NFL Week 8: Best Bets

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

By John Kaufman NFL Betting Analyst @ClevelandSpyder

Another week of subpar results in week seven. Not ideal whatsoever. I’m still barely over .500 on the year, which is good. But these last two weeks have been dreadful as I’ve gone 1-6. It is time to turn things around. Like right now. Let’s quickly recap week seven and then move on to week eight’s Best Bets.

Week Seven Postmortem

Results: 1-3 2019 Record: 11-10-1 52% win rate

Like we always do, we need to quickly recap week six and see how I did, where I was right, and where I can improve. I know this statement is repetitive, but it needs to be included here every week:

I don’t care what my record is in any given week, you will always get this recap. I will never run from a bad week, nor will I get too big an ego because of a good one. It’s always about the process yielding good results. Last week did not go well for me, so we need to quickly look back and see if my process was poor or if I just got unlucky.

NO +4 (-106) at CHI Result: WIN (NO 36-CHI 25)

Last week I told you that the Saints would win this game outright, and that’s exactly what happened. I wanted to back the Saints because they have the better coaching staff by a mile. Sean Payton is doing an unbelievable job without Drew Brees. In fact, the Saints haven’t lost a game since Brees got hurt in the loss to the LA Rams. Backing Payton at the betting window has been very profitable, and last week we took advantage again.

Additionally, the Chicago Bears are an unmitigated disaster right now. Think about this: last week Matt Nagy was getting his starting QB back from a separated non-throwing shoulder injury he suffered back in week four. And in a home game that was tight almost all throughout, Nagy dialed up seven run plays in the entire game. If there is a more unforgivable coaching gaff than that, please do let me know, because that is inexcusable and flat-out awful. Trubisky has been having a rough season anyways, and his first game back from injury his coach asks him to throw the ball 54 times? That is lunacy, and the Bears deserved to lose this game.

On last week’s Across the Board Podcast I talked about the fact that from 2011-2018, home teams coming off a bye only covered the spread 41% of the time. The Bears had their bye in week six and then lost at home last week, adding to the ineptitude of NFL teams in that specific scenario. Truthfully, I don’t completely understand why NFL teams in that situation have performed so poorly in the past eight years. But, regardless of whether that stat is predictive or if it simply implies correlation, it is not to be trifled with. We need to keep fading home teams coming off a bye until it is no longer profitable.

SEA vs BAL OVER 49 (+101) Result: LOSS (BAL 30-SEA 16)

There are some gambling losses at which you simply shrug your shoulders and move on from because things just didn’t go how you thought they would, and you’re okay with that because sometimes things go that way. And then there are those that make you want scream into the abyss until you either lose your voice or the abyss begins to scream back at you. This loss was of the latter variety, and to be honest, I’m not going to get over this one until sometime in 2020.

I took over 49 and the final score landed on 46 total points. This game should have gone over 100 different ways.

Let me just list the yardage totals of all the field goals from this game so you can be as utterly annoyed as I was.

Baltimore kicked FGs of 25, 28 and 22 yards. The line of scrimmage on those plays was on the 8-, 11- and 5-yard lines, respectively.

Seattle kicked FGs of 34, 31 and 35 yards. Those kicks were snapped from the 17-, 14- and 18-yards lines, respectively.

These two teams combined to make six made field goals, all of which were snapped from the 18-yard line or closer. That is unfathomably impossible. If Baltimore or Seattle had just converted one of the third down plays that lead to those six FGs, we likely would have seen them score a touchdown, pushing this game over the total.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Seattle’s kicker, Jason Myers, missed a field goal in this game, and Baltimore’s tight end, Mark Andrews, dropped a touchdown that he would catch 999 times out of 1,000. It was disgusting to watch.

But the final kick in the rear end was this: at the end of the game when Seattle was down 17 and driving to try to make a miraculous comeback, their drive stalled at the Baltimore 17. Pete Carroll decided to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down and trying to score a touchdown. Which, you know, would have helped them way more in their comeback efforts than the field goal did. True, they were down 17 and would have need a field goal at some point. But kicking one from the 17 with 1:49 left in the game while still having all three of their timeouts is insanely stupid. You have to go for the touchdown there. If you get it and somehow get the ensuing onside kick, you can try a long field goal then. Kicking from the 17-yard line was an awful call by Carroll for both his team’s chances to comeback and for my over bet.

I told you, I’m not going to get over this loss for a very, very long time.

NYJ FIRST HALF +6 (-115) vs NE Result: LOSS (Halftime score: NE 24-NYJ 0)

This will be the quickest recap I will ever type out.

Sam Darnold played as poorly as he or any quarterback is capable of playing, and New England just annihilated the Jets. If there’s another takeaway from this game other than don’t bet against New England when they’re playing horrifically bad, turnover-prone quarterbacks, please feel free to let me know in the comments. This bet wasn’t about bad luck at all. It was just an awful call by me, plain and simple.

