2023 Week 2 Bets

BetTimeOddsUnitsDate PlacedResultNet
MIN +7.5 @ PHI
9.11.23 (FD)PHI 34-28+1.8u
TEN +3.5 v. LAC1pm(-120) (FD)TEN 27-24 (OT)+2u
CIN ML v. BAL1pm(-170)2.389.13.23 (DK)BAL 27-24-2.38u
KC ML @ JAX1pm(-166)1.669.15.23 (FD)KC 17-9+1u
DET -4.5 v. SEA1pm(-105) (CZ)SEA 37-31 (OT)-2.1u
GB +7.5 @ ATL,
BUF -1.5 v. LV (Teaser)
1pm(-120) (BM)ATL 25-24
BUF 38-10
NYJ +9.5 @ DAL
NYJ +8.5
NYJ -2.5
9.13.23 (Circa)
9.17.23 (FD)
9.14.23 (DK)
DAL 30-10-2.95u
DEN -3.5 v. WAS4:25pm(-105) (DK)WAS 35-33-2.1u
NE +3 v. MIASNF(-110) (BM)MIA 24-17-2.2u

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.

Tao Te Cha-Ching: A Taoist Approach to Handicapping, Part 4


Patience is an often-forgotten virtue in today’s world of constant dopamine hits. We want results right away and if we don’t get them we can lose interest fast. But becoming good at a difficult task requires patience and persistence. And handicapping a sport successfully is a very difficult task.

Taoist philosophy often looks to nature for inspiration. This week as I was hiking in Arches National Park near Moab, my eyes were drawn to the beautiful rock formations that developed over millions of years. The horizontal lines in the rocks told a story of slow development where each layer of sandstone settled and hardened on top of the previous layer. This slow process created solid structures that will take millions of years to erode. We see this in old trees as well, where each ring builds outwards and strengthens the integrity of the tree.

Human construction follows the same rules. The great Pyramids have outlasted countless man-made structures that were more hastily built. Despite vast improvements to building technology, our structures today often do not last as long because they are built for immediate use. It’s all about how quickly we can erect a structure because unoccupied space lacks economic value.

I am drawn to handicapping the NFL because it is an exceedingly complex problem with rich solutions. No sharp bettor woke up one day and decided they could win betting into efficient markets. Many studied the game they wanted to beat. Others developed high-level skills in math and data analysis. Some wrestle with the market until they understand it. The sharpest bettors combine these in unique ways. What they all have in common is that it took time to develop and hone the skill set that made them successful.

I came up with my core handicapping concept during and after the 2019 NFL season. I have only implemented it for three seasons. It was a decent idea from the get-go and yielded positive results immediately. But every season, including successful seasons, taught me ways that I can build on and improve my process. I try to remain curious about my blind spots, my system’s potential flaws, and any ways I can fine-tune the process for better long-term results.

Last season it felt like I suffered a lot of losses on tough end-game scenarios that did not go my way. To see if this was just my biased perception, I studied my bets. In total, there were 34 games I bet on (counting only spreads and moneylines within -120 to +120) where the final scoring play of the game shifted the outcome of the bet. I went 5-27-2 on those bets. The odds that I would accumulate that kind of record if the proposition was truly 50/50 are exceedingly low. Was this just a massive outlier or was there something I was missing in my handicapping process?

So I dug into these games. I analyzed the game flow, context, and ways these games ended. I noticed some commonalities and identified some characteristics of the teams that might have helped me avoid some of the losses. It led to a new model concept built around in the interaction of team archetypes, my ratings, and the spread. When I backtested the model over the entire season, using only data available before each matchup, it yielded a 68% record against the spread. Obviously there is bias when you do it that way, so I ran it back over the prior season and it still hit over 60% against the spread. I will be building this concept into my model for 2023.

This example is only one iteration of many. I have made other adjustments and improvements along the way, and will continue to make more. I am building something with many layers, built to withstand changes over time and thrive as the game and the betting markets evolve. My journey is far from complete.

