This week, and all weeks moving forward, the blog will shorten up just a tad. The first 2 blogs focused largely on perception angles, but also included a good deal of other notes. From here on out, the blog will focus SOLELY on how perception is creating or demolishing value, and it's going to be up to YOU all to fill in notes on matchups, line moves, and other key game insight. I really want this blog to be interactive, and if I'm typing up everything, that's no fun for everyone else!
1) NFL -- Much like the last couple weeks, I'll be featuring a SUNDAY ALL ACCESS PASS, and after treading water for a couple weeks, it's time to storm the roost. Too much overthinking in week 2, then not enough overthinking in week 3...it's time to get back to the basics: ADD ALL ACCESS PASS to CART
2) CFB -- Like last week, I will be selling just my CFB GAME OF THE WEEK, and every other CFB play will be 100% FREE! I maintain that no one on this planet gives away more FREE STUFF (blogs, podcasts, plays, leantrackers...I mean, that's how it's done!) than I do, and I'll take that statement to the grave. Thus, ADD the CFB GOW to CART
3) MLB -- For Sale Top Plays on Tuesday and Wednesday (and possibly Thursday and/or Friday) will lead into more FREE MLB work on the weekend, and off last weekend's 3-0 MLB, there is REASON to pay attention. Stay tuned.
Week 3 Recap and Lessons Learned: There were a few lessons to be learned.
For one, the Carolina Panthers really are that bad. That's a team that I don't want to play on or against, ever. Why? Well, they're so terrible that lines are going to be consistently inflated for the opponent (barring a west coast trip to one of the stinker-teams on Pacific time), and they're so terrible that almost any level of line inflation isn't good enough for me to trust them.
Second, teams in desperation are somewhat unpredictable. The Vikings played a wholly mediocre game, but beat the Lions because Detroit played a slightly more mediocre game; the Niners got slapped around in Kansas City in a truly ugly effort; and the Cowboys, really, played far and away the best game of every supposedly "good" team trying to avoid 0-3.
So, what teams are in desperation in week 4? The Niners, clearly, since they already fired the OC, but outside of San Francisco, the only other team I could argue expected better things are the G-Men, and that defense is beyond suspect.
And third, I RE-LEARNED a valuable lesson about speculating. Don't do it. Sometimes, you need a game to remind you not to "take shots," and for me, week 3 had 2 of those. The play on the Texans was ill-advised, going against everything I stand for, in terms of public perception. That won't happen again. And the play on Denver was ill-advised, in that we really just didn't know how the team would respond to tragedy. I admit, I'm less irked at the Denver play, since I still believed them to be a live dog, but to take a vastly overvalued Houston team...well, it's actually going to take a long time for me to forgive myself for that one. Just foolish.
What did you guys learn?
Sports Wagering: NFL
Denver Broncos @ Tennessee Titans (-6.5) with a total of 41.5;
The perception in this one is pretty easy. Last week, Denver got mauled by the Colts, while the Titans ran all over the hapless Giants. In terms of value, the value in this one is squarely on the side of the Broncos. Beating up on the New York Giants is no accomplishment, and we've seen they can't stop anyone. Losing to the Colts isn't really all that shameful, and to Denver's credit, they actually moved the ball extremely well, but failed to convert opportunities in the red zone. They outgained Indy by 150 yards, for goodness sakes. I love Denver's execution, and without a few key early mistakes, Denver doesn't have to go for the TD late, and the entire game is different. Folks that believe Denver is bad after that game just didn't do their homework. Tennessee is a good team, but what have they truly done? They manhandled Jason Campbell and the Raiders, got completely shut down by the Steelers, and then beat the defenseless Giants. This team, again, is good, but overvalued right now, and this line should be closer to 4.5 or 5.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5) with a total of 36.5;
From a pure perception standpoint, the Steelers look awfully tough. The fact that Charlie Batch is under center, though, is keeping this line low, and also making me scratch my head. I happen to think that this line should probably be a Pick, so there's some slight value on Baltimore, but not sure it's enough to be truly intriguing. Plus, on top of the perception stuff (I know, I promised perception only, but whatever...) the Baltimore Ravens defense is going to give Charlie Batch a harder time than Tampa Bay's defense did. Baltimore did not look good against the Browns last week, though you could potentially argue that the schedule sort of hinted at that. They played that tough game with Cincinnati, and then had this one coming up, so they're likely a better club than the one we saw the last couple weeks. I'd love to hear more opinions on this game, because I'm about 95% sure I want nothing to do with this game, which has minimal perception value, and tons of question marks.
Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) @ Cleveland Browns with a total of 38.5;
If there's one thing we saw last week, it's that the Bengals aren't afraid to just grind out an easy win against a bad team. If there's one other thing we saw, it's that Peyton Hillis can be a beast. I happen to believe that, based on perception, the Bengals are going to be a big-time public choice again, and I simply can't come to terms with the idea that the books are going to take it in the rectum two consecutive weeks with the Bengals on the road against a bad team. The value is squarely with the home dog, since we've seen Cleveland can keep games close. That being said, it's tough to back a team when you don't feel confident in their ability to actually win the game outright. Is Cincinnati truly 6.5 points better on a neutral field? How about in a division rivalry game? You have to believe the Browns are going to bring the heat here, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if that half point was the difference. And why do we get that half point? That's right. Because of a perception imbalance. Not a huge one, but one does exist.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (-14) with a total of 45;
Some might argue the Packers are in a letdown spot off the tough loss in Chicago, but I happen to feel just the opposite. Of course, from a perception standpoint, even playing an ugly game on Monday Night isn't going to swing this number much. The Lions are the Lions, they lost by 14 to the Vikings, who haven't looked good, at all, and now they're catching this many points against a team that, even on Monday Night, clearly had an unstoppable pass offense. This is a classic case of perception and skill creating one of the most lopsided lines we'll see all season. The Lions have showed nice fight, but barring 17 more penalies, Aaron Rodgers and co should run away with this one. Does that mean they win by more than 2 TD's? That's tough. Keeping this one simple, this line is inflated by about 2 points, but to me, that's not nearly enough on such a large spread. Be very, very careful before dumping your life saving on a DD favorite. You all saw how those went last week (they lost, in case you didn't see)...
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (-14) with a total of 46.5;
This game is a perception nightmare. The Saints pushed their opener, and have since failed to cover 2 straight games, so it's just a matter of time before the luster comes off. This rather hefty opening line is a pretty good indicator that the luster might have come off here, but not against this opponent. No team in the NFL has looked worse so far than the Carolina Panthers. They simply have not been involved in any of their games so far, and as I noted in the lessons learned section above, they're not a team I intend to get involved with. Of course, that could change, if they show some signs of waking up, and lord knows if they're going to be getting these types of lines against teams with less talent the Saints, we can start grabbing the monster underdog number, but given that New Orleans is a team that's actually accurately valued right now off the poor ATS start, this is a monster "avoid" game for me, even though perception definitely makes the Panthers a value moving forward.
San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons (-7) with a total of 40.5;
I know I promised no line discussion, but 7 doesn't look like much for the Falcons, the way they've moved the ball offensively. Thus, let's take a closer look. In the opener, the Falcons got mostly shut down by the Steelers superior defense. Pittsburgh didn't do anything offensively in that game, either, but it showed that Atlanta is, indeed, stoppable. The last two weeks they've looked pretty smooth, laying 40+ on the Cardinals, and then beating the defending Champs on the road. That was a monster divisional road win, so there's going to be the argument that the Falcons are in for a letdown. They might be. In terms of perception, the Niners are back in a severely undervalued spot. ATS-wise, San Francisco might be the most predictable team so far this year. They got spanked in Seattle, came back and covered as a nice value home dog on Monday night. Last week, they got murdered by the Chiefs, despite, like in week 1, being the heavy public favorite. Now, they'll go back to being the team no one wants, and catching a TD is more than they should. If you add to San Francisco's undervalue the fact that the Falcons are coming off two very impressive wins (ATS and SU), this is an intriguing mismatch of value.
