I was out of the Tuley’s Takes home office early this week as I took my oldest child, Jordyn, back to Northern Arizona University after a weekend of Halloween activities mixed with a great sports betting menu.
Speaking of menus, while I was in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Monday, I had my first McRib(s) of the season. Longtime VSiN followers know that Matt Youmans and I have both claimed that the McRib helps our handicapping. However, I have to come clean. I don’t really believe that consuming the “restructured pork patty” has anything to do with picking winners. But what I do believe is that the annual release of the McRib usually coincides with a time in the NFL season when we’ve seen enough of these teams to really have a good handle on them.
Now, I can already hear the critics saying “oddsmakers have a good grasp on all these teams, too, and the lines are tighter, plus all the bettors feel they have an edge, too.”
I know that’s true, but I only have to submit Week 8 as Exhibit A as underdogs went 10-4-1 ATS, proving wrong the vast majority of the public’s opinions (Bengals going from -9.5 to -11.5 at Jets, Colts going from + 1 to -3 vs. Titans, Browns going from -3.5 to -5 vs. Steelers, Vikings going from + 2.5 to -4.5 vs. the Cowboys).
We went 3-2 ATS in this column and on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page in a week when most bettors were below .500 (another example is the top 5 most-selected teams in the Circa Sports Million going 1-4 and the Westgate SuperContest top picks going 2-3). Our one bad loss was on the Lions + 3.5 vs. the Eagles. That turned out to be a public dog (No. 3 choice at Circa and No. 4 at Westgate), so that should have been a warning sign. Our winners were the Steelers+ 3.5 at the Browns, Patriots + 5.5 at Chargers and Giants + 10 at Chiefs. We really should have gone 4-1, but we posted Dolphins + 13.5 at the Bills here in PSW and had only + 13.5 or + 14 in our contests before they lost 26-11. They were in it the whole game and even cut a 17-3 deficit to 17-11 with a two-point conversion (thus beating the spread by more than a TD) but still failed to cover.
But we move on.
With another McRib fueling this Tuesday breakdown of the NFL Week 9 card, we’ll look for where we think the oddsmakers and betting public have this week’s lines wrong. Per usual, I’ll give my recommendations from my dog-or-pass point of view but will also give my pool play strategy for those in contests that require picking every game.
New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-10.5)
I didn’t have the Jets as double-digit home dogs vs. the Bengals, and my mistake was going along with all the experts out there that Mike White hadn’t looked very impressive in relief of Zach Wilson in the Jets’ 54-13 loss to the Patriots the week before. It’s hard to back a team off a loss like that, especially going to a backup QB. The Jets are again getting double digits even after upsetting the Bengals, and I’m willing to jump on them, but I’m more interested in fading the Colts at this high number. The Colts are clearly the better team, but I have this line closer to a touchdown. The Colts held the lowly Texans to three points three weeks ago, but they average giving up 22.9 points per game. If the Jets can get in that 20-23 range, I don’t see the Colts topping 30 points to get the cover, especially as the Jets have the pass rush to force Carson Wentz into mistakes. Best Bet: Jets + 10.5 (pool play: Jets in all my rare ATS contests that use “Thursday Night Football,” but Colts still in SU pools).
Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins (-6.5)
If you’re looking to bet on this game (and you’ll be in the minority as this might have the lowest handle on Sunday’s card), the key consideration is whether or not Texans QB Tyrod Taylor returns from his hamstring injury. He actually had the Texans’ offense looking competitive with a Week 1 upset of the Jaguars and hanging with the Browns in Week 2 before he went down. There were some + 7s available and I wish I had grabbed it with the chance of Taylor starting, but the only way it’s coming back is if Davis Mills gets the start. On Monday, Houston coach David Culley said he would have more on Taylor’s status on Wednesday. If Taylor does start, this line will probably drop too low for me to recommend it. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Texans 55/45 in ATS contest but Dolphins 75/25 in SU pools).
