Leans & analysis Wk 2
Leans & analysis

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Posted at 3:45 PM EST and are subject to change.

NFL Week 2

What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday. We’re intent on providing our We’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST

Sunday, September 18

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans +2½

1:00 PM EST. Week 2 provides some of the best betting opportunities of the year, as the market has seen every team or at least has the misleading information they desperately seek now that Week 1 has provided it. As a whole. you will not get a better overreaction week than Week 2, especially in games that involve teams that played in prime time in Week 1. Hello Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers dominated the lethargic Cowboys offense on Sunday night. There wasn’t a football bettor on the planet that didn’t watch that game unless they were puking blood. Dallas couldn’t move five yards while Tampa’s victory never looked in doubt. Tampa kicked Dallas’ ass all over the field while the Saints looked dead in the water to the Matt-Ryan-less Falcons for the first three quarters. The Saints trailed by 16 at one point before a 17-3 fourth quarter would do the Dirty Birds in.

We now switch to market perception. Neither the Saints' offensive line nor their defensive line will enjoy watching this game film. The O-line's issues protecting quarterback Jameis Winston were one reason the offense struggled so much for three quarters. The Saints' D-line was not able to sack Marcus Mariota once and now they’ll face you know who. The choice here is Tom Brady or crab-leg stealing Jameis Winston. The choice here is Tampa Bay, who was the only team in Week 1 that did not allow a TD while dominating the Cowboys in prime time or the New Orleans Saints, who pulled a rabbit out of their hat in a one-point lucky victory over Atlanta and who never had a chance of covering the number in that game.

To us, the choice here is a clear one and it’s not the favorite. Recency bias looms large in Week 2. In that regard, Tampa looked great while the Saints looked well below average. Over and underreactions also loom large in Week 2. Quarterback play always looms large yet the oddsmakers made the Bucs less than a FG favorite? Why did the Bucs open as a -2½ favorite and not -3? Why oh why oh why? Before you pull the trigger on Tampa, we urge you to ask yourself that question and we also urge you not to overreact to what you saw in Week 1. Recommendation: New Orleans +2½

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville +4

1:00 PM EST. If you held a ticket on the Jaguars last week, we feel for you. You deserved better. As a three-point pooch in Washington, the Jags were up 22-14 with just under 12 minutes to play. We’ll skip the next bit so you don’t lose your lunch, but for the rest, the Commanders would win the game 28-22. There might not have been a more deceptive final in Week 1. The Jags settled for four field goals in three of their five red zone attempts. Another positive was their five trips to the red zone compared to Washington’s two. The negative—the Jags were just 2-of-5 in the red zone and 1-of-3 in goal to go situations. On the defensive side, the Jaguars limited the former Football Team to just two red zone trips. It’s early, but there may be life in Jacksonville under Doug Pederson after all.

If the Colts’ decision to play it safe and shoot for the tie in Houston as a better than a touchdown favorite does not become what defines them as a team this season, we’ll eat our hats. Expectations are a funny thing. With Matt Ryan coming over from the Falcons, the hype was through the roof. Meanwhile, head coach Frank Reich is in his fifth year with Indianapolis, which is longer than most coaches get to produce results in this “win now” era.

When the pressure is on, some crumble. Did Reich really think that a tie would be better than a loss? If we were the Colts’ owner, we’d have been on the sidelines as time expired asking him that question. If his answer is “yes,” he’s fired. If it’s “no,” he’s still fired. If you think we’re out of line, every story out of Indy is in defense of Reich. His play calling and approach is not the problem. Apparently.

Given the market’s perception that the Colts face another dreg this week, a bounceback is expected. How could a team as talented as Indy, now with “Matty Ice,” lose to the Jaguars? We use that word specifically and not others to suggest that the Colts will have trouble “putting away” the Jags. The Colts are in real danger of going 0-2.

While all things are not equal, a look back at last season shows the Colts were favored by 14 in Jacksonville in Week 18. That game had Carson Wentz v Trevor Lawrence on the marquee. How can this line be less than a touchdown in Week 2? The Jaguars are still bottom feeders in the market. Their standing isn’t higher now than it was in early January. On the other sideline, the perception in this market is that the Colts have improved at the league’s most important position.

