The Ten Commandments of NFL Betting

NFL Jan 03, 2021

So, another NFL regular season has been completed.  What have we learned?  Well, hopefully lots of things!

Here's our Ten Commandments of NFL Betting (the 2021 edition):

[1]  Thou shalt not bet on any team playing in a "must win" game.

There's a reason these desperate teams are in a "must win" situation.  It's because during part of the season, they sucked!  They lost games they should have won!  Consider the Browns playing the third-string Steelers taxi squad, and not even coming close to covering the spread.  Or, the Miami Dolphins losing by 30 (thirty!) to Buffalo, which had nothing on the line!  And all Arizona had to do was win, playing against a banged up Rams team.  They lost by double digits.  Don't bet on "must win" teams.

[2]  Thou shalt not bet on the Cleveland Browns in any game....ever!

The Browns have been outscored by their opponents this season.  Read that again.  More points allowed than points scored.  That's astonishing for an 11-5 team.  Thing is, the Browns are no better than an average lineup,  On Sunday, most of the Steelers starters took the day off, and Cleveland almost blew it at home.  They came within a failed 2-point conversion of overtime.  Forget the Browns and Baker Mayfield.  This is a team to fade in any big game.

[3]  Thou shalt not bet on any team that's quarterbacked by a graduate of USC.  

Sam Darnold is just the latest soft Southern Californian to stink up the NFL.  Sure, the Jets are terrible, but Darnold's numbers should be much better.  Losing to the disinterested Patriots today by two touchdowns, while scoring just 14 points, is further proof that USC quarterbacks don't make it in the NFL.  Boosted by great offensive lines, often playing in 72-degree weather, their stats are often inflated versus bad PAC-12 defenses.  Once they get to the NFL, former USC quarterbacks melt like soft butter.  Check out this list of flops – Cody Kessler, Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer (who was decent), Todd Marinovich, Rodney Peete, Sean Salisbury, Tim Green – yuck!

[4]  Thou shalt never bet on the Dallas Cowboys when winning the division is on the line.

Dallas always folds up like a cheap suitcase when the NFC East title is at stake.  It happened last year in Philadelphia in the final game of the season.  And, it happened today in New York against the Giants.  And – it's going to keep on happening with this team playing under the sword of the incompetence of Jerry Jones and his minions running football operations.  Today's loss was to emblematic of the Cowboys in big games – stupid defensive penalties, duckwalking arrogance, and gutless performances from the "stars" in crunch time.  Consider the Cowboys defensive backs intercepting a pass late in the 3rd quarter on Sunday, and running into the end zone in a choreographed celebration.  Oh, Dallas was losing 20-9 at the time.  Dumb.  Worst team against the spread this season at just 5-11 versus the number?  You got it – Dallas.

[5]  Thou shalt not bet against "hot" teams, no matter what the spread is or the circumstances are.

No team is hotter at the moment than the Buffalo Bills, which are streaking into the playoffs and scoring a ton of points.  However, in the regular season finale versus Miami today, the Bills has little to play for.  That's why the Dolphins were -1.5 favourites in Buffalo.  Many bettors not only expected Miami to win, but the money flowed in on the Dolphins all week, especially given the way the defense had been playing.  Well, Buffalo had other ideas of its own.  Even with backups playing parts of the game, they throttled the Dolphins for 56 points.  Buffalo didn't even seem to be trying.  It was that easy.  This is a team to get on board with, and even though Kansas City remains the rightful favourite to reappear in the Super Bowl, Buffalo may have something to say about that.  Bet Buffalo in the playoffs until they lose, and it's possible – they might not lose another game this season.

[6]  Thou shalt not expect a bad team to cover the pointspread.

Cincinnati was getting +13.5 today.  The NY Jets were getting +3.  Jacksonville was getting +14.  Carolina was getting +7.  Atlanta was getting +6.  Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam!  0-5.  All these dogs failed to cover the spread.  Yeah, some really bad teams – notably Detroit and Houston – covered the spread and almost won outright.  But teams with losing habits don't usually break into the win column at season's end.

[7]  Thou shalt not automatically assume meaningless games will go UNDER the total.

It seems logical to assume that games with no playoff implactions will field disinterested starters and offenses that won't be motoivated to score many points.  However, in the four games in which neither side had any playoff chances or any way to improve their seeding, all four of those games when OVER the total.  The Lions-Vikings games hit 72 points.  The Raiders-Broncos game hit 61.  The Chargers-Chiefs game hit 59.  And, the Jets-Patriots game hit 42.  All OVERs.

[8]  Thou shalt not always believe midweek injury reports as the gospel truth.

During mid-week, two NFL teams announced they'd start lesser-tested backup quarterbacks.  Jared Goff wasn't expected to play for the Rams since he had a thumb injury.  And banged-up Cam Newton had been pulled in the previous game, leading many bettors to assume the final game start would go to young Stidham, the backup.  Of course, Goff and Newton both started and played the entire game.  Both the Rams and Patriots won, and covered – burning bettors who had relied on bad information.

[9]  Thou shalt make no assumptions that the team with the best record(s) are worth betting in the playoffs.

Kansas City finished the season with 14 wins and 2 losses, which was the NFL's best record.  However, the Chiefs have not covered the pointspread in their last eight games (seven ATS losses and one push).  Beware of hype when betting real money.

[10]  Thou shalt always expect the unexpected to happen.

Nothing stays the same – not from week to week, or month to month, or year to year.  San Francisco was a quarter away from winning last year's Super Bowl, but ended up finishing 6-10 (due mostly to a rash of injuries).  Dallas was favoured to win the NFC East and struggled to get to 6 wins.  No one expected the NY Giants or Washington to be competitive, but here they are on Sunday night in the final week neck a neck for the division title.  Chicago was written off as dead in mid-season, and they still managed to make the playoffs.  New Orleans lost Drew Brees to injury, but that didn't slow the Saints down one bit.  Buffalo was expected to win with a great defense, but it's the explosive offense that's carrying the Bills.  Houston won the division last year and ended up finishing 4-12 in a dismal season.  Oh, and the playoffs haven't even started yet.  We're in for more surprises, for sure.

Now, follow these commandments and go in peace.  Have a blessed 2021!