Identifying NFL Underdogs in Pursuit of Profit
Public bettors are taking the worst of it through the opening 3 weeks of NFL action. Favorites are just 22-26 SU and 18-30 ATS. More than 80% of the bets and greater than 75% of the spread money at the leading online sportsbooks was on the Bengals (-7.5) last night to kickoff Week 4, and it was another 'no chance' bet as Cincinnati had to rally from a 14-0 halftime deficit to defeat the winless Jaguars, 24-21 at the final gun.
That makes underdogs 31-18 ATS and we move to Week 4 with a 6-1 ATS 'Dog log on these pages with 5 outright winners. That includes the Vikings Week 3 win after they spotted Seattle a 10 point lead in the 2Q and then dominated the Seahawks the rest of the way for a 30-17 win. That was my best and biggest underdog delivery this season, as mentioned the Seahawks should not have been favored on the road at Minnesota. "Minnesota plus the points, bet the moneyline too and add the Vikings to your teaser bets."
The Vikings were one of the Week 4 teams that outrushed their opponent by at least 30 yards. Those stats are now 25-13 SU and 27-11 ATS through 3 weeks and the Jaguars were on the right side of those numbers to cover last night but still lost a tough game. Teams that run the ball at least 30 times in a game are 24-5 SU and 22-7 ATS. The Vikings did that as well in victory.
Conversely, teams that run the ball 23 times or less in a game, like Seattle did last week, are 10-25 SU/6-29 ATS through three weeks of NFL action. That's 48 games, and scoring is averaging 47.12 points per game following the lowest scoring week the past two years as Week 3 scoring averaged just 45.4 PPG.
Be sure to check the NFL injury reports and monitor the betting lines as a number of teams report injuries each week and early in the season.
Nothing I'm too enamored with in Week 4, but I'll chip-in some contrary sides as we did in a 3-0 Week 2 sweep. The 4+ year record on these pages picking only underdogs is now 108-80 (57.4%) with 53 outright underdog winners.
NFL Week 4 Underdog Picks
Denver (+1) vs Baltimore - Broncos Moneyline +100 at MyBookie
NY Giants (+7.5 & -115) at New Orleans - Giants Moneyline +275 at Bovada
New England (+7) vs Tampa Bay - Patriots Moneyline +260 at BetOnline
Last week we chipped-in a lean on the Lions (+8.5) as an ugly, contrary underdog, and the Motor City Kitties rallied to take the lead and cover before a heartbreaking last second defeat, 19-17. The public bettors were all over Baltimore, and this week we'll chip-in and lean towards these contrary underdogs for your consideration as well, but not official Fairway Forecasts for monitoring. Key to betting, and NFL is not only identifying potential value and positive expectations and situations to support, but money management, discipline and game select management with some good fortune falling your way. Teaser bets are a good way to add some plays if you don't want to lay bigger prices, or not as confident in underdogs but can tease up for another portion of your bets. See some of my Week 3 results. Big bettor or small, enjoy the games, and try to make better bets.
I decided to upgrade the Giants to a play. All of the Saints early season travel, and now they return to New Orleans for home opener. Both positive and negative situations in play, and Saints are plus-5 in turnover margin and QB Winston is under wraps passing just 21 times per game. Let's hope for more this week, as Winston was pressured last week and will be under more this week from the Giants interior defenders. Mistakes likely follow against a Giants team snake bitten and deserving a bit better the past two weeks.
Opinions and Leans
NY Jets (+7)
Baltimore at Denver
As mentioned on these pages last week with the Ravens projected rushing edge over the Lions, we still supported Detroit and they held the powerful Ravens rushing attack and QB Lamar Jackson in check with 116 total rushing yards. Now Lamar and his Baltimore Boys travel for the second straight week to the Mile High, and won't he be grasping for air against a stronger Denver defense. All the talk is about the Broncos softest early schedule in a surprising 3-0 start. But blowout wins by double-digits suggest Denver is more reality than perception, and this is really another WTF line - Wrong Team Favored. Denver fits some very positive ATS situations as an undefeated home underdog into October. Regardless of the result and how it plays out between the Ravens and Broncos, this offers some value with Denver another teaser opportunity at a plus price. Would you take 7 points with Denver if the game was being played in Baltimore this week, and all things being equal with injuries and situational support? if the answer is yes, then the Broncos should absolutely be a bet this week. Denver's defense is allowing just 162 yards per game against weaker opponents and quarterbacks in Jacksonville, NY Giants and Jets. The Ravens have faced much tougher but are still allowing 315 YPG - worst in the AFC. We'll find out if the Broncos AFC-best run defense (59 YPG) is up for the challenge of tackling QB Jackson. Mistakes will be made, but by the way, the Broncos are running the ball 31.7 times per game; just behind the Ravens. The Broncos perfectly balanced offense is also passing the ball 31.7 times per game. A better bet is probably under the total (45), hoping the turnovers don't turn into too many points. Denver's hurting a bit along the lines, and will likely be without at least one offensive guard. Just chippin-in more potential green.
Tampa Bay at New England
Sunday Night Football Week 4 is a good one and among the most anticipated games of the season as former Patriots greats Tom Brady and Gronk return to Foxboro for the first time as Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They'll face former teammates and coach Bill Belichick in what should also be one of the most bet and watched games of the season at the top online sportsbooks. Last week's Sunday night Football thriller between the Packers and 49ers was the most watched NBC Sunday Night Football game since 2015, and drew a total audience delivery of 21 million viewers. All three Sunday Night Football games this season have had at least 20 million viewers tuning in, and betting has been brisk.
Prime time games through 3 weeks have averaged 55.9 points per game and went over the total in 8-of-9 contests. The Bengals 24-21 win over the Jaguars Thursday night to kickoff Week 4 made it 8-of-10.
The preseason line on this game was Buccaneers -3, and last week's lookahead line Tampa Bay -5.5. Tax on the Buccaneers, whose rushing attack is last in the NFC averaging just 56 yards per game on a league-low 16 attempts per game. The Bucs defense is also banged up and without some players, and Tampa was carved up through the air last week by the Rams (8.2 YP pass). The Patriots are in the lower quartile rushing for 93 yards per game, and the QB edge clearly goes to the Bucs Brady in passing and receivers against Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones. Brady and the Bucs lead the NFC in passing averaging 350 yards per game. The Patriots are at 226 passing yards per game, and look at the bottom passing numbers and you'll see the rookie quarterbacks from Chicago, NY Jets and Jacksonville. Mac Jones has the best supporting cast of the group, and the Patriots defense is allowing just 4.7 yards per play and an AFC-low 159 passing yards per game. New England also has the superior special teams thus far. Clearly the Patriots have not faced the caliber of team like the Buccaneers, or QB Brady. but coach Belichick and his staff should have the game plan to keep this more competitive with hope that Jones and the Patriots don't turn the ball over more.
Teams that are +2 in the turnover column in a game this season are 6-2 SU and 8-0 ATS. Teams that are +3 or better in turnovers are 8-2 SU and 9-1 ATS. As you watch and wager on games, and consider in-play betting, pay closer attention to turnovers as the ultimate key stat in determining winning results and point spread success.
You can bet on it.
FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Read more great insights from FairwayJay and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay