10 betting lessons from NFL Week 7
It’s easy to be critical and negative, so to emphasize something positive, let’s start with the feel-good story. Tyson Bagent, an undrafted rookie from Division II Shepherd University in West Virginia, made his first start as an NFL quarterback Sunday and was a winner. It’s a bizarre and unbelievable story.
What makes Bagent’s fairytale even better is he’s a quarterback for the Bears, who recently stopped a 14-game losing streak. In other words, he started for a terrible team, played well and won in a blowout.
Now, here comes the negativity. The Raiders, 30-12 losers in Chicago, have hit something close to rock bottom in the Josh McDaniels era. When you get mauled by the Bears, something is terribly wrong. And to make matters worse, what happened at Soldier Field was not surprising to those who have been following (or fading) McDaniels.
“I liked the Bears,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said, “and we did very well on that game.”
The Raiders, who closed as 2.5-point favorites at DraftKings, were a popular play by the betting public. Why? Because the Bears are bad and were starting a no-name quarterback. (For the record, Murray did say last week the Bears were his best bet.)
While it’s getting difficult to defend McDaniels, who’s in the middle of his second losing season in Las Vegas, it’s simple to defend his offense. McDaniels’ offense has failed to score 20 points in any of seven games this season — the Raiders defeated New England 21-17 in Week 6, but the last two points were scored on a safety by the defense.
McDaniels’ hand-picked starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, is too physically fragile to be reliable and already has missed two starts with different injuries. McDaniels’ hand-picked backup, Brian Hoyer, lost his 13th consecutive start Sunday.
McDaniels’ game-management decisions are often baffling. He’s passive when the situation calls for being aggressive. The Raiders trailed the Bears 21-3 with 12 minutes remaining when McDaniels, who needed a touchdown to get back in the game, trotted out kicker Daniel Carlson for a 25-yard field goal.
With 5:36 to go, Hoyer threw an errant pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown to put Chicago up 30-6. McDaniels finally benched Hoyer, who never should have started.
“He’s obviously not a winner,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said of McDaniels, who was regarded as an offensive wizard while a coordinator in New England. “He was supposed to be the brains behind the Patriots’ success. It’s looking like it was because of Tom Brady.”
Without Brady to bail him out, McDaniels looks lost. He might be losing the locker room too, and star receiver Davante Adams has made comments that indicate he’s not a fan of his coach. When the Raiders go to Detroit for Monday Night Football in Week 8, Garoppolo is expected to return from a back injury and make the start. McDaniels and Garoppolo must get Adams more involved in the offense, and Las Vegas needs to pull an upset to change the trend of negativity and quiet the critics.
As Murray predicted and I warned last week on a VSiN show, don’t bet on the Raiders as road favorites when their coach is gutless, and their quarterback comes in with a 12-start losing streak — one of 10 betting lessons to take away from Week 7.
The Lions are far from the best team in the NFC.
Jared Goff’s surging MVP campaign suffered a major setback in Baltimore, where the Lions quarterback was sacked five times and intercepted once in a 38-6 loss. It was Lamar Jackson who looked like the MVP. Jackson passed for 357 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in his finest performance of the season.
Detroit’s offense (28 ppg) was dominated by one of the NFL’s best defenses. The Lions, who had taken advantage of weak opponents during a four-game winning streak, are not yet among the NFC’s elite (49ers, Eagles), but they will win more than 10 games because the schedule is about to get soft again.
Love means never having to say you’re sorry, but Jordan Love is making the Packers look sorry.
Love is blind. Love is patient … There are all sorts of love cliches. Here’s my favorite: Love is temporary insanity curable by marriage.
The Packers are married to their young quarterback for this season only. Love has one year to prove his worth, and it’s not going well so far. (I did not love the Packers this season, but I did really like their chances of winning the NFC North, and those chances are fading.) Love has tossed a total of six interceptions in the Packers’ last three losses to the Lions, Raiders and Broncos. He was playing OK against a bad Denver defense until he made an awful decision by throwing deep into double coverage and getting picked off to seal a 19-17 loss. Instead of throwing to wide-open running back A.J. Dillon for what could have been a big play down the left sideline, Love was blind to Dillon and chucked the ball up for grabs.
I always preach being patient with quarterback prospects, but Love is testing that patience after my losing bet. Green Bay has other problems — rookie Anders Carlson shanked a short field-goal attempt Sunday, injuries have piled up, and coach Matt LaFleur is not a great play caller — but Love must play much better if the Packers (2-4) are going to get Over their win total of 7.5.
Mac Jones is not always a bad quarterback.
