Thursday Night Football - How Sharps Are Betting
Okay, so what exactly were the odds that a full month into this here-and-now NFL season the likes of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the Oakland Raiders, the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks would not be sitting there in first place in their respective divisions?
Sure, we're only at the so-called quarter-pole of this 2017 season - there's a loooong way to go - but it's strange not seeing these above-mentioned teams on top of the heap in their divisions and now we're gonna get you a few reasons why:
NEW ENGLAND (2-2) - No doubt this Pats' defense has been horrible while allowing a whopping 32 points per game through its first four games but among the disturbing aspects of this "D" is the inability to tackle in space - New England ranks dead last in the league in total defense/pass defense and ranks a lowly 26th against the rush. Consider that the Patriots actually are a plus + 4 in the turnover department and the offense is averaging 32.3 ppg and still this team is playing only .500 ball.
OAKLAND (2-2) The back injury suffered by star QB Derek Carr is no excuse here 'cause the moneybags slinger just got hurt last weekend in that 16-10 loss at Denver. No, the Raiders - who were an absolute no-show in that 27-10 loss at Washington in a Week 3 Sunday Nighter - have not played with great passion and the air assault game has accounted for just a dozen plays of 20+ yards ... with Carr in there chucking it we would have expected five or five "chunk plays" per game, right?
DALLAS (2-2) - Hard to believe but four games into this current campaign and the Cowboys actually have been outscored 97-to-94 by the opposition. It's no secret that Dallas has put most of its financial resources into the offense but this defense already has yielded 42 and 35 points in the losses to Denver and the Los Angeles Rams and the Cowboys' secondary is getting shredded on a weekly basis. Plus, note just one 100-plus yard rushing game from bad boy RB Ezekiel Elliott.
SEATTLE (2-2) - The long-time kings of the NFC West may have finally gotten its wake-up call after halftime of last Sunday Night's 46-18 win against 12.5-point pup Indianapolis but do not be fooled: This Seahawks' defense ranks 27th in the league against the rush (allowing 134 yards a game) and has forced only six enemy turnovers (though two of them were returned for TDs against the hapless Colts the other night).
On Thursday Night Football, it's ...NEW ENGLAND (2-2) at TAMPA BAY (2-1) - 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS
One thing about this sluggish start for the NE Patriots: Don't blame it on QB Tom Brady. The 40-year-old gunner has completed nearly 66 percent of his forward passes with 10 TDs, 0 INTs and 1,399 passing yards and he'll take on a Tampa Bay defense still missing some key cogs (see LBs Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David) so those dink-and-dunk throws to New England running backs and the medium-range slings to TE Rob Gronkowski figure to be a very large part of the offensive game plan here. On the flip side, the Bucs roared back in their last game to trim the 2.5-point underdog New York Giants 25-23 on a 34-yard PK Nick Folk field goal but what was striking is that QB Jameis Winston completed all five of his passes to get TB into FG range ... will Winston be even more effective here with the addition of RB Doug Martin who's back from a season-starting four-game suspension for PED use?
Spread Stats - New England has failed to cover three of its first four games this year and overall the Patriots are 9-1 ATS (against the spread) away since the start of last season. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's 8-4 versus the vig as underdogs since the start of 2016.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
It doesn't take a hard-core college football fan to tell you that Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Penn State are the true super-elite teams thus far in 2017 - but what about a few "sneaky-good" squads? Here's a few that have caught our eye:
MARYLAND (3-1, 1-0 Big 10) - Give the Terps a hand as they're now down to a third-string signal-caller and yet they already own road wins at 18.5-point fav Texas and at 13.5-point favorite Minnesota. Check out the fact that Maryland's daring second-year head coach DJ Durkin doesn't mind "trickery" and you better believe he's made football fun again in College Park.
GEORGIA TECH (3-1, 2-0 ACC) - Maybe that whole triple option offense is so 1970s but the fact of the matter is Paul Johnson's crew ranks second in the country with 396 rushing yards per game and - in large part thanks to the ball-control attack - the GT defense ranks 10th in the country. Hey, that Oct. 28th game at Clemson might be a whole lot closer than the "experts" think, eh?
UCF (4-0, 1-0 AAC) - There's plenty of chatter going around that says Knights' second-year head coach Scott Frost is Nebraska-bound following this 2017 season but first things first: UCF has won its first three games by a per-game average of 33 points (including a 28-point win at above-mentioned Maryland) and this team currently ranks seventh in the land in total offense while scoring 46.3 ppg.
How Sharps are Betting Late Week Football
A great Thursday schedule kicks off a new weekend in football. We have an NFL game that would be worthy of a Sunday night or Monday night spot, and a college game matching two ranked teams. Let's see how sharps (professional wagerers) are betting those, plus a few other matchups Friday and Saturday.
New England at Tampa Bay: Even though New England is off to a shaky 2-2 start (that was almost 1-3), the public and many quants are still betting them as a road favorite against the Bucs. An opener of New England -4 went up to -5.5 very quickly...and some sixes are now being tested on game day. If the public stays stubborn...then it might sit on the six all day. Or, we could have a tug-of-war between New England -5.5 and Tampa Bay +6 between now and kickoff. Many sharp dog players are looking at the Bucs here pretty strong. They're waiting to see if it goes higher, but will happily take +6 if that turns out to be the apex. In essence, squares and the math guys are getting New England to score a lot of points. Old school sharps think New England's defense isn't being punished enough in the line. The total is hopping around a bit because of the weather forecast. Quants are getting high scoring gradings...but it might be a rainy, breezy night in Tampa Bay...which makes it harder to have a true shootout.
Louisville at NC State: The opener of Louisville -1 has been bet up through the key number of three all the way to -3.5. That's usually a telling sign because three is so important. But, here, that could be overly influenced by the public's love of betting offense and highly productive quarterbacks. A high-octane offense "feels" cheap at lines this low. Sharps preferring the dog are biding their time to see if four or more might come into play. Sharps liking Louisville got in early at the best numbers. The Over/Under has been bet up from 63 to 66...with some stores testing 66.5 early Thursday. Louisville's tendency is to play high scoring games.
Memphis at Connecticut: Neither Friday game is very appealing...but they could still be fairly actively bet in Nevada because they're the only football games on the board that night. Memphis opened at -14 over what's turned out to be a very poor Connecticut side. The public wasn't interested in betting this one early, so dog players took the +14 to exploit the key number. We're now seeing Memphis -13.5 in most spots. No movement yet on the high total of 70.
Boise State at BYU: This was supposed to be a showcase game for both teams and their network. Instead, Boise State has been a disappointment (losing badly at home to Virginia), and BYU's been a disaster. Now BYU is dealing with multiple quarterback injuries too. Boise State is laying -8 on the road because of the host's injury problems, up slightly from an opener of 7.5. The total is up from 45 to 48, as the math guys got Over gradings due to BYU's tendency to give away so many cheap points to opponents.
SATURDAY MARQUEE GAMES
Penn State at Northwestern: Vegas was disappointingly quiet last Saturday because there weren't many good TV games, and because the public has lost so badly in the NFL out of the gate that they don't have as much spending money as usual on Saturdays. We have another relatively quiet day in terms of matchups that are going to excite people. This one at least has a chance to because the Wildcats can be a feisty home underdog. Penn State went down to the wire at Iowa recently. Here, an opener of Penn State -14 has been bet up to -14.5. Old school dog lovers are waiting to see what they can get with NW. I wouldn't be shocked if the game reached as high as -16 given all the Heisman hype this week about the Nittany Lions star running back.
Michigan State at Michigan: An opener of Michigan -12 has been bet down to -10.5. A mix of factors here. Sparty looked competitive in a win over Iowa last week (a bit lucky to cover in a defensive struggle). Michigan's offense hasn't been reliable yet this season, which makes laying double digits dicey. Though, if -10 comes into play, I believe many quants would step in on the favorite for value. The public will probably prefer Michigan, which might make the current -10.5 the low point.
West Virginia at TCU: I'm including this one because TCU may be on the verge of becoming important. They're getting a lot of market respect here. An opener of -12 is already much higher than people would have imagined a few weeks ago given preseason expectations. Then the line went UP! We're now seeing -13.5. The computer guys and some public bettors have hit the favorite out of the gate. I do believe that a large number of sharps would come in HARD on the road dog if +14 comes into play. Is TCU really this good? We'll find out Saturday.
LSU at Florida: This is the big CBS game in the mid-afternoon. They weren't expecting to talk about "who's going to be fired" every week. But, the conference has fallen so far once you get past Alabama that CBS has to show games involving embattled coaches. LSU actually got a lot of respect here for a team that's falling apart! An opener of Florida -4.5 is down to -2.5 or even -2. That's a big deal because the key number of three was crossed...and the market held after the move. Given how little has been going right for LSU lately, you have to assume that's anti-Florida money.
The Sunday schedule is going to be a lot more fun to look at. Back with you at the usual time Friday to run through how sharps have been betting the rest of the NFL slate.