The Bettor’s Playbook: NFL Week 7 Lessons In Missed Chances And Defensive Penalties

Posted on October 22, 2019

NFL Week 7 had something for everybody.

Favorites silenced the barking dogs, covering nine of 14 games, often decisively, while the flurry of flags and aggressive coaching created a substantial cross-current for NFL bettors.

Results revealed another bevy of drives kept alive by defensive holding penalties, roughing-the-passer calls and bold offensive play-calling with significant wagering implications.

These substantial patterns reveal a shifting of sands for prop bets like the over/under and the need to handicap play-calling style into it.

Bettors, like teams, need a game plan. And the “films” from last week reveal a strong “possession is 9/10 of the law” philosophy for coaches becoming riverboat gamblers.

Punting on fourth-and-1 is becoming obsolete.

Betting lesson No. 1: I’ll take the fourth

Arizona profited by not punting or kicking a field goal on fourth-and-3 on the New York Giants’ 35 on the first possession. 

The Cardinals went for it, converted and were later rewarded with a touchdown. They never looked back, gaining a 17-0 lead and eventually prevailing 27-21.

Over bettors with FanDuel Sportsbook winced when the Cardinals took victory formation deep inside Giants’ territory with the 6-point lead. 

The under bettors celebrated. Why? The number was 50.5.

Houston set an immediate tone, going for it on fourth-and-short near midfield on its first possession against Indianapolis. It was converted and illustrated the paranoia Houston had for giving the ball to Indy. Over bettors like that aggression.

They were rewarded later when the teams covered the 47 number at PlaySugarHouse.

In the same realm, Jacksonville gambled against Cincinnati and gave up sure points near the goal line only to be stuffed on the opening possession on fourth-and-goal. 

Ultimately, this did not matter because Cincinnati self-destructed with Andy Dalton’s two horrific fourth-down interceptions killing the Bengals, who lost a fourth-quarter lead and the game 27-17.

Tennessee put everything into its fourth-and-the-game quarterback sneak versus the Los Angeles Chargers while up 23-20 with just more than three minutes left. 

The Chargers had no timeouts. The sneak by Titan’s Ryan Tannehill appeared successful, but a bad spot left him presumably short and it was not challenged. 

Had Tannehill made the first down, Tennessee could have run the clock down to roughly one-minute left and punted deep into the Chargers’ territory. 

Instead, it survived what looked like an imminent game-winning touchdown set up by, what else, another end-zone flag for pass interference.

Danger, danger! Kansas City’s quarterback injury

Kansas City, unfortunately, revealed the danger of the quarterback sneak on fourth down. 

Its game-changing signal-caller and reigning MVP Pat Mahomes was injured and now lost for four to six weeks on a sneak. The Chiefs were trying to extend a 10-6, second-quarter lead in Denver.

Ironically, Kansas City kicked the field goal from the one-yard line that it had passed upon the five before he was injured.

The Dolphins engineered a 10-minute drive against the Bills to open the second half while leading 14-9. They went for it on fourth down at the Buffalo four and got stuffed, but gained a first-down by penalty. 

Then came an interception: 16 plays and nothing. A Buffalo touchdown immediately followed. 

Miami field goal would have put the Dolphins up six in the third quarter and looked mighty good when the Dolphins scored late to make it 24-21, ultimately losing 31-21.

But they would not have been trying the onside kick that went for a Buffalo touchdown.

Betting lesson No. 2: Defensive penalties aid overs

Reluctance to punt is one aspect that helps the over betting. Another is recently enacted league rules favoring quarterback safety and restricting defensive contact downfield. 

Defenders are complaining and wondering if they have to levitate to avoid hitting someone. Defenses become disheartened by borderline calls that keep them on the field when they thought they had held the opposition.

While the process plays out, and the pendulum will swing back to calling fewer flags eventually, this is a fertile area for overs bettors.

Unlike offensive holding calls, which kill drives and forces punts, the rash of defensive flags keep drives alive and produces points. 

That’s a difficult variable to import into a line; thus, bettors can gain an edge if they can play a successful hunch.

From whatever the source, over bettors will gravitate to the aspect of fewer punts. Their nemesis is the field-position game played out with potential coffin-corner kicks and a punting team trying to place opponents inside the 10-yard line.

