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!

Here’s the official NFLbets Pick of the Week for Super Bowl LIII

Thursday, 31 January 2019 17:43 EST

NFLbets will say (write?) this from the go: Our Pick of the Week for the Super Bowl and most subsequent recommendations on the game are the result of backward logic. The premise is simple: The betting opportunities on the New England Patriots just aren’t that interesting or lucrative.

Without further ado, here’s NFLbets’ Pick of the Week for Super Bowl LIII: Take the Los Angeles Rams +2½/+3/+3½ vs the Patriots.

We’re also advising NFLbettors to take the Rams money line (ML), currently fetching from +115 to +130 and only going up before kickoff. Here’s why: Since ballooning from Rams -1 to Rams +2 on January 21, the point spread hasn’t moved since Rams +2½ in most Vegas sportsbooks as of Thursday evening before the game, and only now is Rams +3 beginning to show its face at the bigger online sportsbooks. Some 75% to 80% of the money continues to come in on the Patriots, which to NFLbets implies that the bookmakers still consider this more or less a pick ‘em, anyway.

In short, if you’re covering the Rams at +2½ or less for a -110 payout, you may as well cover that ML and put the odds on your side. (See what we meant by the lucrative and interesting bets on the Rams’ side? And by backward logic?)

So what needs to happen for the Rams to pull off the upset in Super Bowl LIII and bring things full circle back to 2002?

The Rams defensive line needs to dominate the Patriots offensive line. Tom Brady has been tormented in Super Bowls before – recall how the line on the 18-0 New England side gave up five sacks (and, essentially, the game) against the Giants in XLII – and we daresay the Patriots haven’t faced a front like that of Donald-Suh-Brockers in years, certainly not in 2018-19.

The Patriots OL has been middling this season, allowing an OK 21 sacks, but it doesn’t seem to matter to Ndamukong Suh, who loves blowing up New England lines: In eight career games against Belichick-and-Brady, Suhs destroyed the middle for nine QB hits. And Aaron Donald is Aaron Donald, the best player in this Super Bowl right now.

C.J. Anderson must continue producing – but more importantly, wearing down the middle. Recall that the Patriots have faced just one A-list running back in 2018-19: Kareem Hunt in week 6, who torched them for 185 total yards and a TD. Anderson’s unimpressive-looking 44 yards in New Orleans did not indicate the punishment he doled out on his 16 carries, mostly in the second and third quarters, that softened that Saints D enough to allow Jared Goff three lead-changing scoring drives late.

And just imagine if the Rams running game looks more like that of the divisional round game. Against the Dallas Cowboys, the combination of Todd Gurley and Anderson went for 38 carries for 238 yards and 3 TDs against a run defense that was statistically and reputedly better than the Saints’. This is the kind of attack that is indefensible, even if the opposition head coach somehow knows what’s coming.

Of course, the question of whether the Rams can win without a big day from Anderson may soon be moot; if Gurley isn’t playing or clearly can’t go, Los Angeles absolutely positively *needs* a *monster* game out of one of the great NFL late-season pickups in quite some time.

Three words for the defense: Bend, don’t break. A Belichick staple! At their best, e.g. in most of the Saints game, the Rams defense can stop anyone inside or just outside the red zone. A dude like Corey Littleton (a safety disguised as a linebacker) has the correct skills to flourish in a short field and has done so lately, and the shortcomings of Marcus Peters are greatly reduced.

Plus, just in the simplest terms, i.e. our kicker and punter are better than yours, Sean McVay would kill to turn this game into a punty-punty field position battle determined by a late long-ass field goal. We believe the longer the Rams keep a Patriots touchdown off the board, the likelier their chances to win.

And NFLbets really likes their chances: The Rams will win Super Bowl LIII.

NFL playoffs betting: Faltering Chargers, Patriots offenses scream "TAKE THE UNDER!"

Thursday, 10 January 2019 10:41 EST

Damn, do the bookmakers want us to bet the underdogs this weekend – or maybe the oddsmakers are collectively in disbelief at favorites’ inability to cover point spreads. Since the New England Patriots covered 3 points against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, underdogs are a ridiculous 13-2 ATS. Heck, the last time a favorite won ATS was when the Minnesota Vikings covered 3½ points on the last f*#*#*ing play against the New Orleans Saints in last year’s 2017 divisional game.

In fact, since we’re talking

Los Angeles Chargers -4 at New England Patriots, over/under 47½ points

There’s this. Last year, the Patriots went 1-2 ATS, covering only against the Tennessee Titans, who arguably should not have been allowed into the playoffs for aesthetic considerations. A general changing of the guard currently going on in the NFL – i.e. the Broncos, Steelers, Packers and yes, the Patriots are in at least short-term decline, while the Chiefs, Colts, Rams and the like rise – apparently leads to unpredictability. After all, it’s not just Foles (and last year Blake Bortles; ’member Blake Bortles?); these “unforeseen” upsets are happening all over the place.

The latest perpetrator of such ATS wins are the “Los Angeles” Chargers, who, in addition to “upsetting” the Baltimore Ravens in the wild card game, have run up some insane numbers this season. Said numbers, which NFLbets has run before and are now updated, look like so:

• The Chargers are just 4-3 SU (3-4 ATS) in true home games;

• in week 7, they beat the Tennessee Titans in London, but did not cover the spread;

• the Chargers are 8-1 SU/ATS in away games, with the sole loss at the Rams in week 3;

• therefore, in games outside of Los Angeles, the Chargers are an incredible 9-0 SU (8-1 ATS);

• finally, in these 9 games, the Chargers averaged 26.9 points – about ½ point *more* per game than in L.A.-based games.

So yeah, in setting the line at Patriots -4, oddsmakers are begging you to bet on the Chargers, even if it’s below freezing and/or snowing in Massachusetts (as of this writing on Thursday, high temps are expected to be 28°). Secretly, however, Vegas et al are believing at least three of the four favorites are winning ATS this weekend.

