This hasn’t been an ordinary season of FBS and NFL gambling…not so far, at least.
Betting “against the public” used to be simple, like hunting for rising Over/Under lines (on which to bet the Under) and inflated moneylines and point spreads on well-known favorites. But a rash of low-scoring results in exhibition and early-season NFL games has caused the O/U to drop unexpectedly on a few marquee contests.
If anything, Las Vegas bookies have overestimated winless underdogs against name-brand opponents, as the Dolphins, Redskins, Jets, and Bengals look totally hapless on the field.
It could change the age-old bookmaker paradigm of tight spreads on NFL rivalry battles. New England doesn’t have many “division rivals” right now.
There are some changes you just don’t see coming, though, and I’m puzzled by the lack of moneyline wagers on the Green Bay Packers to win this week’s Monday Night Football clash with the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.
That’s not to say the Packers will be the better team or that Green Bay is the likely winner. Rodgers is merely such a celebrity and the Pack is such a shiny object in the media following a 4-1 start that you’d think gamblers would be ready to cheer with Cheeseheads at 1-to-2.25 payoff odds. After all, this will be the 1st time all season that Lambeau’s storied “frozen tundra” will actually be frozen.
But no, the Green Bay Packers’ moneyline for Monday night as lengthened to (-200) with a week of betting action. Is the betting public out-thinking itself with Detroit notching only 2 wins on the season so far?
Here’s a selection of Sunday picks (mostly late games as this is being posted 48 hours from the Packers-Lions kickoff) and our handicap of the Green Bay vs Detroit battle on MNF.
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns
The public is ALL about the Seattle Seahawks in this match-up, turning the ‘Hawks from an underdog to a (-2) favorite on short order. What do everyday pundits all agree that they see in this contest that’s so favorable to Seattle?
Cleveland has fallen to 2-3 after a Monday night 31-3 shellacking courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers. Baker Mayfield struggled to his worst outing as a professional, and was eventually given a seat in the 4th quarter when the game was well out of hand. The lightning-rod QB completed just 8-of-22 passes for 100 yards, took 4 sacks, and was intercepted twice. The Browns have a short week to prepare and more than 1 problem – they will have to shore up their run defense as well as the passing game.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are still known for a mean defense, but are playing better on offense than expected. Chris Carson had his fumble problems early with 3 in the first 3 weeks, but he has held onto the egg since then, and is coming off a big game last Thursday night as Seattle held off the L.A. Rams 30-29. Even with a healthy Rashaad Penny back in the mix, it still seems Pete Carroll is working towards making Carson his workhorse back.
Russell Wilson has been dynamite in 2019. Wilson is yet to throw an interception, and has completed 114-of-156 passes for 1409 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s only rushed for 120 yards, but leads the team in rushing TDs. Tyler Lockett is slowly emerging into a concrete #1 passing option, and Will Dissly is evolving into a Red Zone threat. Cleveland’s defense knows it must defend both receivers tightly, as the Seahawks successfully self-scouted away from Wilson’s tendency to target Lockett so often in the early-going.
Look at the macro-analytics. There’s a potential Super Bowl contender returning to prominence, and its QB is on fire. The opposing team’s QB might be out of a job soon if he’s not careful. Wilson can out-play Mayfield by a field-goal margin in his sleep.
Pick: Seahawks ATS
San Francisco 49ers at L.A. Rams
Todd Gurley’s continued health woes could make things difficult for QB Jared Goff and the L.A. Rams against a stingy San Francisco defense, which ranks 2nd in the NFL in yards allowed. Even if Gurley suits up and plays, there’s never a guarantee he’ll be at 100%, any more than when he faded with injuries in the 2018-19 playoffs.
Gurley found the end zone twice last week in the loss to the Seahawks, bringing his season total to a prodigious 5 scores. He has been listed as questionable and considered day-to-day. Also battling injury but hoping to play is WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks was limited participant in practice on Wednesday, but is still in concussion protocol and yet to be cleared.
