Thursday Night Football betting

Who the hell likes football on Thursday nights? Not coaches or players, who must fear that turnovers and injuries on a shortened week of practice. Not fans who are just as often treated to a mistake-ridden slogfest or a blowout as a watchable game. NFLbets dares say that perhaps not even the paraphernalia creators dig on the NFL Network’s TNF games as much as previously, because clearly NFL Marketing is taking a bath on the exclusive “Color Rush” jerseys. Seriously, who like those things?

The Thursday Night Football games – broadcasts, beginning in 2018, on Fox! – also have a bad reputation among NFL bettors as tough to call. One would expect more variance in these games, of course, given the aforementioned short week and the amplified issues with East Coasts-to-West Coast travel.

But are TNF games in actuality so difficult to predict? Consider the lists below, which include all Thursday night football results during the 2016 and ’17 seasons, adjusted for point spread and including prime-time games on Thanksgiving. Those in bold are games in which the favorite lost SU; those marked with an asterisk (*) are ATS results which differed from the SU results.

New York Jets 37 at Buffalo Bills 30
New England Patriots 27, Houston Texans 0
Cincinnati Bengals 14½, Miami Dolphins 7
Arizona Cardinals 29½ at San Francisco 49ers 21
San Diego Chargers 21, Denver Broncos 10
Green Bay Packers 18½, Chicago Bears 10
Tennessee Titans 33, Jacksonville Jaguars 22
Atlanta Falcons 38½ at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28
Baltimore Ravens 20½, Cleveland Browns 7
*New Orleans Saints 20, Carolina Panthers 19½
Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Indianapolis Colts 7
*Minnesota Vikings 15 at Dallas Cowboys 14
Kansas City Chiefs 17½, Oakland Raiders 13
Seattle Seahawks 9, Los Angeles Rams 3
Philadelphia Eagles 22½, New York Giants 19

Houston Texans 13 at Cincinnati Bengals 4
*San Francisco 39, Los Angeles Rams 38
Green Bay Packers 27½, Chicago Bears 14
New England Patriots 15½ at Tampa Bay 14
Philadelphia Eagles 28 at Carolina 20
Oakland Raiders 31, Kansas City Chiefs 27
Baltimore Ravens 37, Miami Dolphins 0
New York Jets 34, Buffalo Bills 18
*Seattle Seahawks 16 at Arizona Cardinals 16
Pittsburgh Steelers 33, Tennessee Titans 17
Los Angeles Chargers 27, Dallas Cowboys 6
Dallas Cowboys 38, Washington 12½
Atlanta Falcons 17½, New Orleans Saints 17
Denver Broncos 22 at Indianapolis Colts 13

Stats we can glean from the above sampling of 29 games:

•  On Thursday nights, underdogs won SU seven times of 29 for a winning percentage of just .241; that’s significantly poorer than the usual .326.

•  Favorites were 18-10-1 ATS for a .638 winning percentage, also a significant difference from the usual .550 mark.  

•  The home team is 19-10 on these Thursday nights and 20-8-1 ATS. Once again, these compare quite favorably (so to speak) to expected results SU historically, which give the home team a 57% to 60% to win SU in a typical NFL game.

So there you have it: Though a slightly small sample size historically, these two seasons should indicate that the trend in Thursday night football games is pretty much as NFLbets suspected: Take your usual safe-betting skills and apply them ever more extremely.

Not so tough after all – in theory…

Hey, let’s start the 2019 NFL season by violating our primary betting rule – and then double down!

Thursday, 05 September 2019 18:44 EST

So you may have heard the 2019 NFL season kicks off tonight with an all-time classic rivalry matchup. Normally, NFLbets would be content to merely sit back and watch this one play out while staking no money; after all, our first rule of NFL betting is this: Do not bet on NFL week 1 games.

But how often have the schedule makers conspired with the football gods and bookmakers to bring us such an incredible opportunity for betting right off the kickoff? Just look at it:

Green Bay Packers +3 at Chicago Bears, over/under 46½ points

NFLbets doesn’t believe we need to belabor the point, but consider:

• In 2018, the Bears went 12-5 SU and ATS, the latter the league’s best. The widest margin of defeat was 7 points, to the eventual champion New England Patriots, and exhibited some of the worst placekicking ever seen over the course of a season. The Packers went 6-9-1 SU/ATS, including 0-7-1 SU against teams with a winning record (not to mention 0-2 against these Bears in Green Bay on opening Sunday).

• In the offseason, the Bears lost one key player – FS Adrian Amos – of a potential six from 2018’s world-beating, record-threatening, straight-up scary defense. And sure, the Bears lost Vic Fangio at defensive coordinator; Chuck Pagano, with extensive DC and head coach experience, will probably be a pretty decent replacement.