Okay, NFLbets’ll call the bookies’ bluff. We believe that the Chargers do in fact cover the 4 points in this game. Why? Because the safest bet in this game is for the score to go under 47½ points.

Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is getting kudos everywhere in football land for last week’s clever game plan, which featured some 58 plays run with seven in the secondary. With safeties playing anywhere and much of the filed blanketed by a zone when four CBs dropped back into coverage, the Chargers D constantly gave Lamar Jackson bad to no looks. Think they’ll try the same or similar this week? Here’s a hint: Bill Belichick ain’t playing Madden 2019 out there.

On the other hand, history has shown that you can’t bring a pass rush against Tom Brady, and this version of his offensive line is certainly solid. In their four wins against playoff teams this season – their only four games against playoff teams, and all prior to week 8 – the Patriots OL allowed just four sacks. And in the past six games (albeit against lesser competition), just five sacks total have been registered on Brady.

The point: Brady doesn’t exactly have a lot of weaponry on this offense, playing as he is with the Patriots’ worst offensive supporting cast since the days of Reche Caldwell, but this has been (ho hum) doing enough to win all season. In fact, NFLbets’d guess that the Pats’ template for this game will be a lot more week 16 (in which three New England RBs and Cordarelle Paterson combined for 256 yards rushing and three TDs as the Pats posted 35+ minutes of ToP) than, likesay, week 14 (when Brady went 27-of-43 for 358 yards and three TDs in a losing effort at Miami).

As for the Chargers offense, well, there’s that thing about Belichick taking away the opposition’s favorite weapon. So on Los Angeles that would be … Philip Rivers, NFL supposes, but has anyone watched Rivers lately? Sure, he can take a hit and get back up, but the dude has thrown for over 300 yards just three times this season (including week 1) and just once in the second half of the year. He’s thrown for 160 yards or fewer in the past three games and in week 14 managed just 203 on 19-of-29 passing against the crippled Cincinnati Bengals.

Belichick will take a run-heavy attack all day. The Patriots defense is pretty damn mediocre against either run or pass (they’re ranked no. 19 and no. 14, respectively, in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric), but also as opportunistic as ever at no. 3 in turnovers created, no. 2 in rushing TDs allowed and no. 7 in scoring allowed overall. Atop this is a general decline in Chargers rushing production: In four of the past six games, they’ve been under 90 yards and the offense has given up 8 turnovers. Purely empirically speaking, Melvin Gordon hasn’t looked good since an injury this season and, excepting a surprise 14-yard gain, he managed just 26 yards on 16 carries against the Ravens last week.

Between the weather, generally more conservative play calling in the postseason and a recent decline in these offenses says firstly that we’re saying take the under on an O/U of 47½ points, and we’re making this the Official NFLbets Pick of the Week this week.

Additionally, this may be wacky of us, but we’re covering both sides on this game, figuring for a real grueling, grind-it-out squeaker. We say take the Chargers +4 at New England, but also take the Patriots ML at -200 – not a great return, but doesn’t a Patriots advancement feel inevitable…?

NFLbets Picks of the Week record in 2018-19: 8-5-1.
NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018-19: 36-29-2.

NFL playoffs betting: Dallas Cowboys minus-2? Bwah ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa!

Friday, 04 January 2019 11:29 EST

NFLbets would like to thank the sharps for balancing this line after an apparent tsunami of money from Dallas fanboys took the already laughable Cowboys +2½ down to Cowboys +1 versus the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC’s first wild card game. As this is written at approximately 9am ET on Thursday, January 4, this is back to

Seattle Seahawks +2 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 43 points

The Seahawks money line (ML) is holding steady from Tuesday at +110. Fantastic – NFLbets is making this just our second Sure Bet of the 2018 season. (Though admittedly, we really should’ve listed the Seahawks minus whatever points against the Oakland/Las Vegas/London(?) Raiders in the U.K. as a Sure Bet.) Take the Seattle Seahawks ML (+110) at Dallas.

Come on, you’re not really fooled by the possum act Russell Wilson & Co. put on against the Arizona Cardinals in week 17 , are you? By the same token, NFLbets is sure you noticed how the Cowboys first-stringers running their standard game plan had their hands full with a New York Giants team missing Odell Beckham.

In how many ways are the Seahawks just flat-out better than these Cowboys? Let’s break it down this way.

Dallas offense vs Seattle defense
For a few weeks – weeks 10-14, to be precise – the Cowboys seemed to have a viable offense. New acquisition Amari Cooper’s incorporation into he Dallas offense finally gave Dak Prescott a proper weapon to throw to and the ’Pokes ran off a 5-0 SU/ATS which included three wins against playoff teams.

Since then, something has happened with the Prescott-Cooper-Jason Garrett triangle; maybe Amari’s not returning Dak’s calls or Garrett’s dog ate the least few remaining pages of his playbook. Whatever the cause, the Cowboys have looked bad first getting shut out by the Indianapolis Colts in week 15 before closing out the season on an 0-3 ATS run.

After snagging 10 passes for 217 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 14, Cooper has had 14 receptions combined in three games. Cooper’s 11 targets in the Giants game included two drops and two balls bounced yards in front of the receiver. Worse yet for Dallas, the Seahawks defense would likely prefer a steady diet of Ezekiel Elliott runs and Prescott doing improv anyway: Seattle’s D has been the proverbial bend-don’t-break in 2018, ranking just 30th in yards per run attempt but 4th in rushing TDs allowed and no. 1 overall in fumbles induced. Advantage: Seahawks.

