Disclaimer: I wrote this on Wednesday, but due to circumstances out of my control, it 's being posted today (Fri). Lines reflect Wednesday lines. Best Bets will still be up tomorrow (Sat).
You might have noticed there was no recap this week.
You might have also noticed that OEF got obliterated on Sunday.
The connection is not random.
Sunday was definitely a difficult day, and that wasn’t just because of the football results. It was because a day that used to be full of joy and excitement had been turned into a work day where I powerlessly had to watch as all of my research, analysis, and writing went up in smoke.
Oh, and my money.
So I skipped the recap to take some time to recharge. And in doing so I stumbled upon an idea that will run through this piece as the backbone that helps us bounce back.
The idea: gambling is and always will be reliant on humanity.
If this was all just wagering on computer simulations, then the numbers would be the life of it. In reality, though, this is humans trying to predict what a group of humans will do against another group of humans. And that’s hard.
The first part of this is that I am a human. I need time to not be a football computer. It is impossible to fully immerse yourself in all of the data, trends, results, and box scores; it is more important to find a balance between doing this and living your life. After such a terrible weekend, I needed a little extra time to live my life.
The other side of this is that the games themselves involve humans. Aaron Rodgers came out after the Packers loss and insinuated that some players on the team had enjoyed LA too much. Maybe the numbers said Green Bay was in a good situation, but the humans on the field had other factors that influence them.
The message then is clear, gambling isn’t something you can fully “figure out”. There will always be volatility, randomness, and unpredictability.
With some time away to reconnect with my humanity, I see now that this is what makes it fun. Rereading some of my earlier pieces, I also see that this is what has been missing.
So moving forward we embrace the human element at play here, we recognize the undefinable quality of sports that exists beyond the numbers, and we have some fun.
To do that, we’re outsourcing the computing to a non-human and leaving the humanity to the living and breathing.
Saturday will mark the debut of the WORMS algorithm – an opportunity for me to remove myself from the weeds and focus on the bigger picture elements. Let the computer compute and the human…live?
As far as the algorithm, though, it is very rough but has shown some promise in its initial runs. An early test predicted last week’s IND-PIT game as a 23.5-21.5 Steelers win. The final result was 26-24, meaning the WORMS nailed the spread and came close on the total.
This is only one run, and it will be volatile to start, but the formula is a great start nonetheless. Today we focus on humanity, Saturday we pair that with the computing.
With that in mind, let’s look at the human side of Week 10 Early Best Bets:
BUF +2.5 @ CLE
Cleveland losing to Denver and a backup QB? Oh, the humanity.
Up until that point there was a school of thought that said that the Browns were only sporting such a poor record because of their schedule, but then this happened.
And the look and feel of it was even worse in real life than on paper.
On the Broncos two passing touchdowns, the Browns put on a pathetic display of tackling. They allowed Noah Fant, a rookie tight end who had never gotten more than 37 yards receiving in a game in his career, to catch 3 passes for 115 yards including a 75-yard touchdown. They also allowed Courtland Sutton to power into the end zone on one of his five catches. They also allowed Phillip Lindsay to rush for 90+ yards on 9 carries.
After the game, the Browns let go of a cornerback after his explicative ladened Twitter post. While this is commendable, they also might consider starting to let players go based on performance. Earlier in the week Baker Mayfield exploded on a reporter. While this shows passion perhaps he should back it up. This week OBJ and Jarvis Landry were forced to change their cleats at halftime. While this shows attention to detail, perhaps they should focus on the details in their game.
Watching this team, it is clear Freddie Kitchens has lost their confidence, that Baker Mayfield has regressed, and that there is tension bubbling immediately below the surface.
The humans on this team are not buying into each other. No matter what the numbers say, this team is not one that appears ready to win games.
My only logical explanation for this line, then, is that Vegas has found that people love to bet on the Browns and hate to bet on the Bills and are trying to balance the action.
And I don’t blame people for shying away from the Bills. They have not been inspiring confidence with their performance, despite sitting at 6-2.
But they got there for one reason: they beat bad teams.
With wins against the Dolphins, Jets, Giants, Washington, and Bengals this season, Buffalo has feasted on teams that have come in unprepared or mismanaged. That is who they face on Sunday.
