NFL 2019: Wild Card Week (Playoffs — Sunday)
A few generic thoughts on this week’s wild-card round of playoff games:
- Many bettors step up their bet sizes because playoff games are more meaningful. This is wrong. Playoff game odds/numbers are often the worst matchups to handicap and bet on. I’d much rather bet on two losing teams playing a late-season game than any of the so-called premier matchups.
- Unlike regular-season games where motivation, fatigue, internal team disarray, and other intangibles can influence the outcome of a game (and create the basis of a bet), all teams are motivated and ready to play come playoff time. There really is no “bet against” team, as is the case during the season when teams and players aren’t expected to play at peak level.
- None of us gamblers (and certainly not fans) have any inside information as to what will happen in a playoff game. Any legitimate rumor or betting edge would already move the line (and totals, props, etc.) before it reaches the betting public. I know nothing more than anyone else, nor does anyone who takes this endeavor seriously. Anyone who claims to “know something” is lying.
So, why am I wagering on this week’s games? I’ll explain below in my weekly writeup.
I’m now up for the season about 23 percent ahead of the starting bankroll. Let’s hope the strong second half of the season continues for four more weeks.
2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD
Wins — Losses — Pushes 77 — 62 — 3
Starting Bankroll: $ 8,398.
Current Bankroll: $10,541. (+ $2,143.)
Last Week’s Results (Week #17): 7 — 5 — 0 (+ $575.)
THIS WEEK’S WAGERS
SUNDAY GAMES AND ANALYSIS:
Minnesota at New Orleans
One Wager: Saints Team Total Over 28.5 (-115) — Risking $287.50 to win $250
Comments: Let me explain the reasons why there’s more that I *don’t like* betting this game:
— It’s tempting to bet New Orleans on several connected wagers to a Saints victory (game line, first half, team total over, money line, etc.). However, I see -400 money line as a bad number. If these two teams were to play four times under identical conditions, my projection is — the Vikings would win perhaps a quarter of the games. In other words, I predict they’d go 1-3 in four hypothetical matchups. Hence, I see this as closer to a -300 lay price and even then, there’s no actual value. So why not bet the Vikings at +300 (which is the price?). Again, no value here. I’d probably bite at +350 or higher.
— Laying -7.5 with the Saints is problematic. That half-point off touchdown scares me. At -7, New Orleans is probably a solid bet given the roll they’re on at the moment, but the best price I see comes with -135 vig. I’m not paying an extra 25 cents to capture the half point-off the 7. So, that’s a pass.
— Minnesota at +7.5 looks tempting. But I’m seriously concerned with the disparity of playoff experience between these two QBs in the post-season. Future Hall of Famer Brees is 8-6 SU in the playoffs and generally performs well in games like this, and he’s even stronger in the first round. Meanwhile, Cousins has made one start in his mediocre career, which was a blowout loss when he was with Washington. I’m wary about betting unproven starters, especially why they could be badly outmatched. So, no play on the Vikings plus the points.
— Saints team total looks to have slight value for a number of reasons. First, New Orleans will be on a delirious high for this contest. They’ve been waiting for a year to get back to this spot, hosting a playoff game at home. This could be their final playoff home game given the route they would likely take, even with a victory. So, the Saints should be ecstatic here and ready to roll, particularly on offense. New Orleans has been a scoring machine since Brees returned from the early-season hand injury. Saints have eclipsed the 28.5-point mark in 8 of last 10 games. Saints have gone 6-2 over that mark in all home games this season. Bottom line is — New Orleans has proven time and time again they can score. So, I’m willing to bet over a slightly higher-than-average team total, even with the hook added to four touchdowns (28.5). One more point: I don’t see New Orleans slowing down late in the game, even with a lead. They’ve been burned in playoff games before. New Orleans was still throwing the ball in late-season games when ahead by big scores. Hence, this offense is likely to be in gear for 60 full minutes. Finally, it goes without saying the New Orleans receiving corps may be the best in the league.
— Another factor that sways me to New Orleans scoring points is the impressive sack totals allowed by the Saints. When Brees has time, the Saints score and win. It’s that simple. New Orleans protected Brees very well in second half of the season. Even though New Orleans throws more passes than average (and is subject to more sacks), they ranked third in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed. If Brees has time, this spells trouble for the Vikings defense.
— So, why not also bet the game OVER 49.5? It’s tempting. If Saints get up on the scoreboard, this game could turn into a shootout. But that’s the last thing the Vikings want. Minnesota will aim for a ball-control, milk-the-clock game plan that wins time of possession and keeps the high-octane Saints offense on the sidelines. If somehow they are successful, this game could fall under. Let’s credit Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer for being a defensive guru. Moreover, the Saints defense could make Cousins have a miserable day. My bottom line opinion is — there’s a better chance New Orleans scores 28.5-plus than this game goes over 49.5. Of course, both could very well happen.
