Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Some local sports books didn’t even open early enough in the morning to take gameday bets on the NFL’s regular-season games in London when they were first introduced 16 years ago.
Eventually, pretty much all the shops began at least minimally staffing the games by opening betting windows for an hour or two before the usual 6:30 a.m. kickoff. Sports books are now more or less full service for the contests with the league up to five European trips per year.
They’re going to need to be this week, as one the biggest games of this year’s regular season and all-time in the International Series kicks off at 6:30 a.m. when the Kansas City Chiefs face the Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt, Germany.
The Chiefs and Dolphins are currently the top two seeds in the AFC playoff picture, respectively, and top two choices to reach the Super Bowl out of the conference at +230 (i.e. risking $100 to win $230) and 4-to-1, respectively, at Circa Sports.
It’s second German game ever — following a 21-16 Buccaneers’ Week 10 win over the Seahawks as 2.5-point favorites in Munich last year — and anticipation is at an all-time high. Tickets sold out immediately, as more than a million people reportedly joined an online lottery trying to secure them.
The turnout won’t be anywhere that extreme in local sports books, but open seats should be rare for the all-important showdown where the Chiefs are laying 2.5 points on the spread.
Read below to find my handicap on Chiefs vs. Dolphins along with the rest of the Week 9 slate. Games are labeled in three separate confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses — with individual records attached. Lines are the best available in Las Vegas on the chosen side at publication time. The record for the year stands at 58-63-1.
Dallas Cowboys +3 at Philadelphia Eagles Dallas had two complete no-shows earlier this season — in losses to the 49ers and Cardinals — and yet still has a scoring margin 25 points higher than Philadelphia’s on the season. The occasional lopsided and erratic performance makes many people not want to bet on the Cowboys, but they’ve been the second-most profitable team in the league dating back three seasons (behind the Lions) and might have their best squad this year.
Buffalo Bills +2.5 at Cincinnati Bengals The betting market’s undying affection for the Bengals is tough to rationalize. They deserve credit for knocking off the 49ers 31-17 as 5-point underdogs last week but still were outgained by 1.5 yards per play in the contest and won by margin mostly by result of well-timed turnovers. Cincinnati should not be priced as one of one the four best teams in the league given their defensive struggles and overall ordinary statistical profile on the year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 at Houston Texans The Texans continue to get an undue amount of respect in the betting market considering they’ve now arguably been outplayed in three straight games despite eking out a 24-20 win at the Saints as 2-point underdogs three weeks ago. Their offense hasn’t looked nearly as sharp as it did in a brief two-game stretch where the Texans upset the Jaguars and Steelers on back-to-back weeks.
Carolina Panthers +3 vs. Indianapolis Colts The Colts had a real chance to be a surprise contender in the AFC South this season, but then injuries intervened. They’re now unequivocally one of the least-talented teams in the league and shouldn’t be a field goal favorite or more on the road to any team. Backup quarterback Gardner Minshew hasn’t played as well as his reputation indicates as he’s been highly sack- and turnover-prone.
Pittsburgh Steelers -2.5 vs. Tennessee Titans Tennessee rookie quarterback Will Levis had a sensational debut with 228 yards through the air on 19-for-29 passing, but most of it came on a handful of deep throws that caught opposing Atlanta off guard. Now with film on the Titans’ offense under Levis, Pittsburgh won’t be unprepared. Completing deep passes is also highly variable to begin with and doesn’t carry over week-to-week.
Atlanta Falcons -4.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings The Falcons’ defense has somewhat underachieved this season, and yet it’s still tied for sixth in the league in giving up only 4.9 yards per play. This is not an easy assignment for Minnesota rookie quarterback Jaren Hall’s first career start, and expecting trade-deadline acquisition Josh Dobbs to come in and save the day also seems misguided.
New York Jets +3 vs. Los Angeles Chargers The Jets’ offense is nothing special but it’s looked even worse this season by virtue of going up against a tough set of opposing defense. That changes here, as the Chargers are by far the easiest defense they’ve faced and rates 28th in the league by EPA per play.
Washington Commanders +3.5 at New England Patriots This line leapt as much as a point depending on the sports book after Washington dealt defensive line stars Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the trade deadline. Sweat is a very good, though not great, player and Young has mostly underwhelmed, making it unlikely they should be worth that much value to the point spread.
Las Vegas Raiders -1.5 vs. New York Giants Expect a spirited effort and a new look for the Raiders in their first game under well-liked interim coach Antonio Pierce and interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree. But even if the Raiders don’t play up a level in the contest, they’re still rated ahead of the Giants by both the DVOA ratings and expected points added (EPA) per play.
Kansas City Chiefs -2.5 vs. Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt, Germany The Chiefs might be down from the past couple years but it’s hard to pass on any opportunity to buy low on the best player in the world in Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City is highly unlikely to be as sloppy as it was in a 24-9 loss to Denver as 7-point underdogs last week for a second straight game, though its travel plans do make for some hesitation. Miami traveled to Europe earlier in the week, and teams that have taken that approach have typically fared better in these international games.
Arizona Cardinals +8.5 at Cleveland Browns Fully-cleared Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray must be pushing to play off the ACL injury he suffered last season, and who’s to say he doesn’t get his way? If he returns, this number will crash below 7. Even if he doesn’t, the Cardinals have a great chance to stay within the current number against an offensively-limited Browns’ side.
Seattle Seahawks +5.5 at Baltimore Ravens This number has reached +6 at other sports books nationally, but not in Las Vegas. Bettors should wait until that surfaces here if they want to back the Seahawks. Counting on anyone to slow Baltimore is a difficult proposition right now but Seattle’s defense has been one of the bigger surprises in the league, sitting tied for fourth in only giving up 4.8 yards per play.
Chicago Bears +8.5 at New Orleans Saints This line was -5.5 on last week’s lookahead, which was short enough for me to bet on the Saints, but it’s now swung too far through a key number the other way. New Orleans should win but laying a big number on it is not advisable with how many costly mistakes coach Dennis Allen and quarterback Derek Carr have made this season.
Green Bay Packers -3 vs. Los Angeles Rams The week of handicapping backup quarterbacks continues as this game comes down to how bettors believe the Rams’ Brett Rypien will fare in his first start of the season. The Boise State product’s limited playing time with the Broncos in previous seasons wasn’t promising. The number looks right, but may tip over to -3.5 by kickoff to make locking in a half-point discount the only approach at the moment.