The one trait most closely associated with survival is not strength, intelligence, or the ability to communicate.
Now, the argument could be made that we here at OEF have a tendency to change courses every week, but in our first season of existence we are trying to adapt to survive.
And the ability to adapt is proving central to betting on the NFL.
What we won money on in Week 2 (the Bills being undervalued) could lose us money in Week 11 (the Bills being overvalued). We need to be able to adjust to what is happening and be one step ahead of Vegas.
The same is also true for starting a website.
In the early weeks of this site I was writing five or six articles a week trying to cover every angle. Then, the goal was to write three and go into more depth with the information to make stronger picks. And now, the goal is to have an algorithm develop statistically advantageous picks and for me to supplement that with my own thoughts.
The point of recapping all of this with you is to lead into this week’s Best Bets article, because it will look a little different. This will be the shortest of my Best Bets articles, because we are adapting to a shifted focus here. Although there is no official change, it feels as though the Wednesday article is shaping up to operate as the flagship article on the site, with the Saturday article serving as a catch all for the most up to date and more reasoned picks.
And when you think about it this makes sense. Having Wednesday as the major aticle gives you access to all the games Thursday-Monday, it gives you time to hit the lines before they are moved to less advantageous positions, and it allows you time to take the WORMS pick and filter it through your own system.
Saturday will still be the place where you get my Best Bets at the lines they currently stand at, so they will remain valuable and remain tracked on the Best Bets page. But in the name of adaptation and survival we are staying flexible.
Welcome to the future, it’s full of money and robots.
With that in mind, here are my Week 11 Best Bets:
BAL -4.5 vs HOU 4.5 Hoots WORMS Delta: 29 for BAL
And this is the beauty of man and machine working together. I may not have been as strongly on this game had WORMS not turned me onto it. Now that I am looking at it, though, this game feels like the Best Bet on the slate.
One of the things I love about WORMS is that it is designed to measure change in performance as much as anything. As such, it has been all over this Baltimore shift.
In the early weeks of the season, the Ravens were a great offense with a bad defense. Then they added Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith to a secondary that already had Earl Thomas and Marlon Humphrey. Now they are the league’s best offense at 33.3 points per game on the season, with that number jumping to 38.7 over the last three games. Defensively they are tied for 13th in the league allowing 21 points per game, but that number drops to 16.3 over the last three - good for third best in the league.
Before you go schedule hunting to see what bottom of the barrel teams this has come against, the Ravens last three games have been the Seahawks, Patriots, and Bengals. Ignoring Cinci’s winless record, the other two teams have a combined record of 16-3.
The bottom line is that this Ravens team may be playing like the best team in the league, and we may all be missing it because we have been unable to adapt to the new defensive reality of this team.
On the other side, the Houston Texans are certainly a formidable opponent. They have beaten some good teams this season and have put up some big scores.
But in looking at their recent track record, this is a team whose best wins are looking less formidable over time and whose performances are inconsistent at best.
Their last four games have been a seven point win over the Chiefs (looks less impressive), a seven point loss to the Colts (looks worse), a three point win against the Raiders (looks better), and a 23 point win against the Jags (what happens in London stays in London).
Without getting too into the weeds here, the Texans have averaged about 26 points in that span while giving up about 20, but 26 if you remove the Jags game.
The point being one of these teams has been dominant while the other has been mediocre.
WORMS helped us identify this game as a potential imbalance and the numbers back it up. Perhaps now is the time to jump on Baltimore at +575 to win the Super Bowl. At the very least it’s time to adapt to the new reality that they are one of the best in the league.
Let’s and attack this line and survive another week.
OAK -11 @ CIN 4 Hoots WORMS Delta: 5 for OAK
This line has grown a little over the past few days and WORMS likes it less and less as it grows.
My human eyes, however, don’t care how high this number goes. In my mind this is a lock.
And the difference between my eyes and WORMS cold calculation is that WORMS can’t see the Bengals actively giving up.
In Week 10, the Bengals lost a game in which they trailed 14-0 less than ten minutes into the game. They still ran the ball 40 times.
The backup QB they started over their former Pro Bowl veteran looked atrocious, passing for 167 yards on 30 attempts.
Their defense allowed the Ravens to pile up 371 yards on just 45 plays. That is an almost unheard of 8.2 yards per play. For reference Dallas leads the NFL at 6.7 yards per play..
The point being that even in a game they were dominated, the Bengals actively worked against themselves and made their situation worse.
Now they welcome a Raiders team who is coming off a Thursday Night game, and has had ten days to prepare. In case you were worried about the Raiders overlooking this game, a win would put them in a tie with Kansas City for first in the AFC West (at least until KC plays Monday Night).
So we have one team that is incentivized to win and another actively trying to lose.
That would be enough even if the Raiders strength, running the ball and throwing to tight ends, didn’t line up perfectly with what the Bengals just got torched with.
At the end of the day, WORMS likes this a little, but I like it a lot because there is more at play here than numbers.
In this case, we are adapting to the reality that Oakland could be a playoff team and that Cincinnati is the worst team in the NFL.
NE -4 @ PHI 2.5 Hoots WORMS Delta: 4 for PHI
So, 11 weeks in, it’s time to come clean.
Some of you know this, but many don’t. I am a Patriots fan.
And in all honesty, I can’t tell you if my fandom is clouding my judgement here. But if it is, the clouds are in the shape of money signs.
WORMS disagrees with me here, favoring Philly at a line of 4 points.
But in my cloud filled world, I feel confident in a Patriots win here.
