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.
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: Interested in learning how to transfer from smart, dedicated fan to rational sports bettor? Email matt@sportsgrid with the subject “book” to get free advice on how to start betting on sports, from psychology to money management to picking winners.)
And check out our latest betting podcast.
Green Bay Packers (-7.5) over Minnesota Vikings*
This seems really steep… except that Teddy Bridgewater might not play and Green Bay is dominant in Green Bay.
If Bridgewater doesn’t play, there’s no way I’m touching Christian Ponder vs. Aaron Rodgers. It’ll be interesting to see if the line moves. It should if Teddy is ruled out.
The Packers are playing passable defense (18th in DVOA, didn’t get killed by the Bears in Chicago), and Aaron Rodgers is on a 12-game home win streak… and 11 of those 12 wins have come by 7+ points.
I’d definitely consider Pack -8.5, especially without their Teddy… but an 8.5-point spread sets up perfectly for a teaser for a team that rarely loses at home against a clearly-inferior opponent.
BET: TEASER, Packers -1.5 AND Broncos -1 (-110), $220 to win $200
Chicago Bears +2.5 over Carolina Panthers*
Usually, you shouldn’t overreact to one or two bad (or good) performances. That’s because luck usually explains weird results (turnovers, off-games, bad effort/playcalling/matchup/whatever one-time thing).
But sometimes one or two bad results show a concern that will persist.
Cam Newton is not healthy. And the team that got made fun of for having 700 running backs is now down DeAngelo Wlliams, Jonathan Stweart, Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whitaker. They’re starting “Darrin Reaves” at the moment. We deduced on our betting podcast that this man is the version of Keanu Reeves that took the red pill or the blue one or whatever the other one is.
I wouldn’t freak out about the defense yet, but it’s struggling. The Panthers have been incredible at home recently. But will they be able to score?
BET: Bears ML (+125), $100 to win $125
Cleveland Browns (+2.5) over Tennessee Titans*
The Browns have been a good team so far. A genuinely good team. They nearly won in Pittsburgh, beat New Orleans and lost to Baltimore by two. They could easily be 3-0 against a tough schedule. I don’t care that they’re 1-2. They’re 3rd in offensive DVOA. I’m sure they’re not that good on offense… but they’re also probably not as bad as their 29th rank on defense.
Tennessee looks like one of the worst teams in the league. Cleveland is coming off a bye. Nothing crazy here… Tennessee is at home and Jake Locker is coming back… and these are the Browns… but through the first three weeks, Cleveland looks infinitely better. And they were expected to be similar entering the year.
They’ve given up 6.4 yards per play… but tough schedule, as I said.
BET: Browns ML (+114), $110 to win $114
Philadelphia Eagles* (-6.5) over St. Louis Rams
The Eagles are a weird team. They look horrible for a team that’s a few yards away from 4-0.
That said… their problems are fixable. They’re missing two offensive linemen… but they’re getting Lane Johnson back (with presumably unenhanced performance).
Shady McCoy has 39 yards rushing in the past two games… but Washington and San Francisco have been very good run defenses so far (top-11 in DVOA).
The Eagles are actually playing defense and their biggest weakness right now is Shady’s production. Yes, it’s worrying (as is their abysmal red-zone offense, 27th in the NFL)… but if Shady McCoy is your biggest problem, I feel good about your long-term prospects.
Especially when you’re playing an Austin Davis and a defense allowing 6.4 yards per play (30th in the NFL). They look like they don’t belong in the NFL.
BET: Eagles -6.5 (-110), $110 to win $100
New York Giants* (-4.5) over Atlanta Falcons
This game is weird. The Falcons are 1st in the NFL in DVOA. But they’re infinitely better at home, and they’ve failed both of their road tests so far. Matt Ryan (understandably) averaged 4.6 yards per attempt in Cincy. 6.9 in Minnesota was solid, but the Giants are better than Minnesota.
The Giants might have a good defense. They’re 24th in opponents yards per play… but they’re 5th in DVOA. They look like they can score against bad defenses. The Falcons are the worst and made people fap to Teddy Bridgewater.
I’m surprised the Giants are significant favorites. But that doesn’t mean I’ll back this crap defense against a Giants team that I think is underrated and improving.
New Orleans Saints *(-10) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Saints are 32nd in defensive DVOA and 27th in opponents’ yards per play. They’re fine on offense.
There’s no way I can back -10 against a team with a sneaky-decent offense (assuming Mike Glennon plays… if not, all bets are off).
But this is an absolute must-win game for them, Drew Brees WILL go off on the Bucs. Even in last week’s loss they were fine on offense. Turnovers killed them. I repeat: They are fine on offense at home. More than fine.
