Week 4 was a rough week. For the first time this season I had a losing record in the Supercontest (2-3) and a losing record on bets. We went 5-7 for a loss of 4.81 Units. There is a lot of variance in this game and unfortunately weeks like this do happen. Upon reflection, I think I have been too eager to take in information from other sources before reaching my conclusions and acting on them first. Last year I was much more isolated and performed strongly based on my own observations. I will be focusing on what I see on the field this week when placing my bets.
Once again, the week started out great with several wins, but some bad bets left me winless in the afternoon and evening slate on Sunday. After going 68% against the spread in 2020, we are now 23-20 in the young 2021 season with our bets. I know I can do better.
This article breaks down every bet I placed and discusses some key takeaways moving forward. If you want access to my picks as I make them moving forward, become a SharpClarke Member today and see my Week 5 Picks.
Week 4 Bets
|JAC @ CIN Under 46||(-110)||1||9.29.21 (DK)||Win||+0.91|
|KC -6 @ PHI||(-110)||1.5||9.27.21 (MGM)||Win||+1.36|
|WAS -1 @ ATL||(-110)||1.5||9.29.21 (DK)||Win||+1.36|
|CHI -3 v. DET||(-105)||2||9.30.21 (FD)||Win||+1.90|
|KC -1 @ PHI, NO -1.5 v. NYG||(-120)||1.2||9.30.21 (DK)||Loss||-1.20|
|CAR @ DAL Under 52.5||(-115)||2||9.30.21 (FD)||Loss||-2|
|TEN @ NYJ Under 44.5||(-110)||1.5||10.1.21 (MGM)||Loss||-1.5|
|MIA Team Total Under 22 v. IND||(-110)||1.5||10.2.21 (FD)||Win||+1.36|
|LAR -4 v. ARI||(-115)||2||9.30.21 (DK)||Loss||-2|
|DEN ML v. BAL||(-102)||1.5||9.30.21 (FD)||Loss||-1.5|
|PIT +6.5 @ GB||(-105)||1.5||10.2.21 (MGM)||Loss||-1.5|
|TB -6 @ NE||(-110)||2||9.27.21 (MGM)||Loss||-2|
JAC @ CIN Under 46 (-110) (1u) – CIN 24-21, Win 0.91 Units
This was a fairly good bet, despite the final number ending up close. Betting the Under is most profitable when the offenses project to run the ball a lot, get a couple of first downs each drive, yet fail to consistently get in the endzone. The first two parts really came through here, and what caused the sweat was both teams being extremely efficient in the red zone.
My initial read on this game was to play JAC +7.5, but I got gunshy after playing JAC +7.5 last week against Arizona. Jacksonville has been playing better each week and I’m not surprised they covered and almost won outright here. But the Bengals were the better team in the end, able to get more explosive plays and it led to victory. The Bengals are a significantly better team when they face soft defensive fronts.
KC -6 (-110) @ PHI (1.5u) – KC 42-30, Win 1.36 Units
I’ve watched every game the Chiefs have played with Mahomes, and this year’s offense is the best offense I have ever seen. Mahomes has pressed at times this year, but against Philadelphia I saw several plays where he reared up like he was going to throw a high-risk ball and decided against it. He knew that his offense was good enough to move the ball on the next down and sure enough, he was right. They scored 6 touchdowns in 7 drives, with the only failure being a bad throw under pressure on 3rd down.
The defense is still a major issue, but laying less than a touchdown against an inferior Eagles team was a good bet. Down three offensive linemen, the Eagles were not able to do what the Browns, Ravens, and Chargers have done and push Kansas City to its limit. With a healthy line and Brandon Graham, the Eagles would have been the right side, but, as always, bettors undervalued the impact of line injuries on this game.
WAS -1 (-110) @ ATL (1.5u) – WAS 34-30, Win 1.36 Units
This was a tough fought game. I thought I was headed for the push here but J.D. McKissic made a (dumb) highlight-reel play to give me the cover. The Falcons finally put together a consistently good offensive performance in this one. The Washington defensive line simply is not a difference-making unit because teams can scheme up ways to abuse the weak secondary before the line gets to the quarterback. I have been waiting to see Atlanta click on offense and this was the first time all year. They could be bettable moving forward.
