Bettor’s Playbook: Will Underdogs Prove The Best Bet In NFL Week 11, Too?

Posted on November 13, 2019

For one week, at least, the last shall be first.

The beauty of NFL Week 10 was its defiance of expectations. Three 1-7 teams — the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins — turned the league and betting logic on its ear by securing triumphs. What does that mean for NFL Week 11? Well, we shall see. But for now, here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Moneyline parlay tickets were torn to shreds. The books had a blast with big favorites losing, but underdog players roared.

A 34-27 Jets victory over the New York Giants was logical enough, coming on their home field and as slight 2.5-point underdogs at most legal gambling sites in New Jersey.

What stunned the experts most were major upset road victories by the Atlanta Falcons over the New Orleans Saints, 26-9, and the Miami Dolphins edging the Indianapolis Colts, 16-12.

Atlanta was a 13-point underdog and Miami +10.5, according to the consensus of DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet and PlaySugarHouse. Miami was +375 and Atlanta a whopping +550 on the DraftKings Sportsbook moneyline.

Other home dogs came up big, with the Pittsburgh Steelers at +4 knocking off the Los Angeles Rams 17-12 and the Tennessee Titans notching an inspiring 35-32 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs, who were favored by six points at William Hill.

The Minnesota Vikings turned a dog-day afternoon into dog-day evening with a 28-24 Sunday night road victory against the Dallas Cowboys, who were favored by three points at most books.

Jets win battle of New York

The Jets’ victory was not totally unexpected, but Big Blue had gained roughly 75% of the tickets and nearly 60 percent of the spread handle. That means the public supported the Giants and some Jets bettors beefed up with big plays.

They were rewarded.

Neither team could put the other away in an entertaining scrap one would expect from two struggling teams sharing the same home field and decades of history.

After the Jets held a 14-0 early lead, the Giants clawed back and rode a fourth-down conversion into a passing touchdown to climb within 14-13, but missed the extra point.

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, leading the league with nine fumbles surrendered, had a ball taken out of his hands, leading directly to a Jets touchdown early in the second half, making it 21-13.

One could argue that play was the difference or credit the Jets for rallying from a late third-quarter 27-21 hole to score the final 13 points of the game over the final 20 minutes.

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold outplayed Jones and made a crucial pickup with a 3rd-and-7 run, forbidding the Giants defense from getting off get off the field after they’d taken their first lead. The Jets looked sharp offensively and Darnold’s touchdown scamper, set up by a fake handoff into the line, was excellent.

But here are two big points to consider regarding the Giants.

One, Jones holds the ball too high and too long at his release point. Balls are being routinely batted out of his hand. Jones’ delivery is slow and sweeping. He needs to shorten that. Jones coughed up two touchdowns in two straight games. The Giants need a game plan to take the pressure off of him and Saquon Barkley is nearly invisible.

Second, the Giants’ defense, for the second straight week, could not make big stops on third down.

Sadly, the Giants became the butt of an ironic statistic. They have covered the spread just once this season at MetLife Stadium. The Jets have now covered twice. And so have the Buffalo Bills. Yes, Buffalo beat the Jets and Giants in the first two weeks of the season at MetLife Stadium and have a better record on this field than one of the home teams.

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New Jersey bettors buffaloed in Cleveland

Speaking of the Bills, their 19-16 loss to the host Cleveland Browns defined excruciating to those who wagered on this one.

There was enough frustration on both sides, especially for those who played the over 40 total at most books, to last the season.

Talk about missed opportunities.

Cleveland came down the field and scored three minutes into the game, but committed a taunting penalty. That created a crazy 48-yard extra point, a foreshadowing of this bizarre script. Had it been made, this would have been one of the longest PAT’s ever recorded. But it wasn’t.

Lost point number one.

Buffalo then missed a 34-yard field goal. That’s four points.

Later, after Buffalo had scored a touchdown, Cleveland had first-and-goal on the Buffalo one. Twice in one drive. But there was no blocking for running back Nick Chubb nor the creativity of a play-action fake and toss to a tight end.

Cleveland set a futility record, being the first team in 26 years to years to run six plays from their opponents’ one or two-yard line on the same drive, and not score, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Just the kind of stat to give an over bettor nightmares. Six plays and you can’t get a couple of yards? That sequence should have been worth six points. Now it’s 10 not scored, 11 if there’d been an extra point.

Buffalo missed another makeable field goal at the end of the half. That’s 14. Buffalo stripped the ball and scored in the fourth quarter, but the pitch was ruled a forward pass and considered incomplete. Tough break. Could be 21 points not gained, had the extra point been good.

