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 12 lines.
WEEK 11 RECAP
MISS: Away team total points – Green Bay under 23 points at Minnesota @ 5/6
My reasoning for this pick was purely based on past trends, namely that the Vikings defense had given up more than 20 points only once all season and that the Packers offense had looked putrid in recent weeks. I have learned the hard way that sometimes betting on the trend to reverse – with no logical reason to back up why it might change – is the prudent option. A few bounces of the ball went against the Vikings, but the strength of the Packers front four really took a toll on an overmatched Minnesota offensive line. Aaron Rodgers made enough inspired plays outside the pocket to put the dagger in.
MISS: Longest successful field goal – Stephen Gostkowski (New England) v Buffalo @ 4/6
For the first time in what feels like forever, Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal. Granted, it was a 54-yard attempt and not many kickers would have been able to stick it through the uprights in the windy conditions at Foxborough, but it is a kick to the crotch as far as my kicker bets go. While these bets often offer decent returns, you can only go to the well so many times before you run out of water.
MISS: Washington (+7.5) at Carolina @ 4/5
Wow, I was way off on this one – and I’m a Panthers fan, in the interest of full disclosure. I seriously thought we would see a more fiery Redskins team, but Carolina’s tried and trusted formula – and a stellar team effort – really sucked the life out of the vapid NFC East team. Looking ahead, it is interesting that the Dallas Cowboys were initially made slight favourites against the 10-0 Panthers on Thanksgiving, prompting head coach Ron Rivera to say it was a little ‘disrespectful’. Lesson learned here, though: don’t trust the Redskins on the road.
HIT: Total points under 47.5 – Indianapolis at Atlanta @ 10/11
Thanks to a big assist from Matt Ryan, the Colts managed to squeak out a precious road win in Atlanta. The Georgia Dome used to be one of the most intimidating venues in the league to visit; now it is just a place with no fear factor. The trends suggested the total would go under here, and that proved to be the case. Betting against Atlanta at home could become a fixture of my rest-of-season wagers.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 23-20-1 (.522)
WEEK 12 PUNTS
Total points under 45.0 - Philadelphia at Detroit @ 10/11
The Eagles, despite their reputation of boasting a high-flying offense, have gone under the total in seven of their 10 games this season. Chip Kelly’s team will likely be marching out Mark Sanchez at quarterback again on Thanksgiving, but on a short week it will be a lot to ask to install a complex game plan. After all, what the Eagles do is not complex in the grand scheme of offensive schemes; it is simply run at a tempo that tires defenses and forces them to make mistakes. The Lions have been on a mission ever since owner Martha Ford lit a fire under them following their dismal start. Detroit’s defense should be able to do enough to keep this early Thanksgiving clash to under the total.
Washington Redskins to beat New York Giants @ evens
That’s right, you did not misread it. I am predicting a victory for the Washington Redskins, even after the debacle last week against Carolina. Picking up what I touched on earlier in the column about trends, this appears to be a perfect spot to back the Redskins for a bounce back performance. Everything in your being might be telling you there is no way the Giants, off a bye, will lose this, but look at the difference between the Redskins’ road and home performances. This is one the home team needs to keep their slim playoff hopes alive; I believe they get the job done.
Minnesota (+2.5) at Atlanta @ 20/23
The Georgia’s Dome mystique has officially evaporated, as I touched on above. The Falcons are headed the wrong way, but this appears to be a nice spot for them to bounce back. Minnesota getting only 2.5 points as opposed to the key number of 3 gives me pause, but on a neutral site the Vikings would take care of the Falcons six out of 10 times. The Falcons lack a pass rush, which plays into the hands of the road team, who have struggled to protect Teddy Bridgewater at times. Behind a strong effort from the defense and Adrian Peterson, expect the Vikings to get the win here.
Away team total points – New Orleans under 23 points @ 4/5
Don’t look now, but the Texans defense is playing much better football and has re-established itself as one of the premiere units in the league. The play of Jadeveon Clowney in particular has been very encouraging, while J.J. Watt has been his usual unstoppable self. The 5-5 Texans need to keep up the momentum to match the Colts and possibly secure an improbable division title. The Saints, meanwhile, find themselves six games off the pace and there is the feeling that the players might start to check out if things go south in this game.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
The 4-6 Bears were unlucky to come out losers against the Broncos, but the better team got the victory. The home stretch for John Fox’s team features three division games, two of which are on the road. Home games against San Francisco and Washington look like wins, but this bet may come down to the last week against Detroit. Next six games: @ GB, SF, WAS, @ MIN, @ TB, DET
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
The 2-8 Titans do not look like they will be able to reach the all-important six wins. The loss to Jacksonville last Thursday kind of summed this team’s trajectory up; as soon as they appear to be on the rise, something conspires to take them into a tailspin again. The final games of the season all look tough against playoff calibre opposition (except Jacksonville), so I think we can safely say this bet is done and dusted. Next six games: OAK, JAC, @ NYJ, @ NE, HOU, @ IND
Do I even need to list Sam Bradford’s name anymore? Despite the costly fumble against the Packers, it seems to me Adrian Peterson is a near lock to secure this award. A tasty game against the Falcons should give Peterson plenty of opportunities to add to his already impressive rushing total.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 13’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.