Adopting this mindset runs against the way success is often discussed by many of the people talking about sports betting. The touts barking about their last eleven plays frame success as a short-term burst without recognizing it’s a long, step-by-step journey. But even the long-time winners can be guilty of clinging too tightly to processes that once worked but have failed to fully adapt to the ever-changing landscape. In my opinion, the best handicappers are those who do not fall in love with their own process or even their own results.

As Lao Tsu famously wrote, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But this is often treated as motivational advice to take the first step. It’s equally important to carry it forward on each step of the journey, remembering that it’s a long way and each step is part of the journey.

Tao Te Cha-Ching: A Taoist Approach to Handicapping, Part 3

The Dual Nature of Reality

Taoist philosophy identifies two aspects of reality: the true essence, and how we try to describe or categorize that essence. The true nature of things is impossible for us to fully grasp with our limited perspective and as soon as we label something we lose a part of it. It is essential that we not lose sight of this distinction. The true nature of things is more important than our categories, yet our bias pulls us in the direction of our definitions, and as a result, away from reality.

All the frameworks we use to measure performance on the football field suffer from this bias. And as bettors, we want to be grounded in so-called “objective” evaluations so we can make more precise predictions. But that very desire can block our access to deeper understanding and lead us to faulty conclusions. There are probably infinite applications of this principle but I want to talk about two in particular.


We love to rank things. It’s one of our favorite forms of categorization. Few things stir up engagement online in NFL circles faster than team power rankings and quarterback rankings. These can be useful tools for discussion and have value. But these static forms of characterization always pull us away from reality.

Quarterback performance is dynamic and does not exist outside of context. Last season analysts disagreed about whether Jalen Hurts was “actually” an elite quarterback or just a product of his circumstances. Some more production-focused rankers had him as the second-best quarterback in the NFL. Others, like the Ringer, put him ninth.

I don’t take issue with either of these rankings. They are both valuable in their own way. The high ranking describes the level Hurts was able to achieve in his specific circumstances. Given the quality of his weapons, offensive line, and coaching staff, how the scheme fit his strengths, and the relative ease of schedule, he was an absolute force.

But the lower ranking tries to judge his performance in a predictive way, recognizing that flaws in his game will likely prevent him from sustaining that level of success in more trying circumstances. Hurts is also a young player who might move up and down within these types of evaluations based on how he progresses.

The problem arises when we become attached to these static descriptors. We proclaim a certain ranking and then it becomes our job to defend that ranking, even subconsciously. Evidence is filtered through that lens and prevents us from responding to dynamic change as a player progresses and circumstances evolve.

As an alternative to ranking quarterbacks, we should identify specific things we observe and incorporate them into our perception of that player. In my view, Hurts is currently a patient quarterback who can capitalize on defensive mistakes and deliver the ball to anyone who gets open. He also trusts his receivers to win downfield so he throws into coverage to give them a chance. But he struggles relative to his peers when asked to create in the passing game under pressure and/or throwing into tight windows, which requires timing and anticipation. He also keeps defenses honest with the threat of elite rushing ability, which helps feed into his strengths by creating more open or one-on-one opportunities.

It’s much harder to turn this into a snappy Tweet, and my descriptions do not holistically capture the essence of Jalen Hurts the quarterback. They don’t even capture my perspective fully, but this isn’t a blog about Jalen Hurts. My description is a point-in-time summary of my current perspective on something I will never fully grasp. But as an NFL handicapper, I will continue to seek a better understanding of the reality of Hurts and shift my opinion accordingly, so as not to get trapped defending static descriptors.

As always, I’m writing to myself as much as to anyone else. I have engaged in these (pointless) ranking debates in the past and probably will be pulled in by my ego in the future. But I don’t want to. I want to focus on productive evaluations instead.


Statistics is the ultimate language of sports analysis. Most statistics are useful in some way and the recent developments in analytics have really propelled us forward in using statistics effectively. It’s essentially impossible to model effectively without using statistics. But every statistic is a measurement, and when we measure things, we lose something about the essence of what we are measuring.

We know this intuitively. We know, for example, a quarterback’s completion percentage is not a precise measurement of a quarterback’s accuracy. Even the more advanced measurements of Completion Percentage over Expectation (CPOE) and Accuracy Rate Over Expectation (AROE) fail to account for the circumstances that create them. They measure very specific things and provide value, but do not capture the true essence of quarterback play. Rather, they describe it. And in doing so, they depart from it.

There’s nothing wrong with using statistics. They are like words of any language. They approximate reality in a way that facilitates communication and understanding. They create shared reference points and measure things objectively (for the most part). But they carry flaws.

On a small scale, statistics can be massively skewed. Take the example of an interception Joe Burrow threw against the Chargers in 2021. He threw a perfectly placed ball down the sideline for an easy 71-yard touchdown to Ja’marr Chase, except Chase bobbled it right into the hands of the defender he beat on the route for an interception instead. His statistics for that game were massively skewed by something with little predictive value and completely outside of his control.

But even on a larger scale, where these kinds of fluky errors smooth out with large sample sizes, statistics are a language; not reality itself. They reward certain tendencies and contain biases. Quarterbacks who take the check down short of the sticks on third down will have a higher completion percentage and yards per attempt on those plays than a more aggressive quarterback who insists on throwing past the first down marker, even though the more aggressive quarterback should convert more first downs.

More advanced statistics contain their own biases too. It’s inevitable. As an originator, a person seeking to win must be able to differentiate their view of a game from the consensus market opinion. And the market speaks the language of statistics. The best modelers speak it better than anyone else, but it generally still guides the market.

Therefore, understanding the ways that the language of statistics mischaracterizes reality can be a key that unlocks a winning strategy. This does not mean ignoring statistics. It means recognizing the construct and the biases the statistics contain. Where the biases create gaps between definitions and reality, there can be value.

Now, I’ll emphasize that this way of thinking is not for everyone. And bettors can (and do) win without thinking in this way. It can also make it difficult to engage in conversations that use these necessary constructs when you don’t view reality through them exclusively.

But you have to play the game that you want to win. Mass approval is not my aim. Handicapping effectively is.

2023 Week 1 Bets

BetTimeOddsUnitsDate PlacedResultNet
DET +7 @ KCTNF-108
5.31.23 (BM)
6.28.23 (CZ)
DET 21-20+3u
TB +7 @ MIN
7.1.23 (CZ)
9.9.23 (MGM)
TB 20-17+2.6u
CLE +2.5 v. CIN1pm-1102.27.27.23 (Circa)
7.28.23 (DK)
CLE 24-3+2u
CAR @ ATL Over 39.51pm-1101.19.3.23 (Circa)ATL 24-10-1.1u
CIN @ CLE Under 48.51pm-1101.19.7.23 (Circa)CLE 24-3+1u
SF -9.5 @ PIT1pm+2850.69.8.23 (FD)SF 30-7+1.71u
LAR +6 @ SEA
SEA -5 v. LAR (injury hedge - Kupp)
7.5.23 (BM)
8.31.23 (CZ)
LA 30-13+0.9u
LV +5 @ DEN4:25pm-1102.28.14.23 (Circa)LV 17-16+2u
GB +3 @ CHI4:25pm-1152.36.30.23 (DK)GB 38-20+2u
DAL ML @ NYGSNF-1622.38.8.23 (FD)DAL 40-0+1.42u

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.

Tao Te Cha-Ching: A Taoist Approach to Handicapping, Part 2

Embracing Individualism

There is value in thinking differently. And I am not talking about fading a perceived “public” or popular team to be contrarian. I mean that there is value in challenging the paradigms that guide the world in which we operate. In a world that increasingly pushes us towards consensus through the way social media algorithms (and the human brain) work, the pressure to conform can feel overwhelming.

When Einstein discovered the theory of special relativity, he was not having the same conversation leading physicists were having at the time. He was challenging the assumptions they were operating under and likely would have been laughed out of the room by the consensus if he had presented his idea before years of work showed the validity of his theory.

It doesn’t always pay off in such a dramatic way. Sometimes testing a consensus assumption leads you to the conclusion that the assumption is correct, and that generates no fanfare. But it’s equally important to recognize what’s valid as it is to find the flaws.

