Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Well, I have some explaining to do.
After some soul searching, I realized that my process differed last week from the three before it. Mainly, the difference was that I was trying not to mess up rather than trying to win.
In other words, last week I made bets from a place of fear rather than a place of strength. I was trying not to lose rather than attacking the slate. A lot of this can be attributed to coming off of a Week 3 where I went undefeated, because that made me hesitant to take risks.
The manifestation of this can be seen in my choices: I chose three teams that were 3-0 and didn’t look closely enough at the matchups. I made my picks based off of the past and not looking towards the future.
Perfect examples of this failure were my Green Bay and Dallas picks. In each of those cases, I chose teams with good records over teams that I have spent 1,000 of words writing about as Good Teams (Philly and New Orleans). Instead of looking at reality, I was caught up in picking based off of records and perceptions.
The one pick I did nail was my Carolina over Houston pick, and this was a bet rooted in what I saw and believed about these teams. I wrote glowingly about Carolina in my Good Teams article while lampooning Houston as a Bad Team. This was my only pick made from a place of conviction rather than fear.
The beauty of this site, this job, and this situation, however, is that Week 5 brings another opportunity. And with that opportunity I have a chance to not replicate bets from a place of fear, but to make picks that push my beliefs forward.
Here is an early look at what I strongly believe will happen.
NE -16 @ WAS
It is fairly established that Washington will not score an offensive touchdown in this game.
So far this season, the Patriots have faced three winless teams and none of them have scored an offensive touchdown. To add insult to injury, the Washington team is currently deciding what quarterback to play and the options are Case Keenum (4 INT, 3 fumbles/1 lost) and Dwayne Haskins (3 INTs). Meanwhile, the Patriots lead the league with 10 INTs and have allowed a TOTAL of 727 passing yards (!!!) this season.
Whoever Washington do decide to go with will be playing alongside an offense that has shown no ability to run the ball and who may be missing its top wide receiver (Terry McLaurin). Finally, without an offensive line to speak of, New England will be able to pressure the quarterback, cover the receivers, and stop the run, all while turning the ball over for the entire game.
So, with Washington penciled in for zero touchdowns, it seems as though this line will be easy to cover from the New England side. A major part of that is the fact that Washington is the second worse passing defense unit in the league while also giving up 100+ yards of rushing in three of four games this season. Total, they have given up an average of almost 30 points a game this season.
Honestly, there is a book to be written about how bad Washington is and how good the Patriots are. Instead of writing those books, I’m just going to bet this line and make some money.
MIN -5 @ NYG
Anyone who is involved in reading NFL content anywhere on the internet knows the numbers on why the Vikings are so infuriating.
After spending $84 million on Cousins, $81 million on Diggs, and $64 million on Thielen, the Vikings currently rank second to last in the league in passing. That puts them just ahead of the Jets (on their third string QB and with only three games played) and right behind the Miami Dolphins (who are a team of third stringers). To date, the Vikings have only attempted 99 (!!!!) passes, the lowest in the league for any team who has played four games.
But believe it or not, this is a write-up of the Vikings being in prime position for us to capitalize.
The main reason for these passing numbers is that Minnesota has rededicated themselves to the run and stand third in the league in rushing yards per game while leading the league in rushing touchdowns. Dalvin Cook has been a force and the combination of the running game and the defense means that if the Vikings get a lead, they keep a lead.
The good news for them, and us, is that they will most likely have a lead on Sunday. The Giants defense has been allowing over 100 yards rushing per game this season and notoriously has one of the worsts secondaries in the league. Outside of last week’s game against the hapless Redskins, the Giants have given up 30+ points per game.
If Minnesota scores 30+, then this is a lock.
Meanwhile, in this game the runaway train of criticism for the Vikings is going to collide directly with the runaway train of hype for Daniel Jones, and the results will be a wake up call for the Giants while putting the Vikings haters to rest.
The Vikings are in the top ten in the league in passing yards allowed at 218/game, making them the first and only good secondary that Danny Dimes will have faced in his pro career. On top of that secondary, the Giants will have to contend with Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen coming after Jones all day. This makes for a tough matchup no matter how you look at it, especially without Saquon Barkley.
And the truth is, Jones hasn’t been as good as you may think. Although he was electric against Tampa Bay in leading the Giants back, last week, on deep passes he had more interceptions than completions. Overall, he has thrown two interceptions and taken five sacks against a couple of defenses that do not pose as much of a risk to the QB as the Vikings do. He is a rookie who still makes rookie throws.
In the name of betting with conviction, I believe the Vikings are a team that wins games and that the Giants have a roster with less talent than the last two results indicate.
LAR +2 @ SEA
We avoided the Rams trap game last week after profiting on them in Cleveland, and now we might be back to win on them again.
But this is not about the Rams, but rather about the Seahawks. Although they are a team that is fun to watch and who appear to be good, they were always going to be 3-1 given their schedule.
To date, they have played the Bengals and Cardinals, two legitimately bad teams, while also catching the Saints and Steelers with back-up quarterbacks. This exposes their record as somewhat inflated. The Rams, on the other hand, have not played a team that is currently below .500. Their 3-1 record shows some quality wins and could easily be 4-0 with a couple of bounces the other way in the Tampa Bay game.
