2019 NFL Week 3: A Prime Spot to Back Dogs
Our primary framework for capping NFL highlights the Jets, Dolphins and Saints plus the points as worthy week 3 wagers. On paper, the Boys look to us to be no better than three touchdowns better than the visiting Fins (as ridiculous as that sounds), while we estimate the difference between the Jets at the Pats to be about 17 points max in favor of the home team. We see the Seahawks as less than a field goal better than the visiting Saints Sunday. Thus, we perceive meaningful 'value' with the team receiving points in each of these match-ups and are positioning accordingly.
Supporting the output from our power rankings framework, we note that week 3 of the regular NFL season has been a great time, historically, to back underdogs. In fact, since 2003, the 55% cover rate generated by taking the points in the third out of the football year is eclipsed only by week 16's 57% cover rate for underdogs.
Of note, the profitability to backing NFL underdogs ATS in week 3 has proven consistent between home and away teams (both cohorts covered about 55% of the time since 2003).
Separately, unfortunately, we lined up with Miami's bid to beat the number in week 1, and we had the Dolphins last week in what amounted to a blowout loss. This most recent defeat at the hands of the Patriots (where the Fins lost by 43, as 18-point underdogs) is likely to linger in the psyche of many casual bettors. To offset the public's recency bias, bookmakers are likely shading the line to induce interest in the massive dog. Thus, there is probably ample value with the Fins plus the three TDs and change....and with the Jets at the Cowboys too, for that matter.
The limited history at our disposal seems to validate the view that betting lines get skewed toward the favorite in the biggest mismatches. Pro Football Reference's database contains only 11 instances of regular season action featuring a closing betting line of 20 points or more. The underdog finished 9-2 versus the number from this spot.
Also, since 2003, teams that started the season 0-2 ATS are 70-53 (57%) versus the number in game 3. The cover rate for this system improves to 61% when teams off to bad ATS starts are cast as underdogs in week 3. Each of the three dogs featured herein fit this system.