Identifying NFL Underdogs and Parlaying Profit
We kick off the 2019 NFL season filled with confidence following another stellar season on our pointspread prognosis. On these pages last season we provided weekly NFL underdog picks and finished the season 35-19 ATS (64.8%). That included 26 outright underdog winners. We sprinted to the endzone with a 6-0 finish and 21-7 the second half of the season. The previous season on these pages we went 16-8 ATS on a shortened schedule with 11 outright winners. So the 2-year NFL run providing underdog picks against the spread is 51-27 ATS (65.4%) with 37 outright winners. We’ll work hard to try to stay on top of the leaderboard knowing too that last season I picked up the top prize in the Wise Guys handicapping contest with a 7-1 ATS finish and another winning season selecting two plays per week on Monday’s. That included the winning selection on a short year-end card with Clemson (+6) over Alabama in the Tigers trouncing of the Tide 44-16 to win the National Championship. Our other play in the final week was Los Angeles over Baltimore as the Chargers (+3) built a 23-3 fourth quarter lead and roasted the Ravens 23-17 for another outright underdog winner following our 35-19 ATS regular season.
My past history when I was formerly selling picks and documented at the Sports Monitor of Oklahoma City, I had a run of 8 straight winning and profitable NFL seasons while hitting better than 57% ATS on nearly 650 plays.
All said and success aside, I do this as a labor of love and to provide information and insight to assist others in their pursuit of profit. It’s always fun and more enjoyable to win and make money. But after last week’s results and brutal beats on a pair of painful college football games, the lessons learned include there are no sure things, even when you’re a 99% favorite to win in the final minute. Keep your emotions in check and enjoy the games. Approach each week with new energy and keep your focus on your path from tee to green. I hope you profit from the experience and get on my bag as we shoot for more birdies and try to avoid the hazards as we fire for more fairway’s and green this football season.
Week 1 in the NFL is always an interesting one as the lines have been posted by the bookmakers and leading online sportsbooks for more than three months. But in the final days before kickoff, the sportsbooks take the most bets and we see the most line movement. Fairway's Football Forecast can only advise that you do your best to shop and get the best lines, but also recognize that this exercise and underdog picks series is provided at the end of the week and some of the lines move against us. Sharps hitting underdogs can move lines off key numbers, like Carolina from +3 to +1.5 currently. Also, games that were pick 'em now find the Lions (-2.5) and Broncos (-2.5) now laying near a field goal on the road against two of the projected worst teams in the league in Arizona and Oakland. The line move on the Broncos was due to news that WR Antonio Brown could be suspended by the Raiders. I wouldn't bet on it, as coach Gruden knows his team has a better chance to win with Brown on the field and you'll likely see him playing Monday night with the fans in the Black Hole providing even more emotion on Browns debut and the Raiders final season in Oakland before moving to Las Vegas next season.
In the final analysis, what we provide is reality, with information, analysis and disclosure. Not some 'Hard Knocks' perception or Trump-type talk filled with crap or criticism. You'll get my thoughts and opinions, but you determine which games you like or agree with, and pull the trigger on a play, whether you decide to make an 8-iron bet, a little stronger swing with a 5-iron or pull the head cover off Big Bertha and let it rip. Money management is a discussion for another day, as is how and when to bet. I’m here to handicap the games, provide education, insight and analysis and try to chip-in added ATS info and more winners for you to enjoy and profit from my experience.
Like last year, our focus and picks will be on underdogs, with an occasional play of very slight favorites (-2 or less). That could be due to a line move, injury or info that triggers a play on a very slight favorite, but for this exercise, never more than a 2-point favorite. We only had a few last season, including the Eagles (-1.5) in Week 16 in a high-scoring close win as part of our 3-0 sweep and 6-0 ATS finish to the season.
I plan on providing up to four weekly underdog picks each week, but know there are situations and weekly cards that may dictate more or less (Week 17 less). Week 2 will likely see some over-reaction to Week 1 results and we note that there are seven projected home underdogs on the Week 2 look ahead lines from the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas and FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey. Check your preferred online sportsbooks for even more betting options, player props and in-game betting opportunities.
I’ve listed our plays with the point spread and money line, and add selected analysis each week knowing that time constraints may prevent a full analysis. I know you want the picks, but as an insightful analyzer, I spend time researching and try to provide added insight and analysis.
