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  • Writer's picture@WizeOwlSports

2018 NFL Sunday Week 4: Trends and Picks

Our picks finished 3-3 last week (see here, here and here for details), apparently taking a breather after week 1's white hot 6-2 showing. So, with three weeks of NFL action in the bag, we stand at a solidly profitable 9-5 (64%) on the season--pretty good, especially given that a demanding travel schedule that robbed us of the opportunity to pad the stats with our 'fade the public'-themed week 2 picks.

Heading into week 4, the output of our power rankings composite model and computer simulation routines inspires plenty of action (the image just below displays all nine NFL Sunday picks generated by our work). However, we whittled down the number of focus games (described in detail herein) to the three picks we feel are best supported by historical context and the current environment.

A notable commonality among our 'Featured' selections is the persistence of the idea of zigging when the majority of public bettors are zagging. Weeks 2 and 3 are historically optimal periods for contrarian bets, but the current season has delivered exceptional profitability each week for bettors willing to deviate from the group think.

Since 2003, fading NFL teams that are supported by more than 50% of spread wagers during the first three weeks of the season is 341-396-17 ATS, for a 53% cover rate and a return on investment of 4.7%. This year though, this same system is 31-15-1, good for a 67% win rate and an eye-popping 30.1% ROI!

Happy betting!!


Featured Week 4 Games:​

  • Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys

  • Philadelphia Eagles @ Tennessee Titans

  • Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals


Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys -3 (-110)

The Lions are flying high after besting the Patriots by a score of 26-10 from the position of +255 underdogs. Detroit's improbable win last week, coupled with the thumping Seattle put on Dallas, has emboldened public support for the road team in week 4. As of the time of this writing, The Action Network reports 61% of spread wagers expect the Lions to roar yet again at AT&T Stadium. This action triggered a key move in the spread, from Dallas -3.5 to -3. Contrary to the direction of the line movement though, our power rankings framework makes the home team to be 4-5 points superior, so we are content to back the Boys minus the field goal.

Further, we observe evidence that the betting public tends to get too high on road dogs coming off massive covers and straight up underdog wins. A system of fading such teams when the spread is flat or moves as much as three points in their favor has amassed a return on investment of 31.5% since 2003.

Not to mention Matt Stafford's Lions are a lowly 8-16-3 ATS on the road following a straight up win.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Tennessee Titans +4 -110

Our go-to handicapping framework for NFL action see the Eagles as about a field goal better than the Titans Sunday, suggesting some value with the home dogs +4.

Supporting this play, we note that the combination of dismal offensive output a game ago, plus low levels of public support in the present week has pretty routinely resulted in profits. Since 2003, teams garnering the backing of 40% or less of spread wagers, and that posted single-digit points in their prior game are 230-172-11 ATS (57%). When we narrow the study to include only home dogs, the record improves to 112-82-5 ATS (58%).

Another consistently profitable system on our radar that points to the Tennessee cover is predicated on the idea of fading steam moves on favored teams. This framework has cashed in after 63% of its signals since 2003.

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals +3 (-110)

And finally, our computer simulation work this time (as opposed to our power rankings composite) strongly endorses a Cardinals cover. This approach makes Seattle on the road to be 0-2 points better than Arizona Sunday, implying that anything at the key 3 level or better is attractive.

Validating our decision to deviate from our primary framework and take the (ATS) flier on the win-less Cardinals, historically, home dogs have been strong plays coming off three-game skids. This contingent is 62% ATS from this spot since 2003.

Through a more fundamental lens, over Russell Wilson's career, he has taken two or three sacks per game, on average--this figure deviated very little from one year to the next between 2012 and 2017.

This season though, Wilson has already been had by the opposition's front line 14 times. Unfortunately for the Seahawks faithful, the Cards' defensive line ranks 6th in the League by The Football Outsiders' Adjusted Sack Rate--which measures sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt, adjusted for down, distance, and opponents. So we expect Wilson to struggle to find the time this Sunday to work through his progressions.

Time to throw has been an issue in Seattle through three weeks of play. While the League average time elapsed between snap and pass has increased on average, albeit by a modest three hundredths of a tick, Seattle's time to throw is down versus last year by 0.27 seconds, according to Next Gen Stats. A meeting in Arizona is unlikely to help Seattle remedy this condition.

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