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Betting on Bad Games

The idea started percolating on a quiet Thursday night back in week three of the NFL season.  Carolina Panther’s star running back, Christian McCaffrey, had limped off the field early in the game only to be replaced by some guy named Chuba Hubbard.  The Houston Texans relied on a rookie quarterback named Davis Mills to keep the game close.  And I sat there watching despite not caring about either team, and not having any players starting on my Fantasy roster, until finally heading upstairs around halftime.

Carolina would end up winning the game 24-9.

Thursday Night Football originated as a ratings play for both the NFL and the NFL Network.  If fans were interested enough to tune in on Sundays, Sunday evenings, and Monday nights, why not give hungry audiences one more taste with lousy matchups on a Thursday.

The truth is, I don’t have much of an appetite for Thursday Night Football.  Or at least I didn’t until I had an epiphany.

I should bet on the game.

The concept of betting on football is hardly a fresh idea.  And I did toy with the thought of writing a weekly article that handicapped all sixteen games or so, analyzed the matchups, picking winners based on the spread.  But there were too many games to breakdown, too many injuries and COVID-19 protocols to track, and most importantly, my article deadline is generally on Monday and published a day or two later.

Who wants to read about game predictions that already happened?

Which is why the Thursday Night Football game is the perfect bad game to bet on.  One game to analyze.  One game to focus on.  One game to keep interesting by placing a wager.  I am more than satisfied with College Football dominating my Saturdays.  There are more than enough options to entertain me with Pro games on Sundays.  Monday Night Football is always a treat with outstanding predetermined matchups.

As for Thursdays?  Not only could I care less about Minnesota (5-7) hosting Pittsburgh (6-5-1), but I am not even sure if Thursday is the last game of week 12 or the first game of week 13.  But since my Thursday bad game betting policy was implemented soon after that week three snoozefest, along with my winning record (7-2) and payoffs, it has become my favorite game of the week.


  • Taking a look at the Thursday Night Football betting trends we don’t find that much. The Favorite has covered six times, and the underdog has covered six times.
  • The Home team has won six times, and road team has won six times.
  • But an interesting note has the Over only covering three times as the Under has covered the other nine, suggesting that the short week and lack of practice has meant less scoring than expected.
  • Minnesota doesn’t offer too much either in terms of trends either. The team is 6-6 against the spread after losing to the Detroit Lions (1-10-1) last Sunday and are 3-2 at home.
  • Pittsburgh is 5-7 against the spread after defeating the Baltimore Ravens (8-4) on Sunday and are 2-3 playing on the road.
  • Injuries could play a large role in the game as Minnesota looks to play without their star running back, Dalvin Cook, who is listed as out with a bad shoulder. And wide receiver, Adam Thielen, left Sunday’s game with a high ankle sprain and is listed as questionable.
  • The line has moved from Minnesota being a four-point favorite before Sunday’s action, to now only being a three-point favorite, suggesting the betting money is moving towards Pittsburgh.
  • Minnesota has played in many close games this season with 8 of their 12 games being decided by four points or less.


In betting terms, a three-point home favorite is considered a virtual toss-up as the home team is often given points simply for being at home.  Minnesota’s loss to the winless Detroit Lions has most likely eliminated their chances for a playoff spot, while flaming the rumors of a coaching change following the season.  Kirk Cousins has been very good but tends to fold when the pressure or spotlight is on him.  Too many injuries and too many close games to give up three points.

Pittsburgh was fortunate to get a win over Baltimore but their playoff hopes are still alive.  Mike Tomlin will have the Steelers prepared for the short week.  Ben Roethlisberger is a major concern coming off a short week, but he’s also better equipped to go off a short script than his counterpart.

Take the Pittsburgh Steelers (+3).


To bet large amounts of money on a Thursday Night Football game against these two teams suggests that you have a gambling problem. Betting less than $10, especially considering the cost of inflation, isn’t motivating enough to keep you up past halftime.

Bet $20.  Enough to entice you to care, and yet, not enough to cry over if I’m wrong.

Images via behindthesteelcurtain.com, fineartamerica.com, dailynorseman.com, tvline.com, si.com, viking.com

Alan Tapley The Athletic Supporter

Alan Tapley is an educator, author, and blogger who has lived just outside of Boulder for the last twenty years.  His published work includes two novels, two children’s books, a series of cartoons in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and multiple sports related articles. His love for family and the state of Colorado is only matched by one thing, his passion for sports.  The first baseball game he ever attended was at Wrigley Field, before there were lights.  At the final Bronco game at the old Mile High, he allegedly cut out a piece of his seat in the South stands.  But regardless of being here for the Avalanche’s last Stanley Cup, the Rockies only World Series appearance, and all the Broncos’ Super Bowl Victories, his wife never fails to remind him that he wasn’t at the University of Colorado in 1990, like she was.  The year the Buffs football team won the National Championship

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