Thursday, September 6, 2018

[EXCLUSIVE Guest Post] NFL Week 1, Betting the Dogs: The Giants, Sam Darnold, and the Potentially Less-Terrible Cleveland Browns



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NFL Week 1, Betting the Dogs: The Giants, Sam Darnold, and the Potentially Less-Terrible Cleveland Browns

Sean Burch

Are you a moderate gambling addict too? It’s an exciting time, with the NFL regular season kicking off on Thursday night. But before looking at the teams we should blow our money on this weekend, let’s take a quick trip back to Week 1, 2017 for some guidance.   

The Browns, fresh off a dreadful 1-15 season, are heavy 8.5-point home underdogs to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. Leading 21-10 midway through the fourth quarter, it looks to be another comfortable win for Ben Roethlisberger in a career full of them against Cleveland. Browns fans, picturing another torturous season at hand, were likely debating “would we be better off with a cardboard cutout of Bill Belichick as head coach compared to Hue Jackson?” It’s a valid question. But that’s put on hold, as rookie quarterback DeShon Kizer gets the ball back and drives the Browns downfield. With 3:36 left to play, he connects with Corey Coleman on a slant for a touchdown. Cleveland successfully converts its two-point attempt right after. The Steelers’ lead is shaved to 21-18, and they’ll need to move the chains a few times or risk handing the ball back for a potential late game implosion. The Dawg Pound is suddenly barking. 

You remember how this turned out right? The Browns forced the Steelers to punt, Kizer scrambled towards the end zone as time expired, and Jackson, eyes welling up, was lifted onto his players’ shoulders and carried out of the stadium, signaling a changing of the guard in the AFC North. Eh, not exactly. The Steelers got the ball back, and after first downs from Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, held on for an ugly road victory. But this game was a sign the Browns had finally turned the corner, right? (Ron Howard Narrator Voice: It wasn’t.) In fact, the Browns somehow sucked even more, going winless in 2017. Jackson, in a sadder version of Apollonia purifying herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka in “Purple Rain,” later took a dip in Lake Erie to wash away the pain. 

What this game reinforced, though, was the old betting axiom: bet on the home underdogs – especially early in the season. In the last five years, home dogs are 16-11 against the spread during Week 1. And it’s not just the home teams, either. Road dogs are 43-33-2 since 2013. Combined, that’s a 57 percent winning percentage. Maybe that doesn’t sound too sexy, but if you hit on 57 percent of your bets in Vegas, you’d own a quarter of The Strip soon enough.

That makes the Browns, hosting the Steelers once again as four point dogs to start the season, an intriguing play – even after last season’s shit show. Factor in new additions like Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry – and Bell potentially missing the game for Pittsburgh – and I’m a bit startled how excited I am to bet on Cleveland.

Of course, if betting the dogs is a wise move early in the season, then betting on the favorites wouldn’t be. And betting on heavy favorites – teams favored by six points or more – is dumber than Jordan Peterson trying to explain his thoughts on God. Big-time favorites cover less than 30 percent of the time, going 4-10-1 ATS in the last five years. That’s uh, not good.

Does that mean I’ll be taking the Jets (+6.5), led by Sam Darnold, the youngest quarterback to start a season since the AFL-NFL merger, in Detroit? Hell yes it does. Same goes for the 49ers (+6.5) in Minnesota, even after losing their starting running back to a torn ACL. Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo should be supported, not slandered, for grabbing dinner with Kiara Mia, as far as I’m concerned. And the Texans (+6.5) against a shorthanded Patriots squad, is also a go for me, even if Tom Brady will be running on avocado ice cream at 60.   

This isn’t as radical as it sounds. The NFL routinely has major turnover. On average, five new teams make the playoffs each season over the last five years. Did anyone expect the flaccid Rams to become the high-scoring machine they were last season? Just because a team was good last season doesn’t mean they’ll be good this season – and that creates a gambling opportunity early in the year.

But don’t get too fancy here. Betting on the dogs to win outright gives a juicier payout, but it also happens much less frequently – about 35 percent of the time, to be exact. They’re dogs for a reason, after all. So unless you’re feeling lucky, avoid the moneyline bets, and stick to the spread. The spread is your friend.

Say it with me: I will bet on the dogs this weekend. It doesn’t matter that Eli Manning looks like a pig roasting over an open flame, waiting to be devoured by the Jacksonville defense. It doesn’t matter that Pete Carroll picked up three guys from the Canadian Football League to round out the Seahawks defense. It doesn’t freaking matter that the Bills couldn’t even slap together a minute of highlights for their starting quarterback. Dogs. Just bet the dogs. This is my new religion – at least until I’m cursing myself out for betting on the Browns on Sunday.

The Picks:

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (-2)  

The one outlier to betting the dogs in Week 1: when two playoff teams match up, the favorite wins 63 percent of the time (7-4 ATS since 2013). Gimme the champs and Big Dick Nick Foles.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (+4)

San Francisco 49ers (+6.5) at Minnesota Vikings

Cincinnati Bengals (+3) at Indianapolis Colts

Buffalo Bills (+7) at Baltimore Ravens


Jacksonville Jaguars at NY Giants (+3)

2017 was the season from hell for the Giants. Odell Beckham Jr. is back, Saquon Barkley is there, too, and Ben McAdoo and his terrible haircut have been replaced.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+9.5) at New Orleans Saints

Houston Texans (+6.5) at New England Patriots

Tennessee Titans (-1.5) at Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins just seem terrible, based on five minutes worth of internet research. Breaking my own rule here.

KC Chiefs (+3.5) at No One In Los Angeles Cares About The Chargers (Editor’s Note: HEY!!!)

Seattle Seahawks (+3) at Denver Broncos

Dallas Cowboys (+3) at Carolina Panthers

Washington Redskins (Pick ‘em) at Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears (+7.5) at Green Bay Packers

NY Jets (+6.5) at Detroit Lions

Los Angeles Rams (-4.5) at Oakland Raiders

Breaking my rule, again, because the Raiders just threw away Khalil Mack and I’m a complete shill for Sean “Baby Belichick” McVay. (Editor’s Note: This may be among the best opportunities to play Week 1 based on this article’s research, as the public may be overly fading the Raiders based on the Mack news—their defense projected to be well below-average in either case. I’ll take the home dogs, opening the season in the raucous black hole. Gimme Raiders +4.5.)

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This is an exclusive guest post written by Roto Pope podcast co-host, Sean Burch. Follow him on Twitter, @SeanB44.
Aaron Sauceda Web Developer

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