NFL Live Betting Week 5: How We Live Bet Sunday’s Slate

NFL Live Betting Week 5: How We Live Bet Sunday’s Slate article feature image

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images. Pictured: Lamar Jackson.

The NFL Week 5 Sunday slate was an interesting one from a live betting perspective. There were a handful of games that could present a clear value under specific circumstances — or project to play at a fairly neutral pace in other situations.

This week, I went through all of the scenarios that I'm keeping an eye on. The NFL is perfect for live betting, with the pauses between plays providing plenty of time to get bets in. This season, I’ve built a model to project the pace of play under a variety of in-game scenarios. These include first vs. second half, as well as which team is leading or when the game is within a touchdown.

The primary benefit is for betting totals. If the game is going to be faster or slower than was assumed pregame, the application is obvious. Faster-paced games tend to produce more points.

Player props also present some interesting opportunities. Sportsbooks are offering a variety of live player props, and faster or slower than expected games create obvious opportunities.

Take a long look around various books before placing bets, though. There tends to be more variation between shops in live markets than there is pregame.

The Live Bet We Made for Sunday Night Football

The Ravens were slight favorites as they host the Bengals tonight, so we'll start with scenarios where they control the game. That would be a pretty obvious situation to take live unders, and here's why:

The Bengals (both in 2021 and this season) don't really speed things up when trailing. This season, they rank 20th in overall pace, 12th in situation neutral … and 29th when playing from behind.

Add to that to the Ravens' desire and ability to run the ball, and we have a recipe for a game that plays slow overall. This is my preferred angle, since divisional games tend to be on the lower scoring side anyway.

This is another spot where I'll be very quick to pull the trigger. Any time the total is higher than the pregame 47.5 and the Ravens are up seven or more — even if it's on the first drive — I'm firing.

We almost got there near the start of the first quarter, when Baltimore's first touchdown gave the Ravens a 10-0 lead. But that was only part of the recipe; the total didn't move quite enough for our liking, given Cincinnati's lack of scoring so far. And it's hard to play the under when the last drive was under 3 minutes time of possession.

I decided to try to hold out for another score, hopefully from the Ravens. My guess is they'll want more than a 10-point lead before they start to slow it down.

On the other hand, I was interested in betting the over if the Bengals managed to get off to a lead or if the game became relatively tight. The Bengals — who rank 20th in overall pace this season — are 14th with a lead and sixth in close games.

Baltimore had ran no plays while trailing by seven or more this year. However, in 2021 that was by far their fastest split. This game should be relatively action packed until or unless the Ravens take the lead.

Since my pregame lean is to the under, I'll be a bit pickier on this one. I want a considerable drop from the 47.5 opening total, and signs of life from both offenses before I leap.

At the two minute warning, this was a three point game with the trailing Bengals about to receive a punt. Since the total had dropped to 42.5 at BetMGM, that fit my pregame thoughts perfectly. We'll take the live over. Baltimore gets the ball to start the second half; if they're able to stop the Bengals before halftime then score themselves, we'll look again at the under, hopefully at a higher number, creating a middle situation.

The Live Bets We Made Earlier in Week 5 on Sunday

Bears-Vikings: Overs in a Close Game

This angle was fairly straightforward. The Vikings are a middle of the pack team in pace with a lead of seven or more, but they play much faster (relative to the league average) when trailing or in close games. They're a team that's content to run out the clock when the game script allows it, but will open up the passing attack to build up to that lead.

In addition, the Bears rushing offense has actually been solid this season, so if they can abandon their 32nd-ranked passing attack in a positive game script, that's a good thing for the overall scoring environment.

Our props tool was also showing value on the over in Justin Jefferson and KJ Osborn receptions, among others. In the somewhat unlikely scenario the Bears force an increase in the Vikings pass rate, the value on these types of bet goes way up.

The Bears pulled within two late in the third quarter, triggering the scenario I was looking for. The live total was 50 at DraftKings, so we need less than two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Even if Chicago doesn't contribute, Minnesota will likely stay aggressive until they get up by a second score. Let's take the over on that total.

With a final score of 29-22, this one ends up in the win column, even if just barely.

Eagles-Cardinals: Over After Leaning Under Pregame

This was an interesting game to break down from a live standpoint. The Eagles lead the league in first half scoring but rank 29th in the second half — largely because they've controlled games so thoroughly they haven't need to push down the stretch.

Arizona was averaging just four points in the first half coming into this one, by far the worst mark in the league. However, they're up to 16.5 points in the second half, which trails only the Lions for the top mark.

My lean was toward the under, particularly if the first half was higher scoring.  I trusted the Eagles offense to ball-control the clock if they have the lead.

While I was hoping to find an under that I liked, that didn't end up being the case. Instead, we'll look at a live over.

The line has dipped ever so slightly to 47 at PointsBet heading into the second half. Both teams have moved the ball well, with the trailing Cardinals picking up 198 yards of offense. If they had just a few more seconds left on the clock, this game would likely be 14-14.  I expected the live total at sportsbooks to stay closer to the opening number of 48.5 given the 24 total first half points, but since it came down to 47, the over gets it.

Neither offense set the world on fire in the second half — or anything close — though, and we took an L in a 20-17 Eagles win.

The Live Betting Scenario We Were Watching For in the 1 p.m. ET Slate (That Didn't Pan Out)

Jets-Dolphins: Overs if Miami Falls Behind

This one wasn't the likeliest scenario, with Miami favored by three to four points in this one. However, with the loss of Tua Tagovailoa for the Dolphins, it didn't seem like an impossible situation, either.

Overs worked for a couple reasons here. The pace is what originally caught my eye — so far this season, the Jets play at the fastest pace in the second half of games and the second fastest pace when leading by seven or more.  While they haven't been in the latter scenario a ton, they've racked up over 27 minutes of possession with a lead, so the sample size isn't terribly small.

Additionally, this would tilt both teams toward their offensive strengths. The Dolphins would presumably play more pass heavy with a lead, and they rank second in offensive DVOA passing — but just 20th when rushing. The Jets are also far stronger defensively against the run.

On the other side, the Jets have been slightly better in the running game then when forced to throw.

As always, we were looking to get a better number than the opening line of 45 or so on the total. And while this scenario did play out — the Dolphins trailing with the total significantly below the opening line — we passed on this potential live bet because of Teddy Bridgewater leaving the game for Miami. You simply can't trust a third-string quarterback or the impact on the models we use for identifying live betting spots.

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