Bettor’s Playbook: Bet Backups With Confidence In Week 14

Written By Dave Bontempo on December 3, 2019

Bet backups with confidence. That’s one theme emerging from NFL Week 13 as a string of third-string quarterbacks accounted for two wins and three covers at online sportsbooks in:

  • Devlin Hodges of the Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Drew Lock of the Denver Broncos
  • David Blough of the Detroit Lions

Other backups also performed well. Ryan Tannehill guided the 2.5-point underdog Tennessee Titans to an important road victory over the Indianapolis Colts. And Ryan Fitzpatrick, who did not start the season as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback, propelling their outright win as a 9-point dog at PlaySugarHouse against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Washington Redskins rookie Dwayne Haskins played well enough as his team defeated another backup, Kyle Allen of the Carolina Panthers. Even Gardner Minshew, who ignited the Jacksonville Jaguars, has outperformed top quarterback Nick Foles and should be their starter.

What’s the theme for bettors? Teams are finding a way to play well with new talent.

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Backups outshine established teams

The league’s top outfits played well enough in Week 13.  The Baltimore Ravens became 10-2 with a 20-17 win, but no cover, against the San Francisco 49ers, also 10-2.

The New England Patriots, entering at 10-1, were upset 28-22 by the now 8-4 Houston Texans and became the second-seed behind Baltimore in the playoff chase.      

At least they were in tough games.

Losing outright and against the spread, Week 13 saw several teams flounder:

  • New York Giants
  • New York Jets
  • Philadelphia Eagles

Bettors absorbed the Jets at -3.5, handing the Cincinnati Bengals their first win of the season and the Eagles blowing a two-touchdown lead and the entire game to the Miami Dolphins as nine-point favorites. 

The Jets and Eagles had a majority of the betting tickets. The overwhelming belief that the Giants could not beat the Green Bay Packers, even with 6.5 points, was prophetic. The Giants hung tough before losing 31-13.

Great backup system

A major story around the league is the ability of playoff-hungry teams to reach deep into their quarterback depth chart to obtain victories.

Bettors selecting the underdog Titans and Steelers, both of whom received less than half the wagers cast at PlaySugarHouse and FanDuel Sportsbook, were rewarded handsomely in Week 13. Both teams won outright to become 7-5 and thrive in the NFL playoff picture.

The Steelers triumphed over arch-rivals the Cleveland Browns behind Hodges, 20-13. They rallied from a 10-0 deficit and effectively ended the Browns’ disappointing season.

Pittsburgh, saddled with the early-season loss of Ben Roethlisberger and an ineffective Mason Rudolph, look ready to go down the stretch with a good third-string quarterback.

This may be Mike Tomlin’s best year ever as the Steelers’ coach. Pittsburgh plays the weak Arizona Cardinals on the road in week 14.

Remember these Titans

And bet them.

That’s hopefully what readers of the NJ Bettor’s Playbook and NFL previews have done after we’ve touted Tennessee as a strong, emerging team over the past three weeks. The Titans began rolling after upending the Kansas City Chiefs in the final minute two weeks ago and thumping the Jacksonville Jaguars the following week.

They won again on Sunday behind strong offensive line blocking, determined running by Derrick Henry and heads-up quarterbacking by Tannehill. The leader who replaced the ineffective Marcus Mariota led them to a third-straight win with an excellent formula:

  • Strong offensive line blocking
  • Efficient play-calling
  • Successful execution 

The Titans rallied from a 17-7 deficit and pulled away from the Colts to win 31-17 on the road. The Titans received less than 50% of the wagers throughout established books but ground out another convincing win. Benching Mariota sparked this team’s turnaround. The Titans have also covered three straight weeks.

The Titans, now 7-5, will visit the Oakland Raiders in Week 14 and should put up good numbers again.

Who’s the next man up?

The NFL has never seen so many quarterbacks step up so quickly.

Who was Blough before NFL Week 13? He was the third-string signal-caller responsible for a three-point line swing at Draft Kings when he replaced Jeff Driskel, who had replaced Matt Stafford in recent weeks. All Blough did was throw two first-quarter touchdowns and nearly rally his team to victory. Detroit did cover the adjusted line of 5.5 in a 24-20 setback.

Who was Lock before Sunday? He was Denver’s third quarterback this season, behind injured Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen. Lock managed the game smartly and led Denver to its fourth victory of the year against the error-plagued Los Angeles Chargers.

The big decline

The Los Angeles Chargers won 12 games and advanced in the playoffs last season. This year? A complete bust, at 4-8.

Their self-destruct mode continued Sunday. Quarterback Phillip Rivers, whose lack of arm strength is a problem, coughed up a turnover leading directly to a touchdown and took the team out of field goal range by absorbing third-down sacks at the edge of field goal range. Hard to fathom these moves for a veteran quarterback.

And the coaching staff unveiled the final dagger. After the Chargers tied the game in the last minute, Denver had the ball with eight seconds left, deep in its own territory.

Rather than kneel on the ball, the Broncos fired a downfield heave looking for pass interference. And they got it. An inexplicable penalty for Los Angeles gave the Broncos a game-winning kick.

Those watching the NJ sports betting scene, shouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers bench Rivers and ponder a coaching change. This team needs to clean house.

Kickers getting some air time

The onside kick came alive last week. Only two have been successful in the first 12 weeks of the season. In week 13, there was a barrage of them, including an incredible three straight by the Atlanta Falcons.

What’s the common ingredient? Kicks are being positioned to hop just above the reach of the defending front line. Defenders are trying to snare the ball on the bounce.

This tactic allows defenders to slip into the second area and jump on the ball. The wrinkle has brought vitality back into this part of the game.

Shifting odds at NJ online sportsbooks

For bettors at NJ online sportsbooks, timing is everything.

The Dallas Cowboys were a +105 to win the NFC Eastern Division at DraftKings Sportsbook early Sunday. Dallas, 6-6, was expected to drop back into a tie with the Eagles with four games remaining and with Philadelphia having an easier schedule.

The Cowboys lost Thursday to the Buffalo Bills, and the Eagles were visiting the Miami Dolphins as a prohibitive favorite Sunday.  The odds forecast an Eagles victory and a division title.

Oops. The Eagles lost, and the odds shifted rapidly. Sunday ended with Dallas now -159 and the Eagles at +125 to win the division.

Keep rapid fluctuations in mind regarding division races, with Minnesota chasing Green Bay in the NFC North and Seattle on the heels of San Francisco in the NFC West. To gain an edge, you’ll need to factor in an upset and make a bet a little sooner than later.

“Over” joyed

Over bettors in the New England-Houston game Sunday Night received a gift with the Patriots scoring touchdowns on its final two possessions as the Houston Texans defense fell asleep. The 28-22 final for Houston surpassed the in-game overs of 47.

With less than two minutes left, New England converted a third-and-13, then a screen pass going for more than 30 yards and a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, on three plays. It’s nice for wagerers to know which teams will relax with a lead and which ones won’t.

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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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