• The Packers churned their roster to the extent that fewer than half of last year’s starters are returning and brought in a new coaching staff, headed up by first-timer Matt LaFleur as coach. Why do the sportsbooks put the Packers’ over/under for wins in 2019 at 8½ when the Bears are at 9½? Interesting fact: The last coach to make his professional head coaching debut in the so-called “NFL Kickoff Game” was … no one. It’s never happened, and this game has been happening since 2002. As for debuting head coaches winning game one SU last year … well, they went 0-5.

• So you want to put everything on Aaron Rodgeers The Savior. Fair enough, but you’re probably saying the same thing and bearing the same expectations for Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers – and all those dudes are over 37. Are we supposed to believe (and to bet real money on, no less) that each of these five will be just as good, carrying a team to a Super Bowl win pretty much solo? Come on now…

• And before the snarkiness about Mitch Trubisky and a weak-ass Chicago offense starts, let’s admit that the 2018 Bears offense was top 10 in scoring and turnovers surrendered – perhaps that’s the reason they closed out the regular season on a 9-1 run…

In short, this line appears to be based on – and holding steadily because of – sheer tradition. And not only tradition of the scary Belichick/Brady sort but rather of the historical franchise sort, which is complete nonsense to the proper NFL bettor. Almost no one on the current Green Bay roster other than Rodgers has a title to his credit and, in case no one’s mentioned so, the Packers have a new head coach, too. So … the opposition is supposed to run in fear of the big G because … the autobiography of Vince Lombardi might fall on them?

Now, sure, in the long-term the Bears may appear a bit wonky for betting purposes. The wacky schedule certainly won’t make things easy for NFL bettors with five primetime games (including this one), Thanksgiving Day in Detroit and a London game. But that’s the future – in week 1, no norms exist from which to deviate and all the offseason preparation comes to fruition.

NFLbets usually avoids betting week 1 games like betting Finnish league volleyball, but we’re willing to exploit the foolishness of mystique. We’ll even calling this our first Sure Bet for 2019: Take the Chicago Bears -3 vs Green Bay, and get this season in NFL betting started right (by doing things the wrong way, admittedly…)!

Going bowling: Betting the Armed Forces Bowl (Army Black Knights -4½ vs Houston Cougars)

Thursday, 20 December 2018 17:47 EST

No more betting Thursday Night Football until next season? That’s somewhat unfortunate for NFLbets this year, but, let’s face it, relative lack of knowledge aside, betting on college football bowl games is about a zillion times more fun than ponying up cash to bet on TNF.

(For posterity’s sake, let the record read thusly: NFLbets’ record, Thursday Night Football Best Bets in 2018: 9-2-1, with both losing wagers placed on Carolina in the Panthers-Steelers game. For all the whinging yours truly does about betting TNF, we certainly had the gift this season.)

NFLbets does not at all advise betting every single college bowl game; that way lies madness (and a high losing percentage). However, the bowl season is one our favorite times of the football year to wager, as time allows just enough research to make things, as they say, interesting. Just don’t mortgage the Xmas presents to bet this stuff. Bet responsibly, and bet our choices in two bowls playing out this weekend.

The Armed Forces BowlSaturday, December 22
Army -4½ vs Houston, over/under 60½ points

The 2018 Armed Forces Bowl is an exemplar of what makes bowl games so fascinating for the football fan with above casual-level interest, a proverbial contrast of styles so utterly different as to make this game incredibly difficult to predict purely mathematically. Perhaps this is what accounts for the point spread and over/under line, completely contradictory as will soon be shown.

Houston brings a high-flying, quick-moving passing attack so representative of the American Athletic Conference and which runs up huge numbers. The Cougars offense generated some 529 yards per game (ranking no. 6 in the country among FBS teams), including 300.9 in passing ypg (good for 14th). This resulted in a whopping 46.4 points per game, fewer than only Oklahoma, Alabama and Utah State.

If you think Houston sounds like the college version of the Kansas City Chiefs or a poor man’s version of the Sooners, your instincts may be correct, right up to the, likesay, porous defense. The Cougars twice in 2018 put up 49 points and lost. This defense gave up 36 points to Navy, a team which otherwise averaged 20.9 per. It is upon gaudy statistics like these that the oddsmakers have created a scenario in which Army wins by a score of about 32-28.

Except that Army is good, very good. They’re even historically good, at least against the measure of the program’s history, in a couple of areas. Tops among these is time of possession: The deliberate and disciplined Army offense has held onto the ball for over 39 minutes per game – that’s some four minutes, or 11%, better than the next-best in the statistic – while turning the ball over just *seven times* in 12 games, second-best in college ball, and all while running the QB option offense.

