Eric Olson

The Daily Line: Week 5 Football Picks

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USA TODAY

The Daily Line: Week 5 Football Picks

The Supreme Court opened the door for sports betting legalization with its May ruling that struck down a 1992 law that banned commercial sports betting in most states. Sports betting is not yet legal in Illinois, but with football season underway, former Northwestern offensive lineman Eric Olson will take a weekly look at the odds surrounding the action on the field.

YTD record: 16-7 against the spread (69.5%) (6-1 last week)

Denver Broncos vs. New York Jets 10/7 12:00pm CT
Line
: Jets -1
Betting Percentages Split: 76% of the tickets on the Broncos
The play: Jets -1

Buy low, sell high. It’s weird to say you are selling high on a team that just lost in prime time, but, good losses (especially in the public’s eyes) are a real thing in the NFL. The Broncos realistically deserved to win that game on Monday Night and, with all of the Chiefs hype, people are now buying the Broncos. I instead ask you to look at the bigger picture here. That was as good of a spot as possible for the Broncos, they still have noodle-armed Case Keenum as their QB and their offensive line struggled to protect the QB against a below average Chiefs defense. The Broncos are better than they were last year, but realistically, they will be an 8-9 win team. Combine the regression I expect to see from them in the coming weeks, along with the fact that they are on short rest, traveling across the country, to play a 11:00 am Mountain Time game against the lowly Jets, and I absolutely love this spot for Darnold and Co. Give me the Jets as a small favorite at home.

Tennessee Titans vs Buffalo Bills 10/7 1:00pm CT
Line
: Titans -4
Betting Percentages Split: 72% of tickets on Titans
The play: Bills +4

Close your nose folks, we are betting on the Bills. To be successful betting on the NFL, you must be willing to make gross bets like this. Let me explain why I am backing the Bills. The Titans are one of, if not the biggest, surprise of the NFL season. While nobody expected much from the Bills, they still are one of the most disappointing teams in the league. The Titans just won a game against the defending Super Bowl champs. The Bills just got shut out by an iffy Packers team. Well, you might ask “Eric, aren’t those reasons to be backing the Titans?” To which I say, “have I not taught you anything??” Buy low, sell high and find yourself line value wherever you can. Being a four point home underdog in the NFL is significant and I think you are getting value by betting the Titans to begin to regress.

Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions 10/7 12:00pm CT
Line
: Packers -1
Betting Percentages Split: 69% of tickets on the Packers
The play: Lions +1

This game doesn’t fit as cleanly into a buy low, sell high situation as two above games. However, similar principles are at play. If this game was last week, after the Lions just beat the Pats and the Packers lost handedly to the Redskins, what would the line would have been? Lions -2.5? Maybe the movement would not have been that drastic, but I do not think Green Bay would be favored on the road. The Lions took the Cowboys absolute best shot last week and still were leading until the final seconds. I think this line is an overreaction to last week’s results and I’ll gladly take the Lions as a small home underdog.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks 10/7 3:25pm CT
Line: Rams -7
Betting Percentages Split: 75% of tickets on the Rams
The play: Seahawks +7

This is my grossest set of picks to date and I absolutely love it. Every single one of these picks is attracting less than 35% of public bets. Are the Rams potentially Vegas-proof, joining the elite company of Villanova basketball, Alabama football, the Patriots and Golden State Warriors? (Meaning, it doesn’t matter where you set the line, they will somehow always cover). While it may be starting to look like they are in that category, I will go back to the well one last time and bet against a team that has looked unbeatable thus far. While no eye test has the Seahawks hanging around, this game fits everything I look for. Home underdog, in division, getting a full touchdown, going against a team that just had a great performance on national TV. I’ll bet that the Rams aren’t quittteeee the team people think they are and take the 7 points at home for the Seahwaks.

Bonus College Game
LSU vs. Florida 10/6 3:30pm CT
Line
: LSU -2.5
Betting Percentages Split: 72% of tickets on LSU
The play: Florida +2.5 (get 3 if you can)

LSU is not the fifth best team in the country. Not even close. Joe Burrow is yet to commit a turnover, they won a game at Auburn where they trailed for nearly all of regulation and are still getting too much credit for a win over an completely overrated Miami team week 1 (I was at this game, this had much more to do with Miami’s struggles at QB than anything LSU did). Florida is tied for the lead in the country in takeaways and I absolutely love them to finally give Burrow some trouble. On top of that, we get a home underdog, in conference getting less than 30% of bets, auto play for me. Take the Gators.

