NFL best bet: Top must-wager weekly


No matter what you call it – Pick of the Week, Lock of the Week, Best Bet, etc., a regular column delineating the one must-bet wager weekly is a staple of any NFL prognosticator in any medium. On this page we present only the cream of the crop, *the* bet you’ll want to make in a given week. In addition, we promise complete transparency: We’ll leave up our past picks, win, lose or push so you can judge for yourself whether or not to take NFLbets’ advice (but we think you will).

As we’ve stated elsewhere, a primary rule within the NFLbets dogma is this: Don’t force your bets. There is absolutely no requirement to make a minimum number of wagers weekly. Heck, the ideal situation would be to throw down as much money as possible on those three to five occasions in any given NFL season when the outcome is crystal-clear obvious days beforehand. But where’s the fun in that? After all, one or two bets are always worth making.

NFLbets’ “Pick of the week” is primarily for the conservative NFL bettor, because the truth is that in gambling, conservatism is the way to go. We stake our reputation on our best bets, so let’s enjoy making some money this year!


Playing positional NFL Draft Proposition Bets

Monday, 12 April 2021 19:37 EST

Betting 2021 NFL draft propsNow here’s a great way to bet on the NFL Draft while also reverse-engineering your mock draft: Positional NFL Draft proposition bets. Thanks to some pretty obvious-looking over/unders, one can more easily determine where borderline 1st/2nd-rounders like RB Najee Harris (of Alabama), S Trevon Moehrig (TCU) and CB Asante Samuel Jr. (FSU) will land.

With nine proposition bets offered – no one’s taking odds on a kicker or punter going on Draft Day day one, apparently – on a good six one can figure on the (heavy) favorite in the over/under winning:

Quarterbacks – Over 5.5 (+300) / Under 5.5 (-400)

The first factor to consider in betting positional NFL Draft props is the difference between the top-tier of the draft class and the second level guys. Even the most nominally interested NFL bettor can easily name the top five QBs, all of which could conceivably be off the board by pick #9: Trevor Lawrence (LSU), Zach Smith (BYU), Justin Fields (OSU), Trey Lance (NDSU) and Mac Jones (Alabama). After that quintet, it’s … Davis Millis (Stanford), maybe? Not that Mills in any slouch, but the demand for quarterback will plummet after the Patriots chose at #16. Take the under.

Running Backs – Over 0.5 (-225) / Under 0.5 (+175)

NFLbets is uncertain as to why this line was set at 0.5, when at least three likely future pros are just waiting to be overdrafted: Travis Etienne (Clemson), Najee Harris (Alabama) and Javonte Williams (UNC). Will at least one team get starry-eyed about a skill player (like the Jets at no. 23) or take a flyer on another backfield weapon (Steelers at no. 24)? Absolutely. Take the over.

Tight Ends – Over 1.5 (+325) / Under 1.5 (-450)

There are good reasons for the crazy-short line on the under here. Since 1990, just 32 TEs have been drafted in the first round. In six of those past 30 drafts, 2-3 tight ends were first-rounders the same year; this translates into zero or one TE chose in 80% of first rounds in the past three dacades. Kyle Pitts (Florida) is a shoo-in. No one else is. Take the under.

Linebackers – Over 4.5 (+130) / Under 4.5 (-165)

Similarly to TEs, LBs in 2021 show one first-round certainty – Micah Parsons (Penn State) – followed by question marks and solid-if-not-hyperbole-inducing prospects. Jamin Brown (Kentucky) has received praise for his athleticism and smarts, but has started just 11 games thus far into his high-level football career. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) and Nick Bolton (Houston) are on the bubble, but the mid-range drafters would mostly have to bypass a talented squad of offensive lineman for all four aforementioned LBs plus a fifth (Jabril Cox of LSU, maybe?) to crack round 1. Take the under – in fact, if you can get “under-3½” in this prop bet, you’ll want to grab a piece of that action as well…

Cornerbacks – Over 4.5 (-105) / Under 4.5 (-120)

Neither of these lines is particularly enticing but, in a gun-to-the-head situation, NFLbets takes the favored under there. Patrick Surtain (Alabama) and Greg Newsome (Northwestern) appear to be first-round locks, but with 12 or 13 (depending on the Denver Broncos) of the top 14 picks likely to be offensive, four CBs taken between picks 16 and 31 – assuming the Patriots go QB or LB while the Buccaneers are good with their re-signed CBs – seems like a stretch. Take the under.

