The Westgate SuperContest has awarded its first prize of the 2021 NFL season for the first of its six three-week mini contests. The Circa Millions contest is in the final week of its first quarterly installment. Two SuperContest players began the season 14-1, while the Millions still has one contestant sporting an unblemished record of 15-0 through the first three weeks.
It is not surprising to see a great deal of volatility in the contest standings through the first three weeks as bettors — and oddsmakers — are still getting a feel for who these teams really are. No matter what metrics one looks at in their assessments and handicapping of NFL teams, the first two or three weeks are not likely going give you a definitive picture of what a team may or may not truly be. Even if metrics are not a part of one's NFL breakdown, the early season is still a bit of a "preseason" for all of us. Most professional bettors do not really begin to implement their numbers until after Week 4, 5 or even 6.
If one is struggling in a contest or contests, it may not be time to shift just yet — but it is getting close. It’s definitely time to look at one's offseason assessments of each team and point to teams that are performing much differently than early expectations. If a turn toward expectations does not surface in Week 4, it probably is a good time to shuffle the deck and reexamine those squads that are befuddling. Circa Millions offers an interesting twist in that of the quarterly "Booby Prize" for the participant who finishes with the worst record over each four-week span. If one is well below .500 at this point, sticking to your guns and trying to "win" by losing is a good option to consider. If it continues, thinking long term and considering going after the season-long Booby Prize, which pays $100,000 in the Circa contest, is absolutely in play. On the other hand, in the Westgate contest, Week 4 presents a clean slate and one can go after cashing in the next three-week block.
We often hear how recreational bettors only remember what they saw last or recency bias. The good news about Week 4 of the NFL season is that everything we have seen from each team is very recent. What we saw last is not really just last week, but we all ought to have a pretty good idea of what we have seen now for three weeks. If one is serious about betting the NFL or trying to cash in a contest, I don't think recalling the first three weeks of this season is a big ask.
The Broncos have beaten the Giants, Jaguars and Jets. Are they a really good team? Are they a dominant 3-0? The Bills lost to the Steelers and beat the Dolphins and Washington. Are they really the powerhouse they have appeared to be in the last two weeks? The Chiefs nearly lost to the Browns and were beaten by the Ravens and Chargers. Are they really as bad as what last place in the division and 1-2 looks like on paper? The Vikings should really be 3-0, and their losses have come to teams that look to be pretty decent in the Bengals and Cardinals. And the Cardinals beat up on the Titans and Jaguars and should have lost to the Vikings.
The point is, this is a time of the year when one should be able to recall what they have seen with relative ease. So make any necessary adjustments while there is still time to do so — geared toward whatever is best suited to one's current contest position. In another three or four weeks, the numbers will begin to stabilize and give us a clearer picture. Between now and then, we should be able to better separate the pretenders from the contenders and adjust. It will be easier to fall into the recency-bias trap in three or four weeks, but at the same time, the numbers will provide a better representation and help eliminate some of the guesswork or knee-jerk reactions.
I prefer to stick to a routine in NFL handicapping and NFL contest play, but part of that routine should involve having an open mind and knowing how and when to make adjustments. Being able to admit you were wrong and also identifying when you were correct, reassessing and adjusting accordingly, all should be eye-opening and confidence-building experiences.
With all that in mind, here are a couple of games catching my eye this week.
Los Angeles Rams (-5) vs. Arizona Cardinals
Again, the numbers can be a little unreliable at this point in the season, but let’s look at what we have seen so far. The Cardinals were nearly flawless in Week 1 in steamrolling Tennessee. You can count Week 2 as a loss to the Vikings – who in my mind, look like a pretty solid team with a defense that’s getting healthier. And then Arizona took care of Jacksonville, not all that impressively. The Rams, meanwhile, beat up on the Bears, handled the Colts in a tough spot on the road and hammered the defending Super Bowl champs at home. The Rams look like the team we thought they would be and maybe the Cardinals are being a bit overvalued. I’m thinking that laying the points here with Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay over Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury is the way to go.
Miami Dolphins (-1.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Entering the season, I thought the Colts might have been undervalued because of all their injury news. At the same time, I believed the Dolphins were a fade team based on what they did — and did not do — last season. Again, it may be time to adjust my assessments. The Colts look bad. Carson Wentz is not very good and he’s banged up. The offensive line doesn’t look good and now its best player, Quentin Nelson, has a high ankle sprain. Miami has been OK. The Dolphins earned a lucky win against New England and lost their quarterback early in Week 2 against Buffalo. They showed a lot of guts in a comeback against Las Vegas. Maybe they are better than I expected preseason. I’m thinking of picking on what looks to be a bad team here in Indianapolis and laying the short price (-1.5) with the Dolphins.