2018 NFL Bets

Week Five

After three depressing weeks of football betting, and another $500 or so (but who’s counting?), I skipped last week. That was probably the smartest thing I’ve done this month, but then again the month is still young. I still believe I have some sense of what the fuck I’m doing, but who knows. Maybe I am destined to lose at betting on the NFL.

This week, I have one pick and only one pick. Here it goes:

1. $200 on the Jaguars (+130) over the Chiefs (to win $260)

The Chiefs are my team, so I have watched a lot of Chiefs action this season. I think besides the first quarter of week one against the Chargers — I was asleep — I have seen every down Kansas City has played in 2018. They’re undefeated, 4-0, and Patrick Mahomes has been lighting the league on fire, so it hasn’t exactly felt like a chore. This team is awesome.

I’m picking against them this week for a couple reasons. The first is I like to win money when my favorite team loses, just to help me stomach it. The second has to do with the actual game, and my belief that the Chiefs on a short week (since they played on Monday Night) will be at a disadvantage against a team as complete as the Jaguars.

Las Vegas has the Chiefs as a 3-point favorite, meaning they view KC and Jacksonville as relatively even on paper. The home-field advantage the Chiefs will enjoy comes against the best defense in the NFL, and there’s some old cliche about how defenses travel well. I don’t know.

I’m guessing this will be a fairly close game, somewhere in the 20’s, but I think the Jaguars will be able to slow down Kansas City’s offense enough to come out on top. Final score:

Jags 26, Chiefs 23

Week Three

As far as my picks are concerned, I think I’ve already said everything that’s needed to be said. Despite taking significantly more winners than losers, it has yet to make any difference in my betting account. I just have to get smarter.

This week I’ll keep my explanations short, because sooner or later the results will have to speak for themselves.

1. $50 on the 49ers (+7) over the Chiefs (to win $41.67)

I just got done writing about how great Patrick Mahomes is, so now would be the ideal time for him to take a step back and make me look like another reactionary asshole blogger. Over the longterm though, be it ten years from now, five years from now, or even for the rest of the 2018 regular season, I expect Mahomes to be really good-to-great. But you can’t expect a second-year player, and first year starter, to light it the fuck up to the extent he has the first two weeks.

Yeah the Chiefs are at playing their home opener, and yeah the 49ers are 0-2 against the spread so far this year, but whatever offensive greatness Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs have put up through two weeks is no longer taking anyone by surprise. And clearly not Las Vegas. I predict a score of something like Chiefs 35, 49ers 31.

2. $50 on the Patriots, Rams, and Panthers on a three-team moneyline parlay (to win $97.78)

The Patriots (-300) are playing the Lions, the Rams (-300) are at home against the Chargers, and the Panthers (-145) are at home vs. the Bengals. The last of those three games worries me the most, because I’m actually pretty high on Cincy, but I just think the game means more to Carolina. In a division featuring the Saints and Falcons, as well as the remarkable 2-0 Buccaneers, there just isn’t enough time to be fucking around at home against teams from the AFC North.

Other than that, it’s about 6:30 in the morning west coast time, and football starts in three and a half hours. I’m about to set my alarm for 10:00, and probably take one of the most glorious naps ever after the Chiefs-49ers game is decided.

(As a total aside, Virginia Tech lost to a winless Old Dominion team 49-35 on Saturday. Usually on football weekends, when it rains it pours. So I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the Chiefs end up losing outright.)

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Results and Reviews: September 24, 2018

So, I suck at this. I really do. I don’t know what the hell is going on.

I took the 49ers (+7) to lose the game but still cover the spread. I turned out to be wrong only with regard to the former. Behind Patrick Mahomes the Chiefs rushed out to a dominant 35-7 halftime lead, scoring a touchdown on all five first half possessions. San Francisco owned much of the second half of the game, and even got as close as 35-24 with a few minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

My three team parlay looked decent after both the Panthers (-145) and Rams (-300) won by double digits, but it all unraveled when the Patriots (-300) lost a really, really ugly game to the Lions.

There’s a reason I only bet $50 apiece on this week’s games, because my confidence in picking winners through the first two weeks has dwindled. After another 0-2 spot in Week 3, I’m beginning to think I should just hang it up and wait for the basketball season underway.

Week Two

I’m not the sports fan I used to be. Where once I had a paid subscription to Rivals dot com — so I could get premium access to the high school recruiting world, of all things — now I just wait until the kids are playing in college before I watch. Where once I paid attention to the box scores of every minor league affiliate of the Texas Rangers, every day, during the baseball season, now I just look out for various top-100 prospect lists and reserve judgement until the minor leaguers actually make it to the bigs.

In other words, as Jason Parks used to say when he wrote for Baseball Prospectus, though it’s applicable to high school football and basketball players as well: Prospects will break your heart. I think I just got burned too many times by too many young talents.

It’s safe to assume that I was more knowledgeable about college and professional sports in my teenage years, but now I don’t have the time for that shit. At least not to the same obsessive extent. I do know for certain that if I was getting paid to follow sports as closely as I used to it wouldn’t be difficult to rekindle my old enthusiasm; sports have obviously to anyone who knows me always been my passion. No one would have to twist my arm to be in the analytics department of some MLB team. As it stands, however, I already have a job. Meaning sports are more for entertainment now than they’ve ever been, and particularly when compared against my middle and high school years.

As a mid-to-late-20-something the best part of my week, when football season is off and running, is listening to The Bill Simmons Podcast when he does Guess The Lines with Cousin Sal. Once a week they go through every game on the upcoming football slate, and they compete against one another to see which guesses the closest to the Vegas point spread.

Of course, it’s no fun to listen to Bill and Cousin Sal pick the lines without giving it a go myself. Each week before the podcast, and before I look to see what the official Vegas lines are, I independently predict what I think each point spread will be. I keep account in one of those checkered black and white composition notebooks, listing each matchup, my line, and the actual line. It’s a very simple chart, really. In my small two-year sample size I’ve noticed that the point spreads tend to be harder to guess at the beginning of the year before there is very much information. But by Week 8, or so, I’m usually able to get most of the games within a point or a point and a half.

Guess The Lines was like my gateway into really paying attention to the gambling element of sports. I’ve been betting on games for like five years now, but towards the beginning I didn’t have a good idea of what I was doing. That is really the goal of all of this: using my sports knowledge, and intuition, as a way to make money. It isn’t like I can make a living off of betting on sports. The same way I can’t make a living off of trading stocks. These are things that I do, but they aren’t what I rely on.

They’re changing the carpet at the casino I work at, so I don’t have to go in and deal craps tonight. That’s what I’m about, just as I’m about the following picks:

1. $100 on the Saints (-9.5) over the Browns (to win $90).

It’s a minor miracle that I am not betting every single dollar in my bank account on this game. The Saints defense got fucking embarrassed in their home opener against the Buccaneers, and if New Orleans is to get to double-digit wins it’s sort of imperative that they handle their business against teams like the Browns. (I could’ve said the same thing last week before they blew up both of my bets.)

I’ve got a stupid amount of love for Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who quarterbacked Virginia Tech during the brief time I was there, so I hope he has a good game. Only the type of good game I have in mind is the one where the Saints end up winning by at least 10 points. I could see a final score of something like 38-21.

2. $100 on the Redskins, Falcons and Dolphins in a three-team moneyline parlay (to win $336)

Anyway, I went 0-2 last week. What the fuck do I know.

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Results and Reviews: September 17, 2018

There isn’t very much to say about Week Two. My two picks again proved to be losers, and in retrospect I think they both smell of desperation. The Saints (-9.5) came nowhere close to covering at home against the Browns, and they are kind of lucky to have even won the game at all. The three-team parlay got destroyed pretty easily when Andrew Luck and the Colts ended up winning 21-9 against the Washington Redskins, who I didn’t think would have very much trouble at home themselves.

