One thing I need to work on as an author is making sure I’m speaking the same language as my readers. Many of you may be reading to see if your favorite team will win this week, playing in an office pool, or, like me, waiting (and waiting…) for your state or region to legalize sports wagering. Some of you may have an idea of what I’m talking about but not in-depth knowledge of the esoterics of betting. So before we get into the NFL Betting Lines for Week 3, let’s start with an explanation of the terms that will get thrown around in this column and the greater sports betting world.
Common Betting Terms
Book / Sportsbook / House – Any entity that legally takes wagers, holds wagered money and pays out the winning bet. However, the extra-legal version would be known as a bookie.
Cash – To win a bet.
Unit – A base percentage of one’s bankroll (or multiple thereof) that a responsible bettor uses as a base bet amount.
Money Line – A bet on which team or individual will win a game, outcome, or event straight up. There is no handicap (see Spread Bet), so to bet on the favorite, you have to wager more than you stand to profit on the bet. Conversely, if you bet on the underdog, your profit from winning will exceed your wager.
Favorite – The team or individual with the highest expectation of winning their contest.
Underdog – A team or individual not expected to win their contest.
Plus/Minus Money – A favorite in a bet will have a minus money line, meaning you have to pay more for the wager than you stand to profit (i.e., if Vegas lists a team as a -190 favorite, you have to wager $190 (or some multiple/fraction thereof) to win (profit) $100 (or the same multiple/fraction wagered)). The underdog in a bet will have a plus money line, and the amount you need to wager will be less than the profit for winning the bet (i.e., if the underdog line is +160, you would bet $100 to profit $160.) You always get back your wagered amount if you win your bet, so in the above examples, you would bet $190 and be paid $290 ($190 + $100) on the favorite, and bet $100 and be paid $260 ($100 + $160) on the underdog.
Spread Bet – A handicapped bet on the outcome of a game, outcome, or event. Instead of wagering plus or minus money, you bet whether the favorite will cover the spread.
Line/Point Spread – The handicapped difference (in points, runs, goals, etc.) between the options in a spread bet.
Cover – To win by more than the point spread.
Push – A bet in which there is no winner. Examples would be if a money line bet game ends in a tie or a spread bet favorite wins by the exact point spread. In the case of a push, you’ll get your wager back.
Juice/Vig – The money the house charges to take a bet. The standard amount is 10% (i.e., the line to place a bet is -110). The ideal business model for a sportsbook is to set the money or spread lines to get equal money wagered on either side of a bet, such that the losing bets pay for the winning bets. This way, the house profits from the juice of the losing bets and minimizes its potential exposure to large payouts.
Over/Under / Total – A bet on whether a game’s total points (or runs, goals, etc.) will be higher or lower than a given value.
Implied Total – The suggested amount of points a team will score based on the point spread and the over/under number. The favorite’s implied total is half the over/under plus half the point spread; the underdog’s implied total is half the over/under minus half the point spread.
Parlay – A combination bet that pays if all legs win and loses if any of the legs lose. Parlays offer higher payout odds than the bets if made individually.
Teaser – A parlay bet where the bettor can “tease” the point spreads of each leg in their favor for reduced payout odds. Since it is a parlay bet, all parts of the bet must cash for the bet to cash. For football bets, you want to tease the line in your favor across the numbers 3 or 7, which are the most common point differentials (approximately 25% of NFL games have a final point differential of 3 or 7).
Future – A bet on an event occurring at a certain point in the future, generally at the end of an upcoming or current season. Common futures are who will win MVP or win the Super Bowl.
Prop – Short for “proposition”; a bet on a specific event will occur or a player or team meeting a statistical milestone.
Now that we are all speaking the same language, as a special bonus, if I feel strongly about a wager, I’ll add the best bet to the point spread pick.
The ELO goes .500 again. I fall short.
Last week: My picks, 4 – 6; Analytics, 5 – 5
New England at Pittsburgh
“ELO and I both think the wrong team is favored.”
As is almost always the case, when I think the wrong team is favored, I’m wrong.
New York Jets at Cleveland
“it would be the most Cleveland thing possible to beat their former QB on the road then come back and drop a game to the Jets at home the next week.”
The Browns out here doing Browns things.
Washington at Detroit
“Another game where ELO and I both think the wrong team is favored.”
Another game where I was wrong and the books were right.
Arizona at Las Vegas
“They got run out of their own building in Week 1, and I think they get run out of Allegiant Stadium in Week 2.”
I was right on this call for a half. As bad as I think the Cardinals are, and they are that bad, a reminder Kyler Murray is sometimes enough to win a game by himself.
