One of the most accessible tools in a bettor's bag is taking a home underdog in a prime-time spot.
This week, it's really tough.
This week's home underdog is the Miami Dolphins. They're 2-7. They just broke a seven-game losing streak by beating the Houston Texans, maybe the least talented team in football. The Dolphins turned it over five times in that game. They might be without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has a fractured finger. The Dolphins haven't said who will start at quarterback.
And if you want to take the tried-and-true home dog in prime time, that's what you get. The Baltimore Ravens are 7.5-point favorites at BetMGM. That line doesn't seem inflated to a point where you feel you're getting too many points with a bad Dolphins team to pass up.
It's hard to explain how Miami fell off so hard. There have been injuries, but that doesn't explain it all. They were a 10-win team last season with a young core and a lot of draft and salary-cap capital. Somehow they are one of the worst teams in football this season.
Baltimore is hard to bet on too. The Ravens' 6-2 record is shiny and Lamar Jackson has a great case for midseason MVP but each week they seem to be in a coin flip game. It has just come up on their side just about every time. They're not bad but it's tough to lay 7.5 points on a team that has wins by 1, 2, 6 and 3 points. But at least they're winning, which is more than you can say for plenty of teams.
Still, at least he Ravens are good. If you have to bet on Thursday night football — it really is OK to pass on a game and you'd never bet this if it were a 1 p.m. Sunday start, though I understand the urge to have some Thursday night action — then that's the only side. Or else you're going to spent three hours on your Thursday night praying for the Dolphins to play well enough.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
If you can't stand the side, are there some props?
The problem is that Miami's quarterback situation means props are limited as of Thursday morning. There will probably be more once there's clarity on whether Tua Tagovailoa or Jacoby Brissett starts, but for now let's find one or two.
I like Mike Gesicki over 4.5 receptions. Regardless of who plays quarterback, they feed their tight end and Baltimore is one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to defending the tight end. I'll take the under of 63.5 rushing yards on Lamar Jackson. Jackson is great but this seems like a game, on a short week, in which the Ravens won't overexpose their quarterback in the run game.
How about other sports?
Not great news on that front. There's only one college basketball game involving a top 25 team, and it's Maryland hosting George Washington. There are only three NBA games. There's one college game, and it's not bad: North Carolina at Pitt. The NHL gives us the most on the schedule with 11 games. It would be fine if the NFL game was great but, well ...
What's the best bet?
I'll go with the Utah Jazz -9.5 over the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers played on Wednesday night at Denver, and the Jazz are very, very good at home.