The Daily Line: Week 4 football picks

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USA TODAY

The Daily Line: Week 4 football picks

The Supreme Court opened the door for sports betting legalization with its May ruling that struck down a 1992 law that banned commercial sports betting in most states. Sports betting is not yet legal in Illinois, but with football season underway, former Northwestern offensive lineman Eric Olson will take a weekly look at the odds surrounding the action on the field.

By way of introduction, I am Eric Olson. I played football for Northwestern from 2012- 2016, started over 30 games at Right Tackle, got a Master’s in Predictive Analytics and love to look at football through the eyes of a sports bettor. I will be writing up my weekly NFL, and a few college picks here at NBC Sports Chicago. With the legalization of sports betting in a handful of states already, and possibly growing to others soon, there will be a lot of new interest and increased awareness on the sports betting factors around the games this year.  The best pieces of advice I can give you are: #1 Don’t bet what you can’t afford #2 If it feels too good to be true, it probably is. And #3 If it feels ugly when you place it, good. Other than that, let’s have some fun and hopefully have some success along the way.

Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts 9/30 12:00pm CT

Line: Colts -2
Betting Percentages Split: 70% of tickets on Colts
The play: Texans +2

I LOVE betting bad games in the NFL. The mud is where edges can be found. Go where the people don’t want to go. And in a game that nobody wants to watch, I want to be on the side that nobody wants to be on (30% of bets on the Texans). To be successful in the NFL, you have to be contrarian, you have to make bets that feel gross. You think betting on the Bills felt good last weekend? This is a fantastic buy low spot here for the Texans. They have looked awful thus far and have been a team that I loved to fade to start the season, as I pegged them to not meet expectations and to see some regression from Watson. However, once you see the public jump off the bandwagon, you jump back on with both feet. The Texans still have talent on their roster and I love them in a divisional game that they NEED to finally show up and put a full game together. Ride the Texans and the points

Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots 9/30 12:00pm CT

Line: Patriots -6.5
Betting Percentages Split: 58% of tickets on the Dolphins
The play: Patriots -6.5

You want some stats, people? I said, you want some stats?!? Well here ya go: this is the least amount of public support the Patriots have gotten in 1,771 days (42% of bets). The Patriots are 75% against the spread coming off a loss. The Patriots cover the spread by an average of 17.6 points following back to back losses (only happened five times in the Brady era). Remember what I said about the public hoping off the bandwagon? Well, I never thought I’d see the day when that bandwagon involved Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and now that it presents itself, allow me to jump right on. This game screams regression to the mean for both sides. Take the Pats laying the points at home.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos 10/1 7:15pm CT

Line: Chiefs -5
Betting Percentages Split: 67% of tickets on Chiefs
The play: Broncos +5

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have been nothing short of spectacular thus far, sitting at both 3-0 straight up and against the spread. To most, that would probably mean you should keep riding the hot hand. To me, this means it’s time to fade the bandwagon and look for some regression. As tape continues to pile up on Mahomes, his magic will more likely than not slowly start to fade. I think going on the road to Mile High, in primetime, against a good defense, is the perfect time to start to see the Chiefs offense come back to earth. Not to mention, their defense STINKS. Betting on a home, non-public dog in a primetime game is always a good side to be on. Take the Broncos catching 5 points at home. 

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tennessee Titans 9/30 12:00pm CT

Line: Eagles -4
Betting Percentages Split: 70% of tickets on Eagles
The play: Titans +4

The Eagles should not be giving 4 points to a decent Titans on the road, not yet at least. I firmly believe that the Eagles will hit their stride as the year goes on and Wentz settles in. That time however, has not arrived. This line surprised me after the Titans have strung together a few positive results, including beating Jacksonville last week, but what really surprised me was the public not hopping on the Titans. The eye test (what the public usually bets based on) would probably favor the Titans here based on some shaky Eagles play and a relatively large line, yet we see 70% of bets on the Birds. When a line surprises me AND the public is on the other side, it’s an auto play for me. Give me the Titans at home getting 4 points.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chicago Bears 9/30 12:00pm CT

Line: Bears - 3
Betting Percentages Split: 51% of tickets on Bucs
The play: Bucs +3

This game is very, very difficult to handicap. We don’t know who will be starting at QB for the Bucs. If Fitzpatrick does start, which version of him will we be getting? Are the Bears actually good? Can they move the ball at all when they aren’t on Nagy’s script to start the game? The only question that I feel confident in is that I do think Fitz will start. My reasoning here for taking the Bucs is that I simply do not trust Trubisky to perform as a favorite in a regular 12:00pm kickoff game. He showed up (kind of) against both the Seahawks and Packers when the spotlight was on, but struggled against the Cardinals. The Bucs are a better team than the Cards. I’ll back the Bucs and the points. 

