NFL Week 13 Bet of the Week

Spencer Aguiar digs into his top rowdy bet for Week 13 of the NFL season

With Week 12 of the NFL season in the books, we will start planning our attack into Week 13. But before we dive headfirst into the card, let’s do a quick recap of last weekend’s top selection.

The Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers under 47 points got us to the window on Sunday. There were ebbs and flows throughout the game, but Ben Roethlisberger’s interception with 1:07 left in the fourth quarter sealed the Broncos 24-17 victory. It would be naive to say that we weren’t on the receiving end of a little luck with Roethlisberger’s late-game mistake. But I do think the fake field goal for a touchdown at the end of the first half by Pittsburgh and the 97-yard touchdown to start the second half from Roethlisberger to JuJu Smith-Schuster put us in that precarious position to begin with and forced us to survive. However, a win is a win, and we will try to take that momentum with us into the betting card for Week 13.

The slate this week isn’t one of my favorites I have ever seen, and in reality, it makes me thankful that I am on the handicapping side and not the bookmaking front. Sportsbooks are going to have some massive liabilities on their hands. The Colts, Panthers, Broncos, Rams, Chiefs, Falcons, Patriots and Chargers are all being bet heavily by the public and will turn into significant decisions for the books.

Professional handicappers will most likely end up on the opposite end of those teams at the right number, but the two that catch my attention would be the Detroit Lions (+10) over the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) over the Los Angeles Chargers. Jim Bob Cooter hasn’t done a great job as the Lions offensive coordinator, but the Rams can’t stop anyone right now defensively, and the number is overinflated based off of the Rams-Chiefs game from two weeks ago. Most places are taking in between 80-90 percent of their wagers on Los Angeles, so there is a chance we could see this number drift to 10.5. I am just playing the waiting game right now and will bet it if I can get a +10.5.

As far as the Steelers (-3) over the Chargers is concerned, the lookahead line for this game had Pittsburgh at -4.5, and I think we are seeing an overreaction to the market because of Pittsburgh’s road loss last week. The public being on a road dog usually doesn’t end well for them, and it is even more worrisome with Chargers running back Melvin Gordon ruled out with an MCL sprain. The Chargers are the number one team in the NFL in explosive run plays, and the loss of Gordon isn’t adequately accounted for in my opinion. I am pausing on placing a wager at this moment and will be trying to grab a -3 with cleaner vig attached to it.

Cleveland Browns (+4.5) versus the Houston Texans (-4.5) O/U 47.5

The Houston Texans (-4.5) versus Cleveland Browns (+4.5) has seen some interesting movement since the number was posted. The Texans started as a 4.5-point favorite and quickly got bet up to -6.5. However, that number has been taken back down to -4.5 at some books at the time of writing this article and -5 at other places.

I think this game presents a compelling case of sharp gamblers being on different sides of the aisle on this one. For starters, I want to preface this by saying that movement on a wager does not mean sharp action. Lines can move from a plethora of different conditions. Smart money coming in is one of them, but it is far from the only thing that will drive a line.

There are a couple of reasons I believe different credible parties have taken this number. While Houston is getting nearly 60% of the wagers, the bet slips have been somewhat steady across the week. That usually can let us discount public action as being an option of why the line is moving. The second opinion is that the game has seen sudden and sharp movements when it has shifted between numbers. The books moved the price quickly from -4.5 to -6.5 and then proceeded to almost immediately get off of +6.5 once it got there. That is almost surely the result of one of two things. Either one group steamed the number up to where they wanted it to be and then took the Browns, or what I think is most likely based off a handful of reasons; some sharp bettors quickly grabbed Houston at -4.5 and once it reached +6.5 for Cleveland, another group found value in the number and shot it back down.

And in reality, it would make sense to see “wiseguys” conflicted on this game. The Texans have an eight-game win streak but have probably been an overrated team mathematically during that stretch, and the sharp bettors have been ahead of the market on Cleveland’s rise from the ashes, but at what point is the value gone in betting them?

