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!


UFC 249 Justin Gaethje vs. Tony Ferguson: Odds and Predictions

Thursday, 07 May 2020 19:43 EST

How to Bet UFC 249 Justin Gaethje vs. Tony Ferguson


The UFC 249 fight card might be one of the deepest and most exciting mma events in years, certainly the most highly anticipated mma event in 2020. While the entire sporting world sits at a standstill during this global pandemic, the UFC seems intent on pushing a business as usual schedule. Perhaps that’s not entirely accurate, as UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Florida this coming Saturday (May 9th, 2020) will take place in front of no fans. Social Distancing measures will not permit fans at this time. The only possible way to proceed is as a ‘closed event’ status. With all said, fans are jumping for joy at prospect to watch the next UFC event, “it’s history in the making”!

The main card promises to be an absolute beauty, so we are going to do out best to break it down, complete with UFC 249 odds and predictions.

MMA UFC 249 Full Card Odds

Greg Hardy (-215)Vs Yorgan De Castro (+175)

The main card kicks off with a Heavyweight battle between a pair of fighters who have paid their dues in the Contender Series before jumping to the UFC proper. Hardy is perhaps best known for his time in the NFL, but his high profile has seen him land on several cards thus far, albeit with a mixed bag of results. You never really know what you are going to get from Hardy, as he goes from looking great to looking terrible from one fight to the next. De Castro has power in spades, so the chances of this fight going the distance seems slim. Slight nod to Hardy here or you can take the dog value in betting Yorgan De Castro (+175).

Jeremy Stephens (+200) Vs Calvin Kattar (-255)

Next up on the main card is a Featherweight bout that should deliver some serious action. Stephens is one of those fighters who has been around for about a decade or so now, and while never really scaling the heights of the division, he is a fighter who will go head to head with anyone, compiling a 28-17 record along the way. Kattar is a fighter on the rise and one that we should probably be keeping an eye on. I think he continues to move up the ranks with a win here.

Francis Ngannou (-270) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+210)

Originally slated for 5 rounds, this one has been moved back to a 3-rounder, but given the power that both of these men possess, shaving off a couple of rounds probably isn’t really going to matter. Ngannou has, after a loss at UFC 226, rebounded with a trio of wins via KO that he delivered in a combined time of just over 2 minutes. Rozenstruik has won each of his 10 bouts and loudly campaigned for a fight with Ngannou, which may well come back to haunt him, as I think he is in a little over his head in this one. Ngannou was at -300 earlier this week until some solid action came in on Rozenstruik to move the line down to -270. This fight is also the favourite to end the fastest on Saturday at +100.

Henry Cejudo (-235) Vs Dominick Cruz (+195)

This bantamweight bout is a bit of a strange one in that it’s a little tougher to know what to expect. Cejudo, the reigning champion, is coming into this bout on a 5-fight winning streak and looks like a good bet against a fighter who has not set foot in the Octagon since December 2016. Do not let that fool you, though, as Cruz has all the tools to come out and win this one. I just think that he might need a fight or two under his bet before he is back at his best, so I am on Cejudo to win. The champ opened as a -270 favourite, but action on Cruz has dropped that number to Cejudo -210 with the challenger at +160.

Tony Ferguson (-173) Vs Justin Gaethje (+143)

The event will be headlined by Justin Gaethje battling Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight championship, with the winner likely facing champion Khabib Nurmagomedov down the road. Ferguson opened as a -185 favourite before moving up to -200 with Gaethje coming in as a +150 underdog. The Ferguson side is seeing most of the action, but bettors also like Gaethje to score the upset by knockout or TKO at +170. Gaethje does have the power, but does he have the defense to last 5 rounds with Ferguson on a scorecard?
Ferguson’s been so efficient, he’s on a 12-fight win streak. Many fans would like him to see that continue to lucky number 13 in a row.

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (+120) and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (-150)

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, line is moving down from a +125 to +120 underdog in his matchup with Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (-150). I do see this one getting closer to even but in MMA there always has to be a dog price. Cowboy says he wasn’t ready for his last match a lose versus Conor McGregor. Anthony Pettis is coming off 2 straight tough loses but as the younger, quicker guy he should be ready for a good showing vs Cowboy. Although, I might lean towards a split decision in Cowboy’s favor the smart angle here is to jump this Mybookie freebet promotion.


Basically it’s a win/win with no risk on this Cerrone vs Pettis fight. What’s a free bet? It’s one you can’t lose. If you bet on Cowboy at +120 and Cowboy wins you win. If Cowboy loses then you get your first wager refunded up to $49. Either way you can’t lose. Take the dog pricing and max out on your risk of at least $49 on this fight.
**Note the only bet that qualifies is the pre-match fight winner. Must be a straight bet. Must be a cash bet.**

As you can see from some of the movement on the odds board, there are a lot of underdogs that bettors like in this card. There are also some betting options for the entire card. You can bet over/under the number of total Decision victories (5.5 over +150), KO/TKO victories (5.5 under -130), and Submission victories (1.5 over -130) or take a swing at a piñata prop that is paying +2500 for the total number of rounds in UFC 249. You can also bet on the UFC SIM events which are being streamed on twitch and you can even parlay the SIM events with the real UFC card for some crazy parlay payout odds. This is going to be a very crazy mix.

 


The top 5 Biggest Losers in NFL betting, 2019-20

Monday, 03 February 2020 14:58 EST

So no matter which side you backed in Super Bowl LIV, you probably lost money in prop betting or an the over/under, thanks to underwhelming statistical performances all around and an outcome few expected – just repeat the mantra “that’s why they call it gambling” and get back on the horse. (Assuming you didn’t put the horse on San Francisco 49ers +1½…)

In the meantime, under the proviso that “misery loves company,” NFLbets’ll attempt to cheer you up with a list of folks who lost bigger and harder than you did. Following our first annual Top 5 Losers in NFL Betting list. Happy schadenfreude!

Honorable mention. Howard Ratner. The protagonist of Uncut Gems, essentially the sports bettor’s Trainspotting, cannot technically be included in this list because ol’ Howie’s poison was NBA betting and because he’s, likesay, fictional. However, this character’s status as a big-time loser cannot be underestimated. Even when hitting an incredibly stupid three-bet parlay for upward of $1 million, he still manages to lose his shop and (SPOILERS!) his life right there on Netflix in front of everyone. Combine with the Academy’s snub of Adam Sandler for an Oscar nomination – to be fair, a very strong five make up the nominees in this category this year – and it adds up to a big L.

5. Patrick Mahomes bettors. Those expecting big returns from Kansas City Chiefs QB Pat Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV proposition bets got burned all over the place, as Mahomes passed for less than 300 yards, had zero TD passes and threw and interception. But at least until the 4th quarter, he had crept over the 33½ to 36½ yards to cover on most “Pat Mahomes rushing yards” props; then came three successive kneeldowns to subtract 15 yards and bam went all those bets as well. Mahomes’s performance was pretty negative for those wagering on him, but those kneeldowns finished ’em off: At least four major US sportsbooks reported that between 66% and 75% of bets in this prop had been put on the over.

