It was a tremendous NFL Sunday for sportsbooks across Las Vegas and offshore but not so much for the public.
Bolstered by a massive 11-3 ATS result for underdogs in the NFL on Sunday, the books ended up with one of their better days in the NFL over the betting public. Of those 11 underdogs that covered the number, 7 of those teams won the game outright: Indianapolis, Jacksonville, NY Jets, Chicago, Buffalo, New Orleans and Washington.
My focus in the NFL portion of this column will be on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots whose current price point and power rating in the betting markets seems to be based more on past reputation than current realities.
The Patriots have been one of the most public teams in the NFL among the betting masses in recent years. The fact New England managed to turn a remarkable 16-3 ATS record in the regular season and playoffs combined last year in spite of their status as one of the NFL’s elite teams is an incredible feat. However, the “what goes up must come down” theory is certainly coming into play with the 2017 edition of the Patriots.
New England has opened up the season 2-1 SU but 1-2 ATS and they are very fortunate to have avoided losing two straight home games at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for the first time since 2006. New England’s offense has only been operating at a high level at times this season as Tom Brady has had to get used to being without arguably his favorite target in Julian Edelman, who is done for the season with a torn ACL.
On Sunday, Brady had to function behind an offensive line missing key RT Marcus Cannon who missed the game with an ankle injury; it resulted in a shaky performance from that unit which gave up 5 sacks on Brady against the Houston defense, and the Pats are 25th in the NFL in fewest sacks per game allowed through three weeks. The offense has been good but has not clicked to the extent they did for much of last season.
The bigger issue is on defense where New England’s numbers are currently bottom tier across the board. Matt Patricia’s stop unit is allowing 461 total yards per game, last at 32nd in the NFL. They are giving up 5.1 yards per rush and 130.3 yards per game on the ground, ranking them 31st and 26th in those categories. The Pats are also struggling against the pass with teams throwing for 330 yards per game against them at a woeful 8.8 yards per pass clip and both of those rank 30th or worse.
These are horrendous stats for New England on the defensive side of the football. That’s despite facing Alex Smith (a solid but not elite QB), Drew Brees (who struggled mightily prior to Sunday) and a rookie QB making his second ever NFL start in Deshaun Watson in their first three games. The 1-2 ATS start to the season for New England already shows last year’s results have left this team drastically overvalued, but add to it the problems this team is having defensively and I see there being more opportunities in the future to try and go against this flawed edition of the New England Patriots.
Turning to college football where we also find a couple of teams that are heavily hyped and talented but also flawed and currently, from my point of view, overvalued commodities in the betting markets.
Oddly enough it is the two teams that met in the Rose Bowl last season, USC and Penn State, that will be the focus of this piece. The USC Trojans are currently a Top 5 team in the nation – a squad that got all kinds of national title contender hype along with plenty of Heisman Trophy proclamations for QB Sam Darnold prior to the season. However, USC has proven themselves to be an overvalued squad from a betting standpoint.
Despite a 4-0 SU beginning to the campaign, USC has only covered one pointspread in their first four games and that came in the win against Stanford, and the latest ATS defeat came this past weekend against California. Cal outgained USC 416-356 and were in the hunt to win the game outright for more than 3 quarters, but eventually turnovers finally did them in as the Trojans benefitted immensely from a +4 TO margin on their side.
USC was life and death to beat Texas and they struggled immensely to put away Western Michigan at home in their season opener. Their struggles to stop the run have played a part in keeping lesser foes in games against them, with USC surrendering 153.5 yards per game on the ground this season. Up next the Trojans get set for a massive showdown with Washington State on a Friday night national TV game in Pullman.
USC is currently a -3.5 to -4 point favorite on the road in that game as oddsmakers are starting to show some downward adjustments on USC coming into this game.
Penn State is another overvalued commodity thanks to a very easy schedule to open the season featuring three home games against Akron, Pittsburgh and Georgia State.
Penn State won those games on the scoreboard by a combined 141-14 and beat the spread by 41.5 points. They faced their first step up in class and their first road game of the season all in one on Saturday night in Iowa against the Hawkeyes. Penn State was laying close to 2 TD’s and they barely escaped with the straight up victory, 21-19.
Now they face Indiana at home and Northwestern on the road prior to their bye week, and Michigan comes into Happy Valley after the bye so the next portion of the Penn State schedule will go a long way to determining how good they are this season.
Penn State was 11-0-1 ATS in their last 12 games dating back to last season in a truly epic pointspread streak for Nittany Lions supporters prior to Saturday’s ATS loss to Iowa, which could be just the beginning of a downward streak in the other direction from an ATS perspective. Penn State is at its absolute peak right now in terms of the pointspread and to see the Nittany Lions turn in a losing record ATS for the rest of the regular season would not be a surprise to this bettor.