The Panel: Matchbook’s Big NFL Betting Preview

30 min

There is nothing quite like betting on the NFL. And there is no better way to get warmed up than by hearing from the men who live and breathe NFL betting. We’ve gathered five of the best together and pumped them for information on the upcoming season to help make it your most profitable one ever. So without further ado let’s meet The Panel…

Adam Chernoff

Adam has worked his way up through betting companies in The Bahamas and Colombia. His articles on NFL betting are a product of a unique perspective and experience.

Follow Adam on Twitter – @adamchernoff

Brad Allen

Journalist and NFL expert Brad Allen can be found writing and talking about all aspects of betting on the NFL particularly as it relates to stats and data. He takes an analytical approach to his betting and to his articles on Matchbook Insights as well as his appearances on the Matchbook Betting Podcast.

Follow Brad on Twittter – @bradallenNFL

Aidan O’Sullivan

Sully is the resident US sports expert at Matchbook and can be found sat in front of a screen wherever NCAA or NFL games are playing. Rarely one to miss a value bet and always one to know the inside track on where the action is he’s a man to follow if you want to win more from your betting.

Follow Sully on Twitter – @matchbook_sully

Todd Fuhrman

Legendary US sports tipster, analyst, handicapper and ex-oddsmaker at Caesars Sportsbook in Las Vegas. As a contributor to Sports Illustrated you can find Todd on TV and radio in the US as well as his hugely popular Bet The Board Podcast.

Follow Todd on Twitter – @toddfuhrman

Nat Coombs

Nat Coombs is a TV and radio presenter and writer where he is probably best known as the host of ‘The NFL Show With Nat Coombs’ on TalkSPORT2, and this season is joining the Matchbook Betting Podcast as the host of our weekly NFL show.

Follow Nat on Twitter – @natcoombs

What advice would you give to someone first getting started in NFL betting?

Adam: Think and plan your bets two weeks in advance.

Influential money dictates the market early (right after open) and late (an hour before close). If a new bettor wants to have a chance of winning, there must be an effort to be early. If bets are being made in the dead zone of the market lifespan, it’s difficult to make money.

Brad: Don’t be fooled by short-term trends. You have to realise that teams change dramatically week to week based on scheme, matchups, motivation and conditions, so try and take a larger sample into account when making decisions.

Sully: Stay patient! Sometimes a team you like at a certain number is heavily backed and the line moves a few points in the positive.

Don’t go chasing it as it’s doubtful to be a number you would have been keen to play that team at anyways. Keep your powder dry and move onto next week.

Todd: Walk before you run…what I mean here is that anytime you delve into uncharted waters do proper homework first from learning the teams to styles of play to geography to rivalries. You never want to go into a new arena blindfolded; firing on the NFL should be no different.

Nat: Sometimes there is value in the underdogs because teams can get too overhyped, but one of the things to be most aware of are injury reports close to the game. Sometimes this can be smoke and mirrors and injury doubts can vary during the week so bide your time before placing bets.

In-play can be a very interesting way to bet as the markets can often overreact to early scores, particularly if it goes against the pre-game narrative.

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Who is the market underrating/overrating?

Nat: The 49ers are disproportionately high in the betting and I think they are being overvalued because of the hype around them.

But I like the Jaguars. They are building a team in the mould of Tom Coughlin, which is smash mouth defense run-first offense, but if Bortles exceeds quite low expectations they’ve got a real tilt at the AFC.

The AFC is wide open and they have one of the best defences in the NFL and one of the best running backs in the Conference. Blake Bortles is never going to be a great quarterback but if he punches above his weight they are serious contenders.

Todd: I think we say the same thing every year regarding the defending champions so in this case, it’s the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s always different once you have a target on your back, especially when there are injury concerns all over the roster. In regards to underrated teams, I think the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears will provide plenty of value early in the campaign.

Adam: The market is overrating San Francisco more than any team I have seen in a decade of working in the industry. It’s shocking, really. In contrast, the market is underrating the bottom third of the league. This year the market is extremely top heavy (especially in the NFC) and the bottom third of the league is being disregarded and will consistently be overpriced.

Both Nat and Adam are not buying into the San Francisco 49ers hype.

Brad: The Bears are very underrated. They were hamstrung last year by chronically conservative play-calling from now-departed head coach John Fox. The Bears were the most run-heavy team in the NFL on first down in the first half (66%) meaning they faced 9.2 yds-to-go on average on 2nd down, which was by far the most in the NFL.