4. Jade Roper Tolbert. Kicking off year 2020 was the sordid tale of former Bachelor in Paradise stars who may or may not have cheated at online fantasy football and thus were denied a $1 million grand prize won during a wild-card weekend contest hosted by Draft Kings. Tanner and Jade both entered their max 150 entries in the contest, but after Jade was congratulated for her first-place finish, an investigation by DK revealed that every one of Jade’s and husband Tanner’s entries were unique – quite a coincidence. Naturally, Tanner took to Twitter to cry sexism; no matter: Citing the zillions-to-1 odds required for 300 unique entries to be filed honestly, DK ultimately rescinded the $1 million. Just goes to show: DFS is pure gambling.  

3. Mattress Mack. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale is the embodiment of the gambler with far more money than brain. Like Howard Ratner, Mattress Mack’s main area of betting is outside football; however, McIngvale’s story should be a lot more directly useful to the average NFL bettor than does Ranter’s. As an unabashed fan of the Houston Astros, McIngvale lost some $13 million alone in bets on the Astros to win the World Series – before losing to the Washington Nationals. As it turns out, McIngvale had offered a refund for the full price of a mattress from any of his Texas furniture stores if the Astros won the World Series and $13 million would have covered that promise financially with a profit. The lesson for football bettors: Hedging doesn’t pay.

2. Josh Shaw. On November 10 at Caesars sportsbook in Las Vegas, Josh Shaw placed at least one odd parlay involving three second-half point spreads and lost. Happens every Sunday during NFL season, right? Yes, but. As it turns out, Shaw was under contract with the Arizona Cardinals and, when the illicit wager was discovered, earned himself an open-ended suspension from the league. Worse yet, one of the ends of the parlay had the Cardinals on the losing side. Still worse yet, the Cardinals covered the second-half spread, but lost SU and busted Shaw’s parlay. Dude, it was the Buccaneers – you should’ve taken the over…

1. Anybody who bet on the Cleveland Browns at season’s beginning. NFLbets is not counted among the lot who figured a team which blew its last realistic shot at a Super Bowl in 1988 and was two seasons removed from an 0-16 finish – and so could harangue with impunity, but we’ll spare you. After all, the embarrassment of throwing good money at a team led by a QBs coach, “powered” by a guy who seemed to have dropped football awareness from his retinue altogether, featuring a helmet-swinging psychopath and a prima donna WR who taught teammates only to jokingly ask for trades to other teams should be enough. How the hell were these guys getting better odds than the Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in the preseason? 2019 may have put NFL bettors off the Browns permanently. (Now watch the 2020 Cleveland Browns win Super Bowl LV starting the eason at 80/1. We may already have an early entry for next year’s list...)

–written by Os Davis

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Look at all of NFLbets wacky wagering on Super Bowl prop bets...

Sunday, 02 February 2020 08:10 EST

Yet more awesomeness about both Super Bowl betting and Las Vegas: Super Bowl betting *in* Las Vegas. Seriously, what is better in life than staying at a quality non-casino hotel, picking up a fat list of proposition bets and poring over offerings not necessarily available at online sportsbooks for hours on end in comfort and drink comps? Nothing, we daresay.

Nothing, that is, except for cashing out on a majority of those utterly enticing and totally tempting Super Bowl props. Rest assured that NFLbets is sitting here with a fat stack of betting slips which we’ll be manipulating and sorting throughout Sunday. NFLbets has detailed our recommendations for Super Bowl LIV prop betting elsewhere; running below are some last-minute wagers you can get in before game time – if you’re as wacky as we were.

San Francisco 49ers score in every quarter, +150
Kansas City Chiefs score in every quarter: +140
. NFLbets fully expects on Monday to be tweeting deliriously about how Super Bowl LIV was the Bizarro Super Bowl LIII (or perhaps vice-versa), i.e. an exciting high-flying shootout with highlights on both sides of the ball by both teams. The relatively high odds on the Chiefs in this prop are likely down to their reputation as a slow starter, but the truth is Kansas City was no. 10 in the league in first quarter scoring. The 49ers, meanwhile, are top-6 in every quarter and the Chiefs’ no. 18 rank in the fourth quarter may simply be down to their routine blowouts. NFLbets like these bets!

• Over 6½ total touchdowns in game, +110. Apparently, NFLbets is not alone in expecting a pinball machine-type speed and scoring in Super Bowl LIV: Bettors have pushed the over/under from 51 points at opening to 54½ on gameday. At 51 points, one would figure on six TDs plus three FGs as a logical outcome. And while NFLbets is ordering up a pair of 30-burgers, even a 28-21 (or, likesay, 31-28) can mean seven touchdowns…

• Successful 2-point conversion, +220. This bet is precisely why proposition betting is dangerous: NFLbets is gambling here, hoping against hope for a 2-pointer simply because 2-point conversions are awesome. The numbers say that in 256 regular-season games in 2019, 113 2-pointers were attempted, with 52 made for a 50.1% success rate and a 20.3% chance of success in any given game. If the odds were fair (yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre), the potential payout would be more like +450.

• Game goes into overtime, 8/1. Again, silly betting. No genius is required to realize that exactly one of the last 53 Super Bowls has gone into overtime (a less than 2% probability) and with Andy “Clock King” Reid on the sideline, well … nah, this bet is totally unjustifiable.

• Largest lead of game: under 15½ points, -110. All you millennial whippersnappers are spoiled rotten by 21st-century Super Bowls. You don’t remember 1980-1997, when all but three Super Bowls were uneventful slogs with the outcome decided early. Sheesh, in those days, if it wasn’t 49ers-Cincinnati Bengals, you might as well have planned to be good and drunk by halftime. No, instead, you guys get one-score games in nine of the last 12, and most of the upsets in all of Super Bowl history have taken place since ’98. And in the last 18, under-15½ has gone 15-3. So utilize your advantages, ya buncha ankle biters…

• Tyrann Matthieu to make the game’s first interception, 5/1. NFLbets is already committed to both Mahomes and Garoppolo to throw picks in this game, but clearly the latter is thought much more likely to err in this department. So we ran with this assumption and found an excellent reason to back Matthieu here. Matthieu was s led the Chiefs in 2019 in interceptions with four. And guess what? Three came in the first half, including two in the first quarter. This bet is either genius or the product of delusion, but 5/1 are some pretty good odds.

• 49ers more time of possession, +140. Right along with the “Largest Lead of Game” prop, this wager is based on the premise of a fairly close game. Particularly if the Niners get the game’s first possession – or at least the game’s first substantial possession – and score after a long drive, a one-score game means San Francisco should win the TOP battle. Note, too, that the 49ers were no. 4 in the league in the stat in 2019 and were just one of seven teams to average more than 31 minutes of TOP per game.

