NFL betting: It's time to get max value on underdog Saints, Raiders

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·Betting analyst
·5-min read
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NFL underdogs are 20-9 over the past two weeks, reinforcing the opportunity to target underdogs to win outright and capitalize on the moneyline odds. Through nine weeks of the season, underdogs that covered the spread are 54-22 (71%) to the moneyline and 15-5 over the past two weeks. Betting underdogs without investing some percentage of your stake on the team to win outright is leaving money on the table.

Every Wednesday I feature three short underdogs (+3.5 or less) that I believe have a path to win outright. I narrow the focus to these short underdogs because they have won on the moneyline in 32 of the 34 games they have covered this season. Full disclosure: Overall underdogs are covering at a lower rate (56%) but the moneyline hit rate (94%) is close to perfect for short dogs. The challenge is identifying which of these teams has the best chance to come out victorious on Sunday. For those who prefer to play moneyline parlays at a lower stake, you can bet all three teams at +935.

Cleveland (+105) at New England

Bill Belichick has the Patriots right back in the playoff conversation after reeling off three straight wins. As ironic as it sounds, Belichick is now moving up in class against the franchise that is most famous for its failures after firing him. New England's victories have come against the Jets twice, Texans, Panthers, and Chargers. Does that warrant being favored against a proven playoff team like Cleveland? I'm betting there is a bit of recency bias baked into this number.

Both teams will enter this game 5-4 S/U and ATS, but you would have been hard-pressed to find anybody that rated New England higher than Cleveland before the season. Did a handful of wins over teams with a combined record of 12-22 get you that excited about New England? The Browns are tied for second in the NFL in net yards per play while ranking top five in Football Outsiders overall DVOA metric. The Patriots are not in the top 20.

Both teams may need to showcase their depth at running back with Chubb on the COVID list and New England's running back room nursing head injuries. I have much more confidence in Cleveland's depth with the emergence of D'Ernest Johnson. Denzel Ward made Joe Burrow's life miserable last week, so I wouldn't expect much out of Mac Jones in this one. I will take the better team at plus money.

New Orleans (+125) at Tennessee

Sell high and buy low they say. Once I read the headlines this week proclaiming the Titans as Super Bowl contenders my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. This isn't taking anything away from the Titans, as my first futures recommendation of the season was for Tennessee to win the AFC South.

The Saints are coming off a letdown loss after being upset by the Falcons in a game where they dropped several passes. The offense looked much better in the second half and having another week to adjust to its new quarterback will only help. It's the Saints' defense that makes the difference in this one. Running against the Saints, who rank third in EPA allowed per rush, is like running into a brick wall. Without Derrick Henry to bulldoze his way through, the Titans averaged 2.7 yards per rush last week. Ryan Tannehill should face plenty of second or third and long situations where he ranks 26th and 21st in the league.

Sports betting is about finding value and it's jumping off the screen with the Saints. New Orleans is 3-0 as an underdog this season and won all three games outright. Let's make it four. Buy low with New Orleans.

Kansas City at Las Vegas (+125)

I am getting less and less confident the light switch is ever going to come on in Kansas City. This number appears like a classic overreaction at first glance, but KC's spiral appears to be more than an isolated incident. The Chiefs have been held under 14 points in two of the last three games, and under 21 in four of the last five. They are fourth in EPA per play for the season, but 26th in the last three weeks against the Titans, Giants and Packers defenses. They are also 29th in yards per play in that span while the Raiders are the NFL's best (7.0).

KC is 2-7 ATS this season and the Raiders are now coming home after a letdown loss to the Giants. Las Vegas is the team that the public is underrating. The Raiders are second in the NFL in net success rate and fourth in net yards per play. Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby have led a resurgent Raiders pass rush that should be able to force Mahomes into some key turnovers. Las Vegas is 3-1 as an underdog and hit the moneyline all three times they covered. That's exactly the team I am looking for. Take the Silver & Black as a short dog.

Stats provided by Football Outsiders, teamrankings.com, rbsdm.com (Success Rate based off 10/90 WP).

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