We realize here in the Tuley’s Takes home office that all our readers don’t blindly follow our plays (and that’s cool, as this weekly exercise is meant to look over the full NFL card – plus find some NCAA spot plays – and see how the lines are moving and help everyone time their bets no matter which sides they’re playing). But we certainly hope there were more people following our advice on our live underdogs last week or at least getting talked out of the overpriced favorites.
Underdogs went 10-4 ATS in Week 4 (Vikings-Bears closed pick ‘em, so some would call it 10-5 ATS as the Bears were short favorites most of the week) as the most popular favorites of the week went down in flames and burned a lot of chalk bettors. I’ve long used the SuperContest Consensus as a barometer of how the public fares vs. the books and the Top 5 Most-Selected Teams went 0-5 ATS in Week 4 and only 1-6 ATS out of the Top 7 plays (the lone winner being the Saints, who beat the Cowboys who were picked by more SuperContestants). The Circa Million Top 5 also went 1-4, so it was certainly a good week to be contrarian as we often preach here.
Our NFL best bets were 6-2 ATS last week, starting with the Eagles 4.5 at the Packers on Thursday night and concluding with a loss on the Bengals 4 at the Steelers on Monday night, In between, our only loss on Sunday was on the Dolphins 16.5 vs. the Chargers, but we covered with the Browns 7 at the Ravens, Lions 7 vs. the Chiefs, Bills 7 vs. the Patriots, Buccaneers 10 at the Rams and Jaguars
3 at the Broncos (and the Eagles, Browns, Bucs and Jaguars pulled outright upsets!). That improved our Best Bets to 17-11 ATS (60.7 percent) in this column (3-3 on Over/Unders for those following those recommendations) and 12-8 ATS (60 percent) on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page elsewhere in Point Spread Weekly and 26-14 ATS (65 percent) on the VSiN NFL Consensus page.
We didn’t fare as well with our NCAA Best Bets last week at 1-3, though still 11-7-1 ATS (61.1 percent) on the season. We’ll get to this weekend’s plays at the end of this column, as well as a quick note on NHL 1st Period Over/Unders (I know many readers have been waiting for the return of these bets that were a personal ATM last winter and spring!).
If anyone looking for my MLB playoff bets (and if you read our season preview back in April or our All-Star Break update in July, hopefully you have future tickets on the Twins, Rays & A’s like we do – our Pirates futures were torn up long ago), I’ll have a “Tuley’s Takes EXTRA!” column at vsin.com on Wednesday for the NL divisional matchups and then my takes on the AL after the odds are set on the series involving the AL wild-card winner.
So, let’s get to this week’s NFL 15-game slate (Lions Dolphins have bye weeks). For the uninitiated newbies, I give my “take” on each game. I’m a huge proponent of contests as they can maximize your great days/weeks/seasons while also sometimes bailing you out from an otherwise bad season with just one lucky weekly score! So, even if I’m passing on a game, I’ll still at least give my contest strategy for those looking for input for contests where they have to play the whole card. Lines will be from
VSiN’s host hotel at the South Point as of Tuesday afternoon (expect where noted, especially for line-shopping purposes).
Rams (O/U 49) at Seahawks (-1.5) Tuley’s Take: Both teams are 3-1 and actually behind the 3-0 49ers in the NFC West, so this is a key early-season game in the divisional race. I was happy to fade the Rams last week with the Buccaneers (though I didn’t expect the Bucs to pull the outright upset 55-40!). Regardless, I expect the Rams to bounce back against their divisional rivals, who they’ve beaten the last three meeting including two in Seattle. In fact, the Seahawks struggled to beat the Bengals at home in the opener and lost to the Saints in Week 3 (they’ve actually played much better in their two road games this year), so I’ve downgraded their home-field advantage. I’m also expecting the Rams’ defense to shrug off that embarrassing performance and lead the way to the minor upset. Best Bet: Rams 1.5 (contest strategy: Rams in all of my rare SU & ATS contests that include TNF).
Ravens (-3.5) at Steelers (O/U 44)
Tuley’s Take: We’re used to seeing the home team favored by a field goal in this rivalry, but the script has flipped with Pittsburgh’s slow start and losing Ben Roethlisberger (in addition to Le’Veon Bell & Antonio Brown), plus Baltimore’s (kinda) hot start. I don’t want to put too much stock into the Steelers routing the Bengals 27-3 on Monday night, but I saw enough to feel they can stay within a field goal against the Ravens, who we can’t downgrade too much for losing to the Chiefs and Browns, but those at least showed that maybe too much credit was given for their 59-10 rout of the Dolphins, especially after their 23-17 non-cover against the Cardinals. Best Bet: Steelers 3.5 (contest strategy: Steelers in nearly all ATS contests and around 50/50 in SU pools.
Bears (-4.5) vs. Raiders (O/U 40.5) in London Tuley’s Take: The Bears beat the Vikings 16-6 with Chase Daniel filling in for the injured Mitchell Trubisky, but the real story was the Bears’ dominating defense. That’s going to keep me off the Raiders, who played their best game since the opener in their 31-24 upset of the Colts. However, I don’t see them keeping up with the Bears’ overall pedestrian offense, even if Khalil Mack is downplaying the fact he’s facing his former team. I lean to the Under, but it’s set too low for my liking. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Bears 67/33 in ATS contests and around 90/10 in SU pools).
Cardinals (O/U 47) at Bengals (-3)
Tuley’s Take: Is there any doubt this will be the least-bet game of the weekend? Thinking back to how the Cardinals covered for us in Week 2 on the road in Baltimore, I feel I should take the points, but I don’t feel I can trust them with such a short number (even if it is the Bengals laying it). Most books were still at Bengals -3.5 as I’m writing this Tuesday, but South Point is down to -3 and I’d have to say the value
is actually on the favorite. Best Bet: Pass (contest
strategy: Bengals 60/40 in ATS contests, though 50/50 in contests with line set at 3.5, plus around 75/25 in SU pools).
Jaguars ( 3.5) at Panthers (O/U 41)
Tuley’s Take: I was worried about my best bet on the Jaguars last week when they fell behind the Broncos 17-3, but then the Sacksonville defense took over and Gardner Minshew did just enough (including some nifty footwork) along with Leonard Fournette to pull out the 26-24 upset. Kyle Allen is gaining some support in place of Cam Newton, but I’m not as sold on him and feel he’ll have a tougher time with the Jaguars than he did against the Cardinals and Texans (though he only led Panthers to 16 points against Houston). Best Bet: Jaguars 3.5 in all ATS contests and around 80/20 in SU pools).
Vikings (-5) at Giants (O/U 45)
Tuley’s Take: Daniel Jones is one of the biggest stories of the young season as he’s turned around the Giants’ season and given hope for the future. I’m not 100 percent sold on him (I was higher on him than most people after the draft and even before the preseason), but I’ve downgraded Minnesota (and especially Kirk Cousins) a lot more the past few weeks and my play on the Giants is more of a bet against the Vikings. The Giants’ defense certainly has issues (allowing 389.2 yards per game even after holding the Redskins to just 176 last week), but I don’t expect the Vikings’ offense to do enough to take advantage while the Giants’ balanced attack (even without Saquon Barkley) should do enough to keep this close or pull the outright upset. Best Bet: Giants 5 (contest strategy: Giants around 70/30 in ATS contests and around 50/50 in SU pools).
Patriots (-15.5) at Redskins (O/U 44)
Tuley’s Take: I’m usually a sucker for a double-digit home underdog (and couldn’t resist last week with the Dolphins vs. the Chargers), but I’m gonna pass on this Redskins team and against this Patriots team. I know the Patriots didn’t cover last week in their 16-10 win at the Bills (and I had the Bills), but Buffalo’s defense is light years ahead of Washington and I expect the Patriots to bounce back with an offensive explosion. Besides, they probably won’t even need to score a ton to cover this as the Pats’ defense (No. 1 in the league) is actually playing better than the offense. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy:
Patriots 60/40 in ATS contests as I’ll have to use the Redskins in a few just to be contrarian, though Patriots in all SU pools).
