Three weeks into the season and underdogs continue to dominate the conversation in betting circles. The dogs have rewarded backers with an impressive 29-19 record, but your betting approach determines whether you maximize your profits. Out of the 29 underdogs that covered the spread this season, 21 of those underdogs hit on the moneyline. NFL teams that cover the spread as an underdog are winning the game outright at a 72.4% rate. Last season, the rate was much closer to 55-60%, so expect some regression as the season matures.
Good things don't last forever in sports betting, and we have already seen the market adjust to the underdogs. After 11 covered in the opening week, dogs have been 9-7 in each of the last two weeks. Let's take it one step further and examine which type of underdogs are driving these results.
"Short dogs" or underdogs of 3.5 points or fewer are 19-7 (73%), with all but two teams cashing as moneyline winners. Minnesota and Indianapolis covered the spread in Week 2 but lost the game. The other 17 of 19 short dogs were victorious. I don't expect them to continue to win outright at a 90% rate throughout the season, but it's enough for me to place some moneyline bets on short dogs in Week 4.
Seahawks (+125) at 49ers
Seattle is being undervalued by the market here as they are coming off their second consecutive loss. Are you ready to bet this 12-4 team from last season will drop to 1-3? I'm not. San Francisco is very talented, but it's hard to justify rating them over Seattle even at a home. Which of the first three games did the 49ers impress? The eight-point win over the Lions? It wasn't the win over the Eagles where they were outgained in total yards and yards per play. The Packers' loss showed major holes in the secondary Russell Wilson will surely exploit. Seattle leads the NFL with 7.4 yards per play. Both these teams end up 2-2 as Seattle wins this one outright.
Ravens (-105) at Broncos
Am I betting against Teddy Bridgewater? The Denver QB is the "King of Covers" with an incredible 38-14 ATS record as a starter. As difficult as this is for me, I think this is a great matchup for Baltimore. The Ravens are coming off back-to-back wins and this is a big step up in competition for Denver. The Broncos have faced three teams with a combined record of 0-9 this season. Baltimore's defense looked much better with Jimmy Smith returning and the offense is fifth in yards per play this season. If the offense can't get going, you are never out of field-goal range with Justin Tucker in altitude. The Ravens will have to protect Lamar Jackson better, but I like the Ravens to snap Denver's streak.
Indianapolis (+105) at Miami
Jacoby Brissett gave Dolphins fans a valiant effort last week in Vegas, but you can't win football games throwing the ball 49 times for 4.4 yards per attempt. Brissett's lack of aggression makes the Miami offense easy to defend, and the porous offensive line only makes his job harder. Miami is 28th in offensive DVOA, 30th in yards per play, and 31st in EPA/Play and explosive pass rate.
It doesn't matter how ineffective Carson Wentz is as long as the Colts can execute a hand-off. The Dolphins defense is outside the top 20 in rushing success rate allowed and has allowed more rushing first downs than all but six teams. It won't take many points for the Colts to cash this moneyline ticket.
Lions (+125) at Bears
Everything screams Lions as Dan Campbell's team has looked much better than Chicago so far this season. The Bears offense is the worst in the NFL, which makes the Lions live as a road divisional dog. However, I cannot bet real American currency on Dan Campbell and Anthony Lynn being able to manage the end of the game to ensure a victory. It could easily be a winner, but it's not for me. Good luck.