The 49ers will probably try to pass and open-up looks for the RBs against 7-man fronts. That will create a long 1st half and a likely “Over” (50.5) final score. However. I’m also interested in the hosts to cover (-3) as L.A. has faced a more-arduous schedule (judging by results of other games and not preseason “that’s a win” branding) than has San Francisco, and even though that’s factored into the point spread the advantage of the Coliseum crowd may not fully be handicapped by Las Vegas.
Pick: Rams ATS
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
We’ve seen a lot of O/U totals falling for big games in college and NFL football this season, which feels like an indication that gamblers are getting wise to the “casual Over bet” foible.
But the O/U for Denver vs Tennessee has ticked up 2 points to (40.5), which looks like an old-school rising total on which the public should be wagered against. There’s nothing worse than an old-pro QB like Joe Flacco when under heavy pressure, and Marcus Mariota could be even more battered on the road this Sunday thanks to a bad pass-blocking OL. Each QB is likely to struggle.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets
Kellen Moore is under attack from the media as the play-calling is being questioned in Big D. Dallas only ran the ball 12 times in last week’s loss against Green Bay despite having 1 of the best tailbacks in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott, and Dak Prescott rang-up a huge yardage total through the air – including a prodigious 226 yards on Amari Cooper targets alone – but the poor run defense made it too tough to catch up after a bad start and 3 interceptions killed the Cowboys’ chances.
But I’m feeling the Silver Star against a (-7) spread against the hapless New York Jets.
Play-calling controversies are often bunk – too many fans think you can win a Super Bowl by simply calling all of the right plays, like it’s a video game or something. Heck – it’s hard to win in PlayStation football with sound play-calling alone.
What’s more, the Jets’ blocking woes won’t disappear just because the starting QB is back. If New York’s offensive line was blocking well enough to hold-back the Cowboys this weekend, then Falk’s numbers would be a whole lot shinier than there’d be speculation about him keeping the job. Few players or coaches’ jobs are likely to be safe with the Jets after this season.
Pick: Cowboys ATS
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Detroit is a popular-enough Week 6 MNF wager that an opening point spread of (-5.5) on Green Bay has been whittled-down to just (-4). It certainly can’t have much to do with the Pack’s form in its last outing.
Rodgers didn’t have his finest night ever against the Cowboys, but the ground game was cranked-up behind a physical OL and a dynamite performance from RB Aaron Jones. Decades worth of NFL scores have proven that if a defense can stop the run and grab interceptions or fumble-recoveries its club will have a pretty good chance of winning, and a trio of picks proved invaluable in Green Bay’s 10-point win.
Considering the vibe around Rodgers has always been that the future HOFer needs only to get healthy and have a good supporting cast surrounding him, I can’t imagine NFL gamblers aren’t being influenced by the most recent of up-and-down Green Bay outcomes.
Devonte Adams is hurt – but that has more to do with Fantasy Football decision-making than whether the Packers will reach the postseason in ’19-20. Besides, Adams’ absence has already been factored-into the Las Vegas lines. It must be positive signs from the Detroit Lions causing the line-movement.
Last Sunday’s barn-burner at Ford Field was a positive sign indeed, even if Detroit eventually lost. QB Matt Stafford duked it out with visiting Patrick Mahomes in a shoot-out, throwing for 3 touchdowns and 0 picks while using a hot Kerryon Johnson to get the Kansas City pass rush at bay. A defense’s job against the Chiefs is usually to contain outside receivers while getting to Mahomes in the pocket, but the Lions largely covered and stayed patient, frustrating Mahomes (who went just 24-of-42) until the 4th quarter.
I’m not in love with the Packer moneyline (-200) or even Green Bay ATS at (-4) points. I do think the cold will affect the offenses a little bit – play-callers may prefer to body-punch and run pitch-outs to try to make the opposing defense winded and miserable.
But the Over/Under shouldn’t be falling at (45) – each set of skill players is more confident than they were 2 weeks ago. Green Bay is another style of opponent compared to Kansas City, but Stafford and the Lions will find a way to score points just the same. Rodgers will likely be called-upon to win the scrum with his arm in the 2nd half.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.