Seattle offense vs Dallas defense
The Dallas defense is both flying under the radar and badass: They’re no. 9 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, including a top-five rushing defense. Fair enough, but who has been able to stop Wilson-to-Tyler Lockett in 2018? Exactly no one in 16 games, particularly the Cowboys, who in week 2 “held” Lockett to one TD on 82 total yards of offense plus 92 more on special teams returns.

Beyond Lockett, the Seattle offense isn’t exactly multi-faceted. Undrafted Cinderella story Chris Carson has been as good as the hype promises as 4.7 yards per carry for 1,151 total and 9 TDs, but his (and to some extent Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis’s) workload is due in no small part to a thin WR corps and the especially weak offensive line. At 51 sacks, the formerly more mobile Wilson has been rushed more often than anyone in the NFL except DeShaun Watson. This OL will be the Seahawks’ kryptonite in these playoffs, but not this week. Advantage: Seahawks.

Seattle vs Dallas special teams
Neither special teams unit is particularly, well, special; Football Outsiders have both on the bubble of the NFL’s bottom 10 in special-teams performance. The Seahawks do have Lockett, who as the team’s top non-QB “skill” player will likely see an increase in responsibilities in the postseason, as is Carroll’s typical wont; so call Tyler the X-factor in this game. And who are the Cowboys bringing…? Not much. Advantage: Seahawks.

Seattle coaching vs Dallas coaching
Come on, now – you’ve got the second-best head coach in the league who evolved his team into a Super Bowl contender in what was supposed to be a rebuild year versus a dude who doesn’t play-call for offense or defense and who thrives under the perpetual low bar set by ownership.

Then again, Jason Garrett’s Cowboys are 2-4 SU (3-3 ATS, 2-1 ATS at home) against Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, so maybe … uh, no. The sick truth is that Carroll’s Seahawks are an extremely impressive 9-5 SU (10-4 ATS) in postseason games. Advantage: Seahawks.

Other numbers and trends
All the home teams are naturally favored in the first round of this year’s playoffs, but the opening line of 2½ minus the 3-5 points typical assessed for the home side implies that bookmakers would make this a “pick ‘em” or even Seahawks +1 to +1½ on a neutral field. In fact, we’re not entirely sure why the Seahawks aren’t the straight-up favorites: Home teams went just 22-18 SU (20-19-1 ATS!) in wild card games in the past 10 postseasons.

Time is literally on the Seahawks’ side here as well. One of the great mostly-untold secrets of NFL betting is that since 2001, West Coast teams have enjoyed an advantage of just over 70% ATS in primetime games *regardless of location or day of week*. This has borne out once again in 2018, as Pacific Time-based teams went 7-4-1 ATS (8-4 SU) in these games – however many, including NFLbets, wagered on the Los Angeles Rams -7 vs Minnesota in week 4, thereby resulting in a 7-3-2 (70%!) win rate for West Coasters.

On their part, the Seahawks were 3-1 ATS/SU in prime time, with the sole loss coming in week 2 to the then-utterly unheralded Bears in Chicago.

Finally, the Cowboys are a big 1-2 SU (0-3 ATS) in the playoffs since Garrett’s move up to head coach in 2010. They’re also 2-6 SU/ATS in the 21st century and 3-9 SU/ATS since Super Bowl XXX. And in this case, NFLbets’d argue that historical precedent does matter. Why? In two words: Jerry. Jones. Advantage: Seahawks.

Best bets for Seattle at Dallas wild card game
In addition to the NFLbets Sure Bet noted above (Seattle ML at +110), we’re also hedging slightly with a bet on the Seahawks +2.

We’re also advising that NFL bettors take the under on an O/U of 43 points, figuring that the Cowboys defense will allow fewer points than the those of Carolina, San Francisco, Kansas City and Arizona. (The Seahawks have averaged a neat 30.0 points per in the past eight games.) With the Seahawks and Cowboys both boasting top-8 offenses in time of possession, this won’t be a free-flying aerial experience – and if Seattle shuts down Elliott early while going up, likesay, 13-0 or 13-3 at halftime, Dallas might just go without a TD the entire game.

So how ’bout them Cowboys waitin’ until next year??!?!?!?

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018: 1-0.

Oh boy! Santa brought us two double-digit week 16 point spreads to bet on!

Sunday, 23 December 2018 10:15 EST

NFLbets probably has no right to be this geeked about a couple of bets in week 16. We managed a 2-1 mark in yesterday’s NFL betting (foiled by Blaine Gabbert and a garbage-time FG bad beat yada yada yada) and our choices for Sunday aren’t exactly “Sure Bets.” But we looking forward to these games with optimism and potentially lots of schadenfreude. If/when NFLbets wins these bets this weekend, we’ll say it couldn’t have happened to a couple of nice teams…

Cincinnati Bengals +10 at Cleveland Browns, over/under 44 points

Right from the preseason and the team’s turn on the increasingly insufferable Hard Knocks, we knew this Cleveland Browns season would be memorable – not good, mind you, but memorable. HBO showed us from the go that these Browns were not the boring old 2016 St. Louis Los Angeles Rams led by the snooze-inducing Jeff Fisher and Mr. Anti-Charisma himself, Jared Goff.

Instead, the Browns were seen to be the proverbial asylum run by the inmates, with a head coach obsessed with chairs, an offensive coordinator who reckoned he was Michael Keaton’s Batman and a line coach whose training philosophy was based on World War II stories. Amidst these jokers was the NFL’s own plotting, scheming, headhunting pantomime villain, a guy so dastardly insane he actually wanted the head coach position in Cleveland.

The first half of the 2018 season was akin to Shakespearean Theatre plotted by the Farrelly Brothers, a Trump Administration operating within the AFC North, and the Browns were again the league’s punchline for reasons beyond the usual crap in Cleveland.

And then, something changed – namely, the top dog. Gregg “Richard III” Williams was named head coach in time for NFL bettors to cash in on a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. A deserved start, sure, but ol’ Boba Fett, Intergalactic Bounty Hunter, turned things back around to get this team on a 4-1 SU/ATS run going into week 16. Guess desperation breeds success, eh?

