NFL Pick$ Against The Spread That Don't Suck: Week 10
Every week, I’ll pick NFL games against the spread and track my results. Last year went surprisingly well, but I promise I'll mock my inevitable failures.
I've sucked donkey penis for the last three weeks now. It's time to remove the donkey dick from the human mouth.
IMPORTANT: I am not an "expert," but my analysis is still worth reading. I'm not an expert because nobody is an expert, and if someone calls himself an expert, he's probably not an expert.
The point of this column is to give a unique angle of analysis — the bettor's perspective — the psychology and resources of which are far superior to the brain-dead “the popular team should win because they should” that you see from "experts" on ESPN and elsewhere, who don't even acknowledge point spreads.
There is a solid chance these picks will lose money, so I'm not recommending that you bet on them blindly. But I do recommend that you read for a new perspective. And plenty of stupid jokes. Doesn't Ben Roethlisberger look like Will Ferrell if he ate nothing but KFC for a month? (It's funny because Roethlisberger is the athlete... zing!)
Please don't hesitate to call me a moron on Twitter if inspiration strikes. Now would be a good time.
(ALSO: Want to learn everything there is to know about Smart Sports Betting? The basics, interpreting the best advanced NFL stats, adopting the psychology of winning bettors and much more? My book/e-book is out, and if it guides you to place one smart bet or eliminate one stupid bet, it has paid for itself many times over. Get a complete lesson in NFL betting HERE.)
(NOTE: All offensive and defensive ranks are given not by traditional stats, but DVOA. You can find complete rankings HERE and an explanation of it HERE. Briefly explained: It's the best widely-available stat to rank offensive and defensive performance, because it adjusts for game context and strength of schedule.)
Cleveland Browns (+6.5) over Cincinnati Bengals*
Overall: Bengals (13th), Browns (19th)
Pass Offense: Bengals (15th), Browns (8th)
Pass Defense: Bengals (4th), Browns (15th)
Rush Offense: Bengals (6th), Browns (26th)
Rush Defense: Bengals (32nd), Browns (31st)
The Browns have slipped lately (beating Oakland and Tampa Bay at home by 15 combined points after losing in Jacksonville counts as slipping), coinciding directly with a struggling ground game.
That said, Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay, shitty as they are, all have one common sorta-strength: run defense. They’re 16th, 14th and 6th in rush defense DVOA, respectively. Not so bad!
The Bengals are dead last. Their three unexpectedly bad performances came against New England (27 carries 113 yards for Stevan Ridley and 9/90 for Shane Vereen) Carolina (17/107 for Cam Newton) and Indy (10/52 for Ahmad Bradshaw… and 14/77 for TRENT FUCKING RICHARDSON!). All of those teams were struggling to run the ball before they faced Cincy and had success. None of them rank well running the ball.
So can this be the antidote? Probably.
But the same goes for the Bengals running the ball against the Browns’ equally-bad defense. And the Browns have been shaky on the road. And the Bengals went 8-0 at home last year. And if you take out their tie vs. Carolina, their home success has continued.
I lean towards the Browns, because I think these teams are more even than the line suggests, but I’d probably need more than 7 points to make a bet.
Detroit Lions* (-2.5) over Miami Dolphins
Overall: Lions (12th), Dolphins (3rd)
Pass Offense: Lions (21st), Dolphins (13th)
Pass Defense: Lions (2nd), Dolphins (1st)
Rush Offense: Lions (30th), Dolphins (5th)
Rush Defense: Lions (1st), Dolphins (8th)
No. 1 and 2 in defensive DVOA, and No. 1 and 3 in yards per play allowed. Miami’s offense has been mediocre, and Detroit’s has been surprisingly horrible.
That should make you think about the under… but a total of 43.5 is quite low. Detroit’s games have gone under that total in 6 of 8 games… Miami’s in 4 of 8. But the Lions get Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson back, are coming off a bye, and the Dolphins are one of the fastest-paced offenses in the league. At 43.5, it’s a pass.
Also, the Dolphins have undoubtedly been the better team, but I can’t imagine the Lions continuing to struggle so mightily on offense with Calvin and Reggie back. Thought about Detroit, but can’t justify it since most metrics favor Miami.
Also, note that the Dolphins are THIRD overall in DVOA. This means a few things.
1) DVOA is not perfect, because there’s no chance in hell that they’re actually the third-best team in the NFL.
2) The general public is underrating the Dolphins, because they are pretty damn good.
3) It’s still early in the year and one game skews season-long stats a lot. Miami played awesome last week in beating the Chargers 37-0, but a jump from 10th overall to third is ridiculous for one game.
