We’re a quarter into the NFL regular season and I’m slightly ahead in profit.
As a contrarian bettor, I’m pleased with these results. Why? Because I dodged a bullet. Popular public teams, which I tend to fade, have been covering most weeks (Patriots, Cowboys, Packers, Rams). And bad teams, which I often bet on, have sucked (Jets, Bengals, Redskins, Dolphins). So, given the results have somewhat mirrored popular expectations, I’ve avoided what could have been an early-season financial disaster.
The real bright spot has been in totals. My totals wagering is a perfect 4-0, to date. I recognize this as a bit of a lucky streak and an admittedly tiny sample size. A decade ago, I used to bet far more totals than sides. In fact, totals were more a specialty. However, totals prediction became much more difficult with more prolific offenses and the NFL’s pass-happy rules. Variance on totals skyrocketed. Hence, I began losing and slowed betting totals for a while, figuring the points outcome was often determined by inconsistent officials deciding whether or not to throw a flag for pass interference. It was all but impossible to predict NFL totals for a certain period of time when scoring increased by nearly a touchdown a game, which was also reflected in higher totals. Something to keep in mind is — higher scoring games are increasingly more volatile (tougher to predict). Lasy year, 2018 was the second-highest scoring season in history, averaging about 47 points per game.
But this season through four weeks, scoring is down slightly. One thing is — we’re seeing more balanced officiating. By balanced, I mean defenses are being allowed to get away with more. Let’s also acknowledge some really bad quarterbacking, key injuries, coaching turnover have all contributed to offensive ineptitude. Admittedly, my perception of officiating could be biased and perhaps even irrelevant. Perhaps it’s just that the really bad teams of the league are skewing the averages. The good teams are scoring plenty of points. But the bad teams are so awful (offensively), they aren’t producing points, even in what’s called garbage time.
Accordingly, I expect to spend more time on totals wagering in the coming weeks.
Last week, I went 3-3. I also finished dead even in money because of some savvy money management. The -$100 vig loss was offset by varying wager sizes on the wins versus losses.
I really like the NFL card this week. I spent considerable time on each game and have concluded with seven wagers. See my full analysis of every game below.
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2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD
Wins — Losses — Pushes 16 — 14 — 0
Starting Bankroll: $ 8,296.
Current Bankroll: $ 8,666. (+ $ 370.)
Last Week’s Results: 3 — 3 — 0 (+/- $ 0.)
THIS WEEK’S WAGERS: Wagering $1,825. to win $1,650. on 7 bets.
First Half: Pittsburgh +3 (-120) vs. Baltimore — Risking $120 to win $100
I jumped on the Steelers here, getting 3 points with elevated -120 vig. In some sportsbooks, this line has now shifted to Pittsburgh +3 for the (whole) game. Westgate has the first-half line at Pittsburgh +2.5 — so I’ll grab the tasty value with the Steelers getting the full field goal for the first 30 minutes. Ravens offensive numbers and high rankings are skewed somewhat by playing at least three bottom tier defenses. Baltimore was humiliated at home last week against Cleveland which exposed some apparent vulnerabilities. The Ravens remain too inconsistent to be laying a full FG in the first half versus a division opponent (unless the rival is Cincy, perhaps). Meanwhile, it still remains to be seen how Steelers backup QB Rudolph will fare the rest of the season. This is certainly a major test for the post-Roethlisberger era. Monday Night’s win over dismal Cincinnati is really tough to measure, but the repetitions should give the rebuilding Steelers some added confidence this week. These two teams and their coaching staffs know each other well and historically play lots of close games. Accordingly, I expect this game to also go down to the wire. So, I’ll take points in the most advantageous spot. Rather than betting Pittsburgh +3 or +3.5 for the game, the far better value to taking the points in the opening two quarters.
First Half: NY Jets +7.5 (-110) vs. Philadelphia — Risking $110 to win $100
NY Jets +15 (-110) vs. Philadelphia — Risking $275 to won $250
I keep telling myself not to bet on bad teams and the Jets appear to be bottom five. However, the Eagles have underperformed this season. despite coming off the upset at Green Bay. They have been slow starters from the kickoff in three of four games, down at the half by an average of a touchdown. I don’t trust the Eagles to roll up big early leads or win by a wide margin. We simply haven’t seen evidence of this yet. Let’s also add the Eagles follow this game with a brutal road stretch versus three top opponents, so they won’t want to show much or risk injury, where they are already vulnerable (esp. on defense this week). It’s hard to make a positive case for the Jets which have been painful offensively. However, coming off the bye week with extra prep time, it’s reasonable to expect some improvement — and the Eagles’ defense has allowed 24+ points to every opponent. Let’s also not discount the Jets defense which has played reasonably well given they’ve had no utterly support from the other side of the ball. NYJ allows fewer yards and less points per game than the Eagles. If this rested Jets defense plays according to form, the big road dog should be in the game every quarter. I like the Jets getting the hook on the 7 for the first half and really love capturing the +15 on the game line (most books now list this at +14. Call me crazy, but I’m betting on a team starting someone named Luke Falk. If he wins this game and throws a few touchdowns under pressure, anyone wants to guess the NY press will christen him as? Take a guess.
