Week 6 Recap

After our best week of the season last week, we stumbled through a disappointing 5-7 week for -1.47 Units. I was right on the money with my biggest play of the week but made several regrettable picks that offset the win. This is my first year going public with my picks, and I’m learning a lot of lessons in this young season. This week I realized that I am being over-aggressive with my picks and taking every single bet where I see even the smallest perceived edge. Last year I was more patient and spent more time playing out the counter-narratives more fully. I stayed away when there were compelling angles on both sides. You may see a reduction in volume of plays moving forward as I become more deliberate in my process but hopefully quality beats quantity as I really only play the games I feel strongly about. It will take discipline and focus but I feel good about that direction.

After going 68% against the spread in 2020, we are now 35-30 in the 2021 season for +1.41 Units with our bets. Looking for another rebound week in Week 7.

This article breaks down every bet I placed and discusses some key reflections and takeaways moving forward. If you want access to my picks as I make them, become a SharpClarke Member today and see my Week 7 Picks.

Week 6 Bets

BetOddsUnitsDate PlacedResultNet
JAC +3.5
JAC +3
10.13.21 (MGM)
10.13.21 (MGM)
10.15.21 (FD)
LAC +3.5(-110)1.510.11.21 (DK)Loss-1.5
KC -6.5(-108)1.510.12.21 (FD)Win+1.39
IND -9(-110)1.510.13.21 (DK)Win+1.36
DET +3.5(-108)1.510.14.21 (FD)Loss-1.5
KC -0.5, CAR +8.5(-120)1.810.15.21 (DK)Win+1.5
NYG +10(-110)1.510.15.21 (DK)Loss-1.5
CHI +5.5(-110)110.17.21 (MGM)Loss-1
DEN -3(-114)110.11.21 (FD)Loss-1
CLE -2.5(-110)210.12.21 (MGM)Loss-2
DAL -3(-115)1.510.14.21 (DK)Win+1.30
D. Henry U 95.5 Rush Yds(-115)1.1510.18.21 (DK)Loss-1.15

JAC +3.5 (-110), JAC ML (+165), JAC +3 (-112) v. MIA (2.5u) – JAC 23-20, Win 2.63 Units*

For the third straight week, my highest conviction play came through. I broke down this game in my Weekly Spotlight and just missed on my 26-20 score prediction. But I was actually impressed with the Dolphins here. The Jaguars came into the game underrated and the Dolphins came into the game heavily injured (most notably at receiver and corner), yet the Dolphins with Tua still fought well and almost won this game. With only two full performances, Tua has shown that he can be accurate and decisive, even if his physical talents are somewhat limited and he is capable of making mistakes under pressure. This offense earns a lot of tough yards with Tua at the helm. Although they will struggle behind a weak offensive line, they will be more effective at masking it when Will Fuller and/or DeVante Parker returns. Meanwhile, Trevor Lawrence continued his strong progression early this season and showed a lot of promise, reading blitzes fairly well in this matchup. That is extremely encouraging for the rookie. As I observed last week, the team is playing hard despite the public narrative around Urban Meyer.

*Despite listing several bets, I count it as 1-0 for my official record. I don’t want to inflate my numbers when it was all the same play essentially. I only include bets close to 50-50 (-110 or similar) for purposes of record but count all Units won or lost.

LAC +3.5 (-110) @ BAL (1.5u) – BAL 34-6, Loss 1.5 Units

The Ravens defense finally came to play in a very impressive performance here. They smothered the run and forced Herbert into unfavorable 3rd down situations, then played excellent coverage to stop the Chargers in key moments. Inexplicably, on at least three key conversion attempts, Herbert went straight after Marlon Humphrey in man coverage, once to his rookie receiver Josh Palmer. This was an extremely bad approach and failed to capitalize on the Ravens’ relative weakness elsewhere in the secondary. For a smart team, this was a huge whiff.

But I should not have bet this to begin with. This was the first of three bad bets I made that followed the exact same pattern. I saw an edge, predicted line movement (correctly), and wanted to lock in the number before fully fleshing out all the angles. Then I let my bet influence my thinking as I sought confirmation bias throughout the week. Both these teams came into this game overhyped, and there was not a huge matchup advantage for the Chargers. If anything, it was a bad spot for them because they cannot stop the run. Despite having great CLV (closing line value), this was not a great bet and diluted the quality of my week.

KC -6.5 (-108) @ WAS (1.5u) – KC 31-13, Win 1.39 Units

This obviously ended as an easy win, but watching this game was less comfortable than the final score indicated. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were both in and out of the lineup with nagging injuries, and at one point it looked like Hill was out for the game. With a precipitous drop off in talent after their top two weapons, that was potentially a major downgrade for an offense that needs to be elite. But, fortunately, they seem to have emerged healthy. On the other side of the ball, Washington failed to capitalize against a bad defense missing two of its best players because, after some failed deep shots early on, they shelled up and became ultra-conservative. Not a good look, and not how you beat Kansas City. At this point Washington lacks an identity and it shows.

IND -9 (-110) v. HOU (1.5u) – IND 31-3, Win 1.36 Units

This game went about as expected. Both quarterbacks play significantly better when not under pressure, and both defenses have been bottom of the league in terms of exerting pressure. But the Texans were missing their three most important offensive linemen and the Colts defense was getting healthy. Advantage, Wentz and the Colts.

But to be fair, the Texans were better than this final score would indicate. Their defense is designed to take away the big play and they still got burned several times, which is a major problem. But outside of those big plays, they were respectable. They notably chased down Jonathan Taylor on a breakaway run where you might expect a 1-5 team to give up, then almost kept him out of the end zone. On offense, Mills moved the ball well but they had turnovers, fourth down failures, and key sacks that ended drives and left points on the board. A fairer final score would have been 31-17 or so.

DET +3.5 (-108) @ CIN (1.5u) – CIN 34-11, Loss 1.5 Units

When the Lions can’t run, they are a really bad team. I have been impressed with this Bengals defense to date, particularly against the run. They gang tackle and play with discipline. They have not faced the most formidable set of offenses, but they’ve shown up consistently and I believe their offseason acquisitions are truly paying off. Here, with no run game to lean on, Jared Goff struggled. That broke my poor handicap of the game, as I thought the Lions would be able to run a little.

But the Bengals offense was not as convincing as the score would indicate. They followed an impressive opening drive with an egregious interception by Burrow where he just threw the ball to the defender and then three straight three-and-outs. Their defense just gave them enough opportunities, including creating takeaways, and there was no pressure to really perform well. Burrow is live for a few big plays each game, but on a play-by-play basis still looks like he’s processing a little slowly for NFL speed. A stronger defensive line would be able to capitalize where the Lions could not.

