The Muffed Punt: 3-0 NFL teams are killing the sportsbooks at home

Move over Steve McQueen. The NFL has its own version of The Magnificent Seven, with seven teams entering the Week 4 schedule without a blemish on their record.

The Patriots (who are off this Sunday), Bengals, Broncos, Packers, Panthers, Falcons, and Cardinals all stand at a perfect 3-0 through three weeks. And with that success comes attention – lots of it – and attention is the football bettor’s kryptonite.

But like all plots including kryptonite, Superman finds a way to kick Lex Luthor in the ass. And, just like the Man of Steel, defeating our arch nemesis (in this case, the sportsbooks) takes a little work. We can’t just fly on up to the window and use our X-ray vision to blindly fade all 3-0 teams, thinking their odds will be inflated like a beach ball. No, you gotta use your brains as well as your brawn to save the day – or your bankroll – and uncover their one weakness.

In this case, it’s 3-0 teams playing at home in their fourth game of the schedule.

Teams that go 3-0 to start the season are good – it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure that out. They’ve gone 76-49 SU in their fourth game of the season since 1985, for a win percentage of almost 61 percent, and are a collective 66-56-3 ATS in that 30-year span – covering 54 percent of the time.

The real value, however, in betting 3-0 teams comes from those who are both good enough to go undefeated and lucky enough to have their fourth game be at home – a situation that has proved very profitable.

Teams that have started the season with three straight wins are 43-9 SU and 35-17 ATS (67 percent winning clip) if that fourth game is played at home. And that’s even facing an average spread of -5.8 points, a line that’s likely inflated a bit by the public’s love affair with 3-0 teams.

This Sunday, the Falcons (-6.5 vs. Texans), Bengals (-4 vs. Chiefs), Cardinals (-7 vs. Rams), and Broncos (-7 vs. Minnesota) are all touting a 3-0 mark on home turf, which looks good for their backers if this trend continues to hold water.

On the flip side of this, 3-0 teams hitting the road for their fourth contest of the season are only 33-40 SU (.452 winning percentage) and just 31-39-3 ATS, only covering the spread 44 percent of the time while facing an average spread of -1.6 points.

That has the Panthers (-3 at Bucs) and Packers (-8 at Niners) looking a little less tempting in Week 4. The Patriots, who enjoy the Week 4 bye, are in Dallas next Sunday with lookahead lines tagging the Super Bowl champs as 8.5-point road favorites.

So, don’t fear the kryptonite – at least not when it’s playing at home. You’re Superman for God’s sake.

What about 0-3 teams?

After looking at how 3-0 teams perform ATS in their fourth game, it begs the comparison: How do 0-3 teams do in their fourth contest? Ask and you shall receive!

Stats going back to 1985-86 season.

SU: 41-83
ATS: 57-63-4
Home: 26-48 SU / 28-41-2 ATS (Average spread +2.79)
Road: 15-38 SU / 29-22-2 ATS (Average spread +6.58)

Tomb Raiders

If Meat Loaf has taught us anything about football, it’s that “two out of three ain’t bad”, especially when you’re talking about the Raiders. Their 2-1 start is encouraging considering some long-standing droughts have been quenched the past two weeks.

First, Oakland has won back-to-back games – taking down Baltimore and Cleveland – for the first time since the 2012 season when it scored an overtime win in Jacksonville in Week 7, followed by a 26-16 victory at Kansas City in Week 8.

But perhaps the most startling trend being snapped is that Oakland is a road favorite (-3 at Chicago) for just the second time since Week 14 of the 2005 season. The Raiders were 3-point chalk visiting the Jets in mid-December that season, and wouldn’t be tabbed road faves again until Week 2 of the 2012 schedule, closing as 1-point favorites at Miami. Oakland – in true Silver & Black fashion – lost both of those games outright.

Pants-pooping Trend of the Week

This is a stat I discovered toward the middle of last season and watched in amazement as it paid out week after week. It involves the Seattle Seahawks – more specifically teams coming off a game with the Seahawks.

