NFL BEST BETS
Week 14 is already here and it’s hard to believe we’ve already had 13 weeks of NFL football. We have five more weeks of the regular season, so let’s try to finish strong! The last two weeks have been good for us. We’ve gone 5-1 in our Best Bets and have evened our record to 18-18-1 for the season. Last season, we were able to win 60% of our picks just by focusing on road underdogs. However, this season, Vegas corrected course and there has been virtually no edge to betting based on home/away or favorite/underdog. Until very recently. In the last couple of weeks, road teams, particularly road favorites, have fared very well against the spread. I don’t know yet if this is a trend that we can exploit, but it’s worth monitoring.
Another thing I like to look at is a team’s “against the spread margin.” ATS margin represents the numerical difference between the actual margin of victory or defeat in a game and the predicted margin set by oddsmakers, indicating how well a team performed against the point spread. If a team has a positive ATS margin, it means they have exceeded expectations, whereas a negative ATS margin indicates a team has underperformed. For example, the top four teams in positive ATS margin are Dallas, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Miami. The bottom four are Washington, New England, NY Giants, and Carolina. Intuitively, it makes sense because that’s roughly in line with what we think of being the best and worst teams in the league. However, even winning teams like Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Detroit have negative ATS margins, which might tell us that Vegas is overestimating their value.
All season long, I’ve been tracking my betting model to see how it performs picking each game straight up, against the spread, the over/under, and the moneyline. The goal is to see where it excels and where it is inefficient. Overall, it has been slightly profitable, but keep in mind, it’s never a good idea to blindly bet every single game. You can see all the model’s pick on Sunday morning on my X profile. This is the model’s record through 13 weeks:
- Straight Up: 121-52, 70%
- Spread: 90-80-7, 52.8% ROI: 1.13%
- Over/Under: 91-83-4, 52.2% ROI: -.17%
- Moneyline: 86-75, 53.4%, ROI: 1.01%
- Overall ROI: 1.01%
Panthers +5.5 at Saints
Carolina is on the road for the third straight week, this time taking on New Orleans. The Saints have been abysmal at home this season, failing to cover the spread in all five games played at the Caesars Superdome. Derek Carr may get the start for New Orleans, despite spending the week in concussion protocol and nursing an injured shoulder. It’s hard to imagine he’ll be 100% for the game. The Panthers defense has played well, as of late. Minus their game against Dallas, they have allowed just 18 points per game over the last month. The spread of 5.5 points seems generous for a game with a total of 37.5 points. The sportsbooks anticipate a close, low-scoring contest, which I believe plays to the Panthers’ strengths. Carolina has done a good job against opponents on third down. They just need to keep the Saints out of the red zone. I look for the Panthers to focus on the run and time of possession to limit New Orleans offensive opportunities on offense. I think they’ll be successful enough to keep the game within a field goal.
Browns -3 vs Jaguars
The Jaguars are coming off a tough overtime loss on Monday Night Football and have a short week to prepare. This fatigue could be a major factor, especially considering quarterback Trevor Lawrence is nursing a high ankle sprain. While he may play, his mobility will likely be limited, hindering the Jacksonville offense. Christian Kirk is out with an injury, further depleting their offensive firepower.
The Browns are allowing the fewest yards per game in the league and holding opponents to the lowest third-down conversion rate. At home, they’re even stingier, surrendering just 10 points per game. Cleveland’s offense showed signs of life under Joe Flacco last week and they should be even better this week with a full game under Flacco’s belt and a soft Jags defense. The weather could also play a role, with the forecast calling for bad conditions. I think the Browns will be able to win this game deploying old-school rushing and defense.
The Browns have a +1.1 ATS margin this season and I think Vegas is underestimating them again this week.
Bears +3.5 vs Lions
Despite Detroit’s impressive 9-3 record, my expected wins model suggests their true strength lies closer to 7-5, potentially indicating they’re somewhat overranked. This Sunday’s matchup in Chicago offers the Bears a golden opportunity to expose those weaknesses and secure a crucial divisional victory.
The weather conditions in Chicago could play a major role. Snow and wind are expected, which could hinder the passing game and potentially force a more ground-based approach. These teams are ranked third and fourth in rushing yards, so I’m not sure which, if any, team that directly benefits. However, in their first matchup, the Bears ran for a 183 yards versus 114 for the Lions. Jared Goff threw three interceptions in that matchup, yet the Lions pulled out a close win in Detroit. I think Fields’ ability to escape the pocket and create plays on his feet will be a major asset in the anticipated inclement weather.
Chicago is a much better team at home and I think Fields will outplay Goff. With the home field advantage, I think this line should be a full point lower than what it is.
Dolphins -13 vs Titans
It’s the holiday season, so I think that calls for a few bonus bet. This doesn’t quite fit the criteria for a Best Bet because of the large spread, but I’m feeling pretty confident about Miami covering at home against the Titans, who are terrible on the road.
Doug Burrell finished 2022 as Fantasy Nerd’s Most Accurate Expert in NFL Picks and Tallysight’s #1 ranked expert Against the Spread Expert out of 200+ experts. He is a veteran, a runner and an avid fantasy sports enthusiast since 1999. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.
Doug is a veteran, an avid runner, and works as a copywriter. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and three dogs. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.