• Over 2½ TD passes by Patrick Mahomes, even/+100
• Over 1½ TD passes by Jimmy Garappolo, -105
. Has NFLbets mentioned we’re anticipating scoring? Forget Jimmy’s two playoff games thus far; we’re of the belief that he wasn’t called on the throw in those games, thanks to the inability of either the Minnesota Vikings or Green Bay Packers to slow the run one whit. And if 1½ touchdowns seems low for Garoppolo, we can certainly all agree that 2½ for Mahomes feels very low.

• George Kittle scores a TD, +140. This prop bet can justify the entire existence of fantasy football. Why? Because without fantasy football, we might not otherwise realize that Kansas City is a botoom-5 team against tight ends this season. And since Kittle is a, what, top-2 TE, the math is pretty simple here.

• Emmanuel Sanders over 43½ receiving yards, -110. NFLbets wrote earlier this week about Sanders’s possibilities as a longshot in the Super Bowl MVP prop at 40/1, and we convinced ourselves of his veteran presence and team-first mentality that we covered him in this prop as well, despite his recent stat-poor results and just three games of over 43½ receiving yards since joining San Francisco in week 10. This prop also comprises half of our favorite fictional parlay bet: Just pair Sanders over 43½ with Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic Party nomination for POTUS at +225 – Sanders and Sanders for a +520 payout! Nice.

– written by Os Davis

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NFLbets’ favorite Super Bowl proposition bet? MVP and it’s not even close

Saturday, 01 February 2020 13:00 EST

NFLbets is generally not a fan of proposition betting prior to the Super Bowl, when hundreds of props hit the market and we get two weeks to analyze the probabilities. And as we always say, the best bacon-saving bet you can make is Super Bowl MVP. Sure, most NFL bettors will (justifiably) cover the starting QB(s) of any team with a chance to win straight up – but the winnings on a hedge bet of a Julian Edelman (12/1), Von Miller (15/1) or Malcolm Smith (20/1) covers a lot of bad beats and bad bets.

Unfortunately, offerings on the “To Win Super Bowl MVP” prop bet aren’t great this year if you’re backing the Kansas City Chiefs. Right off the top, QBs have won 9 of the last 13 MVP awards, including two each by Tom Brady and Eli Manning; they’ve also taken 29 of 53 MVPs thus far, but note that for six years no QB won the award – in Super Bowls VII through XII. Yeah, the 1970s.

Patrick Mahomes (even odds/+100) overshadows everything on the Kansas City side of this prop – with good reason, as all the history is on his side. Going back to Kurt Warner in XXXVI, the MVP award has been won by a quarterback appearing in his first Super Bowl eight times of 17.

Additionally, there’s this: In how many scenarios do the Chiefs win but Mahomes doesn’t get the MVP? Considering that My Bookie has opened up a “Will Patrick Mahomes win Super Bowl MVP” prop (“yes” at +100, “no” at -135), a proposition combining “no” with the Kansas City money line (ML) at -125 would fetch better than 2/1 or +225 if going Kansas City -1½. Now think before you bet that, pilgrim – even if you can get someone to take the bet.

No need to overcomplicate things, though. The more you believe in a Chiefs win, the more you should be betting on Mahomes for MVP. And those covering the San Francisco 49ers plus points or ML can essentially hedge that bet with a few moneys on Mahomes here.

Now on the San Francisco side of this proposition bet, things get more interesting. NFLbets believes in covering several offerings in this prop and lots of great value exists among 49ers, starting with QB Jimmy Garoppolo (5/2). Poor Jimmy G. has been hacked on like no Super Bowl quarterback in recent history, based on the Niners run-first offense and the mere eight pass attempts in the Green Bay Packers game.

NFLbtes isn’t sure why talking heads and internet buzz alike are ignoring the very probable likelihood that passing simply wasn’t necessary with Raheem Mostert (6/1) destroying the Packers D, but we’re not. If backing the 49ers, you’re betting Garappolo in the Super Bowl MVP prop. Chiefs bettors may consider hedging with some moneys on Jimmy G. as well.

As for Mostert, his 6/1 odds would appear to be good value; the dude has literally improved week to week through 2019-20, culminating in the four-TD blowup in the NFC Championship. But how can the proper NFL bettor believe in any member of a RB-by-committee winning this award? Upward trajectory aside, Mostert accounted for just over 35% of the team’s total running yards in 2019; even if Tevin Coleman’s injury keeps him limited, the big over/under of 55 points implies lots of passing and quick scores.

Speaking of this eventuality, NFLbets is loving the current vogue pick in this prop, WR Deebo Samuel, currently at 22/1 after opening at 25/1. Historically speaking, wide receivers are only second to QBs in winning this award, with seven WR MVPs in Super Bowl history, and four in the past 14 years. Betting on Samuel represents outstanding value and since the rookie has few truly outstanding games on the résumé thus far, well, Jimmy hasn’t been throwing much lately. If you’re thinking San Francisco wins and the over hits, Samuel would be getting a good 10 targets at least and you’re covering this.

Tempting, too, are the 13/1 odds that TE George Kittle’s getting in this prop. While no tight end has ever won the Super Bowl MVP, the game’s evolution suggests that such an eventuality is not far off. Hell, Rob Gronkowski might’ve taken the trophy in LII had his Patriots not blown the game to the Philadelphia Eagles. Kittle is a pretty decent pick here, but we like the far less risky “yes” in the “Will George Kittle score a Touchdown” prop bet at +130 well more.

So let’s say you believe the 49ers defense gets to Mahomes, who’s sacked frequently enough – likesay, three times – to significantly alter the game. Look no further than Nick Bosa, currently at 17/1. Bosa has had an All-Pro season and has garnered much hype as the best player on the league’s best defense. In an emphatic win by San Francisco in which individual stats are spread thin among many Niners, Bosa’s a no-brainer.

If you’re thinking about longshots, first stop is Emmanuel Sanders (40/1). In 12 games with the 2019 49ers, Sanders has gotten 56 targets total, or 5.66 per, and in two playoff games has caught just two passes on three targets, called upon mostly for run blocking. Any such bet here is based on Sanders’s veteran experience – he’s already played three Super Bowls, while the great majority of the team outside of Richard Sherman has yet to appear in one – and is predicated on, again, at least a highish-scoring game with lots of passing from Garoppolo.

Finally, for a real miracle win, look at FS Jimmy Ward at 100/1. My Bookie currently lists some 25 players other than Ward – so nearly one-quarter of the total number of players on active rosters for this game – in their “To Win Super Bowl MVP” offerings and yet “the field” is somehow going off at 16/1. Ward was a late addition to MB’s board, so at least one or two significant bets have been placed on him, and the appeal of this pick beyond the outstanding value is that the formula for a Ward MVP is simple.