Jets (O/U 44) at Eagles (-13.5)
Tuley’s Take: Another double-digit underdog, but I don’t think I’m going to bite unless Sam Darnold were to be cleared to play, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this week (and I’m not sure I’d take them anyway as the Eagles certainly stepped up in beating the Packers a week ago Thursday night). Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Eagles around 67/33 in ATS pools and also 90/10 in SU pools).
Buccaneers (O/U 47.5) at Saints (-3.5) Tuley’s Take: I was happy to be on both teams last week, especially with the Bucs in their 55-40 upset of the Rams, who ran over these same Saints 27-9 back in Week 2. That kind of disparity would usually have me on the Bucs here getting points, but I feel this line is too short (the Westgate’s advance line was Saints -6.5 last week). Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Saints around 60/40 in ATS contests and around 90/10 in SU pools).
Falcons (O/U 49) at Texans (-4.5)
Tuley’s Take: The Texans are still the team I have the most invested in with future bets, but I certainly recognize their underperformance as home favorites (0-2 ATS with a non-covering win over the Jaguars and a SU loss to the Panthers last week) and side with the Falcons here even though they’re 0-2 SU & ATS on the road. I would also lean to the Over as the Texans’ offense should also have success against the Falcons’ defense and I see this game working out like the Texans-Saints season-opening shootout. Obviously, I’ll be happiest with a Texans win by
a field goal. Best Bet: Falcons 4.5 (contest play: Falcons around 75/25 in ATS contests and around 50/50 in SU pools).
Bills (O/U 38.5) at Titans (-3)
Tuley’s Take: I said it on VSiN’s “Betting Across America” show on Monday and alluded to it above, but I was really impressed with the Bills’ defense (No. 2 in yards allowed per game and giving up just 15.8 points per game) against the Patriots on Sunday. I definitely expect them to shut down the Titans. The only thing keeping me from taking the Bills on the VSiN NFL Best Bet page was that Buffalo QB Josh Allen is still in concussion protocol. If you believe Allen will be declared out, I’d lay the Titans -3 if you missed the -2.5. Obviously, I’m hopeful Allen will be cleared to play and will take the Bills as long as I’m not having to rely on Matt Barkley. The Titans’ defense has also been stellar this season (allowing just 15.5 points per game), so I lean to the Under, but obviously the books have shaded this total pretty low. Best Bet: Pass for now but Bills 3 w/ Allen starting (contest strategy: Bills in all ATS contests w/ Allen and around 67/33 in SU pools, though closer to 50/50 SU & ATS if he’s out or undecided by the time I’m putting in contest plays).
Broncos (O/U 44.5) at Chargers (-6.5) Tuley’s Take: It’s been customary to fade the Chargers as home favorites (especially since playing in smaller soccer stadium in Carson), but I feel the number is too short here. The Chargers cured
some ills with their rout of the Dolphins last week
and should start adding Melvin Gordon back into an already potent offense. If the Broncos’ defense was playing as well as we expected it to under Vic Fangio, I’d probably still take the underdog but we’ve seen them give up game-winning drives to Trubisky and Minshew the past two weeks and their offense isn’t good enough to keep up with the Chargers either. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Chargers in slightly more ATS contests where forced to play every game and at least 90/10 in SU contests).
Packers (O/U 46.5) at Cowboys (-3.5) Tuley’s Take: This is Sunday afternoon’s marquee game, but I’m actually not tempted to take the Packers as underdogs of more than a field goal. As I wrote in last week’s PSW, the Packers’ defense was overrated and was exposed in the 34-27 loss to the Eagles. The Cowboys should have similar success while I feel the Dallas D is legit. However, I don’t expect it will shut down Aaron Rodgers & Co. and
I expect a similar high-scoring game and feel the Over is actually the better bet in this matchup. Best Bet: Over 46.5 (contest strategy: Cowboys around 60/40 in ATS contests and around 80/20 in SU pools).
Colts (O/U 56.5) at Chiefs (-10.5)
Tuley’s Take: Here’s finally a double-digit dog I can get on-board with. I know the Colts are coming off their worst performance of the season in getting knocked off by the Raiders, but their wins over the Titans and Falcons along with their OT loss to the Chargers shows me they can at least keep this competitive. It is scary fading the Chiefs, but the Ravens and Lions both lost by less than a touchdown and the Colts can do the same, especially against a KC defense allowing 408.5 yards and 23.5 points per game. Best Bet: Colts 10.5 (contest strategy: Colts 80/20 in ATS contests but Chiefs 67/33 in SU pools).
