I don’t claim to be an expert at betting football games.
After all, gambling is, by definition, a bit of a toss-up. If you manage to come out of a season with anywhere around 55% of your bets earning a profit, you can afford to pat yourself on the back. Getting to that point is the hard part, but my aim is to help you do that across a season with some under the radar wagers.
What gambling on football does allow us to do is have a little bit of fun with games we might not normally be interested in. While wagering on the spread and total points is the norm, your best bet might be to eschew these and go with more unconventional options.
There is clear separation now between good teams and bad teams, with the exception of a few fairly uneven squads who can impress and disappoint all in one game. Oddsmakers are wise to this, so we have to be extra careful in placing our bets. Staying clear of the handicap betting is a good option, so veering towards unusual bets like home/away team total points, field goal length and others can be fruitful.
Even so, there are always cracks in the foundation that can be exploited, so let’s see what we can glean from the early Week 10 lines.
WEEK 9 RECAP
HIT: St Louis at Minnesota – under 40.5 points @ 10/11
These teams’ identities are well-defined at this stage of the season, and both showed their true colours in a slugfest on Sunday. With the injury to Teddy Bridgewater, any chance of this game going over the total was snuffed out. The Vikings have an under percentage of 87.5 – they have only gone over the total once in their eight games, while the Rams are 2-6 against the total and are a great bet as an under team.
MISS: Green Bay (-2) at Carolina @ 10/11
All the trends suggested this would be a return to winning ways for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers: Rodgers 14-0 in his career coming off losses, not having lost back to back games since 2011 and Ron Rivera’s team generally underperforming coming off a Monday night contest. Despite all this, a valiant effort from the Panthers defense and a feeble effort from Green Bay’s defense saw the home team squeak by at the death. This line was skewed from the get-go; as we all know, Vegas defers to the Packers when possible. Perhaps it is about time the Panthers are afforded more respect by the powers that be.
MISS: Away team total points – Oakland under 22.5 @ 5/6
My logic behind this pick was that Oakland was travelling across country for an early kick-off and that Pittsburgh’s defense had stepped up their performance levels at Heinz Field of late. What I didn’t consider was just how mature and confident this Raiders team is; this team has undergone a dramatic change, and it is time we all took them seriously. Oakland should get used to this kind of game script, although they won’t face a juggernaut offense like this every week.
MISS: Longest successful field goal – Robbie Gould (Chicago) at San Diego @ evens
Another devastating kick in the nether regions from Robbie Gould, who managed to shank two field goals – normally automatic for a kicker of his calibre – in the win over San Diego. Fortunately for the Bears the misses didn’t matter, but these kicker bets are really starting to wear on me. It may be about time to look elsewhere for profits – or just stick with the old reliable Stephen Gostkowski.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 20-15-1 (.555)
WEEK 10 PUNTS
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets – total points OVER 42.5 @ 10/11
The trends heavily lean towards the over here, and at just 42.5 points this one looks like a very nice way to start the week off right. The total has gone over in five of Buffalo's last five games when playing on the road against the Jets. Also, the total has gone over in five of NY Jets's last five games when playing at home against Buffalo. This total seems to indicate the faith the oddsmakers have in both defenses to thrive, but I am not so sure they deserve all that credit. Both have shown weaknesses and had their down games, and neither offense is a pushover. The number (42.5) just seems too low right now; jump on it before it rises.
Baltimore Ravens (-5.5) vs. Jacksonville @ 10/11
I generally stay away from spread betting, as the number of people betting on them means the numbers are more accurate and therefore harder to take advantage of. However, this one stuck out to me as strange. Have we really lost that much faith in the Ravens that we won’t trust them to beat the Jaguars by at least six points at home? The inimitable Ross Tucker, who hosts his own podcast and is a former NFL player, has a whimsical way of looking at the Jags, saying JAGS stands for ‘Just Another Good Showing’. This team has shown promise, but they are not there yet. Baltimore should be able to get this victory at home off a bye.
Away team total points – Detroit Lions over 17 points at Green Bay @ 10/11
With the shake-up in the front office, will the rested Lions be able to muster at least a credible effort at Lambeau Field? I’m not so sure, but to set the total points at just 17 seems a little low. Maybe Vegas oddsmakers have been ignoring the Packers defensive struggles, but they are very much out in the open now. I refuse to believe the Lions, even with their pitiful offensive efforts of late, won’t reach the 17-point mark at a minimum.
Longest successful field goal – Dan Bailey (Dallas) at Tampa Bay @ 10/11
Save us Dan Bailey, you’re our only hope. The Dallas Cowboys kicker hasn’t missed a kick all year and should be a shoo-in (no pun intended) for points this week against a leaky Tampa Bay defense. The Cowboys seemingly can’t get out of their own way in their search for that elusive victory that might – maybe – keep their fragile playoff hopes alive. Bailey should be afforded a handful of opportunities to pad his already impressive resumé in sunny Florida.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
The 3-5 Bears produced a gutsy display on Monday night on the road to break San Diego hearts, but simultaneously restore some pride for Bear Nation. I say this every week, but John Fox deserves a ton of credit for turning this ship around. It looked hopeless early on, but this team has not quit. A tough three-game stretch awaits, but home games against San Francisco and Washington could officially make me nervous as far as this bet goes. Next five games: @ STL, DEN, @ GB, SF, WAS
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
The Titans produced a magnificent road victory in New Orleans to go to 2-6 on the season and breathe new life into this bet. Marcus Mariota’s return made a difference, but the Saints defense was not exactly stingy. Yes, the Titans got a big break with that Delanie Walker tipped ball touchdown, but you have to take your luck when you get it. A tricky game with Carolina is followed by a friendly three-game stretch that could get the Titans to the cusp of reach that key total of six wins. Next five games: CAR, @ JAC, OAK, @ JAC, @ NYJ
An impressive overtime win in Dallas punctuated by a pinpoint throw from Sam Bradford to Jordan Matthews did not harm the quarterback’s chances of sealing this award, but it is clear that Adrian Peterson has simply been more consistent and should be in prime position to secure this award.
Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 11’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter