Pick of the Week
MIA +125 @ NYJ
Pick of the Week
MIA +125 @ NYJ
Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (1-0)
This is the toughest game of the week to predict just because we don’t know what kind of shape Aaron Rodgers is going to be in. Rodgers came back in the second half last week after sustaining a knee injury and led the Packers back from down 20 to win the game, but he barely practiced at all this week and the oddsmakers are not buying that he will be at full strength and make it through the whole game, hence why the Packers have opened as 2.5 point home underdogs. That’s tied for the most points the Packers have gotten in a home regular season game with Aaron Rodgers under center since 2009, as the Packers are a ridiculous 33-6 at Lambeau since 2012 in regular season games Rodgers starts and finishes.
Of course, their opponents this week have something to do with the line too, as they face a Minnesota team that is one of the best in the NFC. Making matters even worse for Rodgers, the Vikings have a tremendous pass rush and were the team that essentially ended his season with a broken collarbone last season. They would be a tough matchup even with a healthy Rodgers, but I would have this line at Green Bay -3.5 if Rodgers was fully healthy, so we’re getting 6 points of line value to compensate for Rodgers’ uncertainty. Given that, I’m going to take the Packers this week, but I can’t take them with any confidence.
Minnesota Vikings 24 Green Bay Packers 23
Pick against the spread: Green Bay +2.5
Arizona Cardinals (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
This was the biggest line movement of any game this week, as the Cardinals went from 8.5 point underdogs on the early line last week to 13 point underdogs this week. The Rams did post the 5th best first down rate differential of any team in the league in a 20 point win in Oakland, while the Cardinals posted the 2nd worst first down rate differential in a 18 point loss at home to the Redskins, but the Raiders are a mediocre team, while the Redskins are solid, so I don’t understand why the line shifted so much. I have the line calculated at -11, so we’re getting some line value with the Cardinals at 13. It would take a lot for me to bet against the Rams right now, but the Cardinals are the pick for pick ‘em pool purposes.
Los Angeles Rams 31 Arizona Cardinals 20
Pick against the spread: Arizona +13
Seattle Seahawks (0-1) at Chicago Bears (0-1)
Before the season started, I had the Seahawks making the post-season. They almost made it last season and their offensive line and running game would likely be better and their defense was still solid, despite some of the big names they’ve lost. However, the Seahawks are now dealing with a lot of injury problems. One stud linebacker KJ Wright missed week 1 with injury and is now expected to miss week 2 as well, while fellow stud linebacker Bobby Wagner will also be out this week. On top of that, starting cornerbacks Shaq Griffin and Tre Flowers could both be out with injury and, on the offensive side of the ball, #1 receiver Doug Baldwin is out with injury.
Despite that, this line has stayed still at 3 points in favor of the hometown Bears, which suggests these two teams are about even. The Seahawks did not play well in Denver last week, finishing with a -9.80% first down rate differential and just 13 first downs to Denver’s 25, despite only losing by 3 points, and they figure to struggle even more this week, given all of the players they are missing. The Bears are still a top-10 team in terms of talent with the addition of Khalil Mack, despite their late game meltdown against the Packers. I still don’t fully trust Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, but they’ve improved their scheme and talent around him and they have a great defense, so this line is too good to pass on.
Chicago Bears 24 Seattle Seahawks 15
Pick against the spread: Chicago -3
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)
The Buccaneers pulled off the biggest upset of week 1, going into New Orleans and beating the reigning NFC South champs by 8 points as 10 point underdogs. How well 35-year-old backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played in the absence of the suspended Jameis Winston was a big surprise, but it wasn’t a surprise that the Buccaneers were able to play the Saints competitively. Despite a tough schedule and despite Winston being out or limited with injury for half of the season, the Buccaneers were still better than their 5-11 record in 2017, going just 2-7 in games decided by 7 points or fewer and finishing 12th in first down rate differential at +1.13%. Before the Winston suspension, I considered the Buccaneers a sleeper in the NFC.
