What Would Make The Least Sense?

colts chiefs touchdown

“That’s so crazy, it just might work!” is a line rarely heard outside of hacky movies and TV shows, but it happens at the moment to have a real-life application: It’s just about the only line of thinking that could have landed an NFL bettor on a wager of the Indianapolis Colts to beat the Kansas City Chiefs outright on Sunday.

The Chiefs were undefeated, clearly a team with the pedigree to contend for the Super Bowl, and playing with the advantage of 10 days’ rest after a Thursday night win over the Chargers. The Colts were winless, despite a theoretically soft diet of the Texans and Jaguars to start their season — the latter a 24-0 embarrassment.

The Chiefs had prime 27-year-old Patrick Mahomes under center. The Colts countered with washed 37-year-old Matt Ryan.

These Colts defeating these Chiefs made absolutely no sense. But after enough bizarre plays went their way — including the ol’ drive-extending “abusive language” call against Chris Jones — Indy pulled out a 20-17 upset.

The public had bet heavily on the Chiefs. At PointsBet, for example, 83% of the spread bets and 84% of the moneyline bets were on the K.C. side. Just about the only logic supporting a bet on the Colts was the notion that the public is usually wrong.

Why else would you put your money on the team that just got shut out by the Jags to defeat the Chiefs? It’s either that, or … because it’s so crazy it just might work. Because this is the NFL, where sometimes the outcome that makes the least sense makes the most sense.

To wit: The Las Vegas Raiders are 0-3, by 13 points total. And six of those points they lost by came against the Cardinals in overtime, so their regulation point differential is just seven. The Raiders are the only 0-3 team in the NFL.

The only team without a victory in the NFL: The Las Vegas Raiders…

Over 8.5 win total bettors 😡 pic.twitter.com/4ovsKONAZF

— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) September 26, 2022

To wit, Part II: The Miami Dolphins have gotten through a brutal start to their schedule (Patriots, Ravens, Bills) with a 3-0 record that just as easily could read 1-2. And, in the process, they ended a 20-game streak of victory and defeat being determined by whether the opposing starting quarterback had an “O” in his surname, a ludicrous trend apparently jinxed by my colleague Jeff Edelstein.

To wit, Part III: When the Chicago Bears meet the New York Giants in Week 4, it will at least produce a 3-1 team, maybe even a 4-0 team.

Looking at the Week 4 slate as a whole, two lines stand out as almost incomprehensible most weeks of most NFL seasons: The New England Patriots are a 10-point underdog, and the Detroit Lions are a 6-point favorite.

Focusing specifically on the former of those two oddities, the Pats beating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field as a 10-point ‘dog with 36-year-old Brian Hoyer at QB would be the most unfathomable possible result next Sunday. It’s an outcome that makes less sense than any other theoretical outcome in Week 4.

So, especially if the public comes in heavy on the Packers all week, you know exactly what to do as a sports bettor. With that, let’s look at the opening lines and assorted betting odds and ends for Week 4.

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 16 games in Week 4:

Dolphins at Bengals (-3)
Vikings (-2.5) at Saints (in London)
Titans at Colts (-3)
Bears at Giants (-3)
Bills (-3) at Ravens
Chargers (-6.5) at Texans
Seahawks at Lions (-6)
Jets at Steelers (-3.5)
Jaguars at Eagles (-7)
Browns (-3) at Falcons
Commanders at Cowboys (-3)
Cardinals at Panthers (-1)
Broncos at Raiders (-1)
Patriots at Packers (-10)
Chiefs (-2.5) at Buccaneers
Rams at 49ers (-1)

Line move to watch

The Chargers probably should have given Justin Herbert and his fractured rib cartilage Week 3 off, but they didn’t. If they happen to in Week 4, expect that line against Houston to shrink — even if a Herbert this compromised isn’t necessarily any better than a healthy Chase Daniel.

The Rams-Niners line for Monday night seems almost certain to move as well, in part because the sportsbooks couldn’t agree Sunday night/Monday morning on what that line should be. WynnBET had the game a pick’em, but San Francisco was favored by 1 or 1.5 at other books, while several didn’t even have the game on the board at all.

Intriguing moneyline underdogs to consider

Continuing with the theme from the top of the column, there are lots of ‘dogs worth a long look this week — although most of them are chihuahuas (ya know, small dogs) in the +140 to +150 range.

