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I said last week was a bounce-back week, but the football gods had other plans. Back-to-back 0-2 weeks have dropped our season record to 12-8 (60.0%), so we’re still profitable, but need to steer the ship back in the right direction. Some trends through the first 10 weeks to start us off, as always:
- Winning teams against the spread are covering by 10.4 points per game. The lowest margin of victory against the spread was in Week 4, when teams covered by 6.9 points per game, and the widest margin of victory against the spread was in Week 8 when teams covered by an astounding 18.3 points per game.
- Scoring fell off a cliff in Week 10. Game totals averaged just 45.7 points, the lowest-scoring week of the season and nearly two full points lower than the previous low (47.4 in Week 8).
- 51 underdogs have won outright, but only two have closed as +300 or better on the moneyline and still won outright: Dolphins (+320) vs. 49ers and Raiders (+450) vs. Chiefs, both in Week 5. Three teams are +300 or better on the moneyline this week: Raiders (+310), Jets (+360) and Jaguars (+410).
We’re up against another tough week, but it’s time to get back into the win column in Week 11:
Dolphins (-3) at Broncos
I always have to preface with line movement if I anticipate it. At the time of writing, the Dolphins are -3 against the Broncos. This line is going to move to -3.5 by the early weekend, and probably get to -4 at some books on Sunday afternoon. I like it up to -4, but anything higher than that, I don’t recommend betting either side. Shop around multiple books for the best line. Use Nick Chubb last week as evidence of why every fraction of a point is monumental when you’re betting the NFL.
Another disclaimer, I know this is an incredibly public bet. The Dolphins are getting upwards of 70% of the bets and 90% of the money. But, I think this line is mispriced because of the Broncos tendency to pile on points in garbage time and make the final score closer than it actually should be. Anyway…
Miami is incredibly well-coached. Their goal is clearly to be better than their opponents in two of the three phases of the game, special teams being one every week. The Dolphins have the best special teams unit in the league, and they just don’t put their offense or defense in bad positions very often. With such a tight spread, every yard is going to matter, and special teams plays a vital role in that. Miami has allowed just 54 punt return yards on the entire season, 7th fewest in the league, and they’ve totaled 300 punt return yards themselves, best in the NFL.
The Dolphins offense hasn’t blown me away since Tua Tagovailoa took over. They’ve been conservative and smart with their approach, and Tua has yet to turn the ball over, so whatever they’re doing is working. And they won’t need to be any better than they’ve been these past few weeks against a Broncos defense that is slowly falling apart. They’re ranked 17th in the league, and after not allowing 30 points in any of their first five games, they’ve given up at least 30 points in each of their last four.
Denver’s offense is below-average and has trouble sustaining drives; they’re just 26th in average time of possession. With the defense constantly out on the field more than the offense, the unit is starting to wear down, and it’s becoming easier and easier to exploit for opposing offenses.
Speaking of the Broncos offense, I’m not saying Drew Lock is a great quarterback because he’s not, but he’s still their starter and he hasn’t gotten in more than a limited practice all week. He’s questionable to play, but even if he does, he’ll be less than 100% against a Dolphins defense that’s really starting to come together nicely. Miami has the fifth-best scoring defense in the league, surrendering just 20.2 points per game; meanwhile, the Broncos are 28th in scoring at just 20.7 points per game.
If we peg the Broncos for 20 points, taking into consideration their points per game average and the Dolphins’ points per game allowed average (I rounded down to 20 instead of rounding up to 21 to account for either an injured Lock or a backup Brett Rypien), we’d need 26 points from the Dolphins to meet the 45.5 game total that the market has set for us. A 26-20 Miami victory would be more than enough to cover the spread here.
Chiefs (-1) / Packers (+8) Six-Point Teaser:
Kansas City would have been my best bet of the week if they stayed at -6.5 or below, but as soon as the entire Raiders defense landed on the COVID list, the line shot up to -8. Eight points is too many for me in a divisional game on the road, but teasing it down to -1 is perfect. This is a great spot for the Chiefs and a really tough one for Las Vegas.
The Chiefs are coming off a bye, which is good for any team but especially for Andy Reid’s teams. He’s 24-5 in his career off a bye, and 8-3 with Kansas City. This is also a revenge game for Kansas City, seeing as the Raiders are the only team they’ve lost to on the year and the only team to intercept a Patrick Mahomes pass in 2020. It’s hard to beat any team twice in the same season, let alone the Chiefs. We’re not taking Kansas City moneyline of course, we’re still laying a point, but only 6.1% of games have ended with a winning margin of one point or less; so if the Chiefs win, there’s a really, really high likelihood they’re also going to cover.
On the Las Vegas sideline, seven more defensive contributors were added to the COVID list on Wednesday. The Raiders defense is already near the bottom of the league – 21st overall and 25th against the pass – and losing essentially the entire starting unit isn’t going to help them get on track. Especially against one of the best offensive teams we’ve seen in recent memory who has revenge on their mind and entire extra week to game plan.
I like the value we’re getting on Green Bay for the second half of this teaser. Very rarely do we have the opportunity to take Aaron Rodgers as a touchdown-underdog, so when the chance comes calling, we’re taking it. With a teaser, we can kick the spread up from +2 to +8; since Rodgers became the starter in 2008, he’s started and thrown at least 10 passes in 179 games. He’s only, mind-blowingly lost 11.2% of those games by more than eight points. I like those odds a lot.
I also like how the Packers match up with the Colts, and I think the Colts are overrated based on their victory over Tennessee last Thursday. Sure, they won by 17 on the road, but they benefitted from a blocked punt, a missed 44-yard field goal, and a shanked 17-yard punt by the Titans. The Colts excel at stopping the run, and while they’re second-best against the pass, have they squared off against a quarterback even close to the talent of Aaron Rodgers? In short, no.
Indianapolis has faced Gardner Minshew, Kirk Cousins, Sam Darnold, Nick Foles, Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, Matt Stafford, Lamar Jackson, and Ryan Tannehill. So the closest to Rodgers’ skills throwing the football is… Stafford? Yikes.
I have a small fear about the Green Bay defense, which is why I’m not playing them at +2, but their main weakness is against the run. And the Colts haven’t been able to run the ball all year long; they’re 28th in the league as far is rushing is concerned, and they’re averaging less than four yards per carry. The Packers are also getting much healthier: they expect Davante Adams to play, Allen Lazard has a chance to play as well, and Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, and David Bakhtiari all practiced in full.
I’m happy to hitch my wagon to the two best quarterbacks I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching play football, especially when all we need is a W from one and a cover of a touchdown-sized spread from the other.
Note: There have been some late COVID scratches the last few weeks that have come out after my weekly article. I can’t control the virus, but since some of you have heeded my advice and jumped on lines before they moved, only to find out days later that a key player from the team we bet on won’t be playing, here’s a bonus in case something unforeseen happens to throw a wrench into our bets.
With Myles Garrett out, I lean with the Eagles +3.5, even +3 if it drops down. The main reason being the Browns offense is just really bad without Odell Beckham, and they rely so heavily on the run, which is the strength of the Philly defense. The Eagles are also getting healthy, and I think people are overreacting to them losing to an improving Giants team last week in the first game all their injured players played together essentially since September. Keep in mind how terribly the Buccaneers looked in Antonio Brown’s first game, only to look like worldbeaters the following week after gaining some continuity. I mentioned Myles Garrett before, I think that’s a big loss to an already suspect Browns defense. Carson Wentz has been awful under pressure, but without Garrett, the Browns really don’t generate much pressure.