On the other side of the field this week are the Cincinnati Bengals, who have not only swapped bodies in freakily Friday fashion, but have also racked up their usual three-volume list of injuries. Hue “Know My Name; Look Up the Numbers” Jackson is famously back on the sidelines in Cincinnati in some capacity and if you’re a believer in karma, the Bengals are once again your exemplar of proof on the subject.

More pragmatically speaking, until beating the Las Vegas Raiders last week, the failing Bengals had been on a 1-7 (!) run during which the average result was a 14-point loss. The truth is, Cincy hasn’t been a quality opponent since winning at home against the Baltimore Ravens in week 2.

“Two teams heading in opposite directions”? You bet (literally)! In fact, NFLbets will fearlessly predict that this is the game in which the narratives of these two franchises is flipped, at least for the medium-term. NFLbets’ Pick of the Week for week 16: Take the Cleveland Browns -10 vs Cincinnati.

Buffalo Bills -13½ at New England Patriots, over/under 44½ points

Try, if at all possible, to blow away the noise about Belichick ‘n’ Brady and forget the reputation – mainly because the Buffalo Bills certainly have been in practices this week.

Seriously, have you seen these guys play lately? The once-feared New England Patriots are a very unimpressive 2-3 SU/ATS – and the Pats were favored in all five games – since week 10. The New England offense is somehow still ranked no. 6 in the NFL per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, but the rushing game is disappearing faster than Arctic ice and has sunk to 28th in yards per attempt. (Look: Do you believe in Cordarelle Patterson as a viable NFL halfback? Come on.)

Additionally, NFLbets isn’t sure why NFL bettors are plunking down more and more on the Patriots minus the points; the line has ballooned from 12 to 13½ at some sportsbooks since Monday. Fair enough, it’s easy most years to sleep on the Bills and Brady is a sick 29-3 SU for his career against Buffalo, with the average score reading Patriots 30, Bills 16. In these teams’ week 8 game in Buffalo, it was Patriots 25-6.

We’ve got three arguments in favor of betting Bills +13, though. First, these Bills aren’t bad, actually. They’ve boasted a top-5 defense in DVOA terms for the entire second half of 2018 and are currently at no. 3 overall. During the same period as New England’s stumbling to 2-3, Buffalo has gone 3-2 SU (2-3 ATS); Josh Allen appears to now be surfing the learning curve with three straight games of over 200 yards passing and just five interceptions thrown in the past six games – great stats to face up against a frankly weak Patriots defense ranked 31st-“best” overall and 21st against the pass.

Second, the on-field importance of Josh Gordon’s departure has been muffled behind sympathy for the man’s substance abuse issues. The fact is that Gordon was this team’s leading receiver statistically and the Patriots’ only true downfield threat. Who will replace Gordon’s 18.0 yards per reception? The hobbled Rob Gronkowski? The lacrosse dude?

Finally, there is the weather: Forecasts call for snowfall starting right about kickoff time. Sure, Brady & Co. are well used to the cold-ass climes of their own home, but the Bills play in even colder stuff and their quarterback isn’t 41 years old.

We’re absolutely not suggesting that temperatures in the 30s will win the Bills the game, but cold almost always puts a damper on scoring other than on freakish opportunities – the latter, a former strength of Belichick’s Patriots, is also nowhere in evidence right now. The lines call for a final score of about 29-16, but can anyone thinking logically really justify betting on the Patriots to score four TDs in the frozen stuff this weekend? We’re saying take the Buffalo Bills +13½ at New England and take the under on an O/U of 44½.

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018: 37-29-2.

NFLbets Pick of the Week: How can the 49ers stop Seattle from running up the score?

Sunday, 16 December 2018 10:50 EST

Again, NFLbets is stumped by the thinking here.

Seattle Seahawks -3½ at San Francisco 49ers

We suppose common wisdom expects Pete Carroll to have the foot off the pedal and use this game as an exercise to keep sharp; after all, the Seahawks could very well throw this game away, with the NFC West out of reach and the Minnesota Vikings 1½ games back for the no. 5 seed.

Nevertheless, we don’t see how Seattle can avoid scoring points. Ten times this season, the 49ers’ opposition has put up 24 points, regardless of whether the offense in question is top-flight like the Chiefs’ and Chargers’ (38 and 29 scored against the Niners) or unimpressive such as the Cardinals’ and Buccaneers’ (28 and 27 scored against).

Last week’s dismal performance by Russell Wilson and the Seahawks we’re willing to write off to anomaly and/or statistical regression/correction: In the prior six games, they’d averaged just under 29.5 per game. After all, two weeks ago at Carolina, Wilson went for 322 yards passing to go with 2 TDs against zero interceptions. Seattle’s primary weak area, the OL, won’t be very hard pressed by a bottom-10 pass rush allowing 235+ ypg passing and an average QB rating of 102.7 – that’s 18 points better than league-leading Drew Brees, folks.

And just two weeks ago, in a game just about as meaningless for the Seahawks with the Vikings coming up the Monday after next, Seattle beat these same 49ers by *27 freaking points*. What has changed? Come on, now. Take the Seattle Seahawks -3½ at San Francisco Santa Clara.

NFLbets Pick of the Week record in 2018: 7-4-1.

Vikings-Seahawks on MNF: More separating of men from boys (Can we still say that in 2018?)

Monday, 10 December 2018 15:21 EST

Now that was an educational Sunday of football, a solid three tv broadcast timeslots provided an excellent preview of next month’s playoffs.