The main reason being that the Eagles are banged up on offense and will be trotting out a very consolidated group of weapons. In my experience, a consolidated group of weapons means a simplified defensive task for Bill Belichick. Oh, and the Patriots are coming off of a bye.
In games coming off the bye week, Belichick is 14-5 with an average margin of victory of 17. This isn’t a particularly sticky stat at first glance, but given the research that teams often perform substantially better or worse off a bye (not even) this certainly indicates the former.
And given that information, coupled with the Philadelphia offensive injuries, it feels like this could be a blow up spot for the Pats defense.
Currently, the Eagles will start Miles Sanders at running back. He is dynamic, explosive, and could give the New England D trouble. Behind him though, is Jay Ajayi. Coming off of an ACL injury, the running back tried out for 15 teams. None of them signed him. This is his first time being on a roster this season.
In the pass catchers core, the Eagles are without their top two wide receivers and will rely heavily on their tight ends. With the option to single cover across the board, the Patriots will likely play in a linebacker/safety heavy formation that will allow them to stack the box, take out the tight ends, and pressure Carson Wentz.
On offense, the Patriots will be able to attack a Philly secondary that is porous to say the least. There is no player on the Eagles who can cover Julian Edelman and Mohammed Sanu has been a stud in his limited work with Tom Brady. Add in Phillip Dorsett and James White and this passing attack could also be in line for a big game.
So although WORMS doesn’t see it, when I look at this game I see New England with advantages on both offense and defense.
Maybe I’m just seeing shapes in the clouds, but before the Baltimore game this line would have been much higher. If we are adapting to Baltimore being great, maybe we need to adapt to a reality in which that result shouldn’t count as heavily against the Patriots.
If that’s the case, clouds or no clouds, this is an advantageous line.
JAX +3 @ IND 2.5 Hoots WORMS Delta: 2 for JAX
Lord help me, but I can’t quit the Jags.
This is by far my thinnest pick, and there are a lot of leaps to make, but we might just be taking those leaps into piles of money.
The first leap to make here is that Nick Foles’ return is a big gain for Jacksonville. This may not take a lot of effort, though, as Gardner Minshew was pretty bad in the London game against the Texans, and Foles showed a lot in a little bit of the first game of the season.
Against the Chiefs, Foles threw just eight passes, but hit on five of them for 80 yards and a touchdown. This team is designed with Foles in mind and allow him to be his best self. He will have an established running game, a deep threat in DJ Chark, and a slot weapon in Dede Westbrook. Let’s also not forget that Chris Conley and Nick Foles played together in Kansas City and have a history of connecting deep.
On the defensive side, Jacksonville has the ability to pressure the quarterback and make plays. Without TY Hilton, there is no deep threat that the Jags have to worry about, and although Jacoby Brissett appears to be on his way back, no one knows how mobile or healthy he will be.
Over their last three games, Indy has averaged 17 points (27th in the league) and has scored below 20 in three of their last five.
Like I said, this pick takes some leaps of faith, but seeing the Jags as underdogs against a reeling Colts team seems too tough to pass up.
We have adapted from thinking the Colts are undervalued to realizing that perhaps they are hitting too many obstacles to overcome.
You don’t have to follow me, but I’m jumping with the Jags. May I land on something soft.
CHI @ LAR under 40 2 Hoots
This isn’t rocket science.
Mitchell Trubisky + Jared Goff in primetime = disaster.
Honestly I am hesitant to pick this because there is some evidence that says that bad quarterbacks can lead to high scoring games due to turnovers and sloppy play. But deep down I think these two can make this happen.
And the coaches deserve some credit too. Sean McVay has been downright terrible the past few weeks and Matt Nagy has been terrible this whole season. Both are dealing with different teams this year, but have shown little ability to adapt to what they have to work with.
Specifically, what each has to work with is a decimated offensive line. The Rams have lost two starters in the past week and now will be going against Khalil Mack. The Bears have been dealing with issues all season and now have to face Aaron Donald.
If I really wanted to make this bet work, I would go with the under and parlay it with the Bears +6.5 (since any game in the 30’s is unlikely to be a blow out and I believe there is at least a chance we see Blake Bortles in this game).
In the end, though, two bad QBs on two struggling offenses with no offensive lines has to equal an under. This wouldn’t have been the case in Week 1, but it’s Week 11 and we need to adapt.
The Big Money Makers
Last week, we were torpedoed early and often in our parlays. This week, with some stronger convictions, we are going to try to recapture our parlay magic.
Once again we are going to stick to three: one from my picks, one from WORMS, and from the heavens.
The thinking here is the we are going to double down on some of mine and WORMS’ Best Bets to cover as many bases as possible. Some are smaller money and some are larger, but all are based on trying to maximize the value of the things we feel confident in by adding in some element of risk to them.
Given that seven underdogs won last week, we’ll see how that works out for us.
Here are the Week 11 Big Money Parlays:
PARLAY 1 - The 3 Hooter
JAX to win (+120)
NO to win (-230)
NE to win (-225)
SF to win (-460)
OAK to win (-600)
MIN to win (-500)
BAL to win (-225)
KC to win (-220)
$20 to win $306.53
PARLAY 2 - The WORMS
MIA +6.5 (-110)
BAL -4.5 (-115)
OAK -11.5 (-110)
$25 to win $145.35
PARLAY 3 - The I don’t give a Hoot
BAL -4.5 (-115)
OAK -11.5 (-110)
CHI +6 (-105)
KC -4 (-110)
JAX +2.5 (105)
CAR to win (-225)
NO to win (-230)
NE to win (-225)
$10 to win $751.42