Green Bay / Dallas UNDER 47 (-110) — Risking $330 to win $300
Both defenses have played well, although the Packers are coming off a poor effort in the home loss to PHILA ten days ago. With the extra prep time and lots of juicy film to watch from how the Saints shut down the Cowboys, I think the Packers will take advantage. Given improvements in Green Bay secondary, Dallas should rely even more heavily on the run here, wanting to win time-of-possession and keep QB Rodgers on the sidelines. Cowboys have precisely the kind of offense to do this, which should eat up loads of clock and prevent shootouts as we’ve seen between these teams in the past. Also of note is key injury to DAL offensive lineman LT Tyron Smith, one of league’s best — I’ve read some cappers grade this as being worth perhaps 1.5 points on the game line. If Smith’s shoes aren’t filled, the Cowboys might face trouble. Packers offense has faced two very good defenses earlier (CHI and MINN) and struggled in both games. No reason to think they don’t also struggle a bit here, especially on the road against a quality opponent coming off a loss.
Tennessee – 3 (-110) vs. Buffalo — Risking $330 to win $300
Credit Buffalo for their gutsy play in September, but I don’t see how this team travels on the road after playing so well last week, especially on defense and losing at home to the rival Super Bowl champs. Add QB Josh Allen likely won’t be at 100 percent, which means his mobility is questioned, and this becomes a far more advantageous situation for the home dog, laying a reasonable number. It’s very hard to me to make a solid case for the Titans laying points and QB Mariota is a bettor’s version of Russian Roulette, but this is a fade play against Buffalo. Tennessee put things together in Atlanta last week and have enough talent to win and over this number versus deflated foe.
Minnesota -5 (-110) vs. NY Giants — Risking $330 to win $300
Here’s a perfect zig-zag and head-fake game — the Vikings coming off a terrible performance in Chicago and the Giants back at home again after their best showing arguably since 2017. Don’t be fooled by the Giants, which still field a horrid defense. Minnesota has enough deep weapons to exploit this unit. Reports this week had QB Cousins at odds with his receivers. I’m no fan of Cousins, who often looks weak and indecisive. But coming off the loss and likely with more focus on the rebound, the Giants should be the perfect bait of a foe. As for NYG, hard to believe this team is 2-2, but that’s because Tampa missed a chip-shot field goal and they essentially drew a bye against the quarterback-less Redskins. Big step in class here for the home dogs which will face a motivated well-coached team with a top-ten defense. Minnesota should have no problem covering this number based on an edge in talent and experience. Line is probably an overreaction to NYG win and MINN loss last week. I suspect had both teams games not ended so decisively, the Giants might be grouped close to the bottom of the league and they’d be getting +7 at home. Down to Minnesota laying just -5, I see value as the contrarian against Daniel Jones being the real deal.
Chicago -5.5 (-110) vs. Oakland — Risking $330 to win $300
I took a stale number at -5.5 since there are now some -5 spots available. Hopefully, the -5 doesn’t come into play. Hard to figure why some bettors are attracted to the Raiders who are playing their third straight road game, this time in London (though the Raiders are technically the “home” team). Last week’s upset at Indy was a shocker and credit the Raiders for saving their season with the upset win. But now at 2-2, this is about as bad a spot as exists, traveling on the cusp for two rough road contests. Oakland’s task won’t be made easier by the Bears defense, which has absolutely manhandled its last two opponents. Chicago’s defensive line destroyed Minnesota last week, pressuring the hapless Vikings all day. Washington looked even worse the week before. I expect the Bears defense will dictate the pace, will force some errors, and backup QB Chase Daniel (with some quality starts) won’t be asked to win the game by himself. Let’s be honest here — the dropoff from Trubisky to Daniel isn’t significant and the backup sometimes inspires improved performance from struggling offenses. One more point: I wasn’t entirely sold on the Bears defense coming into this season. But having watched all four games carefully in which virtually every opponent struggled, I’m convinced that frustration should continue for the Raiders this week. Let’s also remember the Raiders are a woeful 2-8 ATS on the road under retread coach Gruden.
THOUGHTS ON OTHER GAMES:
Two winless teams square off in the Cincy-Arizona matchup, where the Bengals are favored by -3. First-glancers might be tempted to pounce on the Cardinals getting points here. After all, Arizona showed some spark and clearly is comfortable with how things are progressing, even in defeat. Meanwhile, watching the Bengals has been painful much of this season, particularly last week in the loss at Pittsburgh. This team is badly coached and appears to have no leadership. Taking the points in a toss-up is attractive. However, having seen quite a few games like this in my many years of capping, this is one of those outliers where the team left for dead suddenly throws caution to the wind, rides emotion, and coasts to a win. I’m not touching the Bengals given how bad the offensive line is playing and until I see something that mirrors the effort in Week #1 (a 21-20 heartbreaking loss at Seattle). Let me just put a word of caution about playing the Cardinals as the “obvious” play. I think that’s a mistake, even though Arizona will probably be a much better team as the season progresses. Still too early to play them on the road unless they’re getting more points.
