Sure bets: The closest thing to guaranteed wins, big payouts in NFL betting

A personal story first.

The first time it happened to me (legally) was at the best of all possible times: The Super Bowl. Super Bowl XXXVI, to be exact. Even as my relatively naïve self, one look at the point spread *and* the over/under – St. Louis Rams +14, 52½ points – was enough to blow my head off. Heck, I’d ridden the Patriots through a eliminator fantasy football playoff challenge; the then-plucky underdog Patriots were riding 10-1 runs ATS and SU; the gone toe-to-toe with The Greatest Show on Turf in week 10, losing 24-17; and Mike Martz’s high-flying offense dropped about 10 points per game in three years’ worth of playoff runs, only topping 23 on three of six occasions (once in a losing effort, even).

Of course, none of those numbers came to me consciously; that was to come later in a glorious run of research and rare positive example of confirmation bias. The realization was well more like a revelation of biblical proportions. I saw the lines, the universe cracked open, exposing the mathematics at the heart of everything. Numbers danced as angles sung and Ben Franklin winked at me from a $100 bill. The rest is the proverbial history and, suffice to say, I was one of many to cash in betting against the supposedly sure-thing Rams.

(And we didn’t even know anything about Spygate at that point, either…)

Of course, religious experiences like this don’t happen often, and extremely rarely for the Super Bowl since the Denver Broncos went back-to-back in the late 1990s – Heck, a previous incarnation of this very website ran a piece on betting Super Bowl LII entitled “Shut Up and Bet the Patriots”. Since the aforementioned first Patriots championship title, four times has the winner ATS differed from the SU champ and eight times – including four instances involving the Patriots and three involving Peyton Manning – has the pointspread underdog won outright.

NFLbets reckons obvious picks of the week fall into our laps about four times per season. These are the true Sure Bets in NFL Betting.

Sadly, however, NFLbets cannot run solely on these most profitable, beat-the-house games – This’d be one heckuva minimalistic website if we did. It’s also unfortunate that approximately 99.99% of the NFL betting-inclined population doesn’t have the elephantine willpower needed to make only a half-dozen bets per NFL season.

As we pick our favorites among the favorites (or underdogs), we note accordingly which are the top investments, the once-a-month bonanzas, the sure bets. NFLbets’d wish you good luck, but run with these and you won’t need it.

Sure bet: Kansas City Chiefs -8½ and well more at Cleveland Browns

Thursday, 01 November 2018 08:48 EST

NFLbets didn’t even need the firings of Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson and/or offensive coordinator Todd Haley to have decided about halfway through last week’s 33-18 throttling given them by the Pittsburgh Steelers that the Kansas City chiefs were set to turn this one into a blowout. Imagine our surprise when, after the dismissals of the not-so-dynamic duo and the ascension of Gregg “That’s Not the Way I Wanted It Done” Williams to top dog spot, the point spread on this game got to -8½.


Kansas City chiefs a great betSo for just the second time in 2018 (the first was a preseason proposition bet based on Todd Guley’s touchdown total which looks like money in the bank at this point), NFLbets is proclaiming a “Sure Bet” in week 9: Take the Kansas City Chiefs -8½ at Cleveland. In fact, we be doing quite a bit more in hopes of attaining a better payout in quite an advantageous situation.

First, a couple of stats just in case you need numbers to back up what you already suspect. In stints as head coach, assistant head coach and/or defensive coordinator with Tennessee, Buffalo, Washington, Jacksonville, New Orleans and the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, Gregg Williams has led his teams to a 5-7 SU record and 5-6-1 ATS against Andy Reid-coached team in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Of note about that ATS mark, however: four wins and the came when Williams was with Washington between 2004 and ’07.

This time, though, Williams doesn’t have the 2005 Washington team – his head coach in 2018, Gregg Williams, is a far cry from Joe Gibbs. He doesn’t have Drew Brees as did his 2010 New Orleans Saints – he’s got a quarterback who’s on his second offensive coordinator before his seventh NFL start.

And speaking of offensive coordinator, your man in Cleveland is now one Freddie Kitchens, who has been coaching in NFCAA and NFL football since 1999 … strictly as a position coach. Kitchens was promoted from within from the running backs coach spot. In 18+ seasons as a coach, he was a QBs coach for four: In 2013 through ’16 with the Arizona Cardinals, which included the ’15 team, a top-3 offense statistically.

betting against the Cleveland BrownsBut is that enough behind the likes of Gregg Williams, who’s spent most of this season up to last week apparently looking for opportunities to subvert Haley in hopes of climbing over him to get the doomed Hue’s job? We dare say that Kitchens, like ol’ Head Coach Bountygate and the rest of us, has never seen anything like this Kansas City offense before.

Even against the still-underwhelming Chiefs defense (they’re dead last against the run by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, for example), the Baker Mayfield-led Browns offense can’t be liking their chances. This team has scored just under 17 points per game in the past four games. The Chiefs have yet to score under 27 all season.

In terms of trending, despite taking the ATS loss last week against Denver, Kanasas City still tops the ATS standings board at 6-1-1, making them the NFL’s outlier thus far. One would expect Reid’s guys to trend downward, figuring the Chiefs to lose at least four or five more games ATS in 2018. However – you guessed it – the Browns with Huey at the wheel (yikes) have performed well above expectations; Cleveland’s 2-5-1 SU record belies a more reasonable 4-4 ATS mark. Most telling of al for the NFL bettor is the 3-1 ATS at home this team has managed to stumble through into week 9.

The line seems way too good to be true, and maybe it is – but NFLbets will wait for the later clarity of hindsight. We’re bumping this line up to Chiefs -13½ or -14 to increase the payout. Sorry, Browns fans, but the misery looks to continue, at least for one more week.

NFL Player Specials: Betting on the awesomeness of Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell

Monday, 03 September 2018 10:01 EST

Admiral Ackbar may be right on this one ... NFLbets has stumbled upon a proposition bet offering that’s way too good to true. Check out these six “NFL specials” bets – click “Show More” for dozens more of well crazier stuff that NFLbets’ll probably deep-dive into very soon – and see if anything sticks out.

• Von Miller, Joey Bosa AND JJ Watt all to have 10+ sacks in Regular Season: 1/2

• Ezekiel Elliott OR Todd Gurley II have 15+ Rushing TDs: 11/10
• Todd Gurley II OR Le'Veon Bell have 15+ Rushing TDs: 13/8
• Keenan Allen, A.J. Green AND Michael Thomas all have 8+ Receiving TDs: 7/4
• Mitchell Trubisky OR Eli Manning throw 20+ Interceptions: 15/8
• A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton AND Michael Thomas all have 8+ Receiving TDs: 23/10

I know, right? As tempting as throwing money at the Trubisky/Manning prop so to enjoy the thrill of seeing Eli throw three a game is, the obvious bet here is on those two “Rushing TDs” props involving Todd Gurley.

Simply put: There is a reason Gurley, Bell and Elliott are, in some order, the top three fantasy football first-round draft picks, and that reason is touchdowns. (And don’t talk to me about David Johnson. First of all, if you’re playing fantasy football, you’re gambling and not properly betting anyway. Secondly, we’re thinking Johnson has too many miles on the odometer and that the Cardinals are gonna flat-out suck.)

The case for Todd Gurley scoring 15 TDs

Todd Gurley rushing TD propsGreat things are expected from the Rams this season, and much of the excitement around its new/old fandom centers on Gurley. Brandin Cooks’s signing and Sammy Watkins’s departure aside, the offensive side of the roster underwent few groundbreaking changes in the offseason. However, this side of the ball is all about continued evolution. The offensive line consists of dudes drafted back in the days of Jeff Fisher’s St. Louis team (Rodger Saffold, Rob Havenstein) plus acquisitions (John Sullivan, Andrew Whitworth). Last year, the Rams OL ranked third in run blocking and should again supplement Gurley’s beastly abilities.

In 2017, Todd Gurley led the league with 13 rushing touchdowns in 15 games played.

The case for Le’Veon Bell scoring 15 TDs

Finally, expectations are at usual, i.e. Super Bowl-contending, levels for Le’Veon Bell’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Bookmakers and NFL bettors alike like the Steelers to tromp all over the NFC North again on the way to an AFC Championship appearance. (The same sportsbook website linked above also offers the NFL Team Specials prop bet “New England Patriots OR Pittsburgh Steelers Win the AFC Conference” at 10/11. Ridiculous.) 

LeNFLbets ain’t buying all the hype on this Pittsburgh team right now but would certainly back a lotta proposition bets involving individual “skill player” Steelers. We reckon these Steelers will have to be scoreboard spinners to compete in ’18, a natural for this team’s three statmasters, Bell chief among them. 

Despite Bell’s monster reputation in fantasy football, however, he’s never scored more than 9 touchdowns on the ground. That season of nine came last year, when Bell was handed the ball an NFL-leading 321 times, an indication that the Steelers’ Saints-like progression to a more run-heavy game plan as their quarterback ages continues. Of the top three seasons the Steelers have enjoyed since Ben Roethlisberger took over as quarterback, all have come in the past four years. 

Much to Steelers fans and fantasy players’ delight, we’ll be getting even more Bell in 2018. Whether or not he can stay on the field is another question altogether, but Le’Veon Bell will certainly get his chances to live up to his end of this particular prop bet.

The case for Ezekiel Elliott scoring 15 TDs

Ezekiel Elliott rushing TD propsExpectations are well lower for the Dallas Cowboys, with their own aging offensive line and what could well be the worst WR in the league. (“Come back, Dez! All is forgiven!”) Once fandom sees how feeble the Dallas “attack” beyond the legs of Elliott and improvisation of Dak Prescott is, NFLbets fully expects Cowboys fans to be reduced to a two-word vocabulary during games: “Feed Zeke. Feed Zeke.”

In 2017, the Dallas Cowboys ranked no. 2 in rushing TDs and rushing yardage, no. 5 in attempts. Elliott went for 928 yards – 45% of the team’s total rushing output – on 242 carries for 7 touchdowns in 10 games played. Over a 16-game season, Elliott’s TDs for 2017 would have been just 11, though that’s not necessarily a fair projection either for last season or this: Zeke lead the Cowboys in touchdowns despite his interrupted season, and no. 3 scorer/Hard Knocks cameo artist Dez Bryant is gone. Feed Zeke.

Bet these NFL player futures!

Bell may be the weakest link among the three RBs involved in these props, but the case for Elliott and especially Gurley is quite strong indeed. And even if Gurley goes down short of the goal, hedging on the Zeke/Gurley prop still gets you back up to exactly zero, covering the vigorish on both bets.

NFLbets says bet on the “Ezekiel Elliott OR Todd Gurley II to have 15+ Rushing TDs” and “Todd Gurley II OR Le'Veon Bell to have 15+ Rushing TDs: 13/8 at equal stakes. And repeat: “Feed Zeke/Gurley/Le’Veon!”

NFC South proposition bets

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 16:55 EST

While the preseason goes on, NFLbets is considering betting NFL futures and proposition bets for 2018. Despite the frustrating difficulty of seeing into the future via metaphorical crystal ball, we just love the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” props for the upcoming season. Today, NFLbets ponders the NFC South.

And now, please allow the probably redundant repetition of two old essential truth about betting NFC South props such as “To Win Division” and “Over/under Regular-Season Wins”:

•  Since the NFC South itself was established with the addition of the league’s 32nd team in 2002, only twice has the defending division champion repeated as champion. Both of these instances were part of the 2013-16 threepeat run by Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers, which included both a 7-8-1 SU division-winning year and a 17-1 SU run to Super Bowl 50.

