Inside Slant: Week 4

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.

I think it is safe to say that Week 3 threw us for a loop. Even if you were the most prepared gambler on the planet, you probably lost money last weekend on games that teetered on the brink between bizarre and downright baffling in their complexion. There were upsets aplenty, and therein lies the lesson of betting on pro football: things change pretty fast.

If I had told you in preseason that a Carson Wentz-led Eagles team would have beaten a Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers team you would have laughed so hard that you’d have milk coming out of your nostrils. Today, that is a reality and the Eagles are laughing all the way to a 3-0 start.

So, with a refreshed mind and wallet, let’s take a deep dive into some bets we can exploit in Week 4 to get back on track – and survey the damage after Week 3’s shellacking.


WEEK 3 RECAP

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

The Redskins squeaked out a victory in the Meadowlands thanks to a calamity of errors by the Giants, culminating in a diving interception by Su’a Cravens to kill the game off. As expected, the New York offense managed to move the ball and could have scored more than the requisite points total were it not for more Manning misadventures.

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

This one looked dead and buried by the mid-second quarter last Thursday night, as it became painfully obvious that New England’s defense was not giving Brock Osweiler a sniff. This was a masterful display by the Patriots. Rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett deserves his share of credit, but the back seven of the Patriots simply blanketed the Texans receivers and forced Osweiler – already known for his check downs – into short, simple passes. It is too simplistic to say Houston was exposed, but the Patriots continue to show why they are a very solid under bet.

LOSS: Jacksonville to win vs. Baltimore @ 20/21

Blake Bortles, you’re killing me! There were about three or four moments in this game where the Jaguars had control of their own destiny, only to see it slip out of their fingers. The shaky play from the quarterback position aside, this team simply lacks a winning mentality - and it shows week after week. Gus Bradley might be taking a different plane back from London next week if things go south against the Colts.

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

Sometimes you can get caught up in the narrative and bet the wrong way. I fell victim to that curse here as I thought the 10-year anniversary of the blocked punt would conjure up some kind of emotional response. It turns out nobody gave the memo to the Saints defense, who were gashed repeatedly by a clinical and ruthless Falcons offense. Drew Brees summoned up his best effort, but you can’t expect to win games with a formula like that.

WEEK 3 RECORD: 1-3
SEASON RECORD: 5-7-0 (0.416)


WEEK 4 PUNTS

Total points: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals OVER 42.5 @ 10/11

The Cardinals got spanked by the Bills, but their offense is still capable of putting up points – especially at home. The script is set up perfectly for redemption here in the cosy confines of University of Phoenix Stadium. The Rams toppled their division rivals in this stadium last season, with Todd Gurley playing a starring role. The defense of the Rams will always make Vegas lean towards lower totals, but their offense must have gained confidence from last week’s display. Divisional games are generally wacky, so I am going against conventional wisdom here. Prediction: Rams 24 Cardinals 31

Home team total points: Washington OVER 27.5 points vs. Cleveland @ 4/5

The Browns defense has given up 29, 25 and 30 points respectively in their first three games. I see a definite trend beginning here. The Redskins will be a confident team coming into this home tilt after they knocked off the Giants, with Kirk Cousins regaining some of his swagger. I like that, so I am backing the home team to rack up the points as the Browns fall to 0-4. Prediction: Browns 14 Redskins 31

Longest successful field goal: Indianapolis Colts (Adam Vinatieri) @ 4/5

The turf at Wembley Stadium in London is natural grass, but that won’t be a problem for ever-reliable Adam Vinatieri, who just never seems to miss. The Colts should have more opportunities for points against a Jacksonville defense that has yet to establish an identity. This is my first such bet of the season, but they have treated me well in the past. Let’s go back to the well here to add a little spice to the early kick off on the east coast.

Away team total points: Carolina OVER 26.5 points at Atlanta @ 4/5

The Panthers haven’t had to deal with the feeling of losing much over the past season and a half. The defeat to Minnesota will stick in their craw and they tend to bounce back after poor performances. Atlanta is coming off an emotional high on Monday Night Football and must prepare for the multiple Carolina offense on a short week. Expect a more balanced Carolina attack to find seams to run and throw against a Falcons defense that, while improved, is still growing. Prediction: Panthers 28 Falcons 24

WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS

Dallas Cowboys UNDER 9.5 wins @ 5/6

The Cowboys went to 2-1 as Dak Prescott and this surprising defense continue to work well together. The upcoming schedule looks like 2-3 to me, which would send Dallas to a respectable 4-4 record at the midway point. I still think reaching 10 wins will be a tough task, especially with the Eagles soaring as they are.
Next five games: @ SF, v CIN, @ GB, v PHI, @ CLE

Tennessee to win AFC South @ 17/2

Oh, why did I bet on the Titans? This bet was criticised by my friends as soon as I made it on a whim, and I am starting to see why. This team simply cannot be trusted to be consistent. Marcus Mariota seems to have regressed and the defense, while solid, can’t do it all themselves. A two-game road trip won’t do this bet any favours.
Next five games: @ HOU, @ MIA, v CLE, v IND, v JAX

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

Sixteen catches for 233 yard and a pair of touchdowns – not bad for a rookie after three games. If Shepard stays healthy and continues to build chemistry with Eli Manning, this award is within his grasp. The excellent play of Carson Wentz might be a spanner in the works, but we shall see.


Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 5’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.