After a dominant Week 3, value picks (predictably) came back down to earth in Week 4, though a couple of plays could have swung things the other way. The top five against-the-spread value picks were 1-4 last week, with the Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) and Cleveland Browns (+2.5) both losing by a field goal in overtime.
The top five money-line plays were also 1-4, and while those were all modest to heavy underdogs, the only winner of the five was the dog with the weakest payout, the Cincinnati Bengals (+175) at Atlanta. The San Francisco 49ers (+400) came close to a big money-line win, but they lost 29-27 at the L.A. Chargers.
Changing how expected values are shown
From here on out, I'm going to change the way I show expected value to make it more intuitive. Rather than show what a $100 bet is "expected to turn into" in total dollar terms, I'll show the expected return on that $100 wager — above $0 (positive) is good (win money), and below $0 (negative) is bad (lose money).
Here's an example. This week, the Panthers have a 61.8% to cover (-6.0, -110) at home against the Giants. So folks backing the Panthers have a 61.8% chance to win $100 and a 38.2% chance to lose $110. That means that the expected return on a Panthers bet that risks $110 to win $100 is $19.7, highest this week.
And here's the math behind that: (61.8% chance CAR covers x $100 win if CAR covers) - (38.2% chance NYG covers x $110 loss if NYG covers) = $19.7 expected return on an ATS wager that risks $110 to win $100.
Probabilities to cover and win are sourced from the 50+ models aggregated on The Prediction Tracker. Against-the-spread expected values assume bets "to win $100." Money-line expected values assume bets "that risk $100."
I. Against the Spread — Top 5 Value in Week 5
Whereas last week saw four road underdogs among the top five against-the-spread value plays, Week 5 includes four favorites and three home teams, with a couple of other noteworthy considerations mixed in.
First, beyond Carolina, San Francisco, and Baltimore, this week's expected values are pretty low. The Chargers have the fourth highest expected return at $9.8, which wouldn't have cracked the top five in any other week. Showing a "top five" is pretty arbitrary, so keep those absolute dollars in mind as you review.
You can also see how important odds are. Baltimore has this week's highest probability to cover (-3.0), but because they're -120 at that level at Westgate, their expected value falls a few dollars behind Carolina and San Francisco's. If Baltimore were -110 at -3.0, they'd have this week's highest value against-the-spread.
Pick, Spread, Opponent, Odds, Probability to Cover (50+ Models), Expected Return on $100 Bet
1. CAR, -6.0, vs. NYG, -110, 61.8%, $19.7
2. SFO, -3.5, vs. ARZ, -110, 61.6%, $19.4
3. BAL, -3.0, at CLE, -120, 61.9%, $16.1
4. LAC, -5.5, vs. OAK, -110, 57.1%, $9.8
5. DAL, +3.5, at HOU, -120, 58.6%, $9.0
TOP 5 VALUE - Last Week: 1-4 (-340), Season: 10-9-1 (+10)
65%+ COVERS - Last Week: 0-0, Season: 3-0 (+300)
60%+ COVERS - Last Week: 1-3 (-230), Season: 5-6-1 (-170)
II. Money Line — Top 5 Value in Week 5
Pick, Odds, Opponent, Prob. to Win (Odds), Prob. to Win (50+ Models), Expected Return of $100 Bet
1. IND, +500, at NEP, 17%, 27%, $64
2. SEA, +300, vs LAR, 25%, 33%, $34
3. BUF, +215, vs TEN, 32%, 40%, $25
4. DAL, +150, at HOU, 40%, 49%, $23
5. WAS, +225, at NOS, 31%, 34%, $10
TOP 5 VALUE - Last Week: 1-4 (-225), Season: 9-11 (+1840)
All selections have been underdogs
III. Searching for Value in NFL Futures Bets
Back next week under revised format
Moneyline odds via the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (October 6). Point spreads and probabilities via The Prediction Tracker (October 6).