For example, we can now emphatically count out the Philadelphia Eagles (who wavered between bland and bad throughout the Dallas game), Denver Broncos (wrecked by a single TE in 30 minutes in San Francisco), the Carolina Panthers (currently suffering the hangover which follows a giddy embrace of Norv Turner) and Washington (crushed by Pee Wee League QB Eli Manning’s Giants).

We can additionally temper expectations of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and possibly the Los Angeles Rams, though in this latter case, NFLbets reckons the Rams’ kryptonite is cold weather, and they’re not likely to face any such in the playoffs. NFLbets is also pumping the brakes a bit on the Houston Texans until we discover whether the loss to the Indianapolis Colts (whose stock is also rising steadily) was merely the hardly unexpected snapping of a long winning streak by a divisional rival.

On the upswing NFLbets lists the Los Angeles Chargers (scarier by the week, especially in away games) Baltimore Ravens (with a nice ATS win against the Kansas City Chiefs; the SU loss did not hurt their no. 6 standing in the AFC, as the Ravens hold all tiebreakers against the competition), Dallas Cowboys (who expect the canonization of St. Amari of Dallas-Ft. Worth) and Chicago Bears, all looking like very tough outs in the playoffs.

We’re expecting more separation of men from boys on Monday Night Football this week:

Minnesota Vikings +3 at Seattle Seahawks, over/under 46½ points

Both of the these teams sit pretty high on the ATS standings board: Going into MNF, the Seahawks stand at 7-3-2 while the Vikings are currently at 7-4-1. The Bears, Saints and Chargers – all at 9-4 ATS – are the only teams higher on the ’board. So why does it feel as though these teams are tending in opposite directions?

The Vikings are stumbling in the second half, currently on a 2-3 SU/ATS jag in which they frankly looked outclassed vs New Orleans, at Chicago and at New England – three proper playoff teams. We can remove the 2018 Minnesota Vikings to previous playoff-bound incarnations of the team due to this version’s below-average play outside the dome. After starting out at an impressive 3-0-1 ATS (2-1-1 SU) in away games, their last away win SU/ATS came in week 7 against the New York Jets, who are the New York Jets.

And here’s the key to this game: A team vulnerable on the road cannot expect to come to Seattle, one of three NFL home locales with the greatest statistically significant advantages for the home team, and surprise the Seahawks. Excepting 2017, the ’Hawks have been good for at least a 5-3 mark at home ATS every year since 2011 – and the most common results is 6-2 ATS. Right now, they’re at 3-1-2 at home. On top of this, remember that West Coast teams in prime team are an incredible 71% ATS this decade.

But hey, we don’t even really need greater trends or regression to the mean to justify belief in a big Seahawks win tonight. Since week 3, Seattle has lost only to the Chargers and Rams – not a bad pick for Super Bowl LIII, NFLbets’d say, and they’re 5-1 against teams not currently in the playoff picture, likesay Minnesota. After topping 27 points just once in the first six games, they’ve done so in five of the past six and the over is on a 4-0 streak in Seahawks games.

Best of all is that Pete Carroll and QB Russell Wilson have crafted a fascinating hybrid offense with a run-heavy playback, modern-style quarterback option plays and old-fashioned stretching the field with the occasional empty backfield. The defensive game plan has reverted to a philosophy that got the Seahawks into Super Bowls, namely lots of wysiwyg zone schemes and exceptionally few disguised coverages. NFLbets will admit it: This may not be conducive to approaching 100% objective betting, but we *like* Carroll’s coaching of Seattle in 2018.

Admission of bias aside, NFLbets quite frankly can’t conjure up the argument for anything beyond a push out of a bet on Vikings +3 here. Even the plus of a short IR list is enough for Minnesota, as CB Trae Waynes, anchor of the secondary, will miss this game due to a concussion. Sometimes it’s best to not overthink things – a sentiment with which Coach Carroll and Marshawn Lynch would certainly agree.

NFLbets Pick of the Week: Take the Seattle Seahawks -3 vs Minnesota.

NFLbets Pick of the Week record in 2018: 6-4-1.

Pick of the Week: Los Angeles Rams set to crush Detroit Lions, get shockingly rare ATS win

Sunday, 02 December 2018 10:01 EST

In a week of NFL betting loaded with away favorites, sure, we’ll go with the biggest of ’em all. For our Best Bet for Week 13, NFLbets is saying take the Los Angeles Rams -10 at the Detroit Lions.

NFL bets Los Angeles Rams logoThe trappings and stats indicating a healthy Rams win are all in place. Though this game in Detroit represents just the second trip east of the Mountain Time Zone for the Rams, playing inside certainly won’t hurt an offense scoring nearly 35½ points per game. If you’re really looking for the silver lining, one may point out that the Rams’ first away game in the east was also played in a dome and saw the Rams topped by the Saints, 45-35. Of course, the 2018 Detroit Lions are not the 2018 New Orleans Saints.

Also on the Rams’ side is the by week. Obviously, Sean McVay has not much history here, a.k.a. one tiny-ass sample size. In his debut season, L.A. exited the bye week with a 51-17 thumping of the New York Giants, who were already well on their way to a date with destiny and Saquon Barkley as the second-worst team in the league. Now, the 2018 Detroit Lions aren’t quite the 2017 New York Giants, but they’re no world-killers, either.

Among the notables from that insane week 11 Chiefs-Rams game was the lack of Todd Gurley. Naturally, Southern California sports media has been all over the stud halfback’s near no-show in the 105-point scorefest; reports far and wide provide little information but unanimously state Gurley’s 100% good to go against Detroit. About the best NFLbets can say about the Lions run defense is that at least it’s not the pass defense, a bottom-3 unit by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.

But the no. 1 reason to bet the Rams this week? Their insane numbers against the spread in 2018. McVay’s guys are impressive as hell at 10-1 SU, having gone toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow with the likes of the Saints, Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks twice. In fact, beyond the Saints, the most challenging opponent faced by the Rams in 2018 has been the point spread. Their record ATS, however, is absolutely freakish at 4-5-2, having failed to cover the point spread on a SU win *six times* – This outlier is the outliest.

