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 four 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 4 RECAP
HIT: Longest successful field goal – Justin Tucker (BAL) at Pittsburgh @ 5/6
The ever-reliable Justin Tucker proved the worth of a good kicker in this league with a 52-yard field goal to seal the deal for the Ravens on Thursday night in Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin’s lack of trust in Josh Scobee made this bet almost too easy on paper, and it proved to be yet another winner in the ‘longest successful field goal’ run this year.
MISS: Away team total points – Oakland Raiders over 23.5 points at Chicago @ 4/5
My only miss of the week, and it wasn’t by much. The Raiders mustered only 20 points in the Windy City, and perhaps it was a bit optimistic for the Silver and Black to win in the Eastern time zone in back to back weeks. The Raiders had a few near misses that could have taken them to that key 24-point mark, but they couldn’t quite make the plays. I’ll be coming back to the well on bets such as this one, albeit with a different team next time in a better spot.
HIT: Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) vs. Houston @ 20/21
Remember a few seasons back when Atlanta would dismantle teams at the Georgia Dome for fun? Well, that time may have returned under Dan Quinn, who has revitalized this Falcons squad despite keeping last year’s roster largely intact. Even in a down week for Julio Jones, the Atlanta defense stepped up and added defensive scores. This game was never even close. Expect oddsmakers to bump up Atlanta’s points spreads in future home games; this week, it’s the Redskins, but they have Tampa Bay, Indianapolis and Minnesota to come.
HIT: Home team total points – Tampa Bay over 18.5 points vs. Carolina @ 5/6
The Buccaneers’ sloppy offense needed a garbage time drive to get over the hump and win this bet, but it’s not how you achieve the result, it’s simply about achieving it! I honestly thought the Bucs would show a little more fight here at home, but the constant downpours and Jameis Winston’s mistakes were too much to overcome.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 10-6 (.625)
WEEK 5 PUNTS
Away team total points – Jacksonville over 20.5 points at Tampa Bay @ 10/11
Big strides forward have been made by Jacksonville this season, but they still have a lot of refinement to do before they are a legitimate team. Gus Bradley’s team will be smarting from a close road defeat to the Colts, but should be quietly confident of a victory on the road against in-state rival Tampa Bay. The Jaguars offense looks functional and can find joy against a Bucs defense that often gets put in bad spots by its quarterback.
Home team total points – Oakland under 20 points vs. Denver @ 4/5
This Denver Broncos defense has a chance to rank among the very best we have seen in the Super Bowl era if they can keep it up. Were it not for a Peyton Manning interception last week at the end of the half, Denver’s smothering defense could have kept the Vikings to 13 points. The Raiders come home after a tough road loss, but they still lack the pedigree up front on offense to cope with the blitzkrieg Denver will throw at them. Another big day is on the cards for Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and company.
Longest successful field goal – Greg Zuerlein (St Louis) at Green Bay @ 5/4
You don’t even have to pay a vig on this bet, an indication of the lack of faith the oddsmakers have in St Louis’ ability to put up points at Lambeau Field perhaps. As good as Mason Crosby is at home, Zuerlein should have more field goal opportunities and has yet to miss a kick this season. Todd Gurley’s presence alone should give this offense the boost it needs to stay competitive for a while in this one.
New England Patriots (-8) at Dallas Cowboys @ 10/11
One wonders what the line would be if Tony Romo and Dez Bryant were available. To be honest, it probably wouldn’t be a whole lot different, such is the respect that the Patriots demand as their Tom Brady Revenge Tour 2015 continues. Belichick has had two weeks to prepare for this game and should be able to exploit a Dallas defense that could be without Sean Lee. Dallas can be feisty at home, but I have learned the hard way not to bet against the Patriots, even if the spread is eight points.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
The Bears scratched and clawed their way back to 1-3 behind a strong performance from Jay Cutler, and a fiery defensive effort led by Pernell McPhee. It may be a fire sale in Chicago, but they showed some fire at home. From this point forward the schedule gets tougher, though, and I would have expected them to beat Oakland. The next five games are tricky, with four of five on the road; they may be without Matt Forte and 1-8 by the end of this run. Next five games: @ KC, @ DET, MIN, @ SD, @ STL
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
Still 1-2 coming off their bye week, the Titans should be encouraged by the way the AFC South is shaping up. No team looks poised to run away with it, and with reports that Andrew Luck’s injury could be multiple weeks rather than short term, the window is wide open for the Titans. Ken Whisenhunt’s team have three straight home games coming up, all of them winnable, to kick their season into gear. I’m still confident they can reach six wins.
I think I can safely admit that Sam Bradford will not be taking home the Comeback Player accolades, not after a 1-3 start. Yes, you could argue he made some highlight plays in the loss at Washington that may convince some that his slump is over, but I’m not convinced. This isn’t college football with some ‘Heisman moment’; this is the real thing, which Bradford, sadly for Eagles fans, is not.
Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, continues to chug along at a nice pace and has to be firmly in the frame for this award. Even in a close loss to the Broncos, he produced a nice touchdown run on fourth down to boost his overall totals. I’m pretty confident he will keep up the momentum on a very competitive Vikings team.
Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 5’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.