Thank you for subscribing and reading! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any thoughts or feedback to help improve the content. If you’re enjoying it, please share with friends. Good luck to all!
Storylines, Trends and Big Questions
Chiefs vs Bills – Game of the year so far! The top two teams in my Power Rankings, stoked for this one. The Bills have been preparing all offseason for the Chiefs and added multiple defensive pieces, they feel, help them do that. Bills defense has looked great but have played the worst opposing QBs (according to QBR and EPA) of any team in the league. Chiefs have lost two games already and can’t afford to lose another in a good division. Besides some uncharacteristic turnovers, Chiefs Offense has been as dominant as ever and, given their record, may be under the radar? How does this one play out? A shootout, the team with the ball last is winning?
Road Teams ATS – Road teams continue to be profitable through 4 weeks. They are 44-21-1 ATS to this point. Are the books still inflating “HFA” home field advantage?
Cluster Injuries – Injuries are inevitable in football and, as we move further into the season, they start compiling. It’s always important to track injuries on the games you are betting. I use the fantasy life app to get instant injury updates (great for fantasy as well). Cluster injuries are always something I am looking for. Cluster injuries are injuries to multiple players in the same position group of a team (e.g. O-line or defensive backs/secondary). These cluster injuries eat into the depth of that position group, moving players up the depth chart into important roles and significantly impacting performance and outcomes. An example of this for week 5, the Tampa defensive backfield has cluster injuries with 5 of their top 6 DB’s expected to miss the game.
EPA – A hot stat in the industry right now is EPA i.e., Expected Points Added. It is a measure of how well a team or player performs relative to expectation. I like it as another QB evaluation tool. ESPN builds it into the Total QBR, but you can filter for EPA alone on their rankings.
AFC South – Could this be the worst division in NFL history? The division is collectively sitting 4-12 with tough out of division schedules remaining. They have some steep historical competition with 2014 NFC South collectively 22-41-1 and 2020 NFC East collectively 23-40-1, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 2021 AFC South sets a new record.
Tools and Resources
Their proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system breaks down every single NFL play and compares a team's performance to a context-specific league baseline to determine value over average.
NFL Power Rankings
Jord’s NFL Power Rankings (See below, updated for week 4)
QB Rankings (The most important position in Sports)
I think Chris Simms is the best QB evaluator in the media and it’s not close, especially when evaluating QB prospects where he is not afraid to go against consensus. His record speaks for itself.
A League wide poll of the best QB’s by 50 NFL executives
The best QB metric.
PFF O-line Rankings (need to pay for the week-to-week updates)
O-line is the second most important position group in football to me. Having a sense of O-line groups when making wagers can give you an edge.
Don’t forget to shop for the best numbers!
Action Network App is a great tool in general. This report especially will help you understand who the public teams are and who the pro teams are. For example: Team A in a given matchup has 70% of the tickets bet on them but only 35% of the money; public is on Team A, sharps (big money) are on Team B (Pros vs Joes).
A great resource that sweeps the internet for injury news and will notify you as the news is released.
Podcast Picks Report
Below is a breakdown of my favorite football podcasts that give out free picks ATS. I will track each podcast’s picks and adjust this list as we move through the season.
In my opinion this is the best and sharpest sports betting podcast. Steve Fezzik is the only 2-time Westgate Super contest winner. He is great with derivatives, calculations behind line moves/juice and identifying bet and fade spots in the schedule. RJ Bell keeps Fez in check and is very sharp himself, a contrarian thinker on the NFL and always finding unique angles, AJ is a college expert and improving on NFL.
Super Contest picks - All three guys pick 5 games weighted from 5 star*, Best Bet (BB) down to 1 star. Then they come up with consensus top 5 picks for the contest (These 5 can change by Saturday when they make the picks depending on line moves, injuries etc.) Disagreements are automatic crossfire bets.