There were high-variance events against both teams here, but in context Washington was the better team. Washington got a kick return touchdown, but this was sandwiched in 6 drives that saw Washington score 4 touchdowns and a field goal. There was a good chance they would have scored anyway. Whereas Atlanta got sacked on a 4th down play but retained possession on a bogus roughing the passer penalty. That drive ended in a touchdown, so it had a massive impact on the game. Still, Atlanta’s offense performed better than anticipated so I consider this a fortunate result, particularly with how high-variance Heinicke is as a quarterback.
CHI -3 (-105) v. DET (2u) – CHI 24-14, Win 1.9 Units
I focused on this game in my Weekly Spotlight and the game went exactly how I predicted. My final score prediction was 24-17, and if the Lions had smartly kicked the field goal late instead of going for it on 4th down, that would have been the exact result. Alas, we won the bet because the Bears dominated early and kept the Lions out of the endzone. My opinion on these teams hasn’t changed after this game, although Detroit suffered a major blow with the Frank Ragnow injury. It’s possible that they would become less adept at backdoor covers if the offensive line takes a step back. With Fields at quarterback, the Bears are going to be up-and-down this season (mostly down).
Teaser: KC -1, NO -1.5 (-120) – KC 42-30, NYG 27-21 (OT), Loss 1.2 Units
I made a mistake putting New Orleans in this teaser. I knew the Giants were underrated, coming off two straight losses where they outplayed their opponents by my metrics. This is one of my favorite angles and instead of betting the Giants, I teased the Saints. Never tease a team (or pick the team in Survivor) when you like the other side against the spread.
That said, the Saints still should have won this game. I felt comfortable when they had a 21-10 lead with the ball in the fourth quarter. But Daniel Jones has taken a step forward this year and delivered the comeback win on the road against a tough defense. The Saints offensive line is a problem without Armstead and McCoy, but this could lead to them being underrated once those players return. It may take patience, but the Saints will likely be a good team to back at some point this season.
CAR @ DAL Under 52.5 (-115) – DAL 36-28, Loss 2 Units
I missed on this play, but the defenses played better than the score indicates. The problem was that Darnold threw two quick interceptions in the second half, setting up short fields for what has to be recognized as an elite offense. My particular misread here was that the Panthers play an aggressive man defense that has gotten the best of the competition to date, but that competition has included Zach Wilson in his first NFL game, Davis Mills in his first NFL start, and Jameis Winston with injuries on the offensive line and offensive coaches out for Covid. When an aggressive man defense plays an opponent who is smart, quick, and capitalizes on mistakes, it can go downhill. That is Dallas right now, and I missed that in this handicap.
I did want to bet DAL -4.5 but thought I had too many favorites already. That’s silly reasoning and I should stick with my handicap. Each game is independent and should be treated objectively.
TEN @ NYJ Under 44.5 (1.5u) – NYJ 27-24 (OT), Loss 1.5 Units
This was a tough one to lose. The Jets kicked a field goal at the end of the the third quarter to make it 10-9 heading into the fourth. Neither team could get in the end zone, as both defenses were outplaying the offenses. It was a classic Under set up. Then there were touchdown fireworks in the fourth quarter and, eventually, overtime.
This was another one where I liked the Jets, and had planned on betting them. But when the line got under 7 I chickened out, even though it was still the right side. The Titans without Brown and Julio are a shell of an offense, particularly against what is supposed to be a good run defense. So my opinion on the Titans did not change. But despite the outright win, I was a little disappointed with the Jets here. I liked that Wilson made some big plays, but outside of those he was not great. The Titans probably should have put the Jets away early but could not convert short fields. I think it might take a while for the Jets to become truly competitive, particularly with their defensive injuries.
