The specific details may vary, but if you love the NFL and you love betting on the NFL, your ideal Sunday between September and December contains the following: a big-screen TV, a comfortable place to sit and/or lie, and nobody asking you to do anything.
Is there also pizza? Cold beer? A few buddies? A second or third or fourth TV? Different strokes on those fronts. But the key building blocks of a perfect Sunday spent sweating bets are universal.
The question is, how many Sundays like that per football season are you able to arrange? The answer is quite different for, say, a 23-year-old DFS pro with nobody to answer to and a 46-year-old casual bettor with three kids.
But whatever your circumstance, it’s probably not healthy to go full veg-out 18 Sundays in a row. You need a little break. You need the occasional Sunday where you get some work done around the house or you take a ride with the family or you go visit your grandmom.
Say hello to Week 11.
You have to be strategic about this stuff — you don’t want to commit to weather-proofing the deck or going deep-sea fishing with Dad on a Sunday loaded with can’t-miss games. This coming Sunday, however, screams “make some plans.” The slate, quite frankly, stinks.
Yeah, there’s one biggie: In the late afternoon window, Chiefs-Cowboys is a mega-marquee matchup. But the rest? Mismatches and meaningless dreck.
Sure, Indianapolis at Buffalo is potentially decent, if we get the better of the two possible versions of Carson Wentz. And Packers at Vikings is a solid divisional rivalry game, although the Vikes are below .500 and nobody has a clue if they’re actually any good.
But that’s it. Nothing else is intriguing, and some of it is just plain awful — like Dolphins at Jets and Niners at Jags. (Is it too late to make those both London games?)
Cardinals at Seahawks had marquee potential a month ago, but not after Seattle fell to 3-6 with a shutout loss in Green Bay. Patriots-Falcons on Thursday night could have been marketable because of their Super Bowl history, but not with Atlanta sub-.500 again and coming off a 40-point loss.
Imagine this conversation:
Honey, can you help me rake the leaves?
Sorry, can’t do it, Taylor Heinecke is leading the Football Team into battle right now against the Panthers.
If that’s your response, hope you like that couch — that convo is going to leave you sleeping on it for a while.
Week 11 is a spot to get out there and live a little. Step away from the big screen, stop staring at the small screen, and just check in on your bets later.
(But, ya know, ask a friend to text you at halftime of the Chiefs-Cowboys game if it’s a good one, so you can park yourself in front of a TV for the second half.)
Lackluster slate or not, let’s take an early look at the lines and assorted betting odds and ends for Week 11:
The consensus lines
Most lines vary by half a point in either direction, with slightly different vigs from book to book, so it’s always advisable to price-shop at all the available mobile sportsbooks in your state. But here are the consensus (most commonly found) spreads for each of the 15 games in Week 11 (the Rams and Broncos have bye weeks):
- Patriots (-6.5) at Falcons
- Colts at Bills (-7.5)
- Ravens (-6.5) at Bears
- Lions at Browns (-10)
- Texans at Titans (-10.5)
- Packers (-3) at Vikings
- Dolphins (-3.5) at Jets
- Saints at Eagles (-1.5)
- Washington at Carolina (-3.5)
- 49ers (-7) at Jaguars
- Bengals (-1) at Raiders
- Cowboys at Chiefs (-2.5)
- Cardinals (-3) at Seahawks
- Steelers at Chargers (-4.5)
- Giants at Buccaneers (-11.5)
Line move to watch
The books have already had trouble deciding who to favor in the Bengals-Raiders game in Vegas, with opening lines popping up at -1 or -1.5 in both directions, before everyone settled on visiting Cincinnati at either -1 (DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet, BetMGM, Caesars) or -1.5 (Barstool, BetRivers, TwinSpires).
But there’s still time for people to reassess whether the Raiders are due for a bounce-back after consecutive disasters against the Giants and Chiefs and whether the Bengals, off their own consecutive disasters against the Jets and Browns and then a bye week, are likely to stop the bleeding.
Notably, teams coming off their bye week so far this season are 7-8-1 and just 5-11-1 against the spread. So it wouldn’t be a shock to see Vegas money come in on the Vegas team and flip the Raiders back to a small favorite.
Of course, the real line move to watch is whichever game features a quarterback who tests positive for COVID late in the week.
Intriguing moneyline underdogs to consider
Bronze medal: Colts +270 (Caesars) at Bills. Buffalo has the better team on paper, but it’s just 1-2 against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. If the Indy O-line can keep Wentz upright, the Colts are a live ‘dog at this fairly steep price.
