NFL Week 2 Picks
By Zach Zaffos (Twitter: @zachzaffos)
Season To Date Against the Spread (ATS):
Best Bets: 1-0 (100%)
Units: 2-1 (67%)
All Bets: 1-1 (50%)
Week 1 Recap:
Best Bet (2 units): MIAMI (+1.5) OVER Tennessee
Two-Team Teaser (1 unit): NEW ORLEANS (-3) OVER Tampa Bay; BALTIMORE (-1) OVER Buffalo
We were forced to wait out 7 hours and 10 minutes of lightning strikes in Miami, but the Dolphins did not disappoint – leading us to our first best bet win of the season in Week 1. Conversely, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs eviscerated our teaser down in New Orleans. Despite that, we will certainly take a week in the green any day, and twice-on Sunday’s.
Moving on to Week 2, we have an intriguing phenomenon to consider when placing our wagers. While Week 1 is all about handicapping which teams are over and undervalued to start the season (which we did quite nicely in our over/under win total column re: Tennessee under and Miami over), Week 2 is about determining where and to what extent the market overreacts to Week 1 results. How will we evaluate how the market reacted to Week 1 results, you may ask? Look-ahead lines!
For those of you who don’t know, some sportsbooks post spreads weeks in advance (a simple Google search will provide you Week 3 lines if you want to look ahead). Given that we can tangibly see the difference of Week 1’s impact on the market by comparing the look-ahead lines posted prior to Week 1 to the actual lines posted after Week 1’s completion, it is easy to spot some overreactions. Don’t get me wrong; having some reaction to Week 1 is justified. But let’s remember: Week 1 is just a data point to consider; it doesn’t tell the entire story.
Before we get to the picks, though, I’d like to share a topical story from this past Tuesday, when I asked my girlfriend (a New York native who can name about four total NFL players) to predict which team I would take as my “best bet” this week. Her response?
“Of course, the Dolphins. Because everyone saw the Jets play really well last night and they’re going to think it’ll happen again.”
Sometimes, it’s just that simple. Let’s get to the picks. (HOME teams in all caps).
Miami (+3) OVER NEW YORK JETS – 2 units
For some context, let’s quickly point out that on Monday night at 7:00 p.m., this line was a pick’em, but just three-and-a-half hours later (following the 48-17 Jets victory in Detroit), the line skyrocketed to NYJ -3. While we’ll concede that any NFL road win is impressive, especially one by 31 points, there are reasons to think this one won’t tremendously change the Jets’ 2018 outlook. For starters, the Detroit coaching staff looked absolutely lost, and it was reported that the Jets actually knew Matthew Stafford’s signals at the line of scrimmage. It’s hard to imagine Miami not changing its signals this week in order to avoid falling prey to another Spygate scandal.
Furthermore, Detroit’s miscues masked the fact that the New York’s offense did not look as good as you’d think. Rookie QB Sam Darnold made an awful mistake to start the game, and did not eclipse 200 yards passing overall. I’d expect an up-and-down performance from him rather than knowing with any sort of certainty that he’ll perform like an upper-echelon QB (at least for now). Finally, the Jets ripped off a punt-return for a TD, an interception-return for a TD, and a 62-yard TD run (in addition to three more interceptions which were not returned for touchdowns) in Week 1. Not to take anything away from Todd Bowles and Co., but a lot of these big plays happened in garbage time when the Lions were pressing for a last-ditch comeback effort (and thus appear to be unrepeatable).
On the other side of the field is a Miami Dolphin team that was encouraging in Week 1, but did not attract the same kind of public attention with its performance. In fact, most people would say that the most notable part of the ‘Fins Week 1 was either Marcus Mariota’s injury, or the lightning strikes that extended the game. However, I saw a nice, solid performance from the underrated Ryan Tannehill coming off injury from last season, and I still believe the Dolphins are being slightly undervalued.
For the reasons above, coupled with an extra day of rest for Miami, I like the road-underdog Dolphins plus an overinflated point spread versus an overconfident New York team.
OTHER BETS I’LL DABBLE WITH
NEW ORLEANS (-9) OVER Cleveland (1 unit)
Those of you who know me are well aware that I typically despise swallowing the points. However, there are a couple of trends that make me believe the Saints are a juicy play here. Let’s start with our main Week 2 concept mentioned above: the look-ahead lines.
Prior to last week’s game, the Saints were expected to be a 10-point favorite over Cleveland. On the surface, following a Saints loss and Browns tie (and cover of the spread), a one-point adjustment doesn’t seem unreasonable. Yet when we get into the details, it’s pretty clear there was a market overreaction here.
Let’s start with the Browns, a team that finished with a plus-5 turnover differential at home last week and still could not break its 624-day winless streak. While Hue Jackson led Cleveland to its best Week 2 record since 2004 (seriously), the tie here was a demoralizing result for the win-starved franchise, which is now going to hear the “here we go again’s” and the “only the Browns’” all week long. While you’d expect some teams to get fired up to overcome that adversity, the institutional issues in Cleveland lead me to believe the Browns won’t be one of those teams.
Doubly, the Saints, with a nearly 40-year old Hall of Fame QB and a win-now mentality, have had a week to ponder an absolutely abysmal defensive performance in Week 1. For years, the Saints defense was a laughingstock, but it actually was an above-average unit in 2017, primed for further improvement in 2018. While Week 1 was certainly concerning, I don’t believe one week proves this is the Saints defense of old. Moreover, New Orleans, a team that truly believes it is a Super Bowl contender, will be that much more motivated to pour it on the lowly Browns this week. We’ll take New Orleans and swallow the points.
Side note: New Orleans is an excellent teaser candidate this week, as well.
CINCINATTI (+1) OVER Baltimore (1 unit)
Last but not least, we have a bet on Thursday Night Football, where the Ravens, coming off a 47-3 drubbing of Buffalo, come in to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. Many are going to be quick to back Baltimore here, but let’s not allow Nathan Peterman’s performance last week against the Ravens to cloud our judgment, because the well-coached Ravens are notorious for beating up on weak competition while struggling against tougher oppositions. Yes – the Ravens are 10-7 since last season, but listen to the quarterbacks they’ve beaten in that time span (Dalton, Kiser, Manuel, Moore, Hundley, Savage, Stafford, Kiser again, Brissett, and Peterman). Note: Baltimore also lost to Dalton once in that timespan as well. I liken this team to the NFL’s version of the San Antonio Spurs – consistent, well coached, but with a limited ceiling now that its prime has passed.
Furthermore, there is an interesting Thursday Night Football trend that bolsters our opinion of Cincinnati in this spot. Historically, the limited preparation associated with TNF games has favored home teams. In fact, over the past three seasons, home teams are 26-18 against the spread (59%) on Thursday nights, which is consistent with the results that have occurred since TNF originated back in 2006.
Give me the underrated Bengals at home against a Baltimore team that generally plays poorly on the road.
There we have it – our Week 2 picks are in the books. Good luck to us all and may the picks be with us.