In the NFL, wins and losses don’t matter. At least that’s what the sportsbooks are telling us with their opening lines on Sunday’s game in Jacksonville between the Jaguars and the New York Giants.
The Jaguars, with a record of 2-4, losers of three straight, including a particularly pathetic home defeat to the Texans in which the Jags could only muster 6 points, are favored by a full field goal over the 5-1 New York Giants. The latter are a perfect 5-0 outside the NFC East and in the last eight days have defeated both the Packers and Ravens.
Based on results so far, this line makes no sense. It’s entirely illogical.
Then again, if you throw out wins and losses and look purely at talent on the field, and you also happen to be a big believer in regression to the mean, maybe it’s entirely logical.
The Giants’ offense features Daniel Jones, a middle-of-the-pack QB by almost any metric, averaging the same 6.4 yards per attempt as Carson Wentz and Jacoby Brissett, throwing to a no-name receiving corps. The defense is solid — eighth best in points allowed per game, 15th in yards allowed per game — but by no means spectacular. What the G-Men have is an elite, healthy RB in Saquon Barkley and a first-year coach making all the right moves in Brian Daboll.
And, whether by luck or by superior coaching or by some combination thereof, New York keeps eking out wins. It opened the season with a 1-point victory in Tennessee thanks to a ballsy 2-point conversion and a wide-left Titans field goal. With two 50-yard-plus FGs in the fourth quarter, it slipped past the Panthers by 3. After a 7-point loss to Dallas, the Giants topped the Bears by 8, Packers by 5, and Ravens by 4.
Yes, the Giants are 5-1 — with just a plus-14 point differential.
The Jags, on the other hand, are sub-.500 despite being plus-24 in the points column. Trevor Lawrence and company have lost games by 6, 8, 7, and 7 points while winning by 24 and 28. They’re mired in third place in quite possibly the worst division in football because the past two weeks they’ve found ways to lose against AFC South rivals.
Imagine the 5-1 Vikings against the 2-4 Bears in Chicago right now. Or the 5-1 Bills visiting the 2-4 Cardinals. Those road teams would be favored by somewhere in the vicinity of a touchdown. But the 5-1 Giants at the 2-4 Jags sees Jacksonville -3 at such books as FanDuel, Caesars, and FOX Bet, while DraftKings and BetMGM show the Giants a half-point more respect with a 2.5-point line.
The bookmakers are saying these teams are roughly even on a neutral field. It’s up to the betting public to decide if that’s correct or if there’s some reason, other than the randomness of the way the oblong ball bounces, that the Giants keep winning and the Jaguars keep losing.
(And while they’re at it, maybe they can figure out what to do with the 4-2 New York Jets as field-goal-ish underdogs against a cruddy Broncos team in Denver on Sunday.)
Let’s take a look at the rest of the opening lines and assorted betting odds and ends for Week 7.
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 14 games in Week 7. (Unfortunately for fans of good football, the Eagles, Bills, Vikings, and Rams all have byes.)
Saints at Cardinals (-1.5)
Falcons at Bengals (-6)
Lions at Cowboys (-7)
Colts at Titans (-2.5)
Packers (-5.5) at Commanders
Buccaneers (-10) at Panthers
Giants at Jaguars (-3)
Browns at Ravens (-6.5)
Jets at Broncos (-3.5)
Texans at Raiders (-7)
Seahawks at Chargers (-7)
Chiefs (-3) at 49ers
Steelers at Dolphins (-7)
Bears at Patriots (-7.5)
Line move to watch
The Green Bay-Washington line is in no-man’s land at 5.5 points. But people usually have to, ya know, place bets in order to make a line move. Can you imagine anyone feeling comfortable putting money on either the Packers or the Commanders right now?
The line that actually may move the most is the one with the least time to move, Saints at Cardinals on Thursday night. Both teams are 2-4 and need this one to stay in the playoff hunt, both have injury uncertainty, the Saints have no idea yet who their starting QB will be, and DeAndre Hopkins is an X-factor as he returns from suspension this week. This line is probably going to keep bouncing a half-point in all directions until kickoff.
Intriguing moneyline underdogs to consider
If Week 6 taught us anything, it’s that every dog should be considered live. Steelers over Bucs?! Jets winning at Lambeau?! Falcons over 49ers?! Giants topping Ravens?! If I’d parlayed those four on the moneyline, I’d be enjoying day one of my retirement right now instead of writing this column. But, alas, the grind continues with these underdog picks:
Bronze medal: Giants +130 (WynnBET) at Jaguars. See the opening item of this week’s column. The Giants have been finding ways to beat teams better than the Jags, making it hard to resist plus-money — even short plus-money — on them to keep the hot streak going.
