Week 4 NFL Best Bets: Backing Two AFC Underdogs Against The Spread

Written By Eli Hershkovich on October 3, 2021
Week 4 NFL Best Bets

After going 4-1 with my plays last week (15-6 overall for 2021 NFL season), there’s only one direction we’re headed with my Week 4 NFL best bets: south.

Just kidding. Hopefully.

This time around, let’s dig into two games that have seen at least a four-point move against the spread since the preseason look-ahead lines.

That doesn’t mean that we’re always aiming to go against the market; the NFL is the most efficient betting market across all sports. But overreactions are still prevalent.

Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets

We plugged our noses in Week 3, and we’re back at it again for Week 4 NFL best bets.

For starters, rookie Zach Wilson has generated the NFL’s lowest expected points added per dropback (EPA/dropback). EPA is measured by expected points scored based on the down, distance, and field position at the start of a play — juxtaposed with the aftermath.

That’s even worse than what the Bears have pieced together with Justin Fields and Andy Dalton, and they tallied a single net passing yard against the Browns!

TeamEPA/Dropback
ARI0.269
ATL-0.130
BAL0.123
BUF0.128
CAR0.241
CHI-0.275
CIN-0.017
CLE0.157
DAL0.149
DEN0.429
DET0.017
GB0.174
HOU0.287
IND-0.054
JAX-0.174
KC0.357
LAC0.201
LAR0.477
LV0.257
MIA-0.139
MIN0.305
NE-0.085
NO0.166
NYG0.111
NYJ-0.372
PHI0.275
PIT-0.005
SF0.317
SEA0.213
TB0.162
TEN0.024
WFT0.001

Let’s take Wilson’s struggles into context, though. The BYU product has matched up against defensive masterminds Bill Belichick and Vic Fangio, along with Phil Snow’s up-and-coming Panthers defense. Each of these teams also own a top-six opponents’ EPA/dropback.

Moreover, the Titans — Wilson’s next test — are tied for No. 18 in that department. They’ve even allowed the second-highest opponents’ EPA per rush attempt.

If the Jets muster any semblance of a ground game in the Meadowlands, they’ll set up Wilson to have his best performance as a pro yet. You can question New York’s offensive line minus left tackle Mekhi Bechton (knee), but Pro Football Focus grades Tennessee as the sixth-worst pass rushing unit.

On the other side, Robert Saleh’s defense (10th-best opponents’ EPA/carry) has the tools to stymie Derrick Henry and the league’s No. 10 overall EPA/carry. Plus, the Titans will likely be without wide receiver A.J. Brown (hamstring), who’s considered week-to-week with the injury.

Given the preseason look-ahead line was Titans -3.5, I’ll back the smelly home underdog above a key number.

Eli’s Pick: Jets +7.5 (PointsBet — placed at noon ET on Monday, Sept. 27)

Best Current Line: Jets

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

The aforementioned Fangio has delivered the NFL’s lone 3-0 against the spread record to Mile High, ranking top six in opponents’ EPA/play and success rate (SR).

A play is deemed successful if teams produce:

  • 50 percent of the yards needed to move the chains on first down
  • 70 percent of yards to gain on second down
  • 100 percent of yards to gain on third or fourth down

But keep in mind, the Broncos have faced the Jets, Jaguars and Giants — all of which have produced a below-average red zone scoring percentage. Enter the Ravens, sitting No. 3 in that category.

Much of Baltimore’s offensive prowess begins on the ground, as Lamar Jackson & Co. place first in yards per rush attempt and boast the seventh-ranked EPA/rush. That’s setting up the duel-threat QB for NFL’s the fourth-highest play-action completion percentage (78.3%).

Although the Broncos’ pass defense is elite, they’re more susceptible against the run. The loss of outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (IR, ankle) should be a factor in this game.

Additionally, the Ravens’ own defensive struggles (No. 26 in opponents’ EPA/dropback) were mitigated with the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith, who’s elite in press coverage.

Teddy Bridgewater has attempted the third-most downfield pass attempts across the league, but there should be offensive regression coming against Baltimore’s strengthened secondary. Denver speedster KJ Hamler suffered a season-ending torn ACL as well, leaving Bridgewater without two of his top receivers in Hamler and Jerry Jeudy (IR, ankle).

John Harbaugh’s team was a three-point favorite on the preseason look-ahead line, and we’ll take the points yet again.

Eli’s Pick: Ravens +1.5 (DraftKings — placed at noon ET on Monday, Sept. 27)

Best Current Line: Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Green Bay Packers

I hit on this game in my NFL Week 4 underdogs piece as well. With the Steelers‘ offense seemingly healthier, along with linebackers TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith expected to play, we’re getting an inflated number.

While the 49ers’ front-seven couldn’t take advantage of the Packers‘ offensive line, the Steelers’ third-ranked pass rush (via PFF) should be a difference-maker with both David Bakhtiari (PUP, knee) and Elgton Jenkins (ankle) likely out.

Even with a limited Roethlisberger at the helm, give me the road underdog.

Eli’s Pick: Steelers +6.5 (PointsBet — placed at 5pm ET on Thursday, Sept. 27)

Best Current Line: Steelers

(Eli will be updating this post as he adds more bets to his own accounts. Check back for more of Eli’s Week 4 NFL best bets.)

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Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich