Pick of the Week
WAS +105 @ DET
CAR +110 @ NYG
Pick of the Week
WAS +105 @ DET
CAR +110 @ NYG
Tennessee Titans (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)
In week 1, the Bills went into Los Angeles and beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Rams in a blowout, winning 31-10 in a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 11.04% and the yards per play battle by 3.44, despite the fact that the Rams were in a great spot as defending Super Bowl Champions in a home opener, a situation in which teams had covered in 12 of the 17 previous instances. A lot of the talk after that game is about how the Rams were overrated coming into the season, but I think the bigger takeaway is how good the Bills are.
Coming into the season, I had the Bills winning 13 games, winning the AFC, and ultimately losing in the Super Bowl, but I think even that might have been underrating them. The Bills finished the 2020 season with the #1 ranked offense in efficiency, finished last season #1 in defensive efficiency, with a 5th ranked offense, and always had the potential to be a truly dominant team on both sides of the ball this season, even if I wasn’t expecting them to necessarily be that good. I don’t think it’s an overreaction to consider the Bills the clear Super Bowl favorite right now, as a result of that game.
The Titans, meanwhile, lost their home opener against the Giants, losing by 1 point on a late 2-point conversion as 5.5-point home favorites. The takeaway for some from that game might be that the Giants are better than expected, but I think that game said more about the Titans than the Giants. The Giants are almost definitely going to remain a below average team this season, but the Titans might not be much better, if any better than them.
The Titans finished last season at 12-5, but they ranked just 19th in team efficiency, benefiting from a 6-2 record in one-score games and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that would be tough to maintain long-term. They especially struggled without AJ Brown last season, which is a problem because they traded him this off-season and, while they have Robert Woods and Treylon Burks to replace him, they still figure to miss Brown significantly. On top of that, they lost a pair of starting offensive linemen and top edge defender Harold Landry, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
This line shifted from Buffalo -7.5 on the early line last week to Buffalo -10 this week and, while we’ve definitely lost line value as a result of that, I don’t think that line movement is an overreaction and we’re still getting a little bit of value with the Bills, who I have calculated at 11.5-point favorites, with the public maybe not quite realizing how good the Bills are or how much worse the Titans are likely to be this season than their record last season would suggest.
The Bills do have some important injuries, missing top cornerback Tre’Davious White as well as their top interior defender Ed Oliver and his likely replacement Tim Settle, but the White missed the opener against the Rams as well and the Titans aren’t healthy either, not only missing Harold Landry, but also a pair of would-be starting cornerbacks Elijah Molden and Kristian Fulton, so we’re still getting some line value with the Bills.
That being said, I can’t take the Bills with any confidence this week because the Titans are likely to have the emotional edge. While the Bills just won one of their biggest games of the season and were practically anointed Super Bowl favorites on national TV, the Titans just lost to a team that was expected to be one of the worst in the league, so they could be overlooked, which happens to be when the Titans tend to play their best football.
Since Mike Vrabel took over in 2018, the Titans are 14-9 ATS after a loss, 15-7 ATS as underdogs of more than a field goal, and 7-2 ATS as underdogs of more than a field goal after a loss, which is the case this week. The Bills are still my pick for pick ‘em purposes, but we might not see their best effort this week, while the Titans are likely to play one of their better games of the season, so, even though we’re getting line value with the Bills, they are one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.
Buffalo Bills 31 Tennessee Titans 20
Pick against the spread: Buffalo -10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at New Orleans Saints (1-0)
Last week, I bet on the Buccaneers as 2.5-point road favorites in Dallas because of how well Tom Brady led teams have done as underdogs or favorites of 3 or fewer in his career. The Buccaneers covered, pushing Brady’s career ATS record to 58-28 when not favored by 3 points or more, and they now are 2.5-point road favorites again this week, this time in New Orleans. That’s down from Tampa Bay -3 a week ago on the early line, a significant shift, given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly three points.
In another game where Brady’s team just basically just has to win to cover, it would seem to make sense to pick them again, but this is not nearly as sure of a thing as last week, for a couple reasons. For one, the Saints have had a lot of success against Brady in his tenure with the Buccaneers and, still with a dominant defense, they could easily do so again this week. That’s especially true because of the Buccaneers’ injury situation, which is the second reason this isn’t as sure of a thing as last week.
Having already lost left guard Aaron Stinnie and center Ryan Jensen to injury this season, the Buccaneers will now be without talented left tackle Donovan Smith this week with an arm injury he suffered last week. With Shaq Mason replacing Alex Cappa at right guard this off-season, the Buccaneers now have just one offensive lineman from last season left and not nearly as good of an offensive line as a result. On top of that, they have a receiving corps that is missing Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown from the last couple years and that now will be without Chris Godwin, who is out with a hamstring injury suffered in the opener.
Between Smith and Godwin going down in the past week, it’s perfectly reasonable that this line moved off three and in fact this is right where my calculated line is. The Buccaneers still have a strong defense of their own and could win this game as a result, but Tom Brady will have his work cut out for him against the Saints defense, given the issues around him on offense right now. I’m still taking the Buccaneers, expecting them to sneak out a close, low scoring victory, but this pick is only for pick ‘em purposes and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was a Saints upset victory.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 New Orleans Saints 17
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5
Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at San Francisco 49ers (0-1)
The 49ers lost last week as big road favorites against a Bears team that was expected to be one of the worst in the league. The 49ers had a lot of injury issues last week, the game was played in the pouring rain, and the 49ers won the first down rate battle (+0.31%) and yards per play battle (+1.30), with the game swinging on turnovers and big plays, which are not as predictive week-to-week as first downs and yards, but I still have concerns about them going forward, especially given how bad the Bears were expected to be.
Part of the concern is that is because the 49ers are still far from fully healthy. Stud tight end George Kittle could return this week after missing week 1, but he’s unlikely to be 100% and could be on a snap count even if he does play, while top cornerback Jason Verrett, top safety Jimmie Ward, and starting center Daniel Brunskill remain out, while top running back Elijah Mitchell joins them this week. Brunskill’s absence is especially a problem because the 49ers are already down a pair of offensive linemen from a year ago, with Laken Tomlinson signing with the Lions and Alex Mack retiring. Add in inexperienced quarterback Trey Lance struggling thus far in his first stint starting over proven veteran Jimmy Garoppolo and, all in all, the 49ers are not the same team right now that they’ve been in recent years.
Given that, we’re getting good value with the Seahawks as 9-point road underdogs. The Seahawks had the emotional edge on their side in their week 1 win over the Broncos, playing at home on Monday Night Football against their former quarterback, and the Broncos are not as good as the general public thinks, with a defense that is likely to not be as good as a year ago, but the Seahawks’ upset win last week probably was not a fluke, as I expected them to be a competitive team coming into the season.
In some ways, this Seahawks team reminds me of when Pete Carroll first took over, when they went 7-9 with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst as their starting quarterbacks in his first season, before finding Russell Wilson in the following year’s draft. The 49ers should still win this game, but my calculated line has them as just 6.5 point favorites, giving us good line value with the Seahawks. Unfortunately, that emotional win last week could put the Seahawks in a bad spot this week, as teams tend to struggle after big home upset wins, covering the spread at just a 41.6% rate all-time after winning as home underdogs of 5 points or more. For that reason, this is a no confidence pick, but the Seahawks are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes.
San Francisco 49ers 24 Seattle Seahawks 16
Pick against the spread: Seattle +9
Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) at Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
The Bengals lost the turnover battle by five at home against the Steelers last week and still could have won the game on numerous occasions if not for losing their long snapper, leading to several missed kicks that would have won the game. That’s because they won the first down rate battle and the yards per play battle by 11.36% and 0.22 respectively, which are much more predictive week-to-week than turnover margin. They should be more than fine going forward, especially with Joe Burrow likely to be better than he was last week, in his first game back after off-season surgery.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting a good opportunity to get good line value with the Bengals after that loss, as this line has shifted from favoring the home team Cowboys by 2.5 points last week to now favoring the visiting Bengals by 7 points, as a result of the Cowboys’ blowout loss to the Buccaneers and the loss of quarterback Dak Prescott with injury. That being said, we are still getting at least a little line value with the Bengals, as the Cowboys offense is just that bad right now and not just because Prescott is out.
Already down two starting offensive linemen in free agency, they are also without left tackle Tyron Smith and now are without replacement left guard Connor McGovern, with both players injured, while their receiving corps, which already lost Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson this off-season, is also without wide receiver Michael Gallup due to injury right now. I’m not confident enough in the Bengals to bet on them as touchdown road favorites, as Cooper Rush could be better than expected against a Bengals team that doesn’t have a lot of tape on him and that could get caught off guard by him, like the Vikings were last season in Rush’s first career start, but the Bengals are still the right side for pick ‘em purposes.
Cincinnati Bengals 24 Dallas Cowboys 16
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -7
Atlanta Falcons (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (0-1)
The Rams were blown out on national television in the first game of their Super Bowl defense last week, but I think that had much more to do with their opponents, the Buffalo Bills, being a dominant team than it had to do with the Rams being significantly worse than most expected them to be coming into the season. The Bills finished the 2020 season with the #1 ranked offense in efficiency, finished last season #1 in defensive efficiency, with a 5th ranked offense, and always had the potential to be a truly dominant team this season, even if I wasn’t expecting them to necessarily be that good, particularly because they were in a very tough spot on the road against a defending Super Bowl Champion at home in week one.
The public who watched that game seemed to have another takeaway, as they prefer the underdog Falcons in this matchup, even as the odds makers have dropped this line from 13.5 on the early line last week to 10 this week. I normally like to fade significant week-to-week line movement like that as it tends to be an overreaction to a single week of play and this situation is no different. The public may also like that the Falcons kept it close with the Saints last week, which could erroneously lead the public to believe the Falcons are not one of the worst few teams in the league, but the Falcons were at home last week, the Rams are a much tougher opponent, and that game being so close could work against the Falcons this week, as they could be flat after blowing a big quarter 4th lead and barely losing to a big divisional rival.
The Rams, on the other hand, should be fully focused after being embarrassed last week and are 16-10 ATS off of a loss in the Sean McVay era. They’ll be without center Brian Allen and could be without edge defender Leonard Floyd, but I still have them calculated at 13-point favorites, as the Falcons just don’t have the talent to take advantage of the Rams’ injuries or any of their weaknesses, unlike the Bills, who are arguably the best team in the league and certainly played like it a week ago. The Falcons, conservely, are likely to play like arguably the worst team in the league this week. This isn’t a huge play, but the Rams are definitely worth a bet this week.
Los Angeles Rams 27 Atlanta Falcons 13
Pick against the spread: LA Rams -10
Carolina Panthers (0-1) at New York Giants (1-0)
The Giants pulled the upset in Tennessee last week, winning by 1 point on a late 2-point conversion as 5.5-point road underdogs, but I wasn’t terribly surprised by that and I think it had a lot more to do with the Titans being overrated than the Giants being underrated. The Titans finished last season at 12-5, but they ranked just 19th in team efficiency, benefiting from a 6-2 record in one-score games and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that would be tough to maintain long-term. They especially struggled without AJ Brown last season, which is a problem because they traded him this off-season and, while they have Robert Woods and Treylon Burks to replace him, they still figure to miss Brown significantly. On top of that, they lost a pair of starting offensive linemen and top edge defender Harold Landry, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
The Giants, meanwhile, are likely to be below average on both sides of the ball this season and, while they’re not quite one of the worst teams in the league, they’re also not healthy right now, missing wide receivers Wan’Dale Robinson and KaDarius Toney, left guard Shane LeMieux, edge defenders Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux, and cornerback Aaron Robinson. The Panthers aren’t a great team or anything, but they’re healthier and I have them about three points better than the banged up Giants in my roster rankings, so we’re getting value with them as underdogs in New York, even if they’re only underdogs by 2-points. There isn’t quite enough here for the Panthers to be worth a bet against the spread, but the money line is a good value at +110 because the Panthers should be at least considered 50/50 to win this game, if not slight favorites.
Carolina Panthers 20 New York Giants 19 Upset Pick +110
Pick against the spread: Carolina +2
Arizona Cardinals (0-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (0-1)
Coming into the season, I thought the Cardinals were one of the most overrated teams in the league, but their week one blowout loss to the Chiefs seems to have soured the public’s opinion on them, as this line shifted from favoring the Raiders by just 2.5 points on the early line last week to now favoring them by 5.5 points this week, a significant shift given that close to 25% of games are decided by 3-5 points. That’s despite the fact that the Raiders lost last week in Los Angeles against the Chargers.