The only time a safety has won MVP honors in this game was when Jake Scott did so for the Miami Dolphins waaaaaay back in Super Bowl VII to cap the Fins’ perfect season. Scott simply picked two passes while his quarterback threw for just 88 yards in the victory of a 1-point (!) favorite. Grabbing two interceptions against Patrick Mahomes, who’s thrown just five interceptions in 16 games this season? Yeah, that’d probably get Ward the MVP trophy…

–written by Os Davis

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Super Bowl LIV props: Betting on Mahomes, Garoppolo’s performances

Friday, 24 January 2020 17:25 EST

NFLbets has been waiting on a few player props for Super Bowl LIV for quite some time, particularly those on two gunslinging quarterbacks who’ve never been to the Big Game but seem as cool as chilly cucumbers a week out. NFLbets is not buying the “fearless” line foe Kansas City Chiefs-San Francisco 49ers juuuuuuuuuuuuust yet, however. Among our more decisively made bets on Super Bowl LIV are on the following proposition bets:

Over/under 240½ total yards for Jimmy Garoppolo;
Over/under 0.5 interceptions thrown by Garoppolo; and
Over/under 0.5 interceptions thrown by Patrick Mahomes.

For the middle of the above-listed troika, NFLbets believes a device strong enough to hold us back from playing this bet does not yet exist. ’Member those Geico tv spots of two or three years ago? Well, for those game, we’re paraphrasing: If you’re Jimmy Garoppolo, you throw interceptions. It’s what you do. Jimmy G. may have been steadily evolving as a QB leader type since collecting splinters on the New England bench behind Tom Brady but can still be counted on to pull the trigger on a bad decision or two per game. Take the over on an O/U of 0.5 Garoppolo interceptions.

On the other side, perhaps by dint of having to play the pass against offenses desperately trying to keep up with Mahomes & Co., the Kansas City defense has evolved to rank no. 6 against the pass in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. To be fair, some stats speak well of Garoppolo's recent turnover control. In the past eight games, he and the Niners have faced top-10 defenses five times, in games against the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers twice. In those five games, Jimmy G tossed just three picks combined and two were against the Rams.

But here’s the thing: This line must also be based in part on only line, “Over/under 20½ pass attempts for Garoppolo”. Jimmy’s control this season disappears over the magic number 21. In 15 games in which Garoppolo threw 21 times or more, he threw picks in 10, and only three times in 2019-20 did he manage to throw more than 22 times and avoid an interception. Further, in six games in which the opposition scored more than 21 points, Jimmy threw a pick – think the Chiefs are good for at least 22 points? Yeah, us too.

(Incidentally, note that Garoppolo throwing picks doesn’t necessarily mean a 49ers loss in the Super Bowl; in the six games of over 21 points allowed, San Francisco nevertheless went 4-2 SU/3-3 ATS.)

So how about the studly 49ers QB going for 240 yards or more? Like Ryan Tannehill, Jimmy has been wowing NFL bettors and fans alike by leading his offense to a pair of wins while throwing the ball a very un-2019 27 times combined. The last time a team won two consecutive playoff games with 19 or fewer attempts in each was when Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens did it thrice in a row back in the 2000-01 – and in the Super Bowl blowout of the New York Giants, Flacco still went for 244 yards on 26 attempts.

On top of this, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens simply didn’t face anything like the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs on their Super Bowl run; in fact, those Ravens played form behind just once in four games that postseason, when down 7-0 after the first quarter in the divisional round. Think the Chiefs are good to force the 49ers to play from behind at least once in this ’Bowl? Yeah, us too.

The crazy thing is that unleashing Garoppolo has worked outstandingly for the 49ers in 2019: San Francisco is a whopping 10-1 SU (8-2-1 ATS) when throwing for more than 240½ yards. NFLbets has little mathematics – aside from Flacco’s precedent – to back up the following contention, but we believe that Kyle Shanahan has had Garoppolo playing possum for the past two weeks. And does anyone really believe that Raheem Mostert geos for four TDs on 29 attempts against a KC D that shut down the superhuman Derrick Henry in the AFC Championship? Take the over on an O/U of 240½ yards passing for Jimmy Garoppolo.

So let’s talk Patrick Mahomes facing off against the San Francisco defense, no. 2 by DVOA but realistically tops. (The Patriots D, who faded badly at season’s close, rank no. 1 overall for 2019.)

Mahomes is, unquestionably, a machine. Since returning in week 10 after an injury in week 7, Mahomes has thrown for 34.8 attempts and 266.66 yards per game plus 17 TDs against a measly four interceptions. Mahomes and his ultra-quick weapons in Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have the Chiefs on a ridiculous 8-0 SU (7-0-1 ATS) run in which the average margin of victory is over 16 points. The KC QB has demonstrated amply that he can lead the Chiefs to a W either passing a lot or not, so NFLbets will have no part of the “Over/under 304½ total yards for Patrick Mahomes” Super Bowl prop.

But here’s what makes us interested in the 49ers exposing some vulnerability: The Chiefs haven’t faced a defense like the 49ers’ in a long time. Aside from the aforementioned Patriots, the top-ranked passing defenses Kanasas City has faced since that momentous week 10 game at Tennessee have been the no. 8-ranked Chicago Bears and the no. 13 Denver Broncos – and those opponents were held to 3 points apiece. In fact, the Chiefs offense ultimately ended up facing the league’s 21st most difficult schedule.

Note: None of this is to say that the Chiefs are overrated or overblown. We just need one interception to pay out at better than even odds.

This San Francisco defense, probably the best we’ve seen in the Super Bowl since Von Miller and the Broncos were making Cam Newton’s life hell for 60 minutes, could well be the unit to do it. The 49ers are no. 2 in overall and passing DVOA; no. 2 in yards allowed; tops overall in passing yards allowed and yards per attempt; no. 4 in points allowed; and an impressive 6th in turnover percentage. They haven’t faced too many QBs comparable to Mahomes in 2019-20 – so few are, after all – though notably held Lamar Jackson to 206 total yards and got a fumble out of him.

And by the plain ol’ football, NFLbets would guess that this is the one defense Kansas City didn’t want to see this season. Chiefs-49ers means a potentially instant-classic meetup of the league’s fastest offense vs the league’s fastest defense. San Francisco doesn’t bring a heavy pass rush often, but loves to drop back in coverage and seal the edges. Think the 49ers know they’ll need to ballhawk to stay in this game? Yeah, us too. Take the over on an O/U of 0.5 Garoppolo interceptions – should be good for a payout of at least +110.

–written by Os Davis

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Picks of the Week: Considering two underdogs in Sunday’s divisional playoffs

Thursday, 09 January 2020 11:11 EST

Whoops, they did it again! As noted yesterday here at NFLbets, since 2010, favorites of 9½ or more points in the NFL playoffs are 5-1 SU/ATS – with the sole win coming back in 2011 as Rex Ryan’s New York Jets won their Super Bowl against the New England Patriots in the divisional round. The line in Sunday’s AFC divisional round game has gone from Texans +9 at opening to Texans +9½, thereby increasing the level of difficulty in betting that game.

