Congratulations, sports bettor.
If you are going along with the crowd, not fading the public but rather being part of that much-maligned supposedly “square” populace, if you’re parlaying and teasing big favorites and betting against teams that play their home games in New Jersey, you are drinking the sportsbooks’ milkshake. You are making bookmakers utter to ESPN’s David Purdum such phrases as “pretty terrible” and “the killer blow.”
Yes, the last two weeks have been a fabulous time to be gambling on NFL games.
Unless, of course, you’ve been coming out behind despite all the chalk prevailing and few of the ‘dogs barking. Which probably describes almost half of all sports bettors even on the weeks when the bookmakers are talking like their jobs are in danger. The fact is, when the sportsbook operators are playing the “woe is me” card, there are still plenty of people out there losing coin flips or coming one leg shy of parlay-fection. And that’s a deflating feeling. It’s one thing to be losing along with most of the rest of the crowd. It’s another thing to be crying in the corner while everyone else is doing shots and sharing screenshots.
Just remember: It’s a long season. Those who are hot right now might not stay hot. Those who are cold right now could heat up at anytime. If you want to be a successful (or not overly unsuccessful) NFL bettor in the long term, the rules remain the same: Keep an even keel emotionally, and never put too much of your bankroll into a single play or even a single week. You don’t want to be the one muttering “pretty terrible” or “the killer blow” on Monday morning.
Oh, and there’s one more rule: Leave the past in the past. Channel your inner Bill Belichick and declare, “It’s on to next week.” Let’s take an early look at the lines and assorted wagering odds and ends for Week 7:
The consensus lines
Most lines vary by half a point in either direction, with slightly different vigs from book to book, so it’s always advisable to price-shop at all the available mobile sportsbooks in your state. But here are the consensus (most commonly found) spreads for each of the 13 games in Week 7 (the Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, Chargers, Vikings, and Steelers all have bye weeks):
- Broncos at Browns (-3.5)
- Washington at Packers (-9.5)
- Chiefs (-4.5) at Titans
- Falcons (-2.5) at Dolphins
- Jets at Patriots (-7)
- Panthers (-3) at Giants
- Bengals at Ravens (-6.5)
- Eagles at Raiders (-3.5)
- Lions at Rams (-15.5)
- Texans at Cardinals (-17)
- Bears at Buccaneers (-13.5)
- Colts at 49ers (-3.5)
- Saints (-5.5) at Seahawks
Line move to watch
There’s not a whole lot of time left for it to move, but the number on the Thursday night game between Denver and Cleveland already shifted from 4.5 on Monday to 3.5 on Tuesday. And with pretty much every Browns skill player wearing the “questionable” tag — QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, and WR Odell Beckham Jr. are all iffy to play on the short turnaround as they nurse injuries — it could very well move some more.
Then there’s the question of when bettors might pounce on the Broncos because Teddy Bridgewater, a.k.a. Teddy Covers, came into the season 19-2 against the spread all-time as a road underdog. (He’s now 19-3 after failing to cover against the Steelers in Week 5, which just might mean he’s that much more due to cover this week.)
Intriguing moneyline underdogs to consider
Bronze medal: Broncos +160 (Caesars) at Browns. There are some enormous moneyline ‘dogs out there this week, but it’s hard to believe in any of the big ones, like the Texans at +950, the Lions at +750, or the Bears at +600. The Football Team almost seems worth a shot at +360 in Green Bay, but … eh, not quite. So this week’s picks are all underdogs who are under 2/1. As noted above, the Broncos might be worth a shot, not because of anything they bring to the table, but because the Browns’ starting offense could potentially include Case Keenum, Demetric Felton, and Anthony Schwartz.
Silver medal: Titans +184 (FanDuel) vs. Chiefs. Yeah, Tennessee has a short week and K.C. needs this one more. But how exactly are the Chiefs containing Derrick Henry? (Not to mention A.J. Brown and Julio Jones have gotten healthy.) This should be a shootout, and +184 is a good price for the visiting Titans to get the last shot in.
Gold medal: Seahawks +195 (PlaySugarHouse) vs. Saints. This was a particularly appealing +205 on Monday. It’s still attractive after dipping to +195. Geno Smith has been surprisingly competent in Russell Wilson’s absence, the ‘Hawks seem more than due for a home win, and the Saints are this year’s rollercoaster team. Week 1, crush the Packers. Week 2, get crushed by the Panthers. Week 3, smoke the Patriots. Week 4, find a way to lose to the Giants. Week 5, beat Washington. They had a bye in Week 6, so does the yo-yo skip a week? That’s a question only the gambling gods know the answer to. But there’s at least a 50/50 chance that the multi-interception Jameis Winston disaster game is in play.
Textbook teaser candidates
Fans of the three-team (or more) teaser know what to look for: favorites of 6 or more who become very safe bets if you reduce the spread by about a touchdown. Here are this week’s options that fit the bill:
- Packers: Can tease down to -3.5 or -2.5 at Lambeau against the Team To Be Named Later.
- Patriots: Can tease down to -1 or pick’em hosting the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.
- Ravens: Can tease down to -0.5 or foolishly cross zero to +0.5 against the division rival Bengals.
- Rams: Can tease down to -9.5 or -8.5 against the winless Lions in the Stafford-Goff Bowl
- Cardinals: Can tease down to -11 or -10 against the Texans in the J.J. Watt Bowl.
