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Last week's NFL card concluded with New Orleans securing a tough road win in Seattle. However, it wasn't Saints bettors who spent Monday night celebrating as the Seahawks covered the 5.5-point spread as underdogs. Favorites winning and leaving their fans with a losing ticket has not been the norm in the NFL this season. Typically, if they win the game, they win the bet. This past week, the Seahawks and Lions were the only teams to cover the spread without winning on the scoreboard.
Through the first seven weeks, underdogs who have covered the spread have won the game outright 70% of the time. The percentage rises to 93% when you reduce the sample size to only include underdogs of +3.5 points or less. The Giants at +125 and Colts at +155 were the examples from Week 7.
Picking the right team is far from automatic as short dogs are only 30-23 ATS (9-12 the last three weeks). The value comes from betting the teams that are live underdogs at moneyline prices to maximize your return. Selecting the right teams is the key. So let's unleash some winning dogs for Week 8.
Jacksonville (+150) at Seattle
It's hard to gauge how much of Seattle's ineffectiveness with Geno Smith at the helm is a product of playing two stingy defenses in Pittsburgh and New Orleans. It's not hard to see that the results are very poor. In the last two weeks, Smith's offense has operated at a 40.9% success rate. Only three teams in the NFL (NYJ, PIT, HOU) are below 40% on the season. On passing plays, the success rate dips 36.5%, which is lower than every single team's season-long mark. I wouldn't be surprised if Cam Newton gets a call from Pete Carroll.
Seattle is on a short week after playing on Monday night. A well-rested Jacksonville team should lean heavily on its fourth-ranked rushing attack against an opponent that has allowed the fifth-most rushing first downs in the league. A Seattle defense on sea legs is a prime target for Urban Meyer to take his first real swing at the 250-yard rushing goal he set in September. The Jags' biggest weakness is in the secondary, so playing a team that has had very little success throwing the football seems like a good matchup. The +150 price implies Jacksonville has a 40% chance of winning. I am betting it's higher.
Washington (+125) at Denver
Jerry Jeudy is set to return for Denver so you are going to see some support in the market for the Broncos to bounce back. This is another game where I am not certain the favorite has the quarterback to exploit the underdog's biggest weakness. The Washington secondary has been a nightmare, allowing more passing yards and passing touchdowns than any team in the league. The opportunities will be there for the Denver offense, but Teddy Bridgewater did not look right Thursday night. If the foot or the quad is a lingering issue, Bridgewater's inability to push the ball down the field will hold back the Broncos' offense.
The Football Team played much better than the final score indicated against the Packers. Washington outgained the Pack in total yards 430-304 and 6.1 to 5.7 on a per play basis. Scoreboard pressure forced it into some bad decisions, and the team turned the ball over on downs twice inside the 3-yard line. Heinecke also had an interception at the 12-yard line capping off a day in which four trips inside the 30 yielded zero points. Denver's injuries on defense should allow Washington to put up enough points to make Fangio sweat.
Denver is averaging 16 points per game over the last four weeks and is going to need to get in the high 20s here. With a banged-up Bridgewater, it's hard to imagine that happening. There is value on the road dog at +125.
Dallas at Minnesota (+115)
I was surprised at first glance to see the Cowboys as only a small favorite but after digging into the data it all makes sense. Minnesota has the secondary to slow down Dallas' dynamic passing attack. The Vikings' defense ranks first in success rate per drop-back, second in third-down conversion rate, and fifth in completion percentage allowed. They are also second in adjusted sack rate, so I expect to see Dak Prescott under pressure in one of the toughest stadiums to play in.
Dallas is 6-0 ATS and nobody survives the NFL season unscathed. Mike Zimmer during his time in Minnesota has historically been one of the best bets at home (62% ATS) and is 10-4 ATS as a home underdog. When short dogs cover they win outright, so a Minnesota moneyline makes a lot of sense.