The Gambler’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 4

 

Teams receiving over 50% of the spread bets went 4-12 last week, and teams receiving over 60%… 2-7. This wasn’t exactly a weekend full of upsets (although their were a few), but more evidence of a very profitable strategy in any sport… Betting against the public.

There’s typically two types of NFL bettors: those who bet the early lines, and those who bet later in the week based on line movement. There’s pros/cons to each, and times when both are beneficial. However, in most cases, I advocate following the latter; and the public is a big reason why.

When one team is receiving a large percentage of the money, the books are forced to adjust their lines in an attempt to leverage their losses. When this happens, a smart bettor will take advantage, and maximize their odds of winning. If you haven’t noticed, the oddsmakers know what their doing, and while there can be value on the initial lines, a single point can be huge when it comes to covering the spread. It can also be an indicator of where the money is going.

Example, Team A is receiving 65% of the spread bets, but the line drops from -7 to -6. In this case, you would think that the team receiving the most bets would be receiving the most money, and the line would increase. However, this reverse line movement is an indication that although a team may be receiving more bets, the dog is actually receiving a larger percentage of money… Follow the money, and you’ll find yourself winning more bets.

While this is a very simplistic view into a much larger concept, it points to what was on full display last weekend, and a strategy you’d be smart to employ… fading the public. For sports bettors, this is just one of several pieces of information to analyze when deciding where to put your money. Another being various team valuation methods: win-loss records, power rankings, etc.

The problem with power rankings is that they ignore one key piece of information; a team’s record against the spread. Win-Loss records are useful, but it never fails, there’s always a terrible team which seems to always cover the spread. So, I’ve come up with the gambler’s power rankings; which combines a team’s win-loss record, statistical performance, schedule strength, and various other factors in addition to their record against the spread, to help you identify the good bets, bad bets, and provide a more complete picture of all 32 teams. Bet accordingly.

1. New England Patriots
Record: 3-0
Record ATS: 3-0

Getting through Brady’s suspension at 2-2 would’ve been ideal, but in typical Belichick fashion, they continue to find ways to win games when no one expects them to. They’ve been without Brady, haven’t had a 100% healthy Gronk, and faced injuries on the defensive side of the ball… Through it all, the Pats are Top 5 in points scored, and points allowed. Scary.

2. Denver Broncos
Record: 3-0
Record ATS: 3-0

To be the champs, you have to beat the champs; a feat no one has been able to do yet. Siemian has shown the ability to make just about any throw on the field, and he’s taken decent care of the football. Their offensive line is vastly improved, and even with the losses on the defensive side of the ball, this unit is still one of the best in the biz.

3. Minnesota Vikings
Record: 3-0
Record ATS: 3-0

After dominating the Panthers in Charlotte on Sunday, the Vikings proved they’re for real. Historically, teams that run the ball successfully tend to cover spreads at a higher percentage than teams who don’t… It’s science. The Vikings, however, are proving that sometimes all you need is a dominant defense, and a mistake-free offense.

4. Philadelphia Eagles
Record: 3-0
Record ATS: 3-0

Raise your hand if you saw this coming. Similar to the Vikings, a great defense, and mistake-free offense, are sometimes the only ingredients needed in the recipe for success. Wentz has yet to throw an INT, and their defense is allowing the fewest points per game in the NFL (9). It’s crazy how much of a difference not being on the field for 90% of the game has made for this defense.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 2-1

They were dominated in Philly last weekend… It happens. The Steelers are dealing with some injuries, but Le’Veon Bell returns Sunday, and as long as they have Bell, Ben, and Brown healthy, they’ll put up enough points to always be a good bet.

6. Baltimore Ravens
Record: 3-0
Record ATS: 2-1

The Ravens defense has been impressive, and they’ve been without Elvis Dumervil, who may return this week. Their offense still hasn’t clicked, and they’ve struggled running the ball, so we’ll see how they hold up this week against the high-powered Oakland offense on Sunday.

7. Cincinnati Bengals
Record: 2-2
Record ATS: 2-2

The Bengals have struggled in the red zone this season, and that was on full display Thursday night (scoring only 1 TD, but 5 FGs). The return of Burfict helps sure up their defense, and hopefully Kirkpatrick’s injury isn’t too serious, as their defense will need to continue to play well to keep them in games.

8. Carolina Panthers
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

The Panthers have played one of the tougher schedules to open the season, but don’t write them off yet. Although they’re allowing the 3rd fewest average yards per game, they’ve given up the 14th most points per game. Their -2 turnover ratio probably has something to do with that disparity, which again falls back on the quality defenses they’ve faced. Beginning Division play, and facing the Falcons, Bucs, and Saints over the next 3 weeks should help get them back on track.

 9. Houston Texans
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 2-1

The loss of J.J. Watt hurts, as their front 7 is a major key to their defensive success, but they still have too many playmakers for his loss to be crippling. Osweiler, and his $72M contract, are beginning to catch some heat, but he’s still learning the offense, is without 3x pro bowl OT Duane Brown, and faced two tough defenses in KC, and NE. They have one of the best running games in the league, and playmakers everywhere on offense. Too early to count them out.

