It’s Week 16 of the season, so you all know what that means: yes, make-or-break fantasy football finals for some, but for most of you, it means that degenerate gamblers’ itch needs to be fulfilled some other way. Luckily for all of you – I have the perfect solution. Welcome to my opening blog post at PERC360, which will highlight my weekly winners in the NFL.
Note: Starting this week, we will keep track of my picks (#accountability). Depending on the week, I will provide a differing amount of picks, because ultimately, I will only advocate for something I am backing with my own capital (I’m referring to play money, of course). Without further ado, let’s get to it. (HOME teams are in all caps.)
Best Bet (3 units):
SAN FRANCISCO (+4) over Jacksonville
I’ve been riding the Jimmy-G train since before start #1, so why stop now. While it worries me that much of the public has come aboard in recent weeks as well, the value here is too much to pass up. Home underdogs are the most consistent winner in NFL sports betting, so I like the spot here. Additionally, though the Jags have been impressive this year and QB Blake Bortles is beginning to round into form, they are in a prime letdown spot traveling across the country after an emotional playoff-clinching week last week. Will you allow the last 3 weeks to cloud your opinion of Mr. Bortles? Neither will I. Give me San Fran and the 4.
Other positive trends:
1) San Francisco has been kicking a lot of FGs in the red-zone the past 3 games with Jimmy G in the lineup, and red-zone scores are generally somewhat fluky. Therefore, I suspect that an offense that has been thriving may still be a little underrated. In fact, SF is 30th in the league in red-zone TD percentage in the past three weeks (since Jimmy G came in, they have only punched it in 23% of the time!). I’ve watched the games, and this screams small sample size to me. Expect a reversal here.
2) Jacksonville isn’t the New England Patriots. This is a team that hadn’t won more than 5 games since 2010 and hasn’t had a playoff berth since 2007. A sense of relief after clinching last week is only natural, and I expect the young team’s preparation and attention to detail in its weekly meetings to suffer ever so slightly as a result.
Other Bets I Will Dabble With (In Order of Preference)
ARIZONA -3.5 over New York Giants (2 units)
This one may upset resident Giants fan and the Perc360 co-founder himself, but the Giants are somehow still overrated despite being a 2-12 football team. Bettors love to back Eli Manning, believing in the narrative that the soon-to-be-37-year-old is still a viable quarterback in this league. Given that betting lines factor in 1) professional line makers’ actual opinions of games and 2) market activity (lots of NYG fans out there; lots of people scared to back a second-string Cardinals QB), this seems like a nice opportunity to me, as the line favors Arizona much less than it should (I would fairly price this line at -6 or -6.5). Need a couple more reasons? Look no further. I mentioned above that San Francisco is 30th in the league in the past 3 weeks in red-zone TD percentage, but Arizona is dead last at 18%! Recency bias plays a big role in these lines, and people have seen Arizona put up 16, 12, and 15 points in its last 3. That’s 10 field goals and one touchdown, which can’t possibly continue. Give me the better team, the better trends, and the home field advantage, and I’ll happily lay the 3.5.
CINCINNATI +3.5 over Detroit (1.5 units)
I know, I know. Cincy has looked like the worst team in the NFL the past 2 weeks – by a considerable margin. Marvin Lewis just quit on the team, and the Red-Rocket-led Bengals are out of playoff contention. But hear me out. In the NFL, home-field advantage is typically worth 3 points. A mathematically-eliminated Bengals team probably won’t have the same type of enthusiasm from the fans, so I’ll give them 2 points for the home field. So essentially, this line is implicitly saying that Cincinnati is 5.5 points worse than Detroit. To that, I say: no chance. I like the Bengals here, because I think this is a team that recognizes the impact its 15-year coach has had, and will want to send him out on a positive note in his final home game (this means more attention to detail in practice throughout the week, something star receiver A.J. Green has already called his team out for after its pitiful performances in two consecutive weeks). In addition to the extra motivation on the Cincy side, Detroit is a vastly overrated team. People may look at that shiny 8-6 record, but when you look at their schedule, this is a team whose best win since Week 4 came against a Brett-Hundley-led Green Bay team in Week 9 (DET’s wins since Week 4 are: GB, Cleveland, Chicago (twice), and Tampa). Consider me unimpressed. I’ll take my 3.5 points and call it a day.
Cleveland +6.5 over CHICAGO (1 unit)
This one probably isn’t for the faint of heart, and even I’ll admit that I have sworn off betting the Browns multiple times this year. Too many backdoors losses and too many DeShone Kiser bone-headed plays for my liking. But I can’t help myself, and I will say, this line does have some value (especially if it hits 7 points). The Bears are one of the 5 worst teams in football, with a lame-duck coach who is 0-7 against the spread as a favorite in his 3 years in Chicago. The Browns, conversely, have had an uptick in production lately, with a respectable defense and a surprisingly-electric receiving corps now that Josh Gordon is back in the fold. The ONLY reason I don’t have this as the best bet, is because this is the Browns, after all, but the value is definitely there for the taking.
Hope you all enjoyed the first week of my column. See you all on the other side (hopefully with a fatter wallet in hand). Side note: any feedback would be greatly appreciated – reach out via my Twitter handle @zachzaffos
Good luck all!