The Muffed Punt: How NFL fans should bet the double-digit diss

The NFL loves to turn a blind eye to gambling. And we’re talking the “real” gambling, like spreads and totals. Not what the league decides is or isn’t sports betting – depending on the size of the checks coming through the door (You think the DFS sites pay the NFL with oversized “Grand Prize” checks for those endorsement deals? That would be hilarious).

But in the locker rooms – the throbbing, blood-pumping, beating heart of the NFL – the players, coaches, front office executives, and even the damn water boys know the spread. It’s on the team bulletin board right next to meeting times, travel itineraries and internal memos. And while NFL franchises will rarely admit it, the pointspread is a major motivational factor.

Need to give your crumby team a kick in the pants? “Hey, guys. Listen up: Las Vegas isn’t giving us any respect this week.” Ohhhhhh, snap! Nothing stirs the pot like good ol’ fashioned disrespect. And when it comes to Week 3 of the NFL schedule, two teams are getting the ultimate slap in the face – Rick James style! HA, HA, HA! COLD BLOODED!

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears are dreaded double-digit underdogs this Sunday, and for good reason:

The Jaguars… well … they’re the Jags, and they happen to be heading up the coast to play the still-pissed Patriots in Foxborough. So no one, including Jacksonville’s entire organization, is surprised that they’re getting 13.5 points from bookies. It’s a spot the Jaguars have been in before and one they’ll likely see again before 2015 is over, but not one they’ve been terribly bad in – at least against the spread. Going back to 2010, Jacksonville is a breakeven 9-9-2 ATS as a double-digit underdog in the regular season (3-17 SU).

As for the Bears, they offer backup QB Jimmy Clausen as a sacrifice to the infamous 12th Man in Seattle, where oddsmakers have installed Chicago as a 14.5-point pup. The winless Seahawks are hungry as hell and welcome Kam Chancellor back. Whether he plays or not may not matter in the end. As bad as the Bears have been at times, this is a rare spot for them. And it’s also been a profitable spot as well, with Chicago boasting a 6-3 ATS mark as a Triple-D over the past 10 seasons.

Turning our attention to the other side of this coin, the double-digit favorite, and football bettors have reason to be a little cautious when it comes to laying those heaping piles of points. Teams giving 10 or more points are just 177-203-10 ATS (339-51 SU) since the 2010 regular season campaign, covering those ambitious spreads only 46.6 percent of the time.

New England is the biggest culprit when it comes to not only warranting double-digit love but also falling short of those expectations. The Patriots are a collective 17-27 ATS as double-digit favorites the past 10 seasons (40-4 SU), covering only 38.6 percent of the time. And if you look at their ATS prowess in recent years, Brady & Co. are a deflating 7-15 ATS since 2008 (20-2 SU). Even in that magical 2007 campaign, New England was a perfect 11-0 SU but 6-5 ATS when giving Raisin Bran-sized scoops of points to opponents.

Seattle, which has become the Patriots’ NFC equal (expect for the ability to move the ball one yard), has only been a double-digit fave 20 times in the past decade, with half of those games coming in the past two seasons. The Seahawks are at least better than the Pats at one thing, posting a 10-8-2 ATS mark when giving 10 or more points. Last year, Seattle was 1-2-1 ATS as a big favorite in the regular season.

Desperate times

If being a double-digit underdog isn’t enough to motivate teams these days, what about staring 0-3 start to season? There are eight NFL clubs currently hanging a goose egg in the win column (Seattle, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Houston, and Baltimore) heading into Sunday, and if you think the threat of a winless September will spark some extra betting value with those teams… think again.

• 0-2 teams are just 107-114-8 ATS (48.4 percent) and 94-135 SU in third game
• 0-2 favorites are 35-38-2 ATS and 0-2 underdogs are 71-76-6 ATS in third game
• 0-2 teams are 50-62-4 ATS at home and 57-52-4 ATS on the road
• 0-2 teams are 56-57-6 ATS since 200
• 0-2 teams went 5-2 ATS in Week 3 last season (hmmm…)

The Madden Project

If you’ve been following along these last three weeks, welcome back. If not, here’s what we’re doing: Basically using Madden 16 on Xbox One to predict the outcomes of real life games for betting purposes.

Last week, Madden 16 killed it. Going 4-1 ATS with its only loss coming by 1.7 points in the Patriots-Bills game. The craziest thing: One of the three simulations run for the Niners-Steelers game finished 45-14 – a very random score compared to the other two. Final score of the actual San Fran-Pittsburgh game: 43-18. This can only mean one thing. The machines are taking over and SkyNet is about unleash hell.

Ah well. There’s no fate but what we make, right?

This week, I only did three sims because I have a busy job and three kids. To quote the infinite wisdom of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Plus, the less power we give the machines at this point, the better.

Facebook went down for 10 minutes this week and every oversharing, newly-single, 30-something lost their mind because they couldn’t broadcast their latest workout pics and vague status updates to people they haven’t seen since Grade 7. “Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough…” WTF does that mean?! Bah, on with the show.

