Few endeavors can keep us on our toes the betting football does.
Throughout the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era, the Superdome has earned a reputation as a venue in which games soar over the projected total with ease.
Likewise, conventional wisdom has long said there's value on a team coming off a big loss on Monday Night Football due to skewed public perception, especially when said team returns home to face an opponent fresh off a blowout win.
But in the words of the great Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin'. One particular teaser option on the Week 8 board reminds us the times haven't changed too much when it comes to Bill Belichick and Andy Reid, but otherwise, when looking at the NFL as we approach midseason in 2017, Dylan's words ring as true today as they did more than 40 years ago.
Chicago/New Orleans Under 47.5
While the Superdome has been a safe haven for over bettors in recent years, two of the biggest contributing factors - the Saints' breakneck pace on offense and their lack of anything resembling a professional defense - aren't what they used to be.
Starting with the defense, New Orleans has undoubtedly benefited from favorable matchups, drawing Jay Cutler and the beleaguered Dolphins in London earlier in the season and the Packers last week in their first game without Aaron Rodgers. The weak opposition may have the Saints' defense looking better from a statistical standpoint than it actually is, but from a mental standpoint the success on the field can work wonders, building a confidence that has been lacking and, in turn, providing the mental boost necessary to maximize physical ability.
And speaking of favorable matchups, this week they draw a rookie QB on the road, with Mitch Trubisky and the Bears' offense not striking any fear into the home team. Aside from a dump-off to RB Tarik Cohen that went for 70 yards, the Bears only managed to gain 83 yards on offense last week at home against Carolina. In 10 drop-backs aside from the big gain by Cohen, Chicago only generated 15 yards, a staggering 1.5 yards per drop-back. Part of this is the Bears babying Trubisky, sensing he's not ready to read NFL defenses yet. This is a vulnerability they should struggle to overcome when the defense doesn't do the scoring for them.
Further hampering the Chicago offense is a WR corps that's been ravaged by injuries. This means we can expect another conservative game plan - in three Trubisky starts, the Bears' offense is operating at the slowest pace in the NFL, more than 2 seconds per snap slower than any other team.
Not to be outdone by too much, the New Orleans offense ranks in the middle of the pack in pace this season, a far cry from its third-fastest tempo in the league last year.
With a deliberate pace, the limitations of a rookie QB on the road, and Sean Payton finally having something to cheer about from his defense, points may be at a premium for a change in the Superdome on Sunday.
Dallas -1.5 at Washington
A desperate home team off a Monday Night Football loss is a frequent "bet on" for situational bettors, particularly when the opponent comes in riding high off a strong performance the previous week, due to the opportunity to fade public perception prone to the recency bias. But with Washington off a short week and an offensive line that's shorthanded to say the least, the usual situational advantage may not be the value play this time.
Washington saw four offensive linemen go down Monday in Philadelphia, creating a set of cluster injuries we rarely see. It was bad enough that, instead of the usual practice Wednesday, Washington merely held a walk-through. Not quite the typical week of preparation for a pivotal game against an archrival.
The Cowboys have to be licking their chops as they eye this matchup, with DeMarcus Lawrence ranking second in the NFL with 9.5 sacks and David Irving tallying two sacks in two games since his return from a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
This spells trouble for Kirk Cousins & Co. The offense has gotten by thus far with unsustainable production from RB Chris Thompson and TE Vernon Davis in the passing game, and as long as Dallas can limit them while keeping a struggling WR group in check, it could be a long day for Cousins and a lucrative day for Cowboys backers, with little more than an outright win enough to cover the spead.
Pick of the Week: Teaser - New England -1 vs. Chargers, Kansas City -1 vs. Denver
The past two weeks haven't offered many teasers to cross through the key numbers of 3 and 7, but the Week 8 board offers a surplus of options, with the pick of the week honing in on two of the best teams in the league playing on their home turf.
In the first leg, claims of the Patriots' defense being back after a 23-7 win in the Super Bowl rematch may be exaggerated, but the New England defense doesn't have to be "back" to be good enough in this matchup. Even if this projected to be a 50/50 game - and the scales tilt much more heavily than that in the Patriots' favor, as the 7-point spread implies - the Patriots might manage to beat the Chargers 60% of the time, given the late-game poise (or lack thereof) we've seen from these respective teams over the years.
The Chargers are also heading into their bye week, making this game a free roll in a sense - even if they bring their "A" game it's an uphill battle to win in Foxboro, and if they've spent the week preparing with one foot out the door as their mid-season vacation approaches, New England could feast on them.
The second leg of the teaser finds the Chiefs in a strong spot. Andy Reid is a mastermind off a bye, and while Kansas City played in Week 7 it was on Thursday night, meaning the Chiefs will take the field Monday night about as rested as we'll ever see an NFL team that didn't have a bye the previous week. On top of the extra time to prepare, Kansas City will come in with an axe to grind after the way things ended in that Thursday night battle in Oakland.
The Broncos, meanwhile, enter their second straight road game with the offense in a tailspin that threatens to put their season on the brink. Last week they only managed 4.3 yards per play against the Chargers, and the week before that it was less than 5.5 yards per play at home against the depleted Giants.
Not only has the Denver offense failed to make big plays lately, but it's been sloppy under Trevor Siemian - the Broncos have turned the ball over three times in each of the past two games, getting outscored 14-10 in the process without their defense even touching the field, as the offense and special teams units have each allowed a TD, with Siemian only leading one drive that ended in the end zone.
This level of offensive ineptitude has taken a toll on the supremely talented but overexerted Denver defense, making it fair value to tie Travis Kelce and the Chiefs to the Patriots in asking two superior teams at home to do little more than win outright.
Last Week: 1-1-1
Picks of the Week: 4-2-1