This ball-control mastery has allowed the Black Knights to run up a 10-2 mark, including four Ws while scoring 28 or fewer. And, in case you think Army doesn’t face quality offenses as the rare independent college football team, check out their game 3 vs Hawaii and game 4 at Oklahoma, two matches against quality offenses. In the former, QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr. accounted for 272 yards of offense and two TDs while throwing just 10 passes in a 28-21 win.

In the following week’s 28-21 overtime loss to BCS Playoff tournament team Oklahoma, Hopkins Jr. was stifled, managing just 142 total yards and throwing two of his four interceptions of 2018 – yet the Sooners were held to their lowest point total of the season.

The conclusion seems pretty clear: If Army wins this game, they won’t need to score 32. If Houston wins, we’ll likely see more than 60 points in the Armed Forces Bowl. NFLbets believes that these Black Knights are special even beyond some incredible numbers – heck, they’re ranked no. 22 in the regular season ending AP poll. Take Army -4½ vs Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and take the under on an O/U of 61½ points.

Blinded by numbers, NFLbets says the Kansas City Chiefs (-3) go down on TNF

Thursday, 13 December 2018 13:16 EST

There's a reason the line on the Thursday Night Football game looks like this:

Los Angeles Chargers +3½ at Kansas City Chiefs. over/under 54 points

And NFLbets figures it’s because the bookmakers are as befuddled as we are about this one. After spending the first half of the season drawing comparisons to The Greatest Show on Turf and other all-time great offenses, the Chiefs’ aura of invincibility has somehow dissipated and they’ve failed to cover in their last four games, going 0-3-1 ATS. The woeful defense hasn’t improved since week 1 and its bottom-3 by most statistical measures, including their league-“leading” number of penalties assessed.

The lack of Kareem Hunt is huge for the Chiefs. Sure, Patrick Mahomes et al had no problem running up 40 points against the Oakland Raiders, but the well more competent Ravens defense nabbed one interception, forced a fumble and levied three sacks against the Chiefs QB. Mahomes may be superhuman, but it says here that the play-action pass in pretty important and Kansas City won’t be fooling anyone down the stretch.

On the other side for TNF are the Chargers – Remember them? Because Los Angeles sure doesn’t on Sundays. Starting the season as a popular choice to win the AFC, they’re currently sitting at 10-3 SU (8-5 ATS), only the second-best record in conference. Philip Rivers is the modern NFL’s answer to Hank Aaron, consistently racking up great numbers in near total anonymity.

Most notable about the Chargers in 2018, though, is the stunning lack of mistakes made and sheer dumb luck this team has often seen in recent years: They’re 5-1 SU and 2-4 ATS in games decided by 8 points or less, indicating both a reputation and steadfastness when holding (or gaining) a lead in games. Nor has traveling hasn’t been an issue this season for the Chargers, with a 6-0 SU record outside of Los Angeles (5-1 ATS, with the sole loss coming in London).

One may also point out that not only are the Chargers traveling, they’re doing so on a short week. Fair enough, but L.A.’s week ended up less than three hours shorter than the Chiefs’, and the Chargers enjoyed a laugher as opposed to the classic grueling Ravens treatment given Kansas City. Where the short week strikes the Chargers the hardest is on the injury front: Both Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon could conceivably play a Sunday game, but will sit out Thusday night’s.

And then there’s Andy Reid, himself an enigma wrapped in mystery in December. Reid has a reputation for pumping the brakes on his teams and thus taking losses down the stretch; the actual record tells a different story. Or else it doesn’t.

Drumroll, please! Preeeeesenting the career of Andy Reid in December in numbers!

• Andy Reid, total career record: 317-194-1 (.620)
• Reid’s record in games played August-November: 261-168-1 (.608)
• Reid’s record in games played in December.: 56-26 (.683)
• Reid’s record in December vs winning teams: 16-15 (.516)
• Reid’s record in December vs winning teams ATS: 14-17 (.452)

It’s those last two that blow NFLbets’ mind, of course, reducing picking this game to a zen exercise. Even the over/under is tricky: 54 points makes for a final score of around 29-25, and the fewer points the Chiefs have scored in a game this season is 25. The weather forecast for Kansas City at kickoff puts the temperature at in the 30s with winds up to 20 MPH.

So you know what? We’re throwing the math out the window on this one and going for the cash grab. More color and confusion before the playoffs begin, say we! Take the Los Angeles Chargers +3½ at Kansas City.

(NFLbets will also be taking the Chargers ML at +165 or so, but we won’t call that an official NFLbets Best Bet for week 15.)

NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018: 32-26-1.

Taking under 37½ in the NFL in 2018 is crazy? We’re talking Jaguars-Titans here!

