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NFL Week 3: Sunday AGAINST THE SPREAD Betting Guide

Naive Betting Strategy Review

We will track several simple hypothetical betting strategies this season, including betting with changes in the spread, fading the public (i.e. betting on teams to cover that have garnered less than 40% of public betting support), betting that all favorites will beat the number, backing all home teams versus the line and lastly, supporting home underdogs ATS. Consistent with research on the topic, we expect certain trends to exhibit profitability over long enough horizons. For example, Paul and Weinbach (2010) find evidence of statistically significant profitability related to betting against public sentiment; and Borghesi (2004), Gandar, Zuber and Lamb (2007), Borghesi (2011) and Humphreys, Paul and Weinbach (2013) all validate the existence of a home underdog effect in the NFL betting markets. Our hypothesis is that, while over reasonably long horizons these tendencies are likely to manifest, from one season to the next, we allow though for the potential emergence of shorter-term trends that run counter to bigger picture predilections. Such trends might serve a cross-checks for our picks from one week to the next.

The Betting Line

Betting against changes in the spread was wildly profitable in week 1, but proved as terrible in week 2 as it was sound the prior period. Heading into week 3, the direction of the change between the opening and closing spread is an uninformative 12-12-1 on the season.

Betting Against Sentiment

As another example of an about face from what worked in week 1, fading the public did not turn a profit last week either. Teams garnering more than 60% of public support were 3-7 in week 1, but followed up that performance with a 5-4 showing more recently. Despite a losing week 2 though, at 11-8 on the season, betting against the public is solidly profitable on the season and is the best performing naive strategy on our radar. As such, we are alert to the potential that this tendency might show some persistence this season.


Teams laying points have consistently covered at the 50% threshold through two weeks of play, amassing an ATS record of 15-15-1.

Home Teams

Teams playing on their own field submitted a 8-6-1 record against the spread in week 1, but were 8-8 last week. Home underdogs are 6-5 on the season, after a 2-2 week 2. Aside from fading the public, backing teams in their own building is the only other naive strategy to register a profit (assuming the standard vig of -110) through the first two weeks of NFL action.

Last Week's Picks and Pans

We fared extremely well last week, first collecting on both wagers included in our Thursday Night Football pair bet, then amassing a 7-3 record on NFL Sunday and finally cashing in on Monday Night Football. Our imperfection last week owed to definitive losses by the Saints, Jags and Jets. Neither of these three teams were ever really in their respective contests, and all were ultimately throttled.

Brass Tacks: The Current Week

Our power ranking work has generated 11 ATS picks for the third NFL Sunday of the season. We are backing five away teams and five squads at home (the Ravens and the Jags will be hosted at Wembley Stadium, in London, a neutral site). Our away picks are approximately evenly distributed among favorites and underdogs, while our support of teams playing on their own field is notably skewed toward underdogs. Part of our implied preference for home dogs this week is purely structural: the travelling team is favored to win in 11 of week 3's 16 scheduled contests, compared to only four games last week and six in week 1. However, given the empirical support for the home underdog bias in NFL betting markets, we are open to prospect that this cohort will have a day Sunday.

Our picks this week are also slightly tilted toward teams with extremely low public support. Six of our 11 recommended plays align with teams that have attracted less than 40% of bets tracked by SportsInsights. Conversely, four picks favor teams garnering a large majority of betting interest. Given that the naive strategy of fading the public is profitable on the season, and that this approach fared poorly last week, we see scope for a strong show Sunday from this group as well.

The betting lines indicated in our picks grid below are from Bovada.lv, where we are laying our NFL wagers this season. Since we locked in our positioning for week 3 several days ago, four of our picks have seen the line move the other way, with six lines unchanged and only one pick experiencing positive line value. We must admit that we are comforted (psychologically) when lines move our direction, however, we determined earlier that the betting line is a loser on the season in terms of predicting ATS outcomes. Accordingly, the ominous indications line movement offers are taken with a grain of salt this week.

Our framework flashed only one full house' signal for week 3. We REALLY like the Seahawks +3 at the Titans. Advanced statistics like FootballOutsiders' DAVE and DVOA suggest the Titans are indeed a top-10 offense. However, Tennessee will encounter an elite defense Sunday--against the pass, anyway, and we expect Mariota to have less success throwing the ball. Further, these same advanced statistics hint that Seattle's offense is better than the Seahawks' play thus far would indicate. Relatedly, Tennessee's porous defense might represent an ideal position from which Russell Wilson and company will finally produce some offense.

Happy betting!!

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