Apologies for the delayed start to my NFL betting preview this season. Hopefully some of you will have seen my picks on Twitter over the first few weeks of the season anyway.
I am putting up my favourites picks from the points spread (handicap) or total points markets each weekend.
However, I will also highlight a couple of player prop bets as well, where there is often great value available.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints – Superdome at 18:00
Last season’s surprise NFC Champions, the Panthers seem to be suffering from an extended Super Bowl loss hangover.
After five weeks of the 2016 campaign, Ron Rivera’s team are last in the NFC South with an embarrassing 1-4 record.
The fact that their two most recent losses both came at the hands of divisional rivals, means that their whole season is now effectively, on the line.
The Saints are another NFC South divisional rival, but their 1-3 record leaves these two battling to avoid last place.
New Orleans struggles are almost entirely down to their historically bad defence. They rank last in Opponent Points per Game at 32.5 and second last in Opponent Yards per Game at 422.8. They have also allowed the most Opponent Touchdowns per Game, with an average of 3.8.
Carolina’s defence is way off the dominant displays of last season and have allowed an average of 27 points per game themselves. However, they are still a far better unit than their hosts defence this weekend.
However, Sean Payton’s offence do know how to score points and they rank in the top six across many of the key offence metrics. But, they really lack a quality rushing game which will allow the Panthers D to focus on the wide receivers.
However, the most important factors in this match, is the likely return of both Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart.
With these two star players returning to action, we should see something more like last season’s top ranked offence from Carolina again on Sunday.
Ultimately, I believe that with these two players in pads again, the Saints porous defence will be in a world of pain.
This could well turn out to be a high scoring shootout, but one that Payton’s team will struggle to win. However the Total Points line is set at 53, which is a big line even for these teams with their poor current form.
Carolina absolutely have to win and Cam can lead his team to victory, though it could be close.
However, I was expecting a bigger line than the -2.5 spread available on the NFC Champs, who I believe can get their season back on track in the Superdome. So, I am happy to back the Panthers to win by at least a field goal on Sunday night.
Player Prop Bets
The player prop bets I mentioned earlier will this year be primarily focused on Running Backs this season. There is no doubt the NFL is a pass heavy league and this shows no signs of slowing any time soon.
However, a number of teams are blessed with franchise level RBs and as everyone knows, you can’t run an effective passing game without some sort of ground attack as well.
I believe this affords bettors a great opportunity to cash in, as bookies often underestimate/undervalue RBs week after week. This week there are a few favourable match ups worth considering. The only major couple of major concerns to note are that, these prop markets are often not priced up until very late in the day.
Plus, if the team your RB plays for falls behind by a couple of TDs, they will often increase their focus on the passing game. In an effort to gain big yardage in chunks and obviously score quick TDs to close the gap on their opponents.
Jordan Howard has burst onto the scene in Chicago over the last two weeks, in which he has racked 111 and 118 yard games. Admittedly, these have come against the low level defences of Detroit and Indianapolis, but the Rookie also had impressive 7.3 and 5.0 yards per attempt stats against Philadelphia & Dallas.
For some reason the Bears were just not using his obvious talents as much in the opening weeks of the season. This week the Bears host the Jaguars, who actually do not a bad record when defending against the run. They have allowed 105.8 yards per game on the ground, at 4.0 yards per rush.
But, again the level of opposition has contributed towards this relatively decent looking run defence. Green Bay, San Diego, Baltimore and Indianapolis are not known for their high power ground games. None possess a talent like Howard and with an average of 5.8 yards per attempt, he could potentially just need 14 carries on Sunday to cover his Over/Under line of 78.5 rushing yards.
Other RBs with favourable looking match ups this week are Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy, Kansas City’s Spencer Ware and potentially LA’s Todd Gurley. Last season’s rookie sensation is overdue a big game this year and facing one of the leagues worst run defences, could be perfect timing for the explosive back.
Finally, this season’s rookie sensation, Ezekiel Elliot has given the Dallas offence a near unstoppable ground game. This week they face the number one run defence of Green Bay, but they too have had a soft schedule in terms of the RBs they have faced. This week could be a rare chance to back Elliot on a lower than average yardage line, I would back him with a line of around 80 yards or ideally a little less.
Prices correct at the time of writing.