Bonus College Game

Michigan vs. Northwestern 9/29 3:30pm CT

Line: Michigan -14.5
Betting Percentages Split: 75% of tickets on Michigan
The play: Northwestern +14.5

Having played at Northwestern, I know how this program operates. Simply put, these spots are where we flourish; when we have no expectations, and nobody believes in us. Harbaugh and Co. will be coming to sleepy Ryan Field on a quiet Evanston Saturday afternoon with absolutely no narrative to get up for this game. On the other side, this game has the ability to completely change the course of the season for Northwestern after two disappointing results. I have been in the locker room before games like this and there isn’t a single person in there that doesn’t believe we can play with anybody in the country. Northwestern hangs around and keeps this in the number. Sprinkle a little on the money line while you’re at it. 

Bonus Bonus College Game

Take Penn State +3.5 

Home underdog, in a nationally televised game, getting less than 30% of bets. Automatic play for me. 
 

The Daily Line: Week 1 football picks

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USA TODAY

The Daily Line: Week 1 football picks

The Supreme Court opened the door for sports betting legalization with its May ruling that struck down a 1992 law that banned commercial sports betting in most states. Sports betting is not yet legal in Illinois, but with football season underway, former Northwestern offensive lineman Eric Olson will take a weekly look at the odds surrounding the action on the field.

It is here. Football season is upon us. The best time of year has begun. By way of introduction, I am Eric Olson. I played football for Northwestern from 2012- 2016, started over 30 games at Right Tackle, got a Master’s in Predictive Analytics and love to look at football through the eyes of a sports bettor. I will be writing up my weekly NFL, and a few college picks here at NBC Sports Chicago. With the legalization of sports betting in a handful of states already, and possibly growing to others soon, there will be a lot of new interest and increased awareness on the sports betting factors around the games this year.    The best pieces of advice I can give you are: #1 Don’t bet what you can’t afford #2 If it feels too good to be true, it probably is. And #3 If it feels ugly when you place it, good. Other than that, let’s have some fun and hopefully have some success along the way.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs New York Giants, 9/9 12:00pm CT

The Line: Jaguars -3

Betting Percentage Split: 50/50

The play: Giants +3

The Jacksonville Jaguars wildly overachieved in 2017. The New York Giants wildly under achieved in 2017. Week 1 is a phenomenal time to exploit biases like this from the previous season. In fact, teams that won under six games the year before are an incredible 59% against the spread in week 1 of the following year over the last 8 years. The Giants are not a 3-13 team based on the talent on their roster. Odell is happy, McAdoo and his stupid haircut are out, Saquon is in, the OL is revamped and seemingly there is actually some sort of balance in the locker room. The Jaguars may have the best defense in league for a second straight year, but that doesn’t mean they will recapture the spark they had in 2017. Bortles is still a very, very average NFL quarterback and I am not ready to pencil this team as the new AFC powerhouse for years to come like some people seem so set to do. Take advantage of this situational play and take the team that under achieved the previous year at home getting points with a veteran QB.

San Francisco 49ers vs Minnesota Vikings, 9/9 12:00pm CT

The Line: Vikings  -6.5

Betting Percentage Split: 66% of tickets on the Vikings

The play: Vikings -6.5

Everybody and their mother have the 49ers as their ‘surprise’ team this year. People love to talk about how Jimmy G went 5-0 in his first 5 starts, but look past the fact that he had a pedestrian 7:5 interception to TD ratio, he won his last two games against a Rams team that sat all of their starters and a Jags team that already clinched their division; not to mention, the Niners had one of and will have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Vikings return nearly their entire NFC Championship Game roster, make a lateral (maybe slightly upward) move at QB and add Sheldon Richardson to their already stacked defensive line. Simply put, there is nothing, I mean nothing, better than fading over-hyped teams in the NFL. Give me the Vikes to show up at home in week 1 (6-3 ATS at home last year) and take 49ers under 8.5 wins while you’re at it too.