There are a lot of levels of teams in the league, but at the bottom of the good teams are those that take care of business, and that’s Buffalo.
I love the moneyline, I love the spread, and I love Josh Allen.
It does scare me that there has been some reverse line movement here (meaning the spread has gotten bigger despite there being 89% of the action on Buffalo – insinuating that a few big money bets have come the other way) but I don’t care. I might be a sucker for believing so much in the Bills, but I’m not a sucker for doubting the Browns.
And if that turns out to be wrong, just remember I’m human.
BAL -9.5 @ CIN
You know who isn’t human? Lamar Jackson.
The only bet I had going on Sunday that gained any type of value was my beginning of season bet for Lamar Jackson as MVP. He may not be in the lead, but he is gaining ground.
In a dismantling of the Patriots, Jackson accounted for 200+ yards and three touchdowns. His numbers may not have jumped off the page, but the person did.
He repeatedly made tacklers miss, extended drives, and got the ball in the end zone.
Now he faces a team against which he ran for 156 yards just a few weeks ago.
But the story of this game might also be Baltimore’s defense.
After acquiring Marcus Peters from the Rams, the Ravens returned Jimmy Smith from injury and paired both with Marlon Humphrey to form perhaps the best secondary outside of Foxboro in the league.
In this matchup they face Ryan Finley who will be making his first NFL start. The book on Finley is that he is a solid QB, but one who rarely takes risks and checks down more often than not. In a game where Cincy will have to score, they are employing someone known for being conservative.
Making this point even more exacerbated is the fact that AJ Green is trending in the wrong way for the Bengals. The face of the franchise and the most explosive option for their passing game hasn’t played a down this season and it leaves Finley with two receivers built more like tight ends in Auden Tate and Tyler Boyd.
Given the personnel here, it feels unlikely that Baltimore will score a lot. Meanwhile, Baltimore is averaging a league high 31.4 points.
Of course there is the very human possibility that Baltimore comes out flat in this situation. They just beat the Patriots on national television and have the inside track on the number 2 seed with a shot at the one seed. Everyone is talking about them and Lamar Jackson is in the MVP race. They could be getting big heads and overlooking an easy win.
But I don’t think that’s the case. I think that they are feeling invincible, yes, but that that can serve as a strength for them in this game. Sometimes, walking in with confidence can be the most difficult thing for the other team to overcome. Without any reason to feel good about themselves, it is possible (and I think likely) that the Bengals curl up in the face of a team that is rolling.
There will be a lot more words on this game to come, but for now, I like this line because Baltimore will have the best player on the field on offense and has a defense stacked with playmakers.
When we line up the humans in this game, the advantage is clearly Baltimore.
LAR -3.5 @ PIT
There is a 50/50 chance this is entirely the wrong pick. But let’s have some fun gambling.
One thing I love to do is to attack teams off of byes that people might have forgotten about.
The other thing I love to do is bet against the Steelers.
In the first case, even though the Rams are underperforming this season, they are not as lost as people’s minds may be telling them.
We have made a big deal here about the missed kick to beat Seattle earlier this season, but if that kick goes through then LA is 6-2, ahead of Seattle (who would be 6-3), and in the first Wild Card spot.
In addition to that, the players on their team aren’t actually performing that poorly.
Jared Goff is sixth in the NFL in passing yards/game. Cooper Kupp is third in the league in receiving yards/game. The team is sixth in the league in rushing touchdowns. The defense is 15th in the league but is giving up just 13 points a game through its last three.
In other words, this team is not that far off of the top of the league group we were expecting. They lost a wild game to Tampa Bay, the lost on a missed kick against a 7-2 team, and they got demolished by the league’s last undefeated team.
Heading into play Pittsburgh, they meet a team that has been battling to stay competitive and who has a 50-50 shot at the playoffs.
So let’s talk about the Steelers. In all honesty, this team is vastly outperforming my expectations. The defense is gelling and the offense has found ways to move the ball. A deeper dive, though, and I’m not so sure these numbers are built to last.
Over their three game winning streak, Pittsburgh has beaten a depleted Chargers team, the Dolphins, and the Colts with their third string QB. They have been generating a tremendous amount of pressure, which is Goff’s weakness, but they have also allowed some particularly troubling numbers.
