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.
After several weeks of chaos throughout the NFL, Week 7 brought relative calm. Yes, the Raiders rousing Thursday night win over Kansas City was wild, but Oakland was a very short underdog in the game. Carolina got upset in Chicago, but again, that wasn’t a big ‘dog winning outright. In fact, though underdogs are having a great season (57-44-3), favorites went 9-4-2 in Week 7.
That’s part of the reason that our top tier remains the same, and actually is starting to feel pretty legitimate. The Chiefs, Patriots, Eagles, and Steelers seem to be the four best teams right now, and the fifth-best is very much up for debate, hence a the large second tier.
The Chiefs lost a road game in Oakland that could have gone either way, and though KC has now dropped two straight, our level of concern is minimal. The Patriots, Eagles, and Steelers all impressed over the weekend, each while facing solid or better competition.
The point of tiers is to find a line of separation. How to divide the second and third tiers has become incredibly difficult, and as such the Bears, Jaguars, and Chargers have all been shifted up. Each of these teams has bad losses on their resume, but the bottom line is, when they face another second-tier squad, the chances of a tight game are high. The Bears have been blown out by the Bucs and Packers, but lost close games to Atlanta and Minnesota, and beat the Panthers and Steelers.
There should be little argument that the Bengals, Cardinals, and Ravens are in the right spot. They are doing little to impress, but are better than tier four.
The Bucs are a tough team to evaluate. Their only two wins have come against the Bears and Giants, though they have lost tight road games in back-to-back weeks in Arizona and Buffalo, and played the Patriots reasonably tight in their last home game. They need a win over the Panthers or Saints during the next two weeks to get bumped up.
The Giants have only a single win, a shocker at Denver two weeks ago, and they looked lost against Seattle on Sunday. However, close games against the Eagles, Bucs, and Chargers keep them from slipping to the group below.
By virtue of a close loss to Miami in Florida, and following three so-so wins plus a tight setback to the Patriots, the Jets have proven they belong in this tier.
Josh Rosen/Sam Darnold might as well start getting fitted for Browns and Niners uniforms, while Saquon Barkley would be an awfully nice companion piece for a healthy Andrew Luck next year. Not only are these teams bad, there is little reason for short-term hope. Trust the process?
The tier system is meant to ease the process of finding sensible bets. The spreads this week suggest sportsbooks see the weak teams similarly to our rankings, and the bad teams are getting a boatload of points. However, one of the most important tenets of tiering — and betting in general — is not overreacting to the most recent outcomes. Denver and Atlanta have been bad the past two weeks. However, there is a reason that each had high expectations, and both have looked great at times. (Remember the Broncos blowout victory over Dallas, and the Falcons dominating Green Bay, even when Aaron Rodgers was healthy?)
The same holds true for Carolina. They laid an egg in Chicago, but also beat the Patriots and Lions on the road. All three teams offer value in Week 8. Take the Broncos (+7.5) at the Chiefs, the Falcons (-4.5) at the Jets, and the Panthers (-2.5) at Tampa Bay.
Featured photo: Julio Jones pointing. Photo by Erik Drost [CC License] via Wikimedia Commons
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