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.
YTD record: 24-15 against the spread
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Indianpolis Colts 11/11 12:00pm CT
Line: Colts -3
Betting Percentages Split: 53% on Jaguars
The play: Jaguars +3
There is a very simple philosophy in the NFL that simply works when handicapping games. Buy low, sell high. If you blindly bet against teams that had overachieving performances the previous week and bet on teams that underperformed, over time, you will be successful. The NFL is a ‘regress to the mean’ league and the discrepancy amongst teams is much smaller than the public perceives it to be. Well, here we are. Everyone is off the Jaguars bandwagon. I sat here and in my first article of the year I wrote: “I am just not ready to pencil the Jaguars in as the AFC title contenders that everyone seems to think they are for years to come”. Yes, I am happy with myself for calling the regression of the Jaguars. However, the pendulum has shifted too far in the other direction after a myriad of disappointing performances from the Jags. Take a step back for a second, this roster is a 3 POINT UNDERDOG TO THE COLTS. Fade this extreme recency bias and bet that the Jaguars are somewhere in between title contender and bottom feeder.
New Orleans Saints vs. Cincinnati Bengals 11/11 12:00pm CT
Line: Saints – 6
Betting Percentages Split: 77% of tickets on the Saints
The play: Bengals +6
Alright folks. Listen here. After going 11-1 over a two-week stretch in October, this article has not done well in the last two weeks. That has also coincided with the two of the worst Sunday’s Vegas has had in the last 10 years. Guess what? That trend will not continue. Every year there are about two to three Sundays where the public players win and the house loses. If those are also the first Sunday’s that I lose, I can live with it. Bet with the house and over time you will win money (this article is still over 60% on the year, we’re doing just fine). So here we go again, we are fading the public hard here. The Saints are a very good team, my favorite future I placed before the season was Saints to win the NFC at +700, I really, really liked this roster. However, public perception of this team has never been higher after a string of marquee wins that included the dismantling of the previously unbeatable Rams. So, what do we do? We bet against them. The Bengals are a quietly solid team capable of beating any team in the NFL and getting six points at home, in a noon game following the Saints primetime slot last week is an auto bet from me. Take the Bengals and the points.
Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears 11/11 12:00pm CT
Line: Bears -7
Betting Percentages Split: 63% of tickets on the Bears
The play: Lions +7
Look! Again! Another overreaction to recent results! This line is simply too big for two divisional teams that, realistically (cover your ears Bears fans), are relatively close to one another in terms of talent. The Bears are a very solid team. Nothing more, nothing less. They will find their way to 9 wins. The Lions are about one (maybe ½) notch below that and will find their way to 7 or 8 wins. Can we agree on that? No? Okay, you know I am right and that disparity just does not warrant a 7-point spread. The Lions threw up a stinker against a surging Vikings team and I expect them to move back closer to the mean and play the Bears close.
Atlanta Falcons vs Cleveland Browns 11/11 12:00pm CT
Line: Falcons -6.5
Betting Percentages Split: 82% tickets on the Falcons
The play: Browns +6.5
I sat and stared at my computer screen for a very long time just looking at this line. The Browns meet every criteria I look for in a game. They played a game with a deceiving score last week (they played the Chiefs closer than the score indicates). They have less than 20% of the bet tickets. They are an NFL team (yes, I know, ground breaking) catching significant points at home. They are better than their record indicates, swaying public perception. The line has, multiple times throughout the week, shifted against the public bet tickets, indicating that professionals are betting on the Browns. But, it’s the Browns and this bet felt disgusting. Then I remembered, if it feels gross when you place it, good. So, hold your nose, bet the Browns and the points.
Bonus College Game: Northwestern vs Iowa 11/10 3:30pm CT
Line: Iowa -11
Betting Percentages Split: 69% of tickets on Northwestern
The play: Northwestern +11
Do I hate that the public is on Northwestern? Yes. Very much so. This line is WAYYYY too big and frankly, that scares me a little. However, I know the guys in that locker room, I know what their mindset was going into the ND game last week (we cared A LOT more about this week) and I know how much we LOVE playing at Kinnick Stadium. Could you play the angle that we only need to win 2 of our last 3 games to go to the Big Ten Championship? Sure, but, if we win this game we all but lock up our spot. If we lose, we still have to win on the road in Minneapolis and then play an Illinois team that would love nothing more than to knock us off. We do not want to leave this up for chance. We finish it this weekend in Iowa City and win outright, take the Cats and the points.