Week 9 Best Bets

This seems like as good a time as any to take a step back and remember something:

Gambling is inherently risky. If it wasn’t risky, there wouldn’t be any value to it.

I currently participate in a super contest, a season long competition where bettors choose five teams a week (against the spread) and get either one point for a win, half a point for a push, and zero points for a loss.

Out of 40 possible points, the leader out of the 3000 entries has 30.5 points, and they are currently the only person above 30 (your favorite OEF contributor is at 22.5).

Take a second and think about that. It means that the person who is having the run of a lifetime (making good picks but getting a lot of breaks) to lead a contest like this is picking games correctly at a 75% rate. Everyone else is at 70% or below.

So, the hottest of the hot right now are picking three out of four games right a week. If they picked a hundred games they would get 25 wrong, and the truth is they would probably regress back to the mean in that situation.

The point of bringing this up is to assuage both you (and myself) of fears that this process isn’t working. We will never be picking games at 100% and if we were it would not be through skill, but luck.

And maybe now you’re thinking: “Well, why would I read your site if you are going to be wrong so frequently? Why don’t I find this other person and read them?”

Great question, and the answer is equally as important as this whole introduction: because every edge matters.

When gambling, if we can turn a 50% hit rate into a 53% hit rate, then we just made ourselves profitable gamblers. If we then are able to avoid bad bets an extra few percent of the time, then we have made even more money. The point of this site is to raise you a few percentage points.

By taking your intuition and a wealth of research and data, you can turn yourself into someone who wins in the 50-60% range, and thereby make a profit.

We are doing our best here to maximize that with the “Give a Hoot” ratings and the upcoming algorithm (Code Name: W.O.R.M.S. – Wins On Real Margin of Success).

In summary, then, we can’t be discouraged by bad weeks and we can’t take all the credit for good weeks. We are in the business of grinding out edges and advantages and that starts with making sound picks based on reason and logic. Sometimes, though, reason and logic don’t act reasonably and logically.

Heading into Week 9, we are 20-17-3, a success rate of 53.75%. Our goal is to have that up to 55% heading into week 10.

Here’s how we’re going to do it:

NE -3.5 @ BAL 4.5 Hoots

To start this week, I did not think I would be giving this an almost five hoot rating. Nor did I think this game was as clear cut as I do now.

But in looking more into the matchup, I feel about as confident as I could in a road team heading to play a dynamic offense in its first real test of the year. Let’s look at why.

First and foremost, Bill Belichick and this defense are not just playing well, they are playing well in a variety of ways.

He has outfitted this roster with a shutdown secondary, but more importantly with a diverse set of linebackers. Kyle Van Noy is a nose for the ball specialist who can drop back in coverage or rush the QB, Jamie Collins is an athletic freak who can take away running backs and tight ends as well as he can blow past O-linemen. Dont’a Hightower is a brick wall who can tackle anyone and plug a running lane better than…something that’s really good at plugging things. Ja’Whaun Bentley and Elandon Roberts would start for most teams.

The reason to focus on the linebackers here is because Jackson’s scrambling will play a large part in this game. With those linebackers and the blueprint for stopping Jackson already written, there is almost no doubt the Belichick has some sort of game plan.

The blueprint to which I was referring came in the playoffs last year when the Chargers played the Ravens and added an extra safety/linebacker hybrid to the box to stop Jackson’s running. With a much worse secondary they manned up on the outside and let Jackson run into a front of versatile athletic defenders who plugged up all the gaps. Granted the Ravens have improved their skill positions, but the Patriots are also a lot better than the Chargers.

But let’s get beyond the player matchups and look at some numbers.

One interesting inflection point in this game will be the time of possession battle and the time spent with the lead.

As it stands heading into Week 9, this is a matchup of the team who possesses the ball for the most average time per game (Baltimore at 35:00) and the third most (New England at 34:13). Something has to give.

And if we look at these stats from a real world perspective, it seems likely that the Patriots may actually have the upper hand. That third place ranking does not take into account defensive touchdowns. Given that the Patriots have scored 6 touchdowns on defense this year, those are moments where they do not possess the ball, but the opposing offense immediately gets it back. If those turnovers had been immediately downed, they could be up closer to 40 minutes a game.

So if the Patriots do in fact win the time of possession battle, there’s a good chance they will also win the time leading battle.

Currently, New England leads the league in the least amount of time trailing at an average of 1 minute 44 seconds/game (which is objectively insane). Baltimore is seventh with an average of 15:44 (which is objectively still pretty good).

Perhaps the most important element of this, though, is which team is better equipped to play from behind. The answer is the Patriots.

