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2020 NFL Week 5: Betting Plays on a Couple of Undervalued Road Dogs

Updated: Aug 5, 2021


Minnesota Vikings +7.5 -125 @ Seattle Seahawks


Our primary NFL capping framework figures the Seahawks to be no better than six points better than the Vikings this week on neutral terrain, and we are backing Minnesota, north of the critical seven threshold, to beat the number.


Seattle is elite by several metrics. The Seahawks are one of only four NFL teams to make it into week 5 unscathed (i.e. without suffering a loss). Seattle is second only to Green Bay in points per game, guided by the sure arm of Russell Wilson (the #4 QB in the League by Football Outsiders' Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), and the Seahawks special teams ranks third in the NFL per Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA).


But for all of Seattle's majesty, the Seahawks are 21st on defense. Seattle is top-ten against the rush, but gives up about 19% more yards through the air than average, adjusted for situation and opponent. As a result, the Seahawks have allowed more yards this season than any other NFL franchise. This deficiency leaves the door open, particularly for a backdoor cover, in our thinking (the Vikings 11.2 fourth quarter scoring average is second in the NFL).


We also note that Seattle's 35+ points of average offense materialized against bottom of the barrel passing defenses. The Falcons, Patriots, Cowboys and Dolphins all rank in the League's bottom quartile stopping the aerial attack, by DVOA. In contrast, the Vikings are the ninth best team in the NFL at checking the opposition's passing game. Thus, Seattle may not rack up points as quickly as has been the case through the first four weeks of the season.


A profitable history-based system, predicated on identifying point takers that may be undervalued by the betting market, validates our thinking.


In early season non-division action, backing dogs that made the playoffs last year has been good for a 12% return on investment since 2005.



6-Point Teaser: Philadelphia Eagles +14.5 / Dallas Cowboys -2 -115


In addition to favoring Minnesota, this system also highlights the Eagles +8.5 at the Steelers. Consistently, our power rankings model grades Pittsburgh as no more than four points better than Philly on a neutral field in week 5; five points after a one point adjustment to account for the 5,500 fans that will be in attendance at Heinz Field Sunday.


On the other hand, the Steelers have been inactive since week 3, after their meeting with the Titans was postponed due to a covid-19 outbreak in the Tennessee organization. As such, we are reticent to fade Pittsburgh off an extended rest.


Favorites that have not seen action in at least two weeks are 148-103-8 ATS (59%) since 2003.


Alternately, including the Eagles in a 6 point teaser might make more sense. For the uninitiated, a teaser is a bet on two or more outcomes, featuring improved betting lines and reduced payouts. If either of the selected outcomes loses, the entire bet loses.


In this case the Eagles +14.5 (the current spread 8.5 + another 6 points) constitutes one leg of the proposed teaser. We suggest considering a play on the Dallas Cowboys as a second leg. Our work forecasts the Cowboys to cover the 8, as detailed here, but the implied probability of collecting on Dallas -2 (the current -8 + the 6 teaser points) is about 74%.


Happy betting!!


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