Week 8: Picking Winners, Thinking Outside the Box

Tony is a former retail manager turned full-time sports investor. This is a new column at 4for4 designed to help those of you in weekly pickem and survivor pools gain an edge on the competition. Tony is glad to field questions on Twitter or through email.


What Have We Learned?

Considering Jacksonville won outright on Monday night as a 10.5 point underdog, paying 4.5 to 1 to anyone that bet them to win the game, I wanted to see if betting on home underdogs ATS (against the spread) and to win straight-up is a long-term way to make a profit. I looked back to 2006 and here are the numbers I came up with ATS and straight-up for home underdogs.

2006: 43-33 ATS 34 outright winners

2007: 43-47 ATS 32 outright winners

2008: 33-43 ATS 25 outright winners

2009 43-44 ATS 28 outright winners

2010 42-39 ATS 30 outright winners

2011 18-17 ATS 13 outright winners (Through week 7)

I found that blindly betting ATS on home underdogs would have lost you money in every season except 2006. Also, 45% of the outright winners have come from the +3 to the +6.5 point range. The money line payout for this spread range is +140 to +220. Going back to 1980, 67% of dogs that cover, win outright in NFL. 81% of teams that win straight-up cover the spread.

This year we have seen 8 big underdogs (touchdown or more) win outright. Some of those teams were road teams. I would recommend that if you are betting the underdog and the line is +3 or more, then I would also bet about ¼ of your ATS bet on the money line. Do this for all road or home underdogs you decide to play that fall within this range. This increases the payout when they do hit. As bettors we need every edge we can get.


Surprising Stats

Teams off of byes are now 3-9 straight-up and 4-6-2 ATS. Keep this in mind when picking games this weekend. We will continue to monitor this trend going forward.

If every pass a quarterback attempts hits the ground incomplete, his rating is 39.6 under the NFL system. In the Chiefs at Raiders contest, Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel finished with a 38.3 passer rating, Oakland quarterback Kyle Boller with a 22.3 rating and Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer with a 17.3 rating.

Cam Newton has seven rushing touchdowns, more rushing touchdowns than 22 entire NFL teams.

For people that play in pick-the-winner pools, home teams are 62-41 straight-up, home favorites 49-17 straight-up, and home dogs 13-24 straight-up.

A couple of against-the-spread (ATS) numbers: unders went 7-6 in week 6. YTD overs are 57-45 (55.88%). Favorites are against-the-spread 51-47-5(52.04%), with 32 of those underdogs who covered, being outright winners. Double digit dogs are 9-5 ATS (64.29%).


Picking Unpopular Winners

For pick’em, against-the-spread type pools (Office Football Pool, Pick 5 formats, etc.), a key to winning is often finding the unpopular public plays and going against the grain. Here are some unpopular plays I like this week that may help you win your pool. My year-to-date record is 12-12-1


San Francisco -7.5: I don’t know how Cleveland is going to score any points in this game. They have zero playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. San Francisco has one of the best front sevens in football. The only way to attack the 49ers defense is to stretch the field. San Francisco plays sound, fundamental football. Alex Smith has done a great job managing games with 8 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions. The 49ers trounced Tampa Bay at home. Look for them to rout the Browns.

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