I assume that you are here because you, like me, love football. It is a magnificent game that both compels us with its complexities and possesses the exceptional power to regularly unite friends, family, and even total strangers. When I was a kid, I fell in love with the game the very first time I saw one of those iconic NFL Films shots of a football slowly spiraling through the air into a receiver’s hands while set to some triumphant orchestral music. A beautiful scene, for sure, and perhaps one that ignited a lifelong love affair with the game–but if I’m being honest here, it absolutely pales in comparison to the beauty of a Sunday afternoon spent on the couch correctly HAMMERING THE BEJESUS out of the over. Name a better feeling than making money, while sitting on your couch, compulsively checking your phone in one hand, with a beverage in the other. Glorious.
And that’s why I’m here.
Let’s face it, there’s no worse feeling than when Red Zone starts its fourth quarter whip around, you’re about to go 0-3 (or worse), and thinking things like, “Yep, I probably should have seen this coming,” or “I wonder if my electric company accepts MasterCard?”
By the end of Sunday Night Football, maybe you’ve swung for the fences and connected just to break even, or you whiffed, and 33-year-old-grown-person you is asking your parents if you can come over for dinner…for the next three weeks. They’re too polite to ask why, but they know and their judgment is both palpable as you eat your mashed potatoes in shame.
The goal of this weekly piece, then, is to highlight meaningful betting data, trends, and game context worth considering before locking in your weekly wagers. To be clear, the goal of this piece isn’t to provide you with disingenuous “5-STAR CAN’T MISS PLAYS OF THE MILLENNIUM,” or anything like that. If you’re looking for false security provided by a tout, you will need to look elsewhere. The truth is, football is unpredictable, the gambling gods are fickle, and no amount of information will net guaranteed wins, but it can help one navigate a dangerous terrain. So without further ado, strap in with me and let’s get into it.
Injury value in Buffalo
Titans at Bills (+5), Over/Under 40
I had an opportunity to ask our own Dr. David Chao yesterday afternoon about which injury could have an impact on one of this weekend’s games. It just so happens the one he picked meshes with a game that caught my attention while looking at the Week 5 betting data. As Dr. Chao noted in his piece on Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee offense, Marcus Mariota still isn’t completely healthy. He reiterated this point when he told me by phone that, “It’s pretty clear he’s still not throwing tight spirals, but it’s getting better. Last week, they came out throwing deep against the Eagles to make a point that it would be different than the Jags game,” he said. “So you saw them throw the ball deep with loft, but that interception late in the first half when he had to drive the ball into dime coverage and he throws the interception, that’s where you see the problem. I still think he’s hobbled there. If the Bills are smart, maybe they see that.”
Look, absolutely nobody wants to bet on the Bills right now. With the exception of a surprising blowout win in Minnesota two weeks ago, Sean McDermott’s team has shown no reason whatsoever to back them. Their 22-0 shutout loss in Green Bay was a hideous display of football. The Titans, meanwhile, are 3-1 and look good coming off a big win over the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles. I know it’s going to take a bit of a stomach, but that’s exactly why I find Buffalo to be an intriguing play this week.
Currently, both 70% of total bets and money back the Titans. This presents a perfect opportunity to fade the public’s money as a solid contrarian play. From an ebb and flow standpoint, I also hate this spot for Titans. After an emotional overtime statement win over the Eagles and with the 3-1 Baltimore Ravens on tap next week, you’re telling me Tennessee is going to get up for the 1-3 Bills, a team that didn’t manage a single score against a mediocre Green Bay defense a week ago? That’s a big ask. This game presents the classic letdown/look ahead spot—it’s a tale as old as time. In fact, teams that are coming off a win against a team with a winning percentage over 60% and then playing a team with a winning percentage under 40% are 166-201 against the spread dating back to 2003.
Throw in Dr. Chao’s lingering injury concerns about Mariota AND I’m getting five points with the Bills at home? Don’t mind if I do!
The reliable and popular sportsbook CRIS, along with several other books, opened with the Titans as a four-point favorite. That spread has since ticked upward to anywhere between 4.5 to 5 points and the Titans are currently -5 at our partner SugarHouse Sportsbook (for those of you in New Jersey). If the books push the line up over six points and the money distribution evens out, maybe I’ll cool on this one a bit as the market will be shouting at me that I’m nuts, but as things stand right now, I’m all over the Bills even as I choke down the acidic spittle of my gag reflex.
Giants at Panthers (-6.5), Over/Under 43.5
Game matchup: One of the more interesting games of the week is the Giants (1-3) at Panthers (2-1). Giants general manager Dave Gettleman gets a shot at the team he helped construct and it comes at a critical time for New York. The Giants need a win to keep their season from slipping away early for the second-straight season, while the Panthers come in off a bye week (they are a less than inspiring 3-4 ATS after the bye week under Ron Rivera, but they’ve won three-straight) looking to keep pace atop a crowded NFC South.
At first glance, there’s quite a bit to like about Carolina in this one. The Panthers are generally viewed as one the NFC’s top teams, while the Giants are…well, they’re trying hard, I’m sure.
The Panthers are a tough out at home, winning seven-straight games at Bank of America Stadium dating back to last October, while the Giants are 6-14 in their last 20 games away from home.
