Identifying Value and NFL Underdogs with Bite
We split last week on these pages going 2-2 with an outright underdog winner on the Raiders Monday night as money came in game day on Las Vegas in their debut in Sin City. A number of leading online sportsbooks closed the Saints a 4-point favorite, but 10 penalties for a week-high 129 yards proved costly in a 34-24 loss to the Raiders. The Chargers (+8.5) were a wire-to-wire ATS underdog winner, but Los Angeles let the game get away late and lost in overtime to AFC West rival Kansas City 23-20. The Chargers rusher for 183 yards on 44 carries, which I noted in the Week 2 analysis that their ability to run the ball would provide real confidence in supporting them as 'Dogs, and LA also had 10 more minutes in possession time on offense in a tough SU loss but easy ATS win.
Running to Profits
Identifying line of scrimmage strengths and weaknesses and determining which team will have more success controlling the ball, clock, chains and trenches in a weekly match-up will assist you in picking and betting more winners. In Week 2, teams that rushed for at least 150 yards went 8-2 SU and 9-1 ATS, and for the season those teams are 14-2 SU and 14-1-1 ATS. In fact, teams that outrush their opponents by at least 30 yards in a game are 16-2 SU and 15-3 ATS this season. This is a longteam nearly 75% ATS situation covering nearly two decades of data (I have kept it in a proprietary database). Also, teams that run the ball at least 30 times in a game went 10-1 SU and 8-3 ATS in Week 2 and are now 22-1 SU and 18-4-1 ATS. There are a few games where both teams rushed the ball at least 30 times, and those results are not included, but it's pretty rare throughout the season yet both Dallas (31) and Atlanta (34) did last week in the Cowboys wild and miraculous 40-39 non-covering win. What's notable is that all but one of those teams with 30+ rushing attempts in Week 2 had the time of possession advantage, and many of them a significant TOP edge, like the Raiders Monday hight (36 minutes to 24 minutes and 76 offensive plays for LV to 57 for the Saints).
We'll discuss more strategies and handicapping insights throughout the season, but hopefully some of this information can be applied as you evaluate the stats, match-ups and late week injury reports to better assist you in identifying more winners. Situational analysis and scheduling applies as well, which is why you see some teams not perform up to expectations or statistical averages as they suffer letdowns, which as betting favorites often causes bettors being letdown and feeling frustrated with the results.
Record Scoring and Favorites Dominate Week 2 Results
Week 2 had just two underdogs win outright, and we had one of them with the Raiders. Sunday was a bloodbath for most online sportsbooks that took moneyline wagers on favorites. On Sunday, favorites went 13-1 SU. For the week, favorites were 14-2 SU. But the point spread was the great equalizer as favorites went 7-9 ATS.
Record Week 2 scoring saw 16 teams score at least 30 points and games averaged 53.3 points per game. Totals are 20 overs and 12 unders heading into Week 3, but the Thursday night game stayed under the total in Miami's (+3) 31-13 outright win at Jacksonville. You guessed it, the Dolphins controlled the ball, clock (34-26 TOP) and chains and had zero turnovers while rushing 36 times for 138 yards to 17-for-72 for the Jaguars. Jacksonville was forced out of their game plan a bit and that's also where quarterback's with proven ability and passing skills comes into play when needing to rally.
Week 2 Picks and Analysis
Some market moves, changes in lines and injuries are impacting Week 3 games, as is the case most weeks. But monitor all the injuries and note especially the 49er's laundry list and key players missing in their game at New York. Last week's lookahead line was San Francisco -7, and now it's -3.5. We won't add the Giants below, as the best line is gone, but there are other ways to include in teasers, first half, and in-play betting as you see which players actually make post and play and note the game flow and conditions impacting the contest. Also, Tampa Bay is now laying 5.5 or 6 points at Denver and the offseason line on Tampa Bay was -3. The Broncos injuries include QB Lock, so Driskell starts and he's without WR Sutton. The Broncos were of interest but we'll pass on these pages and sit out with the injuries to sort through. Should you play, Bovada has the best line on the Broncos (+6).
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481 Detroit (+6) at Arizona – Lions Moneyline +215
485 Dallas (+5) at Seattle - Cowboys Moneyline +195
Detroit at Arizona
Some sportsbooks like Bovada are offering the Lions plus-6 points, while others are down to Cardinals -5.5. While many players in the league are going down with injuries, we could see a coaching casualty in Detroit if Matt Patricia doesn't' get the Lions to start winning. In week 1 last year, the Lions blew a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter and lost to the Cardinals. Now this year, an opening week complete meltdown (again) led to a loss to the Bears. Last week Detroit led GB 14-3 only to allow the Packers to score the next 31 points in a 42-21 defeat.
Arizona is flying high at 2-0 and really balanced the attack against weak Washington last Sunday. The Cardinals confidence is soaring and so is the up-tempo offense under QB Kyler Murray. Arizona has averaged 75 players per game through two contests to rank No. 2 in the league. Concern for the Lions is the Cardinals spread offense and Murray's ability to extend plays and run so well himself. The Cardinals defense is still average and the yards-per-play and passing defense numbers will be tested this week for the first time by a very capable quarterback in Matthew Stafford. The Lions look like they will get a few offensive linemen back this week and WR Kenny Galloday is set to return for his 2020 debut. Galloday led the league in deep threat targets last season and Stafford will attack the Cardinals safeties likely with success. At some leading online sportsbooks, the Cardinals are taking 90 percent of the bets and money in this game. The sportsbooks will need the Lions, and Arizona will be a popular teaser and moneyline bet as well.
Dallas at Seattle
Both teams escaped with high-scoring wins last week, and each offense is among the early season leaders with QB's Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson leading the way. The Cowboys are average 475 YPG on offense which is 70 yards per game more than Seattle, but Russell Wilson's sensational play and efficiency has the Seahawks offense humming at 6.9 yards per play to rank No. 2 in the league. But Seattle's defense has been a sieve so far, allowing a league worst 485 yards per game and 75 plays per game to opposing offenses at 6.6 yards per play to rank No. 30 in the league. Seattle's defense has gotten worse each season since the Seahawks hired Ken Norton Jr. as its defensive coordinator in 2018 after the Raiders unloaded him.
The Cowboys defense is allowing 5.6 yards per play, and Dallas holds a 0.8 to 0.3 net yards per play advantage over the Seahawks. Last week's remarkable Cowboys comeback was in part due to a 3-0 turnover deficit that put them in a hole. Dallas trailed 20-0 after the first quarter. But the Cowboys still held Atlanta and QB Matt Ryan to 5.3 yards per play and 370 yards while piling up 570 yards themselves at 7.0 yards per play. The Seahawks allowed the Falcons to rack up 506 yards at 6.6 yards per play in Week 1 with most of it passing as Atlanta kept shooting themselves in the foot. No 12th man for the Seahawks without their loud hometown fans in the stands, and the Cowboys offense can win a shootout again as the total is 56.5.
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FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and betting analyst, 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