In two weeks my bets have gone 0-4, and I am $400 in the red. I think taking a couple weeks off of betting would probably be for the best, but who am I kidding? My main thing isn’t that I suck at picking winners, it’s that I’m too greedy to settle for sure things. No matter what I am gambling on — be it sports, craps, or blackjack — my risk/reward tolerance is to numbing levels.

Last week I went 5-1 picking individual games, and 0-2 with my bets. This week I went 3-1 picking winners, but the Saints didn’t cover and the Redskins loss killed my parlay bet. So it really didn’t matter.

Overall I feel like I still have a decent grasp of which teams are good and which teams are not good, even in spite of the Colts’ upset and the fact that the Bucs are 2-0. I plan on being vindicated, eventually, by my preseason predictions that neither of those teams will win more than 5 or 6 games. I know none of this means very much since I’ve yet to hit pay dirt on any of my bet slips.

Week Two bets: 0-2

Overall NFL bets: 0-4

Week One

For the first half of last year’s NFL season I picked every game against the spread and wound up a little better than .500. This year, though, I am only going to write about games that I’m actually betting on. That way it’s fair, since the more matchups I pick the more watered down each one is individually. If I have action, it means I care.

Below are my two bets for Week One:

1. $100 on the Saints , Panthers, and Bengals in a three-team moneyline parlay (to win $377)
The Saints are the biggest favorite in the NFL in Week One, both in terms of moneyline (-460) and point spread (-9.5). That makes sense considering New Orleans is the frontrunner in the AFC South this year, they are playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who figure to be one of the worst teams in the NFC — and to put the icing on the cake they are playing at home. This seems like a safe pick.

The Panthers (-150) are also playing at home, and just as with the Saints they are playing a team I don’t think will be very good this year. That opponent is the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t generally trust Cam Newton, so Carolina’s inclusion in this parlay says more about how dreadful Dallas is going to be. I picture a 26-13 type of game.

As for the third game, according to Vegas the Bengals (+135) are 3-point underdogs on the road against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Seriously? Are people actually sold on Indianapolis? Their over/under win total before the year was set at 6.5 wins, making them the favorite to finish in last place in the AFC South. Again, I’m not super fucking thrilled about Andy Dalton or Marvin Lewis running things for Cincinnati, so this is a pick against the Colts as much as it is a ringing endorsement of the Bengals. And, honestly, it kind of surprises me that you can get plus money on Cincy.

2. $100 on the Vikings, Ravens, Patriots, and Saints in a 4-team, 6-point teaser (to win $260)
Here’s the way teasers work: it’s like a parlay in the sense that you have to win every game to collect on the bet, but the difference is that the point spread gets adjusted in your favor. In this case I went with a 6-point teaser, meaning I am effectively buying 6 points.

That means the Vikings go from being -6.5 against the 49ers to -0.5; the Ravens go from being -7 against the Bills to -1; the Patriots go from being -6.5 against the Texans to -0.5; the Saints go from being -9.5 against the Bucs to -3.5. Basically: I just need the straight up wins from MIN, BAL and NE, and I need the Saints to win by at least 4 points. If all those things happen my $100 bet turns into $260 in profit.

Clearly I like Drew Brees and the Saints’ chances of cashing in against Tampa Bay, since I included them in both bets. In the moneyline parlay I need them to just win the fucking football game; in the teaser, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, since they are -3.5 I need them to win by 4 points to cover the adjusted spread. Tampa Bay has all the pieces in place to be a complete dumpster fire in 2018, and it would really warm my heart to see New Orleans hang a nice 38-7 Week One score on them.

It isn’t inconceivable that any of the 49ers, Bills or Texans could sneak out a road upset against the group of teams I bet on. After all, it is Week One, and weird shit tends to happen in the first month of the NFL season. In that sense all of these bets are shots in the dark.

But then the rational part of my brain kicks in, and I can’t help thinking the Vikings and Patriots will be two of the best teams in the NFL this year. The fact that they are both playing at home, and giving about 7 points to their opponents, give some added confidence. I don’t really know what to expect from the Ravens, who over the last half decade have become the poster boys for average, .500 football, but I do feel like I know what to expect from the Bills. And not to be a dick, but it ain’t promising.