Fun Fact: These teams are 31st and 32nd in special teams DVOA. Detroit due to the fact that they’ve made just 47.37% of their field goals, which is dead-last by a long shot.
Buffalo Bills* (+1.5) over Kansas City Chiefs
Overall: Bills (14th), Chiefs (10th)
Pass Offense: Bills (27th), Chiefs (11th)
Pass Defense: Bills (3rd), Chiefs (11th)
Rush Offense: Bills (27th), Chiefs (7th)
Rush Defense: Bills (7th), Chiefs (21st)
I’ve been fellating the Bills for their 2013 home performance for a while, but four games in, they have one impressive win (29-10 over Miami), two duds against good teams, and a squeaker against Minnesota.
The Chiefs have actually had a pretty fantastic year, outside of the inexplicable first-week home loss to Tennessee. They won easily in Miami, and Miami seems like a rich man’s Buffalo.
I’m considering the Chiefs, but in a game where both offenses will struggle, I’m not sure there’s a reason to back the road team in Buffalo, off a bye, at this number.
New Orleans Saints* (-4.5) over San Francisco 49ers
Overall: Saints (11th), 49ers (20th)
Pass Offense: Saints (10th), 49ers (22nd)
Pass Defense: Saints (24th), 49ers (6th)
Rush Offense: Saints (2nd), 49ers (20th)
Rush Defense: Saints (23rd), 49ers (12th)
If you haven’t read my book, you may be unaware of the potential of early lines. These lines usually go up during the previous week’s games, and there’s a ton of opportunity. The Saints opened at -2.5, which seemed really low. They have only been favored by <3 once since Week 12 of 2012. That was two weeks ago, and they won by 21.
But for those who didn’t, I shall continue. The Saints are a great home team. Oddsmakers are aware of this. They’re 35-16 ATS in their past 51 home games.
But there’s a big difference between -2.5 and -4.5, as many games land on 3.
Still, the Saints at home are a bit of an outlier. They’re 11-0 over the past two years, with eight double-digit wins. And they’re a great red-zone team in general (scored TDs on 60% of appearances, 11th), especially when compared to San Francisco (40%, 32nd).
I’m sticking with my -2.5 bet, but I’d take -4.5 too, though it would be a normal bet instead of a double.
BET: Saints -2.5 (-120), $240 to win $200
Baltimore Ravens* (-10) over Tennessee Titans
Overall: Ravens (2nd), Titans (26th)
Pass Offense: Ravens (7th), Titans (23rd)
Pass Defense: Ravens (10th), Titans (22nd)
Rush Offense:Ravens (21st), Titans (13th)
Rush Defense: Ravens (10th), Titans (30th)
I didn’t think the Titans would be good, but I thought they’d be better than this. Joe Flaccid has ceased impotence. He looks good sometimes.
But Baltimore’s running game seems like it’s back to it’s subpar self after a solid start, and the defense has regressed from last year. (Though Jimmy Smith’s eventual return will be big.) I don’t expect that No. 2 DVOA figure to persist. They’re an above-average team. They’ve had some solid performances and just one bad one. But nothing spectacular.
The Titans are garbage, but at least they’re giving Zach Mettenberger, Bishop Sankey and Taylor Lewan chances. If this number somehow drops to -9 or lower I’ll think about a Baltimore teaser. But -10 seems pretty fair.
Atlanta Falcons (-1.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
Overall: Buccaneers (32nd), Falcons (18th)
Pass Offense: Buccaneers (29th), Falcons (9th)
Pass Defense: Buccaneers (31th), Falcons (30th)
Rush Offense: Buccaneers (24th), Falcons (9th)
Rush Defense: Buccaneers (6th), Falcons (27th)
32nd pass defense vs. Matt Ryan. 56-14 last time. Must-win game for the 2-6 Falcons, coming off a bye. The total also seems low, given the defenses.
BETS: Falcons -1.5 (-110), $220 to win $200 AND OVER 45.5 (-106), $106 to win $100
Pittsburgh Steelers (-5) over New York Jets
Overall: Jets (28th), Steelers (9th)
Pass Offense: Jets (30th), Steelers (2nd)
Pass Defense: Jets (27th), Steelers (23rd)
Rush Offense: Jets (11th), Steelers (16th)
Rush Defense: Jets (9th), Steelers (17th)
Again, the early degenerate gets the lower chance of losing.
Now that we’re looking at -5, things are different. But we’re also looking at Pig Pen Baconburger and the No. 2 pass offense vs. the Jets and their 19th string cornerbacks.
My only concern is a potential letdown after two massive wins, the last one in a rivalry game, but I’ll trust in Mike Tomlin and a team fighting to stay atop its division.