Chicago at Green Bay
“The Packers offense isn’t fully formed yet, so this shouldn’t be a double-digit line.”
They’re not, but Chicago’s taking the game back to the single-wing era, so getting the ball to Aaron Jones was enough to cover the spread by itself.
Carolina at New York Giants
“For some reason, I still believe in the Panthers and want to take them, but it’s eyes over heart In Week Two.”
Luckily, I was self-aware enough to overcome my silly biases.
Seattle at San Francisco
“Considering the Seahawks are on the road on a short week, and the Niners are straight up better, I’ll lay the big line on the home team.”
They were good enough to lose their starting QB and still cover by double the spread.
Houston at Denver
“The Broncos needed a game to get their offense in sync. They should be ready to roll this week.”
Narrator: The Broncos needed more than one game to get their offense in sync.
Cincinnati at Dallas
“Welcome to the Week 2 “You Can’t Make the Line High Enough to Bet on Cooper Rush” game.”
Cooper Rush, all he does is win games he starts, I guess.
Tennessee at Buffalo
“With extra rest and at home, anything short of beating the Titans by 50 will be a letdown game.”
Maybe a bit of hyperbole, but the 34-point win felt plenty dominating.
Season: My picks, 8 – 10; Analytics 9 – 9
Both sides of the ball matter when placing NFL bets, and Club Fantasy covers defense too. Check out You Down with IDP?, every Thursday at 7 PM EST.
NFL Lines Week 3
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 Vegas will set the line. Chosen games have a multiple-point variance between the Vegas and Analytic Lines.
Game of the Week
Las Vegas at Tennessee – Analytic Line: TEN (-3.5), Vegas Line: TEN (+2), PL: TEN (+2.5)
The Raiders took a bad loss last week, reminding everyone of Josh McDaniels’ previous HC stint. That said, I’m on record as being all out on the Titans, and they’re on a short week after the Monday Night bludgeoning in Buffalo in which they lost their best offensive lineman.
Pick: Las Vegas (-2)
Make It A Parlay
Green Bay at Tampa Bay – Analytic Line: TB (-1), Vegas Line: TB (-5), PL: TB (-2.5)
Don’t bet on northern teams playing in Florida in September. Tampa doesn’t have any healthy (or unsuspended) receivers, and Green Bay doesn’t have any receivers the QB trusts. On the other hand, both teams have good defenses, so I’m riding the under in this game.
Pick: Tampa Bay (-1); Best Bet: Under 42
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona – Analytic Line: (Pick ‘Em), Vegas Line: AZ (+3.5), PL: AZ (+2.5)
The Rams are 0-2 against the spread on the season and laying 3.5 on the road. So I’m grabbing those points and running.
Pick: Arizona (+3.5)
Dallas at New York Giants – Analytic Line: NYG (-4.5), Vegas Line: NYG (-1), PL: NYG (-2.5)
I didn’t want to back Cooper Rush last week, and I’m certainly not taking him on the road in prime time. These two teams have combined to score 63 points across four games. 39’s a low number, but I’m good going under in this one.
Pick: New York Giants (-1); Best Bet: Under 39
Baltimore at New England – Analytic Line: (Pick ‘Em), Vegas Line: NE (+3), PL: NE (+4.5)
New England has scored 24 points in their two games. Baltimore should have that many by halftime, and considering they blew a 21-point lead last week, keep their collective feet on the pedal all day long.
Pick: Baltimore (-3)
Cincinnati at New York Jets – Analytic Line: NYJ (+2), Vegas Line: NYJ (+6), PL: NYJ (+6.5)
Look, 0-3 teams don’t make the playoffs. Who would have thought the Bengals would be the team trying to save their season? I still don’t like laying half a dozen on them. Their O-Line is still terrible after all the money they spent.
Pick: New York Jets (+6)
Buffalo at Miami – Analytic Line: MIA (+2), Vegas Line: MIA (+5), PL: MIA (+4.5)
See GB @ TB; stay away from northern teams in the Florida heat.
Pick: Miami (+5); Best Bet: Over 53
Philadelphia at Washington – Analytic Line: WAS (+2.5), Vegas Line: WAS (+6.5), PL: WAS (+6)
Philly’s on the road following a Monday Night game. Laying a touchdown feels steep.
Pick: Washington (+6.5)
Atlanta at Seattle – Analytic Line: SEA (-4.5), Vegas Line: SEA (-1), PL: SEA (-2.5)
Neutral field, I’m taking Atlanta all day, but this is back-to-back cross-country trips for the Falcons. That’s a tough ask for anyone.
Pick: Seattle (-1)
Are you looking for some more fantasy content? Then, check out our Week 3 rankings!