Browns (O/U 46.5) at 49ers (-3.5)
Tuley’s Take: Quick – name the only undefeated team left in the NFC. Yep, it’s the 49ers, but let’s not crown their ass yet as their three wins were against the Buccaneers, Bengals and a down Steelers team. Last week, I said it was time to “buy low” on the Browns and they came though with the upset of the Ravens and now I expect them to do the same to the undefeated 49ers. San Fran has the No. 3 defense in the league (see the opponents they’ve faced above), but let’s see where they stand after facing Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, etc. Take the underdog on Monday night and by the end of the year everyone is going to be surprised that this was ever considered an upset. Best Bet: Browns 3.5 (contest strategy: Browns in all my SU & ATS contests).
Takes on College Football
As mentioned in the intro, we were only 1-3 ATS last week to stand at 11-7-1 ATS (61.1 percent) on the season. We won with Houston 7.5 as the Cougars beat North Texas outright despite having their starting QB D’Eriq King decided to redshirt; however, I lost with NC State, Washington State and Kentucky, but in retrospect, I feel I forced most of those picks (I did really like Washington State) because I didn’t feel really strongly about much on last week’s college card. This week, I like just one of the five dogs I took on the VSiN CFB Consensus Page (Iowa) and added just two more best bets to try and be more selective with stronger plays this week.
Boston College ( 6.5) at Louisville Louisville, though better than last season’s team, has lost nine straight ACC games and I’m not so sure the Cardinals should be favored in this game at all. I also think this total is set too high at 60.5 as both teams should rely on their strong running games, which should also keep this relatively lower scoring and keep points at a premium (which tends to help the underdog cover). I give the edge to the BC running game and, even though Louisville’s run defense is better, the difference should come down to BC’s offensive line consistently opening more holes for AJ Dillon (627 yards, 6 TDs) and David Bailey (5.4 yards per rush).
Iowa ( 3.5) at Michigan
We’ve lost some line value as this opened as high at Michigan -7 at Circa and -4.5 to -5 at other books, but this is another game where I think the wrong team is favored. Michigan is still being given too much respect for its preseason ranking. Iowa is actually the undefeated team here, so why is Michigan (which was run over by Wisconsin and barely escaped vs. Army) given more credit for routing Rutgers 52-0 while Iowa only beat Rutgers 30-0? I mean, if we’re playing the common opponent card, Iowa blasted Middle Tennessee State 48-3 while Michigan only beat MTSU 40-21 and failed to cover as a 36-point home favorite. So, I don’t get it, but I’ll take any points offered.
Northwestern ( 7) at Nebraska Nebraska was overrated coming into the season with high expectations, but is only 2-2 SU & 1-3 ATS. The Cornhuskers are also coming off a 48-7 beating by Ohio State, so I think this line should be closer to a field goal. While Northwestern is just 1-3 SU & 1-3 ATS, the one cover was last week in 24-15 loss at Wisconsin as a 23-point underdog. NU coach Pat Fitzgerald usually gets his teams up as Big Ten dogs and I expect this to be close as well.
Takes on NHL 1st Periods
We trust our regular readers don’t need a refresher course on how we bet the NHL 1st Period Over/ Unders in January through April before they dried up after the first week of the playoffs. I’m planning to bet what we referred to as the “Follow the Money 6” – 1st Period Over teams (Blackhawks, Lightning, Sharks, Blue Jackets, Devils and Penguins) plus the Stars as the best 1st Period Under team by far
– right out of the gate in case they’re playing the same kind of hockey that led to such hefty profits last season.
On Wednesday’s opening night, we only have the Sharks facing the Golden Knights, so I just bet the Over 1.5 -145 in case it steams higher like we saw these bets do a lot last season. On Thursday, we have the Lightning, Penguins and Stars (remember, the latter is a 1st Period Under play) in action so I’ll probably round-robin those three. We’ll see how these fare the first week or two to see if we’re getting any value on these same teams or if others emerge as hot 1st Period bets.
Good luck, everyone!