Bet on Football the Same Way You Invest in the Market

(This is the latest in MTS’ series of sports betting advice columns. Last week, we looked at how to utilize breaking news. This week, we learn how to identify trends worth betting on.)

Buy low, sell high. That has been the message for people investing in the stock market forever. When positive news is in the offing, add a company to your portfolio and watch as it rises in value as the information dissipates. On the flip side, dump a mining company when new restrictions on their prospecting are about to come down the shoot. Of course, guessing on the timing of key information is difficult. That being said, it is better to act early than late. The same holds true when betting on football games. If you are a week early, and lose one bet, but see a trend that is going to hold, you may cash tickets for a month or more. The proof is in the data. But what does the future hold?

Buy low, sell high. That has been the message for people investing in the stock market forever. When positive news is in the offing, add a company to your portfolio and watch as it rises in value as the information dissipates. On the flip side, dump a mining company when new restrictions on their prospecting are about to come down the shoot. Of course, guessing on the timing of key information is difficult. That being said, it is better to act early than late. The same holds true when betting on football games. If you are a week early, and lose one bet, but see a trend that is going to hold, you may cash tickets for a month or more. The proof is in the data. But what does the future hold?

Did you figure that the Jaguars were going to be improved this year? They were 5-10-1 against the spread last season, but played their best ball in the second half, going 4-4 straight up. If you bet on Jacksonville early this season, you got clobbered. However, your loses shouldn’t have gone more than two weeks. After a respectable opening day setback at Philadelphia – a game which the Jacksonville led 17-0 – the Jags did not show up in week 2, getting pummeled in Washington. At that point, it was pretty clear they were a bet-against team versus Indianapolis and San Diego, both games they failed to cover in weeks 3 and 4. However, whether you bet on the Jags or against them when they hosted the Steelers in week 5, it was clear they were a different team. They didn’t cover a six point spread in a 17-9 loss, but the defense played well and only a bad pick-six allowed Pittsburgh to cover. That was a turning point, and anybody who watched the game could have concluded that the two teams were fairly equal. Jacksonville covered against Tennessee on October 12, and beat the Browns last weekend. So what about the Jags this Sunday?

Jacksonville hosts Miami this weekend. Miami is a bit of a tough read. They’ve outscored opponents 98-48 in wins and been outscored 90-49 in loses. As you might expect looking at those numbers, the Fins have covered in all of their wins and failed to cash tickets in all of their losses. They have also yet to win back-to-back games and are 2-1 on the road. So let’s look a bit closer. What Jacksonville does best is stop the run. In their two covers, they have allowed 69 and 70 yards on the ground. Miami’s offense is all about the running game. If the Jags limit Miami’s ability to run – which they’ve done the last two weeks – the Dolphins point total is likely to be fairly low. Miami has averaged more than 160 yards per game on the ground in wins and a shade north of 100 yards per contest in losses. However, Jacksonville’s top tackler, Paul Posluszny, will miss the game with a torn pectoral muscle. How will that impact the defense? We don’t know. And therefore, we can’t bet on the game. That’s a lot of research for a “stay away” recommendation, but that’s how you win cash in the long-term, digging into games and finding winning angles. Would you like an example that will help you this week?

When the 2014 season began, it seemed reasonable that the Falcons and Lions, who meet this week in London, would be high scoring teams. The Lions averaged 32 points per game during seven wins last season and, with a new coaching staff this year, why not be optimistic that more wins were in sight? Atlanta was ravaged by injuries last season, but before Julio Jones got hurt, the Falcons tallied 24.4 points a contest in five games, though they still lost four of those. Both teams got off to great starts this year. Detroit creamed the Giants 34-14 in week one, and Atlanta outscored the Saints 37-34. However, the tide turned quickly. Carolina shut down the Lions 24-7 in week 2 and the Falcons dropped to 1-1 with a 24-10 setback in Cincinnati. What happened?

Interestingly, in the Lions’ win over New York, it wasn’t the offense that dominated, it was the defense. The Giants managed only 197 yards of offense and turned the ball over twice. Detroit had two scoring drives of less than 20 yards. Take those 10 points off the board, and they score a solid but not spectacular 24 points. Against the Panthers, Detroit turned the ball over three times leading to a couple of short field scores for Carolina. While the Panthers were limited to 62 yards on 24 carries, the Lions’ offense was weak.

As for the Falcons, 2014 has turned out to be deja vu. Last year, marquee skill position players got injured, this year it has been the Goliaths upfront. After beating New Orleans in the opener, Atlanta has played with a makeshift offensive line ever since. The result is that Atlanta has scored more than 20 points just twice in the last six games. Against average or worse NFL defenses the last three weeks, the Falcons have tallied a total of 40 points.

The Lions lead the league in total defense and are second in points allowed per contest, while Detroit’s offense is among the bottom third in the league. Take out two high scoring outliers for the Falcons, one when healthy and the other when the Bucs forgot to show up for a Thursday Night game, and they struggle to put points on the board. Detroit’s games have gone under the total six times in eight games. The Falcons have been under three straight weeks. I hope the fans in the UK like good defense and lots of punts. Based on all of the aforementioned information, our analysis leads us to believe that continuing to bet unders on these teams is a solid play.

(Photo credit: By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Blake Bortles) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)