Seattle Seahawks (-1.5) @ St. Louis Rams with a total of 38;
Who would have thought we'd get a game with these two teams, and neither team would be largely over or undervalued. The Seahawks are coming off a rather impressive home win over the Chargers, thanks largely to the special teams play of Leon Washington (2 TD's). The Rams had an equally impressive home win over the Donovan McNabb-led Washington Redskins, though they seemed to do it with strong defense, controlling the clock, and making the big plays. After watching both teams play, I happen to think the Rams showed the greater upside, as Philip Rivers and the Chargers ran all over the Seahawks, and just couldn't quite make the comeback in the second half. So, in terms of perception, I think the Seahawks might be a tiny bit overvalued by comparison, if only because we saw how out-of-sync they looked the last time they went on the road. By comparison, the Rams have seemed more consistently sub-average, home and road, but good enough to win a few home games. I believe the Rams should be favored by 1 here, if not for Seattle's higher-profile win.
New York Jets (-5) @ Buffalo Bills with a total of 36;
I don't think anyone needs my help determining which side has the perception value in this one, and without giving any strong feelings on the actual game, it's pretty clear what's happening, here. The Jets have churned out two impressive wins in a row - one, at home, against the Pats, and one, on the road, against the Dolphins. The most impressive part was probably that they won one with defense, and one with offense. Bettors love offense, so that Sunday Night win over the Dolphins has left this line fairly inflated. Yes, the Bills covered a wildly inflated line in New England, but I don't think many took notice of that ATS win, just sneaking in beneath the number. A quick line comparison reveals more. The Bills were catching over 2-TDs on the road against New England, which would translate, roughly, to catching a shade over a TD at home (somewhere in the 8-10 range - which also means the Pats were considered roughly 11 points better on a neutral site). New England was a FG road-fave when they played the Jets in New York, which should tell you that, at the time, the Pats were considered significantly better than the Jets by a solid 6 points, at least. This doesn't add up, at all. By those week 2 and week 3 numbers, the Jets should be considered 5 points better than the Bills on a neutral field. That doesn't add up. Yes, the Pats are slightly less overvalued this week, and the Jets are slightly moreso, but you can see from simple addition/subtraction that the Jets shouldn't be laying more than a FG on a true line.
Indianapolis Colts (-7) @ Jacksonville Jaguars with a total of 46.5;
This is another one with a fairly remedial perception analysis. The Colts are off back-to-back easy wins (though the Denver game was actually closer than the final score might indicate), and the Jaguars are coming off two games where they got completely worked. Indianapolis just continues to build back that giant public following that we've come to know, and after losing a few bettors in that week 1 stumble in Houston, the huge primetime win over the Giants built most of those bettors back. On top of the pre-inflation, perception of both teams should lead to at least a few more points before gametime, barring a monstrous early move to the dog by sharp money. So, from perception only, the Jags have about as much value as they will most of the season, and the Colts are always a tad overvalued, but off two straight ATS wins, that number increases quite a bit. Also, and this is away from the perception side again, but a game in this series hasn't been decided by more than a TD since 2007, a span of 5 straight games. And let's remember, quite a few of those involved Indianapolis as a significant public favorite.
Houston Texans (-4) @ Oakland Raiders with a total of 44;
This game, to me, is very interesting from a pure perception standpoint, and significantly less so from a betting value standpoint. The Houston Texans are, of course, going to be the public choice in this battle, especially at a number that, to most bettors, looks quite low. However, getting blasted by Dallas at home last week has drastically decreased the value in fading the Texans. They were overvalued against the Cowboys, and that big loss (watched by many) has dropped this line, I believe, by a solid 1.5 points. On the other side, the Raiders were able to hang tough with the Cardinals on the road, and while they didn't get the win, they covered, and continue to play much stronger football with Gradkowski leading the offense, and keeping the defense off the field for at least a couple minutes. And, as we've seen over the last few years, the Oakland defense is generally not the issue. They're not great, but they can cover bodies, and give the team a chance. And the move away from Jason Campbell, to me, gave the team a little value last week, but since they covered, Oakland isn't really as sharp as folks might hope. They might be at +4, but it appears this line was already whacked down to a FG, and is one of those games, where I'd be happy seeing any result, as long as it's an extreme one. That could set up a nice value on both teams in week 5.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Diego Chargers (-8) with a total of 46;
I was desperately hoping the Cardinals would dominate the Raiders in their home opener and build some street cred heading into San Diego, since I was pretty confident the Chargers would not play a good game in Seattle, and we could have ended up with a nice match of under with overvalued teams. Instead, the Chargers are only slightly undervalued, and the Cardinals remain undervalued equally, if not moreso. Of course, we've seen how the Cardinals contend with a decent offense, and they got completely mauled in Atlanta. I suppose my concern here is that it's not easy to cover more than a touchdown in the NFL. The Chargers are the better team, but without 7 turnovers against Jacksonville, how much do they win by? And the other 2 games were losses. This is a dangerous game to back the favorite, despite the Chargers coming off that loss in Seattle. Most folks saw that they outplayed the Seahawks by a wide margin in the second half, and I just don't think the value is there. If this one was under a TD, we might be in some sort of shape, but the Cardinals are so unilaterally distrusted that I don't think we can consider playing against them a value...not until they cover a spread.