Thursday, 06 December 2018 15:05 EST

Wow, does Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans have all the hallmarks of a classic bad Thursday Night Football game. Two disappointing teams remaining in the playoff hunt mathematically only, two offenses essentially bereft of “skill” players and two wins against teams with records above .500 between them. But hey, at least they won’t be wearing “Color Rush” uniforms this time.


Jacksonville Jaguars +4½ at Tennessee Titans, over/under 37½ points

As soon as the lines were released, any NFL bettor worth his/her salt was looking to bet the under on this one, what with the Jaguars replacing Blake Bortles with Cody Kessler who, despite getting his first win as an NFL starter last week thanks to the Colts offense sleeping late (likesay until 8pm on Monday), is still Cody Kessler.

And so the bookmarkers set that over/under low – seemingly super-low for 2018 – at 38 or 38½. Despite being a good 5 points behind the next-lowest O/U, NFL bettors nevertheless have knocked that down to 37 at some sportsbooks on Thursday.

Tell you this: In deciding how to bet this game, one can learn much about recent trends in over/unders. And nearly all the numbers scream at NFLbets that if ever two teams deserved an under bet, it’s these the 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

On the macro level, we find that 119 games with over/unders of 38 points or less have been played in the NFL since 2011; this represents an average of just under 16 such games per season – more on this momentarily. The under has paid at a 51-67-1 (or 43.27%) rate in these 119 games.

However, if you’ve guessed that ever fewer such low over/unders are posted, you’re 100% correct. From 2015-17, 24 games kicked off with an O/U at 38 or lower, with the under paying 10-13. Thus far in the high-flying 2018 season, a mere three of 384 games carried an O/U this low: Oddly enough, all three included the Buffalo Bills and all three went over.

To certainly no one’s surprise, over/unders have been well high all season – but the oddsmakers have adjusted by now. Casting the statistical net a bit wider, only 13 games this season have gone off with an O/U of 40 or less; the under in 7-6 in these games, but a shocking 2-5 since week 6.

And here’s where things start to make a tedious game very interesting for NFL bettors.

The under is 2-0 in games with Tennessee playing, 1-2 in Jacksonville games. Overs hit when the Dallas Cowboys teed off for 40 in week 6 and against ever-unpredictable Buffalo in week 12. And of course, the Titans and Jaguars played that 9-6 thriller in week 3.

Speaking of these low-watt offenses, Jacksonville has already played five games under 38 points this year while Tennessee has four; the minus here is that the Titans haven’t played in a low-scorer since getting shut out by the Baltimore Ravens in week 6. On the other other hand, the Titans have scored 20 or fewer eight times in 2018, thereby allowing one to easily imagine a scenario in which the Titans and their top-10 statistically/middle-of-the-road by DVOA defense cover the point spread *and* the score goes under 37½.

Also, Cody Kessler.

Take the under on an O/U of 37 points on Jaguars-Titans.

NFLbets’ Best Bets record in 2018: 30-25-1.

The streak ends tonight: Take the Dallas Cowboys +8 vs the New Orleans Saints (no, really)

Thursday, 29 November 2018 14:41 EST

As much as NFLbets dislikes betting on Thursday Night Football, tonight’s New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys matchup is quite interesting indeed – not necessarily easy to bet on, but interesting nonetheless.

New Orleans Saints -8 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 52½ points

Dallas Cowboys alt logo NFL betsNote, too, that the lines on this game are still somewhat variable, with lines as low as Saints -7 and over/under 51 out there.

On our part, NFLbets is committed. In previewing the Saints’ Thanksgiving Day game against the Saints, this website advised NFL bettors to take the Saints -11½ points and figured that “next week (at Dallas) will be the shocker for the Saints.” Perhaps we’re approaching this game slightly cockily after coming off an 8-4 week, but now that we can get +8 on the ’Boys, we’re sticking with first thought – it’s often the best thought.

Due to a neat quirk in scheduling, this particular TNF game features two teams that played last Thursday in Thanksgiving games; therefore in theory some of the usual considerations for short schedules may be tossed out of consideration. What we’re giving heavy consideration are trends both in the greater picture as well as the specific directions in which these sides are headed.

First off, New Orleans’ mark of 9-2 ATS – not to mention their current 9-0 (!!!) ATS run – makes NFLbets verrrrrrrrrrrrry leery. Sure, a 15-1 SU record may be in the cards for the white-hot Saints, but we simply can’t believe they’ll win out against the spread. As with behemoths before them – think the 2007 New England Patriots in particular – point spreads stay high throughout the season on monster teams while the rest of the league wizens up and/or injuries occur, resulting in lower margins of victory.

