Contest games I have circled

October 28, 2021 07:16 PM

Week 7 in the NFL was the first in which teams were coming off byes, and I thought all would take advantage of the extra rest and opportunity to reset after having struggled going into the break. Well, not so much. The Falcons, 49ers, Jets and Saints went 2-2 SU and 0-4 ATS in their return to action. I made a case last week for the 49ers and Saints. I did not end up using them in contest play but did play each on the moneyline and ended up with a 1-1 split, losing the juice.

Six teams come off a bye going into Week 8 — the Bills, Jaguars, Chargers, Steelers, Cowboys and Vikings, and the latter two face each other on “Sunday Night Football.”

This is the second week of the three- and six-week mini-contests in the Westgate SuperContest and the fourth week of a five-week quarterly contest in the Circa Millions.

Through the first seven weeks of 2021, there appear to be few average teams. It is very much boom or bust. In the NFC, you have the Buccaneers, Rams, Cowboys, Packers, Cardinals ... and then maybe the Vikings and Saints a notch below. In the AFC, it's the Bills, Chargers, Ravens and Bengals, with the Titans, Colts, Raiders and Browns looking like legitimate contenders. The Jets, Texans, Panthers, Giants, Dolphins, Jaguars, Seahawks, Bears, Lions, Eagles and Washington are bottom-feeders. Are the Steelers, Patriots, Falcons, Broncos and 49ers the only middle-of-the-road teams in the league? And where do the Chiefs fit in? I lean more to the average category than the upper echelon with Kansas City.

We have seen a number of blowouts the last two weeks. We have also seen quite often the in-vogue move of going for it on fourth down deep in one's own territory. A connection could exist here that we as bettors should note. Coaches taking this risk more regularly are susceptible to getting blown out when these attempts fail. I think it is worth going back and tracking this activity in one’s handicapping. A loss is a loss to the decision-maker — the coach — but a loss by a certain number of points matters to bettors. One note we spoke about early in the season was the ability to shift quickly and to have an open mind to change. This increase in fourth-down risk-taking appears to be worth noting.

Two games that have caught my eye early in the week are the Bills hosting the Dolphins and the Chargers welcoming the Patriots to Los Angeles. The Bills went into their bye week off a tough loss Monday night at Tennessee as 6-point favorites. They return to action on their home field against the Dolphins, whom they shut out 35-0 in Week 2 in Miami. I made this line 18 in favor of Buffalo. It is currently -13.5. Dolphins coach Brian Flores doesn’t seem to know what to do with his squad, while Sean McDermott on the other sideline is one of the best in the business. We live in a world that rarely calls for laying the wood with big favorites, but as we have witnessed lately, this looks like another case of the upper tier laying waste to the have-nots. The Bills may be the very best team in the league, and if they aren’t, they’re pretty darn close. They’ve had an extra week to mull that loss to the Titans, and the Fish look more like sacrificial lambs. 

The Chargers went into their bye week after being blown out in Baltimore 34-6 as 3-point underdogs, and coach Brandon Staley was 1 of 4 on fourth-down attempts in that game. Still atop the AFC West, they ought to be ripe to bounce back and should be healthier after a week off. They are facing a Patriots team that has three wins, two against the Jets and the other against the Texans. New England is 1-3 ATS in its four losses, falling to three upper-echelon teams in Tampa Bay, Dallas and New Orleans and stumbling against a bottom-feeder in Miami. I noted earlier that I think the Patriots are average and the 54-13 victory last week over the Jets, primarily against a backup quarterback, is nothing to get excited about. Last season New England drummed the Chargers 45-0. I made this number 6 in favor of Los Angeles, and I’ve seen it as low as 4.5 midweek. The Bolts are definitely a side I will be considering as the current climate of the NFL continues to be the heavyweights vs. the flyweights.

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