Inside Slant: Week 3

Dave Larkin breaks down some under-the-radar bets for you to consider this week.

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.

Gambling has a way of smacking you in the face just when you thought you had it all figured out. It is a fact of life that you are going to win some and you are going to lose some, but it remains nonetheless humbling when your prognostications blow up in your face.

The story of Week 2 was context: we learned more about these 32 teams as they faced off against each other. Teams that dominated in Week 1 suddenly looked mortal, while the desperate teams summoned up their best efforts to prevent the dreaded 0-2 start, the death knell for playoff hopes.

Before looking forward to the tasty Week 3 slate of games, however, it is always beneficial to review the successes and failures – mostly the latter from a personal point of view – from the Week 2 contests.


WEEK 2 RECAP

LOSS: Miami Dolphins under 17 points at New England @ 10/11

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel slightly hard done by here. The Dolphins looked exactly like the offense I predicted in the first half, with the Patriots defense shutting them down and Ryan Tannehill looking lost at times. Then it happened. The unthinkable for a Patriots team looking into the near future for the return of Tom Brady: an injury to backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The game changed as soon as rookie Jacoby Brissett entered the fray, forcing the Patriots to play it safe and inviting Miami back into proceedings. Perhaps 17 points was a bit optimistic on my part, but I would have liked to see this game play out without the injury to ol’ Jimmy G.

LOSS: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos – UNDER 45 total points @ 10/11

One of a handful of games in Week 2 to turn the script on its head was this Broncos/Colts matchup. Andrew Luck withstood hit after hit in the face of relentless pressure to keep the Colts within touching distance – until Von Miller a.k.a ‘Gamewrecker’ showed up with yet another impact play. The Colts offense probably had no business getting as many points as they did, but in retrospect this bet could have been better thought out by yours truly. Elite quarterbacks tend to pull their teams out of trouble regardless of the surrounding talent. Luck definitely fits that bill.

WIN: New York Jets to win at Buffalo @ 10/11

The line moved so much on this game – from Buffalo favored by 2.5 points to New York favored by a point – that the no-brainer play was the road team. I don’t think I have ever seen Ryan Fitzpatrick sling the pill around like that; and probably, like a comet, it won’t come around again for a long time, if ever. The Jets should have won this game more comfortably than they ultimately did, but getting the win was the most important thing. As the only bet I actually won last week, it has a special place in my gambling heart.

LOSS: Green Bay Packers (-2) at Minnesota @ 10/11

Just when you think the Packers have it all figured out, they run into their old rivals Minnesota and things turn hairy. Green Bay’s offense is traversing the same obstacles of last season; receivers are having trouble separating, forcing Aaron Rodgers to perform a Houdini act of escapism on every play. That kind of backyard football is not sustainable. The Vikings took away the Packers’ ground attack with their stout front seven, and credit has to go to Sam Bradford for hanging tough and getting the job done. I underrated the Vikings here – as I’m sure many did – and they made me pay.

WEEK 2 RECORD: 1-3
SEASON RECORD: 4-4-0 (0.500)


WEEK 3 PUNTS

Home team total points: New York Giants over 25.5 points vs. Washington @ 10/11

The substandard red zone performance will put some gamblers off, but this Giants team is looking legitimate through two weeks. It is a small sample size, but the defense in particular has been stellar, mixing up blitzes and coverages well and getting some excellent play from their defensive front. The Redskins come into New Jersey staring 0-3 in the face, and with reports emerging that the locker room may be turning on Kirk Cousins things could spiral out of control. The Giants offense should have had at least two more touchdowns against the Saints, and they will undoubtedly work on red zone execution this week. The Redskins defense looks like a unit that can be exploited, and I am backing the up-tempo Giants offense with a triple threat at wide receiver to take advantage. Giants 31 Redskins 20

Houston Texans at New England Patriots – OVER 40.5 total points @ 10/11

This total screams ‘too low’ for me, despite the fact the Patriots will more than likely have to start Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. The Texans defense is a fearsome unit and will cause problems for a patchwork New England offensive line, but Bill Belichick has to have a few tricks up his sleeve. The Patriots should be able to engineer points some how, some way. Their defense could be key, and a defensive score – especially with the at times error-prone Brock Osweiler under centre – is not out of the question. Thursday night games can be freaky – look at last week’s Bills/Jets tilt for instance – with form being thrown out the window. I recommend betting the over 40.5 in what should be a tight game, something like 23-20.

Jacksonville to win vs. Baltimore @ 20/21

This is the story of a desperate 0-2 team with more questions than answers, and a veteran team that has cruised to a 2-0 start. Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before. Traditionally, when a team is circling the drain this early in the season like the Jaguars are, you tend to see one big effort when their coach’s job is perceived to be on the line. If you don’t and the players wilt under the pressure, then the decision is made easier for the brass. Gus Bradley is facing last chance saloon; an 0-3 start after Shahid Khan poured millions into offseason acquisitions would be unthinkable. The Ravens, meanwhile, can afford to lose this game. They wouldn’t want to admit that, sure, but the Jaguars are desperate and desperate teams rise up in the face of calamity.

New Orleans (-3) vs. Atlanta @ 20/23

Maybe the mystique surrounding the Superdome has disappeared to an extent, but there is still that added element of difficulty when you face the Saints in their building. When it gets dark outside and all eyes are trained on the artificial turf in Louisiana on Monday Night Football, things crank up a few notches. It is not as if New Orleans has been outplayed in both games; in fact, their performance last week showed vast improvement. Atlanta, meanwhile, showed what they are capable of with a dismantling of the hapless Raiders, the Saints’ conquerors in Week 1. In what should be a tight game, I would recommend backing the home team to channel the crowd’s energy into a much-needed victory.


WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS

Dallas Cowboys UNDER 9.5 wins @ 5/6

The Cowboys got back to .500 with an impressive road win in Washington, exposing their division rivals’ deficiencies. The upcoming slate looks daunting in parts, but winnable games like Chicago (sans Jay Cutler), at San Francisco (sans effective quarterback play) and a home tilt against Philadelphia represent a big opportunity. Getting to 10 wins still seems a long shot, though.
Next five games: v CHI, @ SF, v CIN, @ GB, v PHI

Tennessee to win AFC South @ 17/2

I did not expect the Titans to steal that victory in Detroit, but credit where it is due; they played above themselves defensively and Marcus Mariota produced one of his first signature game-winning plays as a pro. If the Titans can stay in the hunt until that key Indianapolis home game in a few weeks, they have every chance to win this division. The Texans look formidable, but there are more twists and turns to come.
Next five games: v OAK, @ HOU, @ MIA, v CLE, v IND

Sterling Shepard to win Offensive Rookie of the Year @ 20/1

It has only been two weeks, but already casual fans are catching a whiff of Sterling Shepard’s blend of reliable hands, crisp route-running and playmaking potential. The Giants offense should continue to thrive, and 11 catches to go along with 160 yards and a touchdown is not bad for two games. This bet remains a long shot, but this kid is easy to root for. Don’t rule it out.


Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 4’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.