So what real-life, actual on-the-field hope does Dallas have in this game? Well, there’s homefield advantage…

New Orleans Saints alternate logo NFL betsIn all seriousness, a bet on the Cowboys in this week’s TNF indicates belief that this Dallas team is actually a playoff team and may actually be as good as they’ve looked since Amari Cooper came aboard. You say the Cowboys’ll need to score points to keep up with the scoreboard-spinning Saints? In the games A.C. (After Cooper), Dallas is good for 26.66 points per game.

Now able to spend more time off the field, the defense has meanwhile evolved into a top-10 unit notably stingy in giving up passing TDs. With both sides of the ball working well for the Cowboys, they enjoyed a +5 turnover differential in the three games post-Amari acquisition.

Is all this enough for the Cowboys to overcome the beast that is the New Orleans Saints, a juggernaut averaging over 37 points per game? Perhaps not, but NFLbets doesn’t need a SU win from Dallas, just a close game. And we believe they have enough. We’ll take the Dallas Cowboys +8 against New Orleans, but covering a parlay involving a Saints money line (ML) bet and the Tampa Bay Lightning might be in the making as well…

Can ATS badasses Washington and New Orleans kill it again in Thanksgiving Day betting?

Thursday, 22 November 2018 11:51 EST

Happy Thanksgiving football betting!Happy Thanksgiving! Now let’s get down to business.

True, this year’s Thanksgiving Day offerings aren’t overly enthusing fans, but NFL bettors’ interest is surely piqued. Quite serendipitous it is in this year of legalized sports betting in the US that three of the NFL’s top four teams ATS are playing on Thanksgiving Day. Topping the ATS standings board going into week 12 are the New Orleans Saints (8-2), Kansas City Chiefs (7-2-2), Chicago Bears (7-3) and Washington (7-3).

Naturally, NFLebts will be looking for the case *against* the Saints, Bears and Washington, working from the classic regression-to-the-mean premise.

(Addendum: In actuality, yours truly abandoned the bit of the original article focused on the Bears-Lions game after news of Mitch Trubisky’s benching broke; our adapted take and betting tips on that game may be found here.)

Washington +7 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 41½ points

NFLbets Washington pro football alt logoNFLbets must admit that this one does feel a bit like a push. The regression-to-the-mean argument isn’t extremely strong here, as the Cowboys have played right to the point spread this season to go 5-5 ATS entering this game. Strictly on the field, though, the acquisition of Amari Cooper has been a revelation.

To wit: In three of the past four games, Dak Prescott has thrown for over 200 yards; hardly an eye-popping stat but the QB managed just one such game in the first six weeks of the season! Cooper – as well as the still-refining Dallas D – has additionally opened up the possibilities for Ezekiel Elliott and the gang. In the past two weeks, the Cowboys have scored 49 points, with *not 1 coming on a pass play* while Elliott has run up four TDs.

betting Dallas Cowboys on ThanksgivingThe sole chink in the Cowboys’ defensive armor in 2018 has been in turnovers. Dallas enters the game just 24th in generating TOs, while Washington and the notoriously stingy (meant in the positive sense) Alex Smith have an outstanding +12 differential, bettered only by Chicago. On the other hand, the Cowboys D – at top-10 unit in most other statistical categories – extracted two TOs in the past two games against the zero surrendered by the offense.

Is this one Achilles heel enough to give the game to Washington or even help them cover the spread? NFLbets would guess not, but we’re also thinking that these tendencies have oddsmakers believing this game will have the NFC East rivals slugging it out in the trenches, as evidenced by the extremely low over/under. We’ll second those thoughts. Take the Dallas Cowboys -7 (or bump that to -6½ so as to dodge the potential push) and take the under on an O/U of 41½ points.

Atlanta Falcons -11½ at New Orleans Saints

NFLbets alternate logo for FalconsA few words about the departed 2018 Atlanta Falcons, just two years removed from a Super Bowl overtime loss, gone before their time…

NFLbets alternate logo for FalconsOr were they? The Falcons’ 4-6 SU (3-7 ATS) mark has generated head-scratching among many apparently ungraced with the burden of medium-term memory. Kyle Shanahan, offensive coordinator of a relentless attacking offense so loved today, split town about 15 minutes after Tom Brady hoisted another Lombardi to take an attractive-looking job in San Francisco. Those similarly befuddled by the performance of the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles (currently 4-6 SU/3-7 ATS) would do well to recall that the ’17 Eagles OC Frank Reich bolted to the Colts for this season, and that team could certainly well compete for a spot in Super Bowl LIV.

(Hardly shocking to note, then, that these Falcons and Eagles have sunk to the depths of a five-way tie at the bottom of the ATS standing board with fellow disasters and/or tragedies in the New York Jets, 49ers and Raiders.)