They allowed Brian Hoyer to throw three touchdowns. They allowed Phillip Rivers to throw for 300+ yards and two touchdowns. In the first half of their game against Miami, they allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw two touchdowns and it would have been three if not for an unlucky interception.
And this brings up the next concern. This team has been riding a hot streak of turnover luck that has seen them rack up three takeaways a game over the last three. If this were to regress, they would be a much less intimidating defense to face.
With a week off since their game in London, it is safe to say that the Rams have had a chance to regroup and reassess how best their team can move forward. Assuming this involved protecting Jared Goff and creating offense then Pittsburgh’s defense could easily be neutralized.
On the reverse side, the Steelers have limited skill position players receiving Mason Rudolph passes, and LA has a much improved D with Jalen Ramsey getting more involved.
Maybe as the week goes on this game will get less appetizing, but right now it seems like it’s an opportunity to bet an inflated team against an undervalued one. That’s ideal for making money.
SF -6 vs SEA
Finally a home favorite!
I’ve been waiting for this game for a while, and even though the line is fairly high, I love taking San Francisco here.
A lot of people will be scared away by a close Thursday Night game against Arizona last week, but I actually love that that happened.
See, we know that Thursday Night games are crazy. Teams love to survive, get the win they deserve, and leave. Not getting injured is the main goal of any favorite playing and getting a win is second. The Niners did both, and the spread is irrelevant.
Now, heading into a Monday Night game against the Seahawks, the San Francisco will be on 11 days rest and will be getting back Joe Staley and Kyle Jsuchecksihds (their fullback, don’t check the spelling). That means their run game will be even more diverse and explosive and their offense will be able to hit the groove we saw when they destroyed the Browns 31-3 (the last time both of these guys played).
And that is scary, mainly because the Niners have been dominant no matter who is in their lineup. This season they are third in the league in points scored at 29.4 and second in points allowed at 12.8 meaning they are averaging 17-point wins every game.
Seattle, on the other hand, has been called out repeatedly on this website for being unsustainably lucky in one score games this season. The Seahawks are 6-1 in one score games this season and have a scoring margin of just +2 points per game. That shifts to -.3 points per game when you just look at their last three.
Yes, Russell Wilson is amazing, but he has masked a bad defense and poor play calling all season long. Without him this team may be winless and even with him they are a couple of kicks and coin flips away from being .500.
It is our job here to be ahead of the curve, and even though Seattle is hot around town right now, we need to see that reality of the situation.
This game reminds me a lot of the Baltimore game a few weeks ago. A great rushing offense shows out against Seattle’s bad D and a good defense shuts down their limited weapons.
The line may be big, but so are the rewards. It’s human nature to chase the big pay day, and we might just have found it here.
MIN +3 @ DAL
Finally, a road underdog!
I’ll be honest with you, this is just a gut pick for now. And algorithms don’t have guts.
On paper it appears that these two teams are fairly equal, but in reality I believe the Vikings are more sure of who they are, more capable of executing that vision, and hungrier coming off a loss.
So from a human perspective, I like the Vikings to win this game outright.
First, the Vikings have an identity. They have played several weeks with an offense centered around play action and incorporating Stefon Diggs as a field stretcher that allows Dalvin Cook to operate underneath. As a result, Kirk Cousins has the third best rating in the league behind only Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes.
The Cowboys just gave up a relatively huge receiving game to Saquon Barkley and the Vikings love running screens all day long.
Essentially, then Minnesota is running the offense that would unlock Dallas if they ran the same thing.
Dallas should be have exactly the same offense with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and Amari Cooper, but instead they’re wildly inconsistent in their play calling. Against the Packers and the Saints, they decided that running the ball early and often was the key to victory, and in both cases they ended up putting themselves in a hole that they could not dig out of.
So, then this bet is a bet on a team that has shown a willingness to grow out of a run-first organization over a team that can’t let go of the fantasy.
When you dive into the numbers, though, this is about as even a matchup as you can get.
I’m sure WORMS will find an edge, but as the resident human, I see a team I like against one that I don’t. And I’m going to bet on it.