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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 so that we have as firm a grasp as possible on all 32 teams.
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Pittsburgh’s loss at home to Jacksonville as the biggest favorite on the board in Week 5 is either an indictment of the Steelers, or proof positive that the middle of the league represents the huge majority of the NFL. Nobody is going 16-0 (sorry Chiefs fans) and losses aren’t the end of the world. That said, ignoring results is not helpful either. The tiering process is supposed to represent the entire season, and not overreact to what we have most recently seen. But minor shifts have been made based on the results to-date.
The top tier is down to five with the Steelers and Raiders moving down. Pittsburgh falls because of poor overall play from the offense and mounting concerns over Ben Roethlisberger’s long-term viability; the Raiders take a step back for similar reasons: the team, as a whole, is playing subpar and it’s uncertain how QB Derek Carr will play once he returns to his underachieving squad.
Though it is tempting to boost the Panthers or Eagles into Tier 1, let’s wait until they face each other on Thursday Night Football this week.
If J.J. Watt had not been injured in the Texans’ Sunday night battle with Kansas City, Houston might have moved up to this group. While the Jaguars have an argument to be in this tier, as well, thanks to a 30-9 drubbing of the Steelers on the road, don’t be hasty! They lost to the Jets the week before. Several of these squads may move up at some point, but consistency is an issue at this stage.
No changes in Tier 3 this week. These teams remain mediocre but competitive. The Giants are 0-5 and the entire receiving core is hurt, but they have played close games and, at this juncture, are still trying to win. Arizona and Chicago are doing enough to stay out of the bottom tier, too, but that could change quickly. Call me crazy, but I don’t think a 32-year-old Adrian Peterson is going to be a difference-maker for an Arizona team with a marshmallow offensive line.
In a weird coincidence, these four teams played each other in Week 5. The Colts beat the 49ers at home in overtime, while the Jets edged the Browns on the road. Beating each other, particularly in tight games, is no reason to move them up. The bottom line is that these franchises are more concerned with draft positioning than victories. Of course, the players on the field aren’t thinking that way, so they’ll be competitive when the competition isn’t head-and-shoulders above them.
If you can find a book offering the Eagles +3.5 against Carolina, you are getting an extra half-point in a game that profiles as a tight one. It’s not crazy to like the Packers as a road favorite in Minnesota, but a three-point spread would be more attractive than four. The best plays this week are games in which the entirely wrong team might be the favorite. Getting points with Detroit (at New Orleans) and the LA Rams (at Jacksonville) both merit a very long look. Remember, road teams are 40-34-1 thus far this season.
Featured photo: Carson Wentz (by Keith Allison via Flickr (CC License)]
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