Some offensive gambles succeed nicely, and others are flops. But more coaches are willing to buck Vince Lombardi’s famed, “Everybody loves a gambler until he loses,” philosophy.

Betting lesson No. 3: SugarHouse, William Hill in the Monsoon Bowl

The projected halftime tie received a lot of attention last week as a prop with handsome returns. It was noteworthy in a supposedly tight Dallas-Philadelphia game, with the Cowboys giving three.

The bet was hit, but in a different game, with odds of 11-1 at SugarHouse Sportsbook. That’s because the Niners and Redskins played a scoreless halftime tie, the league’s first of the year, in what I’d call the Monsoon Bowl

The odds were high because the Niners were favored by 9.5, yet torrential rain was the great equalizer and stymied both offenses.

The Monsoon Bowl showed an unusual number on the William Hill app, which had a total of 18.5 for the entire game late in the second quarter (most halves are higher than that). 

It was a microscopic under and still romped, with the final score of 9-0.

Overs/unders and the kitchen sink: For two bucks

PlaySugarHouse officials said one bettor turned a $2 parlay into $2,300 with a parlay that had 12 legs hit in total. 

The parlay included the 49ers, Jaguars, Vikings, Colts, Ravens, and Cardinals to win as well as over the point total in the Vikings and Colts games, and under the point total in the 49ers, Jaguars, Ravens and Cardinals games.

See? It’s a cinch.

Betting lesson No. 4: What bad teams do

The winless Bengals hung around, just one play away from getting over the top against Jacksonville, before self-destructing. They displayed one glaring element of a weak team Sunday: giving up points on the possession after they scored.

For in-game bettors, that’s an interesting nugget. 

When Cincinnati scored a touchdown to go up late in the second quarter, 7-3, the defense let down. It allowed Jacksonville to march down the field and score a last-second field goal to close within 7-6.

The Bengals recaptured the lead 9-7 in the fourth quarter, and on the next possession, Jacksonville stormed down the field and scored a touchdown. 

Worse for Cincinnati, the Jaguars converted a 2-point conversion to make it 17-10.

Had it been 15-10, when the Bengals later got into field goal range, that try would have made sense. Would have made the game 15-13, with Jacksonville giving 3.5 points in almost all New Jersey sportsbooks.

Bad teams will usually give it right back after a score. That’s a pretty good thought for in-game bets.

Betting lesson No. 5: Saquon Barkley kills Giants

OK. Back to the Giants. After they’d rallied from 17-0 down, the Giants got within 17-14 and had second down on the Cardinals’ 31 in the waning moments of the second quarter. 

Imagine the lift that tying this game and getting the second-half kickoff would have meant to the Giants? But Saquon Barkley, back from an injury, lost six yards on a running play. The Giants stalled, punted, and never got that close again. 

Bad play calls made within field goal range will separate winning and losing teams.

Betting lesson No. 6: How do you root for an under?

That was the dilemma of a DraftKings parlay bettor, who had the Cowboys -3 against the Eagles and the game at under 49.5. 

With the halftime score of 27-7 Cowboys, he felt the pick was dead. Rooting against points is difficult, but it can happen. It succeeds with teams getting something like two first downs at a clip, punting deep into opponents’ territory, and then giving up two first downs on the next possession. 

This eats up the clock. You need running plays, no deep passes to inspire pass interference and, often, a lopsided score at the start. That all fell into place with a 37-10 final showing only 13 second-half points.

Sure, it’s like rooting for the paint to dry. But it pays, in this case, about 4-1 for the player.

Going forward into NFL Week 8

Here’s another opening for players. 

Mahomes is considered anywhere from a 6-8 point impact on the line. The books now have to guess at that. 

Where do you think that line belongs? There is a payout to a correct hunch here. The line is probably going to start getting bet in the high 40s, not the mid-50s, you’d otherwise expect when Kansas City plays Green Bay in NFL Week 8.

The Dolphins have covered two straight games under Ryan Fitzpatrick and are showing life. A winless team means nothing to spread players, only its performance “against the number.”

Look for quarterback changes in Cincinnati and Washington before too long. Both teams need to rebuild at that position.

The league’s two unbeaten teams, both offensively potent, recorded shutouts in Week 7. San Francisco beat Washington 9-0 and New England humbled the Jets 33-0 on Monday Night Football.

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold said he saw ghosts. And it’s not Halloween until next week.

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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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