New York Jets (4-2) at Denver Broncos (2-4)
A week ago on the early line, the Broncos were 3.5-point favorites, but this line has since shrunk to favor the Broncos by only one point. Normally I like to fade significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but I don’t think that’s the case here, for a couple reasons. For one, Broncos’ quarterback Russell Wilson suffered a hamstring injury and, while it seems unlikely that he will actually sit out this game, Wilson was already struggling through a shoulder injury and struggling to adapt to his new team, so a hamstring injury won’t help matters. On top of that, if Wilson does sit, the Broncos would have to turn to inexperienced backup Brett Rypien, who is one of the shakier backup quarterbacks in the league.
The Broncos already rank just 31st in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, due to Wilson’s struggles, as well as significant injuries to key players around him, including left tackle Garret Bolles, running back Javonte Williams, and wide receiver Tim Patrick. The Broncos have played pretty well defensively, ranking 6th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but offensive performance is significantly more predictive week-to-week than defensive performance and, in terms of overall efficiency, which weights offensive performance higher and includes the Broncos 28th ranked special teams, the Broncos rank just 29th, 7 points below average. That lines up with my roster rankings, which have them 6 points below average, even before taking into account the fact that Wilson could sit this game out entirely.
The second reason that I don’t think the line movement is an overreaction is that I don’t think the Jets’ big upset win in Green Bay last week was a fluke. The Jets’ still have an underwhelming offense, ranking 27th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, but they are still three points better than the Broncos in that metric and they have been better with quarterback Zach Wilson and left tackle Duane Brown back in the lineup. On top of that, their special teams has remained dominant, ranking 3rd in schedule adjusted efficiency, after ranking 2nd a year ago, and their defense is significantly improved this season, ranking 5th in schedule adjusted efficiency after ranking 31st last year, with several key players bouncing back from injuries (Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams) and other key players being added in the draft (Ahmad Gardner) and free agency this off-season (DJ Reed, Kwon Alexander).
In terms of overall efficiency, the Jets rank 13th, about a point above average and, while my roster rankings have them slightly lower, they’re still only a half point below average, so their surprising performance thus far this season doesn’t seem like a fluke. They might not be quite as good as their 4-2 record, but I think the public thinks their record is a complete fluke and I think the line movement we’ve seen in this game over the past week is just the oddsmakers starting to catch up to the Jets being decent more than it is an overreaction. With the Broncos struggling as much as they’ve struggled thus far this season, my calculated line actually favors the Jets by a field goal on the road, so we’re getting good line value with the Jets +1. That calculated line would shoot up even further if Wilson was actually unable to play. This isn’t a big play, but I want to lock this line in now in case Wilson ends up being ruled out.
Update: Russell Wilson was ruled out today. I figured the line would move to favor the Jets by a field goal in that case, but I guess the original line factored in a pretty significant chance that Wilson would be out, as the Jets are only favored by one point, which is pretty insignificant line movement, given that games decided by exactly one point aren’t that common (about 6% of the time). Obviously if you locked your bet in at +1, that is great, but I would recommend an additional bet at -1 because this line is way too low. Brett Rypien is one of the most underwhelming backup quarterbacks in the league, has an underwhelming supporting cast, and will have to face a good Jets defense without the benefit of a full week of first team reps, having split them with Wilson all week. The Jets should win this game relatively easily.
New York Jets 20 Denver Broncos 13
Pick against the spread: NY Jets -1