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys (-10)
On VSiN, you’ll hear hosts talk all the time about coaches making horrible game-management decisions, whether misuse of timeouts or challenges, deciding to go for two, etc. But I nominate Denver’s Vic Fangio for the worst we’ve seen since Anthony Lynn. It wasn’t his fault that his running backs kept fumbling, but he also called for a pass play on second down of their final drive that was incomplete and gave Washington a chance, especially after Melvin Gordon fumbled on third down. Somehow, Washington wasn’t able to do anything with its extra opportunity and the Broncos won in spite of Fangio. I’m mentioning all this because — as hard as it is to trust Fangio — I’m still taking the Broncos because this line has steamed to double digits. The advance line was only Cowboys -7.5, but then the Cowboys upset the Vikings (and a lot of bettors) 20-16 on Sunday night with Cooper Rush replacing Dak Prescott. That’s going to attract a lot of bandwagon jumpers, especially with Prescott expected to return this week. However, the Broncos’ defense (even without the departed Von Miller) can contain Dallas’ offense and keep it closer for Teddy Bridgewater to do what he does best — cover as an underdog. Best Bet: Broncos + 10 (pool play: Broncos 67/33 in ATS contests — even higher at + 10.5, lower at + 9.5 — though Cowboys still 75/25 in SU pools).
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens (-5.5)
The Vikings certainly were pitiful in their Sunday night loss to the short-handed Cowboys, but this is a chance to buy low on them. The Ravens will be a popular public play coming off their bye (and tons of people betting against the Vikings because they let them down so badly in such a high-profile game), but when you objectively break down these teams, they’re a lot closer than most people think. The Vikings still have plenty of offensive firepower (though averaging a modest 23.3 points per game) while the Ravens are allowing 23.4 points per game. Granted, the Ravens offense is the best unit in this game with Lamar Jackson playing great, but I still don’t see them scoring the 30 points that will probably be needed to cover. The Ravens should be favored at home, but I have this being decided by a late field goal as both these teams have a tendency to play closer games. Best Bet: Vikings + 5.5 or better (pool play: Vikings 65/35 in ATS contests — higher if we get offered + 6.5 — but Ravens still around 60/40 in SU pools).
New England Patriots (-3.5) at Carolina Panthers
The Patriots have climbed back in the AFC wild-card race with impressive wins over the Jets and Chargers. The Panthers are also back in the NFC wild-card chase after snapping a four-game losing streak Sunday against the Falcons in Atlanta with P.J. Walker replacing Sam Darnold, who is in concussion protocol. Normally, I would be looking to take the Panthers as a home dog here if Darnold is cleared to play, but he hasn’t been playing as well as he was earlier in the season. I’m definitely passing for now and will update my thoughts as we get to the weekend in “Tuley’s Takes Today.” Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Panthers 55/45 in ATS contests but Patriots 80/20 in SU pools).
Buffalo Bills (-14.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
We should have covered with the Dolphins against the Bills (and did push against the 15-point closing line as it’s the push in the 10-4-1 ATS record for dogs in Week 8), but I’m not taking them as a double-digit home dog here. After all, the Jaguars are 1-0 in London but 0-6 on U.S. soil and have virtually no home-field advantage in Jacksonville. They avoided getting shut out only by converting a fourth-down late for a TD. This should be a rout, so I see this huge spread as warranted and I don’t want to get run over late again by the Bills on the off chance that the Jaguars keep it close early, like the Dolphins did against the Bills last week. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Bills 55/45 in ATS contests and only that low on principle, and Bills in all SU pools).
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5/-3)
The AFC North race has tightened up again with the Bengals and Browns losing in Week 8 and the Steelers winning (the Ravens were idle). I’ve been on the Bengals this season as dogs, but I’m not thrilled with them as chalk (1-2 ATS, including that embarrassing SU loss to the Jets). The Browns have been underachieving, but they’re the only way to look here. This line has been bouncing back and forth at Bengals -2.5 (mostly -120) and -3 (mostly at even money), so grab the line you want on the side you want. I certainly wouldn’t take the Browns + 2.5, but it’s a prime candidate to tease up over a touchdown in what should be a close game. Best Bet: Pass, except for Browns in teasers (pool play: Browns 55/45 in ATS contests but Bengals around 67/33 in SU pools).
Las Vegas Raiders (-3) at New York Giants
The advance line was Raiders -2.5 last week and actually went up to -3 when the lines reopened Sunday even though the Raiders were on a bye and the Giants weren’t playing until Monday night. After the Giants made a good showing and covered in their 20-17 loss at the Chiefs, we were seeing early bettors grabbing the Giants + 3 on Tuesday morning and wouldn't be surprised if this dips to 2.5. Again, that would make the Giants playable in teasers, but otherwise I think this line is short and the Raiders should be favored by a little more (but as long as they don’t win by a TD, that’ll be fine by us). Best Bet: Pass, except Giants in teasers (pool play: Raiders 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 70/30 in SU pools).
