Tips for Week 6 NFL picks: How to bet three-game road trips, teaser of the week and more
Get ready for football with everything you need to know about the Week 6 lines
Many bettors look to fade teams playing a third straight road game, a situation the Ravens find themselves in this week. The thinking is simple: All that travel will catch up to you by the third game, and there could be value in just blindly taking the other side in those matchups.
With the Rams also on the second leg of a three-game road trip, I thought this was the perfect time to put what we think about these long excursions to the test. And after looking at data from the last 10 years, I did come up with an interesting strategy, but not the one I expected to find.
First, the basics. There were 38 three-game road trips from 2008-17, and when you count the games already played by the Ravens and Rams this year, you'll get an ATS record of 18-22 in the first leg, 18-20-1 in the second leg and 18-20 in the third leg. So we're looking at virtually the same record no matter what game we're talking about, with all three records slightly below .500.
If you adjust the timeframe, you can find one particular leg of the road trip sticking out as an advantageous play. For example, only looking at the data from 2015 on shows that teams on the second leg of a three-game road trip are 4-10-1 ATS, as opposed to 7-9 on the first leg and 7-7 on the third leg (remember, the Ravens and Rams games this year only include part of their road trips to this point). If you extend your timeframe to 2012, teams playing the first leg do markedly worse (9-15 ATS) than on the second (11-11-1) and third (10-12) legs.
But that's not the trend I uncovered. When reviewing the data, I noticed that it seemed hard for teams over the last few years to string together consecutive covers or non-covers. That is, whatever a team did in the first leg of the road trip, the odds were that the opposite would happen the following week. And whatever happened on the second leg, the opposite had a good chance of coming through in the final game of the road trip.
From 2012 on, if a team covered in the first or second game of their three-game road trip, you'd go 13-6 ATS fading them the following week, including last week when the Ravens failed to cover in Cleveland. And if you bet on a team the following week after they failed to cover during the road trip, you'd go 15-9 ATS. Add that together, and we're looking at a 28-15 ATS record by just doing the opposite of what just happened to these road teams.
What does that mean for us this week? The Rams couldn't cover in Seattle last week, while the Ravens lost outright as three-point favorites in Cleveland. In theory, that makes them both great plays this week, even with both as road favorites. However, if you're playing that angle, I'd look to get them at the lines the SuperContest posted for each, with the Rams favored by 6.5 and the Ravens by 2.5.
I've included a table at the end of this post with the data since 2012 on three-game road trips, if you'd like to have a look yourself and see if you can come up with some trends you like.
If you want to know which sides I like this week, you can find that info at the SportsLine link below, where all my rated plays appear during the season along with my five SuperContest picks each week and plenty of great analysis from a fantastic collection of experts. You can also check out where all our CBS Sports staff lands on each game each week right here.
Each week in this space, I'm going to go behind the lines and picks to bring you a bit of a deeper dive into what you should know before locking in your plays. That includes which lines are on the move, which home-field advantages aren't getting enough credit, which injuries you should be monitoring, my top teaser play of the week and plenty more.
Let's get to it.
Over at SportsLine, I have several plays on totals for Week 6, and I'll have plenty of picks against the spread by Friday night. Join now and use promo code WHITE for $1 on your first month and you can get mine and every SportsLine expert's picks throughout the year, as well as my SuperContest picks each Saturday.
However, you can get one free pick with my teaser of the week at the end of this article. Enjoy!
Biggest line moves
The Dolphins were one-point favorites against the Bears at home on the lookahead line, and while nothing changed for Chicago while they were on a bye, Miami fell completely apart and lost 27-17 in a game where they had a 17-0 lead five minutes into the second half. Two of the Cincinnati TDs in that game were fluky defensive returns, which you can't rely on getting if you bet against a team. The Dolphins didn't suddenly four points worse, so this feels like too big of an overreaction.
Like the Bears, the Bucs just took a week off and somehow managed to draw three points closer to the Falcons after Atlanta was favored by 6.5 on the lookahead line. This move obviously stems from Atlanta getting blown out in Pittsburgh, but playing outdoors has not been great for them over the last year-plus (1-7 ATS in regular season). They're at home this week, so even with their banged-up defense, it's possible this line moved much too far off one bad game.