With the Falcons left for dead, what case may be made for these dead birds even with a handicap of 11½ points? Going back to 2010, Matt Ryan’s teams have gone just 6-11 ATS against New Orleans – though to be fair, no Falcons-Saints game has seen a double-digit point spread since Ryan took over at QB in Atlanta. And the Falcons have only lost by 10 points or more three times in Ryan’s career.

On the other hand, NFLbets dares say (write?) that things have literally never been more hopeless for the Falcons, saddled with aging players at key positions and outdated coaches who won’t be replaced until season’s end. We can’t imagine a Saints offense playing at half-speed scoring fewer than 21 – their lowest total of the year; in the last three games, they’re averaging forty f*#&*#*&ing eight! – against the hapless Falcons.

On top of this, we have the wider trends of Thursday Night Football games (and this is essentially a TNF game in terms of scheduling and such) which are heavily skewed to the favorite regardless of spread size: Since 2016, favorites on Thursday night are at 25-12-3 ATS, a winning percentage of over 67%; compare this to the average of 55% by favorites ATS on Sundays and Mondays.

And now we’re down to blind mathematics. Will the balancing act of the sportsbook drag the Saints down to a more fathomable 8-3 mark ATS and haul the Falcons out of bottom-feeder territory to 4-7? Perhaps Atlanta isn’t as bad as their last two games have shown, but only New Orleans can prevent this from getting ugly. NFLbets will take the New Orleans Saints -11½ vs Atlanta and guess that next week (at Dallas) will be the shocker for the Saints.

TNF betting: This may be irrational, but we're betting against another Aaron Rodgers miracle

Thursday, 15 November 2018 19:34 EST

NFLbets promises that we’re not overcompensating for losing three in a row – even though we’re betting on Thursday Night Football on the premises that certain outlier trends will continue. The game is of course

Green Bay Packers +3 at Seattle Seahawks

The gut reaction here is twofold: First, Seattle giving three points should be no problem whatsoever; though Bill Barnwell of ESPN once calculated that the only true home field advantages statistically are enjoyed by the Denver Broncos and, for some bizarre reason(s), the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, examining win-loss circumstances of individual teams over a few years only begs chicken-or-egg questions, i.e. do the Carolina Panthers play poorly as visitors because of some barely quantifiable variable or is the win-loss record away due sheerly to their status as a slightly above average team at best?

So yes, we’re believing that travelling to the West Coast on a short week to play a night game still swings a few points Seattle’s way. Their 2-1-1 ATS at home mark is pretty typical of Seattle in the Pete Carroll era: With the exception of 2017, the ’Hawks have been good for at least a 5-3 mark at home ATS every year over the past seven – and the most common results is 6-2 ATS.

The first real outlier is in the Packers’ away mark. Talking about another team with a perceived homefield advantage – heck, they’ve even got a “mystique” at Lambeau, right? – the Pack, along with the aforementioned Panthers, are this year’s There’s No Place Like Homers. Aaron Rodgers et al are 4-1 at home ATS, and 0-4 (!) away.

Continuation of a four-game trend into a fifth is not often the smart bet, but NFLbets believes that this bad record is a reflection of, well, a bad team run by a head coach plumb fresh out of new ideas. Green Bay hasn’t reached the levels of Oakland’s despair (at least the Packers have a proper QB out there) yet, but player trades and the mutterings in sports talking head land add up to a lost season.

The outlier that everyone’s all over right now regarding these two teams are their distinct approaches in the low-defense, pass-happy NFL of 2018. While the Packers are unsurprisingly ranked no. 2 in the NFL in pass attempts as a proportion of total play calls at over 66%, while the Seahawks are dead last at just about 49%. Less than half the Seahawks plays are passes – in 2018, mind you! Pete Carroll may be the oldest head coach in the league at present, but he certainly has a young man’s mind for rebooting a successful approach of the past.

The running game well be key against a Packers D quite weak against RBs. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, Green Bay has a bottom-6 pass defense that’s second-to-last in tackles for a loss. And not only have they allowed 98 or more yards rushing in the last seven games and over 100 in 6 of the past 11, the Packers haven’t even faced a mobile quarterback yet. Russell Wilson may be no Cam Newton, but he’s also no Nathan Peterman, Matt Stafford or Brock Osweiler, either.

So NFLbets is looking at larger, more holistic trends this week, as in the Packers are spiraling down in 2018 while the Seahawks are treading water. Again, Seattle -3 feels like a push waiting to happen, but we’re covering it and hoping against a Rodgers miracle-out-the-butt. Take the Seattle Seahawks -3 vs Green Bay.

Betting Thursday Night Football: Underestimate Cam Newton’s Panthers at your own peril

Thursday, 08 November 2018 16:23 EST

From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department, NFL fans are presented with a genuine beauty of a Thursday Night Football game, as the Carolina Panthers play at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Should be good viewing, but the betting isn’t exactly simple.