Last week’s win in New Orleans moved this line significantly, with the Eagles going from being 6 point favorites to 3.5 point favorites, which makes the Buccaneers a much less attractive bet. Fitzpatrick is no guarantee to continue playing well, given his age and history of inconsistency, and the Buccaneers are also missing their top-2 cornerbacks with both Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves out with injury.
The Buccaneers also had a negative first down differential last week, despite the win (-2.54%). Their offense (50.00%) played well, but their defense was horrendous (52.54%). Nick Foles and the Eagles’ offense should find it much easier to move the ball this week than in their opener against the Falcons, especially given the Buccaneers’ injuries at cornerback. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers’ offense faces a much tougher test this week against the Eagles’ defense than last week in New Orleans and Fitzpatrick could easily regress. I’m still taking the Buccaneers for pick ‘em purposes, but there’s no line value with them at 3.5, so they’re not worth a bet.
Philadelphia Eagles 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +3.5
New York Giants (0-1) at Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
The Cowboys are one of the more shorthanded teams in the league right now. A promising young defense is missing it’s best interior pass rusher David Irving with a suspension and one of it’s most promising young players safety Xavier Woods with injury, while their offense is not nearly the same without All-Pro center Travis Frederick, who remains out indefinitely with a rare illness. Dak Prescott has not shown the ability to play well when he doesn’t have a strong supporting cast and, with the offensive line being a shell of it’s 2016 self and the receiving corps losing both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, he does not have a strong supporting cast right now and the defense isn’t good enough to compensate.
The Cowboys lost their opener 16-8 in Carolina last week, against an also banged up Carolina team that should have been beatable for the Cowboys, who typically play well on the road. Now the Cowboys return home, but they haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years. While they’ve done well on the road as a result of a national fanbase, going 36-29 on the road (37-28 ATS) since 2010, they are just 32-34 at home (24-42 ATS) over that same time period.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, they don’t have a tough opponent this week, with the Giants coming to town. Casual bettors seem to think the Giants are much improved this year because of the return of Odell Beckham and the addition of Saquon Barkley, but they still have major problems on the offensive line and at quarterback and their defense is not nearly as good as it was when they made the postseason in 2016, especially with Olivier Vernon out for the start of the season. This line is only 3 points, so the Cowboys should be able to cover, but I wouldn’t recommend betting them.
Dallas Cowboys 26 New York Giants 20
Pick against the spread: Dallas -3
Houston Texans (0-1) at Tennessee Titans (0-1)
The Titans had a pretty terrible week 1, not just losing in Miami against the kind of team they should beat, but also having quarterback Marcus Mariota, tight end Delanie Walker, and left tackle Taylor Lewan go down with injuries. Walker is out for the year with a broken ankle, Lewan is out for at least this week with a concussion, and, while Mariota is expected to play, he is at less than 100% with an elbow injury and may rotate with backup Blaine Gabbert, who was predictably horrendous in Mariota’s absence last week.
Not only do I expect Gabbert to struggle if he has to play, but Mariota has never shown the ability to play well while injured in the past. Whoever plays quarterback will also have to deal with the absence of one of the best pass catching tight ends in the league and the absence of arguably the top starting offensive tackle duo in football, as Lewan joins right tackle Jack Conklin on the sidelines, with Conklin still rehabbing from a torn ACL.
All that being said, I am not confident in the Texans as 3 point road favorites in this one. Deshaun Watson did not look like the same quarterback in his return from a torn ACL in the Texans’ week 1 road loss to the Patriots and the Titans have a solid defense, especially with their top-2 draft picks Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry returning after missing week 1 with injury. The Titans have enough pass rush to give this weak Houston offensive line trouble all day and put Deshaun Watson in more tough throwing situations. The Texans should be able to win, but this might not be that easy.