MIA Team Total v. IND Under 22 (-110) – IND 27-17, Win 1.36 Units
This was probably my best bet of the week. I was wholly underwhelmed by Miami’s offense against Las Vegas. Brissett is really struggling with the weak offensive line because he does not make particularly quick decisions and is not consistently accurate. So I thought they would really struggle here offensively. And they did. They only had 3 points with 13 minutes left and Indianapolis had the ball. Those 3 points came off a muffed punt that let the Dolphins start on the Colts’ 27 yard line. A couple of garbage time touchdowns got this one close, but it was a good bet. And I was correct not to trust the Colts offense and bet the spread here, because they had struggles of their own.
LAR -4 (-115) v. ARI (2u) – ARI 37-20, Loss 2 Units
This one hurt. The Cardinals came to Los Angeles and outplayed the Rams on their home field, with the Rams bringing field goals to a touchdown fight. It was a bad bet. My numbers said Cardinals were the right side but I ignored them. I anticipated that the Rams’ defensive strength (coverage) would fluster the Cardinals offense, particularly with Ramsey on Hopkins. And things went against the Rams early, like the Michel fumble in their own territory. It should have been a competitive game. But it’s time to recognize that the reality of this Cardinals team does not match my preseason expectations, in part because Rondale Moore and A.J. Green materially improve this offense.
I have a bias against quarterbacks who do not read and process NFL coverages and hit receivers on timing routes. I do not believe you can be successful in the long run without this skill. But you can be successful in the short term, and the Cardinals are really clicking right now. The short passing game acts like an extended run game, getting explosive players the ball with room to make plays. This allowed the Cardinals to chip away against the Rams’ weakness in the middle, the way that run-heavy teams have performed well against the Rams. Meanwhile, with Murray’s exceptional scrambling ability, it puts too much pressure on the secondary to stay with what is now 3+ excellent downfield weapons. Ramsey cannot guard them all. Murray will find the open man eventually, and he is accurate on the run. I’m not going to be backing the Cardinals, but it’s enough to give me pause betting against them unless the matchup and line provides excellent value.
DEN ML (-102) v. BAL (1.5u) – BAL 24-7, Loss 1.5 Units
In this game I focused my handicap on the Ravens offense against the Broncos defense and incorrectly ignored the other side of the ball. Predictably, the Ravens offense was not great. But the Broncos offense was so inept that they punted on 10 of their first 11 possessions, and threw an interception on the 12th. This gave the Ravens enough chances on offense to capitalize, and they easily won the game. Drew Lock was a material downgrade but even Bridgewater was struggling prior to the injury. The Broncos are just too injured right now on both sides of the ball, and not good enough to overcome that against a quality opponent.
PIT +6.5 (-105) @ GB (1.5u) – GB 27-17, Loss 1.5 Units
Not too much to take away here. We know the Steelers offense is not great. They failed to capitalize against a bad defense because they simply could not connect downfield, especially without Claypool. Their decision-making is suspect, twice throwing short of the sticks on 4th down. And Roethlisberger has not looked comfortable. On the other side, I expected the Packers to struggle a bit on offense against a healthier Steelers defensive line. They were okay. It was an impressive grind-it-out game for the Packers offense where the stars played well and they won comfortably.
Many Steelers backers are upset about the offsides call on the blocked FG for a touchdown, which was a 10-point swing. And they are right to be upset. Pittsburgh likely would have covered with the correct call there (and could easily have covered anyway). But that is not the type of play that is predictable so it doesn’t really affect my view of this game. The Packers were about 7-10 points better and they won by 10.
TB -6 (-110) @ NE (2u) – TB 19-17, Loss 2 Units
For the second week in a row I found myself on the highly-bet side in a lopsided game and lost. The rain and the Patriots’ defense kept the Bucs from making big plays, and it seemed like every time Brady made a big time throw, his tight end dropped it. So they struggled to a small victory and failed to cover the spread.
The lesson here is that projecting an offense to struggle (in this case, I projected New England to struggle as a run-heavy team against the Bucs) is not enough to take the opposing side against the spread when the spread is large. The other side has to be able to score consistently or else it’s not a good bet. This applied to the Saints against the Giants this week, and I’ve already incorporated this into one of my bets for next week. Here, the Bucs could not score consistently in the rain, against a good defense, without Gronkowski.