During the 2014 regular season, teams coming off a game against the hard-hitting Seahawks were just 3-11 SU and 3-9-1 ATS in their next contest (excluding Denver, which had a bye after its Week 3 loss to Seattle, and St. Louis in the season finale). It really picked up steam toward the middle of the schedule with the final 10 post-Seattle foes going 0-10 SU and 1-9 ATS following a date with the Seahawks.

This season, the trend stung the Rams after their Week 1 win against Seattle (losing SU and ATS 24-10 at Washington) and skipped the Packers, who not only beat the reigning NFC champs 27-17 in Week 2 but then went on to win and cover versus the Chiefs 38-28 in Week 3.

This week, it’s the Chicago Bears, who lick their wounds after a 26-0 shutout against Seattle and now play host to the aforementioned Raiders as field-goal pups in Week 4.

The Madden Project

We’re simulating NFL games each week on NFL Madden 16 for Xbox One to see if it holds any handicapping value. The machine went 2-1 ATS last week, correctly calling the Steelers and Broncos to cover. Here are this week’s sim results:

Eagles at Redskins (in the wind/rain): 24-34 (RG3 sighting!)/17-19/20-15 – Redskins win 22.7-20.3
Vikings at Broncos: 23-37/10-25/14-37 – Broncos win 33-15.7
Cowboys at Saints: 30-27/20-21/27-24 OT – Cowboys win 26.7-24

Madden 16 ATS record: 8-5 (61.5 percent winners!)

Good mornin’ Gov’na!

Football bettors can rise and shine with the latest installment of the NFL’s overseas expansion Sunday. The Jets and Dolphins get Week 4 started at 9:30 a.m. ET from Wembley Stadium in London, England, with oddsmakers setting New York as a 1-point neutral-site favorite.

Football is hardly “futebol” when it comes to European bookmakers, but according to UK-based operator Ladbrokes, the NFL and its ventures to “Foggy London Town” are picking up in popularity.

“These are significantly busier than a normal game and I would estimate we will take around 10 to 15 times the amount we would take if this game was in the US in pre-live business,” Alex Donohue, public relations for Ladbrokes told me Friday. “The bet in play is not normally as busy as it gets somewhat overshadowed by Premier League football. The fact that Arsenal versus Manchester United kicks off at 16:00 will not help in this regard.”

“NFL betting in general has grown substantially due to the increased coverage on TV and extra Wembley games,” Donohue adds. “The Wembley games are expected to be busier than ever this year with turnover expected to be at least double the early Wembley games.”

Ladbrokes says, as of Friday, the betting action on the Jets-Dolphins game is still light, but expects business to pick up throughout the weekend, when 95 percent of bets come in. However, the early action the game has drawn has been taking New York.

Biggest line move

Hurricane Joaquin (can’t get a Hurricane Jason? C’mon) is threatening the Eagles-Redskins game Sunday, with the league literally waiting out the storm when it comes to making a decision on whether to move game time or not.

Sharps aren’t waiting for Roger Goodell to make up his mind. They’ve hammered the Under in this game with rain and winds expected to hit 20 mph. The total has been trimmed from 47.5 to as low as 43.5. It’s not so much the rain bettors should be concerned about but the wind, which is the most destructive force when it comes to football betting.

“If you were smart enough to see this coming and bet the Under, you probably got a good number,” says Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology in Las Vegas.

Let this handsome guy tell you how to factor weather into your bets. Take it away you beautiful, beautiful man…

Books are sweating…

The Raiders. Oakland has been the sharp bettors’ early-season crush and all the early money for its game in Chicago has poured in on the Raiders – moving the spread from Oakland -2.5 to -3. Once the public shows up on the weekend, it could really get out of hand. Books expect the public to jump on the Silver & Black simply because they don’t want to bet the 0-3 Bears, who were shutout last week at Seattle.