NFL bets Detroit Lions new logo(NFLbets’ recordkeeping on ATS marks is somewhat subjective in that the line is frozen for our purposes when we place the bet. Individual sportsbooks may have the Rams as good as 6-5 ATS or as poor as 4-7 ATS, both just as nuts as our reckoning…)

The Rams ATS mark comprises two factors, which NFL bettors may ascribe to the 4-5-2 in whatever proportion they so choose: First is the bookmakers just flat-out doing their job properly; second is the L.A. D’s infuriating inability to close out games against weaker opponents. Beyond the Chiefs and Seahawks (twice), the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers have all kept the Rams’ margin of victory inside a touchdown-plus-PAT – and L.A. was favored by 7-7½ against all three.

But wait! Activated for the game is Aqib Talib, whose presence could well prove to be the support pillar the Rams’ pass defense needs. What gives with Marcus Peters is anyone’s guess, but dude has been exposed all season by opposition receivers to the extent that the daunted, all-star Rams D ranks just 16th in overall DVOA and is 27th-“best” at allowing passing touchdowns. Deadly if opponents are inside their own 25, Los Angeles’s pass defense is as porous as any in the league as offenses march closer to the red zone. Talib has got to make a difference here, right?

NFLbets thinks so. The Rams haven’t had a nice blowout win since week 7’s immolation of the 49ers – the only non-prospective playoff team they’d seen since week 2, incidentally – in San Francisco. Currently on a lowly 1-5-2 ATS run, the Rams are simply too good for such trends to continue. This could get ugly for the Lions…

NFLbets’ Pick of Week record in 2018: 5-4-1.

The “Jets always play the Patriots tough” cliché vs. reality (Come on, you're really betting against Belichick?)

Sunday, 25 November 2018 09:51 EST

NFLbets hates clichés. Already trapped as we are in an incredibly loud world, who needs more meaningless blather to make things noisier? And in the betting world, belief in such common nonsense often proves detrimental to the bankroll, as the cliché certainly need be, likesay, true to be believed.

But NFLbets hates clichés even when they are true. Cliché conveniently stands in for critical thinking, bypassing the analysis the proper bettor needs to do before throwing down a wager. True, crusty old pap like “Defense Wins Championships” may be backed by stats, but on Any Given Sunday one might have to Think Outside The Box, consider the Bigger Picture and stop Throwing Good Money After Bad.

This week’s Exhibit A: “The New York Jets always play the New England Patriots tough.”

This was the line bleated out by many a podcaster, radio show host and ESPN dude (men, women … they’re all dudes on The Worldwide Leader) this week who sought to predict the outcome of

New England Patriots -10 at New York Jets, over/under 46½ points

NFLbets crunched some simple numbers on this one and, in short, whoa. These are real and they are spectacular.

NFL bets alternate New England Patriots logoThe last time the Jets were favored in this biannual meeting of AFC East “rivals” was back in week 2 of the *2008* season. You may recall that as Matt Cassel’s second start for the Patriots at quarterback; the Jets and head coach Eric “The Man Genius” Mangini of course had Brett Favre at the helm. As 1-point home favorites, the Jets lost that one SU, 19-10.

And then things got weird. Since 2008, the Jets are 5-13 SU against the Patriots, including the current 3-11 run. The mindblower is that ATS, the Jets are – get this – 12-6 ATS in the matchup. The point spreads on these games vary, as do the point differentials: Six times in this span, the Patriots have won by 10 points or more over the Jets, representing all their losses ATS in the rivalry.

So why can’t oddsmakers get a hold on these Jets-Patriots games? Like NFLbets knows. We’d guess, however, that since oddsmakers and sportsbooks should not be beholden to cliché but must aspire to marketability, the points spreads are kept low so as to encourage someone to bet these mostly anti-climactic and/or meaningless New York-New England games.

Regardless, the motivation doesn’t matter, right? The Jets Always Play The Patriots Tough cliché has been proven mostly true, right? Sure! Go ahead and throw down lots of money on the Jets +10!

Ah ha! Not so easy, is it? Now you’re *thinking* -- and on the right track, NFLbets believes.

For over half of the aforementioned games, the New York Jets coach was Rex Ryan. Ryan essentially considered the Patriots game in New York to be the Jets’ annual Super Bowl. (You can hardly blame the dude, with his career .479 winning percentage and low expectations from management.) Ryan’s Jets went a relatively successful 3-7 SU (and a fantastic 7-3 ATS) against Belichick’s Pats.

New York Jets alternate logo -- NFL betsTodd Bowles? Worse. Going into Sunday’s game, he’s 21-31 ATS; more relevant for our purposes, his Jets are 1-5 SU and 4-2 ATS against the Patriots. Both of those ATS losses have come in the past three games, in which the Jets have been outscored 91-26. And Bowles’s sole SU win against New England came in the 2015 season’s week 15, an irrelevant game for New England.

This particular edition of the Jets is, to put it plainly, seriously awful on offense. The passing offense is bottom-5 in most statistical categories, and the offense is bottom-3 in turnovers, first downs and total yards. On defense, the Jets are about average in most areas, but the truth is that Tom Brady has shown that he Eats Defenses Like These For Breakfast.

Then there’s Belichick’s Patriots coming out of a bye week. In the head coach’s 18 seasons, his charges are a solid 13-5 SU. The bookmarkers’ collective mindset on this game appears to be that, if/when the Patriots win this game, they’re winning by more than 10. Fair enough, the Patriots have occasionally looked this season – Where’s the running game? Where’s the pass rush? Can Rob Gronkowski qualify for federal disability at this point? – they’re 4-3 SU/ATS against teams at .500 SU or below, but in two games against AFC East opponents have looked like the Taking Care Of Business Patriots of, likesay, the entire 21st century.