Dallas Cowboys vs Carolina Panthers, 9/9 3:25pm CT

The Line: Panthers -3 (+100)

Betting Percentage Split: 72% of tickets on the Panthers

The play: Cowboys +3

This is an interesting spot for a lot reasons. Two talented teams with a lot of question marks coming into the season. From a betting perspective, we also see one of the most public teams in all of sports (Cowboys) getting only 28% percent of bets. Furthermore, we have seen this line move the opposite direction of the ticket count (you can get -2.5 in some places). In the betting world this is called ‘Reverse Line Movement’ and it usually is an indicator that professional bettors are targeting a particular side. I love siding with the pros here and taking the underdog Cowboys when the public has hopped off their bandwagon. The Panthers lost pro-bowl guard Andrew Norwell in the offseason and will be without Left Tackle Matt Kalil, and possibly Right Tackle Daryl Williams, in week 1, giving what was one of the best units in football last year a ton of questions heading into the season. I like the Panthers to regress this year and the Cowboys to take a few steps forward from their disappointing 2017 campaign. Give me the contrarian Cowboys (a phrase you will not hear often) in week 1 winning outright.

Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins , 9/9 3:25pm CT

The Line: Titans -2

Betting Percentage Split: 66% of tickets on the Titans

The play: Dolphins +2

The NFL is a strange league, especially when it comes to gambling. The Dolphins went 6-10 last year, got rid of two of their biggest stars in Ndamuking Suh and Jarvis Landry (and Jay Ajayi late last season as well), have injury concerns at QB and play a playoff team in week 1 with a QB who many people think is poised to make the proverbial leap this year. Well, I am not one of those people and I am not a believer in this Titans teams. While getting rid of talent like Suh, Landry and Ajayi may look bad on paper, not only do player acquisitions matter far less than the public perceives them to in the NFL, there was a method to Adam Gase’s madness. He has publicly stated that he got rid of these players, who were often polarizing personalities, to change the locker room culture and instill a level of stability. Will this translate to prolonged success in Miami? I’m not ready to make that leap, however I am ready to say it gives them enough of a spark in week 1 at home to beat an overvalued Titans team. Take the Dolphins and the points.

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers , 9/9 7:20pm CT

The Line: Packers -7/-7.5

Betting Percentage Split: 53% of tickets on the Packers

The play: Packers – 7/7.5

Somehow, after being one of the most boring teams in the NFL for the past couple years, the Bears are a part one of the most exciting and anticipated games of the weekend. Between the Khalil Mack addition, Aaron Rodgers coming back from injury, Nagy coaching his first game and Trubisky finally getting some freedom, this game has some genuinely interesting storylines to follow. From a gambling perspective, this game was as high as Packers -8.5 at one point and since the Khalil Mack addition it has moved all the way to -7 in some places. With the betting ticket disparity being so even, it’s most likely not professional action moving the line, rather bookmakers knowing that the public will be willing to pay a steeper price for the Bears with added excitement. Khalil Mack is a phenomenal player, as a former offensive lineman, players like him give me nightmares, however, on Sunday, his role will be limited and not nearly worth the 1.5 points they are giving him. Take advantage of this Vegas overreaction and take the Packers at -7 if you can get ‘em.

Bonus College Game:

Duke vs. Northwestern, 9/8 11:00 am CT

The Line: Northwestern -3

Betting Percentage Split: 75% of tickets on Northwestern

The play: Northwestern -3

Full transparency here: I am going to take Northwestern every week. While I hate seeing the public all over the Cats, as we typically fair better in the underdog role, this line indicates that these teams would be a pick-em on neutral field. I do not believe this to be an accurate assessment of these two teams. The two biggest questions coming into the season for NU were the health of Clayton Thorson and who was going to replace the production of RB Justin Jackson. Well, in week 1, Clayton looked phenomenal in his limited role, which will only increase week to week, and Jeremy Larkin went for 143 yards and 2 TDs on 26 carries in his debut as the starting RB. The Cats had arguably one of the most impressive week 1 victories going on the road, in prime time, against an upstart conference foe in Purdue and I love them to carry their 9 game win streak into this game and keep rolling. In what was by far their most disappointing result of the season, Northwestern got rolled by Duke last year, give me the Cats, all day, at home, in this revenge spot.