The San Francisco 49ers dominated the LA Rams 31-10 on Monday night just, when everybody counted them out. That weekly dynamic in the NFL is what drives casual football fans wild and sports bettors crazy. You come to expect the unexpected and hold yourself back from getting too carried away with what you just saw. The market's value of a team swings like a pendulum during the season as you rack your brain relentlessly to determine exactly when it's moved too far.
Bettors will play off a team's most recent performance whether it was positive or negative. This approach has actually been very successful this season. Teams that failed to cover the spread in their last game are 44-21 ATS (67%) when playing teams that did. Last week, these teams were 4-1 ATS with Dallas, New Orleans, Carolina, and Philly all bouncing back and bringing home the money for their backers. Trends like this should never be the foundation of your wager, but it's always valuable to keep an eye on the weekly market reactions to the teams. There are five games on this weekend's NFL card that fit this zig-zag approach. Here are three that are worth a wager.
Baltimore (-6.5) at Chicago
I am still shocked at how poorly Baltimore played last week in Miami, but it's been that type of year for Ravens backers. Baltimore is 1-6 ATS as a favorite and 0-5 as a favorite of six points or more. There is no way to sugarcoat it, but there is a silver lining. The market has adjusted and that's why I think there is value with the Ravens.
The Ravens closed at the same number (-6.5 favorites) at home against Cincinnati in Week 7. Even with Baltimore playing on the road, it's hard to see how Chicago's home-field advantage is equivalent to the gap between the Bengals and Bears. The greatest asset for the Bears playing at home might be the wind. Baltimore is tied for the league lead in rushing yards and is second in rushing attempts behind the Titans. If there's a team built to go to Chicago and run on all cylinders, it's the Ravens.
Baltimore's defense is uncharacteristically its biggest weakness, allowing the second-highest yards per play in the league. Are you comfortable betting on Matt Nagy's offense that ranks 31st in scoring to take advantage? I will be the first to admit Justin Fields is making progress, but the output still isn't there. Chicago's offense is only ranked 25th in success rate over the last three weeks. This line should be over the key number of 7 and I'm happy to buy Baltimore low off their biggest blunder on Thursday night. A 17-10 Ravens win will get us to the window.
Tampa Bay (-10.5) at NY Giants
After powering a Super Bowl run last season, Tom Brady's offense came out of the bye week with a hangover and paid the price against Washington. Don't let that distract you from the fact that the Bucs are still far superior to the New York Giants. New York covering in three straight games and coming out of their bye week well-rested creates just enough narrative to keep this number short.
Tampa Bay averages 31 points per game and ranks No. 2 in the league in EPA per play. The Bucs will score against a Giants defense that allowed 44 and 38 in back-to-back weeks against comparably explosive offenses in the Rams and Cowboys. They also failed to keep pace in both games, losing by 24 and 27 points. The Bucs are 3-0 ATS as double-digit favorites while outscoring their opponents 131-45 in those three games.
Brady comes in focused and doesn't let up on the organization that beat him twice in the Super Bowl.
Indianapolis (+7) at Buffalo
These two teams showcased two contrasting efforts against non-threatening opponents. The inconsistent Colts underwhelmed in a classic letdown spot, failing to cover as double-digit favorites against Jacksonville. Indianapolis is still 5-2 ATS over their last seven games, and Indianapolis enters this game with motivation after clawing themselves back into contention at 5-5.
The Bills throttled the Jets one week after losing 9-6 to the same Jaguars that wouldn't let the Colts pull away. I have Buffalo rated as one of the top teams in the AFC. I don't even think the Colts finish with a winning record, but this number just feels too big. The Bills' defense ranks No. 1 across the board and is the second-best rush defense behind Tampa Bay's.
That won't deter Frank Reich from firing Jonathan Taylor into that Buffalo defense 25 times on Sunday. I think the Colts employ a similar game plan that we saw last postseason, when they got the cover in Buffalo. They will play for time of possession to keep their struggling secondary off the field. Indianapolis took Baltimore to OT in the only game they were underdogs of six or more this season. I wouldn't mind if the snow scheduled for early next week made a surprise appearance, but I am happy with taking the Colts at the key number of 7 regardless.