Jacksonville is getting +3.5 at Carolina. I think the dog is the right side. Jaguars’ defense remains every bit as solid as hoped when the season first began. QB Minshew has attracted well-deserved attention for stepping up as the starter, but it’s RB Fournette and the Jags rushing game that has been on a slow roll……averaging 100 YPG this season and a whopping 5.6 YPC. Carolina plays solid pass defense and leads the NFL in sacks, but that won’t matter much if Jags aren’t forced to throw the ball. Panthers are also starting a backup (QB Kyle Allen) who has played well. But this is a much tougher defensive test. The game total is 40, justified as being low given we should see more rushing than passing in an old-style throwback game to the 1970s. I like Jacksonville with the points and think there’s some correlation to an UNDER here, as well. So, betting JAX and UNDER on a parlay is probably the best parlay you can make this week, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Tampa is getting +3 at New Orleans in what looks to be an intriguing game. I don’t understand why this line isn’t at least -4 and probably -5? Certainly, QB Bridgewater doesn’t pose the same downfield threat at Brees, but let’s remember his win percentage as a starter. Saints have played a tough early slate — HOU, LAR, SEA, and DAL. Now, they face what’s easily their softest defensive opponent, though they’ve clarly improved and are better than expected. Are oddsmakers really suggesting NOR (minus Brees) and TB are equal in talent, with -3 given for home field? That’s preposterous. So, what keeps me off betting the Saints laying such a low number? Well, Bridgwater’s stats are a real concern, looking closer at the numbers. He hasn’t completed a pass longer than 29 yards and averages a paltry 6.1 YPA. Those are not the numbers you want in a game that could become a shootout. Tampa comes off a shocking victory and 55-point explosion which seems inexplicable. New Orleans looks too obvious to me. Something smells about this game. Darkhorse Prediction: WR Mike Evans will have a huge game.
Houston lays -4 to Atlanta, the NFL’s most gutless road team. What’s with this talent and experience often playing so poorly — 3-7 sway since the start of ’18 season? No way to bet the Falcons under these conditions, especially against a team still searching for consistency but which appears to have big edges in the trenches. ATL was supposed to revamp the rushing attack this season but it remains one of the league’s worst units. Hard to see how that improves against the Houston defensive front. I can’t lay points with Texans who play down to the wire so often. Tempted to play UNDER 50 here, a total which seems a tad too high. But Houston games get wild for some reason more than usual, so I’m going to pass on the temptation.
LA Chargers give -5.5 to Denver, which is floundering. Looks easy to bet the favorites here, but the Chargers haven’t ever rolled up points in Carson, even when playing outclassed opponents. Why would anyone expect the Chargers to suddenly play above expectations given how often they disappoint in games like this. On the other hand, Denver is 0-4 and absolutely desperate. This won’t inspire loads of confidence, but the worst loss was by 11 points. I can’t bet Denver, but I can’t bet the Carson Chargers, either. Lean to OVER 44 based on what I think will be desperation mode for Denver, which I think plays into more risk-taking, possible scores, and turnovers.
Kansas City is laying -11 to Indy. One expects the Chiefs will be miserable hosts to the Colts on SNF. If the Colts got whacked for 31 against the Raiders at home, what might Mahomes & Co. do in the national spotlight in the confines of Arrowhead? Indeed, that’s why this line crossed double digits. Chiefs average 34 PPG but are porous on defense. This is rightfully the highest total on the board at 56. I think there might be some value on the UNDER, but I can’t step in front of the train on this game. Both teams have combined to go OVER in 6 of 8 games, this season. Pass.
Cleveland is getting +4 to +4.5 at San Francisco. I’ve been all over the map on this game, so it’s a pass. I’m coming around to Kyle Shannahan being a good coach. In fact, I was on the face SFO express from the start of the season and have been wrong every step of the way. Browns really showed something in pounding the Ravens in Baltimore last week. Let’s see if they can go on the road again and beat a 3-0 team ion MNF. Now, that would be proof this is a playoff-bound. Very interesting game to watch, with two franchises apparently headed in the right direction after a long hiatus. But it’s a bad game to bet on. Maybe a slight lean to the OVER if you can still scrap out a total of 46.5 (now 47 most sportsbooks).
CONTEST WINNER ONLY/NO POINTSPREAD [$200 entry fee]
Season Record To-Date: 38-25-1
Week #5 Picks:
Seattle over LA Rams
Cincinnati over Arizona
Tennesee over Buffalo
Chicago over Oakland
New Orleans over Tampa Bay
Minnesota over NY Giants
Philadelphia over NY Jets
Pittsburgh over Baltimore
New England over Washington
Jacksonville over Carolina
Houston over Atlanta
LA Chargers over Denver
Green Bay over Dallas
Kansas City over Indianapolis
Cleveland over San Francisco
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