•  Only six of the 24 playoff teams from the NFC South have posted fewer than 11 wins.

Apparently neither fact disturbs the pragmatic resolve of Las Vegas bookmakers and online bookmakers, who reckon the NFC South will turn out something like this:

  O/U wins  to win division  (opening)  to win division  (current)
New Orleans Saints* +187 +180
Atlanta Falcons* 9 +180 +185
Carolina Panthers +300 +390
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +550 +600


Add to this NFLbets’ compilation of the sportsbooks’ projected finish for the 2018 NFL season based on over/under wins lines and current lines have the Atlanta Falcons squeaking into the playoffs as the no. 6 seed.

Heck, only in July did NFL bettors flip the lines in the “To Win Division” prop into the New Orleans Saints’ favor.

So what gives? Could this be the year when two 9-win teams from the NFC South both make the playoffs or do these lines merely reflect bookmakers’ willingness to admit the ineffability of this division?

The latter, thinks NFLbets – and we’re willing to put the real-life money where the metaphorical mouth and recommend (*not a best bet, mind you*) taking the Carolina Panthers to win the NFC South at +390. We’d also feel pretty good about plunking a few dollars on the Atlanta Falcons going under 9 wins. 


As for the Saints, hell if NFLbets knows…

Saints fans doubtlessly believe that, in spite of a quarterback turning 40 during the NFL playoffs, their team should be considered among the up-and-coming NFC teams of the future (or present). We’re talking teams combining superstars with nascent young talent like the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings.

The evidence against these Saints actually maintaining the 11-win total of 2017 for ’18 is somewhat compelling, however. In 2017, the New Orleans offense was lauded for its exciting, scoreboard-spinning nature (their 28.3 points per game average was the NFL’s fourth highest) that also produced Drew Brees’s single-season career high for completion percentage thanks to a fantastic running game of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara (plus Adrian Peterson -- not!).

Despite the accolades, though, the Saints were graced with a relatively easy schedule against which they underperformed: New Orleans was just 3-4 (ATS and SU) against playoff teams in 2017, with all three wins coming against the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons. Thus was the Saints’ playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings, bizarre ending aside, inevitable to the NFL bettor.

The most scintillating of an often-inspired 2017 New Orleans Saints defense, though, was the secondary. The Saints ended up no. 3 in total interceptions, led by NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Mashon Lattimore, 2016 draft pick Ken Crawley, Kenny Vaccaro in his prime and rookie FS Marcus Williams. Oddly enough, the biggest acquisitions the New Orleans brass made this offseason were in this area: Replacing Vaccaro are Patrick Robinson, who played well with the champion Philadelphia Eagles but got his career off to a rocky start with Sean Payton’s Saints in the early 10s; and former Carolina Panthers CB Kurt Coleman, whose best performances have come against the Saints. 

Poor against the run last season – the defense was bottom five in rushing yards allowed and yards per attempt for much of 2017 – the Saints will be no better in this area this season.

Conclusion: 11 wins seems unlikely, but 9½, well … the Saints open thusly: vs Tampa Bay, vs Cleveland Browns, at Atlanta Falcons, at New York Giants, vs. Washington, bye, at Baltimore Ravens. All things being equal and all players staying healthy, that’s 4-2 SU at least and 6-0 is hardly inconceivable. 

But with the Saints’ 2017 success so tenuous (Can Kamara really be that good again? Will the Saints really beat up their division rivals this year to balance out an 0-4 against non-divisional playoff teams? Can Brees really throw for 72% accuracy again?), NFLbets has little faith Payton et al can manage a 9-7 record, much less 10-6 or better.

Plus, there’s something about the phrase “Tom Savage is your backup” that scares money away…


As for the Atlanta Falcons, don’t make NFLbets laugh! The Falcons’ current down-trending state in the downside of a process common to North American sports. In the offseason after egregiously losing the Super Bowl, the only major personnel move the Falcons chose to make was replacing Kyle Shanahan – the dude who'd built up an offense in his second season as Atlanta offensive coordinator to average a whopping 31.875 points per game – with college coach Steve Sarkasian. 