New head coach Matt Nagy had KC pass the ball 55% of the time on 1st and 10 in the 1st half last year, which was the third most in the NFL. Playing in front of the chains will help second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, while the defense is already above average and returns with a young improving core.

Sully: I really like Kansas City to hit their over on the season totals this year. Their defense will be better this year and I believe Patrick Mahomes is a big upgrade on Alex Smith at quarterback. Mahomes will have some growing pains in what effectively is his rookie season but this guy is a game winner whereas Smith was merely a game manager. I also feel that the AFC West, outside of maybe the Chargers, is going to be down on recent years.

Also, how the Cleveland Browns win total is 5.5 and heading to 6 is absolutely beyond me. Yes, they’ve made some decent offseason personnel moves, but this is an organisation that has one win in the past two seasons and is still coached by the inept Hue Jackson. Give me the under all day long.

Which team or teams do you most prefer to back as a big favourite or underdog?

Todd: I don’t ever love to lay big numbers in the NFL, as with so many teams tightly bunched the idea of laying over a touchdown gives me sleepless nights.

When it comes to an underdog, there’s nothing I love more than an elite defense catching points. While no strategy is airtight and everyone loves big fantasy numbers, a team that can buckle down and make you earn every yard always has me intrigued.

Sully: In previous years I’ve said the Pats as a fav, but give me the LA Rams. I love how their Head Coach Sean McVay keeps the throttle down when his team is in front so I have no issue laying them with points.

Brad: If laying double digits, i’d want a team capable of closing a game out, so someone with an excellent pass defense and a strong run game. The Jaguars were exceptional at this last year and are projected to be again.

Sully: It may not happen too often anymore but give me the Vikings most days as an underdog and I’m interested. That defense has been quality for some time and they now have a franchise quarterback in the form of Kirk Cousins.

Sully is a fan of backing the Rams and QB Jared Goff when even laying points due to their coaches aggressive play calling.

Adam: I don’t back specific teams in certain situations blindly. I approach the league on a week by week basis and take advantage of opportunities in the market regardless of the names on the jersey.

Nat: Likewise it’s not a strategy I go for as the NFL can be so situational.

One thing to avoid is you can sometimes get misled by longer-form history. There may have been 18 encounters between the two teams and one team has only won one, but most of those games would be five or six years ago with a totally different roster.

What’s the biggest mistake somebody new to NFL betting can make?

Nat: I’d say it’s going to be missing the Matchbook NFL Podcast because that’s where you are going to find value every week.

Adam: Relying on trends and betting percentages too heavily.

NFL games produce a large amount of betting data that bettors love to fall in love with. The only issue is, the majority of it is not predictive. Don’t fall in love with cheap narratives.

Brad: As Adam says, it’s not taking bigger samples into account and reacting too much week to week.

Sully: For me, it’s becoming enamoured with the previous week.

Falling in love with a team based on one week’s performance is one of the better ways to print a one-way ticket to the poor shop. Start each week afresh and let’s give recency bias a miss.

Todd: Like any sport, it’s falling in love with what you saw last. Given such a short sample size for the NFL season, you can’t overreact to just one game because you end up chasing value that doesn’t actually exist which ultimately results in paying a premium to bet on or fade certain teams.

We all know about Brady, Brees and Rodgers but which quarterback is flying under the radar, or who could potentially have the biggest impact on his team this season?

Nat: What’s interesting this year is the number of rookie quarterbacks coming into the league and the questions are how quickly we will see them play and how effective they will be when they do play. There is going to be a lot of pressure to put them in. In terms of those under the radar, Mitchell Trubisky at the Bears divides opinion. Is he the real deal? Bears fans seem to think he is but the jury is still out. Ryan Tannehill coming back for the Dolphins is another big one and this is a make or break season for him.

Todd: I’ll always be a big Matt Ryan guy. Two years ago this guy was the class of the league and now nobody wants to mention him with the big names.

In the second season with his offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and a bit of luck, Matty Ice could put up numbers akin to a top-five quarterback.

Adam: Case Keenum. Denver is being disregarded by much of the market due to falling off the radar a season ago. With a viable quarterback, a huge home-field advantage and a top-five defense, the fearless leadership of Keenum can lead Denver to a division title.

Todd Fuhrman expects a big year from Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

Brad: All the hype in Cleveland centres around number one overall pick Baker Mayfield, but the current starter is Tyrod Taylor. He is a darling of the analytics crowd and perennially underrated by old-school ‘football guys’.

