WagerBop’s trend of missing weekday football picks and nailing weekend picks has begun to reach epidemic proportions.
This week’s college slate is a baroque example. WagerBop lost both of its Friday night picks, including our touted San Diego State Aztecs falling to pieces on the blue turf at Boise State. But as soon as Saturday rolled around, we were almost perfect to a laughable extent, nailing Aiden O’ Connell’s boost for Purdue over Minnesota, forecasting Kansas as an underdog money-line winner, prevailing on the low-side of Over/Under (42.5) for Iowa-Michigan (okay, so that was an easy one), and pulling-out an ATS win for Clemson-North Carolina State. Only the Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal combining for 72 points (instead of < 62.5) ruined a perfect day.
What accounts for our slow starts and fast finishes in winning recommended pigskin bets? For a start, there’s a lot more TV games to pick from (and dismiss) on Saturday and Sunday. If we publish an NFL preview early enough to cover Thursday Night Football, then protocol demands some type of handicap of the TNF game, whatever it happens to be. If a college prediction scroll is posted before Wednesday, we’re probably expected to handicap the MAC (or the Sun Belt) on a weekday since it’s the only TV option available. Saturday-Sunday schedules are a grab bag from which only the very best recommendations can be pulled.
This handicapper’s #1 rule of successful betting is to maximize the number of events/odds that you browse while minimizing the number of large-unit wagers actually taken, so that your high-risk gambles are always picked from the “cream of the crop” of potential sports-market investments. But even when bringing our usual “quality over quantity” attitude to an NFL Sunday, what’s our best method of picking (and dismissing) potential sides following Week 3’s series of surprises, and the resulting tight spreads on most of Week 4?
Week 4’s best tactic involves focusing on undervalued NFL teams, instead of overrated clubs supposedly about to be “exposed” at such an early date, before a lot of adjustments can be made later anyway. Choosing markets is just as important as choosing games/teams in a season’s early going – and we’re avoiding ML picks to help users keep their fingernails intact by Tuesday.
Sunday, October 2: New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings
The standard O/U line of (43.5) on Sunday’s early kickoff in London may undervalue the QBs and the offenses now preparing to do battle in the backyard of Harry Kane.
It’s true that 1-2 New Orleans let Big Easy boosters down again with the ball in Week 4. Jameis Winston was intercepted twice by the Panthers in Carolina’s 22-14 victory, ruining a fine day for multiple receivers in the team’s talented skill corps. But the overall yardage total for New Orleans belies the team’s meager points-scored through 3 weeks, and bookmakers could be anticipating “scoreboard glance” analysis from casual users who don’t think to check stats for themselves, instead of listening to the sad-sack prognostications that come out of a major NFL market after the team scores few points and loses.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings will relish showcasing their high-octane attack on a neutral field, rather than in the noisy Superdome. RB Dalvin Cook is day-to-day with minor injury problems, but if he doesn’t get 20+ carries in London, that makes the game potentially even more wide-open and not less.
Pick: Over (43.5)
Sunday, October 2: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
The Buffalo Bills tend to suffer weird lapses on offense during the regular season. The tendency struck at an inconvenient hour on Sunday, as the Bills manufactured only 5 points in the 2nd half of a 21-19 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Not that one would ascertain Buffalo’s offensive issues by looking at Josh Allen’s stat line. The superstar QB passed for 400 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding 47 rush yards on just 8 carries. But by contrast, Buffalo tailback Devin Singletary only trudged for 13 yards on Sunday.
The loss hasn’t discouraged Buffalo’s long-term speculators in the least. Allen’s team remains a (+500) futures pick to win Super Bowl 57, and is a (-3) favorite’s pick against the spread for Sunday’s challenging road contest in Baltimore.
Baltimore, at 2-1, hasn’t shown the kind of 4-quarter explosiveness through the air that helped characterize Lamar Jackson’s breakout MVP campaign of a few seasons ago. Baltimore’s defense isn’t as dynamic as it has been in the past, even with many more healthy contributors than were available late in last year’s casualty-ward campaign. Buffalo’s ability to score 28+ points on the road could be up to the Bills themselves.
However, the key to Sunday’s handicap isn’t to gauge whether Buffalo will have another “weird” mental breakdown, for the Bills’ worst performances—such as last season’s embarrassing loss to Jacksonville—spring up at the least predictable times. Speculators should instead consider that Buffalo’s linchpin Von Miller isn’t bound to be as effective against the Ravens’ unique Pistol playbook as he is against traditional 10-on-11 offenses in the NFC West and elsewhere.
QB Lamar Jackson’s generational rushing from triple-option looks provides Baltimore with the handy “option” of eliminating a dominant edge-rusher in the game plan, simply refusing to block Miller and allowing Jackson to option-off him. Buffalo didn’t have to compete with a healthy Baltimore lineup on the gridiron last year, another angle that bolsters the Ravens’ chance to surprise the Bills and procure a 1st-half lead at home.
