6-Point Teaser (-120): Philadelphia Eagles +7.5 / u44
We like the Eagles for the cover and the UNDER in the second installment of 2021 pre-season Thursday Night Football. But given the level of betting lines at present, we prefer to combine these biases into a six-point teaser, which requires us to correctly handicap both outcomes in order to collect, but offers us additional margin for our trouble.
First, supporting a play on Philly to beat the number, we note that in the NFL pre-season, teams taking points on Thursday nights after missing the prior playoffs have proven strong bets historically...
This angle has been good for a hypothetical 13% long-term return on investment (statistically significant at better than the 95% confidence level), and has submitted only three seasons with a sub-50% record, back to 2004-05.
The average cover margin lies in the vicinity of two points.
We hypothesize that this system's success owes largely to the public's tendency to overvalue favorites against the spread in the pre-season, particularly against teams that performed poorly recently (i.e. preseason underdogs that missed the last post-season have beat the number at a 54% clip since 2004-05; this cover rate is a mere 51% during the regular season). Also, we believe that playing on a short week robs both teams of recovery and preparation time, resulting in reduced offensive productivity (in general, lower scoring affairs skew in underdogs favor, albeit slightly).
Separately, we note that the UNDER has proven solidly profitable in Thursday Night Football pre-season action, when the home team is not favored versus the opposing conference...
This system has been good for a staggering hypothetical 21% return on investment since the 2004-05 season, and has delivered hit rates south of 50% in only four years.
This set of criteria's average cover margin is approaching three points per contest.
In general, the UNDER has exhibited a (nominally) profitable long-term edge in the pre-season NFL play. Not dissimilar to our rationale for why bad dogs end to cover in the pre-season, our view is that the second system outlined above offers value because the betting public tends to expect too much from road favorites, in particular.
In response to virtually empty stadiums around the League, Jimmy Boyd's True Home Field Advantage methodology suggested a virtual zero value to host teams in the 2020-21 NFL season. We expect the return of thousands of boisterous, fanatical football enthusiasts this year warrants some value being ascribed to playing in one's own building. Accordingly, it occurs to us that public perceptions might be more off-kilter this year.
Generally speaking, a key to creating value with teasers is to cross through key levels, or commonly recurring thresholds. For instance, between the 2010 and 2018 regular NFL seasons, the most common outcome when the home team fell was a loss by a field goal. This margin materialized in approaching 3% of games examined. The next most typical margin in home losses was seven, followed by six. The significance of these "key levels" is validated by the reality that the most common scoring increments in football are three and seven.
So, a six-point teaser on the Eagles listed line of +1.5 results in a play on Philadelphia +7.5. This leg covers is Philly loses by 3, 6 or 7...all more likely than other outcomes, according to history (but, to be clear, this leg also hits if the Eagles lose by 1, 2, 4 or 5, for that matter).
Similarly, teasing the listed Patriots / Eagles u38 (plus six) creates a play on u44. The most common NFL closing total since 2004 has had a 43-handle (i.e. the betting total closed at 43 or 43.5). In fact about 62% of all regular season games since 2004 finished with a total of 43.5 or less.
As such, teasing the total from 38 to 44 likewise appears to pass two very key levels in NFL O/U markets: 43 and 41.