New York Giants (1-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-1)
If you haven’t read Jason Whitlock’s article about how hypocritical Roger Goodell is pretending he cares about player safety, while simultaneously expanding Thursday Night Football to a season long thing and trying to expand the season to 18 games, here it is. It’s a very good read and yet another reason to hate Thursday Night Football. You may be thinking, how can you hate Thursday Night football? It’s another night of football. Yes, but it’s also sloppy football and if it’s a good matchup, it’s cheating us out of the opportunity to watch it under normal circumstances.
Last week it was Packers/Bears, two bitter rivals and two of the better teams in the National Football League, and what we got, because it was on Thursday, was a sloppy mess of two tired and unprepared teams. If that game had been on Sunday Night football or Monday Night football or time slot other than Thursday Night Football, it would have probably have been one of the best games of the week. Instead, it was painful to watch.
If you don’t believe me, look at the over/under record for as far back as there is data (1989). Since 1989, the over has won 50 times and the under has won 66 times. These are typically games that are much lower scoring than they are expected to be and than they probably should be, and on top of that, it risks injury for players playing tired. Roger Goodell has never played football. He doesn’t understand that, or maybe he just doesn’t care.
The one good thing about Thursday Night Football, it’s pretty easy to make money off of if you’re a bettor. I mentioned the over/under trend, I’m basically going to be betting the under on every Thursday Night game for the rest of the season and history suggests I’ll win at a rate of about 57%. The total for this game is a whopping 51 and I don’t give these teams much of a chance to reach that, especially with the Giants playing banged up offensively (more on that later). I rarely bet over/under, but I’m putting a unit on the under this week.
The other easy way to make money off Thursday Night Football is just to bet the home team. It makes sense. When you have just 3 days to prepare for a game, every day counts and if you have to spend half a day or a full day travelling, you’re at a huge disadvantage. Since 1989, the home team has covered 66 times, to 46 for the road team, which is about a 59% clip. I loved this trend last year and I went against it last week, only because I had a good reason. The Packers had really struggled the week before and the Bears had not, so the Packers would have more to work on during the week and be at a bigger disadvantage on a short week. Apparently not. From now on, I’m taking the home team on Thursday Night unless I have a very good reason not to and even then, I wouldn’t bet heavily on the road team like I did last week.
So do I have a good reason this week? Well, there are a few things working in the Giants’ favor. For one, they’re a much better road team than home team over the past few years. I love exploiting home/away disparities. I very rarely bet on the Seahawks on the road and almost always bet on them at home. Before last year, I did the opposite with the Dolphins, though that seems to no longer be the case. The Giants, meanwhile, are 38-18 ATS on the road since 2006 and 22-30 ATS at home. On top of that, they’re a much better team in the 1st half of the season than the 2nd. They’re 41-26 ATS during the first 9 weeks of the season under Tom Coughlin, and straight up, they’re 48-18 in their first 8 games under Tom Coughlin, as opposed to 27-37 in their last 8. The other good thing working for the Giants is that they’re road favorites here and road favorites are actually 23-20 ATS on Thursday Night.
However, this is a tough spot for the Giants on a short week as favorites before being dogs, going into Philadelphia next week. Favorites before being dogs are 43-59 ATS since 2011. The Giants could be very flat this week on short rest against the “lowly” Panthers with a huge game in Philadelphia on the horizon. The Giants are also incredibly banged up. Ahmad Bradshaw is out and Tom Coughlin doesn’t trust the rookie David Wilson yet, so Andre Brown will start at running back for them. Meanwhile, wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon are both out and Coughlin doesn’t trust the rookie Reuben Randle, so Ramses Barden will draw the start opposite Victor Cruz. The injury situation is not nearly as bad for the Panthers. Jonathan Stewart is looking like a game time decision, but they have plenty of running back depth to compensate.
Leading off of the Giants’ injuries, there’s also a lot of line value here. The line has barely moved in spite of all these injuries and I think there was line value to begin with. The Panthers should probably be something like -2 or -3 here at home, especially on Thursday Night. I don’t think the difference between the Panthers and the Giants, when banged up this bad, is that different. Yards per play is the single most accurate measure of how a team is playing. The Panthers rank 2nd in yards per play differential, while the Giants’ yards per play differential is negative. I know it’s been just two games, but the schedules have been pretty even between these two teams. Both have played Tampa Bay, but Carolina went to Tampa Bay and New York got them at home, while Carolina has hosted New Orleans and the Giants have hosted the Cowboys.
I’m not necessarily saying the Panthers are a better team than the Giants, but they’re pretty equal with them right now with the Giants having all of their injuries and they should be able to cover as home dogs on Thursday Night, with the Giants possibly being more focused on the Eagles in Philadelphia next week. One final thing, rather than putting 3 units on the spread and 1 on the money line as underdogs, I’m putting all 4 on the money line. 1 point games account for about 2% of NFL games and even then, it’s a 50/50 chance that the Panthers win by 1. I don’t want to pay the extra 20 cents to get protection from a 1 point Giants win, which has about a 1% chance of happening.
Public lean: NY Giants (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Carolina covers)
Carolina Panthers 24 New York Giants 20 Upset Pick +105 4 units
Pick against spread: Carolina +1.5 (-115) 0 units
Over/Under: Under 51 (-110) 1 unit