If you tailed this column in Week 1, yikes. My lock of the week, Packers -4, turned out to be anything but. Fortunately, my other NFL plays fared much better — my parlay for Thursday Night Football hit, as did my top prop for Sunday Night Football. As a result, I still turned a profit on football despite a hilariously bad Green Bay take.
The underlying thesis of this article series is that it’s best to bet early. You should do so because sportsbooks will adjust their lines after sharp bettors place their initial wagers. Once they’ve done so, you’re not just playing against the house — you’re also playing against some of the smartest minds in the game. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s what professional gambler (and Jeopardy! champion) James Holzhauer has to say on the matter:
“When you bet right after the opening number is posted, you essentially gamble that you’re smarter than the handful of sportsbook employees who set the line. When you bet 10 minutes before the game starts, you hope in vain that you know something all the world’s sharp bettors don’t.” You can read the rest of his comments here in The Athletic.
Ultimately, I recommend that you read this article as a guide to two things: first, a smart parlay for the weekend’s action; second, a list of smart straight bets to target individually. Aside from the parlay, I’ll label my favorite picks each week and advise you on the proper unit size for each play.
Parlay YTD: 0-1-0 (-1u)
Straight Bets YTD: 0-1-0 (-1u)
All NFL Bets YTD: 4-2-0 (+2.03u)
Leg #1. Cardinals -2.5 | -160 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: 1u
The Arizona Cardinals looked fantastic against the Titans. The game was never close — Arizona led by 24 at the half and didn’t let the Titans come back in garbage time. Kyle Murray threw four touchdowns, and Chandler Jones tallied five sacks. They did this all on the road, too.
Their opponents, the Minnesota Vikings, looked bad against the Bengals. Kirk Cousins had to lead a late-game comeback because Minnesota’s defense allowed Cincinnati’s running backs to tally 149 yards from scrimmage despite the Bengals’ putrid offensive line. Cincinnati’s offensive line ranked 31st in adjusted line yards last season; Minnesota’s defensive line ranked 32nd. If the Vikings’ front seven can’t stop the Bengals, they certainly won’t be able to stop the Cardinals’ reloaded offensive line — or Kyler Murray, James Conner, and Chase Edmonds.
I also have my doubts about Minnesota’s secondary. Bashaud Breeland, who plays on the perimeter alongside Patrick Peterson, ran an atrocious 4.62-second 40-yard dash that ranks in the 15th percentile among cornerbacks. Ja’Marr Chase exploited this for a 50-yard touchdown in Week 1. Breeland may have to line up against the speedy Christian Kirk (or the even faster Andy Isabella) next Sunday, and that could spell trouble.
The Cardinals also match up well against the run-heavy Vikings. They limited Derrick Henry to just 58 yards on 17 carries (3.41 YPC) and kept him out of the end zone. While the bulky Henry doesn’t run much like Dalvin Cook, Arizona’s set of speedy linebackers and bulky safeties can chase down elusive backs who get past the defensive line, and I expect them to finish much higher than 18th in adjusted line yards this season.
Minnesota may make the adjustments necessary to keep this one somewhat close, but the Cardinals should win by at least a field goal.
Leg #2. Titans +7.5 | -170 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: .5u
This pick may feel a bit strange. Didn’t I just hype up the Cardinals for their strong showing against the Titans? Yes, I did, but I’m throwing Tennessee in here because I believe last week will be an outlier for them. The Cardinals are really, really good. The Seahawks? Eh, not so much.
I fully admit that Seattle looked great against the Colts last week. They limited Carson Wentz to 251 passing yards, which is a marked improvement from last season — they surrendered 300-plus passing yards per game back then. However, their cornerbacks were up against Zach Pascal, Michael Pittman, and Parris Campbell. Those aren’t the most threatening wide receivers. They’ll have to face A.J. Brown and Julio Jones next week, and I expect them to struggle. Seattle uses 5-foot-9 D.J. Reed on the perimeter, so he’ll line up against either a 6-foot-3 Julio Jones or a 6-foot-1 A.J. Brown. Yikes.
The Titans may have struggled against the Cardinals, but we can blame most of their issues on Arizona’s pass rush, and Seattle’s front seven isn’t as scary simply because they don’t have a pair of future Hall of Famers lined up at defensive end.
Let’s buy low on the Titans as bettors overreact to their Week 1 blowout loss.
Leg #3. Rams ML | -220 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: .5u
The Rams exceeded expectations with their play on Sunday Night Football. They took care of business against a bad Bears team as Matthew Stafford threw for 321 yards and three scores. They’ll take on a disappointing, banged-up Colts squad in Week 2.
I’m out on Indy because of their offensive line. They allowed the Seahawks to sack Carson Wentz three times. If you’re going to let Rasheem Green, Benson Mayowa, and Darrell Taylor rack up the sacks, imagine what Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd will do to you.
The Colts have an excuse for their poor offensive line play: injuries. Left tackle Eric Fisher missed the game because he is still getting back up to speed following a torn Achilles. Right tackle Braden Smith hurt his foot during Sunday’s contest but didn’t tell trainers until afterward. Even star left guard Quenton Nelson barely got cleared in time to play in Week 1.
Unfortunately, I just don’t think this unit will get healthy in time for the Colts to top the Rams. Headlines about their health will probably drive the spread (and, by extension, the moneyline) further in the Rams’ favor through the week.
Total Odds: +275 at DK Sportsbook
Parlay Bet Size: 1u
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