2018 NFL betting record: 27-17-1 (61 percent, pending Monday Night Football)
Carolina Panthers +4.5 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
I…do not understand.
Carolina’s defensive passer rating of 90.0 ranks 10th in the NFL. Pittsburgh’s defensive passer rating of 93.8 ranks 20th in the NFL. Carolina’s offensive passer rating of 101.0 ranks 10th in the NFL. Pittsburgh’s offensive passer rating of 94.1 ranks 18th in the NFL.
The look ahead line for this game months ago was -6.5 in Pittsburgh’s favor. Since then, the Steelers have disappointed and the Panthers have beaten expectations. This line should be closer to -3 than it is.
Remember, the only team with a good chance at making the playoffs that the Steelers have played all year is the Chiefs, who they lost to. The other teams they have played are a combined 22-34-2 (Browns and Ravens twice) this season. Now is our opportunity to cash in on the 6-2 Panthers off a three-game win streak as big-ish dogs. 2018 is weird.
Los Angeles Chargers -3.5 @ Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots -.5 @ Tennessee Titans
The first leg of this tease is fairly easy. There are three defenses that are significantly worse than the rest of the NFL right now: Tampa, Oakland and New Orleans. Oakland not only traded away Khalil Mack, but they’re down Bruce Irvin for the rest of the season after releasing him.
Basically, Oakland has no pass-rushers and have seemingly quit on the season, with their focus being the five first-round picks they get to make over the next two drafts. Coming into town to take advantage of what is left of the Raiders defense? Philip Rivers, an MVP candidate quarterback, who has thrown 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions this season.
The second leg of this tease is the red-hot New England Patriots, with Tom Brady throwing 270+ yards in every game since their loss to Detroit. He also has posted a passer rating of 94.0+ in all but one of those games.
Their defenses are about pushes, but New England’s offense is roughly 600 yards of value better than Tennessee’s at this point in the season. Give me the team coming off six straight wins going into a bye against a bottom five passing offense coming off a short week.
New Orleans Saints @ Cincinnati Bengals +4.5
If we hid the name of the teams in this game and only showed you the stats that each squad had, you would never take the Saints’ side of this line. Remember, much of the narrative on the Saints is going to come from the fact that A) they have a 7-1 record, without people acknowledging that two of their wins came from opposing kickers missing chip shots at the end of games and one came in an overtime win and B) that the Saints just had their best game of the year against the Los Angeles Rams.
New Orleans’ defense (-648 yards below average) is more costly than all but four passing offenses (KC, LAR, NO and LAC) are good. In the passing game, the Saints, somehow, are basically net neutrals statistically. It’s just that New Orleans’ “bad games” have turned into close games that they have pulled out of. Remember, close games should be treated as ties in terms of projections moving forward.
Cincinnati is a slightly below average team, but New Orleans is not nearly the team their record says they are. This line suggests that the Saints would be 10.5-point favorites at home, entirely too much for an overhyped team. This may not be the prettiest pick, but it’s the right choice considering the situation.
Miami Dolphins +9 @ Green Bay Packers
Okay, the conversation has to start here. Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder surgery may continue to keep the Miami Dolphins quarterback out of games. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport stated last week that he was at least two weeks away, putting the timetable for his return beyond this week. Even if Tannehill is deemed healthy enough to unseat replacement quarterback Brock Osweiler, we should not expect much of a difference.
This season, Tannehill has thrown 129 passes for 972 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions (AY/A: 7.03). Osweiler’s 2018 (AY/A: 7.23) is basically on par with Miami’s numbers. There was a strong overreaction to Osweiler leaning the lineup at first (with his surprise start coming in an upset victory against the Chicago Bears), but he has pretty much silenced doubters since. The market should not react strongly to Tannehill or Osweiler starting in this game.
Now let’s dig into the bet.
The Green Bay Packers just aren’t good and we need to accept that despite Aaron Rodgers’ heroics, that can be true. Rodgers can still make amazing plays and his team can let him and us down. For example, the Packers have the sixth-ranked passing offense at the moment but just the 25th-ranked passing defense. On top of that, poor coaching leads to mishaps regarding special teams and penalties with this team.
Yes, Rodgers is great. At the same time, the Packers have only won eight games by more than seven points in the last three years. That’s the same amount as Arizona, Washington and Chicago, just one spot ahead of Indianapolis and the New York Jets, who have struggled with the quarterback position. Denver (led by Case Keenum and Trevor Siemian) and Jacksonville (led by Blake Bortles) have 11 a piece. Buffalo (led by Tyrod Taylor and Josh Allen) has 10.
From a power ranking standpoint, Green Bay should have a slight nod in this game but not enough to make them a projected road favorite. Miami, as they head into the bye with hopes of a 6-4 record and an inside track for an AFC wildcard spot, is the play here.
Seattle Seahawks +10 @ Los Angeles Rams
Against the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator tree (SEA, ATL, SF, JAX and LAC), Jared Goff has thrown 344 passes for 2,420 yards, 14 passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions (plus 24 sacks for 150 yards). That’s good for an ANY/A of 5.71, roughly equal to what Blake Bortles has put up this season (ANY/A: 5.75). Against all other teams, Goff has an ANY/A of 7.22, numbers that look like a top-10 quarterback’s.
Goff struggles against Cover 3-heavy teams, and he has since his days in college when he threw a grip of interceptions against the Utah Utes.
Don’t look at Seattle’s record. They’re still sixth in offensive passer rating (one spot behind Los Angeles) and fourth in defensive passer rating (21 spots ahead of Los Angeles) despite their 4-4 record. That’s a good football team.
Seattle’s previous three losses of the season came by a combined 12 points before their eight-point loss to the Chargers, which they had a chance to tie from at the six-yard line to end the game. Their point differential of +32 is tied for 10th in the NFL, all things considered.
This line means that there is a full touchdown difference between these teams on a neutral field. That just doesn’t match up with reality, even if the Seahawks dropped a few close games to start the season.