Safeties – Over 0.5 (-250) / Under 0.5 (+190)

This one may be read as “Will Trevon Moehrig (TCU) be chosen in round 1?” Late in the first round are the New Orleans Saints (at no. 28), Green Bay Packers (no. 29) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (no. 32), all of whom could well be in a position to simply draft the best player available. Even prior to these three are the perpetually defense-minded Baltimore Ravens at no. 27. Clearly the bookmakers are having difficulty imagining at least this foursome passing on Moehrig as well. Take the over.

So far, so good – sort of. The biggest payout among NFLbets’ six chalk picks is -120 and no one’s getting rich playing odds shorter than even. With a little logic, however, the remaining four offerings – and what sportsbooks may be overlooking become apparent strictly mathematically. Assuming the previous five bets all hit by 0.5 cumulatively, this leaves 16 spots in round 1. NFLbets therefore deduces the following for the remaining four offerings in the positional prop bet.

Defensive Linemen – Over 4.5 (+105) / Under 4.5 (-125)

As stated above, the first half of round 1 looks seriously heavy on the offense with quarterbacks alone conceivably going at nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 or 9. But as offensive-imbalanced as prospective nos. 1-14 look, day one’s remainder will be dominated by defense. NFLbets identifies five teams who could use an immediate starter at DL and whose front offices are sane enough to address the need: the Miami Dolphins (no. 18), Indianapolis Colts (no. 21), Tennessee Titans (no. 22), New York Jets (no. 23) and Pittsburgh Steelers (no. 24). If offense-obsessed Jon Gruden can draft to his Las Vegas Raiders’ needs at no. 17 with, likesay, Zaven Collins (Tulsa), this one’s a lock: Take the over.

Offensive Linemen – Over 6.5 (+110) / Under 6.5 (-137)

Always the default choice for mid- to late-round teams whose above-average quarterback requires more line protection than currently on roster. Fitting the bill are the “Los Angeles” Chargers (no. 13), the Minnesota Vikings (no. 14 and on the hook for $40 million-plus to Kirk Cousins over the next two years), Arizona Cardinals (no. 17), Chicago Bears (no. 20), Jacksonville Jaguars (no. 25) and Kansas City Chiefs (no. 31). Beyond this, the Cincinnati Bengals are set to be gifted the monstrous. Penei Sewell (Oregon) at no. 5. Together with some late-1st team looking to add the top talent remaining, NFLbets figures that’s minimum eight chances to hit seven spots. Take the over.

Wide Receivers – Over 4.5 (-160) / Under 4.5 (+125)

This is where logic and rationality may not necessarily prevail in the face of splashy hype and stats. The top tier of WRs in Draft Class 2021 numbers four and these outpace the rest: Ja'Marr Chase (LSU), Roshod Bateman (Minnesota), Jaylen Waddle (Alabama) and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (Alabama). Already all other than Chase feel overhyped and all are looking to be drafted within the top 15 to 16. Just one WTF could make this bet – and a few others on this proposition – go ka-blooey, but we’re riskily saying take the under.

And bingo! 32 picks, 32 players. Now NFLbets just has to figure a way to hedge against Gruden getting wacky…

–written by Os Davis

 


Super Bowl odds post-FA period: Here come (back) the Patriots…

Thursday, 18 March 2021 16:43 EST

Dollar Bill BelichickYou had to figure that the New England Patriots wouldn’t stay inferior for long, but who’d’ve guessed the domination Bill Belichick & Co. unleashed on the NFL in the opening days of free agency? The signings at wide receiver and tight end – Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Derrick Henry and Jonnu Smith – stole the headlines and with good reason: The Patriots are already looking at a roster with their best corps since 2008, their best 1-2 at tight end since Aaron Hernandez was playing, and Smith is now the highest-paid “skill player” Patriot ever.

