Recognize the tools bookmakers provided NFL bettors

It’s in a bettors’ DNA to always be wary of the bookmaker. We’re always questioning “trap lines” and dismissing sharp vs. square arguments.

But it’s important to recognize the tools that bookmakers have provided NFL bettors at this point in the season. By Week 16, we have several data points from the bookmakers to use to our advantage.

First, we have the look-ahead lines. A team is never as good or as bad as they look in a one-week sample size. Did a team’s performance last week shift the look-ahead lines by too many points?

Second, we have Game of the Year lines. Two months ago, Chicago was -2.5 vs. Kansas City and Philadelphia was -3 vs. Dallas. The Chiefs are now laying five on the road, and the Cowboys aren’t very far behind. Are those moves warranted?

Finally, we have prior head-to-head meetings. Eight of this week’s games feature repeat matchups from earlier this season. What was the line in the first meeting, and how has it changed for the second meeting? Baltimore was a 7-point home favorite over Cleveland in Week 4, and now they are laying 10 on the road.

So consider the available data before you make your decisions. It could pay off.

Saturday

Texans -3 at Buccaneers: ‘Tis the season of giving, and no one has been as generous as Jameis Winston this year. Tampa Bay is averaging an interception on 4.3-percent of their pass attempts, which is by far the worst in the league. And that’s when Winston had Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to throw to.

He won’t have either of those targets on Saturday afternoon. Without Godwin and Evans in the lineup, will Tampa Bay turn to their rushing game to generate some yards? The Bucs are 30th in the league at 3.5 yards per carry this year.

From The Gold Sheet: Houston is 9-3-1 against the spread in their last 13 road games. Tampa Bay has failed to cover the spread in each of their five home games this year.

Sunday

Cowboys -2.5 at Eagles: Speaking of turnovers, Carson Wentz has a little bit of a fumbling problem. Wentz has the second-most fumbles in the league this season, and the Eagles as a team lead the league in fumbles. The Birds fumbled four times last week against the Redskins, but only lost one of them.

You never want to get into the habit of betting on teams that just won a nationally-televised game over a good opponent by 23 the week before, which is what the Cowboys did. You’re going to pay a premium price the next week. But it’s really, really hard to trust the Eagles right now. They were down at halftime to both the New York Giants and Washington. Dallas has won and covered the spread in each of the last four meetings in this series. Dating back to late 2017, Philadelphia is 11-21-1 against the spread in their last 33 regular season games.

Ravens -10 at Browns: Where should we start with the Browns? Following Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, Head Coach Freddie Kitchens said, “I don’t care about my future as Browns coach.” Running back Kareem Hunt accused teammates of taking plays off. Wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. have both asked out of Cleveland. What a mess.

The Ravens have already acknowledged that they will rest players in Week 17 if their seeding is secured. They will probably take a similar mentality into this one. Lamar Jackson remained in last week’s game against the Jets deep into the fourth quarter with the Ravens up by 22 points. It’s hard to imagine them doing that again. If the Ravens take a significant lead in this contest, we should see plenty of Robert Griffin III. The total of 48.5 feels a little too high with one team in complete disarray and another looking to rest some players if the opportunity arises.

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