On the field, the most glaring Panthers’ advantage appears to be in the run game where they have an NFL-best 166 rushing yards per game this season. Christian McCaffrey currently ranks second in the NFL with 90.3 rushing yards per game and has amassed an impressive 428 yards from scrimmage through only three games. Cam Newton, meanwhile, has added just over 45 rushing yards per game. Both players figure to be problematic for the Giants’ 29th-ranked run defense.
The expected return of Giants outside linebacker Olivier Vernon should provide a big boost to a defensive line that has only five sacks and 19 quarterback hits through four games. Vernon has amassed 15 sacks in 28 games with New York. The Giants should also get back the services of Eli Apple, who has been out with a groin injury since Week 2. They’ll need solid performances out of both in order to slow down Newton this week. He has completed 67.4% of his passes and has five touchdown passes to only one interception, despite playing without his two starting tackles.
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers will have to key on slowing down Saquon Barkley. The Giants’ rookie running back is averaging over 20 touches and 113 yards from scrimmage per game. Meanwhile, Carolina has allowed a healthy 4.9 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns, so this is a must-win matchup for the Giants if they’re going to make some noise in this one.
Eli Manning has already been sacked 15 times, which is particularly concerning given the Giants’ offense features short drops and a rather conservative passing game. One player who will most certainly draw a lot of attention is newly-acquired safety Eric Reid, who will replace the injured Da’Norris Searcy.
Gambling trends: As of Thursday evening, 69% of point-spread bets back the Panthers, but so does only 52% of the money. I would be a little bit hesitant about the bet volume to money disparity. To this point, the line has held steady throughout the week, with the Panthers listed as a 6 to 6.5-point favorite at most sportsbooks.
Things to know: Expect it to be hot and humid in Charlotte on Sunday afternoon with temps in the mid-80s and a possibility of afternoon thunderstorms. Why does this matter? Eli Manning is 7-0-1 ATS when game-time temperatures are between 80 and 90 degrees. He’s 5-0-1 in such temps as an underdog. Some like it hot, I guess.
Some other trends to know include that the Panthers are 6-3-1 ATS in their past 10 home games, while the Giants are 5-5 ATS over their last 10 on the road. Cam Newton is 10-5-1 in his career when favored by six or more points at home.
Prediction: I think the Panthers are going to win this game. They are built to run the football, and the Giants struggle to stop the run. They have played extremely well at home for almost a calendar year, while the Giants have struggled…well, everywhere. It’s hard to envision a clearly lesser Giants team going into Bank of America stadium and knocking off the Panthers after a bye week.
But. BUT. The Panthers have suffered a number of significant injuries, and I’m not sure that they are explosive enough to run away from the Giants. Maybe one of those trends above really jumps out at you, but after searching through dozens of them, I couldn’t find a pattern that overwhelmingly suggested a Panthers’ cover. And Manning’s history of covering spreads in warm weather gives me pause. When in doubt, I’m taking the points.
Panthers 26, Giants 20
I wrote too many words to reach this point. Here’s some other games I like, with brevity.
Pittsburgh (-3) over Atlanta
Both of these teams seem to be in serious trouble. A backbreaking loss to Cincinnati was the Falcons’ third last-second gut-punch loss of the season. Those types of games will eventually break a team, and I can’t imagine the Steelers falling to 0-3 at Heinz Field.
Detroit (+1) over Green Bay
It seems so easy to take Aaron Rodgers and call it a day, but the Lions may be just as good as the Packers, plus they are desperate, and they are at home. Moreover, only 34% of totals bets are on the Lions as of early this morning, but they account for 51% of the money. Sharp bettors are on Detroit. So am I.
San Francisco (-4) over Arizona
Really, if you live outside of Phoenix or Northern California, you should win money for simply watching this game. Rams-Seahawks and Vikings-Eagles are both far more palatable games, but you are choosing to listen to Dick Stockton butcher “Ricky Seals-Jones” (I’ll offer 3 to 1 odds we hear “Jones Ricky-Seals” or “Ricky Jones-Seals” at least once) and forego replays of key plays because Fox figures, “Do you really need to see the Cardinals do the thing they just did again?” Bless your heart.
I have absolutely no belief in the Cardinals. Plus, I like C.J. Beathard a little bit in the way that I like well-coached but subpar quarterbacks at home who are going against a winless opponent.
Beathard has made six career starts and was pretty effective last week, completing nearly 63% of his passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns in a spirited 29-27 road loss to the Chargers. I trust Kyle Shanahan to learn from Beathard’s extended time under center a season ago to devise a solid game plan that outpaces a Cardinals team that has scored less than 10 points per game this season. Nearly 80% of the total bets and money are on Arizona, which feels absurd, so I’m going the other way. One word of caution, though. I’m, like, 3-88 ATS all-time in any game Dick Stockton calls. Something stupid is almost guaranteed to happen in this game that will go against me. You’ve been warned.
If you want to bet on any of these games and you’re in New Jersey, please check out our partners at SugarHouse Sportsbook, who have an incredible app and tons of options for alternate lines and the most ways to deposit.
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