NFLbets hates clichés, but we love busting them: Our Pick Of The Week says take the New England Patriots -10 at New York. This could well be the last time we’re recommending the Patriots for the remainder of the season and represents a real win-win for the NFL bettor who’s also a fan. If the Jets somehow overcome, the ESPN dudes and blogosphere alike will with unanimity get to digging the Belichick/Brady Patriots’ graves.

The 106th Grey Cup on (American) Thanksgiving Sunday: Last call for CFL betting in 2018!

Friday, 23 November 2018 09:52 EST

Betting on Grey Cup 2018Despite NFLbets’ so-so record and low earnings on Canadian football betting this year, we’re going to miss the CFL over the next six months badly. Regardless of how much fun the NFL in 2018 is, as the sports world’s talking heads so gushingly exhort to us, the CFL is always a breath of fresh air away from the stolid and conservative American game. This Thanksgiving weekend, NFLbets is thankful for another great season of CFL football – and that we came out ahead.

In any case, this weekend isn’t about looking back but rather looking forward to the 106th Grey Cup, a rematch of the 104th: It’s the Calgary Stampeders versus the Ottawa Redblacks, essentially the top two franchises, organizations/teams in the league in the 2010s.

Betting on the Grey Cup features not nearly as many proposition bet offerings as during the Super Bowl, but plenty of interesting proposition bets exist. NFLbets is factoring in these variables in picking wagers for this one. Keys to the game, as they say, are the following in our estimation.

• In two meetings this season, the Stampeders swept the Redblacks by a combined score of 51-7. In those games, Ottawa QB Trevor Harris was held to 4.5 yards per pass attempt while Calgary crushed the turnover battle by a margin of 10-3. True enough, these games were waaaaaaaaay back in June and July, weeks 3 and 5, but Harris did have all his primary “skill players” in the offense, including the Redblacks’ three blue chip WRs Diontae Spencer, Greg Ellingson and Brad Sinopoli.

• Last week’s West Division final saw the return of a Calgary defense whose first half represented a record setting pace but stumbled through November in allowing 26 points in a row to BC Lions, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg in games down the stretch. The Bombers who’d run up 29 on the Stamps in October were nowhere in evidence last week, as the Calgary D didn’t allow a single play to advance over 27 yards, much less into the end zone.

• Thanks to this defense, serious ball control by the offense has allowed the Stampeders to cover their most serious weakness going into this game: Namely, the shredded receiving corps. In his nearly totally unexpected return to the field after an injury three weeks ago, Eric Rogers showcased both his own skill set and the secret to success of the Calgary passing game. While the CFL headlines were splashed with exclamations describing Rogers’s three TDs – and justifiably so; heck, he outscored Winnipeg single-handedly (so to speak) – but the key stat was really his six total catches for just 61 yards. The Stamps’ longest play from scrimmage went just 29 yards and the offense took just 48 snaps, yet had the ball for nearly 32½ minutes of possession time. This team plays slo-o-o-o-o-w when needs must, like when prospective NFL QB Bo Levi Mitchell has maybe three viable WRs.

• Outside of Ottawa, the RedBlacks are 5-4 SU and 6-3 ATS in 2018.

• RedBlacks DB John Rose will play, as his appeal regarding a league-mandated suspension for this game due to his shoving of a referee in the East Divisional final is pending. Rose was the Redblacks’ second-high in tackles in the 2016 Grey Cup game, but NFLbets wonders if he won’t feel the pressure to be on his absolutely best behavior…

• Finally, the all-important weather report. As of Friday, temperatures for kickoff are expected to be in the 20s Fahrenheit, with a mere 10% of precipitation. The Stamps will certainly be pleased to hear of the latter, as a couple of weather-induced freak plays cost them the 105th Grey Cup against the Toronto Argonauts.

Throwing it all into the NFLbets mega-calculator, i.e. editor/lead writer Os Davis’s cerebellum, we’re liking the following bets and props.

Calgary Stampeders -4½ vs Ottawa Redblacks, over/under 53½ points

These two lines would put the final score at Calgary, 29-24 or 29-25, which feels just about dead on. (Guess the oddsmakers are pros, eh?) The Stampeders were proven quite vulnerable in the season’s second half, but in every loss this year, the opposition scored at least 27. NFLbets isn’t at all sure where four to five true scoring opportunities will come from for Ottawa, particularly if the Stamps control the clock, playing an old-school field-position battle as last week (and the first seven games of the regular season, to be honest). We’ll take the Calgary Stampeders -4½ vs Ottawa in the Grey Cup; we’re calling this our Best Bet for the Grey Cup. Additionally, we’ll cover the under on an O/U of 53½.

As is our usual wont, NFLbets will base the remainder of our wagers at least in part on this result, with perhaps a bit of hedging. All in baby! (Almost.)

Margin of victory

The more sensible, i.e. top halves, of the odds in the “Grey Cup: Margin of Victory” proposition bet look something like the following.

Calgary Stampeders win by 1-6 points: 3/1
Stampeders, 7-12: 17/4
Stampeders, 13-18: 6/1
Stampeders, 19-24: 9/1

Ottawa Redblacks win by 1-6 points: 4/1
Redblacks, 7-12: 15/2
Redblacks, 13-18: 14/1
Redblacks, 19-24: 22/1

A tricky one here, as NFLbets’ two most believable scenarios, Stamps by 1-6 or by 7-12, both bring some great value. Since we’ve already got money on Calgary -4½, we’ll recommend that bettors take the Stampeders to win by 7-12 points at 4/1. NFLbets will also be hedging a few Moneys (NFLbets’ preferred form of currency) on the Redblacks by 1-6 points at 4/1 so as not to go home empty-handed with an Ottawa upset.