Were the Ravens to fall behind by double-digits here, then the burden would be on Jackson and the passing game. That passing game ranks 17th in the league in Passing DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) despite playing the easiest schedule according to DVOA. Meanwhile the Patriots defense ranks 2nd in that same category.

Sometimes to win bets, we need to script the game. If this game was played a hundred times, I would guess that the most likely outcome is that the Patriots would get out to a small to sizable lead well over 50% of the time. If this holds true, then the chances of that lead compounding itself are high as the Patriots force the Ravens to throw to below average receivers covered by above average quarterbacks.

This prediction comes from a blend of analytics and real-life observations, and the result is a high level of confidence that the Ravens are overrated here and the Patriots are underrated.

In that case, give me 4.5 Hoots and Patriots by more than 3.5.

GB -3.5 @ LAC 4 Hoots

Well, if you made it through that New England section, I’ll reward you with a more concise Green Bay section.

Although this was an odds on favorite to be one of my first five-Hooters (potential sponsorship alert!) I have cooled a little on the Packers position, but just a little.

The reason for this is two-fold.

First, the unpredictability of the Chargers offense is difficult to swallow. Shane Steichen will be calling the plays for LA on Sunday, and even though he is a 34-year old, first time play-caller, we just don’t know what he will do.

We do know he has been the quarterbacks coach there since 2016, and we know that he has a good relationship with Phillip Rivers, but beyond that he is a relative unknown. And not knowing what he will do widens the possibilities of this game.

If on the one hand, he decides to unleash Austin Ekeler, play Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry in various slot roles, and allow Mike Williams to stretch the field vertically, then this team has weapons that can test any defense.

If on the other hand, though, he sticks with Melvin Gordon, allows Hunter Henry and Keenan Allen to take opportunity away from each other, and treats Mike Williams like a possession receiver, then the Chargers will continue to struggle to put up 20.

What we do know, however, is the Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Matt LaFleur will carve up this defense.

The Chargers have performed slightly better the last five weeks allowing just less than 20 points per game. But when you look at the quarterbacks they actually faced, that number is actually pretty bad. Those performances have come against: Josh Rosen, Joe Flacco, Devlin Hodges, Ryan Tannehill, and Mitchell Trubisky. That is putrid, and those subpar signal callers are inflating the Charger’s defensive ability.

And what’s even crazier? The Chargers are 2-3 in those games with only a +4 point differential. Take out the Miami game and they are 1-3 with a -16 point differential.

There is a chance the Chargers are righting the ship. There is a chance their offense gets on track. There is a chance they fully realize their potential.

But in reality, there is a much, much larger chance that the Packers score a ton. With their offense clicking these last four weeks, they have averaged 32.5 points per game. Even if Steichen calls the best game of his life, I’m not sure we can project the Chargers to score the 30 points it would take to even be in the Packers ballpark.

The volatility in this game makes is riskier, but it doesn’t necessarily make it a worse bet.

The Packers may have lost a Hoot, but they don’t seem likely to lose this game. With the intro in mind let’s embrace risk and place a bet that is still most likely to push us closer to 60%.

IND -1 @ PIT 3 Hoots

The red flags are everywhere here.

The biggest one is that Vegas listed this as a point. They know that the casual fan will look at the records and will be eager to bet a 5-2 team against a 4-3 and team. But they still made it a point.

It is worth noting that Vegas pays special attention to the lines of the most supported teams in the NFL. Dallas and Pittsburgh tend to be given a little extra juice because their fans bet on them in a more consistent way than other teams.

But in this case, I don’t think that is why this line is so low. I think Vegas has a notion that Indy is about to let down and that Pittsburgh is better than its record.

The Indy let down may be due to the fact that all of their games have been one score games this season, and the Pittsburgh hype may be due to the fact that they were a couple of bounces away from beating the Seahawks, Niners, and Ravens.

This is reflected in their average margin of victory, which has the colts 15th at 1 point per game and the Steelers 17th at .7 points per game.

Despite all this, though, I like the Colts here and I like them fairly confidently.

If this game comes down to a one score, close game, why wouldn’t we pick the team who has been winning those sorts of games?

Whether you think they are real or not, the Colts have displayed that they have a winning infrastructure that starts with their coach and trickles all the way down to their backup QB. The Steelers, meanwhile, have been in relative disarray since losing their starter earlier this season and have not shown the same infrastructure.

Honestly, in my research, this game is really close. If Vegas is pinning it at essentially a 50-50 coin flip (I bet this line as a pick earlier in the week, but -1 offers us essentially the same odds to not lose) then I think the advantage in the betting line tips to the Colts.