10. Green Bay Packers
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 2-1

Once Morgan Burnett, and Sam Shields return, this defense should be improved, Aaron Rodgers and co. look to be finding their groove (and he’s only been sacked once on the year), Jordy Nelson getting back up to speed should help Lacy and the ground game… All these “issues”, yet they’re 2-1 (and their one loss came at Minnesota by 3).

11. Arizona Cardinals
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

Mama said there’d be days like this… Throwing 4 INTs will put any defense in a tough spot, and Week 3 was just one of those games for the Cardinals. The loss of Evan Mathis hurts their offensive line, and hopefully they can do a better job of protecting Palmer, but it’s only a matter of time before they begin to consistently click offensively and their defense is as good as any in the league.

12. Dallas Cowboys
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 2-1

The Cowboys could very easily be 3-0. By dominating on the ground, and minimizing turnovers, their defense has spent a lot of time on the sideline. They utilized a similar formula in 2014, and almost ended up playing for the NFC crown (the infamous Dez catch). They’re sneaky good, and will consistently be in games.

13. Kansas City Chiefs
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 1-2

The Chiefs are starting to get healthy, and are tied for 3rd in turnover ratio. Alex Smith has been throwing the ball a lot more than in years past, and the return of Jamaal Charles will provide a huge boost for this offense. Back-to-back road games at Pittsburgh, and Oakland, will provide a much clearer picture into where they stand.

14. Seattle Seahawks
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 1-2

The Seahawks team many expected to see all year, finally showed up last week against the woeful 49ers. Their offensive line is still a major concern, so are the injuries, and they’ve played a fairly weak schedule thus far.

15. Oakland Raiders
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 2-1

Oakland has also benefitted from a weak schedule, but their offense is one of the best in the league. Problem is, they’ve had several injuries to their offensive line, and their defense ranks amongst the worst in the league.

16. Atlanta Falcons
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 2-1

See #15 Oakland Raiders.

17. New York Jets
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

Ryan Fitzpatrick was horrible in Week 3. Horrible. Hopefully, Eric Decker’s injury isn’t too serious (Todd Bowles says he’s “week to week”), but even with Fitz’s 6 INTs, their defense held the Chiefs to 24 points.

18. New York Giants
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 1-2

I said it last week, and they proved me right, so I’ll say it again… Their defense is vastly improved. However, the lack of a big red zone threat, and a consistent running game, may end up being their downfall. No reason to think they can comfortably win games.

19. Los Angeles Rams
Record: 2-1
Record ATS: 2-1

Their offense woke up in Week 3, and finally scored their 1st TD, after 8 TD-less quarters to start the 2016 season. I think that was more of a testament to the state of the Bucs defense, than a sign of an explosive offense, and their defense has yet to live up to their potential.

20. San Diego Chargers
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 2-1

The Chargers always seem to find themselves in close games. Which could be a gift, and could be a curse, depending on the side of the line you’re on. Their inconsistency, and injury riddled roster, make them a tough team to gauge on a week to week basis.

21. Buffalo Bills
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

The Bills defense has now looked solid in 2 of 3 games, and their offense is showing signs of explosiveness…. But, Sammy Watkins is on IR.

22. Washington Redskins
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

The Redskins are pretty much the East coast version of the Chargers. Pretty much always in close games, and highly inconsistent. They have the talent to play with anyone in the league, problem is, they tend to beat themselves.

23. Indianapolis Colts
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

The Colts offense is good. The Colts defense is bad. Protect Andrew Luck, and he’ll be glad.

24. Tennessee Titans
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

Marcus Mariota is dead last in Total QBR at 29.7. Blame it on a Sophomore slump, or a lack of weapons,  but their offense is a direct reflection of his struggles (last in points per game – 14). Their defense has held up well against two of the league’s top offenses, Detroit and Oakland, but at some point they’ll have to score too; because their offense can’t.

25. Detroit Lions
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

I don’t think Detroit’s defense is a bad as it appears on paper, but man do they have some injuries. If they can get healthy, and Stafford continues to play as he has, they could surprise some people… But, they’re the Lions, so they won’t.

26. New Orleans Saints
Record: 0-3
Record ATS: 1-2

Great offense, poor defense. Hopefully this is the week they give Ingram more than 15 carries, and try to keep that defense off the field. They can no longer win these shootouts, like we’ve grown so accustomed to seeing in the Brees era. Time to adjust.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars
Record: 0-3
Record ATS: 1-2

They play in London this week.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

Their uniforms are interesting.

29. Miami Dolphins
Record: 1-3
Record ATS: 1-3

I feel bad for Jarvis Landry (their uniforms are interesting too, in a who came up with this? kind of way).

30. Cleveland Browns
Record: 0-3
Record ATS: 1-2

Remember when Terrelle Pryor gave up all his stuff for tattoos?

31. San Francisco 49ers
Record: 1-2
Record ATS: 1-2

How long will Chip Kelly be in the NFL?

32. Chicago Bears
Record: 0-3
Record ATS: 0-3

I’d put them behind Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State in the Big 10.

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