Pick: Ravens ATS (+3)
Sunday, October 2: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
The Broncos and Raiders may qualify as the “Clean Old Fashioned Hate” rivalry of the National Football League. For perspective, former FBS coach Paul Johnson, who led programs at the Naval Academy and Georgia Tech, stated that the difference between Georgia Tech vs. Georgia – the match-up behind “COFH” on college football’s Rivalry Weekend – and Army vs. Navy was that GT and UGA representatives actually couldn’t stand each other. Army-Navy is an annual contest of siblings, while GT vs. UGA (and Denver against Las Vegas) might as well be a fort-storming by the first light-of-day. Denverites can hardly refer to the Las Vegas Raiders without pronouncing it “Fade-ers” instead, and if that sounds too tame, consider that FanDuel’s blog cannot repeat what Broncos colors have been nicknamed by Raider fans … this is a family publication!
Rivalry match-ups tend to tighten NFL point spreads, and this Sunday is no exception with the winless Raiders at (-160) odds to score a first victory on the season. But the game’s substantial O/U line of (45.5) total points can be attributed to Las Vegas’ defensive struggles, as the team has allowed 77 points to date and could be the “get-well” opponent that QB Russell Wilson’s offense sorely needs to pay a visit to. Then again, the Raiders noticeably stiffened on defense in last week’s close-shave loss to Tennessee.
Red Zone failures could doom the visitors again, considering how Tennessee’s attempts to finish drives went kaput against LV in Week 3. As reported last week, until the Denver Broncos quit lining-up for 1st down and goal as if it’s 4th-and-10 on the 50-yard line, Denver makes a bad pick ATS against all but the league’s most-vulnerable units.
Pick: Raiders ATS (-2.5)
Sunday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa’s bright Super Bowl odds took a hit in Week 3, even though several of the Buccaneers’ problems are only temporary. Mike Evans wasn’t available to the Tampa offense last weekend thanks to getting suspended 1 game after an ugly on-field fight in New Orleans, and the offensive line’s run-blocking effort broke down in a 14-12 loss to Green Bay as the Packers capitalized on opposing QB Tom Brady’s lack of options to key on Leonard Fournette. Tampa’s ground game, at least while utilizing its RBs and not dual-threat QB running threats like Buffalo, has proven to be more consistent than Singletary’s occasionally stumped rushing effort with the Bills. But whether it’s Brady’s advanced age, the OL’s struggles, or another factor, the Buccaneers’ line to win another NFL championship behind Brady is on its way to lengthening to 10-to-1.
Sunday Night Football’s odds can also be taken as a fresh sign of skepticism. Tampa Bay is a (+1.5) point-spread underdog at home following the 2-point loss on Sunday, but rather than an unbeaten team taking favorite’s honors, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs who’re handicapped as (-124) moneyline favorites to avenge a loss from Super Bowl 55. That’s a week after KC lost to Indianapolis, at the moment a less-touted club than Green Bay.
There’s no cause to be skeptical of Tom Brady, or to dismiss a fully-active Bucs wide receiving corps. Brady’s impetus behind “retiring” was largely to force the Tampa organization to replace a casino-style head coach in Bruce Arians with a new staff that’s willing to save Tom Terrific’s arm and legs for the biggest battles. Thanks to the Buccaneers’ careful new play-selection, Brady should be poised to keep-up with the NFL’s young-lion superstars behind center, with Mahomes being the trademark example of Tampa’s willingness to pit an ancient QB’s arm against the best of modern times.
But we can be skeptical of Tampa’s run game, just as it’s the Buffalo Bills backfield which could prove to be the AFC favorites’ Achilles Heel in the long-term. The scary part for Sunday night’s hosts is that Green Bay’s run defense has begun the year very badly. Conversely, the Chiefs are giving up well under 4 yards-per-carry to opposing rushers through 3 games, and the potential of a powerful Kansas City defense backing-up Mahomes’ attack has “championship” written all over it.
KC’s bolstered front is also untimely news for Brady, who may not get enough support from his RBs to stave-off a familiar rival with a point to prove following the Chiefs’ frustration at Lucas Oil.
Pick: Chiefs (-124)
Monday Night Football: L.A. Rams at San Francisco 49ers
It may feel like a cop-out recommending another O/U pick to cap-off the NFL week, but it’s hard to resist a middling Over/Under line like (42.5) total points set on a team like San Francisco after the 49ers’ “baseball score” with Denver in prime-time. The L.A. Rams may have beaten Arizona in Week 3, but they clearly blew an opportunity to clobber the Cardinals by 30-40 points, as the 2nd half revealed once again that inestimable wide receiver Cooper Kupp can’t dominate a full game without a better supporting cast.
Meanwhile, the rival 49ers have allowed less than 5 touchdowns and still stand at 1-2, meaning that the experienced San Fran crowd will save its shouting-chops for the Rams’ possessions, knowing where the ’22 team’s bread is buttered. The Rams have suffered from pre-snap penalties and delays that could get worse on Monday night, while the 49ers – who enjoyed a brief rush of hype upon Jimmy Garoppolo taking over for the injured QB Trey Lance – are beginning to realize it’s better to have 2 quarterbacks than just 1.
Pick: Under (42.5)
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.