And speaking of that Tampa Bay game, Jared Goff has taken a lot of heat for turning the ball over so much, and rightfully so. Despite passing for 500+ yards, he fumbled away and threw away multiple chances for his team to take the lead. The good news, though, is that Seattle poses one of the least intimidating secondaries in the league and Goff still has three of the league’s best receiving weapons at his disposal.
But maybe more importantly for the Rams, this will be the first week they do not have to travel 2,000+ miles to play an NFL football game. To date, their schedule has been Carolina -> LA -> Cleveland -> LA. Now, they have the relatively short journey up to Seattle, and although it is on a Thursday night, it should allow them something of a break that their other games have not.
But after all that writing about records and schedules and comparisons, this game boils down to one thing for me: I believe in the Rams as a good team and good teams bounce back and win games. I do not believe Seattle is a good team, and this is the first game they will play against a fully manned, good team.
Let’s not overcomplicate an early Best Bet, and let’s take a team that is good against a team that is OK.
CHI @ OAK under 41
Later in the week, I will write about why the under is where I’m going to live from now on, but for now, let’s talk this game specifically.
Chicago has the most ferocious defense in the league. Oakland has little to offer on offense that should challenge that.
More to the point, Derek Carr is at his best when he is not being pressured. In Oakland’s two wins, Carr has been sacked a total of one time. In their two losses, he has been sacked a total of seven times. The Bears are one off the league lead with 17 sacks.
On the flip side, Chicago won their game against the Vikings with Chase Daniel at quarterback. Their recipe for doing this was to play conservatively and allow Daniels to get the ball out quickly and decisively without asking him to do too much. He passed for 195 yards on 30 attempts for an average of 6.5 yards/attempt. That would rank fourth to last in the league over the course of the whole season.
So, to recap we have established that the Raiders will struggle to score and the Bears will look to control the flow of the game with time consuming, short plays. That screams under and all we have to do is listen.
TB @ NO under 47
New Orleans has a clear strategy. Play vanilla offense and attack on defense.
It is not a bad idea with their roster and a backup quarterback. And vanilla can be pretty delicious with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara sprinkled on top.
But, in two and a half games as the starter, Bridgewater has 522 yards (in 11 quarters, which averages out to about 200 yards per game). He has two touchdowns and one interception in that time. Also during that span, Alvin Kamara has the Saints’ only rushing touchdown and Will Lutz has kicked 7 field goals. All of this is a fancy way of saying of saying that the Saints are not a high powered offense.
On Tampa Bay’s side, Todd Bowles has come in and created a defense that is legitimately good. Although they just gave up 40+ points to the Rams and 30+ to the Giants before that, they did so while also disrupting the game. Shaquil Barret is the early favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year (9 sacks and 3 forced fumbles), and Tampa Bay has ridden his play to create a defensive unit that is active and attacks the ball.
More specifically, though, the Bucs defense perfectly matches up against New Orleans’ style of play with Teddy Bridgewater. Tampa Bay has allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league this year, and have sacked the quarterback 11 times. By pairing a stout run defense with an aggressive line, Tampa has a shot to disrupt the rhythm that has allowed Bridgewater to play three games throwing under 200 yards.
All of this combined with the Saints defensive play indicates that this might be a game that’s played in the 20s instead of the 30s. It warrants more research, but it could be a place where we can make a lot of money off of perception rather than reality.
Other Early Best Bets to Watch
BAL -3.5 @ PIT
Full disclosure, there is a 99% chance this ends up as a Best Bet on Thursday. Perhaps the only reason it is not in my top five right now is because Pittsburgh played Monday night so I haven’t had a chance to fully look over their numbers. Also this line makes me suspicious.
But here is some irrefutable data. I hate Pittsburgh. They are a vanilla offense (even with their wildcat wrinkles last night) and their defense continues to underperform with loads of talent.
Meanwhile, I think there is backlash to a Baltimore team that has lost two games against teams that were picked as AFC favorites to begin the season. There are certainly issues, but their offense is running for 200+ yards per game, and Lamar Jackson is a couple of long connections with Marquis Brown away from making this offense even more explosive.
At this point in the season, I like to bet on quality teams against non-quality teams. This seems like a glaring opportunity to do so.
BUF +3 @ TEN
Now we’re betting with conviction!
Putting down money on Buffalo might be the most Owl Eats Football move of all time, and I am stoked to take this line.
After a almost shut down performance of the Patriots offense, the Bills now see a Titans offense that averages 200 yards passing a game, and who has scored a total of 48 points in their last three games (after scoring 44 in the first game).
On the offensive side of the ball, New England defenders said that they felt Buffalo’s offense flowed better with Matt Barkley in the game because he got the ball out quicker, so if Josh Allen is out the Buffalo offense might not miss a beat.
All in all, though, the Bills are a better team, and although I might not end up betting this line after a deeper dive, I can see this game as an area that needs exploring.
ATL +180 @ HOU
Neither of these teams is actually good, and although Houston has more raw talent and has put together more games this season, the fact is that it is closer than it may appear.
Houston’s secondary is exploitable and Matt Ryan should be able to find Julio Jones all day.
This won’t be a lock, but it might give us enough money to take a risk that isn’t that big.
3 Quick Hitters without Explanation
JAX @ CAR under 41
ATL @ HOU over 48
ARI @ CIN over 47