As sports gambling becomes more mainstream, more and more people are looking for insight on what games to bet on and what lines to take. One approach is to look at the ‘popular’ lines, where people follow the crowd and bet on the games that everyone else is betting. This ‘Go with the Flow’ mentality can provide a sense of security because if a lot of other people are doing it, there must be something there.
But sometimes the public can have it wrong. Sometimes the flow of the water actually leads to a waterfall. Sometimes, it’s better to go against the flow – or maybe even avoid the flow completely. In this series, we’ll look at some of those situations, and give you our thoughts behind why it might be good to fade the public trend, and look for other opportunities.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT CLEVELAND BROWNS
Public Trend – 62% of the public bets favor Pittsburgh
The Steelers are one of the NFL’s most popular teams. No matter where they go, there are always plenty of Steeler fans in the crowd. They were 13-3 last season, 7-1 on the road and 6-0 in their division. Marquee players like Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown have been first round picks in many fantasy drafts and even casual NFL fans know ‘Big Ben Roethlisberger’. They are facing Cleveland, a team that went 0-16 last year, averaging just over 14 points per game compared to the Steelers who averaged more than 25. The Cleveland offense is completely rebuilt and key starters Tyrod Taylor, Carlos Hyde and Jarvis Landry were on different teams last season.
Why you may want to fade the trend.
By now, you’ve probably heard that the Steelers will probably be without Le’Veon Bell for this game. Bell’s contract dispute has escalated into a public standoff and even Bell’s teammates are now questioning his commitment to the team. It’s been a huge distraction and will overshadow the game this weekend. Backup James Conner has just 32 regular season carries for his career and he’s facing a tough Cleveland run defense that allowed just 3.35 yards per carry in 2017. The Browns are out to prove that they are not the same 0-16 team from last year. Their big offensive changes have been major upgrades at most positions. They are playing at home with something to prove against a division rival who has basically treated them like a doormat for the last several years. The weather forecast for the game calls for 18 MPH winds and light, steady rain for most of the game, with temperatures in the 60s.
The Vegas line opened at +6.5 in favor of Pittsburgh but has moved down to 4. The over-under has also dropped from 47 to 44. There’s still a ton of love going Pittsburgh’s way, but do not be surprised if the Browns come out fired up and break their losing streak against a distracted Steeler team in a low-scoring, lousy-weather opener.
CINCINNATTI BENGALS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Public Trend – 62% of the public bets favor Cincinnati
The Bengals have had a nice pre-season, and their wide receiver corps has emerged as a decent group. Second-year man John Ross and third-year man Tylor Boyd finally look like complementary receivers to standout A.J. Green. Joe Mixon was trending upward at the end of last season and has looked even better during training camps. The Indy defense was terrible last season, allowing over 25 points per game. They have done little to improve over the summer, and their linebackers and secondary are extremely suspect. Their offense lacks talent with guys like Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers and Marlon Mack being average guys who have little upside. The Indianapolis offensive line is still a work in progress and will have two rookie linemen against a stingy Cincinnati defense. The Colts are the favorite in the game, and many people are taking the Bengals and the points.
Why you may want to fade the trend.
Andrew Luck has surprised a lot of people this summer when many people had written him off. He’ll be a welcome sight to a home crowd that is anxious to forget Jacoby Brissett’s pedestrian performance of 2017. This was Luck’s team before he went down to injury, and he’s worked hard to make it back. He and T.Y. Hilton will connect early and often in this game. The Colts will return to their familiar two tight end sets with Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron providing Luck with all the weapons that he needs. On the other side of the ball, Andy Dalton is coming off a terrible season, where he averaged just 6.69 yards per attempt and had his lowest completion percentage (59.9) since his rookie season. All the receiving talent in the world won’t help if he can’t complete a pass.
The Vegas line opened with the Colts being a slight favorite at -1.5 but has moved all the way to -3 on some sites. Most people expect this to be a close game, which favors the Bengals because of the points. But if the Colts can get out to an early lead and ride the home crowd advantage, they could cruise to victory against a Bengal team that was just 3-5 on the road last season.
TENNESSEE TITANS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS
Public Trend – 63% of the public bets favor Tennessee
There isn't a lot to love about Miami this year and most football fans are down on them. Ryan Tannehill returns but he's never been a fan favorite. Jarvis Landry is gone, leaving the Dolphins with DeVante Parker (who is already out for week 1 due to a broken finger), Kenny Stills (who is getting zero love), Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson (both new to the offense) and rookie tight end Mike Gesicki. The Dolphins were only 4-4 at home last season, and their defense gave up more than 24 points per game. The Titans have a solid defense and are coming off a decent 9-7 season last year. New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will bring his spread and play-action style to a team that averaged less than 21 points per game. Marcus Mariota should improve with second-year man Corey Davis looking to make a big leap and veterans Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker continuing to bring solid if unspectacular veteran presence. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis provide a nice one-two punch when it comes to running the ball, and the Dolphins have a lot of question marks on defense, with their linebackers being extremely suspect.
Why you may want to fade the trend.
The Titans have a new head coach in Mike Vrabel, known for his defensive skills in Houston, but can he get the offense moving? Despite their 9-7 record, the Titans still had -22 in net points scored vs. net points allowed last year. There were also 3-5 on the road. Miami head coach Adam Gase has done wonders with players who have average talent, and he should have Ryan Tannehill ready to post some of the best stats he's ever had. Kenny Stills is underrated and had a decent season (847 yards receiving and 6 TDS) with guys like un-retired Jay Cutler and Matt Moore throwing him the ball. Tannehill is actually an improvement to the Miami offense. Kenyan Drake has also looked solid this summer and will provide an extra spark for the offense this week. The Titans have not looked good in the pre-season, averaging just 10 points a game while giving up an AFC-worst 22.5 points per game.
The Vegas line opened with Titans as a 2.5 point favorite but has dropped to just 1 despite the announcement that Parker won't be playing for the Dolphins. The weather should be hot and humid, with a slight chance of rain. With the game expected to be close, it's possible that Gase and the home crowd can rally the Dolphins to an upset win.
* graphics and numbers are from covers.com.