After five weeks of play in the NFL, one team remains unbeaten (Chiefs), three are still winless (49ers, Browns, Giants), and 21 are at or within a game of .500. Though parity may be at an all-time high, that doesn’t mean all teams are exactly the same. Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly thus far, and find the best betting angles for the coming weeks.
How to Wager on the 2017 NFL Outliers
The Good: Kansas City Chiefs
If Andy Reid retired today, he wouldn’t end up in Canton, but only because he hasn’t won a title. With the Eagles, he won 58-percent of his games, and in KC, it has been almost 70-percent. The Chiefs are 5-0, and Reid deserves a ton of credit. He’s worked Kareem Hunt into the offense flawlessly, has crafted game-plans that play to QB Alex Smith’s strengths, and helped the defense seamlessly adjust to the loss of All-Pro safety Eric Berry.
Because they have more skill-position talent than in the past, Smith is being more aggressive. He has averaged a career high 8.8 yards per pass attempt, and fired 11 touchdowns without an interception while completing over 76-percent of his passes. Don’t pencil him in as your NFL MVP just yet though. While he is better than the quarterback we saw in San Francisco for seven seasons, he is not as good as the guy we’ve seen through Week 5. Last year, he hit on 67-percent of this throws with 15 TDs and eight INTs. Hunt, like Smith, has been unsustainably incredible; the rookie simply cannot keep up this pace. In his last two games, both 100-yard efforts, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry, down from 8.5 yards per carry in his first three games. Again, he’s terrific, but not a one-man wrecking crew.
How to bet the Chiefs
Not only is Kansas City the only unbeaten team in the NFL, they are the only 5-0 club against the spread. The Chiefs are sitting amazingly pretty, with a 1.5 half game division lead over the Broncos, two games or more in hand over every other AFC team, and the head-to-head tiebreaker with New England. If the Chiefs go 8-3 the rest of the way they will almost surely be the number one seed in the playoffs. On a game-in game-out betting basis, the value is gone, everyone knows the Chiefs are really good. Week-to-week I am inclined to bet against the Chiefs knowing all the public money will be on them. The potential play, if you think they’ll win home playoff games against good teams, is taking KC at 13/2 to win the Super Bowl, or 13/4 to capture the AFC.
The Bad: New York Giants
At 0-5, you can make of the Giants what you want. Yes, they are winless, decimated by injuries, and Eli Manning is less than three months from turning 37 years old. There is a strong argument to tank and draft the quarterback of the future next summer. On the flip side, they have lost three straight games, two on the road, by less than a touchdown. Though a playoff berth this season is effectively out of the picture, a healthy version of this same roster could be 3-2 right now, and why breakup that band at this point?
How to bet the Giants
In the short term, the public will stay away from betting on New York, while sportsbooks will happily give you a boatload of points to side with the G-men. With games against Denver and Seattle coming up, it is time to stay away. However, they are likely to be 0-7 coming off a bye to start November. At that point, they will present a lot of value, be a bit more healthy, and have figured out who fills in for injured wideouts Odell Beckham Jr and Brandon Marshall. Keep an eye on their betting lines when they face the Rams and 49ers back-to-back in Weeks 9 and 10.
The Ugly: Houston Texans
Just when the Texans found their quarterback, perhaps the biggest defensive star in the entire NFL, JJ Watt, injures his knee and is out for the season. In the AFC South, the Jaguars, yes the Jaguars, are leading the pack at 3-2, with the Texans tied at 2-3 with both the Titans and Colts. Both Tennessee and Indianapolis are dealing with major injuries of their own, both at quarterback. But Houston might be in the worst shape. In addition to Watt going down, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus tore his pectoral on Sunday and will miss the rest of the campaign. The Texans had a good (potentially great) defense. It is unclear whether that is still true after the Watt and Mercilus injuries.
How to bet the Texans
This one is simple: bet against Houston. They were allowing 26 points per game, among the bottom-five in the NFL, through five weeks, and now must adjust to life without two studs. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is a tremendous young talent, but he is still a rookie. His numbers have been aided by garbage-time points in back-to-back home games. His 300-yard, two-touchdowns, two-interception performance against the Patriots is a lot more likely to be the norm than the five-score effort we saw against KC in Week 5. Houston will have to outscore people to win now, and that seems fairly unlikely.