Thursday Night Football Betting: Has the Spread Gotten Too Big?

Last year, Thursday Night Football was a bit of a bloodbath thanks to a lot of uncompetitive games. So far this year, the games were tight in Weeks 1 and 2, but we got a lopsided affair in Week 3.

What will we see tonight as the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to play the Cincinnati Bengals?

The host Bengals are 7.5-point favorites with the over/under at 46.5 points, per NFL odds.

Let's dive into what we think could be some interesting betting angles for this contest.

How Have These Two Fared?

Our nERD-based metrics don't exactly point to either team being headed to the Super Bowl this year. We rank the Bengals 17th and the Jags 31st. It's been just three games, so there's no reason to get too jazzed up -- there's a lot of time to improve.

There's definitely more room for optimism with Cincy, who opened as favorites this week for just the second time since the start of last season.

Rookie Ja'Marr Chase has become the ninth NFL receiver to grab a touchdown pass in each of his first three career games, quickly reconnecting on that college chemistry he displayed with signal-caller Joe Burrow. And the Bengals' defense has been improved, sitting fourth-best overall and number-one against the run.

But while Burrow has tossed seven touchdowns through three games, he has rated out poorly by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, recording a mark of -0.03 Passing NEP per drop back. That ranks just 24th among quarterbacks, with Burrow's three-pick day at the Chicago Bears in Week 2 dragging down his overall numbers.

For the Jaguars, Trevor Lawrence hasn't set the world on fire, either. He owns a mark of -0.14 Passing NEP per drop back, which ranks 31st among the 32 passers with at least 40 drop backs this season.

If Jacksonville is going to get a win, they need to take better care of the ball. They lead the NFL -- not in a good way -- in both turnovers (9) and turnover margin (-8).

Bets to Consider

As I mentioned early on, the Bengals are a 7.5-point favorite, and the total is at 46.5 points.

We really like Jacksonville's odds of covering the 7.5-point spread, expecting them to do so 57.43% of the time. That's a two-star bet, per our algorithm.

We also see plenty of value on the total. Our projected total is 43.63 points. We give the under a 58.13% chance to win out.

In the player-prop market, I'm into the over Joe Mixon's combined rushing and receiving yards prop, which is set at 104.5 yards (with -110 on the over). Mixon has played at least 74% of the snaps in every game in 2021 and has accounted for all but six of Cincy's running-back carries. We project him for 108.9 total yards.

Historical Betting Trends

-- Jacksonville has lost their last 18 games.
-- Cincinnati has been a great cover bet of late, going 7-2-1 against the spread in their last 10 home contests.
-- While our algorithm likes the under, the over has hit the last six times the Bengals were favored.