Teaser: KC -0.5, CAR +8.5 (-120) (1.8u) – KC 31-13, MIN 34-28 (OT), Win 1.5 Units

Teasers have felt too easy this season, as we move to 4-1 on the year. The Chiefs leg was fairly easy but the Vikings almost put the Panthers away late in that game. But you can seemingly always count on this Vikings team to leave the door open, as a Panthers team that played a very poor game overall took them to overtime and secured my teaser. The Panthers offense could come out of this game underrated because they had an inordinate number of drops that killed their offensive momentum. I do not expect that to continue.

NYG +10 (-110) v. LAR (1.5u) – LAR 38-11, Loss 1.5 Units

With all these blowouts by favorites in Week 6, books will have to set higher spreads moving forward. But the NFL is still a league with parity, and that will generally provide value on the underdogs. Early on, the Giants looked like the right side here as they marched down the field featuring Kadarius Toney, settled for a field goal in the red zone, then forced a punt. But coming into the game heavily injured, they could not sustain drives without Toney and Andrew Thomas, who were both ruled out in the first half. Between drops by Dante Pettis, ineffective running by Booker, and relentless pressure on Daniel Jones, the Giants had no chance. The Rams offense was not particularly consistent, but they didn’t need to be. With so many short fields and no pressure from the Giants offense, this was an easy win for them.

CHI +5.5 (-110) v. GB (1u) – GB 24-14, Loss 1 Unit

This was another bet I didn’t need to make. I liked the matchup of Chicago’s defensive line getting pressure and stopping the run, and I had little faith in the Packers defense without Jaire Alexander. But I have these teams so far apart in quality that I just needed to avoid the spot altogether. Each week I pick 5 teams that are must-avoid against the spread, and I even included Chicago in my 5 this week because I have no faith in Justin Fields. But I ignored my own advice (which is now 21-9 on the season) to my detriment. The Bears were certainly close to covering, but it was a forced bet.

DEN -3 (-114) v. LV (1u) – LV 34-24, Loss 1 Unit

This was the second in my series of identical bet patterns that went 0-3. On Monday night I realized that there was no way Gruden would be coaching for the Raiders in this game and the line at the time (-3) presented some value on Denver. But I had not yet watched the Raiders-Bears game at that point. This was a mistake, because Las Vegas looked much better on film than I expected, and their 20-9 loss to Chicago was a misnomer. I would not have played this later in the week, and so even though I got CLV again, it was not a good bet. This Broncos team has been very underwhelming for weeks now, and absolutely needs to get healthy before they can be trusted. They are night-and-day different when they have the lead, because Bridgewater is so much more efficient when able to manage a game as opposed to compete in a shootout. There will be value on the Broncos eventually, but I will be patient.

CLE -2.5 (-110) v. ARI (2u) – ARI 37-14, Loss 2 Units

I decided I was going to make this bet last week. I loved the matchup on both sides of the ball, as the Browns can run it down your throat and the Cardinals have been susceptible to the run. On a windy day in Cleveland, I was excited about the idea of getting what I perceived to be the better team at home by less than a field goal. But once that idea was formed in my head, I did not let crucial developments impact my thinking. Specifically, as I wrote in my Browns season preview before the season started: “a team built like this is particularly vulnerable to a significant downgrade if one or two offensive linemen get hurt and they no longer can control the line of scrimmage. Bettors underestimate the impact of line injuries, particularly for a team built like this. Capitalize by betting against the Browns if these injuries occur.” Then, when both starting tackles and Chubb were ruled out of the game, I had already made up my mind. This was a red flag. The Cardinals stacked the box and the Browns didn’t even try to run. They started the game with 6 straight passes and had 23 passes to 6 called runs in the first half. It was bad.

But the flip side of my bad read creates a potential overreaction by the betting market. The Cardinals benefitted uniquely from these major downgrades to the Browns (as well as exceptionally poor officiating), creating the perception of a huge win that was not as impressive as it looked. Understanding how teams operate not only assists with predicting games, but identifying overreactions and under reactions to circumstances. The Cardinals have reached overrated territory after this win and everyone is perceiving the Browns incorrectly. They will be strong again not when Baker is healthy; but when their offensive line is healthy. This could create value in the short term depending on the injury report.

One last note on the Cardinals: I try to be objective in my process regardless of past results. I came into the year low on them and they have performed well above my expectations. I am 1-4 on the season betting against them. But moving forward, if I feel there is value betting against them again, I will do so. I am not chasing losses and I am not stubbornly sticking to my priors. I watch every single snap and constantly re-evaluate. But neither will I avoid a good bet just because results have not gone my way in the short term.

DAL -3 (-115) @ NE (1.5u) – DAL 35-29 (OT), Win 1.30 Units

Despite how this one ended, I would make this play again. Patriots bettors (especially those who got NE +3.5 or higher) were in a great position to cover, then the Cowboys scored the overtime touchdown to reward their backers and go 6-0 against the spread. But the Cowboys are simply a better class of team than the Patriots. I was impressed with Mac Jones in this one, but he needs help from his receivers and they just are not talented enough. He has a bright future for sure, but the upside in this offense is limited for now.

Dallas and Arizona are perceived similarly by the public. Both teams came into the season with low expectations that they have shattered in the early going and a large portion of fans and bettors are expecting them to come back down to earth. But the difference in my opinion is that the Cowboys are methodical, consistent, and well-schemed on offense. The Cardinals are getting by on high-variance plays going their way and pure talent. If I had to bet on one of these teams to contend for a Super Bowl, it would be the Cowboys.

D. Henry Under 95.5 Rushing Yards v. BUF (-115) (1.15 Units), 143 yards, Loss 1.15 Units

I don’t often play props but this was a good spot. Teams with exceptional cornerback play can hang with the Titans receivers in single coverage and dedicate additional bodies to stopping the run. If you can flood the line and stop Henry before he picks up momentum, you can slow him down. The Packers did this last year, as did the Ravens and the Bills, even when the Titans smashed the Bills 42-16. In that game, Derrick Henry had 19 rushes for 57 yards. In this one, against an improved Bills defense, he had 19 rushes for 67 yards . . .

. . . plus a breakaway run for 76 yards. Oops. One reason player props can be tough is because one play can ruin them. That happened here, and it’s unfortunate. Even in this massively prolific season he is putting together, he had only one run over 22 yards all season before that. It’s always a possibility of course, but I think the process was sound.

Catch my bounce-back with my Week 7 Picks Here.

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Week 6 Spotlight: MIA v. JAC

The Situation

In the early hours of a football Sunday, London will be treated to another instant classic, this time watching the 1-4 Miami Dolphins take on the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Dolphins opened up their season with an extremely tough schedule, and looking ahead they can convince themselves that they can still be a playoff team. But they will need to win this game for that dream to stay alive. The Jaguars have been written off by the public and relentlessly ridiculed after some negative publicity around their head coach, but on the field they have been improving in each game as they attempt to rebuild around Trevor Lawrence. They are playing with passion and I see no evidence on the field that this team has given up on its coach. It’s not the most exciting set-up, but a little wager can make any game exciting. So that’s what we’ll do here.