Also note that NFLbets caught Saturday’s AFC divisional at Baltimore Ravens -9 versus Tennessee, but that line is now up to Ravens -9½ as well. We’re feeling some regression to the mean is impending, but where…? Perhaps we’ll find hope in analyzing the bets for…

Houston Texans +9½ at Kansas City Chiefs, over/under 51 points

Not to be dogmatic, but since the preseason kicked off, NFLbets has figured the Kansas City Chiefs would make the playoffs and that the subsequent run would be all about Andy Reid. We still believe this is the case, what with the strangely unpredictable yet somehow utterly predictable Houston Texans coming to town.

Reid’s CV reads in part as follows.

• Overall record, regular season: 207-128-1 SU (181-148-7 ATS)
• Overall record, regular season with Kansas City: 77-35 SU (63-46-3 ATS)
• Overall record, playoffs: 12-14 SU (13-13 ATS)
• Overall record, playoffs with Kansas City: 2-5 SU/ATS
• Overall record, playoffs divisional round with bye: 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS)
• Overall record, all games after bye week with Kansas City: 6-2 SU/ATS

The numbers with smaller sample size are naturally simultaneously the most compelling and completely contradictory. Maybe precedent should be thrown away here; after all, the Patrick Mahomes-fueled Kanasas City Chiefs are like no other team, and back-to-back 31-point showings in last year’s playoffs are certainly nothing to scoff at. This is a top-10 offense in essentially all major statistical categories.

And by the way, has anyone noticed how Steve Spagnuolo completely created a defense from dregs? Last year, this unit was no. 31 or 32 in virtually every defensive sphere. This year, the Chiefs are best in the league in – no, really, NFLbets didn’t believe it, either – passing yards and rushing yards allowed. A weak-ish schedule got the KC D ranking just 14th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric but still 6th against the pass, where the bulk of a Texans attack would occur.

When the Texans handed the Chiefs a 31-24 loss in week 6, the Texans offense ran up 472 yards on the Chiefs, the most this defense surrendered in a game all season. In fact, in the four other games in which opponents ran up 400 yards or more on Kansas City, the Chiefs went 4-0 SU – and they’re 8-2 SU (7-3 ATS) since the Houston loss.

Assuming that some classic clock mismanagement from Reid doesn’t hand Deshaun Watson a plum opportunity late in the game, the Texans simply must find a way to move the ball against this solid defense – and they’re probably catching the Chiefs at a bad time. In the past eight games, the Houston offense has been held to 301 yards or fewer four times.

This week, Watson will be playing with his full contingent of receivers, with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills expected to join DeAndre Hopkins on the filed this week. Watson & Co. managed to pull out the W without the field-stretching Fuller out there. The Texans are now 3-3 SU/ATS with Fuller out of the lineup on the season, but certainly they’d rather have him playing, as they’ve gone 8-3 with Fuller in the lineup and 6-1 when he has five or more receptions.

And while the talking heads will be playing up the J.J. Watt vs Mahomes angle, we’re thinking the bets are all about DeShaun and the Texans offense. The question remains: Can Houston essentially play their best offensive game all season just to keep pace? We say they can, especially if snow falls for game time. (Currently snow is expected for Saturday but is just 20% likely for Sunday.) Holding off on an over/under bet until that precipitation report comes in, NFLbets says take the Houston Texans +9½ at Kansas City – seriously, that’s way too high a line, isn’t it?

Seattle Seahawks +4 at Green Bay Packers, over/under 47 points

Right, NFLbets is just coming right out with it: Take the Seattle Seahawks ML of +155 at Green Bay. The truth is we haven’t trusted the Packers all season, and we’re not sure why: They went a solid enough 10-6 ATS and a decent 3-2 SU/ATS against playoff teams (though two wins came against the Minnesota Vikings and the third against Mahomes-less Kansas City).

Meanwhile, the Seahawks have been gritting it out all year. Russell Wilson’s propensity to spin away and survive endless pass rushes coming through an inferior OL makes a metaphor for the entire Seahawks team which is 10-2 SU (though just 6-5-1 ATS) in games decided by 8 points or fewer. The DVOA metric ranks the ’Hawks offense at no. 5 – this despite facing the league’s 3rd-toughest schedule.

What makes betting this game especially maddening, however, is the insanity surrounding homefield advantage in 2019 and Pete Carroll’s entire freaking playoff history. This year home teams went 109-132-1 SU and 104-137-9 ATS. Most typical of this trend was Seattle, who went 7-1 SU (5-2-1 ATS) in away games and 4-4 SU (2-6 ATS) at home. Even more ridiculous is Carroll’s playoff record. Not including the two Super Bowls, the Seahawks coach has gone an impressive 9-5 SU (8-6 ATS) – but he’s 6-0 SU (4-2 ATS) in home playoff games!

Clearly these sorts of numbers are twisting bookmakers’ heads, too, and thus a line which essentially gives Green Bay the traditional homefield edge plus a token ½-point to draw in Seahawks backers. We ain’t buying it. And with all the credit Belichick & Brady and Payton & Brees got for Playoff Experience in the lines last week, we’re wondering why the league’s proven second-best combo of Carroll & Wilson doesn’t get more respect – particularly against a rookie head coach in his first playoff game. Come on, now. Take the Seattle Seahawks +4 at Green Bay as a hedge to the money line bet.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 7-0.
NFLbets this season, all recommended bets: 65-44-1.

–written by Os Davis

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Picks of the week: Very revealing stats for Saturday’s divisional round playoff games

Wednesday, 08 January 2020 13:42 EST

All right, now this is NFL playoffs betting – four games, do or die, all or nothing, time to leave everything – including all the clichés you can muster – on the field! Of course, winning bets will perk up anyone’s interest in the NFL playoffs but for the football bettor, this is pure holiday season.

And o wow, did NFLbets turn up some killer interesting stats to help us make this year’s divisional round nicely lucrative. First off are some outlier numbers from last week’s results, including:

• All four unders hit, and the NFC no. 6 seeded Minnesota Vikings were the highest-scoring team with 26 points. With dudes like Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo taking the field this weekend, one hardly needs more incentive to bet lotsa overs this week,

• Away teams were 3-1 SU/ATS – and the only loss was by the Buffalo Bills (ATS by ½-point), who were not only the vogue pick to upset in this year’s wildcard round but also managed to run up a 16-0 lead on the perpetually postseason-underperforming Houston Texans. This shouldn’t be too surprising, NFLbets supposes, as home teams went 109-132-1 SU and 104-137-9 ATS in 2019.

• Russell Wilson was the only quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards, and the Tennessee Titans won despite Ryan Tannehill’s 72 passing yards.

• Oddest of all (so to speak) may be NFLbets’ perfect 4-0 record in pointspread betting and 7-0 in all bets last weekend. Yes!