Beyond this big four, New England also added DLs Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Henry Anderson; LBs Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy; and safter Jalen Mills, and acquired OT Trent Brown in a trade. Incidentally the Pats also re-signed Cam Newton; New England wasn’t even counted among the offerings in a previously offered “Team to Sign Cam Newton” proposition bet, but hold your tickets (if you were foolhardy enough to play the prop), as the conditions of the bet call for Cam to be listed onan Opening Day roster.

As a result of the moves, those ready to take a Buffalo Bills repeat division win for granted have been suddenly forced to rethink things.

Super Bowl odds have also been adjusted accordingly:  On February 8, the New England Patriots were getting 55/1 odds to win the Super Bowl (and by inference about 25/1 to 28/1 to win the ARC). By Thursday morning this week, they were at 25/1 on My Bookie and listed at 30/1 on the Sports Betting Dime aggregator.

With the additions made already – not to mention the heretofore not undertaken acquisition of a viable starting QB – the 7-9 Patriots are suddenly among the best value bets in the AFC. And despite the rise of upstarts like the Bills, Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns as well as the two-time defending conference champion Kansas City Chiefs. 12/1 to 15/1 to win the AFC no longer feels unreasonable at all. Remember, too, that these odds will only get shorter should the Pats indeed manage to bring over Jimmy Garappolo, long-rumored source of envy for Belichick.

Even more intriguing is the strong possibility that the AFC East will be highly competitive in 2021 – at least among the top 3 teams. Post-Patriots feeding frenzy, odds in the “To Win AFC East” prop bet read as follows.

Buffalo Bills: 4/5
Miami Dolphins: 14/5
New England Patriots: 4/1
New York Jets: 20/1

Using implied probability, the Dolphins, Patriots and Jets have a combined 50.1% chance of winning the division, thus betting “The Field” versus the Buffalo Bills should be worth 1/1 odds – quite an intriguing wager right now, if you can find a sportsbook with the offer. Alternatively, covering both the Dolphins and the Patriots would be worth a win paying out at either +140 or +200 – and again, that second figure will only decrease after a quarterback better than 2020 Cam Newton is aboard in Foxborough.

All in all, the Patriot spending spree should be seriously lucrative for NFL bettors. We think.

–written by Os Davis


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


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


Sure Bet: Buccaneers plus points at New Orleans all day, baby!

Thursday, 14 January 2021 14:22 EST

NFLbets admits that we blew our only chance in the 2020 NFL regular season at a “Sure Bet”, missing on Kansas City Chiefs -3½ at New Orleans Saints by – you guessed it – a half-point as part of the Chiefs’ 0-8 jag to close out the year. But whining about a bad beat in week 15 is crying over long-spiled beer and, besides, we’ve got a can’t-miss in the upcoming divisional round that’ll even recoup the losses Andy Reid’s team cost you.

We’re talking here about betting on

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 at New Orleans Saints, over/under 52 points

With a 3-point handicap given to the visitors, sportsbooks are more or less indicating that this game is even-up in a neutral location. Though seemingly weird for sportsbooks to continue automatically handicapping the traditional additional 2½-3½ points in stadium-empty 2020/2021, the sportsbooks are actually nailing it overall.

For the entire season plus last week’s six-pack of games, home teams are playing significantly worse than in typical seasons, when the success rate runs 57% to 60%. Homedogs are 129-132-1 SU and – get this – 129-132-1 ATS. This final area in which the Saints might have an advantage looks wiped away by pandemic conditions; indeed, the Superdome’s turf surface helps a speedy opponent just as much as the Saints as in games against the Chiefs, L.A. Chargers and Carolina Panthers.

