Tiering teams is a tactic my dad has used for years. It helps bettors fit each squad within the big picture of the league as a whole. When teams in the same tier face each other, you should consider taking points if the spread is more than a field goal. When teams in different tiers match up, you should strongly consider laying points if the spread is under a touchdown. As for the tiers, themselves, that is where the work comes in. Each week, minor adjustments are made from the week prior (see the up/down arrows) so that we have as firm a grasp as possible on all 32 teams.
Below, we first tier the league and then look at the best ATS plays, based on those tiers, for the upcoming week.
Week 11 in the NFL helped clarify a lot of things. Though the Rams may ascend to the top at some point, they clearly are correctly positioned in Tier 2 following a loss to Minnesota. The Chiefs, though facing a very easy schedule the rest of the way, are not equal to our other Tier 1 teams, and have been dropped a level. Just because the Ravens and Bills are tied for the final AFC Playoff spot does not make them good teams, and they find themselves together among the average teams. Barring an injury, no major shakeup in these tiers is expected down the stretch — we know who the teams are at this point — but tinkering continues on a weekly basis.
As always, the new tiers (post-Week 11) are below, followed by the best value bets for Week 12 based on the current tiers.
And then there were three. The Chiefs loss after a bye to the Giants dropped them down, while this of this group continued to look very strong. All three blew out decent competition in Week 11, and at least in the AFC, the number of teams that can derail the Pats or Steelers is becoming small. (If the season ended now, the other playoff teams would be reeling KC, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Baltimore.) New England and Pittsburgh have three=game division leads, so they can begin planning for the postseason and rest players if need be. The Eagles have still played a mediocre schedule, but they are four games clear in the NFC East, and their offense hasn’t been stopped all season.
While the Chiefs drop into this group, the Cowboys have moved out. Dallas has dearly missed tackle Tyron Smith the last two weeks, and he should return Thursday against the Chargers. That said, Dallas is 5-5 with a point differential of zero. They simply do not fit in any category that is above average at this point. Though Minnesota beat the Rams decisively, the game was in Minneapolis, LA fumbled on their way into the endzone during the first quarter, and we prefer to watch the Vikings and Lions on Thursday, and Rams and Saints on Sunday before moving either team from this spot. The Falcons are back in this group after back-to-back wins over Dallas and Seattle.
The Broncos have finally been dropped out of this group. Their schedule has begun to ease up considerably, but Sunday’s lackluster performance against the Bengals was uninspiring for a team that has now lost six straight. Baltimore is back in this tier, and there is really something to be said for responsibility. The Ravens lack a single good win, but John Harbaugh’s team competes, and has a solid defense that makes up for its deplorable offense. On the whole, they’re perfectly average, and five of their final six games are winnable.
Nobody would suggest the Giants are a good team, but one week after dropping into the bottom tier following a loss to San Francisco, New York returns to Tier 4 after an upset victory against the Chiefs. The bottom line is that the G-men have played poorly most of the year yet are still good enough to compete with solid teams in any given week, and that’s a lot more than the Browns and 49ers can say.
The two worst teams in the league need to think really hard before winning a game. It could cost them the top pick in the draft. There is a good reason San Francisco isn’t rushing Jimmy Garoppolo into a starting role. He might win a game or two, and the better the draft pick, the better they are situated going forward.
On Sunday, the Titans are a team to keep an eye on. Tennessee is 6-4, but nobody is talking about them. They have a soft slate down the stretch, and are probably playoff bound. That said, if they lose to the Colts this week, their position will be in flux. The Titans have a few extra days to prepare after getting steamrolled by Pittsburgh last Thursday. Indy is coming off a bye, and has been competitive of late. That said, they give up the most points in the NFL.
Featured photo: Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License]
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