Taoist philosophy recognizes that when we label things we create the opposite of that label. If nothing was deemed good we would have no definition of bad. But there is also a playful double meaning here. The Tao Te Ching says that when everyone agrees that something is beautiful, it creates ugliness. To me, while making a point about balance, the implication is that everyone being aligned is not good. I agree.

But enough with the abstract nonsense. Let’s talk math and betting. Assume you have a 2% edge, on average, betting NFL sides. If your process is theoretically identical but superior to whatever processes create the market, you will have a 2% edge on every game. Great. The problem is that, to overcome -110 vig on standard bets, you need a 2.4% edge to break even. So you would either never make a bet or you would make only -EV bets.

But if your process approaches games from an entirely different angle, that 2% edge will be distributed unequally. In a given 9-game sample, you might have edges of 6%, 5%, 4%, 3%, 2%, 1%, 0%, -1%, and -2%. On average, you have the same edge as the bettor with the superior market approach. But this time, you have identified 4 bets that are +EV and 5 bets you can pass on. By using an approach that does not follow the market, you literally increased your opportunity to profit.

Having a unique process also helps reduce the negative impact of confirmation bias because you end up finding less value in the affirmation of others. Any time you can find ways to avoid bias in handicapping, that’s an improvement.

On a more personal level, embracing individualism is also about understanding your goals and how you operate. It only makes sense to challenge consensus paradigms if it comports with your nature and what you are trying to accomplish.

Let’s get concrete. Much discourse around NFL sides betting involves quantifying the relative strength of each team and adjusting as necessary for matchups. This approach typically treats games as units and assigns percentages to various outcomes to identify where they might be value. But what if, instead of treating games as units, a bettor recognized that a game is actually comprised of a million individual probabilistic events. Some of those will impact others in unique ways.

For a basic example, if a team has a highly condensed wide receiver room with extreme talent at the top but no depth, that team will likely perform at a higher level relative to their average when playing in bigger sets. So if some of the early probabilistic events put them in a position to where they have to spread the ball out, they might play relatively below average. The distribution of outcomes can create even more specific conceptions of value, both for pre-game and in-game betting.

My biggest edge comes from measuring performance independently of statistics. Stats are outcome-based measurements that must treat all results as one thing or another, but plays are much more complex than their outcome suggests. Quantifying this creates a unique measurement and a unique language for talking about football. Speaking this language might prevent me from ever being a famous football analyst but it does help me find edges in the betting market.

Or maybe you only play Wong teasers and play them indiscriminately. Books are catching on to the mathematical advantages bettors have when playing Wong teasers in the NFL and the bet will eventually be priced out. But, if instead of treating every Wong teaser as the same, a bettor was able to capture which advantages were more pronounced or less pronounced, that bettor could still find profit on teasers after they have been made more expensive by the books.

Ultimately, these types of specific advantages tend to last. Steam chasing, arbitrage, and picking off stale lines is one way to capture EV on your bets. And I have nothing against those who do this. But most books are unlikely to let bettors win a lot, in the long run, using those strategies. Uncovering a distinct, unique advantage derived from your own idiosyncratic methods is more likely to lead to a lasting edge in bigger, more mature markets. And that’s ultimately my goal. I find value in individualism because it helps me achieve my goal.

But also, embracing individualism makes me happy. The way we pursue things influences whether we enjoy those things. And whether you bet for a living, bet as a hobby, or don’t bet at all, it’s best to do it in a way that makes you happy, I think.

Tao Te Cha-Ching: A Taoist Approach to Handicapping, Part 1

Encountering New Information

How do you react when you encounter an opinion you disagree with, data that surprises you, or an unexpected outcome? I believe that answering this question correctly, not in theory but in practice, is crucial to handicapping successfully.

As a bettor, it’s easy to become overconfident and entrenched in an opinion. The psychological impact of putting money on the line magnifies the impact of various forms of bias that can block our ability to think critically and objectively. We have to actively counter that. In a complex sport like football, we are constantly presented with opportunities to re-think our assumptions in the form of new data or opinions that conflict with our own. I think these opportunities are valuable.

Taoist philosophy often looks to nature for inspiration. Nature has operated in harmony with its laws longer than we have been on this planet, and the principles will outlast us. I like to reflect on the way flowing water encounters obstacles.

