As usual, I am going to take a dive into that week’s slate of games and try to dig up some trends. Hopefully, they give us an edge when making game selections each week.
Of course, trends are trends…until they’re not. Sometimes betting on the other end of a trend ending can be advantageous. The goal here isn’t to plant a flag based on a trend, rather to simply shine a spotlight on these trends that exist and talk through some of them as food for thought.
Dogs Keep Barking
If betting in 2019, it’s been better to receive than to give. Week 10 was another big week for underdogs, going 9-3-1 against the closing line. That now pushes their season total to 85-60-3 (57.4%) for the season. Through 10 weeks, underdogs have posted just one losing week.
The Spreads Keep Growing, But the Totals Keep Going Under
Vegas hasn’t held their punches this season when it comes to setting wide margins. So far through 10 weeks, we’ve already had 22 favorites laying double-digit points when the lines closed. That mark is the highest through 10 weeks of a season since 2011. This week we have another three more favorites giving double-digit points to their opponent in the 49ers (-11.5), Vikings (-10.5), and Raiders (-10).
This is rarified for Oakland as Sunday is just the third time since 2003 the Raiders have been double-digit point favorites. The last time they were favorite of 10 or more came back in Week 13 of 2017, when they were 10-point favorites against a Giants team starting Geno Smith, which Oakland ended up winning 24-17. It’s easy to see how we got here with Oakland this weekend. Cincinnati has lost three straight games by double-digit points and has hit its implied team total set by Vegas just once this season, the fewest in the league.
The Vikings have six wins of 10 or more points, which trails only New England (seven) this season. They are hosting the Broncos this Sunday, who have not been in this spot as huge underdogs often. Denver hasn’t been a double-digit underdog since Week 4, 2011 and has been a double-digit dog just six times since 1990.
Perhaps the most surprising double-digit favorite this week is the 49ers against the Cardinals. San Francisco was just 10.5 point favorites against Arizona two weeks ago and came away with a 28-25 win. Arizona is tied with Green Bay for the league’s best record against the spread this season at 7-3.
With these large lines becoming more and more regular as a weekly occurrence, have any trends developed? Three of the 22 double-digit dogs this season have won outright, with two coming last weekend from the Falcons and Dolphins. In terms of covering, dogs are 12-10 against the line, but are 7-4 ATS over the past four weeks.
There’s not much there to latch onto, but the game totals tell a different story. In these games with such a large discrepancy, the UNDER has gone 16-6. This is with just six of those 22 games having a game total of 47 points or higher. All nine games in this sample with a game total over 44 points have gone under. Two such games this weekend fall under those parameters with ARI at SF (45 points) and CIN at OAK (48.5 points).
Obviously, these large lines are set with the implication of two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum of the league, but they are also due to the underdogs having anemic offenses. Just one of these 22 dogs had an implied team total over 18.75 points in a game this season with 17 of the 22 having an implied team total of fewer than 17 points. Knowing their individual team totals are already set that low, 15 of those 22 teams have failed to even hit their implied team total. Just five have scored more than 17 total points, with 14 of them scoring 14 or fewer points and 10 posting 10 or fewer points. Favorites in these games have scored 67.1% of the total points scored and haven’t been able to carry the game totals to the over all by themselves.
The hottest bet going right now is the Miami Dolphins. Miami has covered in five consecutive games, the longest current streak in the league. Them covering dovetails into the open as they’ve been double-digit-point dogs in three of those five games, but have also covered as 6- and 3.5-point dogs over that span, albeit against Washington and the Jets.
When the Dolphins last played the Bills in Week 7, they were a massive 17-point underdog and lost that game 31-21. This week, the Dolphins enter this Sunday as 6-point dogs, matching the second-lowest line they’ve had all season, which was against Washington.
Streaking in the wrong direction, the Lions have failed to cover in four straight games while being an underdog in three of those four games. With Matthew Stafford’s status now in question for this week and beyond, Detroit enters Sunday as a 4.5-point dog.
In an even worse funk than the Lions against the spread, Tampa Bay has dropped five straight games against the line and is now a league-worst 2-7 against the spread on the season. The Bucs have only been favored in one of those games. But at least the Tampa Bay games have provided a plethora of points. The OVER has hit in seven consecutive games involving the Bucs. Over that span, their games have featured an average of 65.3 points scored per game with the lowest total being 50 combined points. That includes a 55-point game total when they last played the Saints in Week 5 when Teddy Bridgewater was under center for New Orleans.
Chiefs of the Division
Kansas City has won and covered both of their division games this season, something they have done at a better rate than any other team in the league over the past five years. Since 2015, the Chiefs have a dominant 23-3 (88.5%) record against their divisional opponents, the highest mark in the league. Not only winning games, but they are also a league-best 18-8 (69.2%) against the spread over that span in divisional games. During that run, they are 8-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread versus the Chargers, though one of the losses and failed covers came when these teams last played and the Chargers won 29-28 in Week 15 of last season.