I think they win this game something along the lines of 55-60 times out of 100 because of superior quarterback play, better offensive line play (neutralizing Pittsburgh’s strength on defense), and better coaching.

Given the difference between real life odds and the Vegas odds, we have to snap up that free 5-10% and take it to the bank.

The chances are we win this bet under those conditions, and any time we are favored to win it’s a good bet.

NYJ -3 @ MIA 3 Hoots

Gross I know, but let’s just call it what it is. Miami is trying to lose and the Jets aren’t.

After jumping up 14-0 against the Steelers, everything else Miami has done in the past week has been to lose more games.

Against Pittsburgh they allowed the Steelers to score a walk-in touchdown at the end of the half, turned the ball over with reckless play, and actively designed schemes that operated outside the norms of winning football.

On the personnel side, they traded away their best running back and put their best defender on the IR. Their team is worse today than it was on Friday, and that was the worst team in the league. On the Jets side, they did not move any players at the deadline aside from an underperforming Leonard Williams. Their roster is the same as it was Friday, and it was a better roster than Miami’s then.

In terms of the on the field results, the Dolphins now HAVE to keep losing. They have invested too much in the tanking process to ruin it with a win now. That is even more true as they have a reverse arms race (an amputation race?) going against Cincinnati for the worst record in the league. In reaction to Miami’s moves, Cincinnati benched Andy Dalton on his birthday. That’s cold-blooded tanking.

Everyone is circling the Dolphins-Bengals game in Week 16 which could feature two 0-14 teams trying to lose, but to get there the Dolphins need to lose here.

And on the other side, the Jets need a win.

After such a disappointing start, Adam Gase may be coaching for his job, and although he is a terrible coach with almost no redeeming qualities who blames everyone else for his shortcomings and who won an internal power struggle with the former GM only to then run the team into the ground, he is capable of beating a team that is trying to lose. I think.

Beyond this, though, the numbers indicate that this could actually be a Jets team ready to rebound.

The Jets have faced the fourth toughest schedules in the league including two games against New England, one against Dallas, one against Buffalo, and one against Philadelphia with no gimmes baked in there. But now they face THE easiest schedules moving forward with two games against Miami, a game against Washington, a game against Cincinnati, and a game against the Giants. If they win those five and manage a win against mediocre Oakland or Pittsburgh, then this season would have them at a 7-9 and Gase might keep his job.

That all starts with beating this Miami team and getting the offense on track. This couldn’t be a better spot to unleash Darnold, Bell, Anderson, and Crowder, plus it looks like Chris Herndon may play in his first game of the year after a strong campaign last year. If the Jets lose this game, Gase will be gone by Monday.

Although Miami has covered three straight spreads, that consisted of two double-digit losses to the Bills and Steelers as well as a “failed” two-point conversion loss to Washington (a team so bad they can’t even tank).

If there is any life left in the Jets this will be a two score game. Even if there isn’t Miami might be lifeless enough to get us a win here.

TB @ SEA over 51.5 2 Hoots

I really am committed to keeping an over/under in here for the sake of betting diversity, but it’s getting hard.

We nailed the game script of the Seahawks Falcons game last week, but some suspect coaching meant that the total and the line were both endangered. Total betting is much more volatile than spread betting and a single first down can mean the difference between an over and an under.

With that being said, I like this over.

Seattle packed it in last week by only letting Russell Wilson throw the ball five times in the second half (!!). He was 5/5.

In this game, however, there just is no way that can happen. Tampa Bay is number one in the league against the pass but number 26 against the pass. Seattle will HAVE to throw the ball no matter what, right?

On the flip side, this Tampa Bay team is a walking over. As I just said, they force the pass on D, and on offense they return the favor. They are seventh in the league in pass attempts and feature two of the league’s top-10 wide receivers in fantasy points.

In this matchup, they get a Seahawks team that doesn’t get pressure on the QB and is bad in the secondary. This is particularly true in the slot where Chris Godwin will be running his routes.

It is possible that Jameis Winston turns the ball over incessantly or that Pete Carroll refuses to stop running the ball, but in either of those scenarios the game can still go over just due to the fact that any pass can be a touchdown.

I’m not married to over/unders for long term success, and as you’ll see below I like some spread better than this total based on our “Give a Hoot” system, but for now I am dedicated to continuing to find edges.

Two bad passing defenses, a reckless QB, an MVP, and no room to run seems to make this an ideal place to find an edge.

Other Best Bets

DET +2 @ OAK 2.5 Hoots

If I had to pick another spread, I would have picked this one.