The number is currently stuck in the dead zone right now, which is probably a better sign for people who have grabbed Cleveland at +6.5 than the ones who have the Texans at -4.5. The reason I say this is that most of the times when a number doesn’t instantly jump up to seven points when it is in this range, it most likely will trend down for the rest of the week. That is not always the case, but once we have dipped down past -6, the next key number to land directly on would be -4. There is some minimal value in -5, but the range of 4.5-5.5 doesn’t make a massive difference usually. With the number drifting down, I don’t see why it would change unless wiseguys jump in late on Houston.

So all that information puts us in a position that we need to try and figure out what side is the right side based on statistical data. The Texans are an exceptional defensive unit, ranking fourth in defensive efficiency and second in run defense but have struggled offensively, ranking 21st in offensive efficiency and 28th in rushing offense. A portion of those offensive numbers can be attributed to early-season struggles based on quarterback Deshaun Watson starting the year still wary of the ACL injury that he suffered last season, but a predictable play-calling pattern from head coach Bill O’Brien caused his young QB to be pressured on 43.2 percent of dropbacks.

The combination of Watson getting pressured and being afraid to scramble out of the pocket prompted the Texans to go winless in their first three games. O’Brien was eventually smart enough to realize that running back Lamar Miller needed to be infiltrated into the offensive schemes and made a more concerted effort of getting the 27-year-old the ball. But it is not just the willingness to get Miller involved that has helped; it is also the formations that the Texans have been calling to disguise run or pass. Forty-two percent of their plays are run out of a “12” personnel grouping, which means one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. This eliminates the classic three wide receiver sets that most teams run and keeps them more balanced and less predictable.

O’Brien has also used Miller as a wild-card in other situations. He has lined up the running back in the slot or out wide on 11 percent of his snaps. That isn’t at the frequency of the Saints with Alvin Kamara (24.7 percent) or James White of the Patriots (20 percent), but it’s right around the same territory of what the Rams do with Todd Gurley (12.4 percent). These misdirections and bulkier packages have enabled Watson to be hit only 14 times in his last five games. A cleaner pocket will allow any quarterback to have success and Watson getting healthier mixed with the ability to dissect plays before being bombarded by the defense has allowed the Texans to outproduce whatever their current metrics are saying.

Now let’s look at the Browns, who are experiencing a renaissance of their own. Since Cleveland fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Baker Mayfield has thrown nine touchdowns with only one interception, completing 68 percent of his passes, and running back Nick Chubb has averaged 115 yards in those three contests with one score. But the most impressive part of their current run is that the offensive line has not allowed a sack in 125 consecutive snaps and Mayfield has only been hit twice in November.

While all those statistics are impressive and I do think Cleveland is trending towards becoming the real deal, we do need to look at the past three units that the Browns have faced. You can’t discredit performances against a weak defense, but Cleveland has been able to exploit the Chiefs, Falcons and Bengals in those matchups. And once again, this is to take nothing away from them because you can only beat who is in front of you, but when you look at the main thing each of those teams struggles to maintain, it is opposing running backs. All three units rank in the bottom four when it comes to defending the run, and Cleveland has been using their run game to open up Mayfield through the air.

The Texans only allow 42 percent of run plays to grade out successfully, which is the fourth best percentage in the NFL, and they are also second in the league when it comes to preventing explosive runs or passes. I think a couple of critical factors can be taken away from those statistics. Most notably is that Cleveland will need to gameplan differently for the game on Sunday. It doesn’t look like they will be able to rely on the run early and that is going to force Mayfield to have to make throws right from the start of the game.

It doesn’t mean that the 23-year-old won’t be able to make the passes, but without the ability to execute explosive plays, he is going to have to hit them over and over again if the run game doesn’t show up. Cleveland grades out dead last in the NFL in power success, which is essentially the ability to convert on third and short or fourth and short with a run.

Mayfield is well on his way to becoming the Browns first QB they can trust since 1995. And it is possible he continues to roll, but I am in the camp that I want to see a rookie quarterback and rookie running back go on the road and do it against a top-five defense before I ignore the fact that the Browns just picked up their first road win in three years last week. The Texans defense ranks seventh in adjusted sack rate, and I think Mayfield could find himself in a different position this week of scrambling around and forcing throws.