Carolina Panthers +3 at Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL bets Pittsburgh Steelers logoA default search for any immediate regression to the mean for these two teams reveals little: Carolina and Pittsburgh are both 5-3 ATS this season. The Steelers are 2-2 ATS at home; the Panthers are a serious outlier at home at 4-0-0 ATS (and NFLbets’ll certainly be looking at the opposition in the next Carolina home game), but are hardly unusual at 1-3 ATS (2-2 SU) on the road.

So let’s talk some offense and defense. In a year of offense, Carolina has nevertheless put together a pretty decent defense, particularly against the run: The Panthers are top 10 in most rushing categories defensively as well as no. 4 overall in interceptions.

Such stats may be irrelevant on this given Sunday, however, as Ben Roethlisberger will throw the ball a lot regardless of opposition. James Conner may capture the mainstream media's imagination, Roethlisberger is second in the NFL in pass attempts this season and fourth in completions. And Steelers are 3-1-1 SU (3-2 ATS) in games when Ben *does* throw an interception.

Pittsburgh also brings a top-10 rushing defense statistically to face Christian McCaffrey, Cam Newton and the league's top ground attack. However, this D's impressive-looking numbers are likely heavily due to the Steelers' passing game on offense. In terms of efficiency, they're a mid-pack 14th in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric -- and below-average against the innovative Newton and oft unstoppable McCaffrey won't really cut it.

NFL bets Carolina Panthers logoAs for the potentially gnarly Pennsylvania weather, the forecast for Pittsburgh calls for lows around 36° with an 80% chance of rain, snow and/or some variant on precipitation thereof.

But in cold weather, Cam & Co. aren't nearly as bad as the average South-based team: In games played in temperatures of 45° or lower at kickoff, the Panthers are 7-3 SU/6-4 ATS going back to 2014 and are currently on a 5-1 SU/4-2 ATS run. Seemingly perpetually underrated by the sportsbook, the Panthers have won SU their last four games as an away underdog in cold weather games.

One final consideration: Are you more likely to believe in a 6-3 -- and therefore on pace for a 11-5 or 10-5-1 final regular-season record -- Panthers or Steelers team? We’re saying it’s the Panthers, and to do so, they’ll have to win this one with a tough schedule remaining. Cover the Carolina Panthers ML at +160 or so, and hedge with a bet on the Panthers +3 at Pittsburgh.

We’ll even predict next week’s storylines: Steelers welcome back Le’Veon Bell after Conner stuffed by Panthers and Is Cam Newton the NFL MVP…?

Bottom feeders on the ATS table meet for Thursday Night Football crapfest

Thursday, 01 November 2018 17:39 EST

One more time: NFLbets hates betting on Thursday Night Football. We post columns on these games for amusement purposes only – keeping the ol’ writing and analysis skill sharp and all – and therefore do not necessarily endorse NFL bettors siding with our TNF picks. The extra unknown variables riddling such games can tilt betting on Thursday night football dangerously close to gambling, and the teams in this week’s game hardly inspire confidence.

On the other hand, one obvious opportunity is out there on this game.

Oakland Raiders -1½ at San Francisco 49ers, over/under 44 points

Raiders Las Vegas!So what do we have here? The Raiders have a short week, just four days removed from a 3-TD, zero-interception performance by Derek Carr in which they still lost by 14 points. Marshawn Lynch is on the IR< Ameri Cooper is gone and Carr, for the lack of personnel, is becoming a check-down artist.

Meanwhile, head coach Chucky is apparently oblivious everything other than amassing assets and thinking about the property he’ll be buying in Las Vegas. You gotta love this quote from Gruden’s interview with Howie Long:

“I got a cell phone just like you and everybody else, and I get a lot of phone calls from people who are dying to come and play here. I’m just telling you, to have salary cap space, to have a chance to talk to the people that you really want to wear the silver and black and represent this team, that’s exciting.”

Seriously, that’s about two superlatives short of a Donald Trump quote; just to hammer home the irony, the interview was conducted for who else but the Fox network. So, yeah.

Over on the San Francisco side, well, at least they’re home. (Of course, the Raiders will have to take a short drive to the game after playing last weekend in Oakland.) This tweet should burn away the last shred of hope for the 49ers offense to keep scoring:

And in the five hours since Schefter tweeted the above, the Raiders’ handicap has gone from 3 points to 1½, while the over/under has dropped from 45 to 44 points.

If Mullens does indeed start tonight, he’ll instantly became the NFL leader among current starting QBs in TW (Times Waived) with 2 – and he left Southern Mississippi after the 2016 season. He was on the 49ers practice squad for 2017 and got the call up to the active roster after Jimmy Garoppolo was placed on IR.

