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.
Things are beginning to settle down on the gambling side of things. With three weeks of data behind us, more accurate lines will be released by the bookmakers and we need to be more discerning with our selections. Nevertheless, there are still those bets that can be exploited, especially among the less played markets like longest successful field goal, total points and more.
WEEK 3 RECAP
HIT: Longest successful field goal – Greg Zuerlein (Rams) vs. Pittsburgh @ 5/6
The Rams offense may have disappointed in front of their home fans at the fired-up Edward Jones Dome (get it?), but that didn’t mean you couldn’t have bagged a few extra dollars on the strength of Greg The Leg. Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein came up trumps, nailing a 49-yard field goal and bringing this bet home. It was an obvious one on paper in a lower scoring game than anticipated.
HIT: New England Patriots over 31 points vs. Jacksonville @ 10/11
And the beat goes on for the 3-0 Patriots, who made Jacksonville look like a JV squad in Foxborough on Sunday. Expect oddsmakers to drastically adjust the Patriots’ over/under totals in the coming weeks in response to this prolific offense. Bill Belichick’s team has a bye in Week 4, but comes back with a tantalising road game in Dallas against a Cowboys team that just surrendered 38 points to Atlanta.
MISS: Race to 10 points – Tampa Bay at Houston @ 13/8
Placing my faith in the Buccaneers to reach 10 points was, perhaps, a fool’s errand. However, had Kyle Brindza managed to hit his attempts it might have been a different story. The lesson here is not to trust poor teams on the road. I let you guys down on this one, and made what could have been a perfect 4-0 week into a 3-1 week.
HIT: Washington Redskins total points over 20.5 @ evens
This bet was saved by a late Redskins flurry of points, but it counts all the same. The Giants defense has proved itself to be a stouter unit than advertised through three weeks, but the opportunities are still there against them. Expect Kirk Cousins to stay the starter in Washington, but on a short leash.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 7-5 (.583)
WEEK 4 PUNTS
Longest successful field goal – Justin Tucker (BAL) at Pittsburgh @ 5/6
You’ll have to pay a small vig on this one, but it should be worth it. Justin Tucker has made seven of eight field goal attempts this season and is generally a kicker you can trust to deliver. He is also used to the elements at Heinz Field, where kicking can be fraught with uncertainty. In what should be a tense divisional battle, I fancy Tucker to nail a 40-50 yard attempt to bring this bet home.
Away team total points – Oakland Raiders over 23.5 points at Chicago @ 4/5
The resurgent Silver and Black have notched 37 and 27 points respectively in the past two games; they should be able to reach at least 24 points against a withering Bears defense. Derek Carr looks very comfortable going through his progressions, and seems to have developed a good feel in the pocket from his rookie season to this season. With Jimmy Clausen earning another start at quarterback, the Raiders should have plenty of opportunities for possessions. Carr should capitalize.
Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) vs. Houston @ 20/21
Normally I wouldn’t recommend betting on the spread in this column, but this one is too hard to turn down. Atlanta is one of six NFL teams who are perfect against the spread through three weeks; that streak should continue against a pretty poor Texans team. Houston’s defense has the ability to slow the Falcons offense, but not stop it entirely. Get in on this bet before the line goes up to -7.
Home team total points – Tampa Bay over 18.5 points vs. Carolina @ 5/6
As a Panthers fan, I can tell you that the pass rush is a big concern right now. Tampa Bay’s offensive line is certainly not the worst unit to be facing to get well, but Charles Johnson’s absence will hit this unit hard. Kony Ealy seems to be in the coaching doghouse for his lack of production and late penalties against Houston that kept drives alive. The Saints moved the football with relative ease, so I can see the Bucs – who need this game to stay relevant – throwing everything at Carolina. With a new kicker in tow (bye bye Kyle Brindza) Tampa should be able to reach 21 points.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
Ten possessions, ten punts; that is the sad story of the Chicago Bears’ visit to Seattle. The season is quickly circling the drain for John Fox’s team, who have taken on the personality of their head coach in a big way: not short of effort, but lacking any conviction that victory is within reach. The Raiders, normally a whipping boy for teams like Chicago, come to the Windy City this week. I had earmarked that as a possible win for the Bears, but now I’m not sure. This bet already looks like a banker.
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
The Titans were within touching distance of knocking off the Colts and sending them into the 0-3 abyss, only for defensive touchdowns and a late Luck-led rally to scupper their chances. Marcus Mariota, in case you haven’t noticed, is playing very solid football and looks the part. He should only improve as the season goes on. Yes, the Titans only have one win so far, but this team has enough favourable games to earn six wins.
The arm of Sam Bradford had very little to do with the Eagles’ victory in New York on Sunday. Rather, it was special teams, defense and a steady rushing attack that got the job done. Could the Eagles turn this ship around and make Bradford look like vintage Nick Foles in the Chip Kelly offense? It’s possible, but don’t count on it.
Adrian Peterson, on the other hand, has firmly staked a claim for this accolade. After a quiet first week, he has exploded onto the scene again with trademark touchdown runs and highlight plays. Very much in the spotlight because of his stellar career, I would be quite confident that he can seal this award.
Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 5’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.