With the number trending down, I am in no rush to make the wager until I think it has reached its floor. Part of gambling is making sure you get the best numbers you can and not forcing bets in if the time isn’t ready yet. If you can grab a -4.5 with clean vig, I am ok with putting it in now. But if you don’t have that number, I would wait and keep an eye on the market. However, it is essential to get it in before it reaches -6 if it does end up going back up. That is where the first extremely key number comes into play.

Rowdy Bold Prediction: Houston 30 – Cleveland 13

Recommended Bet: Houston (-4.5)

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NFL Week 12 Bet of the Week

Spencer Aguiar digs into his top rowdy bet for Week 12 of the NFL season

Our play of the week in Week 11 between the Minnesota Vikings (+3) versus the Chicago Bears (-3) had just about everything go wrong that could have. And before I turn this article into Joe Nicely’s “Tuesday Morning Tilt,” I will try to regroup myself to give an accurate recap into Sunday night’s proceedings.

Where do we even start? For a team that was coming off of a bye and desperately needed a win, the Minnesota Vikings looked like the “Walking Dead” in Chicago. Kirk Cousins made two horrendous mistakes — including a pick-six that altered the game in the fourth quarter — Dalvin Cook had nine carries for 12 yards — coughing up the ball deep in Chicago’s territory in the first quarter — and the Vikings defense was terrible, failing to bring down Mitchell Trubisky time after time. I mean seriously, I have seen better takedowns of an actual bear from Khabib Nurmagomedov as a nine-year-old than I saw on Sunday night against Trubisky.

And despite all these glaring mistakes, we still had a chance with 48 seconds left to escape the night with a push if the Vikings could have converted a two-point conversion. Sadly, luck was not on our side when Cousins pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and we found ourselves on the short end of the stick. It is important to remember that sports betting is a marathon and not a sprint. The winning side is technically the “right side,” but I believe we had a long-term profitable play that happened to go against us. Nothing can be done about that, and it is back to the drawing board for Week 12.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.0) versus the Denver Broncos (+3.0) O/U 47.0

The Pittsburgh Steelers versus Denver Broncos is the last game to go off during the afternoon slate on Sunday, which does hold some significant value when breaking down this battle. The Steelers are one of the public’s favorite teams to wager on, and casinos could find themselves taking in Pittsburgh money in a multitude of different scenarios.

One of the situations is if the public has a strong early morning against the house. Bettors will be looking for another game to move their newly found winnings onto, and Pittsburgh is a familiar name that has won them money in the past. The problem this presents for the house is if they are losing early, they won’t be able to be as aggressive as they would like. The number would most likely have to start moving back towards its opening of +3.5 or +4, allowing sharp bettors to help mitigate their action slightly.

On the flip side of things, sports book will probably let that number stay at +3 and draw a line in the sand if they have a successful morning. Their early winnings would give them an opportunity to be ultra-aggressive and try to let the public chase their cash back on a number that the house believes is in their favor.

Both of these circumstances make it tough to advocate placing a wager on the spread unless you wanted to back the Steelers and grab -3. If you liked Denver but haven’t put in a bet yet, you have already missed the key numbers. However, there should be no scenario where the line ever moves to +2.5, and it is one of those spots where you are better off waiting till right before the game and seeing if you could snatch a +3.5.

So that brings us to the over/under of 47 points, which I think is a unique way to back the underdog in this contest without taking on the risk of opposing Pittsburgh. When you look at how both teams want to play, it provides an interesting stylistic matchup. Pittsburgh wants to attack you through the air, and Denver wants to control the clock on the ground. But interestingly enough, both teams strength on offense is what the defensive units do the best at shutting down. Here is a slight breakdown of both sides efficiency metrics:

Pittsburgh – 6th in offensive efficiency passing

Denver – 4th in defensive efficiency against the pass

Denver – 3rd in offensive rushing efficiency

Pittsburgh – 13th in defensive efficiency against the rush

The ability for the Broncos to control the clock when they have the ball will be vital on Sunday. They rank 20th in passing efficiency and will need to keep Pittsburgh’s offense off the field if they want to have a realistic chance of competing. And while the Steelers aren’t world-class in defending the run, they are competent enough that they aren’t going to get exploited with big run after big run.

I think the over/under of 47 will keep decreasing as the week goes on because your average bettors are more concerned about laying the favorite in a matchup like this then they are about investing in the total, this will open up the capacity for sharp money to drive the number down by the time the game rolls around. I don’t necessarily think Denver is going to win and believe this is a much better way of wagering on Sunday’s showdown.

 

Rowdy Bold Prediction: Pittsburgh 23 – Denver 20

Recommended Bet: Under 47.0

Chiefs-Rams Monday Night Prediction

Spencer Aguiar gives his rowdy insight into the Monday Night clash between the Rams and Chiefs

A week removed from a pair of last-place teams facing off on Monday night (San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants), two first-place teams will be in the national spotlight this week. And who says that good things don’t come for those who wait?

What a dandy we have between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams. The game was scheduled to be played in Mexico City, but due to poor field conditions at the Estadio Azteca stadium, the NFL decided to move the game to Los Angles, which was probably a smart move with numerous starters from both units threatening to sit out if the game wasn’t relocated.

The change of venue adds an intriguing twist to the proceedings. The Rams stayed in Colorado Springs until Saturday, practicing in the Rocky Mountain altitude to get acclimated for Monday’s Mexico showdown. And while that turned out to be all for naught, it doesn’t hurt Los Angeles that they adapted to a more difficult environment and now get to settle in at home. For the Chiefs, it is a slightly different situation. In a sense, they got the runaround treatment and never were able to get settled entirely. Their schedule turned into limbo with their travel plans thrown upside down.

Kansas City Chiefs (+3) versus the Los Angeles Rams (-3) O/U 63.0

A few unusual things have taken place with the betting line since the game was moved to Los Angeles. The line jumped from the Rams -2.5 on a neutral field to -3.5 at home and has since been bet down to -3. It’s a very tiny movement when you consider that it now becomes an actual home game for Los Angeles, but there isn’t some vast home-field advantage at the Coliseum. The total, on the other hand, has practically stayed put. There have been some minor deviations and movements but nothing outlandish in the reposting of it.

So where does the value now lie from a betting perspective? For starters, any “math guy” is going to tell you that under 63 is the play tonight. It is the highest over/under in history, and the number has gotten juiced up even further than it should have been because of the liability that a Monday night game presents to the casinos. I am moderately worried that both of these teams won’t be able to defend each other and will probably be avoiding any action on that front, that is unless I can get an under 14 in the first quarter potentially.

While the offenses are expected to light up the scoreboard tonight, I think the game could turn into a battle of attrition between the ground games. It seems likely to me, at least early on, that both units will have your classic boxing “feel out process.” Neither team will want to be torn to shreds early, and that would allow a slower start than most are anticipating, which in turn presents us an almost PG rated viewing of “Gurley Gone Wild,” featuring a slippery Kareemy Hunt. It may sound a little dirty on the surface, but I think the potential emphasizing of the run games could turn the matchup into a clock-eating first quarter.

The game offers a high amount of variation that will probably have one or two stops potentially shift the dynamics. A defense being able to hold the other team’s offense to three points instead of seven will loom large so I wouldn’t go breaking the bank on any wager that you make. The casinos will need the Rams and under in a big way tonight with almost 71 percent of spread bets coming in on Kansas City and 73 percent of moneyline wagers. At this point, I am just playing the waiting game on taking the Rams. I’d imagine that some sharp action will eventually come in and take Los Angeles, but until that happens, I will play the long game and see how low this number will drop before I place my wager.

I had a solid 3-2 day yesterday on my bets for about 0.52 units of profit and will be risking a unit of action on tonight’s game to decide the week. In general, I like keeping my bets at 1 unit, 1.25 units, 1.50 units and 1.75 units for my max play. To make it simple to understand, what that essentially means is that as a $100 bettor, I am risking $100 for my one-star type plays, $125 on my two-star picks and so on and so forth up to what a max selection would be of $175. The last thing you want to be doing is egregiously overweighting bets by three or four times the amount from one contest to the next. It is an easy concept to figure out where your units would sit if you just multiply your standard bet by the unit amount you want to use. Good luck on any action you place on Monday’s potential Super Bowl showdown, and I will see you back for my bet of the week for Week 12 of the NFL season

Rowdy Bold Prediction: Los Angeles 38 – Kansas City 20

Recommended Bet: Rams -3