The defense is too scary to back -10. But I would be very, very surprised if they lost. There would be firings and beheadings and relocations to Utah.
Houston Texans (+6) over Dallas Cowboys*
A team with maybe the worst defense in the league (allowing 6.5 yards per play) should not be 6-point favorites over a team with an above-average defense and an almost-competent offense.
BET: Texans +6 (-110), $95 to win $86.36 AND ML (+234), $15 to win $35.10
Detroit Lions* (-7) over Buffalo Bills
The Lions defense so far: 2nd in DVOA, 1st in opponent’s yards per play, shut down Aaron Rodgers. They’re good.
Kyle Orton is an upgrade, but not enough of an upgrade to score points with a bad offense on the road against a good defense.
With two good defenses and the Bills offense, I’d like the under if it rises at all. But 43.5 isn’t much value with the threat of Stafford at home.
Baltimore Ravens (+3.5) over Indianapolis Colts*
I may be the biggest hater of Joe Flaccido in the entire world, but nothing suggests that the Colts are better than the Ravens. People are obsessed with Andrew Luck (understandably), and it blinds them to the fact that this team is nothing special outside of him.
BET: Ravens +3.5 (-110), $95 to win $86.36 AND ML (+165), $15 to win $24.75
Jacksonville Jaguars* (+6) over Pittsburgh Steelers
Don’t worry, I’m not betting on the Jaguars. But they do almost have a pulse with Blake Bortles. The problem is that almost doesn’t count when your defense is also horrible and you’re playing Ben Roethlisberger.
I thought about the over, but it’s quite high (47).
Bold Prediction: Denard Robinson gets a shot against a crappy run defense and breaks out.
Denver Broncos* (-7) over Arizona Cardinals
This is an interesting one. Arizona is undefeated, but I don’t care about records.
Denver is improved on defense. They may be a bit worse on offense… but they can throw on anyone, and as good as the Cards’ D is… nobody stops Denver in Denver. And their pass defense is their (relative) defense.
And the Cardinals offense is still not good. They can’t keep up. With Denver’s crazy red-zone TD efficiency, seven points is not a lot at home.
BET: Broncos -7 (-110), $110 to win $100
San Francisco 49ers* (-6) over Kansas City Chiefs
The 49ers look worse than expected, the Chiefs look better than expected, but neither of those things makes sense to me at the moment.
New York Jets (+6) over San Diego Chargers*
The Chargers are much improved on defense… but they’ve regressed on offense. Philip Rivers is carrying them. They’re dead-last in rushing DVOA (but 2nd in passing).
That’s probably bad news for the Jets, whose weakness is their secondary.
But I think the line is fair. I think the Jets should have some offensive success if Geno doesn’t go all Geno again and throw 19 interceptions.
Cincinnati Bengals (-1) over New England Patriots*
Bengals: 1st in defensive DVOA. Pats: 10th. Andy Dalton on the road: bad. New England’s offense: dead-last in yards per play (4.6, less than Jacksonville).
Tom Brady: Bad now.
We got to see on prime time what the tape has been showing for a while; Brady just not playing well.
The offensive line is certainly a major factor. His protection has abandoned him just when he needs it most, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he isn’t part of the problem. On plays where Brady has felt no pressure this season he has a passer rating of just 83.0 and a PFF grade of -4.7.
The bottom line is that he is a 37 year old quarterback, and one playing behind arguably the worst offensive line he has ever had to deal with. Anyone expecting him to play at his MVP best is sipping a special kind of kool-aid.
(That special kool-aid is the one with the marijuanas that kill you on impact.)
The total seems a bit high… but Marvin Jones is returning and the Bengals could pull a Dolphins or Chiefs.
The Patriots are not very good by all accounts, but they still get some respect for being the Patriots.
BET: Bengals pk (-114), $228 to win $200
Washington Potato Skins* (+7.5) over Seattle Seahawks
Damn, this is steep.
This implies that the Potato Skins are one of the worst teams in the league. They’re 16th in DVOA. Kirk Cousins looks pretty good. The run defense seems excellent. That’s promising against a run-heavy Seahawks offense that struggles on the road. If you can stop Marshawn Lynch, they’re a different team.
BET: Potato Skins +7.5 (-110), $95 to win $86.36 AND ML (+270), $15 to win $40.50
(What are your picks? Tweet me. I wanna hear.)
LATE ADD: Saints/Broncos ML Parlay (-173), $173 to win $100
Last Week: 3-3 (.500) (-58.64)
Total: 21-14 (.600) +$1,037.22
Hypothetical Supercontest Picks: 10-5 (This Week: Bengals, Broncos, Browns, Packers, Eagles)
By the way, check out SportsGrid’s NFL Power Rankings, below: