Well, that was…that was not good. The first week of the NFL season was not one for the record books – or the eyes for that matter. Big matchups failed to live up to the hype and projected stinkers stunk more than usual. Guys that were supposed to have big days (I won’t mention any names-Cam Newton, Le’Veon Bell, Adrian Peterson) were quiet as church mice.
Just to give you an idea of how odd this week was take these into account. The Rams scored the most points on the week, tossing up 46 on the pathetic Colts who have become the cautionary tale for snitching. The Jaguars absolutely mauled the Texans and the Patriots of all teams lost at home.
It was that kind of week. The good news is the first week jitters are over. We have much more of an understanding of where teams will settle. Carson Palmer and the Cardinals for example downgraded from fringe playoff contenders to washed has-been contenders. On the flip side the Rams could be much better than any could have expected.
If Week 1 hit you with a prime Mike Tyson right hook to the groin like it did to me, now is not the time to cry about it. Dust yourself off, reflect and adjust. See what you did wrong and make sure you don’t make the same mistake again. You know who makes the same mistakes over and over again? (Add something)
Three Point Stance
Each week we’ll take a three point stance that will cover key takeaways from the past week and how to use this information to bet better moving forward. In the aftermath of an erratic Week 1, remember:
I. Don’t underestimate the nitwit head coach-feeble quarterback duo.
Let’s take an unpleasant trip down to the NFL’s anus–known to most as the AFC South. Here you will find the league’s village idiots of head coaches. Let’s start with Bill O’Brien in Houston. His bad QB is Tom Savage, but his decision is nontheless to ride with the docile veteran over the spry rookie Deshaun Watson. Mind you the team traded up in the first round to land Watson. Still, O’Brien insisted all summer that Savage would be his guy to start the season.
If this sounds familiar it’s because it is. O’Brien has done this same musical chair routine with Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer as well as Brock Osweiler and Savage. At some point the problem can’t be the quarterback, but instead the quarterback “guru.” O’Brien is a guru in the same way Jim Caldwell is a master of public speaking.
O’Brien is the new Jeff Fisher, living off the outlier season where he was great. That was his sole season at Penn State. Sure, it was great but it’s time to close the yearbook already. O’Brien’s indecisiveness spotted the Jaguars 19 points on Sunday. Even if you have Aaron Rodgers back there that is a recipe for disaster. Watson figures to be the guy moving forward so taking the Texans is not the worst thing in the world.
The Colts however are a different story. As long as Andrew Luck is out the team is stuck with Jacoby Brissett, who is actually not bad. Last week some had the displeasure of watching the flaccid Scott Tolzien bumble the team into an early deficit with one of the most pathetic pick sixes I have ever seen. Brissett was much better considering he was acquired a week ago which is not enough time to learn the offense. He will get better each week.
Chuck Pagano on the other hand will not get better. He might be the worst coach in the league right now. Whether this is by design– trying to pull a George Costanza– or legitimate impotence, it’s glaringly obvious he is not good at his job right now. Against the Rams he literally gave away six points when he did not challenge what appeared to be a touchdown for the Colts. Bet against the Colts while you can. With no Luck for the next couple of weeks this is as close to free money as there is.
II. Context is meaningless.
This sounds obvious in hindsight, but the result of each game is independent to that day. Narrative is nice for fluff pieces or talk show segments, but when has a team won strictly for having the more compelling reason to? Last week I made this rookie mistake. I picked the Saints, Texans and Titans to win outright (as well as cover) not based solely on the teams, but their narratives.
In the Saints game I went with the revenge story. Adrian Peterson didn’t leave Minnesota on bad terms, but who doesn’t like flexing on their ex? I talked myself into a big game from AP which would have resulted in a big game for Drew Brees. Instead, AP was thwarted by that killer Vikings defense and the Saints did a whole lot of nothing.
I followed a similar formula with the Texans but lucky took the points. Had I gone money line on that guy my pockets would be considerably lighter. My reasoning for siding with the poo poo platter of Tom Savage and Bill O’Brien was the city of Houston. It’s become too easy to watch the Saints’ first game since Katrina and think every team can do it. Spoiler, they can’t. What the Saints did that night was special, but most importantly it was independent of the narrative. They were simply better than the Falcons that night. On Sunday the Jaguars were the better team.
Finally we stay in the AFC South but venture north to Nashville. The Titans are a solid football team. It was not unreasonable to see them win and cover. It is unreasonable to refer to the close game they played against the Raiders last year for this year’s result. Rookie mistake and I own up to it. This isn’t WWE, there is no 50/50 booking going on. The Raiders were the better team a year ago and even better this year. Judge each game on the personnel present and you’ll be just fine.
III. Take the points until further notice.
If you took the under for all the Sunday games then you likely had filet mignon with some avocado toast on Monday. The under was 10-2 as the offenses, who are usually the dominant unit early in the season, struggled to score points. Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Julio Jones, LeSean McCoy and any other offensive star you can think of combined for zero touchdowns.
Are defenses just that much better? It’s not out of the question, Danny Kelly of The Ringer wrote a great piece on why that could be the case. If that is what’s going on then gear up for an ugly fantasy season. On a positive note this could be a blessing in disguise for gamblers.
When dissecting a game the choice on who to pick could be tough. If you have to split hairs then taking the points is the safest way to do so. Last week the Steelers failed to cover their 9.5 spread against a Browns team they are considerably better than. The impotence on offense could just be a one week thing but until you see consistency from any offense it would be wise to take what Vegas gives you.
On to the fun stuff. There is money to be made but also a lot of stay away games. Which games are the ones you want to throw on a parlay or just bet on in general? Here are some that I like. Home teams are in CAPS.
Patriots (-6.5) over SAINTS
How shocking was a Patriots loss to start the season? It was only the fourth time Tom Brady lost game one. The previous three all led to Super Bowl seasons so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Thanks to their stumble out of the gate they are given a favorable spread against a Saints team that is not very good.
Brady did not throw a touchdown pass last week. Rob Gronkowski dropped a strike in the end zone which is the thing Pats fans are really worrying about. If Gronk is truly on the decline then Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan will have to step it up. Stefon Diggs was able to get loose on the Saints secondary so Cooks should have a big day. In the run game Mike Gillislee and James White provide Brady with a thunder and lightning pairing to keep the defense honest.
On the Saints side, there are more question marks. Who is at the top of the food chain in the backfield? Is Michael Thomas ready to be the top option in an offense? Can Drew Brees carry this team on his back yet again? Brees will have his way with the Pats defense who were sauteed by Alex Smith. Look for Coby Fleener to have a big day as the Achilles heel of the Patriots defense is their linebacking core. Dont’a Hightower is a stud, but after that is there even a player worth mentioning?
At the end of the day Brady has the better team and is Brees’ superior. Given the respectable spread the Patriots should get back on track.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Saints 27
Vikings (+5.5) over STEELERS
Nothing about the Steelers’ win in Cleveland was good on the eyes. Le’Veon Bell was unable to generate anything on the ground. Luckily they are supplied with two guys who are the best at their position and Antonio Brown had a day. He did not reach the end zone but Brown racked up 182 yards on eleven receptions. Despite the explosion the Steelers were unable to put the Browns away.
The Vikings are considerably better than the Browns, familiarity on the Browns part included. They are coming off an impressive Monday night win against the Saints. Sam Bradford once again had a strong start to his season. The weapons around Bradford are solid and the defense is stellar.
Regardless of who you got this figures to be a close game throughout. If Bell had trouble finding running room he’s going to feel like he’s in the middle of Manhattan during rush hour Sunday. The Vikings surrendered just 60 yards on the ground last week and the Saints were rotating fresh legs. Bell is the best in the business but even he cannot be expected to dominate such a strong defensive line.
Ultimately I got the Steelers winning this one. Brown, Bell and Ben Roethlisberger are still good enough and savvy enough to get the tough win.
Prediction: Vikings 23, Steelers 26
Cardinals (-7) over COLTS
We’ll keep this short. The Colts absolutely stink. Chuck Pagano is a joke of a coach (see above for more) and Andrew Luck is out. Jacoby Brissett should be under center but in the event Scott Tolzien is there then this becomes the lock of the day. The Colts pack an offensive punch equivalent to being duffed by a teddy bear. The only credible players on the roster are T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Adam Vinatieri.
The Cardinals need this one badly after getting smacked up in Motown. They fell into an early lead before Matthew Stafford put his cleat firmly up the Cardinals’ ass. The Lions won the fourth quarter 20-6 and Carson Palmer looked like Cap Rooney from Any Given Sunday after he shattered his back. David Johnson will not be in the lineup but even without him the Cardinals should be decent enough to score three touchdowns which looks like six touchdowns when you’re facing that Colts offense.
Prediction: Cardinals 31, Colts 10
Bears (+7) over BUCCANEERS
Every season there is a team that is not very good, yet are extremely feisty. Last season it was the Titans and this year the Bears have the look of that team. Behind their phenomenal offensive line Jordan Howard and fantasy football waiver darling Tarik Cohen can find open lanes. They went toe to toe with the Falcons and had a chance to win that game to the very end.
We have yet to see the Bucs play, but I’ll admit I’m on the Jameis Winston bandwagon. Hard Knocks does this to us every year but Jameis is worth more than the hype. It’s clear that he is the leader and as long as he’s in the lineup you get the feeling the Bucs believe they can win. The additions of DeSean Jackson and rookie O.J. Howard will take attention off Mike Evans who quietly had another great season. The Jameis-Evans pairing is already good and could be on their way to taking that next step as a tandem.
Still, rust might play a factor in this one. Thanks to Hurricane Irma the Bucs had Week 1 off and will embark on a 16 week gauntlet. Each win counts so you can bet on them coming hard out of the gates looking to make the most of their fresh legs. They have the talent and the home field, but I still like the Bears to hang around.
Prediction: Bears 23, Buccaneers 27
The Other Guys
Browns (+8) over RAVENS
Bills (+7.5) over PANTHERS
CHIEFS (-5.5) over Eagles
Titans (-2) over JAGUARS
RAIDERS (-13) over Jets*
RAMS (-3) over Redskins
CHARGERS (-4.5) over Dolphins
Cowboys (2.5) over BRONCOS
49ers (+14) over SEAHAWKS
Packers (+3) over FALCONS
GIANTS (-3) over Lions
* Okay I’m breaking my own rule here so I have to justify. That single point is a huge difference for me. The Raiders were one of the few offenses that looked good last week. The Jets were competitive last week but the Bills do not possess the same firepower the Raiders do. Take a leap of faith with me if you’re brave enough, the Raiders are worth trusting.
Last Week: 5-9-1