Taylor was the 14th ranked quarterback in the NFL last year, despite a complete absence of weapons. The key is protecting the ball as Taylor is ranked second in the NFL in avoiding turnover-worthy throws. Win the turnover battle and you win football games, and Cleveland will win plenty of games with Tyrod.

Sully: I’m not sure that he underperformed last year but watch out for the Tennessee Titans Marcus Mariota. This guy has bag loads of talent. I feel the last offensive staff at Tennessee played way too safe with this guy, and if the handbrake is released under Mike Vrabel’s regime then look out!

The new ‘helmet rule’ has got a lot of press in the offseason. How much of a factor will this new rule in wagering terms this season?

Nat: Clearly the NFL have to protect the players as much as possible, but it’s quite a polarising subject as some current players think it’s impractical for defenders and it’s sanitising the game. But the flipside of that is teams like the Patriots are not worried at all because they teach their players to tackle in a different way.

It will definitely have an impact and there will be inconsistencies in how it’s applied and penalties that will significantly impact some games. So it’s definitely going to be a factor, and is it fundamentally going to change the game for the better? I think it will.

Todd: I think everyone is overreacting to the new rules. We saw this a few years ago with illegal contact. Officials were forced to call everything in the preseason then once the regular season started they were much less flag happy allowing us to return to normal levels. However, if we see them try and get crazy with this rule expect to see slight upticks in totals.

Adam: The league is changing and this rule change will be one of many cheap excuses to explain the changes and explain money lost.

Every other preseason a new rule change comes in, it gets hyped up and then cools down week one. Same song, same dance. If anything, it is an opportunity fade those blindly chasing the hype.

Brad: It appears to be inflating scoring so far in the preseason, but I suspect it will stop getting called once the real action starts. You see it every year when the refs are told to emphasise the new rules, but they are loathe to change the course of real games once the action kicks off properly.

Sully: I think it’s a definite factor but I do think it’s being a bit overplayed from preseason games. Referees are always flag happy at pre-season but they do tend to let more go come the regular season. If it is stringently enforced then the total points of each game may start to tick up due to shorter fields for offenses but I think it’s a wait and see here.

Who do you think that missed on the Playoffs might go far this year?

Nat: I’m going to say the Giants. I’m not convinced about the Eagles so they have a fighting chance in the division, and I love what they’ve done with their running game. Their core defensive players are still there, they’ve got a different perspective and Odell Beckham is back, so they have a punching chance.

Todd: I’m not going out on a limb here but Green Bay with a healthy Aaron Rodgers are always a Super Bowl contender.

The NFC is as deep as I ever remember it but for the first time in a while I feel he has a chip on his shoulder and you’ll see every Packer raise their level of play.

Nat is expecting a bounce-back year from the Giants and Eli Manning.

Adam: I think bettors are very much underestimating how good the Denver Broncos can be. The Baltimore Ravens are another team set up to do very well that few are talking about.

Brad: This one is easy; the LA Chargers.

Passing efficiency is about three times as important in winning games as rushing, and the Chargers are perfectly built in this sense. They have the league’s best set of pass-rushers in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa and an elite secondary.

Sully: If, and it’s a big if, Deshaun Watson can stay injury free then I really like Houston as a playoff contender. Yes, they’re in a tough division but look back at Watson’s games as a starter last season before he got injured and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

Final question: who do you think wins the Super Bowl?

Nat: Any suggestion the Patriots are going to implode is absolute nonsense. That division is a gift so you can’t discount them.

I’ve mentioned the Jags already and they are dark horses. I’m not writing the Eagles off, and I think the Vikings will contend but I’m not sure they can go all the way. But it’s wide open this year.

Adam: New York Jets. Until the day I die, I will NEVER answer this question another way if they are mathematically in contention.

Brad: The Chargers. They key will be protecting Rivers, who was never anyone’s idea of mobile and is now in his late thirties. They made this a priority in the offseason and signed center Mike Pouncey to strengthen the interior of the line and they have Pro Bowl talents Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale anchoring either side of the line at tackle. If Rivers stays upright this team can go all the way.

Sully: This is the year of the Vikings. Skol!

Todd: I wish I knew but if I did there’s no way I’d be here sharing it with everyone. Instead, I’ll be sitting in a tiki hut somewhere in the islands enjoying a nice frosty beverage.

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