History says that the team who goes 2-0 SU in the regular season against their playoff opponent advances in the playoffs. Since 1970, teams have played each other thrice in a season 21 times, and 14 times resulted in a sweep, but since 2004 that 14-7 shrinks to just 3-3 SU/2-4 ATS. Add to this the relatively miniscule point spread, third-smallest ever for a third meeting and shortest since 1993, and we can probably agree this factor is neutralized as well.

(For more on these 21 meeting, see the recent piece at Football Perspective entitled How hard is it to beat a team three times in one season?)

But trending and numbers aside, NFLbets just has to ask: What’s the deal with all this doublethink about Tom Brady?

Brady has been justifiably praised for months for his play well into his 40s, and it has been well observed that the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers represent the strongest set of “skill players” in any offense he’s played with. Beyond Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Brady has helped developed second-year pro Scott Miller into a viable third (and often second) option while enjoying the late reemergences of Rob Gronkowski (7 TD catches in the last 11 games) and Antonio Brown (5 in the last four games). And o yes, they’ve got Ronald Jones, good for 5.1 yards per carry, and human bowling ball Leonard Fournette out of the backfield. So playing on turf hurts which of these guys…?

Back to the regular-season sweep of the Buccaneers of which much has been made, the credence we may give those wins should probably be tempered slightly. New Orleans’ 34-23 week 1 came against a Tampa Bay side without Brown and Gronk; Brady et at have no real excuse for their subsequent 38-3 home loss to the Saints, but it was more than half a season ago. Since the second loss to the Saints, the Bucs are averaging a huge 34.2 points per game.

Granted, these numbers are pumped a bit by the fact that just three of the previous eight Bucs games have been against playoff teams, but NFLbets’d argue that 1) nearly five TDs per game is a lot to score against any NFL team and 2) the Saints have seen just two playoff teams in their past nine games.

You can likely tell where NFLbets is going with this, but what of those Saints? Their injury report is fairly clean seemingly: As of Thursday, indications are that DB Patrick Robinson and RB Latavius Murray will not play, but TE Jared Cook and DE Trey Hendrickson probably will. How Drew Brees will fare gritting out one more game after breaking 11 ribs, but the Saints have somehow managed a 10-7 ATS record with a fairly low-watt passing game – just three times since the second Buccaneers game have New Orleans quarterbacks went for more than 250 yards.

In analyzing these games, there comes a point when one can have too many numbers and we have officially reached that point. Truth is that NFLbets’ wager for this game was iced at halftime of the Bears-Saints game last weekend. So you’re putting Brady with this offense on turf in the late slot on Sunday against a team who was up 7-3 at halftime against Chicago and *giving* three points? Great! NFLbets says these are Sure Bets: Take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 at New Orleans and take the Buccaneers ML at 1/1.

--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


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

Friday, 08 January 2021 19:48 EST

Quick show of hands: How many NFL bettors didn’t think we’d ever get to this weekend on time with all scheduled games intact? And now for the first time ever, the NFL playoffs features back-to-back tripleheaders to get things started. See: Year 2021 is already better than 2020.

Now, as we get the ball rolling on this newfangled sort of opening playoff weekend, NFLbets is weighing heavily upon determining upset specials. (After all, it’s called the wild card round for reason…) 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.

Erring on the side of caution, then, NFLbets is going to look for three underdogs ATS and, if possible, two to cover SU. With marginal teams like the Chicago Bears and Washington Football Team, one might figure for easy pickings in this year’s playoffs, but these lines are making things tougher than they look. At least this playoff opener is easy:

Indianapolis Colts -7 at Buffalo Bills, over/under 51½ points

Were the Bills actually helped by the lack of bye week? Whereas conventional wisdom holds that the first-week bye is invaluable in the playoffs, the red-hot Bills hosting in ice-cold Buffalo may not exactly mind eschewing the free time to keep the increasingly fearsome-looking snowball rolling apace.

