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 13 lines.
WEEK 12 RECAP
MISS: Total points under 45.0 - Philadelphia at Detroit @ 10/11
I expected to get some kind of reaction from the Eagles players after a humiliating loss at home to the Buccaneers; instead, they proceeded to give up 40+ points for the second week running. Amid all the Chip Kelly rumors swirling around this fading team, we have to keep things in perspective regarding their viability as a team to bet on. This team has the look of one that has given up on its coach and isn’t playing for each other; they are ripe for the picking in Foxborough this week.
HIT: Washington Redskins to beat New York Giants @ evens
My good friend is a big Giants fan. When I explained to him I would be backing the Redskins this week – a team he fervently denies can ever be a respectable squad – he questioned my sanity. Who looks like the sane one now? Looking back, this was an excellent spot for the Redskins, who are now 5-1 at home this season and just play differently in front of their fans. The Giants helped their cause by being inefficient, to put it kindly, on both sides of the ball. This division is wide open once again.
HIT: Minnesota (+2.5) at Atlanta @ 20/23
The line on this game fluctuated wildly as kickoff approached, going down to Minnesota +1 with some oddsmakers. If you took the points, you were laughing your way to the bank at the end of the day. The Falcons continue to disappoint and have shown very little to suggest they will be able to stop the rot. Adrian Peterson strengthened his Comeback Player of the Year case with a stellar performance capped by a killer touchdown run off left tackle to essentially put the dagger in. The Vikings are a team to be reckoned with; the Falcons, sadly for them, are not.
HIT: Away team total points – New Orleans under 23 points @ 4/5
This one seemed too easy, but sometimes the best bets are the most obvious ones. The Saints offense ran into a Houston buzzsaw on Sunday, with J.J. Watt once again showing how he can singlehandedly take over a game. Like the Eagles and Falcons, this Saints team has the look of a broken unit, hanging on by its fingertips for dear life as the season circles the drain. Meanwhile, the Texans are back to 6-5 and could be a very tricky out for any AFC team in the playoffs.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 26-21-1 (.541)
WEEK 13 PUNTS
Away team total points – Green Bay under 24 points @ 4/5
Apart from the terrific team performance against Minnesota a couple of weeks ago, we have seen very few signs of life from a stagnant Packers offense in a long time. Aaron Rodgers has been able to work his magic on occasion, but the lack of reliability in his receiving corps seems to have had a negative effect on his confidence. The Lions effectively neutered the Packers offense in Week 10 to the tune of 16 points; my bet is that they will do something similar in Ford Field on Thursday night. The Packers have responded well to adversity in the past, but these Detroit Lions look like a totally different team the past few weeks and will give Green Bay all they can handle.
Total points under 41.5 – Seattle at Minnesota @ 20/21
Minnesota have only gone over the total once in their 12 games, with one push. That means they have gone under the total nine times this season, and that trend should continue against a Seattle team that can keep it close to the vest. I say ‘can’ because the Seahawks have been forced out of their comfort zone on offense in recent weeks, covering up for the defense’s deficiencies by putting up 30+ points like it was routine. I don’t expect high-flying offense from these teams, whose styles are quite similar overall. In what could be a playoff preview, take the under.
Oakland Raiders to beat Kansas City @ 23/20
Much like I picked the Redskins to rise up at home last week, this week I am putting my faith in the Raiders to knock off their division rival and get back into the wildcard picture. You could argue the Raiders were never quite out of it, but a victory over the surging Chiefs would go a long way to securing that elusive playoff spot for the Silver and Black. The Chiefs have been extremely impressive in recent weeks, but they are due a letdown game and this could be it. The Bills showed that the Chiefs’ cornerbacks can be exploited; expect Derek Carr to test them early and often.
Tampa Bay (-2.5) vs. Atlanta @ evens
There is such a thing as going to the well one too many times against a team, but I simply can’t foresee a reversal in fortunes for the Falcons. The Buccaneers have been feisty in most games this season and I believe they have the better quarterback right now. This is a crucial game in the NFC wildcard race; the loser is likely going to be left on the outside looking in. Tampa Bay has already beaten Atlanta and will be looking to get a nice tiebreaker over them. I like the Bucs to win comfortably here.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
I am almost ready to admit defeat with this bet. The Bears shocked me with their victory in Lambeau Field, and a comfortable pair of home games against the 49ers and Redskins should get them over the hump and maybe even into playoff contention. Don’t count out John Fox’s team just yet. Final games: SF, WAS, @ MIN, @ TB, DET
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
Let this be a reminder to everyone never to bet on the Tennessee Titans. Not for anything. Ever. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way, as it seems the Titans simply cannot win a home game. If they can’t do that, their chances of reaching any respectable win total is basically nil. Final games: JAC, @ NYJ, @ NE, HOU, @ IND
I think we can safely file this one away as ‘It’s Adrian Peterson’s to lose’ at this point. The bullish back powered his team to another victory on Sunday as the Vikings continued their march to the postseason. The schedule down the stretch is far from easy for this team, but if Peterson can stay hot he will run away with this award.
Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 14’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.