When water flows, it does not avoid or ignore what lies in its path. It embraces it and determines its true nature. When water encounters something solid, like a rock, it accommodates the rock, incorporates the shape of the rock into its path, and continues on its journey. But when it encounters something weak and without foundation, like a stick, it flows into and moves the stick, eventually depositing the stick somewhere off its path entirely. Sometimes an obstacle is so big and strong that the water permanently alters its path, rather than trying to fight through the obstacle.

We are so frequently wrong. But that’s part of being human and not something to feel ashamed about. Attaching ego to our opinions works to our detriment in both directions. Most obviously, ego can lead to continued operation under a false pretense even when faced with conflicting evidence. But it also can undermine our process and self-confidence when we have to adjust an opinion that is wrong, if we are too attached to that opinion.

Any good handicapper has formed their opinions through a robust process. It can be through film study, data analysis, macro trends, or whatever else. There are multiple paths to success here. But whatever method works will only continue to work if the bettor adapts to new information correctly, separating the ego from the belief. This applies most directly to player and team evaluations and in-season adjustments, but pervades every aspect of good handicapping.

This means that I am not ashamed of incorrect opinions I held in the past. I recall a lengthy debate with a good friend several years ago in which I ultimately insisted that Baker Mayfield would have a better career than Lamar Jackson. I had good reasons for this belief but I was ultimately quite wrong (almost certainly). Instead of hiding from this I try to learn. What, if any, mistaken assumptions was I operating under? What blind spots kept me from seeing how it would play out? This is why I never delete a Tweet with a bad take and why it doesn’t bother me when someone pulls an old opinion of mine and tries to use it against me. I welcome it.

More recently I predicted Daniel Jones would struggle this year with the Giants under Brian Daboll. Another bad take. But it’s also important not to abandon a good process just because the results didn’t go as predicted. By the time the Giants traveled to Philadelphia in the playoffs, Jones had proven me wrong. But I didn’t abandon my approach. Much of the Giants’ success came in situations I predicted they would not encounter against the Eagles, so I placed a large bet on Philadelphia. It wasn’t a victory lap moment for me, proving that I was right all along about Jones. I wasn’t right all along, but that’s irrelevant. I incorporated the new information accurately, and that’s all that matters.

There are several pitfalls to avoid if I want to be more like water. I never want to limit my exposure to people who think the way I do or agree with me. I crave challenges to my thought process. I also want to avoid the bias that comes with staking an opinion, especially when reacting to results. But I also will not abandon the results of a robust process because of the appearance of being wrong. I want to flow where my process takes me, withstanding invalid criticism and adjusting in response to valid criticism.

Of course, this is a challenge for me sometimes. I have an ego like anyone else. But reflecting on my philosophy helps reinforce my commitment to this approach. I’m writing this to myself as much as anyone else.

I have found that this approach leads to a better mental state and better results. I end up feeling more grounded and at peace when I focus on the process and not whether I am right or wrong in the short term. It gives my mind the necessary flexibility to adapt at the right pace and try to see things clearly.

But it also leads to strong results. In evaluating my betting history, one of my strongest performance-based trends involves betting on a team I had recently been below-market on or betting against a team I had recently been above-market on. These inflection points only occur when I have valid reasons for changing my opinion and the market is reacting late or overreacting.

Flowing water is an extremely strong force. Anyone who has been whitewater canoeing can attest to that. It moves with purpose and power. But it is not unyielding or stubborn. This is how I aim to move through life, but also through each NFL season.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I expect I’ll have more Taoist reflections in the future if you’re interested.

NFC West Futures Betting Guide 2022

  • Full 2021 context, including win total adjusted for luck, performance, and schedule.
  • 2022 win total projections.
  • Every NFC West Futures bet.
  • Easy-to-use odds table with true odds and best available odds.
  • Free to download.

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.

NFC North Futures Betting Guide 2022

  • Full 2021 context, including win total adjusted for luck, performance, and schedule.
  • 2022 win total projections.
  • Every NFC North Futures bet.
  • Easy-to-use odds table with true odds and best available odds.
  • Free to download.

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.