— Note the 14.5 on the Saints first-half team total. That half-point is very problematic and keeps me away. It’s more likely New Orleans breaks the 14-point threshold in the second half, when defense is tired, Minnesota makes offensive mistakes in desperation when playing from behind, etc. So, even though I’m bullish on the Saints scoring, I see that first-half total as a bad number.
FINAL DECISION: One wager only, on the Saints to score at least 28.5 points.
Seattle at Philadelphia
One Wager: First Half — Seattle PICK (-110) — Risking $275 to win $250
My first instinct was to pound Seattle at this price (PICK). Eagles’ injury situation is epic. While they’re somewhat healthier now, it’s hard to see many strengths on this team, which has struggled repeatedly in multiple games this season, even down the stretch facing outmatched opponents in must-win games. I don’t see what others are looking at with the Eagles, unless they look at Seattle as a *bet against* team based on some false metrics, including a really porous defense. The question is — does Philadelphia have the weapons to take advantage of Seattle’s weaknesses? I’m not so sure they do. Here are my thoughts on various numbers connected to this matchup:
— Philadelphia has been a very slow starting team in a majority of their games. The Eagles do tend to adjust at halftime. But for some reason, this team doesn’t look prepared early on, in the first half. Hence, I lean to Seattle strongly based on team performances in the first half. I also suspect the Eagles’ younger players, many with no playoff experience, might need a little time to adjust.
— Let’s also remember, Eagles QB Carson Wentz hasn’t won a playoff game yet. I’m a fan of this gutsy player, who gives it all on the field. But that’s a concern if you’re backing the Eagles. During their Super Bowl season a few years ago, Nick Foles, the backup took all the snaps. Wentz is also 0-3 in his career against Seattle, including a 17-9 loss earlier this season.
— Russell Wilson. Enough said.
— Let’s keep in mind that Seattle was 11-5 this season while Philadelphia went 9-7. Seahawks went 5-0 this season on the road in the East time zone, so I’m not sure there’s ANY concern with Seattle as the road team here. A perfect 5-0 record, both SU and ATS for any West Coast team traveling three time zones is impressive. However, I see this as Seattle being proven as a battle-tested road team.
— I’m very concerned about Seahawks losing 3 of their last four games. However, those were to division rivals. The other two Seattle losses were to New Orleans and Baltimore, and there’s no shame in those defeats.
— The total at 45 was tempting as a contrarian over play for me. Total opened at 45.5 and dropped and I might have bit into the apple at 44.5 and certainly 44. But, it’s gone back up again to 45.5. So, this rates as a pass. Some handicappers are pushing the under really hard here, and I see some basis for that wager based on playoff games being a little more conservative offensively, combined with some reason for optimism the Eagles’ defense might rise to the occasion. The bottom line for me is — mixed information will keep me from betting this total, either way.
— Team totals care about where they should be. I see no value on any of those numbers. 22.5 is team total on both for the game. Slightly lean to at least one of these teams reaching the 23-point mark. But not strong enough to bet it. Interesting numbers at 10.5 both teams in the first half, with some higher juice leaning to the under. Wish I could capture a 1o, in which case I’d probably bet either team over that number.
— As stated previously, it’s tempting to play Seattle for the game as a pick ’em. However, given the Eagles’ slow starts this season and some concerns this injury-depleted team could make mistakes early on, I think the optimal wager is betting Seattle in the first half. Note that there is one place in Las Vegas (MGM) which lists Seahawks minus .5 in the first half at +120 but also has Eagles at -1 and -105 for the game. That’s one of the more unusual number combinations I’ve seen for any playoff game. But it also tells me the Eagles slow starts but solid halftime adjustments in previous games are being factored into the spreads.
FINAL DECISION: One wager only, which is Seattle in the first half, at pick’ em.
SATURDAY: In the Saturday games, I risked a total of $1,492.50 to win $1,250. The 4-0-1 result is posted in the updated figures above. Here were the plays, with comments:
GAME: BUFFALO +3 vs. HOUSTON — Risking $275 to win $250
FIRST HALF: BUFFALO +1 — Risking $275 to win $250
FIRST HALF: BUFFALO TEAM TOTAL OVER 8.5 POINTS (-130) — Risking $325 to win $250
Comments: Since 2003, underdogs have covered in 55.6 percent of all playoff games. That’s enough to make me look mostly at dogs, and then pounce on one when the team look optimal conditioned to pull off an outright upset. I think that’s the case with the Buffalo Bills here, playing at Houston Texans in the early Saturday game. First and foremost, the Bills field the better defense. Come playoff time, I like betting on superior defenses. We are also getting points, in both the first half and for the game. Initially, I was planning to wager Buffalo +1 for the first half only. However, I saw several books move the game line to +2.5 and I was still able to get the +3 at the old price of -110. So, unless the line moves back to +3 by game time, I’m getting line value. On paper, these teams look pretty evenly matched. Both are 10-6. Both rested starters in the final week of the season and appear reasonably healthy. Neither starting QB has playoff experience. What tips me towards Buffalo is  the clear advantage on defense,  a suspicion Houston offense is a bit overrated (in Texans last 10 contests they didn’t score more than 28 points in any game),  getting the key number +3 with the dog (and +1 in first-half which is significant),  strong performance historically of underdogs in playoff games, and finally  the record of road dogs in 2019, which are covering 60 percent of the time in all games, which is historically unprecedented, which also tells me home-field edge might not be what it used to be. I also like Buffalo to cover the low number in the first half on a team total. It’s important to capture the 9 and 10, and 8.5 gives us a win on those two numbers: 14, 17, 0, 31, 3, 10, 14 were the first-half points allowed in each game by Texans since their mid-season bye. So, I have three wagers in all, each connected to the Bills as the live dog.