The Numbers

The Dolphins have played abysmal football all year and rank 32nd in performance. The Jaguars have at least shown signs of life in recent games and currently rank 29th. In other words, my numbers suggest the wrong team could be favored here, unless Tua elevates the Dolphins significantly above what they were with Brissett.

Baseline: JAC by 2.94.

The JAC Offense

The Jaguars looked lost in their opening game against Houston. The game was too fast for Lawrence and, instead of relying on James Robinson (an excellent running back), Meyer put the game entirely on his young quarterback. This was a mistake. He did the same thing against Denver. But since then, this team’s offense has found its identity. They can really run the ball when they win the line battle, and they’ve had several touchdown drives were they just pounded it down the defense’s throat. This has allowed Lawrence to get much more comfortable, and his talent is beginning to show. He looks more fluid and confident, like the game has slowed down for him. He is reading pressure much better and when given time in the pocket he has thrown all over the field.

The Jaguars offense boils down to whether they can be successful on the ground. So it’s a good thing for them that the Dolphins allow the 6th-highest yards per carry. They do not have the size and strength on the defensive line to overpower the Jaguars, and so Robinson should have a good day. The Dolphins also rely on blitzing to get pressure, but without Xavien Howard I don’t think they have the coverage on the back end to get away with it, unless Lawrence is totally blindsided and folds under pressure. His mobility will help him out here, as I think he will get away from pressure a fair amount and extend plays with his legs.

Provided Lawrence can avoid key mistakes, the Jaguars should be able to move the ball well and get in the end zone. That’s a gamble, of course, as Lawrence has played far from mistake-free football to date and the Dolphins do love to pressure. But I lean in his favor, because the Jags have improved every week and I expect that to continue with such a promising young player at the helm.

Projection: JAC offense will meet expectations.

The MIA Offense

I expect Tua to start for Miami, which is good news for the Dolphins. Brissett was aggressive under center, looking downfield, trying to escape pressure and make plays happen. This would have been fine, except the offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL and the receivers weren’t getting consistent separation. So Brissett ended up getting pressured too frequently and holding the ball too long. Tua is more accurate and more decisive than Brissett and should give his team a chance to move the ball against a weak secondary.

But Tua has yet to prove that he can consistently throw downfield. Last year the offense was as vanilla as it gets. He frequently only looked at half the field, threw short, and did not progress through reads. He only had one game against the Patriots and two drives against the Bills to show his improvement this season, but his offensive line did not allow him to evolve. He is not particularly mobile and struggles with pressure. Not a great combination when playing behind a bad offensive line. And he won’t get much help from the run game, as the 26th-ranked Miami rushing attack faces off against the 6th-best rushing defense of the Jags.

So it will come down to whether Tua, coming off injury, can take the heat in the pocket and throw accurately downfield. I would have some hope for this, except his two best receivers (Parker and Fuller) will not be playing. He will need to rely on rookie Jaylen Waddle, tight end Mike Gesicki, Preston Williams, and the running backs. There is some talent there, and I expect some big plays against a poor defense. But this is not an offense built for consistent success. Drives will stall, with a sack or a tipped pass at the line, or a drop, or a throw into coverage. This could be the Dolphins best offensive performance of the season and it still would not be great.

Projection: MIA offense will meet expectations.

The Game Flow

I think this will be a tight game that sees plenty of neutral game scripts. But if the Dolphins take the lead, I do not anticipate they will be able to bury the Jags as they will not be able to run well and they lack the defensive backs to prevent a comeback. This leaves open the possibility that the Jags will come back and win, or at least cover 3 points as an underdog. If, on the other hand, the Jags take the early lead, they could lean on James Robinson and keep the ball away from Tua. Tua’s accuracy helps him in garbage time, but in a tight game I see the Jags causing him trouble.

The Prediction

The Jaguars are the better team and win their first game of the season, 26-20. Lawrence continues to improve as he gets comfortable, and Tua continues to struggle under pressure. But the real difference in the game is that the Jags generate three times more rushing yards than the Dolphins, helping them achieve balanced success that carries them to the win.

The Bet

I gave this bet to my Members earlier in the week and added to it today, so my official bets on this game include: JAC +3.5 (-110) (1 Unit), JAC Moneyline (+165) (0.5 Units), and JAC +3 (-112) (1 Unit).

I would play this up to JAC +3 (-120) or play the money line up to (+125).

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I take pride in my work but nobody can guarantee success betting on sports. There are too many variables. I offer advice for entertainment purposes. 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.

Week 5 Recap

Rebound week was in full swing this week, as we booked a 7-3 record for +6.44 Units that could have easily been 10-1. We hit on two moneyline underdogs and had several comfortable wins. As I promised last week, I shut out external voices early in the week and focused on what I saw on the field. This was the process that led to success last year and it was a good decision. I’ll be hoping to continue the wins in Week 6 by sticking with my method: watching every snap of every game and understanding how these teams truly operate on the field.

After going 68% against the spread in 2020, we are now 30-23 in the 2021 season for +2.88 Units with our bets. Let’s keep it rolling.

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 6 Picks.

Week 5 Bets

BetOddsUnitsDate PlacedResultNet
LAR -2(-110)210.4.21 (MGM)Win+1.82
ATL -3(-110)210.6.21 (MGM)Cashed Out-0.05
NO -1.5(-110)210.5.21 (FD)Win+1.82
HOU +9.5(-110)2.510.6.21 (MGM)Win+2.27
TB -10(-105)1.510.7.21 (DK)Win+1.43
MIN -9.5(-110)1.510.7.21 (DK)Loss-1.5
TB -2.5, MIN -1.5(-140)1.410.8.21 (DK)Win+1
PHI ML(+150)110.8.21 (MGM)Win+1.5
PIT ML(+110)1.510.9.21 (DK)Win+1.65
NYG TT O 22.5(-110)1.510.7.21 (DK)Loss-1.5
CLE +2.5(-110)210.7.21 (MGM)Loss-2

LAR -2 (-110) @ SEA (2u) – LAR 26-17, Win 1.82 Units

It’s always fortunate when the team you bet against loses its starting quarterback. But the Rams were the better team all night. In 8 drives with Russell Wilson, Seattle scored a total of 7 points. Granted, there was some negative variance there but it was still not a great offensive performance. The Rams excel at stopping big pass plays and that has been the only way Seattle has found success this season. Geno Smith actually provided a much needed spark even if he was not able to complete a comeback. The Rams offense was less successful than I anticipated, but it mostly came down to missed throws by Stafford. The scheme was working, and it was only a matter of time before he started hitting those throws. I was lower than most on Seattle heading into the game, so this result does not alter my view on either team.

ATL -3 (-110) v. NYJ (2u) – ATL 27-20, Cashed Out for -0.05 Units

I felt really good about this bet when I made it, but the Ridley news spooked me. It probably shouldn’t have, because he has not been a difference-maker this season. But the result confirmed my process was sound. This Falcons offense has looked better each week as it is finding its identity, whereas the Jets still have not put together a single good offensive performance. Everything has been in catch-up mode or garbage time.

