Each week throughout the NFL season, we’ll take a look at the three biggest public plays on the board and speculate what the public sees and why they are betting a particular side.
We’ll also be tracking these plays throughout the year to see how Joe Public is faring in the NFL.
Last Week: 2-1 ATS
Season: 4-2 ATS
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LIONS @ TITANS, 1 P.M. ET
Open: Detroit -3
Current: Detroit -3.5
Public Betting %: 83% on Detroit
What they see: Viewed before the season as the main threat to Houston in the AFC South, the Titans are rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the worst teams in the league after blowout losses to New England and San Diego to open the year. Meanwhile, the Lions have that combo of Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson that hasn’t caught fire yet but will always have bettors drooling.
Analysis: Right now, Chris Johnson can’t run, Jake Locker can’t throw, and the Tennessee defense can’t stop anybody.
It’s not an encouraging combination, especially going up against a Lions team that won’t want to fall to 1-2 and dig themselves a hole in the NFC North.
But in the Week 3 look-ahead lines, Tennessee was actually a 1-point favorite in this matchup. What did we see from Detroit in the first two weeks to justify a 4-point shift in this spread? It seems like there’s at least a couple points of value in the home underdog here, but proceed at your own risk.
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49ERS @ VIKINGS, 1 P.M. ET
Open: San Francisco -6
Current: San Francisco -7
Public Betting %: 80% on San Francisco
What they see: The 49ers are the new public darlings of the league after back-to-back wins against Green Bay and Detroit to open the year, and they’re 14-3-1 against the spread since Jim Harbaugh took over last season. At this point, the public doesn’t need to see much else.
Analysis: San Francisco clearly has Minnesota outclassed here when it comes to coaching and talent, which explains why so many people love them laying right at or less than a touchdown.
But is there a let-down element that could be in play?
The Niners opened with two gargantuan wins against top-notch competition to cement themselves as one of the Super Bowl favorites, and now they’re playing in a nondescript game against a mediocre opponent in a 1 p.m. ET game that will feel like 10 a.m. to them.
It could be a sluggish game, but if anyone is capable of keeping his team focused, it’s Harbaugh.
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STEELERS @ RAIDERS, 4:25 P.M. ET
Open: Pittsburgh -4.5
Current: Pittsburgh -3.5
Public Betting %: 82% on Pittsburgh
What they see: The Steelers are usually a pretty popular pick, particularly on the road against weaker opponents where you don’t have to lay near as many points as you would at home.
Analysis: Oakland is quickly becoming another one of those teams that the public wants no part of until they prove that they’re more than the “Darren McFadden Show” on offense. The problem is, even a talent like McFadden can’t do anything in this offense, averaging right around 2 yards per carry.
That’s not a good sign going up against a Steelers defense that—although it’ll be without Troy Polamalu and James Harrison—ranks seventh in the league and still has enough playmakers to give opposing quarterbacks fits.