NFL Week 7 Buy Low Sell High: A special teams angle
Those of you who have followed me for a long time should be familiar with my weekly NFL "BLSH" (Buy Low Sell High) plays. It’s a rather elementary approach to profiting from the extreme week-to-week market perception swings in a league filled with parity. The extreme popularity and magnified coverage provide a few opportunities each week in the NFL to bet on the consensus overreactions influencing the market. Remember that nobody is as good or as bad as they look each Sunday, unless you are the Browns.
A potential BLSH spot occurs when a team who lost outright (and did not cover) the previous week plays a team that won outright (and covered) the previous week.
The above minimum requirement simply provides the potential BLSH plays for that week, but it is certainly not a science as I won’t play every spot. There are exceptions based on matchup intricacies, situational advantages and a number of other potential variables.
For example, NFL Week 7 contains five potential BLSH spots:
- Broncos PK
- Ravens +5.5
- Packers +4
- Browns +6
- Panthers -3
However, I have only wagered on one of the five as of Friday morning.
I immediately crossed the Broncos PK off the list because I prefer the Chargers in this revenge spot against a division rival that they could have defeated in Denver earlier in the season. I ultimately just don’t trust Trevor Siemian on the road.
I can’t play the Ravens +5.5 until I learn more about the plethora of injuries they are dealing with this week on the offensive side of the ball. Their offense, limited by a lack of explosiveness even when healthy, could potentially be without all three starting wide receivers (Breshad Perriman, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace) and starting tight end (Maxx Williams). I just can’t trust Flacco and company to score against a solid Vikings defense, especially if they are missing a number of the aforementioned skill position players. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens should finally have a healthy defensive line this week, as they expect Brandon Williams and Carl Davis to both play on Sunday. Baltimore, who has never allowed over 4.0 yards per rush in any season in franchise history, currently sits at 21st in the NFL in rush defense, allowing 4.3 yards per rush. The return of Brandon Williams, one of the best run-stopping interior defensive lineman in the NFL, should help stuff the run game of the Vikings. I’d simply rather play the Under 39.5 here, especially with Stefan Diggs listed as doubtful (groin) and Case Keenum under center again.
Similar to the Ravens, I cannot play Green Bay +4 until I get clarity into who will suit up for them on Sunday. I hear everyone talking about the line adjustment for Brett Hundley, which I agree appears to be inflated on the surface. However, the Packers are dealing with many other critical injuries outside of Aaron Rodgers and will face a very healthy Saints team. Here are the starters currently listed on the Green Bay injury report:
- T Bryan Bulaga (concussion)
- T David Bakhtiari (hamstring)
- G Lane Taylor (knee)
- CB Kevin King (concussion)
- CB Davon House (quad)
- S Morgan Burnett (hamstring)
- LB Nick Perry (hand)
I could get behind Hundley catching over a field goal in this spot at home, but not without the services of multiple offensive linemen and with a defense that could be extremely thin in the secondary against Drew Brees. Keep a close eye on the injury report all weekend before laying any money down here.
The Browns sit on my "DO NOT BET" list that I carry around with me everywhere I go as a constant reminder to not lose money on the Browns. However, I see the argument for Cleveland +6 this week, especially with DeShone Kizer starting and the Tennessee offense limited by Marcus Mariota’s lack of mobility. As a result, the Titans offense will lean on their ground and pound rushing attack this week, but the Browns actually excel in stopping the run; Cleveland is tied with Denver at the top of the league, allowing only 3.0 yards per rush. Additionally, the Titans travel to Cleveland on short rest after a Monday night game (their first MNF game since 2014) against the Colts, a division rival they just defeated for the first time in 12 meetings. Can you really see the Titans getting up for the Browns this Sunday before their bye week? However, a valid counterargument would simply consist of “Yeah, but it’s the Browns”, which would most likely swing any jury. Browns or nothing, but I think I might just stay away.
Let’s dive into the one "BLSH" play that I have put money down on so far this week…
Panthers -3 -115
It’s a great spot to fade the Bears here after an overtime road win in Baltimore, which ended their 10-game road losing streak, against a Panthers team coming off a home loss last Thursday night. Carolina will have extra prep/rest, which historically has been a slight advantage for NFL teams ATS. Since 1995, NFL teams playing the Sunday after a Thursday night game are 194-180-6 ATS (52 percent). This preparation advantage continues to grow with advances in scouting (8-2 ATS in 2017).
I don’t expect Kelvin Benjamin to play, but I do expect Christian McCaffrey to have a huge day out of the backfield against a banged-up Bears linebacker unit.
It also looks as if Luke Kuechly could play this Sunday based on recent practice reports, which is important for their rush defense and in defending Zach Miller, who Mitch Trubisky used as his security blanket last week in Baltimore.
The Panthers will also get a boost on their offensive line, which has struggled immensely with run blocking, with the return of center Ryan Kalil, the leader of the unit who controls all line calls and adjustments.
Having said all of that, I think this game boils down to special teams. The effectiveness of Graham Gano and the anticipated absence of Bears DB Sherrick McManis (who?) will be the keys to a Panthers cover. The Bears, ranked dead last in both average punt return and kick return yardage allowed this season, are the only team in the NFL to allow both a kick return touchdown and punt return touchdown. Both of those occurred last week against the Ravens once Bears special teams star McManis left with an injury. Expect a big day from Christian McCaffrey in the return game against the league’s worst special teams defense, which should be even more ineffective without McManis, who did not practice on Thursday (hamstring).
Additionally, don’t expect much from the Bears in the return game. Carolina has only allowed two kick returns on the year thanks to Graham Gano, who leads the NFL in touchback percentage at 93 percent (29/31). Gano has also been effective kicking, making 15 of 16 field goal attempts. The Panthers are also one of only six teams allowing less than five yards per punt return; in contrast, the Bears allow 15.6 yards per punt return. Roll with the public here and take the Panthers with extra prep in the "BLSH" spot to cover three on the road against a Bears team that should lose the field position battle from the opening kick to the final whistle on Sunday.
What scares me? Cam Newton not understanding routes.
Week 7 NFL Recap
- Panthers -3 -116
Scratched (for now): Ravens, Packers, Browns
BLSH YTD: 10-6
Other pending NFL Plays:
- Falcons +4
- Redskins +4.5
- Bengals +6
- Ravens/Vikings Under 39.5
- Giants/Seahawks Under 39.5
NFL Total YTD: 29-20