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.
If we had known about DeShaun Watson’s injury before press time last Tuesday, there might have been no changes at all from last week to this. The Texans are so bad without Watson (and JJ Watt) that they have dropped two tiers. Aside from that, things are pretty stable, suggesting we have a solid handle on where the teams fit in the NFL hierarchy. The better the tiers, the stronger we feel about the picks. Now let’s try to stay away from picking Brett Hundley this week.
As always, the new tiers (post-Week 9) are below, followed by the best value bets for Week 10 based on the current tiers.
The Patriots and Steelers were off last week, and the Eagles destroyed a spiraling Denver squad. Kansas City, however, lost at Dallas, their third setback in the last four weeks after starting 5-0. Why is KC still in this elite group? They have wins over the Patriots, Eagles, and Texans when Watson was rolling. Their losses (Pittsburgh, Dallas, and that crazy one-point game at Oakland) aren’t bad. Say what you will about the teams in Tier 2, they remain a step behind this core four.
Remember last week when Seattle was all that and a bag of chips after their dramatic win over surging Houston? Well the Seahawks just lost at home to a Washington team that was missing half its offensive line and more. Patience pays off, as the Seahawks could easily have claimed a top tier spot last week, only to be moved right back down.
The en vogue teams now are the Rams and Saints. Of LA’s six wins, four have come against the Colts, 49ers, Cardinals, and Giants. New Orleans has a much better resume, but back-to-back victories over the Bears and Bucs at home aren’t all that telling. We’re keeping a close eye on both squads. Presently, they would be a dog on a neutral field against each of the Tier 1 teams.
There are playoff contenders in this tier, but in reality, these eight clubs are closer to the bottom than the top. Houston has been hit by multiple injuries, and the same is true for Arizona. Give the Jets credit, they are short on talent, but play really hard. The Giants on the other hand appear ready for the off-season already.
What a week for the Browns, they didn’t lose for the first time all season. Bye weeks are sweet. San Francisco has a lot of young talent and is probably in better shape than most of the teams in Tier 4, especially now that they have Jimmy Garoppolo in the building. But they aren’t trying to win now (and may not start Garoppolo for a while) and are banged up; they’ll keep being overmatched on a weekly basis. The Colts won on Sunday, which doesn’t really help them. They tend to play close games, which I guess bodes well for Andrew Luck’s return, next season.
Last week was a mixed bag when we warned against those short road favorites. This week there are some big numbers on the board. Dogs have covered 53-percent of games on the season, and we’re inclined to take those points in a couple matchups this week. Miami at Carolina should be a low scoring affair; that makes Miami (+9) solid value.
Though the Jags are at home, they are in the same tier as the Chargers and laying more than a field goal seems generous. How the Giants can be a road favorite over anyone, including San Francisco is questionable. The same is true for the Jets; yes, Tampa Bay has nose-dived from its preseason expectations, but the Bucs are getting points at home? The gap from a banged-up Jameis Winston to Ryan Fitzpatrick is minimal, if it exists at all.
Featured photo: By Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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