And whoa, is Buffalo rolling. On their current 9-1 SU/8-2 ATS run, the Bills are winning by an average score of 35-21 – yet for some reason have only been favored by more than 7 points once: in week 7 against who else but the New York Jets. The Bills face the Colts, who earn accolades as the greatest no. 7 NFL playoff seed of all-time; though note their only competition is the 2020 Chicago Bears.

At 11-5, the Colts are certainly no slouches but two glaring stats make the road uphill narrow in the extreme: The fact that they faced three top-10 defenses all season – at Chicago, vs Baltimore, at Pittsburgh – and went 1-2 SU/ATS while scoring an average of 17.66 points in those games. Why? Primarily because Indianapolis is the lowest-scoring second-half team remaining in the AFC and Philip Rivers still brings the lowest QB rating in the final 30 minutes.

Yes, we should expect regress to the mean after eight straight ATS wins, but just look at the way these Bills are playing right now. The Colts aren’t snapping this streak yet. Take the Buffalo Bills -7 vs Indianapolis.

Los Angeles Rams +3½ at Seattle Seahawks, over/under 44 points

Ah, now this looks like some upset material. Ture, underdogs are 4-8 SU/ATS in intradvisional wildcard games since 2000, but since four of these losses came by the Cincinnati Bengals or Cleveland Browns in the 00s, we’ll call it dead even and say familiarity breeds, well, familiarity – in this case probably enough to keep things to within a score.

Living within the designated home-market area of the Los Angeles Rams, NFLbets cannot accept any argument that replacing Jared Goff will hurt the Rams chances in this game any; indeed, Goff is as of Friday still listed as questionable on injury reports, was limited in practices and was quoted as saying he’s “ready to go” “if needed.” So it’s John Wolford, who may have led the Rams to a win in which they set a record for broken plays.

But Seattle, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, look lumbering coming into this game as well as limited in weaponry. Sure, the Seahawks are on a 6-1 SU run, but are just 3-4 ATS in that span which included only two games against playoff teams: at Washington and vs these Rams.

While the offense has improved from sieve-level porous (would you believe 38.4 points per game surrendered over the first 8?), offensive production is shrinking as defenses learn to deal with D.K. Metcalf as a deep threat; in two games against Jalen Ramsey and the L.A. secondary in 2020, Metcalf managed just 28 and 59 yards.

NFLbets might throw a few moneys at the Los Angeles Rams money line (ML), thanks to very good odds of +145 to +150, but to be safe just take the Los Angeles Rams +3½ at Seattle and take the under on an O/U of 44 points, which really cannot go low enough after three straight Rams-Seahawks games of under 40 points total.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers -8½ at Washington Football Team, over/under 44½ points

Tom Brady mystique aside, the smart bet here is probably still on the chalk. Since 1990, favorites of 8 points or more in the wildcard round are a solid 16-3 SU/13-6 ATS, and there is little reason to suspect these Buccaneers would fall prey to what is likely the weakest playoff entry since at least the 2002 postseason.  

And if any team has gone out with a win yet appears to be backing in to the playoffs, it’s the 2020 Washington FT. While Tampa Bay was thanking schedule makers for a final month of vs Minnesota/at Atlanta/at Detroit/vs Atlanta, Washington first fought its way into the playoff hunt with four straight wins and then suited up a fourth starting quarterback and put up three games of 20 points or fewer to again resemble their true 7-9 form.

The only hesitance here is abstract. If a time traveler sent from a month in the future told NFLbets the Buccaneers were playing in Super Bowl LV, we’d believe it; we’d likewise believe that Bruce Arians’s guys got flustered early in their first-round game, dumb penalties mounted, and Brady, Favre-style, threw a pick-six to end Tampa’s season early, we’d believe that, too.

So we’re saying take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -8½ at Washington, but look to hedge after (or in, even) a low-scoring first half and take the under in live game betting … and then Sunday we get to do it all again!

--written by Os Davis