NO -1.5 (-110) @ WAS (2u) – NO 33-22, Win 1.82 Units

This was a comfortable win with the assist from a half-time hail mary from Winston to Callaway. Without two starting offensive linemen, the Saints did not keep Winston particularly clean, and after losing two offensive weapons (Hill and Harris), the offense did struggle somewhat outside of Alvin Kamara. But their defense gave them enough chances to win this game. Heinicke once again displayed his variance, making some incredible plays but also throwing some really bad interceptions. This gives Washington a chance against any defense, but likely means they are not the type of team that can methodically take advantage of a bad defense. We did see some signs of life from the Washington defensive front (finally), but they’ll need to improve in their back seven for it to make a meaningful difference.

HOU +9.5 (-110) v. NE (2.5u) – NE 25-22, Win 2.27 Units

Before the game I called this my favorite bet of the year so far. My first max bet since moving to the 1.5-2-2.5 scale was an absolute smash and was never really in doubt. The Texans got off to a hot start with a surprisingly strong performance from Davis Mills and were even winning this game 22-9 at one point before the Texans turned into a pumpkin.

There were so many angles I liked here. It illustrates the importance of understanding the nuances of teams, as opposed to simply assigning a “power rating” and seeing if there is perceived value in the spread. Everybody wrote off Davis Mills because he struggled against Carolina and in bad weather against the Bills. What I saw was an inexperienced rookie who handled pressure very poorly against two of the best edge rushing teams in the league. Looking past that, he actually saw the field well when he had time. The Patriots defense under Belichick implements complex coverage schemes but has not been able to get pressure on quarterbacks this year. I saw an opportunity to back Mills when everyone had written him off when he had at least a chance to succeed. On the other side, the underrated Texans defense faced off against a heavily injured offensive line for a run-heavy team that would have a hard time consistently winning in the trenches. Giving the Texans more than a touchdown at home against a team averaging around 17 points per game was simply not justified. I was happy to capitalize.

TB -10 (-105) v. MIA (1.5u) – TB 45-17, Win 1.43 Units

I do not often take double-digit favorites in the NFL. In fact, this was my only double-digit favorite of the season. But I was so confident in this matchup that I even played TB -10.5 in a contest. The Dolphins are really struggling and I’m not sure Tua can help them. They don’t do anything well right now. Their offensive line is bad so they can’t run. Their defensive line is not strong enough to stop other teams from running, and they rely on blitzes to get pressure. Smart quarterbacks (like Brady) can easily take advantage. And Brissett does not get the ball out quickly enough to mimic the teams that have had success against Tampa (like the Cowboys and Rams). There really was no angle for the Dolphins here.

Meanwhile, the Bucs were somehow underrated after an underwhelming performance against the Patriots. But they played better than the score indicated and I was not worried. They are still the most complete team in the NFL outside of arguably the Bills, and implement an up-tempo aggressive passing attack that is capable of burying inferior teams. They did exactly that against the Dolphins.

MIN -9.5 (-110) v. DET (1.5u) – MIN 19-17, Loss 1.5 Units

My other big favorite of the week did not come through, but they probably should have. The Lions did not run a single play in the red zone until Mattison fumbled the ball on his own 20 trying to run the clock. The Vikings implemented an overly conservative game plan and shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with holding calls, key drops, an interception off the receiver’s helmet in Detroit territory, and a missed field goal late to put the lead at 13. But to be fair to the Lions bettors, this is part of the handicap when you have Minnesota laying a ton of points. Things have to go right in the NFL for you to win by 10+, and they sure did not go right for the Vikings. They almost blew the game outright.

Two things changed on the injury report late in the week that made me less confident in this bet. Dalvin Cook was ruled out, and Penei Sewell was active. I switched off MIN -7.5 in my contest to TB -10.5 as a result, but still felt comfortable with the CLV I had here, given that the line closed at -10.

I did learn something here, though. I already viewed Detroit as a bet-on team when getting a ton of points because they are live for a backdoor cover. But I learned just how good their punter is. They run the ball well but struggle with consistency in the pass game, which leads to a lot of drives where they get a couple of first downs and then punt. With a decent punter, this creates long field after long field for their opponents. This will be an important angle that favors the Lions getting points and also favors the Under in Lions games. I should have avoided this bet for that reason.

Teaser: TB -2.5, MIN -1.5 (-140) – TB 45-17, MIN 19-17, Win 1 Unit

I had to laugh when this bet cashed. It should not have been close, but after Mattison fumbled this was suddenly in doubt. When the Lions scored to make it 16-17, they went for 2. I was suddenly in the position where I needed them to convert, to force MIN to kick a FG. This ending really shows the fragility of teasers even when they seem like a sure thing. I don’t often play teasers and this was a good reminder why. In-game variance in the NFL is a major factor.

PHI Money line (+150) @ CAR – PHI 21-18, Win 1.5 Units

This was an ugly, defensive game that I imagine very few people actually watched. Darnold has struggled twice now when the team needed him most, and the Panthers have struggled in the second half every game this season. I came in to the season questioning this coaching staff and I still do. In the end, when the Eagles started running the read option with Hurts it made all the difference. It negated the pressure from Carolina. On the other side, the Panthers were unable to make an adjustment and could not finish the game.

The Panthers will benefit from getting McCaffrey back. Hubbard was a good runner but struggled in the pass game. Darnold needs that outlet. If sentiment falls down too hard on Carolina, they could be bettable because they have an exciting, aggressive defense and an offense that plays well when it is in control. But this was the right bet in a classic overrated v. underrated spot.

PIT Money line (+110) v. DEN – PIT 27-19, Win 1.65 Units

Pittsburgh made us 2-0 on underdog money line bets with its best offensive performance of the season. They have been vastly underrated when healthy on defense and it made no sense that they were underdogs at home here. But their defensive performance was a little disappointing. Denver played hyper conservatively in the first half, seemingly going run-run-pass on every possession. This is simply not how you beat Pittsburgh, and this is why I made this bet after they announced Teddy would start. The Broncos actually looked live when they opened it up in the second half. I came away from this one impressed with Denver’s offense, but they will need to become more aggressive from the starting whistle. I’m not sure if that will happen.

NYG Team Total Over 22.5 (-110) @ DAL (1.5u) – DAL 44-20, Loss 1.5 Units

Sometimes you just have to laugh. I needed the Giants to score 23 points. Saquon suffered a random injury after 6 snaps. Daniel Jones suffered a concussion before halftime. Down two starting receivers already, Golladay managed to hobble through 24 snaps and then Toney, who absolutely exploded in this one, got himself ejected before he could help out in garbage time. They missed a field goal. And they got stopped on the Cowboys 2-yard line when Toney either slipped or got pushed in the end zone. And they still scored 20 points.