SF 49ers alternate logo for bettingMullens may have the advantage of the unknown, but that’s about it. For the season, the 49ers offense ranks 25th in yards per game with 348.3; about the best NFLbets can say (write?) about this team tonight is that Matt Breida, one of this season few pleasant surprises for the 49ers, will play. We can figure he still won’t be 100%, as he hasn’t been since taking an ankle injury three games back. The truth is, if either team gets shut down on offense and therefore gets blown out, it’ll be San Francisco.

But NFLbats believes San Francisco won’t get blown out – not by the Raiders with a single overtime win over the good ol’ Cleveland Browns. We’ll admit we wouldn’t bet f*#F*& all on the outcome of the game; we can even lean on regression to the mean, with both teams among the bottom three in the league ATS: Oakland is 2-5 while San Francisco is 2-6. NFLbets advises bettors to take the under on an O/U of 44 points. Or even lower, really.

And get set to “enjoy” another low-scoring Thursday Night Football non-classic…

The numbers don't lie: We're digging the Houston Texans and DeShaun "Bruised Lung" Watson

Thursday, 25 October 2018 15:35 EST

To bet or not to betSo here we are, faced with the eternal question: To bet or not to bet? Whether ’tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – “outrageous,” definitely; “fortune,” we’ll see – and/or to suffer through another Thursday Night Football game.

Whereas NFLbets typically strongly advises against betting on Thursday night NFL games due to the far greater number of variables involved, we’ve found quite the tempting reason to bet – and even watch – TNF. On Amazon Prime Video. Again.

Miami Dolphins +7½ at Houston Texans, over/under 44 points

Betting on Dolphins alternate logoMiami Dolphins at Houston Texans in week 8 is more the kind of matchup we’ve learned to expect over the past two to three seasons – whenever the Color Rush concept was introduced, basically. As an audience, we’ve collectively settled into an uncomfortable acceptance of garish uniforms, on-field mediocrity and/or lopsided laughers: Aside from the TNF games of week 3 (Cleveland Browns 21, New York Jets 17) and week 4 (Los Angeles Rams 31, Minnesota Vikings 31), this series been nigh unwatchable again in 2018, comedy value of the clueless Arizona Cardinals last week notwithstanding.

The TNF trend toward the blowout is one reason behind this seemingly too-high point spread: After all, the Texans have one by more than 7 points just once this season: last week against zombie Blake Bortles and his downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars.

But favorites are 6-0-1 ATS in Thursday night games this season (7-0-0 if you caught the Rams at -6½ against the Vikings) and are 7-0 SU. And in five TNF games, the final result ATS wasn’t truly close. These extreme marks are of course outliers, but favorites as well as home teams have performed well better on Thursday night than otherwise historically. Some key stats from the past 36 Thursday night games go as follows.

• On Thursday nights, underdogs have won SU just seven times of 36 for a measly winning percentage of .194; that’s significantly poorer than the usual .326.

• Favorites have gone 24-10-2 ATS for a .714 winning percentage going back to Opening Day 2016, also a significant difference from the usual .550 mark.

• On the current run, the home team is 24-12 SU and 24-10-2 ATS on Thursday night. Once again, these compare quite favorably (so to speak) to expected results SU historically, which give the home team a 57% to 60% chance to win SU in a typical NFL game.

Houston Texans AFL bettingHere’s our theory to justify the numbers: NFLbets believes that home field advantage makes up for all those aforementioned extra unknowns: Houston players are coming off an away game, but they are coming home with all the concomitant advantages therein. If you believe in these sorts of things, the nationally-televised factor will make referees far more likely to err on the side of caution, i.e. the home Texans.

More specifically speaking, Miami enters this game on a 1-3 SU/ATS run; Houston is 4-0 SU and 2-2 ATS (but 2-1-1 if you took them at -3 vs the Dallas Cowboys in week 5). The latter is not exactly a positive for betting on the Texans here, but NFLbets’ most compelling stat is the 0-3-0 mark ATS this team has managed at home thus far. Not only are they the sole team without a home ATS win, only two teams (the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers) have gone winless ATS *on the road* through seven weeks.

Now, we realize this is going to sound crazy, what with DeShaun Watson into his second week of playing with a bruised f@$&#&#*ing lung and all, but we’re recommending that NFL bettors take the Houston Texans -7½ vs Miami. Don’t believe the Texans can cover 7½? Fair enough; we’ll also recommend taking the Texans in a money line (ML) bet; at -300 or show, you’ll have to proportion accordingly to hedge the point spread bet. Finally, we’d also say grab the under on an O/U line of 44 points. This over/under opened at 45½ and may yet drop to 43½ before kickoff.

Get ready for a low-scoring, grind-it-out Thursday Night Football game. Yippee. Geez, we hate betting these things…