The NFL evolves week to week, as does one’s handicapping.
Just as oddsmakers adjust power rankings, individuals hone their perspective on how teams handle given circumstances. While history offers guidelines on coming games, one’s hunches provide the monetary GPS on where to wager heavily.
The knowledge becomes your playbook and provides insight rather than a maze of statistics.
What’s in your gambling playbook? Here are some of mine from Sunday’s games in NFL Week 6:
In-game betting mania
The prop rewarding the team to score next had an excellent placement in some games.
Arizona jumped up 27-10 on Atlanta, as a 2.5-point dog at William Hill NJ, early in the third quarter. Atlanta scoring next was a viable in-game play and the Falcons tallied three consecutive times.
Offensive shootouts or one team moving out to a far bigger lead than the spread suggests presents a sweet spot to play the team that’s losing. But the line moves quickly and can fluctuate even after a first down.
Atlanta rewarded those who bet that Arizona would let up.
Cleveland-Seattle provided a similar scenario. The Browns surged ahead 20-6, but before they could blow Seattle off the field, the Seahawks notched four unanswered scores and ultimately stole the game.
An interception in the end zone by Seattle kept the string of consecutive scores alive. It also underscored how seasoned clubs can gut-punch a medium opponent for failing to seize opportunity.
Cleveland had survived a blocked punt and interception to carry a 20-12 lead deep into the second quarter. The Browns were marching in for a touchdown or easy field goal late in the half, but Baker Mayfield tossed an end-zone interception.
Russell Wilson then drove Seattle to a TD just before the half. That’s a crushing swing of at least 10 points. After dominating the half, Cleveland only led 20-18 and ultimately lost.
Browns bettors, take heart. They will eventually figure out how to win games like this.
Guts but no glory
The Rams had three goal-to-go cracks against the 49ers in a 7-7 game, but showed no imagination.
They pounded the middle, were stopped on second and third downs, and then stuffed at the goal line on a straight-ahead fourth-down play. The Niners responded by driving all the way down the field and, despite missing a field goal before halftime, did change the game with that sequence.
They won 20-7 with a defense that played with a swagger after the goal-line stand. Had the Rams made it 14-7 when they had the chance, it’s a different game.
Whatever happened to the play-action fake and a short toss to the tight end or a tackle-eligible when teams are on the one-yard line?
Last week, Tennessee missed a pivotal fourth-quarter field goal in a tie game. Its defense lost life against Buffalo, which scored the game-winning touchdown on the next possession.
The denial of sure points drains most teams, especially mediocre ones. When you sense the team sag, there’s an in-game betting chance for you on their opponents.
Scoring with new rules
The NFL has hit the sweet spot by making the extra point the equivalent of a 33-yard field goal. It forces a decision on conversions and often takes bettors off the dreaded -3 number.
Some books have an over-under line of three missed attempts. But regardless of whether that’s hit, there are always important missed extra points. Sunday provided two big ones.
Atlanta placekicker Matt Bryant missed his first extra point of the year at a crucial time, just after his club had rallied from 27-10 down to close within 34-33 with 1:53 remaining.
Although Atlanta still had two timeouts left, the miss practically insured that those who took Arizona +2.5 would still survive a last-second field goal had Atlanta gotten the ball back.
Jason Meyers of Seattle botched the point-after on Seattle’s first touchdown against Cleveland, and the club answered by going for two, and missing, later in the game.
A missed extra point prompts some coaches to play what their charts suggest later on and thus a blown point after often alters the game all the way down the line. The missed extra point, combined with the failed two-point play later, cost Seattle two points on the scoreboard.
Dolphins save the cover
Next came the bypassed conversion as Miami scored in the waning seconds to pull within 17-16 of Washington.
In this battle of winless teams, the Dolphins figured they had nothing to lose by going for two rather than settle for a tie and overtime. Miami bettors were thrilled the Dolphins did so because it insured the cover at plus 3.5 and avoided overtime.
More NFL coaches believe that the two-point try when their team trails by one late in the game gives them a better shot than the alternative: the possibility of never seeing the ball again if they lose the overtime flip and give up a touchdown.
