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.
We’re approaching the playoffs, but there is still only one team officially eliminated: the Cleveland Browns. After Dallas’ improbable win on Monday night, the NFC East race is suddenly wide open again. Oddsmakers can sometimes be a little reactionary at this time of year, but there is always value to be had if you look closely enough.
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 14 lines.
WEEK 13 RECAP
MISS: Away team total points – Green Bay under 24 points @ 4/5
We all saw what happened in the dying seconds in Detroit. A Motown Miracle of sorts happened, as a rocket-armed Aaron Rodgers sent a prayer into the sky, only to have it answered by his namesake. While the play was exhilarating to watch – and actually ended up winning me money on another bet – I was devastated for you, my readers, who put your faith in me. Granted, this bet looked like a sure thing in the early stages; the Packers offense is simply not clicking. I would be willing to go back to the well on this one; a Hail Mary at the death is a fluke, not a trend.
MISS: Total points under 41.5 – Seattle at Minnesota @ 20/21
Well, well… the Seahawks have suddenly become relevant again after back-to-back statement victories over the Steelers and Vikings. This was a massacre from start to finish, made more difficult for the home team after stud defenders Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr had to leave the game through injury. This total broke the strong trend of Vikings unders, but few would have predicted such a blowout.
MISS: Oakland Raiders to beat Kansas City @ 23/20
Just when you think you’ve figured out the Raiders, they go and disappoint you again. I can only blame myself for putting too much faith in a team who quite clearly are not ready for primetime. And this wasn’t even a primetime game! But I digress. The point to take from this game is that the Chiefs, ladies and gentlemen, are a dangerous team in the AFC. Betting against them at this point, with the schedule they have down the stretch, would be foolish.
HIT: Tampa Bay (-2.5) vs. Atlanta @ evens
My only successful bet of the week was on the Bucs, who pulled out an impressive home victory over the flailing Falcons behind a strong defensive effort and the arm (and legs) of Jameis Winston. This is an ascending team with everything to play for entering the final four games, with three of those games very winnable indeed. The fourth, a road game in Carolina, could be the most crucial – especially if the Panthers are going for 16-0.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 27-24-1 (.519)
WEEK 14 PUNTS
Away team total points – Minnesota under 18.5 points at Arizona @ 10/11
Mike Zimmer has to light a fire under his players this week after that dismal display in front of their home fans. Seattle took them to the woodshed, to put it mildly. The Vikings now find themselves on the outside looking in as far as a first-round bye goes – and they may even have to face the Seahawks again. This week, they face a difficult test on the road at Arizona. The Cardinals have been outstanding at home defensively, only giving up more than 19 points once this year (versus Cincinnati). This is an aggressive defense that will test the Vikings’ at-times vulnerable offensive line. The Cardinals have enough to take away Adrian Peterson and force the Vikings out of their comfort zone.
Home team total points – Tampa Bay over 27.5 points vs. New Orleans @ 10/11
To me, this total is disrespectful to any offense on the planet facing the Saints. Reaching 28 points should be the bare minimum Tampa Bay expects. This Saints defense is on pace to give up a record number of touchdown passes, and Jameis Winston could have himself a day if he can play smart and limit turnovers. The Bucs should feast on the Saints cornerbacks, who give up penalties like they’re going out of fashion. Grab this bet before the total rises to the key number of 28.
San Francisco 49ers to beat Cleveland Browns @ evens
The Johnny Manziel hype has set in, making this game more even than it should be. Yes, the 49ers are not a ‘good’ team, but I believe they have more talent than the Browns. A malaise is surrounding this Cleveland franchise right now; I get the feeling Mike Pettine is being strong-armed by the owner to insert Manziel, even though it goes against everything he believes in as a coach. That is just a toxic situation to work in, and I can see it spilling onto the field, infecting everything it touches. Manziel may produce some excitement, but I like the Niners to get another road win here. At evens, this is an excellent punt to take.
New England (-3) at Houston @ 20/23
You lose a couple of games and suddenly the respect has just evaporated? This is a massively reactionary line if I’ve ever seen one. The Patriots have a good recipe to beat the Texans – a quick passing attack. J.J. Watt was nullified by Buffalo last week; expect Bill Belichick to deploy several blockers for the all-world defensive end. Tom Brady may take his share of hits, but it would take a lot for the Patriots to lose three in a row; get on this bet before it rises to four.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
A blown coverage in overtime was the difference against the 49ers, an uncharacteristic error from the Bears considering their recent defensive performances. The home stretch for this 5-7 team looks generous enough, but if I had to put money on it right now I would predict this bet turning into a push. Final games: WAS, @ MIN, @ TB, DET
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
This bet was given new life after the Titans defeated the Jaguars to record their first home win in a long time, but the next few games could be a horror show for this young team. They face tough trips to the east coast to face probable playoff teams before hosting what could be a desperate Houston team and finishing at Indianapolis. Reaching six wins is just not going to happen. Final games: @ NYJ, @ NE, HOU, @ IND
Has Sam Bradford vaulted himself back into this discussion after he pulled out a credible performance to beat the Patriots on the road? Unlikely, but he at least put himself back in the picture. Adrian Peterson still reigns supreme, but the disappointing showing at home against Seattle will not do his chances any good.
Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 15’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.