Welcome back to The Combine Sports and another edition of the Bet of the Week article. We increased our record to (6-1-1) on the season with an excellent 41-17 Minnesota Vikings (-7) victory. Laying a touchdown worth of points isn’t one of my favorite betting strategies, but sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone when value presents itself.
We were also able to provide winners on our two other recommendations of the Indianapolis Colts -3 over the Dallas Cowboys and the Carolina Panthers +6.5 over the New Orleans Saints. While those aren’t graded towards the official “Bet of the Week” yearly record, they were winners for anyone that chose to follow the picks.
With Week 16 upon us, I know I sound like a broken record here, but man, this is a brutal betting slate. It makes me wish I didn’t call some of the other weeks a struggle to handicap because this card is appalling. The Los Angeles Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens under 45 points was one of the plays that intrigued me, but it dropped nearly 3.5 points before I could get the article posted. If you can find under 21.5 in the first half, that is probably the way to play the game now, but even that number appears to be gone.
With a couple of days left in the week, it looks like the public is coming in on the Redskins, Chargers, Cowboys, Falcons, Vikings, Bears and Chiefs. I think the opposite side can be argued in most cases, but a lot of those games still present uncertainty. The last couple of weeks in an NFL season will always become difficult because of the lack of motivation some of the eliminated teams will exhibit. It is tough to tell what we should expect, and that backs us into a corner when trying to handicap these contests.
Green Bay Packers (-3.0) versus the New York Jets (+3.0) O/U 47.0
In what has become one of the stranger matchups of the week, the (5-8-1) Green Bay Packers will go on the road to face the (4-10) New York Jets. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was initially ruled out for the game after suffering a groin injury in Week 15’s loss to the Chicago Bears, but after experiencing some backlash for quitting on his team, the 35-year-old has now been ruled active for Sunday’s proceedings.
The loss of Rodgers initially sent this number on a five-point swing in the Jets favor, going from +3 to -2, but it has settled back into its initial price at most books of +3 with the news of Rodgers being active. One of the most interesting things to me is that although a five-point shift is a lot, it never crossed a key number after moving off plus-three. As an example, a movement from -3 to -8 would have a lot more substance than a move from +3 to -2. In our hypothetical situation, you sail past three significant numbers (minus-3, minus-6 and minus-7.) However, in the actual movement of the bet, all we saw was that the price was driven off +3, transferred through 0 and stopped before it reached three on the other end. The only significant move was the move off of three and even going through 0 doesn’t do all that much.
I know that may sound like useless information, but I always find movements interesting because they tip the hand of the sportsbook in a lot of ways. Once you figure out what the public side of the game is going to be, you can start gauging the risk that casinos are willing to take based on their movement. Books never want to find themselves in a situation to be “middled” (landing between the opening number and the closing number), and if they think they are on the right side of a game, you won’t see them budge all that much.
Sadly, that still doesn’t quite tell us exactly where this number is heading and what the casinos will need with a 50/50 split at many books right now. I do think that some signs point towards them liking the Packers with the number failing to get to Green Bay +3 when Rodgers was ruled out initially, but in the same breath, I don’t think much can be taken from it because he was announced back in so quickly, and the number was hovering in a dead zone price wise.
Breaking down a game goes a lot further than movements and bet slips, and there are a few things that stuck out to me from a statistical and matchup perspective. It is always interesting when you start breaking down a game in a more in-depth fashion and find potential matchup advantages that you would never have expected. On the season, the Packers rank fifth in the NFL in offensive success rate running the football at 53 percent but grade out just 18th in the league when it comes to success rate passing at 45%. Defensively, the Jets are 11th in the league in success against the run at 46 percent and fourth in the NFL against the pass at 44 percent. I know Rodgers has been playing injured practically the whole season, and the team is 5-8-1 for a reason, but I was surprised to see just how much the Packers have struggled through the air on the year.
While the early-season injury hasn’t helped Rodgers and his new groin injury will only make things worse, a lack of support on offense hasn’t made it any easier for the two-time Most Valuable Player either. Wide receiver Davante Adams has been brilliant, but outside of Adams and the emergence of running back Aaron Jones in Week 8, other Packers players have offered very little help.
Unfortunately for Green Bay, Jones suffered a sprained MCL in Week 15 against the Chicago Bears and was just placed on the injured reserved list for the rest of the season. I know we live in an age where running backs mean nothing to the point total, but the loss of Jones will be significant now that more of the burden is going to be placed on an injured Aaron Rodgers. Backup running back Jamaal Williams has proven that he can’t handle a full workload, averaging 3.7 yards on 98 carries this season. It seems likely that the Packers will attempt to get Williams going early in the game, but he has looked mediocre all year and has been limited with a toe injury himself.
To make matters even worse, the Packers will be without their second-best wide receiver Randall Cobb and offensive tackle Jason Spriggs. The loss of Spriggs will be negated if Bryan Bulaga can play — which appears like it will be the case, but the team will be left with zero depth outside of Alex Pankey. Rodgers has been hit the third most in the NFL during the last eight weeks, and even though the Jets only rank 24th on the year in sack rate, they rank top-three in QB hits, QB pressures and sacks the last four weeks. A lot of that damage came against Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson in Week 15, but the Jets are playing tough and have not given up on the season.
Since Week 11, the Jets rank fourth in the NFL in success against the pass and 14th against the run. The Packers in the same time frame are 32nd against the pass and 12th against the run. Kenny Clark, a key figure of the Packers front-four remains out, and the potential lack of pressure to Jets quarterback Sam Darnold would help the rookie to settle into the game.
After nearly a month without Darnold in the lineup, he returned to face the Buffalo Bills in Week 14, throwing for 170 yards to go along with one TD and one INT. And last week, he put together a 253-yard performance against the Houston Texans, converting on two TD passes with no interceptions. Small sample sizes need to be taken with a grain of salt, but in the last two weeks, the Jets rank 10th in passing success rate and appear to be trending in the right direction.
Some might view Rodgers giving it a go on Sunday as heroic, and others might think it is dumb to put your injured franchise player into a game that doesn’t matter. You can make the argument for either, but I can’t seem to figure out what the motivation is for Green Bay in this game. Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks of our era, but even Batman needs Robin from time to time. I am not overly enthusiastic about the selection and still don’t entirely trust the Jets, but I struggle to find a single playmaker on the Packers outside of Davante Adams this week. I would tread lightly on the play if you do place a wager, but there is enough pointing in the direction of the Jets being the right side. I’d anticipate that this number should trickle back down as the week goes on and would jump on three before it does start to decrease.
Rowdy Bold Prediction: New York 23 – Green Bay 20
Recommended Bet: New York (+3)
Bet of the Week Record : (6-1-1)