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 entering the home stretch, but there is still value to be had and money to be won. Certain teams have clearly given up, while other narratives (San Diego's final home game) shows us that, like in fantasy football, narrative belongs in gambling.
Let’s have a look through the Week 16 bets after recapping last week’s action.
WEEK 15 RECAP
HIT: Total points UNDER 49.0 – Atlanta at Jacksonville @ 10/11
The Falcons produced a passable display against a Jaguars team that just isn’t quite there yet. Gus Bradley can look back on a 2015 littered with promise and pitfalls in equal measure, while Dan Quinn will just be relieved to get the monkey off his back. The under seemed to be a good bet based on the trends coming in to this contest, and it proved to be the case. Not to be patting myself on the back, but this total just looked too high. Atlanta has now gone under the total 84.6% of the time this season.
MISS: Away team total points – New York Jets over 23 at Dallas @ 10/11
Were it not for a feisty display from the Dallas defense, the Jets might well have topped the key number of 23 points. Randy Bullock’s missed extra point and field goal would have taken the total to exactly 23, of course, so why not take the easy route and blame the kicker? This was a miscalculation on my part: I didn’t expect such a strong effort from Dallas.
HIT: Washington Redskins (+1) vs. Buffalo @ 10/11
I was baffled by this line last week, and it proved to be the wrong one for Vegas. The Redskins’ strong home record, combined with the fact Buffalo’s season was essentially over, made this an easy one to take advantage of. The Bills look like a team without a direction, especially defensively. Rex Ryan’s scheme seems to have rubbed some players the wrong way, as post-game comments will attest to. The Redskins season looks to be ending positively; they control their own destiny and may – I say this will great caution – have found their starting quarterback for the short-term future.
MISS: Longest successful field goal – Justin Tucker (Baltimore) vs. Kansas City @ 6/5
It is hard to be angry at a kicker when they are not even afforded a chance to make a kick, but this was the unfortunate predicament gamblers faced in this game. John Harbaugh was pulling out all the stops on special teams with the Sam Koch keeper, but ol’ Justin wasn’t given his chance to show off his athleticism. At any rate, I may have exhausted my kicker luck. The best option might be to stay away from these bets from now on.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 30-29-1 (.500)
WEEK 16 PUNTS
New England Patriots (-3) at New York Jets @ 5/6
We had a similar line when the Patriots faced the Texans a couple of weeks ago, and back then I encouraged you to jump on the line before it changed. This is not exactly the same situation; the Jets should be able to summon a better effort against their division rival with their season on the line. However, it is hard to bet against the Patriots even if you’re getting the points. Three points seems a little generous to the Jets, who have had a few stinkers this season. New England is 7-5-2 against the spread this year.
Total points under 47.5 – Pittsburgh at Baltimore @ 10/11
There is no trend to suggest this total will go under. No, this is more of a gut feeling that the Ravens will be motivated to give their hated rival a black eye to derail their playoff hopes. The Pittsburgh offense is prolific, but sometimes all logic and reason has to be thrown out the window in these kinds of games. Jimmy Clausen doesn’t inspire confidence, but he is a passable NFL quarterback (sometimes). To me, 47.5 points seems like a high total; take the under.
Away team total points – Carolina over 27.5 points at Atlanta @ 10/11
Speaking of prolific offenses, the Carolina attack has been unstoppable this season. The 14-0 Panthers head into Atlanta, where they secured a memorable division title victory last season in a blowout. The Georgia Dome used to be an intimidating venue for opposing teams; now, not so much. I’m not even sure we’ll see that many Falcons fans in the stands, with Panther Nation sure to be out in force. Quite frankly, the 27.5 points is a bit disrespectful to an offense that has consistently scored 30 or more.
Washington Redskins to win at Philadelphia @ 27/20
This is my biggest punt of the week, but it could be a lucrative one. The Redskins can end the discussion in the NFC East with a win in Philadelphia. A division title is on the line here; can Jay Gruden’s boys deliver? Well, I believe they can. The Washington offensive line should be encouraged by the poor tackling they saw from Philadelphia’s defenders last week, so expect a heavy dose of the ground game. Kirk Cousins has one job: don’t make a mistake. The Eagles look like a team circling the drain, so take a shot on the ‘Skins here.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
The 5-9 Bears can only hope to reach seven wins this year, which means this bet will be at least a push. Not too shabby, but this one was in doubt for a while during their mid-season resurgence. Neither game down the stretch is a gimme, and this Bears team looked a bit forlorn and beaten in Minnesota. I fancy this one to be a win. Final games: @ TB, DET
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
Need I say more? This one is well and truly over. Final games: HOU, @ IND
Sam Bradford continues to disappoint, while Adrian Peterson picked up an ankle injury against Chicago. If I had to guess, I would say Peterson has the edge, but it is entirely possible neither player takes home the award.
Happy Christmas to everyone and make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 17’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.