The Giants offense continues to be underrated, but all these injuries make it difficult to play that angle in the short term. As these pieces get healthy, they will be a feisty team down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Cowboys continue their incredible start. They look good in every facet of the game right now, and everything is clicking. They are making tough catches and creating negative plays on defense in big situations. But I am not anticipating immediate and sudden regression, because they are doing everything well. The more likely outcome is a true playoff run for this team if it stays healthy.

CLE +2.5 (-110) @ LAC (2u) – CLE 47-42, Loss 2 Units

If you have time to watch one game on replay this week, make it this one. What a treat. Two teams that understand their identity, playing hard, with smart coaching and talent. For a majority of the game, the Browns were simply better. I predicted they would be able to exert their will on offense, and they did. They took a 14-point lead in this one and looked to be in control. But then the injuries mounted up, particularly to the Browns’ secondary and offensive line. The game got tighter. The Chargers went for it on fourth down four times on two touchdown drives. They converted all of these attempts, including an arguably bogus 33-yard defensive pass interference call on 4th and 4 that led to a Chargers touchdown.

Still, with everything going wrong for the Browns, this should have been a winning bet as the Chargers had the ball on the Browns’ 2-yard line down 1 with time running out. The Chargers should have knelt the ball to kill the clock and won the game by 2 with a field goal. But instead, the Chargers ran it with no intention of scoring and the Browns defense carried Ekeler into the end zone against his will, giving them a chance to win the game but blowing my cover. Despite the loss, it was beautiful to watch smart football.

Two big takeaways from this game: (1) the Chargers are a clutch team. A lot is made about their aggressiveness on fourth down, but I believe that the amount of practice Herbert gets on high-leverage 3rd- and 4th-downs makes him calmer in those situations and a better player in clutch moments. The Browns were not clutch. They need to be in a good position to win. (2) Staley and the Chargers are changing the way this game is played. We will see more teams using all four downs and more 2-point conversions late in games where offenses clearly have an advantage. This means that underdogs of less than a field goal may have more value than historical models suggest, with more games falling in the 1-2 point margin range. This makes short underdogs more attractive in these matchups between smart coaches.

See my process in action with my Week 6 Picks Here.

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2021 Week 6 Picks

Sunday 10/17, 9:30am ET

BetOddsUnitsDate Placed
JAC +3.5 v. MIA
JAC +3
10.13.21 (MGM)
10.13.21 (MGM)
10.15.21 (FD)

Sunday 10/17, 1pm ET

BetOddsUnitsDate Placed
LAC +3.5 @ BAL(-110)1.510.11.21 (DK)
KC -6.5 @ WAS(-108)1.510.12.21 (FD)
IND -9 v. HOU(-110)1.510.13.21 (DK)
DET +3.5 v. CIN(-108)1.510.14.21 (FD)
KC -0.5, CAR +8.5(-120)1.810.15.21 (DK)
NYG +10 v. LAR(-110)1.510.15.21 (DK)
CHI +5.5 v. GB(-110)110.17.21 (MGM)

Sunday 10/17, 4:05/4:25pm ET

BetOddsUnitsDate Placed
DEN -3 v. LV(-114)110.11.21 (FD)
CLE -2.5 v. ARI(-110)210.12.21 (MGM)
DAL -3 @ NE(-115)1.510.14.21 (DK)

Monday 10/18, 8:15pm ET

BetOddsUnitsDate Placed
D. Henry U 95.5 Rush Yds(-115)1.1510.18.21 (DK)

I take pride in my work but nobody can guarantee success betting on sports. There are too many variables. I offer advice for entertainment purposes. 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.

2021 1st Quarter Performance Ratings

With four weeks in the books I’ve now watched every snap of 64 games (yes, that’s all of them). The proliferation of “Power Rankings” has begun. Most people create these rankings using some combination of team records, statistical metrics, their own observations (from watching some of the games and Redzone), and analyst opinions. I do things a little differently.

Every team gets an offensive and defensive performance rating for each game. Winning football games essentially comes down to how well you can move the ball down the field and get in the endzone and how difficult you can make it for your opponent to do the same. Everything else is noise. The team’s performance rating aims to represent numerically how well they performed on offense and defense in that game.

These ratings are weighed against the relative strength of the opposing team based on their season-long performance on each side of the ball. This relative performance dictates what I call a team’s “Performance Rating” to date. I have not touched the numbers or made any adjustments. These rankings reflect how well each team has performed on the field through Week 4 of the season.

Of course, a four game sample size creates some strange results. These numbers can only reflect performance relative to each opponent’s other opponents. For example, the Steelers have the 14th ranked offense. This is obviously absurd. But their opponents have faced bad offenses in their other games: BUF (HOU, MIA, WAS), LV (BAL, MIA, LAC), CIN (MIN, CHI, JAC), and GB (NO, DET, SF). So all this tells you is that the Steelers have performed about average when put in the context of those other opponents. As more games are played, these kinds of outliers will normalize.

Strange results also occur when a team faces an opponent in significantly better or worse shape than in their other games. For example, when the Saints visited the Panthers, they were missing significant players on both sides of the ball due to injury and several coaches due to Covid. So the Panthers get a nice boost in relative performance for a strong game against the Saints at their worst. These outliers will also normalize.

With those caveats out the way, let’s get to the Performance Ratings. Next update will be after Week 9. Enjoy!

Q1 Performance Ratings

1. Dallas Cowboys

Offense: 3rd
Defense: 6th
Context: Played PHI and CAR after notable injuries.

2. Carolina Panthers

Offense: 5th
Defense: 5th
Context: Played NO when heavily injured/impacted by Covid.

3. Kansas City Chiefs

Offense: 1st
Defense: 32nd
Context: Played PHI after notable injuries.

4. Buffalo Bills

Offense: 16th
Defense: 1st
Context: Easily the highest pure performance (not adjusted for opponent).

5. Arizona Cardinals

Offense: 7th
Defense: 10th
Context: Outplayed every opponent to date.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

Offense: 12th
Defense: 4th
Context: No significant context.

7. Cleveland Browns

Offense: 18th
Defense: 2nd
Context: Played HOU with Taylor at QB but CHI in Fields’ first start.

8. Los Angeles Rams

Offense: 2nd
Defense: 22nd
Context: Played CHI with Andy Dalton.

9. Tampa Bay Bucs

Offense: 6th
Defense: 13th
Context: No significant context.

10. New Orleans Saints

Offense: 20th
Defense: 3rd
Context: Player availability has varied significantly week-to-week.

11. Baltimore Ravens

Offense: 11th
Defense: 9th
Context: Played DEN with significant injuries.

12. Denver Broncos

Offense: 17th
Defense: 7th
Context: Higher pure rating but weak schedule to date.

13. Minnesota Vikings

Offense: 10th
Defense: 12th
Context: Mediocre pure rating but tough schedule to date.

14. Green Bay Packers

Offense: 4th
Defense: 25th
Context: Played NO at full strength and PIT when relatively healthy.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

Offense: 14th
Defense: 14th
Context: Opponents generally faced weak opposing offenses; defense has dealt with significant injury.