Buffalo missed a tough, but possible 52-yard field goal at the end of the game. Perhaps 24 points missed, but at least way more than needed to cover five more points on the over.

Cleveland bettors got a push at -3, Buffalo backers lost the moneyline bet at +155 on William Hill they would have gained if the fumble recovery was not overturned, and the game will be remembered for opportunities lost.

Underdog Falcons soar over Saints

One team that converted opportunities was the Falcons.

At 1-7, facing the 7-1 New Orleans Saints, they looked like the 7-1 team. The Falcons not only defeated the Saints 26-9 but manhandled them. The Falcons kept Saints quarterback Drew Brees out of the end zone and harassed him in the pocket. Note going forward: Brees can’t scramble to make plays and if the short passing lanes are filled, he’s in trouble.

This game was the shining hour for Atlanta’s defense and few saw it coming.

Miami searing and bettors are happy

Bring on Buster Poindexter. The Dolphins are Hot, Hot, Hot. They are the darling of the dog bettors and have covered the spread a league-best five straight weeks.

Never mind the 2-7 record, this team now plays hard. Bettors may have fallen in love with the Dolphins four weeks back after they passed up a game-tying extra point against Washington and went for two. It failed but ensured a cover at +3.5.

Subsequent losses to Buffalo and Pittsburgh still covered the double-digit spread. Now comes back-to-back outright triumphs against the Jets and the Colts. Miami is playing with purpose if nothing else.

How long can this last? Bettors will get a hint the next time they look at a Miami line and don’t think “that’s a lot of points.” It should be real soon.

Steelers defy odds at PlaySugarHouse

Pittsburgh, the home team that shares a parking lot with PlaySugarHouse, did not get the popular vote with tickets. The Rams were one of the most supported teams of the entire week, but Pittsburgh found a way to not only cover 3.5 on the PlaySugarHouse line but win outright.

That’s two nail biters in a row for Pittsburgh, which eked out a home win over Indianapolis last week and swept its three-game mid-season home stretch.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals, representing the highest total over-under 51.5 at PlaySugarHouse, made an explosive rally for backers of the over and for Arizona, one of the league’s most popular selections.

The game was limping along at 10-6 Tampa Bay with 1:11 remaining in the first half and Arizona was only on the edge of the field-goal territory. And then, bing-bang-boom, there were two touchdowns in the final 1:03, including one for Tampa with just eight seconds left. Sixteen points had become 30. The over would later win easily and Arizona, one of the league’s most popular teams this week, covered 4.5.

Call of the week

Chicago Bears coach Mike Nagy went for broke late in the first half of his team’s game against the Detroit Lions and changed the game.

Chicago’s ultimate 20-13 triumph was born on a huge call he made late in the first half. Chicago trailed 6-0 and had one first down in four possessions. It was 4th and 1 from its own 29.

And he went for it.

It was gutsy because the Bears had done nothing offensively and nothing to indicate they could pick this up. Not converting would have all but ensured more points for Detroit by halftime. But the Bears did convert and then marched down the field to grab a 7-6 lead at halftime.

Coaches receive criticism for some reckless fourth-down gambles, but Nagy deserves credit on this one. It went against the grain and he prevailed.

Chicago was fluid in the second half, building a 20-6 lead before holding Detroit off.

Nagy’s move looked even larger when one considers the altered line. How accurate were the books on this one? Early Sunday, Detroit announced quarterback Matthew Stafford would miss his first game in a decade. Chicago jumped from a 3.5 5 to 6-5-7-point favorite in a heartbeat.

That’s where the game ended. Had books waited too long, heavy bettors could have jumped on the Bears at -3.5 and made a killing. Books make big line moves faster than ever, out of necessity.

A similar scenario involved the return of quarterback Patrick Mahomes for the Kansas City Chiefs against the host Tennessee Titans. William Hill moved its line from -3.5 to minus 6 on Kansas City when hearing of Mahomes’ imminent return.

Until the Titans scored late, the Chiefs were going to win by five, revealing the intelligence of the line shift.

Team of the week

The Baltimore Ravens, obtaining 75% of the overall money and roughly 80% of the tickets throughout most books, looked unstoppable against the Cincinnati Bengals in a 49-13 romp.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson has mastered the run-pass option and unfurled a gorgeous-looking 47-yard touchdown run, sliding into a left-side opening and then spinning away from two defenders enroute to the touchdown run. He looks the way Mahomes did at this time last year, gliding on the gridiron.

And the Ravens look like a team heading deep into the playoffs.

By the way, their defense also scored. Twice.

Dave Bontempo Avatar
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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