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
|LAC +3.5||(-110)||1.5||10.11.21 (DK)||Loss||-1.5|
|KC -6.5||(-108)||1.5||10.12.21 (FD)||Win||+1.39|
|IND -9||(-110)||1.5||10.13.21 (DK)||Win||+1.36|
|DET +3.5||(-108)||1.5||10.14.21 (FD)||Loss||-1.5|
|KC -0.5, CAR +8.5||(-120)||1.8||10.15.21 (DK)||Win||+1.5|
|NYG +10||(-110)||1.5||10.15.21 (DK)||Loss||-1.5|
|CHI +5.5||(-110)||1||10.17.21 (MGM)||Loss||-1|
|DEN -3||(-114)||1||10.11.21 (FD)||Loss||-1|
|CLE -2.5||(-110)||2||10.12.21 (MGM)||Loss||-2|
|DAL -3||(-115)||1.5||10.14.21 (DK)||Win||+1.30|
|D. Henry U 95.5 Rush Yds||(-115)||1.15||10.18.21 (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.