- Dave Tuley, ESPN Insider
LAS VEGAS -- We're seven weeks into the NFL's 17-game regular-season schedule.
My against-the-spread record in this weekly column stands at 24-24-1 as I went 3-4 ATS last week. I'm certainly not proud of that as 50/50 loses money in this game, but I'm emboldened by the fact that it could be worse. The LVH SuperContest's top five most selected teams each week are a combined 8-26-1 ATS (23.5 percent) while the consensus on all games heading into Thursday night's Panthers-Buccaneers contest was 41-64-1 ATS (39 percent), so it's been a rough start of the season for a lot of bettors -- squares and sharps alike.
I'm also encouraged because this is usually the time of year when my "dog-or-pass" philosophy usually has its best results. Even last year, after I had cooled off from a 28-11 ATS (71.8 percent) start through Week 5, I went 19-13 ATS (59.4 percent) in the four weeks starting with Week 8, a win percentage I would certainly welcome now. This is usually due to the fact that we see a perceived wider disparity in the haves and have-nots of the league and start to see lines get inflated, giving the dogs a bigger window in which to cover.
This week is hopefully a great example, as there are 12 games remaining on the Sunday/Monday schedule and half of them have a point spread of a touchdown or more. However, I don't advise betting anything blindly, so I'll still try to be selective and isolate the most live underdogs and pass on the others. As we do every week in this space, we'll see what the public is thinking, what the wiseguys are thinking and then give my take on each game.
Programming note: I'm no longer eligible for ESPN.com's "Streak for the Cash" contest, but they've asked me to suggest some plays. This is different from picking games against the spread (especially because they mostly have you pick games straight up, and the games are closer to pick 'em), but it's all about win percentages/odds, so I'll tackle those at the end of the column. Good luck.
Last week: 3-4 ATS | Year to date: 24-24-1 (50 percent) ATS
Note: Consensus pick percentages as of late Thursday night.
Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Spread: 49ers -16.5
Public consensus pick: 69 percent picked 49ers
Public perception: The first game in the betting rotation is the biggest spread of the week. It'll be interesting to see how much the public gets involved. Two weeks ago, oddsmakers opened the Broncos minus-28 against the Jaguars and the public -- despite making it the most talked-about spread so far this season -- mostly stayed away as they weren't willing to back the Jaguars at any price but also weren't willing to lay that many points with the Broncos. The ESPN Pick Center has the public supporting the 49ers at nearly 70 percent, but we'll see if that turns into actual wagers.
Wiseguys' view: The sharps bet the favored 49ers from the opening line of minus-15.5 at the LVH and minus-14.5 offshore all the way up to 17, and then there was buyback on the Jaguars as the line has settled at 16.5. The wiseguys probably won't get involved unless it gets to 17 again.
Tuley's Take: Double-digit underdogs are 8-5 ATS (61.5 percent) so far this season, and of the four such spreads this week (with the Packers-Vikings being a possible fifth), this is the one I like best. My power ratings have this closer to a 13-point spread on a neutral field, which this is (Wembley Stadium, London). The Jaguars had started playing better with the return of wide receiver Justin Blackmon from suspension, but then put up a clunker last week in a 24-6 loss to the Chargers. Hopefully we will see the same effort they gave in covering against the Broncos.
The 49ers have covered four straight games, but they looked like they took the foot off the gas last week after getting up big on the Titans and I'm hoping they do the same this week and will be content with a comfortable two-score win (10-14 points) as they begin their extended vacation.
Dave Tuley offers a Week 8 ATS pick on every NFL game, including public perception and wiseguys' views.