“When the public starts showing up on the same team as the sharps, you’re going to need the other side,” says Simbal.

Wiseguys love…

The Browns. It’s not just the Raiders garnering sharp money this Sunday. Cleveland is a popular pick with wiseguys, who are snatching up the +7.5 at San Diego. The Chargers have a slew of injuries on the offensive line and haven’t shown the firepower to cover a spread this high. CG Technology books, like the Cosmopolitan, The M, and Venetian, are down to Cleveland +7 but are making bettors lay an extra 10 cents to play the visitor.

Banker Game of the Week

Packers-Niners. This late-afternoon matchup will have a ton of parlay action tied to it and while the line has come down at bit from Green Bay -8.5 to -8, books are bracing for a huge flood of Cheesehead bets that could push this line as big as Packers -9.5.

“People are dying to bet against the Niners,” says Simbal.

Mmmmmmm… Bacon

I teamed up with Rob Cressy from BaconSports.com for some NFL Week 4 chit-chat Friday morning. I’m the guy with the hat and gross beard. No, the other one with the hat and gross beard. And pardon any mistakes I may have made (calling Kelvin Benjamin Travis Benjamin), it was early.

Daily Fantasy Player of the Week

Owen Daniels. Devante Adams. Cecil Shorts. My Grade 11 girlfriend. What do they all have in common? They’ve all made me look like a fool – some by sucking in daily fantasy when I said they would be good, and others for dumping me for some older, dirtier, guitar-playing clown. Since this section isn’t going away any time soon, we might as well just jump in head first…

DFS Player of the Week:
Cole Beasley, WR Dallas Cowboys

You know things are bad in Dallas when Beasley is you’re No. 1 receiver. I’m not knocking the little guy, he’s a poor man’s Julian Edelman (who was once a poor man’s Wes Welker). And he’s got ups. But with Tony Romo sidelined, backup Brandon Weeden is leaning heavily on the “Beez” in the slot. He caught all four balls thrown his way for 49 yards against the Falcons last Sunday, and was about half a foot away from scoring a TD. I see him getting extra work against the Saints and maybe – just maybe – cracking that goal line.

Cue DFS “Kiss of Death”.

Injury you should know

Each week I’ll point out an injury that may not register with the oddsmakers, as far as importance to the spread, but could still have a huge impact on how the game trickles out. This week’s injury you should know…

Earl Mitchell, DT Miami Dolphins

The Fins’ defensive line is already underperforming and not having Mitchell healthy would be a big blow against the Jets in England Sunday. He’s been slowed by a bad back and is currently listed as probable. Mitchell has just six tackles through the first three games.

We know how to pick’em

Each week, we take a game sitting at pick’em and put the hardcore analysis away, leaving it up to which team has the hottest cheerleaders. There are no picks on the board, but everyone loves cheerleaders. So the tightest spread is the next best thing, and that’s Jets-Dolphins (+1) in London. As they say in the UK, “Have a butchers at these fit birds”. Let us know which team has the best squad in the comment section below.

Sunday’s menu

My Cowboys don’t play until the evening, which makes me less worried about missing action while I make supper. The games will still be on in the background, but I can actually function like a normal human being and not like some crazed “Bat Boy Found In Cave!” when Dallas is in action.

So with some extra time allotted, I think I’m going to make some slow-cooker pulled pork sandwiches. Yeah. That sounds nice.

Song for Sunday

I don’t mind when Dallas plays the Sunday nighter. It allows me to take in as much of the other live action (I watch a lot of condensed games during the week) and focus on side things like bets, pools, daily and season-long fantasy. It all ramps up to a Grand Finale. So with my Cowboys owning the stage with the Saints Sunday night, here are “The Cars”…

Follow Covers Features Editor Jason Logan on Twitter @CoversJLo. Check out JLo’s Covers archive for his latest features and columns, including his NFL’s biggest betting mismatches Week 4.

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