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.
It took three months, but for the first time this year our tiers have no changes week over week. Though you can argue about small things, by and large squads are distributed correctly, and the pecking order in the league is stable. It is not surprising that no changes come after a week where favorites went 12-4 against the spread. The chalk is on fire, going 45-20-4 over the last month. The best teams are now winning consistently and convincingly. Let’s break down each group.
The Pats and Eagles rolled last week while the Steelers held off Green Bay. Pittsburgh, at 9-2 and winners of six straight, is placed in the right spot, however, they tend to play closer games. During the winning streak Pittsburgh has won by three points twice, five points once, and six points once. While the Eagles are 9-2 ATS, and New England is 7-4, the Steelers are barely a winning proposition at 6-5 against the number. Because the public is winning with such consistency on Philly, and that number often balances out, the Steelers might be the better team to target in coming weeks.
It was a really good week for Tier 2. The Panthers found a way to beat the Jets on the road, proving they are pretty good, but not a top tier squad. After falling to Minnesota, the Rams bounced back and beat New Orleans, a sign they are correctly placed. The Saints three losses this year are against the Rams, Vikings, and Patriots, meaning they fit here well. The Vikings have an argument to move up, while the Chiefs perhaps should slide down again. Let’s see how Case Keenum performs against the Falcons and Panthers on the road the next couple of weeks before elevating them. KC appears to be falling apart, but they still control the AFC West, and opened the year with impressive victories over the Patriots and Eagles. If the Chiefs do not look good again, this week against the Jets, they might need a quarterback change, and a move down to the average Tier 3 would be required.
These are the bottom end playoff contenders, and teams that have a good reason, excuse, why they are not around .500. That makes the Bears an awkward fit. Chicago is 3-8 and at times noncompetitive. They were drubbed by the Eagles on Sunday. However, Chicago has played the most difficult schedule in the league by a large margin. They haven’t faced a truly bad squad all year. The Bears have wins over three likely playoff teams, the Steelers, Ravens, and Panthers, and during a four game losing streak have lost one score games to New Orleans, Green Bay, and Detroit. The Bears are a bet on squad as the slate weakens down the stretch.
Unlike the Bears, the Bengals are in contention, but doing so with smoke and mirrors. Cincinnati has beaten the Browns twice, and does not have a victory over a likely playoff team. Meanwhile, with Eli Manning now on the bench, and the Giants seemingly in tank mode to ensure a top three draft pick, it is tempting to move New York down a level. Let’s wait and see how Davis Webb, and to a lesser extent Geno Smith look before deciding where the G-men belong.
It is not impossible the 49ers need to move up with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm. That said, we will wait and watch before making that call. Like the Giants, San Francisco would be well advised to lose games and get a better draft pick. However, since San Francisco has their quarterback of the future, if they win a contest or two and move from the second pick to the fourth, it is a much smaller deal than the Giants who need to be able to draft their next signal caller in 2018.
It has been a long time since the Jaguars were more than a touchdown favorite. Jacksonville is better than the Colts, and showed it when shutting out Indy in October. Though Indianapolis is 1-3 since losing to the Jags, they have played competitively. All three losses, against the Bengals, Steelers, and Titans, have been tight. The Colts are 3-8 overall, but 6-5 against the number. Getting 9.5 points against the Jaguars seems like good value.
It is tempting to go back to the well with Kansas City. It has gotten to the point, after they were the best team in the league early on, that they are only a 3.5 point favorite on the road against the Jets. KC has lost five of six, and it is understandable if you don’t want to back a sinking ship. That said, Andy Reid has a borderline Hall of Fame resume, and they are still the favorite to win the division. If they are going to reach the postseason, beating the Jets is probably required.
Finally, in a battle of possibly overrated vs underrated, the Eagles are laying six in Seattle. Philly has been spectacular, but they’ve played the worst schedule in the NFL. Meanwhile, Seattle might have the best home field advantage in the NFL, are 7-4, and against possible playoff teams, have looked good in beating the Rams and losing tight to Atlanta. The Seahawks have a ton of injuries, but we expect their best effort this week in a game that will be watched closely.
Featured photo:By Larry Maurer, via Wikimedia CommonsCC License
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