I really feel that Detroit is better than its record and that Oakland’s success does not matchup well against the Lions

The caliber and qualities of these two teams are off and the line feels like a miss from Vegas. Read the Early Best Bets for the full report, but this game misses the cut only because I don’t fully understand how Oakland is doing this.

MIN -2.5 @ KC 2 Hoots

It seems like Mahomes isn’t playing, but with nothing definitive this line is in flux.

If he were to not play, though, and if this line sticks, it’s a must bet.

The Vikings offense is shredding opponents and the KC D is without some of its studs up front. The result is that Dalvin Cook is in line for a monster game which will then open things up for Cousins and the passing game.

Minnesota’s D generates a lot of pressure and Matt Moore is not known to be adept at handling pressure well. Give me Minnesota the second Mahomes is declared out.

JAX +1.5 vs HOU 2 Hoots

I said this on Wednesday, but this is a home game (even though it’s in London) for Jacksonville.

It is also a chance for their offense to explode against a team that currently does not have a defense.

If the Jags do what they did in Week 2 to Watson, then this game will be an easy win for the Jags.

CHI +5 @ PHI 2 Hoots

I got lampooned on the podcast I appear on for choosing this game as an upset, but I don’t care.

I think Chicago is going to win it, and just because I can’t explain why doesn’t make it any less true.

I understand this game lines up to put Trubisky in the crosshairs, I get that Chicago is in the midst of a season from Hell, I know Philly is coming home with a chance to gain ground in the playoff race.

I. Don’t. Care.

I just wrote 2,000 analytically driven words. Let me have 100 completely irrational ones.

DAL -7 @ NYG 2 Hoots

I wanted to pull the trigger on this one as a Best Bet as well, but four things kept me from doing so:

Saquon Barkely, Evan Engram, Golden Tate, and Saquon Barkley.

See, the Giants actually have a talented offense and Dallas’ D has been suspect in spots. They’ve gotten burned in the secondary by the Jets and burned on the ground by the Packers. They’ve let up a ton of points in a game this season as well as a ton of yards.

I still think they win this game easy, but I just don’t fully trust them to stop the Giants, which puts a lot of pressure on an inconsistent offense.

BUF -9.5 vs WAS 1.5 Hoots

I tried so hard not to bet Buffalo again this week, especially big, but I can’t avoid it.

With Dwayne Haskins starting, this Washington team may not score any points. Their defense is much improved but I HAVE to believe the Bills can get to 14 in this game.

The weather may be a factor, and there are ways this doesn’t land, but right now I feel like I’ll be back on the Josh Allen roller coaster come Sunday. Hopefully it doesn’t throw me off.

The Big Money Makers

Audience participation is always appreciated, and we had a great point from an OEF user who wishes to remain anonymous.

The Point: Why use Hoots in single bets, but abandon them in the parlays?

The Example: Last week, I had the Jets in all three parlays despite them being only a 1 Hoot bet in the upper part of the article (and that was with the spread, not the money line).

The Solution: Tiered parlays

My thinking earlier in including long-shot parts of the parlays was that it was important to increase value, but now I see we need to diversify our parlay portfolio (future segment alert!).

Now, when you make it to the Big Money section, you’ll have the option to make a little Big Money or a lot of Big Money by choosing a different Hoot level. The higher the Hoot, the lower the odds, because we are more confident and probably picking favorites. On the lower end, the odds will be longer, but the money will be bigger.

Let’s try it out!

**Disclaimer: These parlays were placed at different times and thus the lines and odds may not reflect those written above**

4 Hoot Parlay

GB to win (-230)

NE to win (-165)

NYJ to win (-175)

BUF to win (-440)

DAL to win (-350)

$25 to win $117.85

3 Hoot Parlay

GB -4 (-115)

NE -3.5 (-125)

NYJ -3.5 (-105)

IND -1.5 (-115)

$25 to win $282.08

2 Hoot Parlay

DET +2 (-105)

JAX +2 (-110)

CHI +5 (-115)

GB to win (-230)

NE to win (-165)

NYJ to win (-175)

BUF to win (-440)

DAL to win (-350)

$20 to win $776.32

1 Hoot Parlay

DET to win (+105)

JAX to win (+105)

IND to win (-130)

GB to win (-230)

NE to win (-165)

NYJ to win (-175)

BUF to win (-440)

DAL to win (-350)

$20 to win $829.67

I Don’t Give a Hoot Parlay

TB to win (+210)

TEN to win (+165)

DET to win (+105)

JAX to win (+105)

IND to win (-130)

GB to win (-230)

NE to win (-165)

NYJ to win (-175)

BUF to win (-440)

DAL to win (-350)

$30 to win $10,440.06

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