Relevant stats for this weekend’s games include:

• Since 2010, home teams are 30-10 SU – but an even 20-20 ATS – in divisional round games.

• In these 40 games, taking the over has been good for a 25-15 mark. Unders do best at the extreme ends of the scale: In games with a line of under-43 or over-51, the under is 10-6.

• Teams favored by 9½ points or more are 6-1 SU/ATS, with the sole win by Rex Ryan’s New York Jets over the New England Patriots in 2011.

• The big difference-maker for the visiting side? It’s all about the day. In divisional round games on Saturday, the home team is an almost unbelievable 18-2 SU (15-5 ATS) – and a visitor hasn’t won on a divisional Saturday since 2013. This means on Sunday, the chalk may be tossed out the window with home teams just 12-8 SU and an incredible 5-15 ATS over the decade.

Normally NFLbets would look for rather extreme trends like the Saturday advantage or the Sunday ATS disadvantage for home teams – again, especially following the 2019 season in which home field became irrelevant, apparently – but some of these stats are just too compelling.

The Saturday advantage can be figured as a product of higher seeded team’s bye week as well as the short week one team has gotten since the Saturday/Sunday format was implemented; this time around, the Vikings got shortchanged a day. These factors may also explain that 6-1 record SU/ATS by 9½-point favorites as with the inherent advantages, qualitative differences between teams can be magnified.

The reverse is also true: When a playoff team gets back on the 7-day schedule, games get tighter – markedly tighter than bettors would like. Note that the Titans got an *extra* day thanks to the Saturday wildcard game.

So this week, NFLbets is using some reverse logic: For which teams will trends hold? We start the betting chronologically with…

Minnesota Vikings +7 at San Francisco 49ers, over/under 44 points

The Vikings can take pride in a great SU win, though NFLbets was certainly not the only one who reckoned last week’s line of New Orleans Saints -8½ was reasonable. (Sooooooo, Minnesota’s getting fewer points against a better team…? Come on.) New Orleans is a team in decline in the short term. The San Francisco 49ers, by contrast, are not.

On the other hand, the 49ers defense probably isn’t as good as you think and Dalvin Cook may be well-suited to break San Francisco. As it turns out, the Niners opened the season going 8-0 SU (5-3 ATS) and ultimately went 10-1 SU (5-5-1 ATS) against non-playoff teams. In six of their last nine games, the defense allowed 25 points or more, and opponents ran up 100 or more yards on the ground 12 times in 2019. And the San Francisco D’s worst number is in the yards per carry statistic, where they’re bottom-10.

Now can the Vikings score enough points, even if Cook burns, to keep up with the NFL’s no. 2 scoring offense? Since the Great Rejuvenation of Kirk Cousins in week 5, the Vikes are averaging 27.0 points per game but in the last five have managed just 20, 39 (including one TD scored by the defense), 10, 19 and 26 (20 in regular time). We daresay that won’t be enough. Take the San Francisco 49ers -7 vs Minnesota and take the over on an O/U of 44 points.

Tennessee Titans +9 at Baltimore Ravens, over/under 46½ points

The hot take: Damn, this line is too high. After all, the Titans are one of the hottest teams still playing, on a 7-3 SU (6-3-1 ATS) clip since Ryan Tannehill took over as starter. And Derrick Henry has been an absolute beast with 168.4 ypg in the past seven games to go with 11 TDs.

But these Ravens haven’t lost SU since September and are on a 9-1 ATS run in which their *average* result is a 10.4-point win; this run includes West Coast games, late games, games against playoff contenders, AFC teams and NFC teams. Consider playoff experience and whatnot all you wish, but the truth is that the 2019 Baltimore Ravens have been beating everyone worth playing, and sometimes you just have to bet football. Take the Baltimore Ravens -9 vs Tennessee and, yep, take the over on an O/U of 46½ points.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 7-0.
NFLbets this season, all recommended bets: 65-44-1.

–written by Os Davis

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Picks of the Week: NFC Wildcard Games

Thursday, 02 January 2020 14:23 EST

In yesterday’s NFL Playoffs edition of Picks of the Week, NFLbets laid out some good lucrative opportunities for betting AFC wildcard games and … wait a minute, can we really be liking this many visiting teams? Well, why not? This is 2019, after all, the home team went just 106-139-8 ATS (not including the international games) for the year – well below the 50/50 ratio the bookmakers aim for weekly – as such a disadvantage slowly disappears.

Additionally, thanks to seeding, the weaker of two teams can easily get the home date, e.g. the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Seattle Seahawks, who not infrequently this season have played like the NFC’s second-best side. And any advantage the Eagles might have been believed to get from the West-to-East travel has also evaporated into the past. Hell, the Seahawks in the past three seasons are 6-2-1 ATS in games played in the Eastern time zone.

So while at first glance, the first four NFL playoff games don’t look like much, NFLbets is expecting the formerly topsy-turvy now normalized ways of parity will generate lots of on-field excitement – and hopefully in-sportsbook lucrativeness. Let’s get to betting NFC wildcard games, starting with…

Minnesota Vikings +8½ at New Orleans Saints, over/under 49½ points

Full disclosure: NFLbets admits that have no idea how to account for the conclusions to the past two New Orleans seasons. Two years ago in Minnesota, the Saints overcame a 17-point first half deficit in unflappable, champion-like fashion to take the lead late in the fourth and give Case Keenum just one play to win the ballgame. The Vikings won the ballgame.

Last season, perhaps the most famous non-call in NFL history deprived the Saints of a red zone opportunity and send the game into overtime. The Los Angeles Rams won that ballgame.

You know how certain reality-denying Democratic Party types like to claim that America has already elected a woman president, because Hillary Clinton actually won more popular votes in Election 2016? That’s the way bettors might choose to look at 2019 New Orleans Saints on this playoff run, i.e. what are the odds that a team can advance to the Super Bowl three years in a row? As essentially the past two Saints’ runs were decided by massive outliers, we can guess that the Saints won’t get bounced on a fluke for a third time but some skepticism on this team going far must be applied.

So … are the Vikings the team to beat Peyton, Brees & Co. this time? Since the Super Bowl run following the 2009, the Saints are a mediocre 4-5 SU/ATS; as favorites in that span, they’re just 3-3 SU and an incredible 1-5 ATS. Finally, note that just one of those nine postseason games were decided by more than 8 points. Now at Minnesota +8½, this is one tricky line – particularly with the Vikings backing into the playoffs.

Two weeks ago, the Vikes were even in contention for a bye week in the playoffs but rolled over the Green Bay Packers and sat starters against the Chicago Bears in week 17. Prior to the Packers loss, Minnesota had enjoyed an 8-2 SU (6-4 ATS) run. The Vikings are also a poor 1-4 SU/ATS against playoff teams, but with excepting the 13-point loss to Green Bay, all other games were within a touchdown.