Six Point Teaser of The Week: + 6 points, -110

Result: LOSS DET +8.5 vs MIN – Result: LOSS (MIN 42-DET 30) PHI +8.5 at DAL – Result: LOSS (DAL 37-PHI 10)

Another quick recap here:

The Lions were covering this game until Dalvin Cook scored a touchdown with 1:55 left in the game, so we got backdoored in this one. Gross.

But that turned out to not really matter because Philadelphia got whipped by Dallas and were never in any position to cover this bet.

This was an ugly loss. I thought Detroit would fare better at home, and I really thought that the Eagles would show up in an important NFC East game. I was wrong on both accounts, obviously.

NFL Week Eight – Best Bets

We have 14 more games of NFL action ahead of us. The Minnesota Vikings beat the Washington Redskins this past Thursday night by a score of 19-9. It was as boring a game as you thought it would be.

(Incidentally, the NFL really needs to get rid of these Thursday night games. They should just have Monday Night Football double-headers each week like they do the first week of each season. I would love to see that happen, wouldn’t you?)

The Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys have byes this week.

Alrighty then. Let’s move on to the week eight action and see if we can’t make some money together! And don’t forget to check out this week’s Across the Board Podcast. I talked about some of these bets in greater detail in that pod, so don’t miss out on that extra info.

NYJ +6.5 (-110) at JAX 1:00 PM on CBS

The look-ahead line for this game was Jacksonville -4. We picked up an extra two and a half points because the Jets looked completely lost against the Patriots last Monday night. That’s good value for us, and we’re all about value here, my friends.

Also, after starting out the season very hot Gardner Minshew has come back down to earth a bit. In his last two games he has only completed 47.5% of his passes, a far cry from the 66% he had completed in weeks 1-5.

Jacksonville’s defense has been very porous this year as well. They are 20th in points allowed per game (20.6), 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243), and 21st in rush yards allowed per game (117). Just two weeks ago we saw Sam Darnold and his Jets go into Dallas and completely handle the Cowboys, so it’s not like New York isn’t capable of playing well. This is just too many points for the Jaguars to be laying. The Jets are a live dog in this game, so I love taking the points here.

BUF -2 (-115) vs PHI 1:00 PM on FOX

Last week I recommended taking New Orleans +4 over Chicago. One of the reasons I liked the Saints so much in that game is that they had a massive advantage in a key stat: Early Down Success Rate (EDSR). That statistic explains how good or bad teams are on first and second downs in neutral game-script situations. We always think that good teams convert their third down opportunities at a high rate. And while that certainly is true, we need to realize that being better than other teams on first and second downs is more important than converting third downs.

EDSR is a proprietary stat of Warren Sharp’s (@SharpFootball), and it has proven to correlate extremely well with NFL wins. In fact, when it comes to win correlation, it is second only to winning the turnover battle. According to Sharp’s website SharpFootballStats.com, winning the turnover margin explains 82% of NFL wins, while EDSR is responsible for 81%. It is that impactful of a stat, which leads up nicely to the game between Buffalo and Philadelphia.

The Bills are one of the best teams on offense when it comes to EDSR, while the Eagles are one of the worst. I’ve repeatedly mentioned how Philadelphia’s pass defense has been atrocious all year long. They have given up the fourth-most passing yards this year with 1894. Now, that is mostly due to the fact that they have been dealing with impactful injuries in their secondary all season long. Regardless of the reason it is a fact, and one that will help Josh Allen in this game.

Last, I’ve also talked about how good the Eagles’ rush defense has been this year. Just three short weeks ago they were giving up the third-fewest rushing yards in the league. Fast forward to today and they are now yielding the tenth-fewest rushing yards, which indicates they are steadily getting worse. And as I already mentioned, they are not very good at stopping offenses on first and second downs. Buffalo, meanwhile, is very good on first and second downs. This sets up very well for the Bills to really control this game from start to finish, and it is the main reason that I’m recommending them at -2 tomorrow.

CAR +6 (-110) at SF 4:05 PM on FOX

Let’s talk about the difference between cumulative stats and efficiency stats and why one is vastly superior to the other.

Cumulative stats give you totals, like how many touchdowns a player has scored, how many rushing yards a running back has rushed for, etc. Efficiency stats explain to us the rate at which something occurs, such as how many touchdowns a quarterback throws in X number of attempts, or how many yards per play a defense is giving up.

Both types of stats have intrinsic value, but efficiency stats are more powerful in explaining what has occurred and in some cases, what will happen. The reason is probably more obvious than you realize. If a wide receiver catches an 18-yard pass on 3rd and 20, his receiving yardage total goes up while his team’s 3rd down conversion rate goes down. Intuitively we immediately recognize that those 18 yards are way less valuable than converting that 3rd down would have been. Thus, total stats tell you some part of the story, but what they leave out is often much more important than what they reveal.

So, what does all that have to do with the Panthers and the 49ers? Great question, grasshopper.

