We’re clawing our way through the 2020 season, as we keep walking the tightrope of picks. No matter what the setup or its historical success rate, we’re seeing a fairly even split between all outcomes.
‘Traps’? They’re working approximately half the time.
Avoiding ‘easy’ picks? Another 50-50.
Routinely picking against the Jets? Even that had been perfect… until it wasn’t.
Each year writes its own narrative, but we’re still searching for the overall arc of against-the-spread picks in 2020. Thankfully, we’ve been here plenty of times in the past and can start to steer our expectations in the right direction.
The previous picks given in this BettingPros weekly column are 13-14-1 on the season. The rest of my against-the-spread picks and historical record can be found at Sporfolio.com.
Odds courtesy FanDuel Sportsbook
Minnesota Vikings +6 (-110) at Green Bay Packers
It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s actually dangerous to follow football news too closely.
Take, for example, the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
When the spread for the head-to-head matchup first opened, it was roughly seven points — exactly seven points in many places. Over the course of the week, the status of both starting running backs became the main story. Now, we have news that Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook will start and Green Bay’s Aaron Jones will not play. What happens? The spread shrinks.
It’s a problem if we use this as the basis of our pick. It’s valuable if we disregard it.
The Vikings were the pick against the spread before the news of each team’s respective running backs, and the reality is that we have simply lost value as a result. We aren’t getting that seventh point with Minnesota, and it puts us in a riskier position. If we can look at the team prior to the news, however, we avoid being swayed.
The Vikings are a pathetic 1-5, but they lost two heartbreaking games by one point each. They are also returning from a bye and playing against a familiar opponent where they previously scored a season-high 34 points. Indeed, they allowed 43, but we’re not asking Minnesota to stop Green Bay. The Vikings just need to compete.
The Packers have also allowed at least 30 points to every opponent that totaled 90 rushing yards against them. Dalvin Cook’s return simply makes the Vikings’ path to beating the spread a little smoother, but Minnesota already had the right rushing attack, extra preparation time, and potentially bad weather all pointing in the direction of a close game.
Prediction: Vikings +6 (-110)
Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns UNDER 49.5 (-114)
Not only do I frequently write about picks and games that make me uncomfortable, but I write about how uncomfortable I feel writing about picks and games that make me feel uncomfortable. They’re harder to digest than that sentence. Still, we continue to see these prove successful on a regular basis, and that’s the point. Nothing should be easy, especially when assumptions of similarities are made.
The Cleveland Browns are routinely playing in high-scoring games, and the “assumption” to which I alluded is that this trend will continue. It’s not practical. Cleveland’s offense ranks 17th in yards allowed and, as I constantly write, prefers to run the football. The explosive day by quarterback Baker Mayfield in Week 7 was not by design. How do we know this? Because even with that game, the Browns have the fourth-fewest pass attempts in the league.
The Las Vegas Raiders are in the exact same position in terms of desire, although their numbers are slightly more balanced. They do lean on the run, but they are more efficient in the pass game. Regardless, the two teams’ defenses appear to be easy targets for opposing offenses, but the reality is that this helps inflate the point total to an area where we can buy the ‘under.’
Prediction: Raiders/Browns UNDER 49.5 (-114)
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears +5.5 (-110)
Overreaction is paramount is the National Football League, and there is no greater midseason overreaction than watching a team look completely inept in Primetime. The entire world watches. The entire world notices. And the entire world plans to attack based on this small sample size.
The Chicago Bears could not possibly have looked worse offensively on Monday Night Football to close out Week 7. The team scored just one touchdown in the game: a fumble recovery by the defense. Now, Chicago has the honor of hosting the New Orleans Saints.
And just where were those Saints last week? Failing to cover their own large spread.
Between the Saints winning outright — and, thus, averting disaster — and the general name value that goes along with the franchise, this matchup appears to be a ‘no-brainer’ for the average football fan. The same fan that will overlook a Chicago defense that ranks top-ten in yards, points, and net-yards-per-pass-attempt and ignore that New Orleans’ offense only ranks 11th in yards-per-game.
Defense will be the key for the Bears keeping the game close, and the worsening weather report only aids in this outcome as Saints quarterback Drew Brees prepares for his first outdoor game of the season.
Prediction: Bears +5.5 (-110)
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles OVER 43 (-106)
It’s almost a joke at this point, but we can no longer trust the Dallas Cowboys’ defense to do anything. Anything.
It was somewhat forgivable when Dallas was allowing 39 points to the Falcons and 38 points to the Seahawks and eventually 38 more points to the Cardinals — those were real offenses — but once it started allowing a combined 59 points to the New York Giants and Washington Football Team, it officially became a problem. Granted, the Giants scored seven of their 34 points from a defensive touchdown, but the offense still totaled 27 points. 27 would be the highest output by New York’s offense by more than twenty percent.
The point is, the Philadelphia Eagles should have absolutely no trouble finding points on Sunday Night Football. But what about the Cowboys’ offense?
As of this writing, it is unclear as to which quarterback will be under center for Dallas. In reality, it doesn’t matter as much as we would like to believe. Andy Dalton has been so terrible as the team’s starting quarterback that the drop off to Ben DiNucci is not as large as many would expect. More importantly, DiNucci can run, and that can lead to a few broken drives that put points on the scoreboard. Otherwise, if it is Dalton, we have to expect a better output than the combined 13 points his team has scored over the last two weeks.
Prediction: Cowboys/Eagles OVER 43 (-106)
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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros, as well as the creator and content-editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola. He has also been one of the industry leaders in NFL against-the-spread picks over the last 6 years.