This week’s sims:

Pittsburgh at St. Louis: 35-10/17-37/35-10 – Average: Steelers win 29-19
Cincinnati at Baltimore: 19-31/26-16/17-20 – Average: Ravens win 23.3-20.7
Denver at Detroit: 35-17/21-37/34-10 – Average: Broncos win 30-21.3

Madden 16 ATS record: 6-4 (I’m watching you Xbox!)

Completely ridiculous thing to base a bet on

As sports bettors, we’re always looking for the inside track, and speaking of inside tracks the Houston Texans have washed their hands of the sectional natural grass tray system at Reliant Stadium and replaced that troublesome turf with regular ole artificial grass.

Not only does that banish the worst playing surface in the NFL – one that claimed more than a few victims – back to hell, but it makes for a faster track in Houston for this week’s home stand against the Bucs.

Here are some interesting grass/turf comparisons involving the Texans since the 2003 season:

• 105-93-6 ATS (100-104 SU) on grass (53% ATS success)
• 15-30-1 ATS (11-35 SU) on turf (33% ATS success)
• 104-95-5 Over/Under on grass (42.4 average total points scored)
• 25-21-0 Over/Under on turf (45.1 average total points scored)

Biggest line moves

If you had said the Jets would be 2-0 hosting the 0-2 Eagles in Week 3 before the season started, and be a betting favorite, you would’ve received one of the following: 1. An overly aggressive high five from Fireman Ed. 2. A battery whipped at your head. But here we are, with the J-E-T-S opening as big as 2.5-point underdogs before being steamed all the way to -2.5 following their gritty win over Indianapolis on Monday Night Football.

The other line move of note comes courtesy of Drew Brees’ bum shoulder. The Saints were cagey about their QBs’ status, which had the opening spread of Panthers -3 balloon to -10 before wiseguys bought back the Saints all the way down to +7. Then sharps took advantage of a possible middle and bought back Carolina giving the touchdown, dropping the game to -6.5. After New Orleans officially announced that Brees was out, books moved this line back to Carolina -9.

Books are sweating…

The Falcons. Everyone and their dog is betting against the Brandon Weeden-led Cowboys in Week 3. According to Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology in Las Vegas, there’s been almost nothing on Dallas in this game with both public players and sharps taking Atlanta, which went as big as -2 at some markets.

Wiseguys love…

The Bills and the Chiefs. Simbal says sharps hit both underdogs at the key number, taking Kansas City +7 and dropping them to +6.5 for the Monday nighter with Green Bay, and betting Buffalo +3 and moving that spread to +2.5 against Miami.

Banker game of the week

Colts-Titans. All the money is riding on Indianapolis to not only pick up its first win of the season but also cover the 3-point spread on the road at Tennessee. Simbal says a lot of parlays will have the Colts, meaning a win for the Titans – either SU or ATS – would kill off a lot of action tied together with the late afternoon and night games.

Daily Fantasy Player of the Week

If only I could return my defective Week 2 daily fantasy pick of Davante Adams as easily as I returned my broken vacuum to Wal-Mart last weekend. Adams suffered an ankle injury in the Sunday nighter against Seattle and finished with only 5.8 DFS points.

Despite two duds in two weeks (Owen Daniels with 1.5 points as my Week 1 pick), I’m not playing it safe. To quote Yogi Berra – which is something just about every sports writer with a sense of humor has done this week – “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.”

DFS Player of the Week: Cecil Shorts III, WR Houston Texans ($5,200)

Texans top WR DeAndre Hopkins is undergoing concussion protocol and is still up in the air for this weekend’s tilt with Tampa Bay. That could open the door for Shorts, who had 7.7 DFS points in Week 1 and just 6.4 in Week 2. He’s been targeted 20 times, including 12 in the loss to Carolina last Sunday.

Shorts mainly runs shorter, underneath routes but that could come in handy if Houston gets inside the 20-yard line. Tampa Bay has be a dismal defense in the red zone, allowing its first two opponents – Titans and Saints – to go a perfect 7-for-7 on red-zone touchdowns.

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…

C.J. Mosley, LB Baltimore Ravens

Mosely suffered an ankle injury against the Raiders last Sunday and while he isn’t listed on the team’s injury report for Week 3 he did sit out practice Thursday. If Mosley doesn’t play or even if he’s limited, it’s a major hit to the Ravens, who are still getting over the loss of LB Terrell Suggs. He’ll be needed to stop the Bengals’ two-headed running back monster of Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

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. This week, with my beloved-but-beleaguered Cowboys hosting the Falcons, books opened this game pick’em, with money on Atlanta swaying the odds in the Falcons favor. Let us know which cheer squad you’re siding with in the comment section below:


Sunday’s menu

Before the season began, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett showed the movie Rocky 3, telling his team not to get complacent with last year’s winning campaign – like Rocky did when he got his ass waxed by Clubber Lang.

After two weeks, I would say my Cowboys look less like a rejuvenated, Apollo Creed-trained “Italian Stallion” from Rocky 3 and more like the punch-drunk, broke as a joke Balboa from Rocky V. And if you know that movie, it’s one of the worst insults you can throw at a team.

Comfort food this Sunday. I’m making ribs.

Song for Sunday

This one goes out to all those 0-2 teams about to go 0-3. You know who you are…


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 3.

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