Week 9: Chiefs at Cowboys
If the NFL season of underdogs screeched to a halt in Week 7, it full on crashed into a divider in Week 8.
Favorites went 12-1 straight-up, and 9-4 against the spread last week. The only outright upset occurred in the game with the shortest point spread on the board, as the Carolina Panthers stifled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-3 as closing 1-point underdogs.
Over the last two weeks, favorites are now 24-4 straight-up and 19-9 against the spread. That brings the season total to a more balanced against the spread record of 63-53-3 in favor of the underdogs.
It’s a lesson that regression strikes everyone — even the sports books. The casinos rode underdogs to one of their best starts ever in the NFL, but teams taking points weren’t going to continue cashing at a rate of more than 60 percent.
The more popularly bet favorites were bound to even the score, and that’s what’s happened recently. It’s been much to the chagrin of Talking Points, which has now suffered back-to-back losing weeks after going 4-9 against the spread picking every Week 8 game.
Read below to see if the blog can turn it around in Week 9. The season-long record picking every game stands at 62-55-2. Lines are the best available on the chosen side currently in Las Vegas, and picks are separated into three confidence categories.
Carolina Panthers minus-1 vs. Atlanta Falcons The Falcons may only have one performance that grades out as above-average to this point of the season — a 34-23 win over the Packers as 3-point favorites in Week 2. The Panthers are second in the NFL in sack rate, and Julius Peppers and Kawaan Short should continue to wreak havoc here.
Jacksonville Jaguars minus-4 vs. Cincinnati Bengals There’s still some hesitancy in the betting market to back the Jaguars, which has regularly gone to the benefit of those unconcerned with the franchise’s reputation. Jacksonville’s recent history means little to nothing compared with its current shutdown defense.
New York Jets plus-3.5 vs. Buffalo Bills Bills’ defense has regressed the last couple weeks in giving up 6.2 yards per play but survived by virtue of an unsustainable plus-6 turnover margin. The Jets could be at an advantage on Thursday Night Football off a short week behind a more experienced coach in Todd Bowles, who’s gone a profitable 9-6-1 against the spread versus divisional opponents.
Oakland Raiders minus-3 at Miami Dolphins Dolphins are a fixture on the don’t-bet list until they figure out how to improve on an offense that even coach Adam Gase conceded was the worst in the league. The Raiders have their share of problems, but one overlooked cause to their 3-5 straight-up start is one of the league’s toughest schedules.
Baltimore Ravens plus-5.5 at Tennessee Titans It’s hard to trust either of these games given their inconsistency, as both rank in the NFL’s bottom four by Football Outsiders’ variance metric. It’s therefore preferable to grab the points in a game with a wide variety of possible outcomes.
Denver Broncos plus-8.5 at Philadelphia Eagles Lines are getting a little too high on the Broncos, which still have what is in all likelihood the NFL’s best defense. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz deserves a spot in NFL MVP conversation, but the Broncos’ defense will pose the biggest challenge he’s seen in his career.
Dallas Cowboys plus-1.5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs With three-fourths of the action coming in on the Chiefs to add 1.5 points to the line, it appears bettors might be overvaluing Ezekiel Elliott’s absence. Research has shown that the impact of a single running back’s absence, even one as great as Elliott, is negligible.
New York Giants plus-3.5 vs. Los Angeles Rams Action has, and will continue to, pile up on the Rams to inflate the line and put the value on the Giants’ side. The Giants’ 0-3 record in games decided by less than a touchdown hints they’re better than their 1-6 straight-up record indicates.
Houston Texans minus-12 vs. Indianapolis Colts Colts were likely the play at plus-14 before the line started dropping. If the spread continues to fall, there’s an increasingly valuable middling opportunity for those who fired on Indianapolis plus-14.
Seattle Seahawks minus-7 vs. Washington Redskins A wounded team like Washington, both literally with its injury report and figuratively with its two-game losing streak, traveling West to play in the toughest venue in the NFL sounds like a recipe for disaster. Some books have already added a half-point, and the rest might follow suit by kickoff.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus-7 at New Orleans Saints Tampa Bay, fourth in the league in gaining 5.9 yards per play, is at least capable of scoring with New Orleans, which is more than can be said for four of the Saints’ five opponents during their win streak. Expecting an all-out effort from the Buccaneers in a desperate attempt to salvage a sinking season.
San Francisco 49ers plus-2 vs. Arizona Cardinals At minus-72 and minus-86, respectively, the Cardinals and 49ers have the two worst point differentials in the NFC. Neither team is strong enough to full strength to lay points on the road to the other, let alone with a backup quarterback forced into action like the Cardinals’ Drew Stanton.
Detroit Lions minus-2.5 at Green Bay Packers Need more data points to truly evaluate the Packers with Brett Hundley in the place of Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. But the early returns weren’t promising, as their 26-17 loss to the Saints wasn’t as close as the final score indicated — and the Lions have a better defense than the Saints.