NFL Picks: Undervalued Handicapping Angles

Jason Lake

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 7:26 PM GMT

It's fine and dandy to use a contrarian betting strategy when making your football picks. But where do recreational bettors get it wrong? It isn't just about the glamour teams.

If we've said it once, we've said it 1,000 times: Contrarian betting is the way to go when you're making your NFL picks, or any sport for that matter. The difference between a team's “actual” quality on the field and its perceived quality in the marketplace is where you'll find your profit margin. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out where the betting public is getting it wrong.

The easiest place to look is with the glamour teams. As a rule of thumb, recreational bettors invest way too much in high-profile, large-market clubs, without taking the time to properly evaluate them. But let's take things a step further and look at some key areas on the field of play that bettors tend to overlook – starting with our old friends, the NFL's untouchables.

 

I'm Special
Is there anyone more under-appreciated in the league than a special-teams player? A yard is a yard is a yard, whether it was gained on a beautiful passing play or during an otherwise nondescript punt return. Take, for example, the Philadelphia Eagles, who won 10 games in 2013 and again in 2014. They went 8-8 SU the first year, and 9-7 ATS the second. What was the difference? Perhaps it was on the punt return, which improved dramatically with the arrival of Darren Sproles (39 returns for 506 yards and two TDs). And don't forget about Josh Huff and Chris Polk (one TD apiece) on kick returns.

 

None Shall Pass
No doubt we're all familiar with the Seattle Seahawks and their Legion of Boom secondary by now. This is a rare example of a team's pass defense getting a piece of the spotlight; usually, if people think about defense at all, they think about a guy like Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt getting 20 sacks a year. That's valuable, of course, but don't sleep on the yeoman work that cornerbacks and safeties put in across the league. Nothing correlates to winning in today's NFL more than passing, so the teams that excel at defending the pass will do a better job of beating the NFL odds.

 

I Walk the Line
We definitely can't talk about contrarian betting without mentioning the offensive line. This aspect of football has gotten a bit more attention over the past decade, but that's been mostly within the sharper football community. Consider the Dallas Cowboys; they found their mojo again last year at 12-4 SU and 10-6 ATS, but while people were gushing over RB DeMarco Murray and WR Dez Bryant, it's the investments Dallas made in the draft with LT Tyron Smith (No. 9 overall, 2011), center Travis Frederick (No. 32, 2013) and RG Zack Martin (No. 16, 2014) that have the Cowboys back in Super Bowl contention. We must protect this house.