I think there’s potential for the Jets to score some on offense, but seriously: 762 yards for Roethlisberger the past two weeks, and look at the Jets cornerbacks. Don’t overthink. As with the Saints, I’d be going with a normal bet if not for my tasty price.
BET: Steelers -2.5 (-110), $220 to win $200
Denver Broncos (-11) over Oakland Raiders*
Overall: Broncos (1st), Raiders (29th)
Pass Offense: Broncos (1st), Raiders (26th)
Pass Defense: Broncos (5th), Raiders (29th)
Rush Offense: Broncos (14th), Raiders (32nd)
Rush Defense: Broncos (2nd), Raiders (14th)
The Broncos haven’t played a bad team yet, which is kinda crazy. Still, all six of their wins have come by 7+ points.
Here are their results vs. bad teams the last two years. I’m counting “bad teams” as teams with who wound up with fewer than seven wins. The Raiders will almost certainly be in this group.
10-0. Seven 20+ point wins. Two 16-point wins. Just one semi-close game, a 17-9 win at 2-14 Kansas City back in 2012.
11.5 points is not a lot for the Broncos, especially coming off a loss. They score touchdowns on 81.48% of red zone appearaces. That number was 72.15% last year. Those are both best in the NFL. This team is the best team in the NFL.
I don’t care what happened last week.
(Also, check back for a potential Broncos team total over.)
BET: Broncos -11 (-110), $110 to win $100
St. Louis Rams (+7) over Arizona Cardinals
Overall: Cardinals (16th), Rams (30th)
Pass Offense: Cardinals (16th), Rams (28th),
Pass Defense: Cardinals (7th), Rams (32nd),
Rush Offense: Cardinals (28th), Rams (17th)
Rush Defense: Cardinals (4th), Rams (13th)
The Rams are garbage, but they junk it up and keep games close, especially division games. I can’t back Arizona -7. But they’re infinitely better, and there’s zero reason to think they’ll lose if they don’t take the Rams lightly. Carson Palmer is playing well enough to torch the worst pass defense in the league. (Colin Kaepernick and his struggling offensive line couldn’t last week, but ‘Zona’s o-line has been pretty good in pass protection so far.)
Teaser piece, for sure.
BET: Teaser, coming in…
Green Bay Packers* (-7) over Chicago Bears
Overall: Packers (5th), Bears (21st)
Pass Offense: Packers (5th), Bears (14th)
Pass Defense: Packers (18th), Bears (25th)
Rush Offense: Packers (10th), Bears (8th)
Rush Defense: Packers (22nd), Bears (15th)
Aaron Rodgers at home: 14 game winning streak. 13 by 7+ points.
BET: TEASER, Packers -1/Cardinals -1 (-110), $220 to win $200
Philadelphia Eagles* (-6) over Carolina Panthers
Overall: Eagles (6th), Panthers (24th)
Pass Offense: Eagles (20th), Panthers (18th)
Pass Defense: Eagles (14th), Panthers (21st)
Rush Offense: Eagles (19th), Panthers (23rd)
Rush Defense: Eagles (5th), Panthers (29th)
I expected the Panthers to be good this year, and they’ve been garbage overall. But they’ve played four pretty nice games (though three at home). Their stock is pretty damn low.
I certainly lean Eagles and will consider them as a teaser piece, but I’m not convinced that this is actually a good defense. I will say that I believe in Mark Sanchez in this offense (yeah, yeah), and again, there’s teaser potential. Evan Mathis coming back is big. But I think the line is fair and I’m passing at the moment.
Seattle Seahawks* (-8) over New York Giants
This line would not be -8 if the Seahawks weren't struggling/hurt. Only two players have been ruled out for this week so far, though, and it seems like the rest of the injured players might have a shot to suit up. It's rare to get the Seahawks as a legitimate teaser piece against a mediocre team at home, and I can't pass it up.
BET: TEASER, Seahawks -2/Eagles -.5 (-110), $220 to win $200
Dallas Cowboys (-7) over Jacksonville Jaguars
Too much Romo uncertainty. Go London Jaguars!
LATE ADDS: Dolphins team total UNDER 20.5 (-110), $110 to win $100, Broncos team total OVER 31 (-110), $110 to win $100
(AGAIN: If you want to bet sports smartly, you should check out my complete lesson in NFL and sports betting HERE. All the cool kids like learning all of the things for cheap.)
Last Week: 2-4 -$596
Total: 33-39 (.457) -$1374.42
Hypothetical Supercontest Picks: 22-18 (This Week: Packers, Broncos, Steelers, Saints, Falcons)
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