Silver medal: Steelers +190 (BetMGM) at Chargers. This bet only makes sense if Ben Roethlisberger is back in the lineup, but if indeed he clears COVID protocols, note that Pittsburgh is 2-1 on the road this season and the Chargers are 2-3 at home, where visiting teams with devoted fan bases — a fair description of the Steelers — tend to flip home-field advantage.
Gold medal: Jaguars +245 (FOX Bet) vs 49ers. This line was +210 before the Niners upset the Rams on Monday night. We’re getting an inflated price off what was probably a fluky result in a must-win game, and now the 49ers travel across the country for a trap game on short rest against a young team that is starting to believe it can compete.
Textbook teaser candidates
Fans of the three-team (or more) teaser know what to look for: favorites of 6 or more who become very safe bets if you reduce the spread by about a touchdown. Here are this week’s options that fit the bill:
- Patriots: Can tease down to -0.5 or + 0.5 Thursday night at the Falcons.
- Bills: Can tease down to -1.5 or -0.5 at home against the Colts.
- Ravens: Can tease down to -0.5 or +0.5 in Chicago against the Bears.
- Browns: Can tease down to -4 or -3 against the still technically winless Lions.
- Titans: Can tease down to -4.5 or -3.5 against the visiting Texans.
- 49ers: Can tease down to -1 or pick ’em on the road against the Jags.
- Buccaneers: Can tease down to -5.5 or -4.5 Monday night hosting the Giants.
Pick three (or more), pick 6 points or 7 (or 6.5), and let the sweating of a +140 or so return begin. Based on the “there aren’t any good teams” theory of last week’s column, any teaser is dangerous. Do you really trust the Bucs or the Browns right now? And just when you think you can trust the Pats or the Titans, that’s when the rug gets pulled out. If you’re going to tease, all we can advise is this: Don’t pay extra to cross zero with New England or Baltimore. Paying for the chance at a tie is only recommended when Mason Rudolph and Jared Goff are dueling in the rain.
Most Valuable MVP bet
Another week, another bunch of MVP contenders (Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Justin Herbert) stumbling. So where’s the value now?
We hate to say it, but it might be on the guy who won this award last year, Aaron Rodgers. He’s +1100 at FOX Bet and BetMGM. His stats are solid. And his value to his team — 8-1 with him, a miserable 0-1 without him — is undeniable.
Will the 50 sportswriters who vote on this award be willing to overlook the fact that Rodgers lied about his vaccination status and might have directly put the health of some of those writers at additional risk? That’s a complicated question. But if the Packers can lock up the NFC’s top seed (they’re currently the favorite to do so at +200), the voters might not have much choice.
How did we do last week?
This column is not really about betting advice — it’s more an overview of the NFL week ahead and a collection of ideas to think about — but we may as well have some accountability. So …
Last week’s best call: We told you there was good value on Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel for Coach of the Year at +900 and no value on Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury at +400. Now Vrabel is the fave at +450 at BetMGM, while Kingsbury has slipped to third place at +600.
Last week’s worst call: Everything else. Seriously, other than the Coach of the Year thing, our crystal ball was off its game last week. We backed the Falcons and Raiders as moneyline underdogs and passed on the Dolphins, Football Team, and Panthers. We said Tampa and Arizona were solid teaser options. We said Brady still had the best MVP value. Ugh, ugh, and ugh. Can we go back to talking about that Vrabel pick?
- What would a “Gadget plays” section be without a check-in on that five-team division-winner parlay (Bills, Titans, Cowboys, Packers, Bucs) we touted six weeks ago? For the first time since we suggested it, it lost value this week, slipping from -191 to -160. The Bills and Bucs are both teetering — the former because of the Patriots coming on strong, the latter by their own doing.
- Speaking of those hard-charging Patriots, if it’s not going to be Vrabel for Coach of the Year, it’s going to be Bill Belichick (currently +1000). One of those two guys is going to win this award. Book it.
- FanDuel is currently offering odds on nine teams to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC, compared to only five teams in the NFC. With literally every single team in the AFC North and West still in the hunt, it does make sense to have so many options there. (Interestingly, the 5-5 Broncos and 5-5 Browns aren’t on the board, nor are the 5-4 Saints in the NFC.)
- According to ESPN’s David Payne Purdum, underdogs are covering the spread 58.2% of the time this season and are winning outright 40.4% of the time. So as long as the average moneyline ‘dog is +148 or above, it’s been profitable to bet all the underdogs either way.
Photo: Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY