The Muffed Punt: Oh crap, we don’t know squat about NFL betting

“You say black, I say white. You say bark, I say bite. You say – Shark
, I say, ‘Hey man!’ Jaws was never my scene and I don’t like Star Wars!”

Those are the words of the immortal Freddie Mercury, who was contrarian as hell. And he just wanted to ride a damn bicycle.

There’s a certain cut of people out there that love to pull when everyone pushes: Skip Bayless, scratchy in-laws, Twitter trolls, my pre-teen son.

Tell these folks that you think Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time and get ready for an earful of LeBron. Think Hillary has this election in the bag, be prepared for some Trump rhetoric. Is The Dark Knight the greatest superhero movie of all time? Yes… wait, what? You’re seriously making a case for Batman v Superman?!

It’s hard enough to stomach their ass-backward opinions in everyday life, but when you toss in the fact that those contrarian bastards are kicking your ass at the sportsbook, it’s enough to make you want to stop betting football and try wagering on something like the WNBA Championship (finals start this Sunday!). You can’t get any more contrarian than that!

Contrarian handicapping, something many sports bettors love to do, involves going against the grain in the industry. When the majority of the betting public loves one side, the contrarian zigs instead of zags. And looking at our Covers Consensus percentages going back to last NFL season, that method is a money maker.

Heading into Week 5, teams receiving 60 percent or more of the wagers (based on our Covers Consensus data) are a collective 61-69-2 ATS (74-58 SU) since 2015, including a 13-14 SU and ATS record so far this year. That means those blindly going against that group think have managed to cover 53 percent of the time – just above that magic number of 52.4 percent to make a profit.

Now, that stat isn’t going to make anyone go “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” on their football capping knowledge and simply swim upstream every Sunday. However, there is a stunning trend developing when it comes to the loudest public opinions: consensus plays drawing 70 percent or more of the wagers.

In these one-sided consensus games, the popular pick is just 6-8 SU and 5-8-1 ATS (38% winners) going back to last season. That record boasts an even more contrarian 1-3 SU and ATS count this season. I can see those smug ass clowns smiling right now…

Here are the highest consensus picks so far this year and their results:

• Houston (71%) won SU/ATS vs. Chicago 23-15 as a 5.5-point favorite in Week 1
• Green Bay (71%) lost SU/ATS at Minnesota 17-14 as a 1.5-point favorite in Week 2
• Arizona (71%) lost SU/ATS at Buffalo 33-18 as a 5-point favorite in Week 3
• Detroit (72%) lost SU/ATS at Chicago 17-14 as a 3-point favorite in Week 4

As we trudge into the weekend, there are a number of matchups already drawing heavy action on one side, and a few Week 5 games that could creep into the 70-plus percent range:

• New England (66%) -10.5 at Cleveland
• Philadelphia (68%) -3 at Detroit
• Indianapolis (61%) -4.5 vs. Chicago
• Minnesota (64%) -6.5 vs. Houston
• Pittsburgh (66%) -7.5 vs. N.Y. Jets

Those records above and the sizable spreads tagged to those top consensus contests for Week 5 are enough to make even the most public player think twice about their wagers and cross over into the dank halitosis that is the contrarian state of mind.

As, Kevin Durant said this summer when he jumped ship to Golden State: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That should really annoy those contrarians.

Rested or Rusty?

Week 4 of the schedule was the first week in which byes were in effect. Green Bay and Philadelphia each enjoyed some down time – perhaps coming at a bad time with the Packers getting their offense rolling in a win over Detroit and the Eagles stunning Pittsburgh 34-3 as 3.5-point home dogs.

Green Bay is giving a touchdown to the New York Giants at home. And while that may seem lofty, teams coming off a bye week with a home game went 13-7 ATS (65% winners) last season.

As for Philadelphia, the undefeated Eagles are on the road as field goal favorites in Detroit. Teams coming off the bye week with a road game went just 5-7 ATS (42%) last season and are a dismal 9-16 ATS over the previous two years – covering the spread just 36 percent of the time. Going back to 2014, teams fresh off the bye and playing away from home are 15-25 ATS (37.5%).

Keep an eye on this trend next week as well, with Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans and Seattle all taking a breathier in Week 5.

Big Bad Brady

The chances we would get through this week’s column without mentioning the return of Tom Brady are about the same as Bill Belichick opening a Twitter account – or evening knowing what Twitter is. That guy is in his own world man.

If Belichick did have a Twitter account, and followed me (even slimmer chances), he would know that his Patriots haven’t been at their best when oddsmakers predict a squash.

Going back to the 2001 season, in which Tom Brady usurped the No. 1 QB spot in New England, the Patriots are just 20-28 ATS (43-5 SU) when favored by 10 or more points in the regular season – a 42 percent ATS winner.

And just looking at those double-digit spreads on the road, New England is 4-7 ATS (9-2 SU) when giving 10 or more points to the home team – a 36 percent money pit.

With Brady back under center, sportsbooks are dealing the Pats as 10.5-point road chalk in Cleveland Sunday.

BTW: Here’s an awesome inforgraphic from our talented design team on Brady’s worth to the spread and where he stacks up among the most valuable players to the spread in the eyes of sportsbooks and oddsmakers.