The onside kick and the odds
While rule changes made the extra point more meaningful, the NFL may adjust its reasoning for the onside kick.
It’s been successful roughly 6% of the time this year after recent rule changes forbid teams from overloading players on one side. Gone went the crazy spin kicks or a ball struck in a high spot causing numerous bounces.
Somewhere in the middle of the past and present rule is a good idea for onside-kick rules. The NFL takes these wild-card plays seriously (remember Seattle gaining a playoff win over Green Bay after a late, successful onside kick a couple years ago). And it does have injury concerns about multiple players storming the ball.
But they will probably like to give the kick a better chance to succeed.
Chief concerns: Patrick Mahomes ankle injury
Look for a dropoff in the near future in Kansas City’s over-under line. In the 31-24 loss to Houston, Kansas City was right at or just below the league’s highest total for the week.
But that’s because the defense gave up so many points. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes gained deceiving numbers of 273 yards and three touchdowns. Mahomes is gutsy, but not an MVP now. He can’t glide in the pocket to extend plays because of an injured ankle and most of his best work came with underneath passes to receivers who ran it in for him.
Mahomes is only mildly exceptional right now and will face an inspired Broncos defense Thursday night on the road. Oddsmakers say Mahomes impacts the line about eight points if he does not play. The Chiefs don’t have enough of a running game to win without him.
It would not be bad idea to sit Mahomes until the ankle fully heals. The Chiefs won’t do it, but it is a good idea.
Regression woes in Tampa, Tennessee
Jameis Winston, brilliant for the Buccaneers two weeks ago in their win over the Rams and good enough in a loss to New Orleans last week, regressed Sunday in a horrific performance against Carolina, in London.
He repeatedly held the ball too long and then made bad decisions. Winston singlehandedly blew the game for Tampa with five interceptions and a lost fumble. While he has shown flashes of brilliance in recent years, Winston also has featured too many afternoons like this. He has been benched before and probably will be again with just a hint of this meltdown.
It’s also gut check time for Marcus Mariota of Tennessee, pulled during the Titans’ 16-0 loss in Denver after heaving an interception that set up a scoring drive. Coaches are mad enough about the interceptions, but even more unhappy about players going backward. Last week, Mariota killed the Titans by crossing the line of scrimmage and having a go-ahead TD called back last week when he could have run it in.
He has regressed into a mid-pack QB and looks more afraid to take the hit now.
Every dog has its day (and the ‘sharps’ know it)
The New York Jets began the day with two offensive touchdowns and three by its defense and special teams. So, go figure that they provide the season’s longest play from scrimmage, a 92-yard strike from newly-returned Sam Darnold to Robby Anderson.
The “sharpies” were all over the Jets this week as a seven-point dog at William Hill, and they were rewarded as the Jets upset Dallas.
Who knew that the Saints would be 4-0 WITHOUT Drew Brees? They are unbeaten under Teddy Bridgewater, who either manages the game and lets the defense win it or comes up with big plays himself. The defense did the number in Sunday’s 13-6 win over a stubborn Jacksonville.
New England and San Francisco have high-profile quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. But it’s the recent play of their defenses — two special-teams touchdowns for New England in a 35-14 win over the Giants and a goal-line stand for the Niners against the Rams in a 20-7 triumph — keeping these two teams unbeaten.
Unreliable home favorites in the NFL
There are times when the “sharpies,” the professional bettors, protect an assumption like a dog with a bone. We’ve reported throughout the year that they hate the Chargers as a home favorite. They were right again the past two weeks as Los Angeles lost outright to Denver and then last night to Pittsburgh, and it’s third-string quarterback, as a 6.5-point choice.
The Chargers have not only failed to cover, but lost three in a row outright at home.
The Chargers, the Redskins, the Titans, and the Eagles have been among the league’s most unreliable home favorites. The Eagles are also in a critical three-game road trip, which started poorly in Minnesota.
That wraps up this Bettor’s Playbook for NJ sports betting. Keep adding to it and winning.