The NFL is beginning to balance itself out.
After an early-season run of favorites and OVERS that had the public cashing tickets at an alarming rate, the numbers are beginning to regress back towards the mean. Through eight weeks of football, favorites now hold just a slight edge over the dogs (57-53-6, 51.8%) while OVERS currently boast a record of just 61-54 (53.04%).
However, one trend that continues to baffle linesmakers and sharps alike has to do with the bye weeks. Entering Week 9, UNDERS are a surprising 14-4 in games that feature at least one team coming off the bye. Not only that, but these games are going UNDER by an average of 8.5 points per game!
That should give you a hint as to which way I’m leaning for Sunday’s matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the San Diego Chargers. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three other games on the Week 9 schedule that have seen some interesting line movements out here in Las Vegas over the last few days.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-1, 3-0 road) at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-4, 2-1 home)
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Opening line: San Francisco -4.5
Current line: San Francisco -3.5
Current betting trends: 92% of the public is currently backing the 49ers.
San Francisco: 6-1 against the spread in seven games this season.
Washington: 3-4 against the spread in seven games this season.
Interesting trend: The 49ers are 6-0 against the spread in their last six games as a favorite, while the Redskins are 7-16-2 ATS in their last 25 home games.
Analysis: This was the first game that jumped off the page at me when I was examining the early lines last Sunday night. The 49ers are 6-0-1 against the spread this season, are 3-0 on the road and have brought home five straight victories. As if that wasn’t enough, San Fran leads the NFL in both run defense (73.4 yds/gm) and scoring defense (15.3 pts/gm).
On the other side of the ball sits a lifeless Washington Redskins team that was shutout by the Buffalo Bills last Sunday in Toronto. The ‘Skins are still without two of their top offensive playmakers (RB Tim Hightower, WR Santana Moss), have lost three straight games and are 5-15-6 against the spread in their last 26 games after scoring fewer than 15 points in their previous contest.
So why did this line move in Washington’s favor?
“I think we’ve seen some money come in on the Redskins because of yet another road trip for the 49ers,” Caesars Senior Race & Sports Analyst Todd Fuhrman told me Wednesday afternoon. “San Francisco has quickly become the surprise team this year and the team has brought it every single week. While the number seems a little bit short, the hook could loom large. I think this will be one of the weekend’s lower scoring games and the ATS decision could be decided by every half point bettors can put in their back pocket.”
In my opinion, this game isn’t so much about betting on the 49ers as it is about betting against the Redskins. Remember, Mike Shanahan’s crew is averaging just 16.6 points per game this season (26th in NFL) and has been held to 17 or fewer points in four of their last five outings.
CHICAGO BEARS (4-3, 1-2 road) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-4, 1-2 home)
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET (Monday night)
Opening line: Philadelphia -7
Current line: Philadelphia -8
Current betting trends: 51% of the public is currently backing the Eagles.
Chicago: 3-4 against the spread in seven games this season.
Philadelphia: 3-4 against the spread in seven games this season.
Interesting trend: The underdog is 7-2 against the spread in the last nine meetings between these two teams.
Analysis: After blasting the Dallas Cowboys 34-7 on primetime television last Sunday night, the early bettors jumped on the Philadelphia Eagles at -7 and have already pushed the line north to -8. Interesting, because for as good as the Birds have looked over their last two games, their Week 9 opponent has been known to give them serious problems in the past.
Since 2007, the Chicago Bears are 3-1 against the Eagles in a tightly played series where the margin of victory is a paltry 4.5 points per game. In addition, the Bears are 3-0-1 against the spread in their last four November games while the Eagles are just 1-5 against the spread in their last six home games.
For as well as quarterback Michael Vick has been playing as of late, keep in mind that he had committed just one turnover in seven games last season before taking a late-November road trip to Soldier Field. In that matchup, Vick was intercepted once and fumbled the rock four times.
It will be tough to go against the Eagles on Monday night based on the way they’ve been playing the last few weeks, but that’s a big point spread that should have you at least questioning the pick prior to walking up to the counter and placing a bet.
BALTIMORE RAVENS (5-2, 1-2 road) at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (6-2, 4-0 home)
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET (Sunday night)
Opening line: O/U 42.5
Current line: O/U 41.5
Current betting trends: 66% of the public is currently backing the OVER.
Baltimore: The OVER is 5-2 in seven games played this season.
Pittsburgh: The OVER is 4-4 in eight games played this season.
Interesting trend: The OVER is 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings between these two teams in Pittsburgh.
Analysis: For those of you who took a look at this game and thought “UNDER,” I’ve got some interesting statistics you should pay close attention to.
For starters, not only is the OVER 6-2 in the Ravens’ last eight games overall, but it’s also 5-0 in the Steelers’ last five games as a favorite of 3.5-10.0.
“Since 2003, no team in the NFL sees more OVERS at home than the Steelers, as 62% of their games have gone OVER during that time span,” Warren Sharp of SharpFootballAnalysis.com told me Wednesday afternoon. “Their average total for home games has been 39 and those outings have gone over by an average of three points per game.”
In addition, the OVER is 19-6-1 in the Steelers’ last 26 home games against a team with a winning record and 9-4-1 in the Ravens’ last 14 games against teams from the AFC North.
If you’re still thinking about pulling the trigger on the UNDER, take a look back to Week 4 when the Ravens played host to the New York Jets. I’m sure many of you were thinking the UNDER would cash in that game as well, as two of the NFL’s top defenses got together for a Sunday night slugfest.
That game ended 34-17 (51 points!) and went OVER the total in the first half.