Now NFLbets realizes that betting on Kirk Cousins is hardly an inspiring prospect, but more important for the Vikings has got to be Dalvin Cook’s health. Cook has been practicing in full this week and will play – absolutely necessary for a dude who’s produced nearly 28% of the Vikings’ total yards this year. Cook’s presence for this one plus Payton’s apparent conservatism come playoff time is enough for us to advise NFL bettors take the Minnesota Vikings +8½ at New Orleans, and at -430 on the money line, we’re thinking about the Saints in a parlay and/or teaser.

Seattle Seahawks -2½ at Philadelphia Eagles, over/under 45½ points

This line is something of a puzzler, though the sportsbooks are probably looking at the ignominious ending to the Seahwaks’ season – thriller against the San Francisco 49ers or no – in which they limed to a 1-3 SU (0-3-1 ATS) finish. But as the talking heads like to remind, experience can be crucial in the postseason – and the Carroll-and-Wilson Seahawks have plenty. In wildcard round games alone, these Seahawks are 3-1 SU/ATS, with the sole SU loss a 2-point upset by the Dallas Cowboys last season and the sole ATS loss in a 1-point SU win over the Vikings in 2016.

And while Seahawks fandom and presumably the locker room alike are geeked by the return of Marshawn Lynch – just in time to face a defense that’s no. 11 in yards per rush attempt – the Eagles’ active roster boasts little more than walking wounded. One may marvel at Philadelphia’s tenacity in winning four straight and swiping the NFC East title from the Cowboys, until one realizes that all four games were against the weakass teams of that NFC East.

Among those “skill players” not actually on the disabled list, WR Nelson Agholor and RB Miles Sanders have sat out practices this week; TE Zach Ertz will play hurt. Boston Scott and the practice squad: This is what Carson Wentz is working with in his first NFL playoff game against the poor man’s Belichick-and-Brady? Come on! Take the Seattle Seahawks -2½ at Philadelphia.

Further, we’re figuring that Lynch’s 12 touches and one goal line plunge were a precursor to this week, when Carroll is likely to have his guys grind it out in cold Philly weather. (Current forecasts call for temperatures in the 30s and a 20% chance of some Seattle-style rain.) The Seahawks OL will likely be without G Mike Iupati and possibly C Joey Hunt, who stepped into the starting role in week 8; already Seattle ranks a lowly 24th in pass protection, but a reasonable 15th in run blocking and 10th in power run blocking even before Beast Mode reupped. So we’re also saying take the under on an O/U of 45½ points as well: Note that in all Carroll-and-Wilson Seahawks NFC playoff games, the under is 5-6 but is 3-1 in the wildcard round.

–written by Os Davis

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NFL betting, week 17: Looking for outliers, pitying the Eagles

Friday, 27 December 2019 12:38 EST

The only week of the NFL season worse for lucratively picking winning bets than week 17 is week 1. On opening day, every team is literally untested, every team full of unknowns, every preseason futures proposition bet impossible to win.

But by week 17, the proper NFL bettor has a pretty good hold on things, with both the playoff picture and the immediate postseason head coach firings are reasonably clear. Unfortunately, any such expertise run up during the regular season is thrown out the window for the seasons’ final week.

In 2019, we’re looking at a week 17 schedule in which five of the 16 games are completely irrelevant, except for a few potential job openings here and there. Another nine pit one playoff-bound team against an already eliminated side and these lines, i.e. Miami Dolphins -15 at New England Patriots, are the real trappers for the NFL bettor. We know the Jacksonville Jaguars are collectively already gone on vacation, but how loose will a non-contender such as Miami or Detroit play just to backdoor cover on a double-digit point spread when the playoff side benches starters in the second half?

Nevertheless, in leaning on some outliers, NFLbets found some viable options for NFL bettors in week 17 – because why wouldn’t you wager? We’ve got to beef up the bankroll in time for the playoffs and Super Bowl! For picks of the week for betting NFL week 17, then, we’ll start with…

Philadelphia Eagles -4 at New York Giants, under 45 points

Ah, yes – one more week to gaze upon the pitiable NFC East. Remember way back at season’s beginning when the sportsbooks were figuring on a dogfight for the division title between the seemingly well-armed Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, just one season removed from their Super Bowl upset of the New England Patriots? Well, we got a fight between (beat)dogs, at least…

After the Cowboys’ pathetic display of last week replete with numerous dropped catches, Ezekiel Elliott coming off the field for 3rd downs and the allowing of 10 points in the first quarter despite a turnover on downs and a missed FG, the Eagles are now “in control of their own destiny”, as the cliché masters like to say. Or are they…?

The truth is that the Eagles are just 1-4 SU against teams with winning records, and the sole W came in week 4 against the Green Bay Packers. Philly appears to be capable of taking care of business in the NFC East at 4-1 SU, but their 2-3 ATS record against those teams should give NFL bettors pause – particularly since the ATS wins have come the last two weeks.

As if this isn’t enough to destroy one’s faith in betting the Eagles, consider that they’re coming into this game with, likesay, no wide receivers to speak of. Between the IR and the DNPs figured for this game, the Eagles are leaving nearly 2,000 receiving yards on the bench, over 51% of the team’s total. Philadelphia’s leading active receivers are TE Dallas Goebert at 542 yards and RB Miles Sanders at 510 – this when they’re facing the NFL’s second worst passing defense per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.

In short, NFL bettors will have to be serious spendthrifts to wager on a winner here plus or minus points. That’s why we’re recommending bettors take the under on an O/U of 45 points. The Eagles defense has kept (mostly bad) opposing offenses to 17 or fewer points in six of the past eight games, including the overtime game against these Giants in week 14. Plus, New York has averaged just over 16 points per game against playoff or still-contending teams.

Sure, the Eagles might win and even cover the spread. But NFLbets feels a lot better just knowing all we need is for two low-watt teams to do their (lack of) stuff one more time in 2019…

Oakland Raiders +3 at Denver Broncos, over/under 40½ points

Don’t get NFLbets wrong here: The Broncos’ achievements this season have been extraordinary, considering they essentially ran the offense without a quarterback for the first 11 games and have subsequently turned to rookie Andrew Luck Andrew Lock Drew Lock. Though just 6-9 SU, Denver is 9-5-1 ATS (or 9-6, depending on where you caught the week 4 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars), better than all but four teams.

But while Lock appears a fine young QB and Broncos fans would certainly appreciate a shift to younger blood after the Elway Era “highlighted” by big-name/low-production dudes like Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco. However, the fact that Denver is calling for 79 pass plays in the past two games points to a still-imbalanced offense. Homefield advantage may help Lock, where he’s 2-0 SU/ATS, but let’s just say more on this below.

(Note: Current weather reports have temperatures in the 30s for Sunday with a 0% chance of snow or rain. Adjust bets accordingly.)