- Buccaneers: Can tease down to -7.5 or 6.5 against the Bears and their thus far very rookie-esque rookie QB.
Pick three (or more), pick 6 points or 7 (or 6.5), and let the sweating of a +140 or so return begin. Then again, this might be a good week to consider the lower-return 10-point tease with some of those massive favorites. Rams -5.5 against the Lions, Cards -7 against the Texans, and Bucs -3.5 against the Bears, all of them in their home stadiums, can’t possibly lose, right? Right??
Most Valuable MVP bet
We’ve reached a point in the season at which the MVP value is getting hard to find.
Early Tuesday morning, there was a great candidate, and this particular professional sports writer and amateur sports gambler who lives in a legal FOX Bet state jumped on it. Derrick Henry was still 60/1 at FOX’s mobile book some eight or nine hours after he powered the Titans to an upset win over the Bills. He was no better than 40/1 anywhere else. So I took a shot. Did I move the line? Or is FOX Bet just slower to update lines than their competitors? Probably the latter. Anyway, around 9 a.m. Tuesday, this happened:
👑 @KingHenry_2‘s MVP odds: 60/1 📈 35/1
He’s the only non-QB shorter than 100/1 👀pic.twitter.com/lk6za6S3AP
— FOX Bet Sportsbook (@FOXBet) October 19, 2021
So the question becomes, at a now-industry-best price of +4000 at FanDuel, is there still value on the Titans’ star RB to win an award that almost always goes to a QB?
Henry is on pace for 2,218.5 rushing yards, which would break Eric Dickerson’s longstanding single-season record (with an extra game this season, it must be noted). Henry is 260 yards ahead of second place — which means he has 49.7% more yards than the next closest RB. He has 10 rushing TDs; nobody else has more than 5. Nobody else even has more than 7 combined rushing and receiving TDs. Oh, and Henry traditionally heats up in November and December.
Yeah, the award typically goes to a quarterback, but what if all the QBs split votes? If the season ended right now, there would be a case for Kyler Murray, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, maybe Patrick Mahomes, maybe Justin Herbert, and maybe Lamar Jackson. If Henry is the only non-QB getting votes, he could sneak in there.
So is there value at 40/1 like there was at 60/1? It’s borderline. Nobody screams “bargain” at the moment, but Henry, Brady (currently +900 at BetMGM), and Jackson (+1300 at FanDuel) don’t scream “ripoff” either.
How did we do last week?
This column is not really about betting advice — it’s more an overview of the NFL week ahead and a collection of ideas to think about — but we may as well have some accountability. So …
Last week’s best call: Our recommended 6-point teaser with powerhouses (Bucs, Rams, Chiefs) against the dregs of the NFC East (Eagles, Giants, WFT) was a nice +160 hit — and the right way to play it because a moneyline parlay wouldn’t have paid quite as well and a parlay of all three favorites against the spread would have lost on account of Tampa’s 6-point win in Philly.
And by the way, remember that FanDuel division-winner parlay of the Bills, Titans, Packers, Buccaneers, and Cowboys we tipped two weeks ago at +246? It came down to +160 last week, and now it’s -103. Hope you got in while the getting was good.
Last week’s worst call: There were no all-out disasters, but we could have done better with our final selections for moneyline underdogs. Only one of our three ‘dogs prevailed (Raiders over Broncos). Two of the teams we mentioned but didn’t put in our top three connected (Jags over Dolphins, Cardinals over Browns) and another came damned close (Seahawks over Steelers), whereas our actual other two on the medal podium (Chargers and Texans) lost by 28 points apiece. Not great.
Bad Beat of the Week
We’ll let Pat McAfee have the floor:
Man… that was brutal pic.twitter.com/LziGQvBZmZ
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 15, 2021
Parlays come one leg short all the time. Parlays that tens of thousands of bettors partake in that are all set to win until a pair of QB kneeldowns at the end of the game change everything are a rarity. With apologies to those who had the Patriots +3.5 against Dallas and figured to be a near-lock to cover once New England won the overtime coin toss, McAfee’s parlay is easily the most brutal beat of the week.
- That unlikely Cowboys cover on an overtime TD not only swung numerous bets and parlays and stung the sportsbooks, it also kept Dallas’ perfect record (6-0) against the spread this season alive.
- We mentioned earlier in the column that Chiefs-Titans shapes up as a shootout. The books have the total at 56.5 — 6 points higher than the next highest game (Rams-Lions). By the way, good luck fitting Mahomes, Henry, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill into your DFS game stacks. On DraftKings, you’d have $16,200 left over for the other five positions if you tried that. So it’s probably a Mecole-Hardman-instead-of-Hill-or-Kelce week if you want to stack the K.C. air game, or you can leave yourself all sorts of money to spend by going with the flipside Ryan Tannehill-Brown-Jones-Darrel Williams game stack.
- Here’s an oddity: The Cardinals are currently the favorite to get the NFC’s No. 1 seed and lone bye (+210), but only the third favorite, behind Tampa and the Rams, to win the conference. The Ravens are currently the favorite to get the AFC’s No. 1 seed and lone bye (+175), but only the third favorite, behind the Bills and Chiefs, to win the conference. Cardinals vs. Ravens all-bird nobody-believes-in-us Super Bowl, anyone? That parlay pays +3312 at FOX Bet.
Photo: Jeff Lange/USA TODAY