The Muffed Punt: NFL teams suck something awful before playing in London

The NFL has a gambling problem. The professional football league continues to turn a blind eye on the impact that the sports betting community has on its popularity.

Whether it’s a detailed study on how football bettors are a far more engaged TV audience than non-betting football fans or simply walking into a jam-packed Las Vegas sportsbook and trying to find an open seat (you better get their at 5 a.m.): the NFL wants to hear about how sports betting is the gas on its financial fire about as much as you want to hear your wife’s recap of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

That hypocrisy is taken a step further each and every time Roger Goodell sends his teams overseas to play in England, where sports betting is… brace yourself… legal. Isn’t that a sticky wicket!

The NFL has pushed “American Football” down the throats of UK sports fans since 2007, expanding from one game to as many as three, including next week’s meeting between the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars.

And what will you find on the concourses of Wembley and Twickenham Stadium and their surrounding areas? Well, a butt-ton of sports betting kiosks, windows and parlors where patrons can place a wager on those NFL games before taking in the action live and in person. That’s what.

OK, I’ve soap boxed for long enough. It’s time to fight fire with fire. If the NFL continues to snub the importance of sports betting to its bottom line, I’ll use its beloved international series to drum up what Goodell and his goonies fear most – betting action itself (it’s ruining the integrity of the game! HAVEN’T YOU HEARD!). And I have just the trend to do it.

As mentioned above, the Colts and Jaguars will be packing their bags and heading to merry old England following their Week 3 contests. Perhaps it’s that overseas hike and all the logistics/complications that go with it that has led NFL teams to go just 8-20 SU and 7-20-1 ATS (26 percent) the game before playing in the UK.

That’s right. Getting slotted to play in one of these international games has been the kiss of death for teams the week before jumping the pond, which makes Indianapolis (-2.5 vs. San Diego) and Jacksonville (+1 vs. Baltimore) about as appealing as blood pudding (look it up, it’s British cuisine at its finest).

And, if you’re buying into this one-sided trend, you might as well parlay the Over along with those bets on the Bolts and Ravens. Those past 28 teams to play in the UK went 18-9-1 Over/Under the week before getting their passports stamped – a 67 percent Over winner. The Colts total is currently 51 points while the Jags have an O/U number of 47.

Who knows? This trend could continue to pay out in Week 3, and win you enough money to fly to the UK, buy a ticket for next week’s game, and have enough left over to place a bet before you take your seat among 80,000-plus British fans who have long accepted that gambling is woven into the fabric of sports.

Wouldn’t that piss the NFL off.

Getting out of the betting blocks

Heading into Sunday’s schedule, there are six teams that have gone 2-0 ATS to open the schedule and eight teams that have fallen behind at the book with a 0-2 ATS start. Here are a couple tidbits surrounding these good and bad bets out of the blocks:

•    0-2 ATS NFL teams are 75-55-4 ATS (58%) as an underdog in third game of the season since 1985. Buffalo +3.5, Jacksonville +1, Cleveland +10, Washington +3.5, and Chicago +7.5 fit this mold Sunday.

•    0-2 ATS NFL teams getting +7 or more points from sportsbooks are 33-17-2 ATS (66% ATS winner) in the third game of the season since 1985. Cleveland +10 and Chicago +7.5 fit this trend.

•    0-2 ATS NFL teams are 36-38-2 ATS as a favorite in third game of the season since 1985. Seattle -10, Indianapolis -2.5, and Kansas City -3 are in the mix here.

•    2-0 ATS NFL teams went 7-3 ATS in Week 3 last season but were just 20-27-6 ATS over the seven seasons prior (2008-2014).

•    2-0 ATS NFL teams are 41-43-4 ATS as underdogs and 53-53-5 ATS as favorites in their third games of the season since 1985.

Purple, and Gold… and Green

I’ve found out the hard way that the Minnesota Vikings are on a crazy ATS tear, picking against the Vikes the past two weeks in this column. Of course, Minny rolled Tennessee and then opened its new digs with a bang, taking down Green Bay last Sunday night – covering easily in both games. Fooled me twice. Shame on me.

Going back to last season, the Vikings have now covered in seven straight games, which is impressive but not close the longest ATS winning streaks in NFL history. Those seven straight paydays current rank tied for the 18th longest ATS run with 24 other teams going back to 1985.

The New England Patriots, rightfully so, own claim to the longest ATS heater, covering the spread in 14 straight games from October 13, 1985 to January 12, 1986. Behind the Pats are the San Diego Chargers, who rolled to 13 straight ATS wins from October 4, 1992 to January 2, 1993.