16. Tennessee Titans

Offense: 13th
Defense: 18th
Context: Played IND with a hobbled Wentz and o-line injuries.

17. San Francisco 49ers

Offense: 27th
Defense: 8th
Context: No significant context.

18. Houston Texans

Offense: 25th
Defense: 18th
Context: Opponents have generally faced a weak schedule.

19. New York Jets

Offense: 29th
Defense: 11th
Context: Played TEN without its starting WRs.

20. Cincinnati Bengals

Offense: 26th
Defense: 16th
Context: No significant context.

21. Seattle Seahawks

Offense: 8th
Defense: 29th
Context: No significant context.

22. Philadelphia Eagles

Offense: 15th
Defense: 24th
Context: Tough schedule to date.

23. New York Giants

Offense: 9th
Defense: 23rd
Context: No significant context.

24. Las Vegas Raiders

Offense: 23rd
Defense: 20th
Context: Opponents have played a very tough schedule so far, bringing this rating down.

25. New England Patriots

Offense: 22nd
Defense: 21st
Context: Played MIA with Tua (who performed better than Brissett).

26. Washington Football Team

Offense: 19th
Defense: 27th
Context: No significant context.

27. Chicago Bears

Offense: 31st
Defense: 15th
Context: Opponents have played fairly difficult opposing defenses.

28. Indianapolis Colts

Offense: 30th
Defense: 19th
Context: Has dealt with injuries all season.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Offense: 24th
Defense: 28th
Context: Opponents have been relatively healthy (HOU, DEN in particular).

30. Detroit Lions

Offense: 21st
Defense: 31st
Context: Played SF at full strength for most of the game.

31. Miami Dolphins

Offense: 28th
Defense: 26th
Context: Played majority of games with Brissett.

32. Atlanta Falcons

Offense: 32nd
Defense: 23rd
Context: Relative performance has improved in each game.

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

Week 4 Recap

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

BetOddsUnitsDate PlacedResultNet
JAC @ CIN Under 46(-110)19.29.21 (DK)Win+0.91
KC -6 @ PHI(-110) (MGM)Win+1.36
WAS -1 @ ATL(-110) (DK)Win+1.36
CHI -3 v. DET(-105)29.30.21 (FD)Win+1.90
KC -1 @ PHI, NO -1.5 v. NYG(-120) (DK)Loss-1.20
CAR @ DAL Under 52.5(-115)29.30.21 (FD)Loss-2
TEN @ NYJ Under 44.5(-110)1.510.1.21 (MGM)Loss-1.5
MIA Team Total Under 22 v. IND (-110)1.510.2.21 (FD)Win+1.36
LAR -4 v. ARI(-115)29.30.21 (DK)Loss-2
DEN ML v. BAL(-102) (FD)Loss-1.5
PIT +6.5 @ GB(-105)1.510.2.21 (MGM)Loss-1.5
TB -6 @ NE(-110)29.27.21 (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.

Catch Me Get Back on Track with my Week 5 Picks Here.

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2021 Week 5 Picks

Thursday 10/7, 8:20pm ET

BetOddsUnitsDate Placed
LAR -2 @ SEA(-110)210.4.21 (MGM)

Sunday 10/10, 9:30am ET

BetOddsUnitsDate PlacedResultNet
ATL -3 v. NYJ*(-110)210.6.21 (MGM)Cashed Out - 10.7.21-0.05 Units

*I do not advise placing this bet any more. I learned that Ridley will not be playing for Atlanta which is surprising and material news. I cashed out my bet for a loss of 0.05 units, so the loss of units will go against my record but the pick itself will not count as a Win or Loss.

Sunday 10/10, 1pm ET

BetOddsUnitsDate Placed
NO -1.5 @ WAS(-110)210.5.21 (FD)
HOU +9.5 v. NE(-110)2.510.6.21 (MGM)
TB -10 v. MIA(-105)1.510.7.21 (DK)
MIN -9.5 v. DET(-110)1.510.7.21 (DK)
TB -2.5 v. MIA, MIN -1.5 v. DET(-140)1.410.8.21 (DK)
PHI ML @ CAR(+150)110.8.21 (MGM)
PIT ML v. DEN(+110)1.510.9.21 (DK)

Sunday 10/10, 4:05/4:25pm ET

BetOddsUnitsDate Placed
NYG Team Total O 22.5 @ DAL(-110)1.510.7.21 (DK)
CLE +2.5 @ LAC(-110)210.7.21 (MGM)

I take pride in my work but nobody can guarantee success betting on sports. There are too many variables. I offer advice for entertainment purposes. 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.

Week 4 Spotlight: DET @ CHI

The Situation

The Bears come home after embarrassing themselves against the Browns with perhaps the worst overall offensive performance since the Broncos played with no quarterbacks against the Saints last year. Preseason expectations were sky high for Justin Fields and he underperformed even the most critical doubters’ expectations in his first start (including mine). They play host to a spunky Detroit team that has been more competitive than anyone anticipated against San Francisco, Green Bay, and Baltimore. Uncertainty about the Bears’ quarterback situation dominates the narrative here, but I think that is less significant than most believe.

The Numbers

Numbers with only three weeks of data can be very misleading. But in this case, both teams have faced a fairly equal set of opponents. The Bears deserve a downgrade from the raw numbers with Fields at quarterback, but even factoring in their offensive performance against the Browns, my raw numbers favor Chicago by a comfortable margin.

Baseline: CHI by 5.28

The DET Offense

Jared Goff has outperformed expectation in Detroit thus far, primarily because his offensive line has afforded him solid protection and his receivers have been making plays. But most of his production against San Francisco came after the game was 38-10 and seemingly out of reach. He put some strong drives together against Green Bay’s soft defense until the rain came in and he reverted to classic bad-weather mistake-prone Goff. And he was only able to muster up 17 points against a heavily depleted Ravens front after starting the game with 6 straight punts and digging a 13-0 hole. Consistency has been hard to find.

The Lions are at their best when they can run the ball well and when Goff can make quick passes to his running backs, tight ends, and receivers with room to gain yards. Goff has had a few good deep throws, but even these came on plays where he appeared to make up his mind pre-snap, as he often throws into coverage. This is not a good matchup against a defensive front that has shown strength most recently against another run-heavy team in the Browns. The Browns possess the same strengths as the Lions – an excellent offensive line, two good running backs, and an offense that plays well ahead of the chains. But lost in the clamor of criticism for Nagy and Fields in that game is that the Bears defense played extremely well. To beat the Bears, you have to be able to throw deep and beat their secondary. Stafford did this consistently, Burrow did this once or twice, and Mayfield hardly did it at all. I project that Goff will struggle if the run game does not get going, particularly if weather plays a factor in the Windy City, which is bad news for Detroit. I’d be surprised if the Lions top 20 points in this game.

Projection: DET offense will underperform.

