After three straight weeks of the betting public having its way, the sportsbooks have pushed back big-time over the last two weeks. In the 12 NFL games Sunday, only twice did an underdog cover the number without winning outright. Seven dogs won outright, and three favorites won and covered.
Week 9 was a pretty crazy week. The Top 5 consensus plays in the Westgate SuperContest went 2-3. The Top 5 in Circa Millions went 3-2. At the midpoint of the contest season, NOMSNAIGANSKK leads the SuperContest with a record of 32-12-1 (72.7 percent). Price Check -3 and JJarvis117 lead the Millions, tied at 34-11 (75.5 percent). It makes sense that the leaders in Circa have a higher winning percentage than the leaders at Westgate, with the contest field in the Millions about twice the size of Westgate’s and that much more room for randomness.
The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints lost in Week 9 with backup quarterbacks. The Arizona Cardinals won outright without Kyler Murray, and the Tennessee Titans won without Derrick Henry. The New York Jets started their backup quarterback, Mike White, and were thumped by the Colts. The Houston Texans saw their starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, return to action, yet they lost and failed to cover against Miami. The Dallas Cowboys won with their backup quarterback in Week 8 but were pummeled by Denver in Week 9 with Dak Prescott back as their starter.
The NFL is one tough nut to crack, but one trend we have seen hold true in all but one case I can recall is this: When a line has been adjusted because of the absence of a starting quarterback or a major skill-position player like Henry, the side seeing the move has been a loser. Injuries to marquee players or COVID-19 problems — or even coaching staff COVID issues, as we have seen a few times — have affected the lines in a handful of games this season. The only side I can remember being a loser was the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, when COVID hit about eight members of their coaching staff. They lost convincingly to Carolina. Every other case, the team that has been affected and saw the line move against it has bucked the move and won or covered.
One trend I like to look for each week is when an underdog that won outright the week before moves into the role of favorite the next week. I figured with the huge number of outright dog winners in Week 9 we’d have our fair share of spots to consider in Week 10. Sure enough, three such situations are on the card this week. The Tennessee Titans are favored at home over the New Orleans Saints after winning outright as dogs against the Rams. The Arizona Cardinals are laying points at home to the Carolina Panthers after upsetting San Francisco last week. And the Denver Broncos are favored at home over Philadelphia after getting the outright win as underdogs against Dallas.
My first glance at the Panthers-Cardinals game gave me pause. I have been on the Panthers a few times this season, successfully and unsuccessfully — unsuccessfully last week, when they lost to the Patriots. New England was in this exact role, going from underdog that wins outright by beating the Chargers in Week 8 to the role of the favorite and laying less than a field goal at Carolina. It looked like the game was going to be very close when the Panthers were putting together an excellent drive midway through the third quarter, but Sam Darnold threw an awful interception around the New England 20-yard line that was returned for a touchdown. The game was never close again.
But while it might seem very difficult to go back to the well with the Panthers, I am thinking this is actually a pretty valuable spot. Their stock could not be much lower as talk has surfaced that Darnold should not even be their starting quarterback because of his incompetence. Plus they've lost five of their last six games. At the same time, the stock could not be much higher on Arizona after pulling off a shocker with Colt McCoy at quarterback, talk of Kliff Kingsbury for Coach of the Year and a record of 8-1 that is tops in the league. Because of the buzz going in opposite directions for these teams, the line may be a little heavier than it truly should be. Early in the week, I am looking for a clothes pin to plug my nose and play the smelly underdog Panthers catching double digits.