Week 3 Spotlight: GB @ SF + CHI @ CLE

Taking things in a different direction this week as I don’t see a specific matchup with enough sharp angles to do a full write-up. Instead, I’d like to showcase how I’m going to play two games on the slate by using an alternate line parlay or reverse teaser. Buckle up.

The key to making winning bets is to take advantage of the systems that create the odds. Football is a high variance game, but outcomes are not distributed as evenly as most statistical models would suggest. For that reason, bettors can find an advantage when the actual distribution of potential results, based on understanding the matchups, is skewed on one end of the spectrum.

Most books offer alternate lines or reverse teasers that give you a higher payout for covering a bigger number, and a smart bettor can attack these bets to increase leverage when the opportunity arises. The lines are built around the idea that NFL game outcomes follow a bell curve when in reality some game results are closer to being binomial. Hopefully, this Spotlight will give you a framework for analyzing this type of play so maybe you can see your own opportunities in the future.

First, let’s get into the matchups.

GB @ SF (-3)

I’m fairly confident that San Francisco will be able to move the ball well against this Green Bay defense. The Packers are simply weak in the middle of the field and up front, particularly without Za’darius Smith. We saw both New Orleans and Detroit move the ball at will against Green Bay because both teams were willing to get the ball out into the flat and both teams won the offensive line battle. The Niners struggled in the first half against Philadelphia because the Eagles blew up their offensive line. The Packers will not be able to do that. Meanwhile, the Niners do not feature a downfield passing game or stud wide receiver who can be negated by Jaire Alexander. The 49ers offense is a nightmare matchup for Green Bay, regardless of who is playing running back.

But the other side of the ball is more interesting. The Packers will need to get Aaron Jones going and keep the pocket clean. Last year the offense struggled when Jones struggled. This continued into 2021, as the Saints shut down Jones and limited the Packers to 3 points. These last few years, whenever the Packers have lost the offensive line battle, negating the run game and putting pressure on Rodgers fast, they have essentially folded. They have only lost nine games in the past three seasons, but four of those nine were by 15+ points. Two of those came against San Francisco in 2019, where Green Bay lost 37-8 and 37-20.

If the offensive line can create holes and protect Rodgers, this will be a close-fought game that will likely come down to which team scores last. That’s a great spot to take Green Bay as a 3 or 3.5-point underdog. But if the offensive line loses, which I would say is a strong possibility given Bakhtiari’s injury and Linsley’s departure, this could be another disaster day for Green Bay. Combined with the 49ers offense sustaining long, run-heavy drives and keeping Rodgers off the field, this has the potential for a massive 49ers win.

I can’t predict with confidence that Green Bay will struggle offensively. It’s still Aaron Rodgers against a banged-up secondary. So I likely will not be playing SF -3, because the range of outcomes involves somewhere close to 50% on each side of the number. But of the 50% or so in which San Francisco covers the 3, an inordinate amount of results include a double-digit win.

Alt Line: SF -9.5 (+200) (FD)

CHI @ CLE (-7.5)

The variance in this matchup comes from Justin Fields. Opinions on Fields vary wildly. I’ve been an outspoken critic of his performances, both in the preseason and in relief against the Bears. I expect him to struggle in his first start because he does not process NFL defenses well (yet), has poor mechanics in the pocket, and can make poor decisions. But I could be wrong. He is a talented player and if Nagy puts him in a position to succeed, he might play well. In that case, taking the Bears as touchdown underdogs makes sense because this could be a close game.

But there is a good chance he struggles here. He could try to force the issue if things don’t go well early, and we have seen he is prone to turnovers. The Browns defense could start to tee off on him if he is unable to get comfortable, and that is a tough situation to turn around in-game. Obviously, if Fields struggles, then CLE -7.5 is in play.

But if he struggles, 7.5 points is not enough points. The Browns are a team that plays its best offensive football with the lead. If they start out with a lead, and can press it all game, it’s tough to see the Bears making many stops. Even the backup running back should be successful with this offensive line for Cleveland, so it could have a snowball effect. And if Fields struggles early, it’s tough to anticipate the kinds of adjustments that would lead to a comeback. Therefore, I think that if Fields struggles it leads to an easy, 2+ score win for Cleveland.

Alt Line: CLE -13.5 (+170) (FD)

The Bet

Alternate Line Parlay: SF -9.5, CLE -13.5 (+710) (FD)

The break-even percentage for a (+710) bet hitting is about 12.3%. That means that if the combination of these two outcomes is higher than 12.3%, then it’s a winning bet. I put each scenario at around 40%, which means the odds that both hit is around 16%. Therefore it’s a positive EV bet.

For my Week 3 bets all my NFL Bets as I place them, become a SharpClarke Member.

I take pride in my work but nobody can guarantee success betting on sports. I offer advice for entertainment purposes only. If you have a gambling problem, finding winning bets is not the answer. The only answer is to stop gambling. For help, call 1-800-522-4700.

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