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 11 lines.
WEEK 10 RECAP
MISS: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets – total points OVER 42.5 @ 10/11
The trends heavily leaned towards the over here, and were it not for some questionable fourth-down playcalling by the Jets we may have been able to cash in with room to spare. That wasn’t to be, but the logic behind the bet was sound. Falling just four points short hurts, but you have to go back to the well with these ones.
MISS: Baltimore Ravens (-5.5) vs. Jacksonville @ 10/11
I am officially done trusting the Baltimore Ravens. Credit has to go to Jacksonville at the same time; I couldn’t help but smile as Gus Bradley and his jubilant players flooded the field post-game, elation and relief written all over their faces. Almost every Ravens game this season has been decided by a touchdown margin, so perhaps laying points here was a fool’s errand. Lesson learned.
HIT: Away team total points – Detroit Lions over 17 points at Green Bay @ 10/11
Coming into the week, most wondered if the Lions would be able to even stay close to the vaunted Packers on the hallowed turf of Lambeau Field. They did that and then some, recording an improbable 18-16 victory and sending the Packers into a tailspin. My logic for this bet was based on the porous Green Bay defense, but they stood up for the most part. It was the offense’s inability to execute that gave the Lions the opportunity to reach the all-important 18 points. A narrow victory, but one to savour if you made this wager.
HIT: Longest successful field goal – Dan Bailey (Dallas) at Tampa Bay @ 10/11
Finally, a kicker came up trumps for me! After a series of failed kicker bets, reliable Dan Bailey put his best foot forward. His 53-yard field goal in a six-point effort from the Cowboys was enough, but the Bucs also had a 52 -yard field goal, making this a little too close for comfort. Still, we’ll take a win any way it comes.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 22-17-1 (.555)
WEEK 11 PUNTS
Away team total points – Green Bay under 23 points at Minnesota @ 5/6
Aaron Rodgers may not have the luxury of simply shrugging this three-game slump off by telling Packer Nation to R- E-L-A-X. This is officially a big problem, and the last team they would want to be facing this week to climb out of the hole is the Minnesota Vikings. Mike Zimmer’s squad, now 7-2, has the look of a savvy team that knows their strengths and sticks to their formula. The Vikings defense has allowed only one opponent to exceed 20 points this season; if they keep this up, they will be a tough out for anyone in the playoffs. With how much the Packers offense has struggled, this might look like a good bet for a bounce back, but I’m deferring to the better defense here.
Longest successful field goal – Stephen Gostkowski (New England) v Buffalo @ 4/6
Stephen Gostkowski’s heroics at the death against the Giants further cemented his legacy as perhaps one of the greatest kickers of our generation. I don’t usually talk about kickers in such reverential terms, but ones like Gostkowski deserve credit for their continued excellence in the face of pressure. The Patriots offense lost a key piece in Julian Edelman (foot), so we may not see them as crisp and efficient as usual. As Tom Brady himself admitted, there isn’t any one player who can do what Edelman did. Gostkowski should be afforded opportunities in what could be a low-scoring affair.
Washington (+7.5) at Carolina @ 4/5
Surveying the early Week 11 lines, this one stood out as being a little high to me. The possibility of a back-door cover is tempting; after all, the Redskins offense has the players to be productive, even against a stingy defense like Carolina. Jump on this before it goes back to seven points and watch as the Panthers come out 31-24 winners with a late Kirk Cousins touchdown covering the spread.
Total points under 47.5 – Indianapolis at Atlanta @ 10/11
Atlanta, despite the popular opinion that they have a juggernaut offense, has gone under the total in five or their last six home games. Things have slowed down considerably for this team, who appeared to be feeding off adrenalin and not necessarily thriving due to their talent in the early stages of the season. The Colts come off a bye with Matthew Hasselbeck under center, so expect plenty of short, quick passes and more changes of possession. The Colts defense is fiery and can stifle Atlanta enough to keep this below the total.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
The Bears continue to impress, and I was even on their bandwagon this week in St Louis, picking them to pull off the upset. A 37-point outing in any road game is impressive; in St Louis even more so. Jay Cutler seems to have found an offense he can operate smoothly in, and the defense is growing before our eyes. Denver will start Brock Osweiler on Sunday, so don’t rule out another Chicago victory. This bet is in serious peril. Next five games: DEN, @ GB, SF, WAS, @ MIN
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
The 2-7 Titans travel to Jacksonville this Thursday night. I have already jumped all over the Jags laying 2.5 points, such is my lack of faith in the visitors’ ability to pull off an upset. Tennessee needs four more wins to bring this bet home, but I’m not confident they will get there. A home game against Jacksonville could be a win, but their schedule looks unkind down the stretch, pockmarked though it may be with AFC South opponents. Next five games: @ JAC, OAK, JAC, @ NYJ, @ NE
A concussion and sprain to his non-throwing shoulder’s AC joint essentially rules Sam Bradford out of this race. Quarterbacks tend to get the benefit of the doubt, but how can you overlook what Adrian Peterson is doing? He looks spry, quick and he produced yet another long touchdown dash last week to add to his already impressive Comeback Player of the Year resumé.
Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 12’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter