As predicted last week, we’ve reached the halfway point of the NFL season (felt strong about that pick). Since I speak of betting fundamentals frequently, I thought it might be a good idea to give a look behind the curtain at what I feel are some of the more important fundamentals that I use when analyzing games.
- It’s called the NFL (Not For Long) for a reason, don’t put too much emphasis on last week.
- Rest advantage is important, especially as the season goes along. Teams coming off byes or mini-byes (playing the previous Thursday) should get extra consideration.
- Travel is hard. Teams with long road trips, especially across multiple time zones, and teams playing consecutive road games are at a disadvantage.
- Watch for trap or letdown games, games following big wins or losses, or games the week before a critical matchup.
- The Books are smart. If I think the wrong team is favored, I’m probably wrong.
- Avoid betting on games between bad teams. Obviously, the intent and structure of this column doesn’t allow that for me here, but I would never go to the window on a Houston – Jacksonville game.
- Double-digit favorites tend not to cover. The bigger the spread, the less likely the cover.
- Teams are systems. Individual injuries aren’t as significant as you think they are. Elite QB’s are the exception.
- And, possibly my favorite, Beware the home dog on Monday night.
There are probably more of those that others have come up with, but these are my main go-to’s. Sometimes they overlap, and you need to make a subjective call as to which, if any, are more important. Sometimes they cancel each other out. Obviously, they’re not 100% foolproof. If they were, I’d live in Vegas and be independently wealthy, but they will tend to play out in the long run, and that’s really what we’re looking for here, any edge we can find on the house.
We’re back up to nine games to pick this week, so last week’s soft slate looks like a blip. Let’s go!
(Standard disclaimer – All opinions are my own and may or may not reflect those of this website. “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. Predicted Line (“PL”) is my early week estimate of where the Vegas line would be set. Chosen games are those with a multiple point variance between the Vegas and Analytic Lines.)
A stud week for ELO, which goes 5-1. I went 3-3, maintaining my above .500 record for the season, but it could have been much better had it not been for my hubris.
Game of the Week – Denver at Dallas: I’m not going to admit to predicting the Broncos blowout here, but I thought the double-digit line was a bit over the top.
New England at Carolina: ELO’s only mistake, and I’m right back to not being able to call a Pats game correctly.
Buffalo at Jacksonville: This was where my hubris cost me. I got impatient with big favorites covering and didn’t stick with the process. Sorry, Bills fans, I feel responsible.
Houston at Miami: Miami is this year’s biggest disappointment, but they’re still head-and-shoulders above Houston.
Tennessee at LA Rams: I need to take Tennessee more seriously as a legit contender. I had this pegged as a letdown game after they basically locked up their division by beating the Colts the week before, and the Derrick Henry news came down.
Upset of the Week – Green Bay at Kansas City: I could have put “Kansas City doesn’t cover” in my fundamentals, but that’s more of a “this year” thing than a tried and true idiom.
Last week: My picks, 3-3; Analytics, 5-1
Season: My picks, 30-27-1; Analytics, 35-22-1
Game of the Week
New Orleans at Tennessee – Analytic Line: TEN (-7), Vegas Line: TEN (-3), PL: TEN (-8.5)
This may come down to who plays QB for the Saints. Trevor Semien can’t handle pressure, and the Titans defense is bringing it right now. The question is: how healthy is Taysom Hill. After missing several weeks with a concussion, he was active last week but not very involved. He seems unlikely to be ready to take a full complement of snaps.
Verdict: I’m worried about this being the letdown game I expected from the Titans last week, but this seems like a very bad matchup for the Saints.
Make It A Parlay
Baltimore at Miami – Analytic Line: MIA (+5), Vegas Line: MIA (+7.5), PL: MIA (+8.5)
I hope Tua’s finger is better. Houston is one thing, but I’m not going to feel comfortable backing the Jacoby Brissett Experience against Baltimore.
Verdict: I think Baltimore, at their best, is the best team in the AFC. That said, seven and a hook is too much to lay in a short week road game.
Buffalo at New York Jets – Analytic Line: NYJ (+10.5), Vegas Line: NYJ (+12.5), PL: NYJ (+13.5)
Another big line for the Bills on the road. Now I have to deal with the prospect of them being angry since I jinxed them last week.
Verdict: Back-to-back road games, big line, the fundamentals are going against the Bills, so I will as well.
Detroit at Pittsburgh – Analytic Line: PIT (-11.5), Vegas Line: PIT (-8.5), PL: PIT (-10.5)
Big rest advantage for Detroit coming off the bye, while Pittsburgh played Monday night.
Verdict: Detroit is going to win a game one of these weeks. This may not be that week, but I don’t see how the Steelers should be this big a favorite over anyone.
Minnesota at LA Chargers – Analytic Line: LAC (-5.5), Vegas Line: LAC (-3), PL: LAC (-7.5)
Brutal travel spot for the Vikings. They were on the east coast last week, and now they have to travel to the left coast to take on the Chargers.
Verdict: Considering Minnesota’s only road win came when Sam Darnold tried to hand them the victory, and they still almost lost, I’m more than comfortable laying a field goal with the home squad.
Carolina at Arizona – Analytic Line: AZ (-12.5), Vegas Line: AZ (-10.5), PL: AZ (-10.5)
Shout out to the XFL for providing Carolina with a starting QB this week with Sam Darnold out injured. The problem is, the step-up in class has exposed him as what he is, an XFL QB.
Verdict: How many carries can Christian McCaffery handle in a game before he breaks into a million pieces? Running him on every play may be the Panthers’ only chance.
Philadelphia at Denver – Analytic Line: DEN (-5), Vegas Line: DEN (-3), PL: DEN (-3.5)
I could have also added “Playing at altitude is tough if you’re not used to it” to the list of the fundamentals.
Verdict: Playing at altitude is also challenging if you’re, you know, not good. Denver plugged some injury holes in their LB corps, and the defense is back to its early-season form.
Seattle at Green Bay – Analytic Line: GB (-5), Vegas Line: GB (-3), PL: GB (-2.5)
We know one All-Pro QB will make his return this week. So the question is, do we get two?
Verdict: Russell Wilson has struggled, by his standards, at Lambeau in his career, but my hesitation to take the Packers is based on Aaron Rodgers’ status. I expect him to be cleared to play, but even if he is, it will have been 16 days since he last played or practiced. We know he had some COVID symptoms, and recovery isn’t linear. Just because he’s not contagious doesn’t mean he’s in football shape.
Upset of the Week
Kansas City at Las Vegas– Analytic Line: LV (+1), Vegas Line: LV (+2.5), PL: LV (-1.5)
Are the Chiefs favored? On the road? In a division game? Really?
Verdict: Candy from a baby.