The CHI Offense

It’s amazing how much can change in just a few weeks. I was catching flak on Twitter in preseason for criticizing Fields and saying this was going to be Andy Dalton’s team for a while. Now nobody wants to touch the Bears if Fields plays and Bears backers are hoping for Dalton to be healthy. If it’s Andy Dalton, this is a great matchup for the Bears. He has shown a proclivity for matriculating down the field against weaker defenses, and the Lions qualify. They might be slightly better than preseason expectations, but they are still a below-average defense. They should also get the running game going and that helps.

But even with Fields, I like the Bears this week. Handicapping NFL games is about identifying a difference between perception and reality. The Bears were awful against the Browns. But I think this was a huge wake-up call for Justin Fields. He can no longer maintain the misperception that he can escape the pocket at will in the NFL. He needs to make quicker decisions. But Miles Garrett played the best game of his life. On several third downs, Fields would have escaped the pocket with room to run if not for a freak play by Garrett. I do not believe the Lions possess the speed and power up front to do the same. And while it may be a small difference on the field on any given play, it can absolutely swing a game when a quarterback like Fields can successfully escape the pocket. He showed in the preseason what he is capable of on the run, and I think he will be able to get there against the Lions. Furthermore, Allen Robinson should be able to beat the Lions’ secondary with ease. Together with a more successful run game, this presents a major bounce-back spot for Fields if he does play.

Projection: CHI offense will meet expectations or outperform.

The Game Flow

Most of the Lions points this season have been scored with a deficit. They have not been a particularly fast-starting team. I think the first half will be low-scoring, particularly if the Bears can sustain drives. If it’s close, I ultimately think the Bears will be able to make enough plays to win, at home, in potentially bad weather. If the Bears build a lead, the Lions might score in catch-up mode again against a weak secondary. If, somehow, the Lions build a lead, I think they are not the type of team that can run up the score against a good defensive front. So it would come down to whether the Bears offense can put it together. Not a great spot, but it’s possible. More game scripts favor Chicago than the Lions.

The Prediction

The Bears bounce back in a big way and take care of the plucky Lions. One of my favorite betting angles is to fade a popular narrative. Everybody who watches the NFL thinks that (1) Matt Nagy is the worst coach since Adam Gase and (2) Justin Fields is terrible. Add to that many sharps who see perceived value on the Lions (based mostly on garbage time stats, positive variance such as Ravens Covid issues and myriad drops, and a highly publicized unjustified loss last week), and I think there is a ton of actual value on the Bears this week. Chicago wins, 24-17.

The Bet

Official: CHI -3 (-105) (2 Units) (FD)
If you can get it: CHI -2.5 (-115)

For 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. There are too many variables. I offer advice for entertainment purposes. 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.

Week 3 Recap

This was a tough week, which means it’s even more important to reflect on my bets and internalize my mistakes. I think my three biggest improvements will be: (1) Not betting into a game with major injury uncertainties unless I’m confident in the bet regardless of the injury report, (2) Not projecting improvement in theory without seeing it actually happen on the field, and (3) Not ignoring major injuries that will have an uncertain impact on a team.

The week started out great with several convincing wins, but blatant misses on both night games left me 5-5 on the week for a loss of 0.22 Units. I’m still very confident in my process and look forward to bouncing back next week. After going 68% against the spread in 2020, we are now 18-13 in the 2021 season with our bets. I know I can do better.

Here I break down every bet I placed and discuss 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 4 Picks.

Week 3 Bets

BetOddsUnitsDate PlacedResultNet
CAR -2, LAR +7.5(-120) (DK)Win+1.5
ATL +3.5 (-115) @ NYG(-115)29.20.21 (DK)Win+1.74
WAS/BUF O 45.5(-110) (MGM)Win+1.36
PIT -3 v. CIN(-115) (FD)Loss-1.5
LAC +7 @ KC(-110)29.23.21 (MGM)Win+1.82
JAC +7.5 v. ARI(-108) (FD)Loss-1.5
NYJ +10.5 @ DEN(-105) (FD)Loss-1.5
MIA +4 @ LV(-110) (MGM)Win+1.36
SF -3 v. GB(-115)29.25.21 (DK)Loss-2
PHI +4 @ DAL(-110) (MGM)Loss-1.5

Teaser: CAR -2, LAR +7.5 (-120) (1.8u) – CAR 24-9, LAR 34-24, Win 1.5 Units

This teaser was so comfortable I would have won by parlaying alternate spreads on both games. The Panthers won by 15 despite suffering some serious in-game injuries because their pressure (particularly off the edges) was too much for a 3rd-round rookie quarterback making his first start on a short week of preparation. Meanwhile, the Rams won comfortably so the +7.5 was never in play. But I still liked this bet as a teaser, because (1) the Texans played the Panthers tougher than the final score and (2) the Rams-Bucs game could have gone differently if a few things bounced Tampa Bay’s way early, which would have led to a much closer game. It would have been more profitable to just play the sides but I’ll always take the win, and think the process was sound.

ATL +3.5 (-115) @ NYG (2u) – ATL 17-14, Win 1.74 Units

Winning with an underdog outright is always a good result. When I locked in this line early in the week, +3.5 was very appealing to me because I thought this would be a tough fought game where the winner takes it by a field goal or less. It turns out I was right, but even though the Falcons won I think the Giants were the better team overall on Sunday, despite several injuries. Anyone who took ATL +3 or ATL +2.5 was very fortunate to get the cover in my opinion.

I saw some things late in the Falcons-Bucs game that gave me hope that Arthur Smith might be able to figure out how to implement an effective offense. But this was wishful thinking. The Falcons have no identifiable offensive identity and seem to be clueless as to how to use each offensive player. It was a mistake to project this type of improvement without first seeing it sustained on the field, and I got away with it here but will have much lower confidence on Atlanta moving forward until I see a functioning offense. We have seen Matt Ryan take a while to adjust to new offensive schemes before, and so it shouldn’t be too surprising. Until they put together an effective game plan for four quarters, I will almost certainly be hands-off. Meanwhile, the Giants have now lost two straight games in which they outplayed their opponent and could be undervalued moving forward as a result.

WAS @ BUF Over 45.5 (-110) (1.5u) – BUF 43-21, Win 1.36 Units

This was another easy win where the teams put up 41 points in the first half and finished with 64 points, well over the total. But unfortunately this might be the last time I get to capitalize on two angles I loved going in: (1) the Washington defense was overrated to begin the year and (2) Josh Allen’s slow start was nothing to sweat. Both of these narratives were corrected in a big way in this game so I think market perception has caught up to reality.

The reason I played the Over (as opposed to the Bills spread) was because Taylor Hienicke is a high-variance quarterback. He makes a lot of plays happen, which makes him a live backdoor candidate against a big spread. But when pressed he is also capable of huge mistakes and turnovers. Both of these angles lead to a lot of points, but not always for Washington. The Over was clearly the right way to play this game.

