We are a Buffalo Bills victory away from our biggest hit of the year. I live in Nashville, and #BillsMafia is out in full force. I walked by a pair of pedal taverns full of them this morning. Yes, morning. While I may still have some of my attention on tonight’s game, I’ve put together another strong parlay for next week.
The underlying thesis of this article series is that it’s best to bet early. You should do so because sportsbooks will adjust their lines after sharp bettors place their initial wagers. Once they’ve done so, you’re not just playing against the house — you’re also playing against some of the smartest minds in the game. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s what professional gambler (and Jeopardy! champion) James Holzhauer has to say on the matter:
“When you bet right after the opening number is posted, you essentially gamble that you’re smarter than the handful of sportsbook employees who set the line. When you bet 10 minutes before the game starts, you hope in vain that you know something all the world’s sharp bettors don’t.” You can read the rest of his comments here in The Athletic.
Ultimately, I recommend that you read this article as a guide to two things: first, a smart parlay for the weekend’s action; second, a list of smart straight bets to target individually. Aside from the parlay, I’ll label my favorite picks each week and advise you on the proper unit size for each play.
Parlay YTD: 0-5-0 (-5u)*
Straight Bets YTD: 8-4-0 (+1.07u)*
All NFL Bets YTD: 20-17-0 (-0.76u)*
*Pending Week 6 Parlay (+3.66u) & BUF ML (+0.39u)
Leg #1. Broncos and Browns Under 47.5 | -200 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: N/A
I don’t recommend taking the under for Thursday Night Football games. That said, I’ll make an exception this once. The Broncos and Browns are impressively slow offenses. Heading into Week 6, the Browns ranked second in time of possession, and the Broncos ranked fourth. Cleveland ranked as the third-slowest offense, and Denver ranked fourth-slowest.
You can credit run-heavy coaching philosophies for this trend. The Browns came into Week 6 with the most rushing attempts per game (35). The Broncos only ranked 14th (26), but they had just spent their last two games playing from behind against better AFC North opponents.
The other upshot here is that these teams aren’t healthy. Baker Mayfield underwent an MRI on Monday, and while he told reporters that he plans to play on Thursday, you can’t throw passes with your arm in a sling. Mayfield has been dealing with a partially torn labrum since Week 2. If he does play, you can be sure that the Browns will mostly run or attempt short passes. If Mayfield doesn’t play, you’ll get Case Keenum under center. He averaged 1.1 touchdowns per game as a starter in Denver and Washington, which helps the under here. The Brown also lost running back Kareem Hunt to a calf injury, and Nick Chubb may not be able to play in Week 7 (that said, head coach Kevin Stefanski isn’t ruling him out yet).
The Broncos may have escaped Week 6 without serious injuries to their offense, but tackle Garett Bolles went down with a knee injury and is “day-to-day,” per head coach Vic Fangio. The team designated wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to return from injured reserve on Monday, but Fangio estimated that his chances of playing on Thursday were “less than 50 percent.”
Leg #2. Saints ML | -220 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: 1u
The New Orleans Saints are fresh off a bye and will visit the reeling Seattle Seahawks in Week 7. The Seahawks are on a two-game losing skid after quarterback Russell Wilson got injured, and I don’t expect them to right the ship here. Backup Geno Smith played well in relief against the Rams but looked lost against the Steelers. He took five sacks for a loss of 44 yards and was responsible for the game-ending fumble. On Monday, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters that he’d been in conversations with Cam Newton and “everybody that could help us,” which doesn’t bode well for Smith.
Quarterback controversy aside, I’m basing this pick mostly on team efficiency stats. The Saints entered Week 6 ranked seventh in overall defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) behind their top-three defense. The Seahawks came into the week in a solid ninth place, but they aren’t the same team without Wilson. His absence made their defensive inefficiency (they ranked eighth-worst) all the more apparent against the Steelers. The “Legion of Boo” will assuredly cost Seattle another game on Monday night.
The Legion of Boo — pic.twitter.com/FmMO8AJVPQ
— 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚐 𝚋𝚎𝚗𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚎𝚛. (@GregBensinger) October 18, 2021
Leg #3. Chiefs ML | -220 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: 1u
The Chiefs returned to their winning ways against the Washington Football Team this week. Their early-season struggles have left them with little margin for error, so I expect them to put their best foot forward the rest of the way. The Chiefs are currently 4.5-point favorites over the Tennessee Titans, who are almost certainly about to get embarrassed by the Buffalo Bills on national television.
This pick is honestly more of a “Titans bad” play than a “Chiefs good” one. Nashville’s finest ranked seventh-worst in DVOA heading into Week 6. Their offense ranked 11th-worst and their defense sixth-worst. Sure, it’s hard to adjust efficiency metrics for the value of Derrick Henry, but the man cannot possibly maintain his current pace. Henry leads the NFL in rushing attempts with 142 despite having played in just five games. That gives him a 31-carry lead over Joe Mixon, and yes, that’s counting Mixon’s Week 6 performance.
These aren’t the Titans that challenged the Chiefs in the 2020 AFC Championship Game. These Titans got blown out by the Cardinals, lost to the Jets, and almost fell to the Seahawks. I expect that they’ll add another loss to their resume in Week 7.
Leg #4. Patriots ML | -335 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: N/A
Do you know when the Patriots last lost a regular-season game to the New York Jets in Foxborough? November 13th, 2008. To put this in perspective, children born on that date are mere days away from becoming teenagers.
Aside from their home dominance, the Patriots are also on an 11-game winning streak against the Jets. That includes a 19-point win against them earlier in the year. Mac Jones has played well against struggling opponents this year. He even showed that we could trust him in critical situations against good teams last week (although we can’t trust Nelson Agholor to catch his passes), and the rookie should keep both streaks alive on Sunday.
Total Odds: +312 at DraftKings Sportsbook
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