The Chargers are one of the better teams in the league and the Raiders won both the first down rate (4.87%) and yards per play (+0.25) battle, only losing by 5 because they lost the turnover battle by 3, which is not nearly as predictive week-to-week as first downs and yards per play, but we’ve lost almost all line value with the Raiders in this game since the early line last week, especially since the Raiders will be missing a trio of key players for the first time this season in this game, with talented safety Trevon Moehrig, top linebacker Denzel Perryman, and starting center Andre James all out with injuries. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are expected to get top interior defender JJ Watt back from injury. My calculated line is Las Vegas -6, so we’re still getting some line value going against the Cardinals, but not nearly enough to be at all confident in the banged up Raiders.
Las Vegas Raiders 33 Arizona Cardinals 27
Pick against the spread: Las Vegas -5.5
New England Patriots (0-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
I went 4-3 with my bets last week. The Dolphins/Patriots and Steelers/Bengals games were my two biggest plays that lost, but both games swung significantly on the turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week. The Patriots lost by 13 in Miami, but they lost the turnover battle by three and only lost the yards per play battle by 0.18, while winning the first down rate battle by 0.85%, which are both significantly more predictive week-to-week than turnover margins. The Steelers, meanwhile, needed a +5 turnover margin and an injury to the Bengals’ long snapper to win by three in overtime, in a game in which they lost the first down rate battle by 11.36% and the yards per play battle by 0.22.
Coming into the season, I thought the Patriots were an underrated team and the Steelers were an overrated team and last week did nothing to change my opinion on that significantly, given how the games were decided. Both plays likely would have hit (Bengals -6.5 and Patriots +3.5) if both teams played turnover neutral football. If anything, the Steelers are now more overrated and the Patriots are more underrated, with this line not moving significantly from the early line a week ago, favoring the visiting Patriots by only a couple points, despite the Steelers losing edge defender TJ Watt, arguably the most valuable defender in the league.
The general consensus seems to be that they can’t believe the Patriots are favored at all, as the public is all over the underdog, but the Patriots are at least a decent team that should be favored by a significant amount, even on the road, against a team with one of the worst offenses in the league and a defense that will be significantly worse without it’s most important player. My calculated line has the Patriots as 6.5 point favorites, so I like them a lot in a game in which they basically just need to win to cover, especially since the Steelers could be in a look ahead spot, after an exhausting overtime win last week, now facing an 0-1 opponent, with a divisional Thursday night game against the Browns on deck next week. This is my top play this week, hoping for better turnover luck than I had in these two teams’ games last week.
New England Patriots 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 16
Pick against the spread: New England -2
Confidence: Pick of the Week
Miami Dolphins (1-0) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
Coming into the season, I thought the Dolphins were an overrated team. They should be significantly better on offense than a year ago, with Tua Tagovailoa going into his third season, with Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson being added to his receiving corps, Chase Edmonds being added to his backfield, and Terron Armstead and Connor Williams being added to his offensive line, but they’re starting from a pretty low base point, ranking 26th in offensive efficiency last season and if Tagovailoa doesn’t take a big step forward, the Dolphins are likely to be a middling offense at best.
The Dolphins had a solid defense last season, ranking 11th in defensive efficiency, and they return all of their key players from a year ago, but they could still be worse, losing defensive minded head coach Brian Flores and likely to have more injuries than a year ago, when they had the fewest adjusted games lost to injury on defense. The injury bug has already damaged this group in a significant way this season, knocking starting cornerback Byron Jones out for the start of the season, a big absence in this game.
The Dolphins won their week 1 game against the Patriots, but the turnover battle was a big part of that, as they were +3 in that department, leading to a 20-7 win, despite only winning the yards per play battle by 0.18 and losing the first down rate battle by -0.85%. Yards and first downs are much more predictive than turnovers, so I didn’t come away from the Dolphins week 1 game with my mind being significantly changed about this team. That being said, it’s hard to take the Ravens this week with any confidence, given their injury situation.
The Ravens are likely to be without left tackle Ronnie Stanley again, with his backup Ja’wuan James now also injured as well. Running back JK Dobbins is likely to return, but backup Gus Edwards is still out, while their defense remains without Tyus Bowser, David Ojabo, and could be without their top-3 cornerbacks, with Kyle Fuller tearing his ACL week 1, Marcus Peters still questionable at best to return from last year’s ACL, and top cornerback Marlon Humphrey highly questionable after getting injured in practice this week and not practicing at all on Friday. I’m still taking the Ravens unless all of their injured players are out, but it’s a no confidence pick, with this line (Baltimore -3.5) being exactly where I would have it, given all of the Ravens’ injuries and injury uncertainty.
Baltimore Ravens 24 Miami Dolphins 20
Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3.5