The Patriots hold the third-longest ATS streak as well, racking up 10 ATS victories in a row, between November 4, 2001 and February 3, 2002, when they stunned the St. Louis Rams 20-17 as 14-point underdogs in Super Bowl XXXVI.

If the Vikes can overcome the loss of their starting QB and star running back, and cover the seven points they’re getting from the Panthers Sunday, they would tie the nine teams who have won eight straight games against the spread.

Sharps like…

Detroit Lions. After two unimpressive games, bettors seem to be bailing on the Green Bay Packers. According to Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, they opened this game at Packers -8 and took significant wagers on the underdog, including some sizable bets on the Detroit moneyline to win outright, which was paying +300.

“It’s all been from pretty smart guys, so that’s why we’re down to Packers -7,” says Simbal.

Biggest line move…

There are two games making major moves off their opening numbers. The Chicago Bears opened as 4-point road underdogs in Dallas before a disastrous showing against the Eagles on Monday Night Football. That, coupled with QB Jay Cutler and WR Alshon Jeffery being questionable, has one-sided action bumping this spread all the way to Chicago +7.

The other significant adjustment was the Cleveland Browns going from +7.5 to +10 at Miami. Cleveland is on its third quarterback of the season and faces an aggressive Dolphins defense. Unlike the Bears-Cowboys game, this move wasn’t a reaction to action but more a reflection of the state of football in Cleveland.

“It’s a move against a bad team,” says Simbal. “I mean, if the Browns are 10-point dogs against the Dolphins, imagine what they would be against a playoff team.”

Biggest sweat…

The Bears-Cowboys Sunday nighter has books feeling the heat, but another decision drawing one-sided money is Arizona traveling to Buffalo, where the Bills are pegged as 4-point home underdogs.

“Arizona is getting all that public money,” says Simbal. “It’s not really big bets coming in, but those $50 and $100 wagers all add up.”

Banker game…

The sportsbooks’ Sunday will come down to the final game on the docket: Chicago at Dallas. As mentioned above, this line moved significantly due to action on the Cowboys and Simbal says plenty of parlays will feed into the finale.

“We will be in a spot Sunday in which we’ll be up money, and then that could either end up being a really good day or a negative day depending on the Sunday night game,” he says. “This is the same situation as last week, with the public on the favorite and us needing the dog to come through and knock out those parlays.”

Injury to note

Elvis Dumervil, LB Baltimore Ravens

Not every injury note is a subtraction. This week, the Ravens could get substantially better with the possible return of Elvis Dumervil. He’s yet to play in 2016 after undergoing offseason foot surgery. The linebacker returned to practice this week and baring a late setback, he’ll be ready to go against the Jaguars.

Dumervil is an elite pass rusher, and we all know how those guys can impact a game – especially if you’ve watched his former teammate Von Miller. Jacksonville has allowed five sacks in two games, including three in that embarrassing loss to the Chargers last Sunday. Dumervil had two sacks in last year’s loss to the Jags and has recorded a total of five sacks versus Jacksonville throughout his career.

We know how to pick’em

Speaking of Baltimore-Jacksonville. That game opened pick’em and is now sitting at Jags +1.5. As we do with this spot each week, looking at the tightest spread, we turn off the handicapper side of our brains and go with primal instincts – as in who has the hotter cheerleaders: Ravens or Jaguars?

Sunday menu

Even though Canadian Thanksgiving is three weeks away, you can score some sweet deals on turkey in the ramp-up to the holiday. That’s just what I did this week and I’m not waiting until October 10 to dive in. Discount dirty bird is on the menu for this Sunday, which reminds me… I needed to start thawing that sucker like yesterday (Friday afternoon now).

Easy (money) like Sunday morning

As I alluded to above, my back-to-back picks against the Vikings backfired in Weeks 1 and 2, so more messing with Minnesota. This week, in order to get myself back on track, I’m sticking to my bread and butter: the NFC East.

It pains me to say this, as a Cowboys fan, but the New York Giants look damn good. The G-Men have started winning those close games and I think they have one of the best two-way teams in the NFL – thanks to all that big spending on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. And while picking the Giants kinda makes me sick to my stomach, picking against the Redskins balances out the nausea like a well-timed Bloody Mary.

Pick: Giants -3.5

Song For Sunday

Underdogs are the hot bet through two weeks for NFL action, namely those dogs getting the points in enemy territory. Heading into Sunday, road pups are 14-9 ATS – covering almost 61 percent of the time. So with that in mind, here’s the irony of a man named “Cat” singing about a dog…

Follow Covers’ Senior Managing Editor Jason Logan on Twitter @CoversJLo. Check out JLo’s Covers archive for his latest features and columns.

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