FIRST HALF: TENNESEE +3 at NEW ENGLAND — Risking $275 to win $250
FIRST HALF: TENNESSEE TEAM TOTAL OVER 8.5 — Risking $325 to win $250
Comments: I see some respected handicappers on New England, citing “line value” on the dynasty team laying just -5.5. That sounds reasonable and history is certainly on the Patriots side given their extraordinary success in the post-season. However, Tennesee might be the worst possible team the Patriots could face at this point — a solid rushing team that doesn’t make many mistakes nor turn the ball over, an offense led by a veteran QB with lots of experience playing in Foxboro, and perhaps most shockingly ….. an offense that is scoring a ton of points: 35, 28, 21, 42, 31, 42, 35, 20, 27, and 23 since QB Ryan Tannehill became the starter. While New England fields the #1 defense in the NFL in several categories, they did seem to draw opponents when they were struggling at their worst, namely the Jets, Dolphins, Redskins, Giants, Browns, Cowboys, Bengals, and a heap of other trash. So, I see those numbers as being slightly inflated. Also, consider New England’s collapse in the previous game, where they blew the chance to get a bye. That’s not just an outlier of a loss to shrug off. That wouldn’t have happened to Belichick-coached teams of the past. Patriots in last four home games — lost to Miami, had to stave off a last-second scoring chance by Buffalo to win by 7, lost to Kansas City, and barely beat Dallas 13-9. That’s four less-than-stellar performances by the Patriots at home. So, I can’t lay -5.5 with this team. It seems obvious the Titans should be the play here getting generous points, but I’m going to skip the strong temptation to take the +5 and +5.5 in some places. Note that +6 is probably a wager for me. Instead, I do see strong value with Tennessee +3 in the first half. If the Titans are to win the game, they likely have to avoid falling behind early. With a solid rushing attack, I expect this will be just the right formula to make that happen. And, in a similar wager with identical justification to the team total (Titans over 8.5), I do see value on the team that’s been scoring like crazy the last nine weeks of the season to eclipse what seems like a low number. Weather is forecast with drizzle and 40 degrees. I don’t think this hurts the run-heavy Titans as much as possible the Patriots so slippery conditions could actually work in our favor. Two wagers on this game, both on the dog Titans in the first half.
INVESTMENT GROUP [37 persons Active]
Investor —- Amount —- Pct. of Total Fund
Heldar $ 211 2.51%
Watanabe $ 100 1.19%
Peter Lucier $ 1,000 11.91%
Kramer $ 302 3.60%
Finbar O’Mahoney $ 200 2.38%
Howler $ 100 1.19%
Linda Keenan $ 500 5.95%
John Pickels $ 100 1.19%
Patrick Kirwan $ 100 1.19%
Sean McGinnis $ 300 3.57%
Jim Anderson $ 252 3.00%
Chad Holloway $ 200 2.38%
Eric Schneller $ 500 5.95%
Randy Collack $ 351 4.18%
Dave Lawful $ 100 1.19%
Paul Harris $ 1,000 11.91%
Dan Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Sharon Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Ken QB $ 102 1.21%
Chuck Weinstock $ 102 1.21%
Peter Taki Caldes $ 102 1.21%
Kenny Shei $ 51 0.61%
Jeff Deitch $ 51 0.61%
Kevin Un $ 128 1.52%
Becca Kerl $ 22 0.26%
Corey Imsdahl $ 102 1.21%
Don Bingo Rieck $ 102 1.21%
Jeff Siegel $ 1,000 11.91%
Stephen Cohen (payment pending) $ 100 1.19%
John Reed $ 114 1.36%
George Wattman $ 51 0.61%
Mickdog Patterson $ 51 0.61%
Larry Lubliner $ 100 1.19%
Grizz Berentsen $ 100 1.19%
Edmund Hack $ 100 1.19%
Bob Feduniak $ 500 5.95%
David “Quick” Horowitz $ 102 1.21%
TOTAL $ 8,398 100.00%
$200 Invested into Pick Contest (outcome pending)