Back-to-back weeks on the winning side of things and I can feel that a lot of these trends are really starting to click on all cylinders as we get to the middle of the season. Target Sides & Totals went 20-8-1 over the last two weeks! Hopefully you have been able to capitalize off the hot streak and find yourself with a little extra capital heading into the backend of the season.
Before we jump into the Week 9 trends, I wanted to give an overview of the NFL landscape through Week 8. Home favorites are 47-29-1 straight up (SU) but a really disappointing 32-45 against the spread (ATS). This makes sense when you account for the lack of fans in 2020, road teams are keeping games close and covering the spread at a high rate. Using this theory, road favorites are a predictable 29-13 SU but only 19-23 ATS. This is showing that underdogs have proven to be profitable ATS this season.
When it comes to points, 2020 has been one of the highest scoring seasons of all-time. We started the season on a high-scoring streak and overs carried the momentum through Week 4 going 37-25-1. Since then, the sportsbooks have corrected and Overs have only gone 26-29-1. Even though it feels like this is an outlier season for scoring, just remember that these sportsbooks are smart and the lines are still extremely tight.
Now that we have set the table for how the lines have performed over the first half of the year, it’s time to dive right in to the Week 9 numbers!
CAUTION! Your picks shouldn’t be based solely on NFL historical betting trends. There are a multitude of things to consider. Trends are just one variable. However, one variable might be the tie breaker you need to make a bet.
Please reach out to me on Twitter if there’s anything you want a deeper dive on or particular info you would like to see for upcoming weeks. A lot of these that I will be writing about were once gut opinions or ideas of mine that I decided to dig in and #showmethedata on!
Please note: I have removed games that contradict over multiple trends from the “Targets” list
NFL Week 9 Betting Trends
Historically Reliable Teams
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has looked absolutely dominant this season, and this week they get to face Ben “Gucci” DiNucci and the Cowboys. Dallas comes into this game limping lifelessly having put up only 22 points total in the last three weeks. Before you run to the table to hammer the Steelers, I want to warn you that Pittsburgh has been extremely bad as a heavy favorite in recent history. Since 2001, Pittsburgh is only 10-23 ATS when they are a double digit favorite. In this day and age of the NFL, double digit favorites are few and far between because the league is so balanced. Usually when a team is this big of a favorite, there is a serious hot streak working in their favor or a cold streak from their opponent. That’s exactly what we have this week, and it smells fishy. I am going to roll with the underdog Cowboys in this spot and hope it stays within two scores.
When you think of the NFC South showdowns between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first thing that probably comes to mind is shootouts. Drew Brees has been in charge of a high-powered Saints offense for the better part of the last two decades and the Buccaneers have been able to return fire with offensive weapons of their own. Now, we get a Hall of Fame matchup in Week 9 as Tom Brady and Brees will duke it out on Sunday Night Football. Unfortunately, the sportsbooks have historically set really sharp lines on these games, and I would imagine (don’t have this data) that the public oftentimes bets the line up before kickoff. In the last 23 matchups between NO and TB, the under has actually gone 15-8. This week the total opened up at 55.5, but has since been bet down to 51. I am still willing to bet the under here, but would like to see if there is an line movement back to the opening line before kickoff Sunday night.
Another divisional matchup that has been extremely prone to unders comes in the NFC North. The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings have seen a lot defensive struggles over the last 12 seasons. In their last 24 matchups the under has gone 17-7. Not only do we have this trend working in our favor, but it also looks like there is potential for Matthew Stafford to show up on the COVID list. This seems like an additional reason to hit the under.
Target Sides: DAL +14
Target Totals: NO/TB u51, DET/MIN u52
How Mid-Season Byes affect Teams
For the purposes of this article, I am defining a mid-season bye as Weeks 7 through 9. We have four teams coming off real byes this week, but before we rush to go bet these well-rested teams, let’s dig into the trends. Surprisingly enough, teams who go on the road after a mid-season bye are 32-21 SU and 36-17 ATS since 2010. Meanwhile, the mid-season bye week teams who get to stay at home the following week have done poorly going 37-30 SU and just 26-41 ATS (Overs hitting at a 41-26 rate). Don’t fall victim to the mid-season bye bias (bye-as) that you might here getting tossed around this week. Play it smart with these teams.