PIT -3 (-115) v. CIN (1.5u) – CIN 24-10, Loss 1.5 Units

I bet this early in the week in the face of major injury uncertainty and that was a huge mistake. The Steelers have a bad offense and rely on an elite defense to win games. Against a quarterback who has typically struggled with pressure behind a poor offensive line, I hoped that even a less-than-full-strength Steelers defense would win the day. But without T.J. Watt, Highsmith, Tuitt, and Alualu, this Steelers defensive front just is not a dominant force. And with a bad offense, there really was no angle here.

The Bengals didn’t do anything particularly well in this game. But they were the better team and capitalized with enough big plays to punish the Steelers for their mistakes. But the reaction to Pittsburgh right now is almost certainly an overreaction. Last year they didn’t have a good offense but their elite defense led them to a 12-5 record. If they return three or four of those defensive studs (in particular, Watt and Tuitt), I anticipate the defense will be elite once again. If perception is so far down on the Steelers at that point that nobody wants to bet them, there could be value at the right price. But I’m not going to force it in the short term. And I’m going to be much more careful about betting in general before significant injury news is resolved.

LAC +7 (-110) @ KC (2u) – LAC 30-24, Win 1.82 Units

My highest confidence play of the week came through easily here, as the Chargers won outright as 7-point underdogs. But the Chargers were also very fortunate in this game. On their first three drives, the Chiefs were pretty much unstoppable moving the ball. They collected 8 first downs on first and second down before they even faced a third down. But each of these drives ended in a fluky turnover – two fumbles and an interception that popped off the receiver’s hands. Without these fluky turnovers the Chiefs probably would have taken a big lead into half time and put this bet in jeopardy. The Chargers actually punted on 4 of their first 6 drives, as the Kansas City defense performed better against a pass-heavy team.

Regardless, the Chargers were the right side for this very reason. They were capable of capitalizing on Kansas City’s mistakes and really played well down the stretch. They needed a defensive penalty on fourth down to win, but they also forced that penalty with a gutsy call. Herbert continues to show improvement but the narrative that he outplayed Mahomes in this game is a little overblown. He is still learning some of the decision-making soft skills that elite quarterbacks possess. He needs to know he can’t throw to Allen in the flat on 3rd and 4 when the defender is ready to hit Allen as he makes the catch. But the progression is happening and the talent is there. This will likely be the last time we get the Chargers as 7-point underdogs for a while.

JAC +7.5 (-108) v. ARI (1.5u) – ARI 31-19, Loss 1.5 Units

I’m guessing most people didn’t actually watch this game. On first look, most people see that Arizona covered despite a lucky field goal return touchdown by Jacksonville at the end of the first half. And that’s fair. But several high-variance events actually went against Jacksonville too. In the first half, the Jags were putting together a really strong drive when Lawrence hit a receiver in stride and the receiver bobbled the ball, leading to an interception on the ARI 10 yard line. The Jags missed 2 extra points. The awful pick-six on a flea flicker buried them, and two more turnovers prevented the backdoor cover.

Now, bad teams turn the ball over and that’s part of the handicap. I wouldn’t go so far as to say JAC +7.5 was a good bet. It was likely too aggressive and too early to anticipate seeing an uptick by the Jacksonville offense (there’s a trend here, and I went 1-2 trying to project improvements, which is generally a mistake). But moving forward, I think it would be incorrect to simply write off the Jags. They have life, and when it’s not all on Lawrence’s shoulders they can actually perform at a competitive level. Meanwhile, the Cardinals won by 12 without having a good game on offense. That shows their explosiveness and why it is always dangerous to bet against them.

NYJ +10.5 (-105) @ DEN (1.5u) – DEN 26-0, Loss 1.5 Units

I write down my thoughts whenever I place a bet, and on this one I said “Wilson going against Fangio is not appetizing. I hope I’m not a week early.” Rookie quarterbacks struggle in particular against teams that implement complex coverage schemes and have good cornerbacks. It’s such a strong angle and I went against it because the line was (seemingly) too big. I talked myself into a bad bet.

Everything else about this game was the right read. They played slowly. The Broncos struggled to move the ball against the Jets defense. This game flow was ripe for a 10.5-point underdog to cover. But the problem is the offense was simply anemic. Wilson really struggled to find receivers, who were unable to get separation. After a gauntlet of Carolina, New England, and Denver, now is the time to look for spots to back the Jets. I should have listened to myself. I was a week early.

MIA +4 (-110) @ LV (1.5u) – LV 31-28 (OT), Win 1.36 Units

This game exemplified the fragility of individual bets on the NFL. In the last quarter and overtime, there were dozens of individual moments that would have decided this game against the spread, many of which would have decided it for the Raiders. In those kinds of games, you typically want the underdog, especially at 4+ points. That’s why I played Miami. But being honest, this was a lucky win.

Brissett struggled behind a bad offensive line. The Raiders defense is no walkover and on offense they moved the ball much more easily than the Dolphins. Neither team got much push on the offensive line, but as the game went on the Raiders seemed to be bullying the Dolphins into getting tired. Everything was going their way until a miracle game-tying drive that featured two fourth-down conversions. In overtime it was clear the Raiders were the better team and they deserved the win. Not much to take away here, other than a slight upgrade to the Raiders defense, which has consistently played above expectation this season.

SF -3 (-115) v. GB (2u) – GB 30-28, Loss 2 Units

And now we enter the portion of the weekend where I got my butt kicked. Even though this game ended up close to the spread, I completely misread this game on both sides of the ball. The 49ers are typically a team on offense that can move the ball at will against a team that is weak up front and in the middle. That’s Green Bay. That’s why the 49ers have had such a matchup advantage against them in recent years. But that just did not materialize, because Trey Sermon is not a good running back. The 49ers got creative (they had to), but when your fullback is getting 5 carries by choice, that’s not a good indication of where your running game is at. Without a consistent run game, the rest of the offense predictably struggled.

My read on the other side was much closer. I thought the 49ers defensive line would beat the Packers offensive line, and it was more of an even match. The secondary is where San Francisco predictably lost this game. On one hand, the 49ers bailed the Packers out on several third downs with penalties. But on the other hand, Rodgers created those negative situations for the cornerbacks and they were not bad calls. This game was a well-deserved Packers win and cover and my handicap failed to account for the significance of injuries to the 49ers secondary and running backs.

PHI +4 (-110) @ DAL (1.5u) – DAL 41-21, Loss 1.5 Units

Another big miss. Dallas outclassed Philadelphia in every aspect of this game. I was extremely impressed with the Eagles offensive and defensive lines in the first two weeks, but they came into this game with significant injuries (Brandon Graham, their best defensive player, and two starting offensive linemen). I just assumed they would be able to plug the gaps and continue that dominance. Boy was I wrong. The Cowboys simply rolled them on both sides of the line and the Eagles had no chance.

It can be difficult to predict the impact of specific injuries, especially early in the season. But the takeaway here is that when there is uncertainty in how a team will respond immediately following several injuries, it can be best to wait and see. I also am upgrading the Cowboys defense after this game, as they are playing really good football on both sides.

Catch Me Get Back on Track with my Week 4 Picks Here.

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