Probabilities to cover and win are sourced from the 50+ models on The Prediction Tracker. Against-the-spread expected values assume bets to win $100. Moneyline expected values assume bets that risk $100.
I. Against the Spread — Top 5 Value in Week 9
Against-the-spread value plays continued their weekly swings last week, coming in at 3-2. Bad as the Bills have been, they hung around long enough against the Patriots to tease Buffalo +14.0 backers into thinking they had a chance, but it was ultimately for naught. The other top-five ATS loss came by way of the Rams -9.0 at "home" against the Packers because Todd Gurley passed up a late touchdown to run out the clock.
As you can see in the dollar values below, finding positive expected value is becoming more and more difficult, and the magnitude of that expected value is shrinking every week. Early in the season, there were often 12+ games with positive ATS expected value, and those games carried an average expected return of over $11. We were merely listing the top five here, and through Week 3 those plays were 9-5-1 (+350).
In recent weeks, only a handful of games have featured positive expected value, and those values have been relatively low. This week, there are only five positive expected value plays, all are muted, and the Jets barely clock in above projected breakeven. Put another way, there is less and less perceived opportunity between what the 50+ models think and the odds and point spreads published by the books.
1. NEP -5.5 vs. GBP, -110, 55.9% chance to cover, $7.3 expected return on $100 wager
2. BUF +10.0 vs. CHI, -110, 54.9%, $5.2
3. SFO -3.0 vs. OAK, -110, 54.2%, $3.9
4. WAS -1.5 vs. ATL, -110, 54.0%, $3.4
5. NYJ +3.0 at MIA, -110, 52.4%, $0.04
TOP 5 VALUE
Last Week: 3-2 (+80), Season: 20-18-2 (+20)
II. Money Line — Top 5 Value in Week 9
On the moneyline side, the top five value plays went 1-4 for the fifth straight week — a remarkably consistent and unprofitable run. As I repeat here every week, every play to date has been a modest to heavy underdog, so losing records are not as bad as they look. In fact, the top five moneyline value plays listed here each week are 13-27 on the season, but equal $100 wagers on those would still have you +955.
The problem is that a five-week run at 1-4 has eaten into what were peak running profits after Week 3 (+2065). Buffalo served up two nice wins earlier in the season, +1000 at Minnesota (Week 3) and +215 versus Tennessee (Week 5). They haven't won since but keep showing up in the top five because the models like them a little bit more than the oddsmakers do. Sometimes futility just takes a little while to flow through.
For the first time all season, two favorites have made the top five moneyline value plays — the models think San Francisco a 64% chance to win on Thursday versus Oakland, whereas their -135 odds imply a 57% chance. And the models think Washington has a 60% chance to win at home versus Atlanta, whereas their -125 odds suggest a 56% chance. If you agree with the models, then you might see some value there.
1. BUF +400 vs. CHI, 20% prob to win (odds), 30% prob to win (models), $50 expected return
2. SFO -135 vs. OAK, 57%, 64%, $12
3. CLE +350 vs. KC, 22%, 25%, $11
4. TEN +225 at DAL, 31%, 33%, $8.1
5. WAS -125 vs. ATL, 56%, 60%, $7.6
TOP 5 VALUE
Last Week: 1-4 (-265), Season: 13-27 (+955)
All selections thru Week 8 were modest to heavy underdogs
III. Searching for Value in NFL Futures Bets
The last time I updated the futures grid was Week 6, and by then, we were seeing already scarce value pretty much disappear. Houston (+400), Washington (+275) and Chicago (+160) carried a bit of value as division winners, and all now lead their divisions as we near the midway point of the season. Houston has since compressed to -240, erasing the value there. Washington and Chicago still have some, but it's small.
Carolina, meanwhile, has emerged as a potential value play. The models give the Panthers a 31.1% chance to win the NFC South, while the odds (+250) imply 28.6%. If you believe the models, then Carolina might also be interesting to win the NFC — the models give them a 9.0% chance, while the odds (+1200) suggest 7.7%. I didn't run the table last week, but I suspect the Panthers' expected values were even better then.
The Rams seem like the NFC's juggernaut, and the Saints are currently a strong second fiddle. But if you believe that there's only a two-in-three chance that one of them wins the conference — as the models below suggest — then you might be able to sniff around the likes of Carolina, Washington, or Chicago. Just make sure you feel like whatever odds you're getting are adequately compensating you for your moves.
In other words, you'd need to think that Carolina (+1200) has better than a 7.7% chance to win the NFC, Washington (+2500) has better than a 3.8% chance, and Chicago (+3000) has better than a 3.2% chance.
There are other super long shots below with high expected values — because the models give them a fractional chance, whereas the odds have them even closer to zero — but those are not worth entertaining. If you were feeling really saucy, maybe you could talk yourself into throwing something tiny at Denver +50000 to win the AFC West, but you'd then have to pray for a Chiefs-and-Chargers apocalypse.
Westgate odds as of Oct 31. Probabilities reflect the average across ESPN FPI, Football Outsiders, and Massey-Peabody. ESPN FPI does not publish probabilities to win the conference, so they are excluded for that category.