Target Sides: MIA +4.5, NYG +1
Target Totals: MIA/ARI o49, JAX/HOU o50.5, NYG/WAS o43
Early Down Success Rate (EDSR) Mismatches
In week 4, I talked about EDSR, one of Warren Sharp’s favorite statistics. Almost every 3rd and 4th down is reactive due to the distance needed for a first down, and many times the 4th quarter is reactive based on the score differential between teams. EDSR eliminates these conditions and only looks at how teams do (offensively and defensively) on 1st and 2nd downs in the first three quarters of a game. In the biggest mismatches this season, the better team went 13-7 SU and 10-10 ATS. Here are this week’s biggest mismatches.
Target Sides (The differentials listed compare the EDSR of the target team to the EDSR of their opponent on the other side of the ball)
SEA -3 (Run Offense +28, Pass Offense +18, Run Defense +9, Pass Defense -12)
IND +1 (Pass Defense +27, Run Defense +16, Pass Offense +6, Run Defense -22)
KC -10.5 (Run Offense +17, Pass Defense +15, Pass Offense +14, Run Defense -19)
DEN +4 (Run Defense +18, Run Offense +8, Pass Defense +3, Pass Offense -3)
Pace of Play & Explosive Play Rate
Defined as a rush over 10 yards or a pass over 15 yards, explosive plays are a good stat for us to use to dial in on totals to bet. Theoretically, if a team is really good at hitting explosive plays on offense and they face a team who gives up a lot of them on defense, that is a recipe for a game where possession is constantly changing. With shorter drives (and more of them ending in scoring plays), this increase in offensive opportunities should help lead to higher scoring games. When it comes to pace, there are two things to consider. Seconds per play tells us how quickly teams are breaking the huddle and snapping the ball in order to increase pace, and overall plays helps us compare expected offensive opportunities. Comparing how teams rank in these two pace categories (in neutral game scripts) with the Vegas Totals can help determine some spots to target. This trend is 7-5 (win-loss) since I combined the two of these.
PIT/DAL o43 (12th highest total, 10th in explosive plays, 1st in sec/play, 1st in plays/gm)
CHI/TEN o47 (11th highest total, 7th in explosive plays, 2nd in sec/play, 5th in plays/gm)
NO/TB u50.5 (5th highest total, 13th in explosive plays, 11th in sec/play, 9th in plays/gm)
Underdog Movement off the Lookahead Line
If you have been reading this every week, you should be well versed in reviewing lookahead lines by now. If you need a refresher, make sure to go check out Week 2’s article. This is a trend that I started tracking to good success last year and it is already off to a great start in 2020. All told, underdogs in any of these situations have now gone 30-14 ATS even though they have only gone 17-27 SU. Here’s a reminder of the three different buckets I am tracking for underdog line movement. It’s important to check back in on these right before kickoff on Sunday morning to make sure you get the closest to the closing line as possible. On the other hand, if you see any of this drastic line movement during the week and you can lock in the underdog at an inflated price, then feel free to do so.
Line Movement towards the Underdogs – When the line moved more than 1.5 points towards an underdog they are only 8-13 SU but 14-7 ATS. Target Sides: IND +1 (opened as +4), MIA +4.5 (Opened +6)
Favorite Swapped Sides – This trend is now 3-2 SU, 4-1 ATS, and 3-2 Over to the team that closed as the underdog this season. No games currently fall into this category for Week 9.
Line Movement towards the Favorites – When the line moved more than 1.5 points towards a favorite, they are a chalky 12-6 SU, but only 6-12 ATS. Target Sides: DET +4 (Opened +2), DAL +14 (Opened +9)
That wraps it up for the Week 9 edition of Trend Wisely. Good luck this week, I hope to see some winning ticket screenshots!
Record to date on Target Sides/Totals
OVERALL: 70-55-4 (54.5%)
Week 1: 15-8-1 (65%)
Week 2: 10-10 (50%)
Week 3: 5-6 (45%)
Week 4: 7-5-2 (58%)
Week 5: 5-10 (33%)
Week 6: 8-8 (50%)
Week 7: 10-3-1 (76.9%)
Week 8: 10-5 (66.6%)