Contest picks: 3-2 Week 4, 8-11-1 Overall *** Fezz 3-2 Week 4, 13-7 Overall***
· Fezz BB 5* 49ers +5.5 (Triple like, RJ 5*, AJ 4*)
· AJ BB 5* Ravens -7 (RJ 2* agreement)
· RJ BB 5* 49ers +5.5
· AJ 4* 49ers +5.5
· Fezz 4* Miami +10 (Triple like RJ 4*, AJ 1*)
· RJ 4* Miami +10
· AJ 3* Bills +2.5
· Fezz 3* Pats -9 (AJ 2* agreement)
· RJ 3* Packers -3
· Fezz 2* Chargers -2
· RJ 2* Ravens -7
· AJ 2* Pats -9
· Fezz 1* Eagles +3.5
· RJ 1* Browns +2
· AJ 1* Dolphins +10
49ers 1st Q +.5
Tampa team total U 29
Pitt/Denver 1st half U 20
Warren is super sharp and especially good with the models on game totals. You have to pay for most of his picks, but you can pick up his leans from listening to his pods. Some of the other guys, especially, Mark Derosa, another pro, are sharp as well.
Warren: 6-0 Week 3, 7-5 Overall
Browns/Chargers U 48.5
Kelly, now with Barstool Bets, is very sharp and typically a contrarian better fading public sentiment and money. I think similarly so I like to keep an eye on her picks.
Kelly 2-4 Week 4, 13-8-2 Overall
Teasers: WFT, Browns, Ravens
Chad Millman, the CTO of the Action network, hosts this podcast with sharp pro better Simon Hunter. They do a 5-pick contest and make their final decision on the 5 on Sunday but Simon lets you know all his sides below.
2-3 Week 4 Contest Sides, 9-11 Overall
New podcast for me, just getting to know the hosts, Chris and Stuckey. Action network is a great resource, and the NFL Sunday 6 pack from Stuckey and Chris has been a great listen and profitable. They each pick 3 sides, weighted BB 1 to 3, one total, one teaser and one underdog ML.
Stuckey: 3-2 Week 4, 11-8 Overall
BB Eagles +3.5
Jets/Falcons Over 46
6-point teaser: Vikings -2/Browns +8
Chris: 2-3 Week 4, 13-6 Overall
BB Vikings -9
Den/Pitt 1st half under 20
6-point teaser: Vikings -3/Eagles +9.5
Payne is a pro and offers great insight, data and statistics on the NFL. A lot of his plays you need to pay for, but on this podcast, he will give some free best bets and talk you through his angles.
Payne: 1-0 Week 4, 3-1 Overall
49ers +6 -115
Colin is surprisingly sharp with his blazing 5 and is now getting advice from Chad Milliman from Action on his weekly picks.
Colin: 3-2 Week 4, 9-11 Overall
Great QB evaluator and NFL talent evaluator, but relatively square when it comes to making picks ATS. His insight is worth listening to for picking up tidbits on players and teams to implement in your picks, but his picks themselves offer moderate value.
Chris: 1-2 Week 4, 8-4 Overall
Florio: 2-1 Week 4, 6-6 Overall
What I’m thinking and Who I’m picking
Quick recap of my plays last week: 3-6, tough week, especially on the teasers, going 2-4 (6-4 on year). Learned some important lessons, though. I picked eight teaser legs total and 6 of them covered, 2 did not. Unfortunately, I had the two legs that did not (Saints and Lions) tied to 4 of the teasers. Both were tough beats, with Lions going 1-4 on first and goal with three turnovers, and Saints up 21-10 in the further quarter but ultimately losing in OT. What I learned is to do a true round robin of teasers i.e., to bet every combination of teaser possible with the eight legs I picked. In this case it would have been 24 total teasers! Seems crazy but if I did play it that way, I would have covered 16-8. Additionally, when I like a team with the points, like I did with Giants/WFT, maybe stay away from the teaser leg on the opposite side to try and middle. With Bronco’s +1 when the pre-game injury report came out, I hedged my Bronco’s bet big-time to get off it. I didn’t give enough consideration to Bronco’s injury situation early in the week and both Guards being out, on top of the other issues, was a big deal. (Going forward, if you do tail any of my picks make sure to follow me on twitter @smithtikal and I will tweet out Sunday changes). Now, let’s bounce back!