Coming into cold ‘n’ sunny Denver are the Oakland Raiders in their last game before morphing into the Las Vegas Raiders. At 7-8 SU/ATS, Chucky’s guys have generally exceeded expectations in what might have been yet another money-saving tank year. And in 2019, this Raiders team has demonstrably been the NFL’s streakiest: After winning SU/ATS on opening day versus Denver, they took two SU/ATS losses followed by a 5-2 SU/ATS run, followed by an 0-4 SU/ATS losing streak and finally winning both ways in Los Angeles last weekend.

Entering the game as one of the few remaining bubble teams, the Raiders’ season in hindsight makes the team appear exactly that: Against sub-.500 teams, the Raiders went 7-2 SU (6-3 ATS) and 2-1 SU/ATS in games outside of Oakland. (Look, there’s no way NFLbets is calling last week’s game against the Chargers in Los Angeles an away game.)

In terms of intangibles and specifically the will to win, the Raiders hold all the cards. Jon Gruden has done a surprising job creating what should be a competitive team next season out of draft picks, castoffs and low-budget options. Though Derek Carr looks more physically limited than ever, i.e. can he throw the ball more than 15 yards downfield, Gruden is seriously living up to his “quarterback whisperer” reputation.

And despite some glaring shortcomings such as a bottom-10 red-zone scoring offense and a bottom-5 standing in points allowed and turnovers generated, reality says that the Raiders will a) be playing this game with a spot in the playoffs in the mix and b) be reaching deep into the playbook in an “anything goes” situation.

But here’s the big one – and we did promise outliers. Reputation says that Denver enjoys one of the NFL’s biggest homefield advantages. The truth, though, is that the Denver Broncos have the second-worst record ATS at home over the past 20 seasons. This year? They’re 5-1-1 with the sole loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. Ugly beatdown at the hands of the New York Jets notwithstanding, the Raiders have been beating these kinds of odds all season. Take the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders +4 at Denver.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 3-1-1.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week this season: 41-27-1.

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Picks of the Week, NFL week 16: Focusing on Baltimore, the South

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 21:57 EST

NFLbets has been eschewing betting on AFC South and NFC South intradivisional games for most of this season, but AFC South vs NFC South? Now those games might be worth betting, and this one certainly looks like a lucrative one…

Houston Texans -3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In terms of ATS records, things are nicely even – The Texans are 7-7 ATS and 5-4 ATS again against non-AFC South teams; Tampa Bay is 6-7-1 ATS overall and 4-4-1 against non-NFC South teams. The only oddity with either of these two overall is the Buccaneers’ strange trip to just about .500: After starting the season 2-2 ATS/SU, the Bucs suffered a 1-5 SU (0-6 ATS) jag and chased that with the 4-0 SU (3-0-1 ATS) run they’re currently on. However, note that all four wins came against non-playoff teams.

Additionally, Tampa Bay has been a poster child for home field disadvantage in 2019, and the Buccaneers are the NFL’s only winless team ATS at 0-5-1. But overall, the home team is 93-123-5, a winning percentage of just .443. So all things considered, NFLbets is throwing away the ATS numbers for this one and instead we’re just betting the football.

To wit: Take the Houston Texans -3 at Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay offensive line is once again without OT Donovan Smith – not great news, considering the OL has given up 26 sacks on top of Jameis Winston’s 19 interceptions in the past nine games – as well as Winston’s favorite target, WR Mike Evans. Currently bottom-10 in most passing categories, the Houston pass defense isn’t scaring anyone since J.J. Watt’s latest early-season exit, but Winston’s generosity has been almost unprecedented. (Even the Detroit Lions got one last week, and they’re dead last in interceptions…)

On the other side, the Tampa Bay defense’s passing stats look pitiable indeed, but the Bucs’ ranks of 32nd and 30th in passing attempts and yardage, respectively, may be put on the propensity for Tampa Bay to engage in shootouts. Nine times have Buccaneers games gone over 50 points scoring this season, and we’re thinking that’s exactly the sort of game Deshaun Watson and his Texans want going into the playoffs. So we’ll also take the over on an O/U of 49½ points.

Baltimore Ravens -10½ at Cleveland Browns

NFLbets doesn’t like to lean on off-field material in formulating bets, but with these two teams in 2019, avoiding factoring in the intangibles is impossible. The post-Sunday news in the NFL this week includes stories on Browns players taunting the Arizona Cardinals sideline – in a game they’d go on to lose by two touchdowns to a 3-win (now 4-win) team.

And while the Myles Garrett helmet swing demonstrated to a new generation how the Browns can lose even when the actual game score is in their favor, Freddie Kitchens & Co. have done little good for NFL bettors. At a league second-worst 4-9-1 ATS, NFLbets would normally be tempted to bet on regression to the mean. But with these guys publicly imploding, how could you bet on them at this point?

Particularly against the Ravens powered by Lamar Jackson, who is clearly on a mission to destroy even team in the league who passed on him in the first round of the 2017 draft (so, then, every team in the league). Baltimore’s own intangible: These guys don’t let up against anybody. Since the bye in week 8, the Raven’s average result has been a 22½-point win. In those seven games, just two came down to a touchdown or less.

The Browns don’t stand a chance. Take the Baltimore Ravens -10½ at Cleveland.

Jacksonville Jaguars +7½ at Atlanta Falcons

Here’s another one NFLbets just doesn’t get. Sure, it’s tough to give more than a TD on a team that’s 5-9 SU (6-8 ATS) and playing for nothing, but playing for nothing seems to be the Falcons’ bag since *that* Super Bowl. In 2017, they got off to a 4-4 SU start before going on a 6-2 tear. In 2018, a 4-4 SU start was chased by a five-game losing streak and mathematical elimination from the postseason; then they went 3-0 SU (2-1 ATS including a ½-point loss in week 17). And this year? Their opening 1-7 SU has been followed by a 4-2 SU/ATS run, including 3-2 against their division mates and the big win at San Francisco last week.

During said six-game run, Matt Ryan and the offense appears to have normalized, with Ryan good for 9 TDs against just 4 interceptions thrown – hardly mind-blowing numbers for a former MVP candidate but respectable at least.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars are heading in a familiar downward direction. The last-minute SU win at the Oakland Raiders last week – it’s almost as though Chucky forgets his guys are supposed to be tanking this season – snapped a 0-5 SU/ATS run in which the Jags lost by an average score of 35-11. And the defense is regressing as well, having surrendered at least 236 yards passing in each of the last four games while also allowing 195 or more rushing yards in four of the last six. Finally, just three times in 2019 have the Jaguars outgained their opponent on offense.

For Jaguars fans – all 14 of them – it’s unfortunate their team couldn’t have caught the Falcons in the first half of the season; NFLbets just can’t envision even an ATS upset here; the Jaguars’ score may be in single digits. Take the Atlanta Falcons -7½ vs Jacksonville, and take the under on an O/U of 46½ points.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 1-2.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week this season: 38-26.

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