Silver medal: Falcons +220 (PointsBet) at Bengals. The Falcons improved to 6-0 ATS by handling the 49ers on Sunday while evening their record at 3-3 in the non-wagering world. They’re better than almost anyone imagined coming into the season. And Cincy, also 3-3, hasn’t found its Super Bowl form from last year yet. It’s possible that the “Ja’Marr Chase is unstoppable” tour is getting underway after his 7-132-2 line against the Saints, but if not, Atlanta is all sorts of attractive at this price.
Gold medal: Seahawks +260 (Kambi sportsbooks) at Chargers. Like the Falcons, the Seahawks just keep exceeding expectations and can’t get bookmakers to notice. The Chargers lost outright six times as favorites in 2021 and once so far this year, making +260 on the frisky ‘Hawks awfully tasty.
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:
Bengals: Can tease down to pick’em or +1 against the ATS beast Falcons.
Cowboys: Can tease down to -1 or pick’em with Dak probably back against the Lions.
Buccaneers: Can tease down to -4 or -3 trying to get right in Carolina.
Ravens: Can tease down to -0.5 or +0.5 hosting the AFC North rival Browns.
Raiders: Can tease down to -1 or pick’em coming off a bye week against the Texans.
Chargers: Can tease down to -1 or pick’em against those surprisingly competent Seahawks.
Dolphins: Can tease down to -1 or pick’em in what should be Tua’s return vs. the Steelers.
Patriots: Can tease down to -1.5 or -0.5 hosting the bumbling Bears.
Pick three (or more), pick 6 points or 7 (or 6.5), and let the sweating of a +140 or so return begin. In a season in which teasers have mostly been losers so far, at least we have a lot to choose from in Week 7. The Pats look like the safest team to start with — which, of course, just means you should stay the hell away from the Pats and throw darts at three of the other favorites.
Chalky survivor pool candidate of the week
Last week we isolated the Rams, Bucs, and Packers as the chalkiest choices, and indeed they were — and two of the three lost. So did the fourth-most popular choice in the Circa Sportsbook contest, the Niners. It’s been such an upset-riddled season that some smaller survivor pools are probably finished already. But in those that are still running, figure the Patriots (vs. Chicago) will be the most popular pick this week — in part because more entrants have likely already used Tampa Bay.
Most valuable MVP bet
I may have to nix this section of the column soon, because MVP is effectively a two-horse race already. Maybe Justin Herbert at 16/1 or Joe Burrow in the 25/1 range has an outside shot if their teams heat up and go nearly undefeated the rest of the way. And I guess you can’t totally count out Patrick Mahomes — though at +500, there’s no value there whatsoever.
The reality is that, even though a dozen weeks of football are still to be played, the MVP is a near-lock to go to either Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts unless both get injured. The Bills QB is playing a half-notch above and putting up bigger numbers, while the man under center for the Eagles has the distinction of quarterbacking an undefeated team — and an undefeated team that may actually be favored in every single remaining game on its soft schedule.
The best price on Allen is +150 at FanDuel and BetMGM. The best price on Hurts is +460 at FanDuel. If and when the Eagles lose once, Allen figures to flip to a minus-money favorite.
Like MVP, the Coach of the Year race is already down to two clear frontrunners, and one of them again comes courtesy of the Eagles — and both of them coach in the NFC East. Eagles boss Nick Sirianni is the clear favorite at +150 at bet365, while Daboll is within sniffing distance at +400. Nobody else is shorter than 12/1.
While Hurts’ Eagles and Allen’s Bills haven’t been underdogs yet this season and possibly never will be, the Jets and Falcons both have yet to be favored. Figure on that streak to end for the Jets with a home game against the Bears on Nov. 27, while Atlanta will get to experience the pressure of giving points two Sundays from now, on Oct. 30 at home against the Panthers.
Mahomes is now 0-1 against the spread in his career as a home underdog. I’m going to check with the US Bets analytics team to find out whether this is a large enough sample size from which to extrapolate.
Heading into Monday night, unders are now 54-36-1 this season, boosted by a 9-4 Week 6 so far. That means a bettor who risked $110 on every under at -110 odds would be up $1,440 on the season.
Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/USA TODAY