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles (-6) with a total of 41;
This one's a rivalry game, so relying on perception angles is probably not going to be enough. The angles are pretty simple, though. Washington just lost in St. Louis, and looked terrible doing so. They were in a trademark sandwich spot with the Rams, between the OT loss to the Texans, and prior to this showdown in Philadelphia, and you know that they may have taken their week 3 competition a little light. As a result, they got outplayed from start to finish. No gimmicks, no bad luck, the Rams just ran all over Washington. Now, the Redskins have a bone to pick, and Donovan has an old franchise to try to combat. Washington is undervalued. Meanwhile, the Eagles creamed Jacksonville in a rout, and Michael Vick has very loudly led his team to 2 straight wins over weak competition. They were road wins, which, on paper looks extremely impressive, but I'm not so sure that letting Vick settle into a groove on the road wasn't actually calculated. The Philadelphia fan base can be, let's say, vitriolic, and Vick was free to succeed or fail on the road without fear of boo birds. Needless to say, he succeeded. Philadelphia, as a result of all the attention and Vick's performances, is overvalued. If this game weren't so emotional, the Redskins would be a great value, but you can almost throw that stuff out the window in such a monster media game.
Sunday Night Football
Chicago Bears @ New York Giants (-3) with a total of 42.5;
This might be the fishiest spot of the week. Considering what we all know about perception, the Giants look like absolute dog "doodie" after getting blown out on the road by Indy, and then at home by Tennessee. The Bears look pretty tremendous - they're one of the only remaining 3-0 teams, and are coming off a Monday Night Football home win over the "invincible" Packers. So, when you expect a line to move with perception, the line, instead, opens as if the last 2-3 weeks never happened! This game is almost completely uninfluenced by public perception, and that is often an indicator of early money being pretty strong. No feelers, no buy-backs, this opening line is shaded to New York, and the initial move is in New York's direction. You can make cases for letdowns, but the Giants have been so bad that it's tough to see them winning, let alone laying chalk. Once you're done scratching your head, let's talk about the situational angles in the comments section, since public perception on this game is being almost completely ignored by the line. I suppose we should note, though, that the rarity of a situation where the line goes in completely the other direction from where perception would normally send it does make it an interesting talking point.
Monday Night Football
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins (Pk) with a total of 46.5;
Perception plays a role in both side and total on this one. The Patriots are perceived to be an offensive machine that only the Jets can slow down, while having a defense that can't even stop the Bills. The Dolphins are perceived to be a team that was winning ugly/lucky the first 2 weeks, then got exposed by a surging Jets club in week 3. How does that help us with the line? Well, I believe the total is inflated by the Patriots defensive numbers, as well as the Dolphins/Jets high-scoring game on Sunday Night. I also believe that the side is a little inflated on the Patriots side. I know it's tough to use the term "inflated" with respect to a line of zero, but the Pats probably would have been a very tiny road dog if not for Miami looking a tad foolish last week in front of the national audience. Also, as we've seen last year, and then again to star this season, the Patriots are a much, much better team at home than they are on the road. Clearly, a healthy Wes Welker and a confident Tom Brady, nice and removed from surgery, makes them more dangerous on the road in 2010, but teams that win with offense win games at home. You can quote that line and apply it to most spread sports. NBA, Phoenix wins at home, but aside from a crazy run down the stretch, that team rarely covered on the road. In NFL, it's quite similar. You need defense to win those tough, grinder road games.