By Joel Wirth
Welcome to Blurred Lines, my weekly column here at clubfantasyffl.com. Each week, I’ll explore some of the more interesting pro football betting lines from an “analytics vs. ‘Vegas’ vs. film/experience” perspective. Are the analytic leanings correct? Does Vegas have insight? Or are either (or both perhaps) missing something that may sway our pick decisions?
I’m not a scout, nor am I a professional sports gamer (…yet, looking at you Ohio legislature), but I’ve been watching football since the late ’70s and have a been hard-core fantasy football player since the early ‘90s. You can do the math, but I’m old-ish, so I’ve seen some things. Hopefully, I can bring you an idea or line you hadn’t considered before and may want to ponder before making your picks for the week. That said, let’s go!
Standard disclaimer: All opinions are my own, “Analytic Lines” are ELO point spreads from fivethirtyeight.com, and “Vegas Lines” are courtesy of thelines.com, current as of the writing of this article, and vary depending on the venue.
Line of the Week
- Minnesota at Arizona Analytic Line: Arizona (-4) Vegas Line(s): Arizona (-3.5 to -4.5)
Minnesota, a sketchy (read: poor) road team, plays its second consecutive road game after losing at Cincinnati in Week 1. Even under ideal conditions, this would be a bad matchup for the Vikings. Offensively, they’ll likely struggle to move the ball on the ground against Arizona’s strong front seven. In addition, their weak offensive line and Kirk Cousins’ lack of mobility will limit their ability to exploit the Cardinal secondary. Defensively, the Viking secondary is also a weakness and isn’t remotely deep enough to hang with the Card’s four-wide offense. They may also have to commit their best player, Eric Kendricks, to contain Kyler Murray, further weakening their back end. This could get ugly.
Verdict: The analytics and books are closely aligned here, but I think both undersell the fact that Arizona should be a heavy favorite.
Make It A Parlay
- Tennessee at Seattle Analytic Line: Seattle (-6.5) Vegas Line(s): Seattle (-4.5 to -5.5)
A mismatch battle of the early leaders for best and worst new offensive coordinators. Pete Carroll is (so far) allowing Shane Waldron to “let Russ cook,” and Todd Downing is struggling to replicate Arthur Smith’s success with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Losing Amani Hooker to the IR will weaken an already thin Titans’ secondary, which will let Russ continue to do his best “Julia Child-on-a-football-field” impression.
Verdict: The analytics give a strong lean to Seattle, and I am 100% on board.
- Las Vegas at Pittsburgh Analytic Line: Pittsburgh (-4.5) Vegas Line: Pittsburgh (-5.5)
Human Element Alert! The Raiders fly cross-country for a 1:00 PM Eastern start after playing and winning an overtime Monday night game. “Let down” city for the Raiders.
Verdict: The analytics aren’t considering the schedule here. This line may continue to go up, so get in on the Steelers while you can.
- Buffalo at Miami: Analytic Line: Pick’em Vegas Line: Miami (+3.5)
This week’s current biggest difference between the Analytic and Vegas lines belongs to an AFC East divisional matchup. The Bills, coming off a tough loss at home to Pittsburgh, travel to Miami. I may have undersold the effect of the early-season Florida heat on a northern team (Green Bay) last week, so I’m leaning into it here. Plus, you know, Miami’s pretty good and all. So they shouldn’t be laying a field goal plus at home, in a division game, no matter how desperate Buffalo may be.
Verdict: Division games are grinds. Go with the numbers, Miami covers.
- New England at New York Jets: Analytic Line: New York (+3) Vegas Line(s): New York (+5.5 to +6)
ELO and Vegas just agreeing to disagree all over about the AFC East. Mac Jones was just OK last week at home, and I don’t expect him to suddenly sprout wings in his first road test. On the other hand, Zach Wilson and the Jets looked like they found something resembling competence in the second half against an underrated Carolina team in Week 1. I think they do at least enough to cover the Vegas number at home.
Verdict: The whole AFC East played some pretty non-aesthetically pleasing football this week. I expect that continues, so, like the numbers, I’m taking the points here.
Upset of the Week
- San Francisco at Philadelphia: Analytic Line: Philadelphia (+.5) Vegas Line: Philadelphia (+3.5)
One more decent-sized gap in lines here, and another Human Element Alert, with San Fran playing their second consecutive early game out east. That’s some tough sledding from the scheduling department. Last week, Philly didn’t just beat Atlanta; they eviscerated them. That’s what good teams do to overmatched opponents. Translation: I think Philly’s good.
Verdict: The numbers win again here, as the combination of travel, opponent, and Shanahan-igans is too much for the 49ers to overcome for the second week in a row. Philly covers and wins outright.