Week 4 Picks
Teaser: Vikings -1.5 / Bills +8.5 – Lions are crushed by injuries this year and now look to have cluster injuries on the O-line (their best position group). On top of that, the cluster injuries to the weak secondary makes the Vikings WR group an even bigger mismatch. Minnesota at home to win by 2 feels like a lock. As for the second leg, the Bills are arguably the best team in the league, and this is the game they have had circled all offseason. They made defensive additions to specifically compete with the Chiefs. Their management and coaching staff made it quite clear that they are building to beat the Chiefs, and I expect them to throw everything they have been working on at them in this game. The Chief’s defense is a major issue; they are second last in the league with only Detroit behind them. Buffalo is loaded on offense. This should be a shootout and I could see it coming down to the final possession, so getting a two-score game in what I see as a 3-point game in either direction is a solid teaser leg. One concern is that the total of this game is so high there is potential for high variance. (I bet this early in the week when the Minnesota line was -7.5, since it’s moved out of the teaser range, I would consider Cleveland in this spot at +8)
Teaser: Pats -2.5/ Browns +8 – Two games with low totals, less expected variance so I automatically like the teaser leg more. I expect the Browns to run the ball well against the Chargers and control the pace of the game. As for the second leg, this is a must win for the Pats against the worst team in the league and a Rookie QB – we know what Belichick does to rookie QBs. There are O-line cluster injury concerns for the Pats, but even if they do have multiple O-lineman miss time, back up O-lineman tend to still be good run-blockers. I expect a heavy dose of run game and quick throws by Pats, and they should still win easy.
Dolphins +10 – Bill Belichick’s defense gave Brady a very tough time Sunday night by disguising blitzes, coverages and schemes. Brian Flores is a Bill Belichick defensive disciple. I expect Flores to scheme and play Brady very similarly to how the Pats did last week, and with, arguably, a better secondary to do so. Let’s also not forget this Miami defense is still one of the most talented in the league. Offensively they have struggled with the backup QB, but this could be exactly what the team needs. Tampa’s defensive secondary is decimated right now. Richard Sherman could be their best defensive back on the field this week and he was out of the league two weeks ago. It is also a very short trip for Miami and weather will not be a factor. I think this line is quite inflated.
49ers +6 – I bet this early in the week, but still like it at +5 and with a ML sprinkle. If you can’t find a six and don’t like five, I would consider tailing the Fezz/RJ derivative pick of SF first Q +.5 or first half +3. I agree with them that this will be the opportunity for Shanahan to creatively use Trey Lance in the running game. He has been building plays for this guy since he drafted him and now gets a chance to build a game plan around him, which could surprise Arizona, especially early on. I also like the matchup advantage here with Arizona being just average against the run (17th in DVOA) facing a dynamic run offense with the added threat of Trey Lance. I also think this is a great spot for SF, coming off a tough division home loss into another divisional game that is critical to keep pace in division. They have a bye week next week, so I expect them to throw everything they have at this one. Zona is in the opposite spot, coming off a big divisional win and the only undefeated team in the league. I think it’s a potentially letdown game. The look ahead pre-season was pick ‘em and it opened this week at 6?
Jets/Falcons over - I bet at 44.5 early in the week but now Calvin Ridley is out and I don’t like it as much
Lean Giants +7 - Danny Dimes 11-4 ATS on the road and division +7 dog
Jets +3 – bet this when I saw the WR news for ATL but don’t love it, London games are strange
Cincy +3 – keeping an eye on GB secondary injury report pre-game
Bills +3.5 – if the line gets there will play this as well
Updated Week 5 Power Rankings
1. Kansas City 5.5
2. Buffalo 5.5
3. Tampa 5
4. LA Rams 4.5
5. Cleveland 4
6. GB 3.5
7. Arizona 3.5
8. LAC 3
9. Baltimore 3
10. Dallas 2
11. SF 1.5
12. Den 1
13. LV 1
14. New England 1
15. NO 0.5
16. Minnesota 0.5
17. Carolina 0
18. Tennessee 0
19. Cincy 0
20. WFT -1
21. Colts -1
22. Miami -1.5
23. Pittsburgh -1.5
24. Seattle -2
25. Giants -2.5
26. Philly -2.5
27. Chicago -3
28. Atlanta -4
29. NYJ -6
30. Detroit -7
31. JAX -7
32. Houston -9