In 2021, Jones finished second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting and made the Pro Bowl. Last year, his play declined amid mass confusion on the New England coaching staff, which employed a defensive coach as a clueless offensive coordinator. Jones has been a mistake-riddled mess for most of this season for a variety of reasons. His play in the Patriots’ 29-25 upset of the Bills was a reminder that Jones still can play. He finished 25 of 30 for 272 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He also outplayed Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen. The challenge for Jones will be to string together strong starts and not be a one-hit wonder.
The Bills’ demise reinforced an important Survivor rule.
On our VSiN Tonight show, co-host Wes Reynolds and I often talk about how it’s unwise to use road teams in divisional games in the Circa Survivor contest. Home ‘dogs are especially dangerous in division rivalries. Buffalo, a 7.5-point favorite at New England, went down in a decision that helped bookmakers by killing countless teasers and moneyline parlays.
“That was a good game for us,” Avello said. “What’s wrong with this Bills team? There’s definitely something wrong.” It was wrong to believe in the Bills, who took down 194 entries in Circa Survivor, which has 1,289 remaining entries. Seattle, a home favorite in a divisional game, was the top play with 1,078 entries. It was somewhat of a sweat, and it was ugly, but the Seahawks (-9) beat the Cardinals, 20-10.
The Giants’ win is why it’s important to respect divisional home ‘dogs.
Washington recently took a 20-point beating on its home field by the Bears. Why did the Commanders, with shaky quarterback Sam Howell, deserve to be 3-point favorites at New York? I pondered that question last week and found no answer, so the Giants were my bet, and it paid off in a 14-7 win. Howell was sacked six times and threw an interception. Tyrod Taylor played impressively for a second consecutive start, accounting for 304 total yards and two touchdowns, to give the Giants (2-5) hope of escaping the NFC East basement.
Beware of the public ‘dogs.
This is nothing new. It’s an old lesson not to be forgotten. It’s always attractive when good teams are getting points, but it’s always trouble when public bettors love a ‘dog. At DraftKings, the Lions closed as 3.5-point underdogs at Baltimore, and the Dolphins were 3-point ‘dogs at Philadelphia.
Detroit got down early and never had a shot. Miami, which has bullied weak defenses while rolling up impressive numbers, fizzled after halftime in a 31-17 loss to the Eagles. The Dolphins’ offense scored only 10 points and was shut out in the second half.
“The Dolphins were a popular public play,” Murray said. “With the Eagles covering, we will have a great day.”
The underachieving Chargers are still a bankroll-burning bust.
The Chargers are often a tantalizing team, and even the sharpest bettors continue to get fooled. Justin Herbert is an elite quarterback who’s surrounded by playmakers in what should be an exciting offense. The Chargers are almost always underachievers, too, and much of it has to do with their coach. Brandon Staley is the latest Chargers coach who’s unqualified for the job. He got the job due to his reputation as a defensive wizard, yet his defense is a disaster again this year.
Patrick Mahomes passed for 424 yards — with 321 coming in the first half — and four touchdowns as Kansas City, a 6-point favorite, rolled to a 31-17 win. The Chargers were shut out in the second half, and Herbert was not sharp in a two-pick performance. The Chiefs (6-1) have not lost since the season opener and are well on their way to winning the AFC West for the eighth straight year. No, the gap in the division is not closing, but you can bet the Chargers (2-4) will still draw sharp money when in the underdog role.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin continues to be an overachiever.
Pittsburgh, a 3.5-point underdog at Los Angeles, used a 14-0 fourth quarter to upset the Rams 24-17. Tomlin is money as an underdog. He’s simply a coach who has created a winning organizational culture. The Steelers are 4-2 and winning with smoke, mirrors and defense. The offense, after producing only 110 yards in the first three quarters, chipped in late, and the officiating crew also had a helping hand.
Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett got a questionable spot by the officials on what appeared to be a failed fourth-down sneak before the two-minute warning. Pickett did not appear to gain an inch yet was granted the first down. Game over.
NFL officiating is a nonsensical mess, and you are betting on flag football.
I had no dog in the fight — and Indianapolis covered as a 3.5-point home ‘dog in a 39-38 loss to Cleveland — but it was annoying to watch another clumsy officiating crew help lift the Browns to victory by throwing two controversial flags against the Colts defense on the game-winning drive.
Brutal officiating is a weekly problem around the league, and the NFL product is suffering. It’s dumb to say penalties should be relatively even for both teams, but in the Miami/Philadelphia game, the Dolphins were called for 10 penalties and the Eagles zero. It’s tough to handicap officiating, but there are three teams on the field, and the zebras are deciding too many bets.