Being a “dog-or-pass” bettor takes intestinal fortitude, as it goes against our instinct to bet the better team. Even though it hasn’t worked as well in the last two weeks with our NFL our picks in The Times — though underdogs were 8-7 against the spread (ATS) in Week 8 if you bet them all — it pays off in the long run.
I can give you examples sure to spark some memories: the Washington Nationals in the just-completed World Series; Clemson over Alabama in the last College Football Playoff championship game and countless March Madness games. Or how about the times you’ve bet the favorite because “they’re going to kill that team” or “they just have to win by a field goal”?
It takes discipline, too. For example, this week the Indianapolis Colts opened as one-point underdog at Pittsburgh. If you heard me Monday on VSiN’s “Betting Across America” show, I said it was a best bet to take the Colts as short dogs but to bet it ASAP. The reason for the rush should now be obvious: The Colts have been bet to favoritism. So now I would pass. It’s tempting to say, “I thought all along they should be favored, so what’s the harm in laying a point or two?” But I’ve seen too many times in which I thought — and acted — on that only to lose by not being contrarian.
I have only four best-bet underdogs for NFL Week 9, though I also bet the Arizona Cardinals +10.5 on Thursday night for those reading the early online version. With four teams on their bye weeks, including the L.A. Rams, we’re forced to be a little more selective.
Washington Redskins +9.5 at Buffalo Bills
I’ve had a great handle on the Bills so far. I backed them as underdogs early in the season but faded them with the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles the last two weeks. I respect the Bills defense, but with their methodical offense they shouldn’t be favored by this many points. The Redskins cashed for us last Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings, and I expect a similar result here as Case Keenum does just enough to keep the Redskins within the number.
Detroit Lions +2 at Oakland Raiders
I hate saying the wrong team is favored, because it sounds like I’m not respecting the oddsmakers or the market, but the wrong team is favored here. Both teams have exceeded expectations and have looked like wild-card contenders a few times, but while the Raiders have suffered three blowout losses, the Lions have been more competitive and have just struggled to pull out close games. I’ll take the more battle-tested team, especially because I keep thinking of Aaron Rodgers dissecting the Oakland secondary two weeks ago and expect Matthew Stafford to do the same with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.
Chargers +3.5 vs. Green Bay Packers
I know the Chargers don’t have much of a home-field advantage, but that’s more of a bet-against when they’re laying points. This is the time of year when the Chargers usually start to play better, which we saw a little bit Sunday in their minor upset of the Chicago Bears. Besides, the Green Bay defense isn’t as strong as its stats and reputation make it out to be. The Chargers should have more success against it, with the coaches figuring out how to use Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to help ease some of the pass rush on Philip Rivers.
New York Giants +7 vs. Dallas Cowboys
I’ve waffled on this game, mostly out distrusting the Giants’ defense to contain the Cowboys’ offense (see Dak Prescott’s 405-yard performance in the 35-17 rout back in Week 1). But I’m taking the home dog on Monday night. The Giants are coming off a decent effort in their spread-covering loss at Detroit, while the Cowboys are coming off a bye. A lot of people like to bet a team off its bye, but I’m hoping a little rust set in and took away the Cowboys’ momentum from their 37-10 rout of the Eagles the last time we saw them. Besides, the Cowboys had their worst game of the season at MetLife Stadium in their 24-22 loss to the Jets, so hopefully it’s their haunted house.
LAST WEEK IN THE TIMES: 2-3.
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