Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have accounted for seven of the past 15 MVP awards but are leading the NFL's two most underachieving teams. And the betting market is struggling to keep pace with the decline.
Rodgers will be a double-digit underdog for the first time in his career when the Green Bay Packers visit the Buffalo Bills (-11) on Sunday night. Rodgers had won and covered 10 straight games following a loss, but Green Bay is currently riding a three-game skid and is a -190 favorite to miss the playoffs.
"They have zero wide receivers and tight ends," SuperBook head NFL oddsmaker and Las Vegas veteran Ed Salmons told ESPN, adding that the point spread would be 6.5 if this matchup occurred a few weeks ago, when Green Bay was 3-1. "Rodgers also has a bad thumb and it's obvious he's not throwing like he's 100%."
Professional bettors often back teams coming off a poor performance or two, hoping to seize value on a team that figures to rebound. However, they have not backed the Packers at Orchard Park, even though they did back Brady on Thursday. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened as home underdogs to the Baltimore Ravens but closed as favorites in a Baltimore win.
"Brady playing at home against a defense that's been anything but stout is much different than Rodgers on the road against probably the best team," professional bettor Jay Romano told ESPN. "They were completely different spots for two quarterbacks facing a pivotal week for their seasons, as well as possibly their careers."
It's difficult enough to wrap my head around these legendary quarterbacks combining for six straight losses. Any amount of denial points to how avoidable it all was. Green Bay and Tampa Bay each held halftime leads in two of those losses.
The NFL's margin for error has always been narrow, but it still feels like these guys are barely hanging on, so I am not rushing to the window to back them. I'm waiting to see flashes of their vintage selves before I believe they still have the magic.
The numbers you need to know
I have often discussed derivative betting lines, which represent quarters and halves. These odds are derived from the full-game odds and sometimes we can uncover edges if the analysis highlights a certain angle. Specifically, the Philadelphia Eagles lead the NFL in first-half points, point differential and time of possession. That domination has helped them hold a halftime lead in all six games, including covering all first halves. Now, the question is whether we think that continues off a bye week.
Every bettor has their own philosophies. Personally, the bye is the last thing I would want for undefeated Philly. The Eagles have been rolling along and certainly seemed like they had an ideal rhythm. That may continue against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but we often see rust off a bye. Thus, I am reluctant to back them in the first half (-6.5) against Pittsburgh.
Line move of the week
The Tennessee Titans are the latest team to switch quarterbacks. Rookie Malik Willis will make his first career start, replacing the injured Ryan Tannehill. As you would imagine, the betting market adjusted. Tennessee went from a short road favorite to one-point underdog. This all stems from a very sharp betting group wagering on the Houston Texans +2.5 and under 40 in the same game. Naturally, the market adjusted.
As I have expressed repeatedly, there are different classifications of respected bettors. Each sportsbook has their own methods to the madness, tracking and evaluating all bettors. They essentially handicap the handicappers. That's the beauty of technology.
Often there are respected bettors on both sides of a game. It happens. Based on my sources, here is what I would say are the sharpest plays for Sunday: Texans +2.5, Patriots -1.5, Rams +1, Broncos +2.5 and Titans-Texans under 40.