When I inevitably lose both of these bets, I will probably come back next week and rationalize it like I knew what the hell I was doing. The Saints and Bengals will each win comfortably, and then the Cowboys will kick a last second field goal to beat the Panthers and blow up my parlay. The Ravens, Patriots and Saints are all going to win by double digits, and then Jimmy Garoppolo is going to lead the 49ers on a game-winning drive in the last minute to take down the Vikings.

Sports betting is entirely fucked up that way. It seems like the difficult games to pick always end up easier than expected, and the absolute gimme games, the ones you are no doubt supposed to win, turn into horror shows. And when it comes to parlays, and teasers, it only takes one loss to cripple the ticket. There are no mulligans once you receive the receipt to your bet slip.

Anyway, this is what I’ve got for Week One. The idea is I can win both of these $100 bets, which generate something in the neighborhood of $650 in profit, and then I can just use that money for the next handful of Sundays and try to roll some of it over. In reality I would be happy to win either of them, because it would fund another couple weeks of NFL betting and give me a few extra cracks at winning some more and snowballing my piggybank.

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Results and Reviews: September 10, 2018
I’ll begin with two sentences I wrote from a couple days ago, which sum up perfectly the nature of wagering on sporting events: Sports betting is entirely fucked up that way. It seems like the difficult games to pick always end up easier than expected, and the absolute gimme games, the ones you are no doubt supposed to win, turn into horror shows.

I generally don’t get to sleep until around 8:00 A.M., which doesn’t much come in handy during the NFL season being that most of the games are played at 10:00 and 1:15 California time. I am basically losing out on all the action, which is what makes gambling on sports so enjoyable.

Nonetheless I woke up around 12:30, briefly, and the first thing I did was pick up my phone. I went to ESPN dot com, and of course the leading story said something like “Saints and Bucs involved in offensive shootout in New Orleans.” That was, uh, not exactly what I was hoping for. Especially when I scrolled down to see that Tampa Bay was winning 48-24 with about 10 minutes left in the game. It was pretty much over.

After I went back to sleep the Bucs ended up winning 48-40, and just like that both of my bets — the three-team moneyline parlay, and the four-team teaser — got blown up. This would obviously have been less of a big deal if any of the other teams I picked had also lost, but that’s why I’m here to write the Review. What follows are my picks from Week One, with emphasis on the team I bet on to win:

@Panthers 16, Cowboys 8 (Win)
Bengals 34, @Colts 23 (Win)
@Vikings 24, 49ers 16 (Win)
@Ravens 47, Bills 3 (Win)
@Patriots 27, Texans 20 (Win)
Bucs 48, @Saints 40 (Loss)

Considering I had the Saints featured in both bets, and that they were the one team I believed to be an automatic Week One winner, the two losses I absorbed didn’t come without a sense of irony. To make matters worse, the Saints were also the team I selected to win in an eliminator pool, so that also went straight to hell. Somewhere there’s a moral to this story that reminds everyone not to put all their eggs in the same basket, but Jesus Christ. I can’t hate too hard on myself, because I would have picked the Saints to win that game 10 times out of 10.

Everything else was positive. I needed the Bengals (+135) and Panthers (-150) to win their games straight-up, and they handled business. I needed the Ravens, Patriots, and Vikings all to win their games by one point, and they likewise came through. Without counting the Saints I went five-for-five in Week One; but since we are counting the Saints I am unfortunately out $200.

Oftentimes I use blackjack as an analog to betting on sports — and the NFL, especially — because they do share similar qualities. I find it pointless to allow the outcomes of these games to influence my process of making proper decisions. In blackjack it’s about playing your hand to give yourself the best statistical chance of winning. Of course, you can do all the right things and make all the right moves and still end up losing.

That’s how I feel about betting on the Saints. They lost, but I still don’t feel like I made a bad pick. Sometimes it simply works out that way. I could critique myself about including them in both bets, but doing so would undermine just how confident I was in them to destroy a team that probably won’t win more than 4 or 5 games this season.

Week One bets: 0-2