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-6)
The advance line for this matchup was Saints -5.5. The Falcons had an ugly loss to the Panthers on Sunday while the Saints upset the Buccaneers 36-27. However, this line dropped to Saints -4.5 because it appeared they were losing Jameis Winston to a torn ACL and would have to go with Trevor Semian or Taysom Hill. I’ve been surprised with the bad news confirmed on Winston that this line has gone back up to Saints -6. I’m considering the Falcons plus the points basically just on the familiarity of facing a division rival, but I really want to go back and watch these teams’ games again because it’s still hard to trust this Atlanta team as the offense hasn’t been as potent as it should be. This is another game that I’ll update in “Tuley’s Takes Today.” Best Bet: Pass for now (pool play: Falcons 55/45 in ATS contests but Saints around 75/25 in SU pools).
Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
This advance line was Chargers -3, but then they lost to the Patriots and the Eagles routed the Lions. The line reopened Chargers -2.5 and we’ve seen early money on the Eagles to drive it down to 1.5 at a lot of books as of Tuesday afternoon. Despite the Chargers’ loss, I still have them as a bigger favorite here, so the line is too short for me to take the Eagles plus the points. However, again, teasers are another matter and even with the line drop, we still tease the Eagles over a TD. Best Bet: Pass, except for Eagles in teasers (pool play: Chargers 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools).
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs (pick-’em)
We’ve had a change of favorites in this game as the Chiefs were -2.5 on the advance line last week. However, after the Packers upset the previously undefeated Cardinals 24-21 on “Thursday Night Football” and the Chiefs struggled to beat the Giants 20-17 on “Monday Night Football,” this line reopened closer to pick-’em and flipped to Packers -1 when I submitted my plays for the VSiN NFL Consensus page early Tuesday morning. During the course of writing this column, the line appears to have settled back to pick-’em at most books. I wouldn’t be surprised to see each side pop up as a short fave at different books and possibly continue to get bet back to pick-’em. For our purposes, I’m posting it at pick-’em and taking the Chiefs. Obviously I’m fully aware of all the Chiefs’ failings on defense as well as Patrick Mahomes actually playing like a human instead of a superhero this season (and I’ve done very well fading him and the Chiefs). However, I’ve long maintained that the Packers defense isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so I’m expecting the Chiefs offense to be able to keep up and win a shootout. Best Bet: Chiefs PK (pool play: Chiefs 60/40 in all SU & ATS contests).
Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Here’s another game where I think the line is short. Could the oddsmakers be shading the numbers to stop the run of underdogs? I never understand when they do that as they almost always fare better when dogs do well, so it’s usually in their best interest to shade numbers higher to make the chalk-loving public lay an extra point or so, especially around key numbers. That’s just my two cents. Anyway, I can’t take the 49ers at this short price, but I can include them in teasers as they should be able to stay within a TD at home just like they did in Week 5 in a 17-10 loss at Arizona. Best Bet: Pass, except for 49ers in teasers (pool play: Cardinals 60/40 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools).
Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)
Here’s my favorite play of the week. The advance line was just Rams -4 last week before both teams won on Sunday and then was reopened at Rams -6.5. I was a little surprised at that adjustment, but then it was announced that RB Derrick Henry suffered a potentially season-ending foot injury against the Colts. The line then jumped the key number of 7 to Rams -7.5. We talk all about how oddsmakers and the public overreact to QB injuries and adjust the lines too much. Well, this is a case where they’re doing it for a RB. Every analyst/expert I’ve heard has said how this is devastating news for the Titans. Now, I’m a Henry fan as much as the next guy, but we see top running teams in college and pro football plug in backups all the time who put up similar numbers. Now, I don’t expect Jeremy McNichols or newly signed Adrian Peterson to put up the same numbers as Henry, but I don’t think the dropoff will be as much as most people expect. I’ll gladly take the hook at 7.5 just in case the Rams do win by a TD, but I think this line should be closer to 3 or 4 with the game coming down to a field goal one way or the other. Best Bet: Titans + 7.5 (pool play: Titans 75/25 in ATS contests — lower if offered only + 6.5 — and the Rams just 60/40 in SU pools).
Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5)
These teams have been tough to figure out this season. The Bears have lost three straight but beat the Bengals and Raiders earlier. The Steelers lost to those same Bengals and Raiders teams but beat the Bills in the opener and are now on a three-game winning streak. That being said, this line is a little short for me. I’m not even sure I could trust Justin Fields and the Bears against this Pittsburgh defense if the line goes to 7. Now, + 7.5 would be another story, so again one last plug to check “Tuley’s Takes Today” daily. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Steelers 55/45 in ATS contests but flipped to Bears if offered + 7.5, plus Steelers around 80/20 in SU pools).