Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Philip Rivers
I treat sports betting like part of my job because it literally is my job to know about it, and also because it can be profitable when done skillfully.
But every once in a while it’s fun to make some bets regardless of whether they’re sharp.
For these bets, I don’t dip into the “investable” portion of my bankroll. These bets are purely “discretionary.” If something comes of them, great. If not, no big deal. I made these bets just for fun.
Freedman’s 15 NFL Divisional Round Moneyline Bets
In the spirit of having fun, I just placed 15 small moneyline bets on the four NFL divisional round games this weekend. While each of these bets is an individual nibble, it’s fair to say that I’ve eaten the whole enchilada.
- Colts +185
- Cowboys +270
- Eagles +310
- Colts-Cowboys +954.5
- Colts-Chargers +669.5
- Colts-Eagles +1068.5
- Cowboys-Chargers +899
- Cowboys-Eagles +1417
- Chargers-Eagles +1007
- Colts-Cowboys-Chargers +2747.15
- Colts-Cowboys-Eagles +4223.45
- Colts-Chargers-Eagles +3054.95
- Cowboys-Chargers-Eagles +3995.9
- Colts-Cowboys-Chargers-Eagles +11573.32
In the old-school words of Tori Amos: “This is not really happening / You bet your life it is.”
To reiterate: Small bets made solely for fun. In no way am I recommending that anyone do what I have just done.
Why I Bet the Moneyline in the Divisional Round
On the Friday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, I mentioned to Chris Raybon that I think many bettors this week will overvalue the home-field advantage and first-round bye when handicapping the degree to which the Chiefs, Saints, Patriots and Rams should be favored.
Sure enough, on the show Raybon quickly did some research and found that over the past 15 years road dogs in the divisional round have a 21-36 record straight up. For moneyline bettors, these road dogs have produced a 28.8% return on investment (per Bet Labs).
John Ewing has pointed out that home teams in the divisional round have gone just 24-35-1 against the spread. He also notes that 95% of them have been favored.
My thinking is that since road dogs tend to be undervalued in the divisional round for identifiable and understandable reasons, I should maximize this edge (in theory?) by betting them on the moneyline and through parlays, especially if I think that at least two of them have a very real chance of winning.
Why the Colts, Cowboys, Chargers and Eagles Will Win
As it happens, I think all four underdogs are live — at least for the purpose of my small “just for fun” bets.
Colts: The snowy and windy weather in Kansas City could keep scoring down, and the Chiefs have an extensive history of postseason failure. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was great this year, but he could struggle in his first playoff game. The Colts are 10-1 since Week 7, and in that time their under-appreciated defense hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 28 points.
Betting Preview: Chiefs-Colts
Cowboys: Since acquiring wide receiver Amari Cooper in Week 8, the Cowboys are 8-2, but with a point differential of literally zero. While this could mean the Cowboys are due for regression, it also highlights the extent to which the team’s style of play facilitates close games. The Cowboys defense is fifth in run DVOA, and edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence and cornerback Byron Jones could limit the effectiveness of the Rams passing game, which has struggled without wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee, injured reserve).
Betting Preview: Rams-Cowboys
Chargers: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has regressed this year, and he has struggled in the playoffs against elite pass rushes. New England is without wide receiver Josh Gordon (suspension). Aging wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski will be challenged against young first-team All-Pros in slot corner Desmond King and safety Derwin James. Wide receiver Chris Hogan will face the shadow coverage of shutdown cornerback Casey Hayward. The Chargers have the superior record and are 12-2 since Week 4.
Betting Preview: Patriots-Chargers
Eagles: Since last season, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is literally the most profitable underdog quarterback in the league with his 6-1 record — and that loss came in a meaningless Week 17 game in which starters were removed early. In Foles’ six representative dog contests, the Eagles have had a margin of +9.67 points, gifting moneyline bettors a 226% ROI. The Eagles have perhaps the league’s best defensive line, and their backup corners forced into the starting lineup have improved significantly over the past month.
Betting Preview: Saints-Eagles
Why the Colts, Cowboys, Chargers and Eagles Will Lose
They’re supposed to lose. They’re playing on the road against teams coming off a bye week. What else do you want?
I know I’m almost certainly burning money with these 15 moneyline bets. In the words of Alfred, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
If all four road dogs win this weekend, we’re officially calling it “The Full Freedman.” If none of them win … that’s still what we’ll call it.