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.
With some teams all but out of the race for the Lombardi, we will see some unusual lines in the coming weeks. Vegas will anticipate teams ‘mailing it in’, opening the door for their opponents to put up big scores. There is also the coaching angle to consider; which coaches will be able to keep their players’ attention despite a dead season?
Let’s have a look through the Week 15 bets after recapping last week’s horror show.
WEEK 14 RECAP
MISS: Away team total points – Minnesota under 18.5 points at Arizona @ 10/11
Not many would have predicted such a valiant effort from the Vikings, but they only managed to reach the key number of 20 points to squeak out this bet. If it wasn’t for key turnovers, they could have scored more. Arizona’s aggressive defensive scheme gives offenses a chance for big gains after the catch if they can execute in the short passing game. This one was a bad break for gamblers who took the under, but the logic was along the right lines.
MISS: Home team total points – Tampa Bay over 27.5 points vs. New Orleans @ 10/11
The Saints put on a show in Tampa to salvage some pride and effectively knock the surging Bucs out of playoff contention. Perhaps the Saints players have been reading the bad press they have been getting defensively, because they put up a solid effort against Jameis Winston and company. I still think – in the right match-ups – that this is a bet worth coming back to.
MISS: San Francisco 49ers to beat Cleveland Browns @ evens
Some of the 49ers players admitted that this was a poor effort and they did not anticipate putting up such a stinker. With the early body clock game for the West Coast team, this result was somewhat predictable, but to lose to the Browns by such a margin is, quite frankly, unforgivable. These teams are both headed in the wrong direction, and I have learned my lesson about throwing money away on bad teams.
HIT: New England (-3) at Houston @ 20/23
This line went as high as five points prior to kickoff, and it proved to be a smart move if you jumped on it early. In the end, the points spread did not matter: the Patriots flexed their muscles in prime time and showed why they, and not the Broncos or Bengals, should be considered the favourites in the AFC. If you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 28-27-1 (.500)
WEEK 15 PUNTS
Total points UNDER 49.0 – Atlanta at Jacksonville @ 10/11
These teams are polar opposites as far as over/under covers; Atlanta are the worst over team in the league with a record of 2-10-1 against the total, while Jacksonville are the best over team at 9-4. The Jaguars are still in with a shot of winning their division, although it is a long one. Traditionally trusting them to pile on the points against any opponent is a risk, but their offense is in high gear and should give Atlanta problems. We have to expect a reaction from the road team after their drubbing at the hands of the Carolina Panthers, but to predict a complete turnaround would be unrealistic. The total is set at a manageable 49 points, but with Atlanta struggling as they are, I am recommending going under here.
Away team total points – New York Jets over 23 at Dallas @ 10/11
The Dallas Cowboys offense has the look of a tortoise unable to get up after being turned over, pointlessly flailing and crying for help. Every so often it appears the tortoise has turned over and will be fine, but then gravity quickly douses the flames of optimism. A game effort in Green Bay has to be commended, but we all know that Matt Cassel simply can’t deliver at this level anymore. That should mean plenty of opportunities for the ascending Jets offense that has provided more than enough points for this team to win games. Reaching the key total of 24 points should be very attainable.
Washington Redskins (+1) vs. Buffalo @ 10/11
The Redskins have only lost one home game all season – the wild Monday night game against Dallas – and yet they are giving points to the Bills? This one puzzles me slightly, but I can see why Vegas struggled with the line. The Bills are coming off a heartbreaking loss in Philadelphia that all but rules them out of playoff contention. The Redskins, meanwhile, have it all to gain – and it all to lose. If Jay Gruden’s team wins out, they should be able to punch their playoff tickets. By no means an easy game, Buffalo should provide a game effort, but I wonder how fired up they will be after the deflating loss last week. Take the ‘Skins and the points.
Longest successful field goal – Justin Tucker (Baltimore) vs. Kansas City @ 6/5
The Ravens kicker has attempted a staggering 35 field goals this season, missing only seven for an 80% overall record. For a team who has attempted their fair share of 50+ yard kicks, that is not bad. This game is all about pride for the home team, who know their season is over. Tucker is dependable for at least two field goal attempts per game, and he should see a long shot come his way against a stingy Chiefs defense. Weather will not be a factor, with light winds and sunny conditions. This may be my last kicker bet this season; let’s make it a good one.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
This bet looked dead in the water just two weeks ago, but consecutive defeats in winnable home games have left the Bears well and truly out of the playoff race. The mid-season stretch is something to cling on to for the Bears fans, but the last two were both either/or contests that they could have won. The upcoming stretch looks tricky though; this bet may yet have some life in it. Final games: @ MIN, @ TB, DET
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
Expecting the Titans to win their final three games against this murderer’s row of opponents would be like expecting me to win the lottery today. It’s just not going to happen, folks. Tennessee has some pieces for the future, but they won’t mean much in Foxborough, Houston and Indianapolis. Final games: @ NE, HOU, @ IND
Sam Bradford’s return muddied the waters somewhat, but I think it is pretty clear at this point that Adrian Peterson is the man for this award. My personal choice would be Eric Berry for his incredible return after cancer treatment, but defensive players just don’t get the love they deserve.
Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 16’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.