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The DVOA edge
One of the things I like to look for when dissecting matchups is one where the Football Outsiders DVOA doesn't agree with the betting line. I don't have a specific formula, but my standard is basically four points of DVOA for every point on the neutral-field line, though once the line gets big enough I think it's more like five points of DVOA. Rather than use the regular DVOA numbers, for this exercise I first use DAVE (which incorporates preseason projections) and then weighted DVOA, to get a better sense of each team's value at the point of the season where I need to know it rather than as a whole.
So for example, the Giants are three-point underdogs on Thursday against the Eagles. My weighted home-field numbers give the Giants just two points of home-field advantage, making this a five-point difference on a neutral field. That means there should be about 20 points of difference in DVOA, but there's just a 9.8-point difference between the two teams. The gap between the Eagles and Giants isn't as large as the line would have you believe, and that's with short-changing the Giants on the standard three points of home-field advantage.
In addition to the Giants, DVOA sees the Dolphins as pretty close to the Bears in terms of overall strength, and the gap between the teams along with the Dolphins' 3.5 HFA suggest that this line should be about Dolphins -2.5. The Steelers grade as clearly better than the Bengals thanks largely to the preseason projection part of the DAVE formula, but the neutral line is at zero with the Bengals getting 2.5 points of HFA. The Texans aren't favored by enough here, thanks largely to how bad the Bills have been despite their 2-3 record. DVOA also sees value on the Broncos, thinking the line should be around Rams -3 considering Denver's great HFA. In the biggest game of the week, DVOA thinks the Chiefs are a much stronger team than the Patriots, so that's the side with value here.
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Fading the public
Falcons -3.5 vs. Buccaneers
Bills +9.5 at Texans
Titans +3 vs. Ravens
If 80 percent of the action or more is on one side of a line, you want to be thinking about taking the other side, a practice commonly known as fading the public. If the consensus thinks it has a game figured out, that should be flashing warning signs for you. (All betting trends data from BetOnline via Vegas Insider.)
The Falcons are getting 81 percent of the tickets as of Wednesday night, leaving the Bucs as the team to take if you're looking to fade the public, provided those numbers hold heading into Sunday. The Bills are getting a lot of love as a public 'dog, but that line didn't open until Wednesday due to Deshaun Watson's status and the ticket count could fluctuate by a wide margin by the time all is said and done.
One spot game that the entire public is seemingly lined up on the same side is Ravens at Titans, with the home team drawing 91 percent of the tickets at this part of the week. My numbers say the value lies with the Titans at this high line, but seeing the public all-in on that side has me a bit nervous to take them.
Lines I'd move
Chargers -1 at Browns (Browns -1)
Bears -3 at Dolphins (Dolphins -1)
Bills at Texans -9.5 (Texans -7)
Rams -7 at Broncos (Rams -5)
Ravens -3 at Titans (Titans -1)
49ers at Packers -9.5 (Packers -11)
If my power ratings and weighted home-field advantage numbers say a line is more than a point off, you'd be 20-10-1 by blindly playing the side where there's value. There's obviously more that comes into play, as Friday injury reports, weather and other factors will determine whether I'm comfortable playing one of these value sides, but it's a good place to start.
My power ratings suggest the wrong team is favored in three games: Chargers-Browns, Bears-Dolphins and Ravens-Titans. The first isn't that big of a swing, but the other two seem to be great value plays if you can get the home 'dogs at +3. The Bills are 32nd in my power ratings, 6.5 points worse than an average team, but the Texans aren't that much higher up and laying more than a touchdown with them seems crazy. The Rams are once again laying a few too many points on the road, even as my top-ranked team, thanks to the Broncos' excellent home-field advantage. The Packers are the rare team here that should be favored by more, as they also have a great home-field advantage and the 49ers are my 31st-ranked team.
Teaser of the Week
Dolphins +9 vs. Bears
Titans +9 vs. Ravens
My ratings say the Dolphins and Titans should be one-point favorites in these matchups, so we're already getting four points of value on the standard line. I'm going to tease them together as well, as I can't see these two defenses getting blown out at home against inconsistent offenses.
Other solid teaser plays include taking the Steelers through three and seven and getting them at +8.5, teasing the Browns up to +7 against a Chargers team that has only played great or terrible teams, and teasing the Packers down to -3.5 and expecting them to have an easy time on Monday night against a backup quarterback.
Three-game road trips, 2012-18
|Year||Team||Weeks||Cover 1||Cover 2||Cover 3|
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