I could see a case for backing the Dolphins (+140 at Cincy), Falcons (+126 hosting Cleveland), Ravens (+150 at home against the Bills), Commanders (+140 at Dallas), Jets (+165 in Pittsburgh), or Bucs (+130 in a Super Bowl LV rematch against the Chiefs). And then there’s the aforementioned Hoyer-over-Rodgers dart throw at odds as high as +405. But here are the three that seem like the best value:

Bronze medal: Jaguars +260 (BetMGM) at Eagles. A big thank you to the Jags for making me look smart for backing them with my gold-medal ML underdog pick the past two weeks, at +176 against the Colts and +280 vs. the Chargers. But I’m Philadelphia born and bred, so I’m sticking Jacksonville in the bronze-medal slot this week because I don’t want to be right about this one. But this Jags team is legitimately solid, and I’m even daring to dream about the 80/1 Trevor Lawrence MVP ticket I’m holding.

Silver medal: Texans +250 (PointsBet) vs. Chargers. Herbert is a top-5 NFL QB when he’s healthy. He’s not healthy. Every opponent has a shot against the Chargers right now. Even Lovie Smith’s Texans.

Gold medal: Titans +155 (BetMGM) at Colts. These teams have a lot in common: veteran QBs, powerhouse RBs (now that Derrick Henry has confirmed he’s alive), and a recent history of feasting on the weak AFC South. And both just got their first wins of the season in dramatic fashion. But the Colts feel more ripe for a letdown after scoring a victory they’ll have a hard time topping all season. Any plus-money on Tennessee in this spot is appealing, and +155 is just a bit too generous to resist.

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:

Chargers: Can tease down to -0.5 or +0.5 against the bumbling Texans.
Lions: Can tease down to pick ’em or +1 hosting the lowly Seahawks.
Eagles: Can tease down to -1 or pick ’em against former coach Doug Pederson’s Jaguars.
Packers: Can tease down to -4 or -3 against the probably Mac Jones-less Patriots.

Pick three (or more), pick 6 points or 7 (or 6.5), and let the sweating of a +140 or so return begin. Or — repeating last week’s advice — don’t. The Chargers and Eagles aren’t safe bets at all. Even the Lions and Packers feel mildly risky under the “bet on the illogical” premise. Sorry, teaser fans. Two of last week’s teaser candidates lost outright and I smell similar potential here.

Chalky survivor pool candidate of the week

The Packers are going to be extremely popular with anyone who didn’t use them in Week 2 against the Bears. But the Lions shape up as the most commonly checked box this week, because (a) hardly anyone in your pool has used them yet, and (b) there’s never going to be a better time to use them than when they’re hosting Seattle.

Most valuable MVP bet

You may have missed your best window to get a great price on either Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts, whose highest prices are now +700 and +800, respectively. Lawrence still holds some intrigue at +4000 at various books, even if it’s not quite the bonanza it was before the season. Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa has come down to between +1100 and +1600 at most books, but he’s still +2200 at PointsBet, which almost feels like decent value.

But now is not the time for a mid-range play or a longshot. Now is the time to pounce on the chalk, as the top two contenders’ prices are up in the wake of somewhat fluky defeats. Josh Allen is +300 or +325 at most sites, but +350 at Barstool, BetRivers, and other Kambi-backed books. And Mahomes is +600 in most spots, but a tasty +700 at DraftKings. As gaudy as Jackson’s stats are so far, it’s hard to pass on Mahomes for MVP when you can get him for the exact same price as you can Lamar.

Gadget plays

This column noted last week that betting the over on Lions games was a can’t-miss, and indeed, they hit it again … by a half-point. Hey, a win is a win. Detroit, with its high-powered offense and nearly nonexistent defense, is an outlier, though. In the NFL as a whole, through 47 games, only 17 have gone over, 29 have gone under, and one (Cardinals-Raiders in Week 2, which went to overtime) has pushed.
Looking for a team to blame for that under trend? How about Tampa Bay, which is 3-for-3 on going under with a defense that has allowed a mere 27 points in the first three weeks, stingiest in the league by far. It will be interesting to see if that defense holds the Chiefs in check on Sunday night. The line for that one is 44 points at most books.
Here’s another trend that, after three weeks, is beginning not to look random: The Eagles have outscored their opponents 72-21 in the first half, but have been outscored 29-14 in the second half. In each of the last two games, they’ve scored exactly 24 points in the first half and exactly zero in the second. At DraftKings, Philly is -4 (-105) in the first half Sunday and Jacksonville is +3 (-115) in the second half, both interesting wagers to consider in this clash between the teams with the second-best (Jags) and third-best (Eagles) point differentials in the NFL.
On a related note, the Arizona Cardinals have been outscored 31-0 in first quarters so far this season. At DraftKings, the Panthers -1 in the first quarter vs. the Cards on Sunday pays +145.

Photo: Jenna Watson/Indy Star/USA TODAY

Author: Ryan Gonzales