, the major improvement the Ravens are looking at for 2021 is the schedule which this far out appears to have five games against genuine Super Bowl contenders scheduled with most in the season’s second half (week 2 vs Kansas City Chiefs, week 12 vs Cleveland Browns, week 14 at Cleveland, week 15 vs Green Bay Packers, week 17 vs Los Angeles Rams) – or maybe six, depending on how you feel about the “Los Angeles” Chargers.

Thinking like this, though, is what puts the “sucker” into “sucker bet.” The NFL bettors who figured pre-Dobbins injury that the Ravens would get to at least 11 wins must honestly have believed that the roster had enough to at least reproduce last season’s results. Today, their thinking should change. Take under 10½ wins for the Baltimore Ravens.