You’ve probably heard how good San Francisco’s defense has been this year. That is not surprising in the least considering they have given up the fewest total yards in the NFL with only 1341. (New England really should be in first place in this category though, as they have only given up 1562 yards and have not yet had their bye week like the Niners have.) Carolina, meanwhile, has given up the 5th-fewest total yards with 2064, and in six games played just like the Niners. The difference in total yards given up between these two teams is just over 700, which is obviously a lot. So, San Francisco’s defense must be way better than Carolina’s, right?

Nope. That is not true, and one efficiency stat will explain why.

Instead of total yards given up, let’s focus instead upon yards per play given up. San Francisco is 2nd in the NFL in this category with 4.2 yards per play yielded. Carolina is the 4th-best team with 4.9 YPP given up. And remember how I said that the Patriots should really be in first in total yards surrendered because they’ve played one more game than the 49ers? Well, guess who is #1 in the NFL is in YPP? Yep, it’s New England’s defense with just 4.0.

If you only looked at total yards, the Niners defense seems to be much better than the Panthers’ unit. But when we switch our view to yards per play, the gap between them narrows significantly. The difference is that San Francisco has faced exactly 100 less plays on defense than Carolina has. That’s it. Even though the Panthers’ defense has spent more time on the field than the Niners have, they are essentially playing just as good as SF is. That is important to know and it’s a major factor in this pick.

Now, what about on the other side of the ball? How do these teams stack up?

San Francisco is 15th in the NFL with 5.7 yards per play on offense. The Panthers are 19th with 5.5, and that is with their backup quarterback starting for the majority of the season. Again, these two teams are almost exactly equal.

So why is Carolina getting six points in this game, even accounting for the home field advantage? That’s another great question, dear reader. I can’t tell you why the Panthers are getting six points tomorrow, but I can tell you that it’s a mistake that you and I are going to take advantage of. The 49ers are favored for a reason – they are a very solid football team. But this line is simply too high, period.

GB at KC UNDER 48 (-110) 8:00 PM on NBC-Sunday Night Football

The total in this game is way too high. With Patrick Mahomes not playing because of his dislocated kneecap, we’re going to see a much more deliberate and methodical offense from Andy Reid’s Chiefs. Kansas City hasn’t had a ton of success rushing the ball in 2019. In fact, they are the 9th-worst team in rushing yards per attempt with just 3.8. But a lot of of their woes are volume-related; they’ve only attempted 150 rushes in their seven games played, which is just over 21 carries per game. If they attempt only 21 rushes tomorrow with Matt Moore in at QB against Green Bay, they will be in a lot of trouble. There is simply no way that Andy Reid doesn’t know that and adjust his offensive strategy. Therefore, the shift in focus to a run-heavy approach will help us with this high total.

Green Bay’s defense has been so-so vs the pass and pretty bad against the run. But facing Matt Moore will help their defense tremendously, as they’ll be able to focus more on stopping the run since Moore isn’t much of a threat to throw all over them.

Last, Kansas City’s defense is surrendering 5.0 yards per carry, which is 2nd-last in the NFL. Everything about this game points to way more rushing than passing, and that just screams under to me.

Six Point Teaser of the Week: +6 points, -110 TB +8 at TEN – 1:00 PM on FOX LAC +10 at CHI – 1:00 PM on FOX

(There is a teaser bet explanation below if you need it.)

This teaser is more about fading Tennessee and Chicago than it is about backing Tampa Bay and the Chargers. I just don’t buy that the Titans and the Bears are any good at all. Ryan Tannehill and the Titans did hold off the Chargers last weekend, but LA really should have won that game. And I’ve already told you several times how bad the Bears are this year. I’m sure that the Chargers will find a way to lose this game late in the fourth quarter, but they’re not losing by double digits against a bad Chicago team.

Likewise, Tennessee may win this home game, especially if “Bad” Jameis shows up, which isn’t hard to imagine at all. But if “Okay” Jameis (or god forbid "Good" Jameis) shows up, or if Tannehill plays like he has for pretty much his entire career, it isn’t hard to envision a Buccaneers road win tomorrow. This is a great spot to move two lines up through some key numbers, so that’s what we’re gonna do.

Alright y’all, that’s it for week eight. Good luck to us all this weekend!! Let’s cash some tickets!!

(TEASER BET EXPLANATION: In case you’re not familiar with a teaser, it’s a bet in which you get six points to manipulate the point spread and/or game total in a favorable direction. For example, in week two this year Denver was underdog against Chicago, as the Broncos were getting +2 points. In a teaser, you get to add six points to Denver’s line and increase it from +2 to +8. Or instead, if you liked Chicago in that game you could have taken the six points and teased their line from -2 to +4. Teasers are great ways to manipulate lines so that they’re more favorable to you. Last, just like a parlay, teasers must include two bets or more, and you must win all the legs in the teaser to win the bet. If you lose one leg of the teaser your whole bet is busted.)

John Kaufman

Across the Board Sports

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