Competitively-priced NFL underdogs are those of 6-points or less. As noted with our 51-27 ATS record the last two years, 37 of those picks were outright underdog winners. Thus playing the point spread along with a smaller percentage of your wager on the money line is often a prudent play to increase your profits. Parlays for added profit is your choice, but would recommend few teams or at least some smaller wagers if you decide to go for a longshot like an 8-team parlay. The edge is significantly in the houses favor, and the leading online sportsbooks will welcome your business and thank you for it often by bonus offers and even cash-back year-end bonuses.
To kick off the 100th anniversary season of the NFL, I had an opinion on the Packers in their 10-3 defensive dominator win over the Bears in Chicago. Plenty other opinions will not win, but hopefully our Fairway Football Forecast plays will produce more winners than losers again this season.
NFL Week 1 underdog plays – Shop lines at the leading online sports books.
461 San Francisco (+1.5) at Tampa Bay – 49ers Money Line +100
471 Cincinnati (+9.5) at Seattle - Bengals Money Line +370
473 Indianapolis (+6.5) at LA Chargers – Colts Money line +245
479 Houston (+7) at New Orleans – Texans +240
NFL Week 1 situations and angles
Week 1 contrary situation is to play on non-playoff teams against opponents that made the playoffs last season. That situation has produced nearly 59% ATS winners over the past 16 years. All four of our Week 1 plays last season fit that parameter and our 2-2 result featured one outright underdog winner and a pair of ATS losses by 2 points or less.
In addition, Week 1 teams that had a worse record than their opponents the previous season are 163-111-12 ATS in week 1 the last 20 years. Add the Packers Thursday night winner over the Bears to that record. Both of those profiles and parameters fit the Packers in their 10-3 win over the Bears to kick off the 2019 season.
Get the best odds on NFL underdogs at Elite-Rated Bovada.lv. I pulled the Bills, as the +3's are now gone at a majority of the top online sportsbooks.
49ers - We see San Fran having a bounce back season following just 4 wins last year. Injuries, including to QB Jimmy Garoppolo early season derailed the 49ers. So did turnovers, which caused the 49ers to finish last in the league in turnover margin. Just in front of them? Tampa Bay. Expect a supremely focused first game for the 49ers, who I project to out-rush the Bucs by margin. Simple final analysis is right in front of you in black and white. The QB/Coach combo and play calling of Kyle Shanahan and QB Jimmy G is far superior to the Bucs Jameis Winston and new offensive coordinator Byron Leftowich, who is a full time OC for the first time and has been given the play-calling duties by new Bucs coach Bruce Arians. We like Ariens, and he had success in Arizona and implemented a downfield passing game. Winston has no excuses with some talented skill players around him. But the Bucs defense is likely deficient again. As the money comes in on Tampa at the leading online sportsbooks with wager percentages tracked by Sports Insights, we fade the line move and now add the 49ers to our teaser wagers as well (+7.5).
Bengals - If we're playing value and looking to buy low and sell high, then the Bengals need to be a bet in Week 1. While we don't yet have stat profiles and a full feel on teams entering the season, we do know that one of these teams is being over-valued and hyped (SEA) while the other is considered a down and out team entering the season. The Bengals defense will be improved, and the Seahawks simply lack enough talent and playmakers around Russell Wilson to be spotting this kind of price. Sure adding DE Clowney to the defense will add strength to the Seahawks defense. That's another reason this line could hit +10 by kickoff, and we'll gladly take that too. The Bengals offensive line is an issue, but so is Seattle's, and for a team that plans on running the ball plenty after leading the league in rushing last season, that could be an issue. Few are betting the Bengals in Week 1. Let's see if you have the balls in your bag to take a swing with Cincinnati, who finished last in the AFC North last season but fits both of the near 60% ATS Week 1 situations mentioned above.
Colts - No Andrew Luck following his abrupt retirement? Sure that's a significant issue, but the offensive line and talent still surrounding QB Jacoby Brissett is solid. The losses for the Chargers are of significant concern as well, as pro bowlers RB Melvin Gordon (holdout) and S Derwin James (foot) are both out. Little home field advantage, and yards project closely but the Chargers offensive line is a concern entering the season ranking near the bottom of Pro Football Focus offensive line rankings. Quarterback Philip Rivers did not play in the preseason, and that too is a bit of a concern after watching the Bears and Packers QB's performances while also skipping preseason play.
We’ll incorporate some ATS information into our analysis throughout the season, and both reference and reinforce stats in our analysis. That includes some of our rushing guidelines used along the way. It’s often the stronger teams on both offense and defense that hold an edge at the point of attack, and those teams are usually favorites. But the contrary nature and parity of the NFL levels the playing field when it comes to point spread prognosis, and we’ll try to uncover more underdogs with bite in our weekly pursuit of profit.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay