I highlighted how I handicap NFL games each week before last season began and I’m going to keep the same approach this season. I’ll provide my power ratings and weekly cheat sheet sometime on Tuesday throughout the season. The purpose the the cheat sheet is give people a starting point when identifying NFL games they might be interested in.
The season starts in seven days but I have my early numbers ready and home field advantage ratings set. Week 4 of the preseason usually is a final tryout for players trying to make the roster so not much will change before the season starts.
One of my starting points with handicapping the NFL is to make my own point spreads for each game. I give each team a power rating and am able to come up with a number after factoring in home field advantage.
The old default for home field was giving the home team an extra three points. A three-point favorite at home meant that the two teams were equal on a neutral field. I don’t think three points can be blindly added for every home team anymore. I would say the league average is closer to 2.5 with some teams getting more than three and some a full point less.
There are a few things to factor when coming up with a home field advantage number. I usually start with the intensity and passion that fans bring from the parking lot into the stadium. A noisy and loud stadium gives a team a true advantage especially when the opposing team has the ball on offense.
You also want to look at location of the team. A team will have a stronger home field advantage if they are the main attraction in town on a Sunday as opposed to a place where the weather is nice and/or the city is made up of transplants.
The final factor is judging how well positioned the team is to compete. A crowd is more likely to get behind a team and create an advantage when a team is at least average and possibly contending for a playoff spot. Towards the end the the season, I’m willing to downgrade a team if they are out of contention and the players won’t be feeding off their fans.
Listed below are the home field advantage numbers I’m assigning for each team with a comment about some notable ones. I’ll mention in my weekly cheat sheet if I decide to move any of these numbers.
3.5 points for home field advantage: Patriots, Vikings, Saints, Packers
The Patriots and Packers home field advantage is based on their passionate fans and success of the team. When Rodgers was hurt last season, I downgraded the Packers to 2.5 or 3 points. The Vikings home field has moved up in the last few years after they opened their new stadium, which is very loud. The Saints got an upgrade last season when they won the division. New Orleans is one of the toughest places to play when they are rolling. Continue reading →
After picking six teams I’m looking to bet against, I’ll be more positive in this article and recommend teams I’m looking to bet on. I’ll look to back these teams in individual games rather than win totals in most cases. There’s a risk betting over a team’s win total because an injury can impact everything about a team’s success. Also these win totals have been out for months so there isn’t much value left in August. Instead of waiting four months to learn the result of your bet, I prefer betting on the teams I like early in the season.
I have four teams I like but want to mention two before diving in. The Rams and Chargers are two teams I like a lot but so do a lot of people. The Rams win total is 10 and they are in a loaded NFC. It’s asking a lot of them to win 11 games. Instead of going over their win total, I tweeted that I bet them to win the NFC West at -135 because I’m down on the 49ers and Seahawks, who are the other two teams that could realistically win the division.
The Chargers win total is at 9.5 but they sit at +155 to win the AFC West. I wrote about betting against the Chiefs and Raiders so I’m considering a division bet on the Chargers. I’m interested in taking them -3 in Week 1 against the Chiefs too. I’ll tweet out whatever I end up doing with the Chargers.
Falcons- It would’ve been a very predictable outcome if the 2017 Falcons didn’t meet expectations after one of the worst Super Bowl losses in NFL history. Their play was up and down but they ended up going over a win total of 9.5 with a victory in Week 17. They were able to make the playoffs, upset the Rams and had a great chance of beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles in Philadelphia. I think the Falcons’ offense will see positive regression in offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s second season in charge. I expect a strong year from the defense as Dan Quinn continues to develop players that fit his system. A win total at 9 seems a touch low and it’s tempting to take the Falcons in a Week 1 revenge game against the Eagles on the first Thursday night of the season.
Verdict: There are several ways to bet on the Falcons this season so I’m going to look to find spots early in the season to back them. Continue reading →
After months of research and reading, I’m ready to reveal some of my NFL thoughts for the 2018 season. I’ll start with teams I’m looking to bet against early in the season. That can include under the season win total, bets against teams in individual regular season games or both. I also looked closely at the yes/no props to make the playoffs that are posted for each team, which is something new for me this season.
Before starting, I have a few things to say about the Buffalo Bills. I bet Bills under 6.5 wins in early July. The most popular win total bet I saw people talk about earlier this summer was Bills under 7 or 6.5 wins. Then LeSean McCoy was involved in domestic violence allegations and the win total went down to 6. I still think they go under 6 but understand if people want to stay away now that some of the value has been extracted. Everything lines up for the Bills to be an under team this season. They made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. They traded quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and signed A.J. McCarron and drafted Josh Allen. I’m not sold on McCarron as a NFL starter and Allen had accuracy concerns in college. The offensive weapons in Buffalo are limited and the defense benefitted from turnover luck last season. The Bills have road games against the Ravens, Vikings and Packers in September with a Week 2 home opener against the Chargers in between. If the Bills have a poor record to start the season, I’m guessing they’ll start Allen and become an even worse team. I can see the Bills finishing with the worst record in the NFL but they’re already being priced as one of the bottom teams in the league.
Jaguars- When looking to identify teams that I want to bet against, I tend to look at teams who greatly exceeded expectations the previous year. The Jacksonville Jaguars had a win total of 6.5 after winning three games in 2016. They won 10 games last season and now their win total has increased by 2.5 games to 9. Under 9 will be a bet for me. Jacksonville’s defense is an amazing unit but I don’t believe in Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette’s numbers were inflated by breaking off a few long runs. The Jaguars benefitted from Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck not starting against them in both games, and Texans and Colts will be a lot better than they were last season. I’m undecided if I want to bet against the Jaguars in Week 1, where they are a 3.5-point favorite at the New York Giants, but I’ll be looking to fade them in other spots early in the season.
Verdict: Jaguars under 9 is a strong bet and also betting against them in several early season games. Continue reading →