Houston Texans 20 Tennessee Titans 16
Pick against the spread: Houston -3
Cleveland Browns (0-0-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)
I’ve gone back and forth on this one all week. On one hand, the line didn’t move from last week to this week, despite the Saints losing at home to the Buccaneers and the Browns tying the Steelers. The Saints remain 9.5 point favorites. On the other hand, that line seems about right. The Saints’ defense struggled mightily in the opener, but their offense played very well and they actually had an overall positive first down rate differential at +2.54%. The Buccaneers got a return touchdown, but the Saints and Buccaneers had an even amount of first downs and offensive touchdowns (26 and 5) and the Saints did it on 3 fewer plays.
The Browns aren’t in a good spot here either, as they just played close to 5 quarters and will have to turn around and play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football at home against the Jets. The Browns are being cautious with their injured players this week as a result, with both wide receiver Josh Gordon, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, and linebacker Christian Kirksey already ruled out. The Saints aren’t in a good spot either, as the face the Falcons in Atlanta next week, but they should be focused after last week’s loss. This is a no confidence pick and the Browns could easily keep it close or get a garbage time backdoor cover, but the Saints are the pick here for pick ‘em pool purposes.
New Orleans Saints 34 Cleveland Browns 24
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -9.5
Miami Dolphins (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)
Everyone saw the Jets get a big 48-17 win on Monday Night Football last week and I think they’re a little overrated as a result of it. The Jets finished with just the 7th best first down rate differential at +5.94% and didn’t have a touchdown drive of more than 6 plays all game, benefitting from short fields off turnovers (5 takeaways), big plays on offense (2 touchdowns of 40+ yards), and return touchdowns (2 return touchdowns), all of which tend to be fluky and inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Sam Darnold is going to have growing pains as a rookie and the rest of their roster has significant problems, especially at edge rusher and on the offensive line.
The Jets also open the season in a really tough spot, opening on Monday night week 1 and then being scheduled for Thursday night week 3, meaning they have to play 3 games in 11 days. Teams typically struggle before a Thursday night game, as favorites are just 47-66 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2012, but the Jets could be especially flat in this “sandwich” game between a big Monday Night Football win and another game in 4 days.
I wanted to make a bet on the Dolphins against the spread in this game earlier this week, but then it was announced that Josh Sitton needs season ending shoulder injury. The Dolphins’ offensive line looked passable for the first time in years last week thanks to the addition of Sitton this off-season, so that’s a big loss. This line is just 3 points and didn’t move at all for the Sitton news, so I don’t think we’re getting enough line value for a bet against the spread. The money line at +125 is worth a small bet, as this game is close to a toss up, but the Jets could easily win by a field goal because Miami is a mediocre team without Sitton.
Miami Dolphins 24 New York Jets 23 Upset Pick +125
Pick against the spread: Miami +3
Detroit Lions (0-1) at San Francisco 49ers (0-1)
I typically like to go against significant week-to-week line movement because it usually is the result of public overreaction, but I’ve agreed with most line movements this week. This game is one exception. The 49ers have gone from being favored by 3.5 to being favored by 6 in this home game against the Lions, as a result of the Lions’ embarrassing 48-17 home loss to the Jets on Monday Night Football week 1.
The Lions definitely had a bad week 1, but they didn’t not play as badly as the final score suggests. The Lions only lost the first down rate battle by 5.94% (7th worst in the NFL last week), which is not good, but not as bad as the final score. The Jets actually had fewer first downs overall (20 to 18) and didn’t have a touchdown drive of more than 6 plays all game, benefitting from short fields off turnovers (5 takeaways), big plays on offense (2 touchdowns of 40+ yards), and return touchdowns (2 return touchdowns), all of which tend to be fluky.
The Lions will have defensive issues all season, as they did last year, but their offense should be better this week, after Matt Stafford had one of the worst games of his career last season, suffering numerous injuries and throwing 4 interceptions (backup Matt Cassel provided the 5th interception). The 49ers’ defense is not that good without Reuben Foster, so this is a relatively easy matchup. I thought this line was too high last week at 3.5 and now at 6 I think the Lions are worth a bet. I have these two teams about even in my rankings, so we’re getting about 3 points of line value with the visitors.
San Francisco 49ers 26 Detroit Lions 24
Pick against the spread: Detroit +6