Viking Quest

I’ve been keeping track of the Minnesota Vikings’ ATS winning streak, which reached nine straight games going back to last year with their 24-10 victory over the Giants as 3.5-point home faves this past Monday.

If you started this streak with a $100 wager on the Vikes (at standard -110 vig) and rolled the total return over in each of those games, you’d be sitting on $33,684 heading into Minnesota’s home date with Houston in Week 5. Books have the Vikings pegged as 6.5-point home chalk.

Biggest line move…

This one is a tricky little digit, depending on where you play. The Broncos opened -5.5 hosting the Atlanta Falcons at CG Technology books in Las Vegas and jumped to a touchdown midway through the week.

“We opened Denver as a 5.5-point home favorite,” Jason Simbal told Covers’ Patrick Everson Thursday. “Maybe there would be play on the dog and you go down to -4.5 or -4 or are they going to bet the favorite? And they did bet the favorite, so now the broncos have opened up to a 7-point favorite.”

However, online at offshore market, money came in on the Falcons and dropped this line from Denver -6 to -5 and some books are dealing it as low as Broncos -4.5.

Sharps like…

Buffalo Bills. The Bills opened as 3-point road dogs visiting the Los Angeles Rams Sunday and smart money has cut that spread as low as Bills +1, according to Scott Kaminsky, lines manager for

Biggest sweat…

Due to that sharp money landing on the Bills and driving the line down, Kaminsky and his crew are big Rams fans this Sunday.

“If the games kicked off right now, the Rams would be the one team I would want to cover,” says Kaminsky.

Banker Game…

As it is most weeks, the Sunday nighter holds to key to profits or the poorhouse for books and bettors. The Packers host the Giants as 7-point home chalk and Kaminsky sees plenty of action tied to the Cheeseheads in the Sunday finale.

“The public might not swarm all over Green Bay but I’m sure there will be plenty of teasers and parlays involving them,” says Kaminsky. “If Sunday doesn’t go so great (in the early games), we’ll want the Giants to win outright.”

Injury to watch

Marcus Gilbert/Ryan Harris OL, Pittsburgh Steelers

Big-name positions like quarterback and running back get all the attention when it comes to injury impact. But ask oddsmakers and they’ll say cluster injuries can be just as big. And the Steelers have a cluster f#ck on their hands heading into Week 5.

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert suffered an ankle injury versus Kansas City last week and his replacement Ryan Harris went down with a leg injury, leaving both men as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Jets. Behind Gilbert and Harris is Chris Hubbard, who has never started a game in his pro career.

The Steelers are already without guard Ramon Foster, who is questionable for Week 5 with a chest injury, and face a New York defense that has 11 sacks on the season – tied for seventh in the NFL.

We know how to pick’em

Another week, another game for my beloved Cowboys hovering around a pick’em. Big D’s cheerleaders didn’t steer you wrong last week, with America’s Team beating the 49ers 24-17 as 1-point road favorites in Santa Clara.

For Week 5, Dallas actually opened as a 1-point home favorite versus Cincinnati but action on the road side has swung this spread to Bengals -2.

As we do in this section, we turn off the handicapping side of our brains and go with our most basic of instincts to help pick a winner. Who’s got the hottest cheer squad: Bengals or Cowboys?

Sunday menu

I’ve got to attend a wedding on the weekend so it will be a mad dash back home to catch the NFL Sunday action. Chances are I’ll be picking up a quick and dirty dinner, like a frozen lasagna or something. But if you have time to make a homemade one this weekend, this recipe looks bad ass. “World’s Best Lasagna”! When has the internet ever lied to us?

Easy (money) like Sunday morning

I got off the schneid last Sunday with a winning play on the Raiders over the Ravens, “improving” to 1-3 ATS for my weekly picks. I usually lean towards underdogs but I can’t hold my tongue when it comes to the 4-0 SU and ATS Denver Broncos.

The defending Super Bowl champs, who are giving just 4.5-points to the Atlanta Falcons at home Sunday, have done everything expected of them and more. Von Miller should be going all “Maximus Decimus Meridius” on people – “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!”

The Falcons have won three of four in impressive fashion, with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones soiling the sheets of fantasy football players across the continent. However, those four opponents (Tampa Bay, Oakland, New Orleans, and Carolina) rank 31st, 22nd, 32nd, and 28th respectively in points allowed.

Yes, playing Atlanta had something to do with those stats, but each of those squads have struggled to keep points off the board in 2016, no matter who they’re up against. Denver, on the other hand, has allowed only 64 total points this season.

The Broncos have some issues at QB, where Trevor Siemian is questionable with a shoulder injury. Honestly though: what’s the difference between Siemian and rookie backup Paxton Lynch, who looked good in replacement of Siemian in Week 4? I wouldn’t even say it’s a point on the spread. And when did it start to matter who was taking the snaps when it comes to Denver and that suffocating defense anyways.

Enough! Denver -4.5 is the pick.

Song for Sunday

With so many young quarterbacks kicking ass and taking names this season (Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch, Jimmy Garoppolo – who will be tucked away in Belichick’s cupboard until Brady rides off into the sunset on a cigarette boat with Gisele wearing a captain’s hat and little else), the future of the forward pass is in good hands.

So to those “Young Guns”, I dedicate this little ditty by a football fan from Sayreville, New Jersey…

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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