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.
After surveying the gambling landscape last week, I decided it was a good week to stay away for the most part. This is something most punters don’t take into account when deciding on where to put their money – they don’t even have to put their money anywhere. Sometimes the best play is no play, especially since teams are beginning to show their true colours and oddsmakers are getting more and more accurate with their lines and odds.
Even so, there are always cracks in the foundation that can be exploited, so let’s see what we can glean from the early Week 8 lines.
WEEK 7 RECAP
MISS: Longest successful field goal – Phil Dawson (San Francisco) vs. Seattle @ 11/10
Phil Dawson’s leg provided the only offense for the 49ers, but it wasn’t enough to bring this bet home. After a series of successful kicker bets, it is now two in a row that I have shanked. Perhaps this is a case of a bet being too good to be true, and the narrative of a bounce back from the Seahawks was an oversight on my part. Don’t forget that, like fantasy football, narratives can play a big part in where oddsmakers put these lines.
MISS: Away team total points – Atlanta over 26 points at Tennessee @ 5/6
This was one of the more puzzling outcomes of this past week. For Atlanta to go into Tennessee and basically lay an egg offensively reminded me of the previous iterations of the Falcons during the pre-Dan Quinn era. Tennessee’s defense raised their game and managed to get consistent pressure on Matt Ryan who, despite leading his team to a 6 -1 record, hasn’t played particularly well this season.
PUSH: Home team total points – New England under 30 points vs. New York Jets @ 5/6
Rob Gronkowski’s last-gasp touchdown turned this bet from a success into a push. What were the Jets doing on this play? Clearly there was a defensive breakdown, but there is no going back now. Sometimes as a gambler you have to endure tough luck moments like this, but the logic for this bet was sound and I could definitely go back to the well on this one when New England play tough defenses like Denver and the New York Jets again later in the season.
HIT: Minnesota (-2.5) at Detroit @ 4/5
This was a comfortable cover in Detroit for the Vikings, who rode Adrian Peterson and trusted the arm of Teddy Bridgewater and a stifling defense to shut down the Lions. Detroit, to their credit, came out firing and things looked promising early on, but the Vikings have the look of a team that has been there and done it. A favourable line (currently -2.5) in Chicago this week might be worth a punt for Vikings backers.
SEASON TOTAL YTD: 17-10-1 (.607)
WEEK 8 PUNTS
Longest successful field goal – Stephen Gostkowski (New England) vs. Miami @ 4/6
Whatever the conditions, Stephen Gostkowski delivers for the Patriots – and I am putting my faith in him this week after two rough bets on other kickers. Gostkowski has nailed all 15 of his field goal attempts this season from many distances, and although there is a chance that New England doesn’t need any field goals, I have seen enough from Miami’s defense to hold firm on this bet. You have to pay a vig here, but it should be worth it.
Away team total points – Green Bay under 24 points at Denver @ 5/6
Off a bye, this is the sternest test the Denver defense has faced all year. Even with Peyton Manning’s mistakes putting them in bad situations, they have managed to survive and bail the offense out with interceptions and touchdowns. The Broncos defense has allowed 13, 24, 12, 20, 10 and 23 points in their six games, allowing an opposing offense to reach the key number of 24 just once. Green Bay will offer these cornerbacks all they can handle, but I like the matchup here for Denver. The Packers offense isn’t quite firing on all cylinders, and while it is difficult to bet against Rodgers, I think Denver squeaks this one out.
Home team total points – Oakland under 21.5 points @ 5/6
The Jets defense, despite giving up 30 points to New England, played a solid game in Foxborough last week. Tom Brady was under duress early and often, and their stout run defense essentially forced the Patriots into passing mode. Oakland has surrendered pressure at one of the lowest rates in the league this season, thanks to a savvier Derek Carr and a revamped offensive line led by center Rodney Hudson. The half point here is what convinced me to take the under. The Jets have given up more than 24 points only once – last week – and should be able to keep the Raiders in check.
Detroit (+6) at Kansas City (in London) @ 10/11
In the final London game of the season, the Lions will be looking to get back to winning ways against the bend-but -don’t-break Chiefs. Andy Reid has to be given some credit for making the most of his skill players even with Jamaal Charles out for the year. Detroit, meanwhile, will either fade away or rise to the occasion. I’m betting the latter. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi got the boot this week, so there might be a renewed vigour and creativity in the offense that could see them win this one. Getting six points seems very generous to me.
WATCH LIST – SEASON-LONG BETS
Chicago Bears win total – UNDER 7
At 2-4 coming out of the bye, the Bears will know that their season is not quite down the toilet yet, but the upcoming slate of games could be tricky. Jay Cutler is playing at a high level and they certainly have talent to trouble teams, but apart from a flagging San Diego squad the next few could result in four losses. I’m feeling good about this bet’s trajectory. Next five games: MIN, @ SD, @ STL, DEN, @ GB
Tennessee Titans win total – OVER 5.5
Watching the inept Titans week after week is bordering on cruel and unusual punishment for those of us who foolishly put money on them. Zach Mettenberger could have led a memorable winning drive against the stop-start Falcons, only to throw an interception to end the game. The next five games feature three road contests and two home contests against tricky opponents. I don’t see where the wins are coming from, although they could get that second win in Houston this week to provide some hope. Next five games: @ HOU, @ NO, CAR, @ JAC, OAK
I think it is safe to write off Sam Bradford at this point. Granted, he showed some good footwork and escapability on Sunday night in Carolina, but his receivers kept letting him down. If it’s not one thing with this Eagles offense, it’s the other. Don’t be surprised if Chip Kelly pulls the plug on the Sam Bradford experience soon enough.
Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, has a sunnier outlook. He has amassed 530 yards on the ground and 101 in the air and, although he doesn’t look like his former self, he is doing more than enough to stay firmly in the hunt for this award.
Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of Week 9’s slate of games. Follow me on Twitter