Sarkasian turned the greatest show since the Greatest Show on Turf into a middling, ho-hum offense as the talking heads mindlessly bleated on about a “Super Bowl Hangover.” (Very mathematically sound, that.) Sarkasian is still Falcons OC for 2018; has anyone noticed…?

Beyond Sarkasian, consider that all the Falcons' offseason moves involved Atlanta on the wrong end of the deal, namely in the departures of DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Dontari Poe and WR Taylor Gabriel. All jokes, stats and history aside, this is right now a team in decline. Take the Atlanta Falcons under 9 wins. 


Normally, NFLbets would write off the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ chances of winning the NFL South with a pithy throwaway line, but one supposes that the forecasted fourth-place team with the shortest odds should be taken at least a bit seriously and … nah. We’d say take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to go under 6½ wins, joyless as that sounds.

We love the possibility of a lame season by the Falcons, but that nearly 4/1 payout on the Carolina Panthers to win this division is quite the temptation indeed. 
The truth is that Cam Newton is the only starting quarterback in this division that can remotely be considered in his prime. The truth is that the Panthers may be drawing just two playoff teams (the Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers) before week 15, when they’ll get a home-and-home against the Saints and a home game against the Falcons. Newton took an injury early in the preseason and is already listed as questionable for game 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, but hey: He’s gonna play.

And what of Kelvin Benjamin, so-called superstar wide receiver? The truth is that, between 2014 and his departure to the Buffalo Bills halfway through 2017, the Panthers were 24-7 including the playoffs without him and just 18-20-1 with him active on the roster. Here’s to thinking Newton appreciated the two-year extension given to TE Greg Olsen, who’s led this team in receiving yards, receptions and targets three times.

In the unpredictable NFC South, we like the just-as-unpredictable Cam and his guys. Take the Carolina Panthers to win the NFC South at +390.

NFLbets’ best bets for NFC South betting:
•  Atlanta Falcons under 9 wins.

NFLbets’ recommendations for NFC West betting:
•  Carolina Panthers to win division
; and
•  Tampa Bay Buccaneers under 6½ wins.

NFC West proposition bets

Monday, 06 August 2018 10:31 EST

Who’s ready to start betting NFL proposition bets for 2018? During training camp, NFLbets brings you our takes on the “Over/Under Wins” and “To Win Division” props for the upcoming season. For a compilation of the sportsbooks’ projected finish for all 32 teams based on over/under wins lines, click here.

For no good reason, we’ll start with the NFC West, with some of the seemingly easier picks on offer. (Gods, are NFL bettors going to miss a world in which the Seattle Seahawks are so prominently featured yet so consistently underrated – or overrated…)

NFC WestLet’s go to the big board for some lines and odds:

NFC West O/U wins   to win division  (current)
Los Angeles Rams 10½ -120 -135
San Francisco 49ers +260 +280
Seattle Seahawks 7 +375 +400
Arizona Cardinals 7 +1100 +1500


Immediate observation: While maybe 2½ weeks into camps, the only team trending upward in the NFC West is the Los Angeles Rams. And why not? The Rams killed it this offseason, adding Nadmokung Suh (only the league’s scariest dude) and Marcus Peters (only the league’s best cornerback) to an already exciting, DVOA-leading, DMVP Aaron Donald-having defense. Supplementing these internet-breakers are LB Ramik Wilson plus CBs Sam Shields and Aquib Talib.

To go full dad for a moment here, defense wins championships (um, excepting last year’s Super Bowl … or really any title game involving those New England Patriots…) and thus the Rams at 29/5 to win the NFC championship and 9/1 to win Super Bowl LIII look like pretty decent bets, as is L.A. taking the NFC West at -135 or so. However, NFLbets is getting a bit more pragmatic here, and the key question is: Over or under on the 10½ wins prop? 