Race to 10 points

Some of the (relative) troubles the Stampeders had in the second half of the 2018 season are reflected in the first-half scoring: Though in the last three games, the Stamps “won” first halves by a combined 51-12, that socre drops to just 147-134. And it’s certainly no coincidence that as Calgary got off to a 7-0 start, they outscored opponents in the first half six of those seven times.

In all 2018 games, the Stampeders would have won the “Race to 10 Points” prop 12 times in 21 games; however, just once did an East Division team beat Calgary to 10 points: the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in week 1.

As for the Redblacks, as NFLbets has noted virtually all season, they’ve certainly been among the most maddening for football bettors in 2018 – though the Tiger-Cats are right up there, too. They’re currently on a four-game win streak, but with three Ws coming against Hamilton. Far too mercurial for most bettors, the Redblacks won a game this year with nothing but field goals and lost a game in which they scored 41. Too mercurial to predict on this one, so we’ll consider them reactive to the Stamps’ game plan.

The conclusion: If you believe that the Stamps’ first-half defense of the season’s first half has returned (based on, admittedly a small sample size of three games including two against the league’s 6th and 9th best teams), like NFLbets, you’ll take the Stampeders to score 10 points first at 8/13; not fantastic odds, but it says here that low payout beats no payout.

Highest scoring half

Your choices in the “Grey Cup 2018: Highest Scoring Half” proposition bet:

First half: 8/11
Second half: 21/20
A “tie”: 25/1

The smart money suggests the first half is the best bet here, but NFLbets already has Moneys on one under-even odds bet. Bookmakers are probably figuring that, with both sides having recently played in the Grey Cup (with rosters still fairly representative of their respective Cup-playing teams), the feeling-out process that usually colors the opening 15 minutes of a championship football game will be non-existent.

The odd thing about these odds is that recently, games with either side have seen lots more points scored in the second half. Going back to week 19, second halves of Ottawa games “win” by an average “score” of 31-24; for Calgary games, it’s a big 41-21 differential. In the two meetings between the clubs early in the season, each half “won” one game.

We’re going with the odds and against the common wisdom of conservative game plans. The Stampeders may be playing their offensive schemes tight and close to the chest, but NFLbets reckons for both sides, it’ll be the defenses coming out swinging in the first half. We’re advising to take the second half as the higher scoring at 21/20 or so.

And as we bid adieu to the 2018 CFL season, we wish all bettors good luck in this final game. Damn are we going to miss this league ... #IsItJuneYet?

NFLbets’ CFL best bets record to date: 10-9.
CFL recommendations record to date: 14-11.
Overall record: 24-20.

How the f*** can NFLbets make Cardinals -5 our Pick Of The Week? Oh yeah, it’s the Raiders…

Sunday, 18 November 2018 12:41 EST

One Raiders' exhortation to teammates this week

NFLbets probably won’t even need to go the numbers for this one, instead relying on a simple truth that sports fans often ignore and NFL bettors can find unquantifiable: Namely, that NFL players are (gasp!) actual human beings who consume as much mass media and entertainment-related programming as any American.

Las Vegas Raiders +5 at Arizona Cardinals, over/under 40½

Going into week 3, NFLbets realized (and certainly was not alone in spotting this obviosity) that the Raiders were done for 2018, a worthy bet-against through much of the remaining season. After they lost SU but beat the not exactly awe-inspiring Denver Broncos ATS, 19-14½, NFLbets noted that “This could very well be the last win ATS for the Las Vegas Raiders until week 11 (at Arizona).”

Aaaaaaaand now that Raiders-Cardinals match is upon us, and NFLbets dares say (dares write?) that Chucky’s dysfunctional bunch may be even worse off than NFLbets’ near-apocalyptic vision for the 2018 “Oakland” Raiders. Since the week 2 ATS win, NFLbettors who have wagered against the Raiders are 6-1 – snd their sole ATS win came in week 4 against the Cleveland Browns by an adjusted score of 45½-45!

Back in week 3, NFLbets didn’t need more than an eye test (we’re still getting way too much televisual exposure to “Oakland” football out here in California) after the unceremonious dispatching of only a top-10 superstar in Khalil Mack. BY now, you’ve certainly read one of the three versions from reporters in the Raiders’ locker room following their latest SU/ATS loss., but this masterful tweet bears repeating here.

Look. Raiders players are on social media. Raiders players watch TV – probably quite a bit while on the road – and this attention is extremely probably well imbalanced in favor of sports coverage. Raiders players have seen stuff like Matt Shneidman’s tweet and Howie Long’s fawning interview with Jon Gruden, in which Howie played Norah O'Donnell to Chucky’s Mohammed bin Salman.

Not to mention this. (We know Deion Sanders is a blowhard and fans may unthinkingly characterize him as a Raider hater forever, but let’s face facts here…)

For those of you keeping score at him, this has resulted in a defense that's bottom-5 in total points allowed, turnovers, passing TDs allowed and rushing yardage allowed, while ruanking dead last in net yards per pass attempt. (Okay, those were stats but quite superficial, you gotta admit…)

Since the Browns placekicker lived out his nightmares before millions and handed (footed?) the Raiders a win, they've been outscored by an average of 16.6 points per game including a 28-point shellacking delivered by the now 2-8 SU (3-7 ATS) San Francisco 49ers. These Cardinals that NFLbets thought laughingly bad when they played Denver a month ago now look positively primed to win outright against the dictionary definition of “hapless”, a team on pace for the worst record ATS in 10 years or so. Take the Arizona Cardinals -5½ vs “Oakland”.

Additionally, NFLbets also suggests – though we don’t call teasers and parlays official “best bets” – taking a 3-team 6-point teaser with the Cardinals at +1 along with the red-hot New Orleans Saints -1½ vs the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers +1½ at the Detroit Lions.