By dint of last year’s division-topping performance, the Rams’ 2018 dance card features a number of expected playoff teams: They’ll go vs the Los Angeles Chargers, vs the Minnesota Vikings, at Denver, vs the Green Bay Packers, at the New Orleans Saints, vs the Kansas City Chiefs, vs the Philadelphia Eagles and the home-and-home against the plucky upstarts, Jimmy and the Niners. On the other hand, every single one of the aforementioned games will be played in fair weather or a dome. Even if the Rams lose half of these more difficult games, that’s still good for a 12-4 record. NFLbets advises taking the L.A. Rams over 10½ wins.

But that’s not the best bet in the NFC West: those would be the San Francisco 49ers over/under 8½ wins and Seattle Seahawks over/under 8 wins. If ever a team had “upswing” written all over it, it’d be the 2018 49ers; and while the Seahawks are destined for a sub-.500 season, NFL bettors will happily get to exploit Seattle at the sportsbook.

Make no bones about it: NFLbets wouldn’t advise taking either of these teams to win the NFC West – though if something (or many somethings) calamitous goes down in Rams camp, the Niners will make an excellent hedge bet – but both are solid plays in the “Over/Under Regular-Season Wins” prop.

Beyond the whoa-nelly signing of Richard Sherman, San Francisco GM Mike Lynch went low profile (e.g. signing DE/OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, OL Jonathan Cooper) this past offseason after pinning down wunderkind QB Jimmy Garoppolo to a multiyear deal. Now Jimmy G. may turn the ball over a bit frequently, but the truth is that this team is 100% behind their franchise QB of the future, and that means much in the emotional game of football. This could be one high-scoring offense, enough to make the Niners at least a half-game better than .500.

Too abstract for you to bet on? Fine. Let’s look at the schedule again.

For essentially the first half of 2018, the Niners will be tested, but check out what happens in week 8: A stretch that run at Arizona Cardinals, vs. Oakland Raiders, vs. New York Giants, bye week, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at Seattle, vs Denver Broncos, vs Seattle and vs Chicago Bears before closing at Los Angeles in what could very well be yet another meaningless (for the Rams, though not necessarily the 49ers nor the NFL bettors) week 17 contest. So yes, NFLbets says take the San Francisco 49ers over 8½ wins.

And in Seattle, a transitional period begins. By all appearances, Pete Carroll is losing his players’ devotion. The ‘Hawks have been hemorrhaging free agents since the Super Bowl XLiX loss and have never found the correct mix of “skill players” on the offense since Beast Mode was GAME OVER in Seattle. The departure of future Hall of Famer/team emotional core Richard Sherman was the final sign that, at least for the nonce, the Seahawks are a team in decline.

The over/under proposition bet line of 8 wins for the 2018 Seahawks is clearly based in reputation and gambler attraction. Isn’t it fantastic that, after making so many NFL bettors happy by twice winning the Super Bowl ATS in the 2010s, Seattle is offering any chance at big easy money? Take the Seattle Seahwaks under 8 wins.

Last and certainly least come the Arizona Cardinals. For the 2018 version of the Cards, remove “transition” and “transitional” from your vocabulary and start talking process. This team could well be Cleveland Browns-level bad in ’18, and we’re thinking a trade of David Johnson and/or Larry Fitzgerald is in the works by season’s end as Arizona enters full-on tank mode. A line of 7 in the “over/under wins” prop is ridiculous – just for starters, how can the Cardinals *not* go 0-6 against the NFC West? Take the Arizona Cardinals to go under 7 wins.

NFLbets’ best bets for NFC West betting: San Francisco 49ers over 8½ wins; Seattle Seahawks under 8 wins; Arizona Cardinals under 7 wins; Los Angeles Rams to win NFC West at -135 (preferably as part of a parlay).

NFLbets’ recommendations for NFC West betting: Los Angeles Rams over 10½ wins.