We’ve all heard the term “old cliche”. There’s a reason clichés stick around for such a long time and it’s because they are drenched in truth so we’ll leave you with this one. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Want one more? There are no free lunches, kid. Capisce? Recommendation: Jacksonville +4

Washington +1½ @ Detroit

1:00 PM EST. We could get into the who’s and what’s of Week 1, but let’s just start with the big Blue Lion in the room. Detroit was taking back a touchdown on its home turf last week after the market pounded the Eagles into that inflated range. Now Detroit is the favorite. That’s a massive shift in role from one week to the next for a team as shaky as these Lions.

For nearly three quarters, the Lions looked lifeless. They trailed by 17 with 15 minutes to play. What happened next is something that happens often in this league. The Eagles took their foot off the gas and the Lions snuck in the back door with a cover. The final—38-35. This league stretches players to the limit with Thursday night games, 18 week seasons and more playoff games than ever before. It’s hard to blame the players and their coaches for “letting up”.

There was value on the Lions last week, but that value has evaporated here in Week 2. Detroit gave up 216 yards on the ground and another 239 through the air. That’s close to 500 yards in total offense that Detroit surrendered and surely there is a toll that was taken. When Detroit’s defense takes the field on Sunday, they may still be trying to catch their collective breath.

As for Washington, the market saw it blow an 11-point lead to the Jaguars before a pair of big touchdown plays would bring the Commanders back from down eight with 11:45 to go. We can use Washington’s struggle with the lowly Jags to our advantage because the market does not want to back a team that should have lost to Jacksonville but there were some definite positives for Washington.

First, Carson Wentz is a definite upgrade at quarterback, and at times he showed why on Sunday but he also showed why he has been maddening throughout his career. He threw two touchdown passes in the first half, executing well-designed play calls with pinpoint throws. Washington was rolling. But on consecutive plays in the second half, he threw interceptions, leading to 10 Jacksonville points. He missed some easy throws, sailing passes. While there were questions in the past about how Wentz handled adversity, this is what he did after two miscues Sunday: He threw two more touchdown passes. Give him credit for responding and also give the entire Football Team credit for a pretty decent win after things looked grim. A season opening win like that very often gets the momentum rolling the right way. Recommendation: Washington +1½

Carolina +1½ @ N.Y. Giants

1:00 PM. When you consider the ineptness of the league’s kickers in Week 1, the Panthers loss to the Browns is a particularly painful one. Carolina led 24-23 with just a few ticks on the clock, as Cleveland and its rookie kicker Cade York lined up for a 58-yard attempt. The kick was good. Panthers lose, 26-24.

The entire market was backing the Panthers in that game. They ate up the Baker Mayfield “revenge” angle and paid with their bankrolls for that hot take. One has to figure that the market’s appetite for these Panthers is going to be limited. Mayfield was not great, as he threw for just 235 yards on 16-of-27 passing for a major and an interception. Not the stuff legends are made of. However, it was the five Carolina fumbles and the eight penalties for 96 yards that really did the Panthers in. While they did not lose any of those fumbles, they were momentum killing to say the least.

If you spent any time this week watching the talking heads, you saw a headline along the lines of “Are the Giants back?” on just about every show. Winning trumps all in this market. A closer look at the G-Men’s win in Tennessee shows that they did not get off the bus until half time after trailing 13-0 at the mid-way mark. As nice as the win was, it was one that came on the foot of Titan’s kicker Randy Bullock, who missed a 47-yard field goal to win the game. At the end of the day, kickers decided both outcomes. The Giants got the bounce they needed, the Panthers did not.

In that game, the Giants were a 5½-point pooch, which means they were one of many Week 1 upset winners. There is going to be a temptation in the market to overreact to those results. If you are in a survival pool that picks straight up winners, it was probably decimated. Here in Week 2, the Giants are favored. The Giants now go from not expecting to win to the role of expecting to win while the Panthers go from expecting to win to being written off and expected to lose. Those are two very different animals and now we can benefit from it. Recommendation: Carolina +1½

Atlanta @ L.A. Rams -10

4:05 PM EST. Both these teams lost in Week 1, but the Super Bowl champs opened with a home game that made them suddenly look uncompetitive. We’ll try and take advantage of that poor performance in prime time by the Rams. Meanwhile, the Falcons lost at home to the Saints, but only in the final seconds and gave their divisional rival all they could handle.

What else did the entire football world see when Buffalo annihilated the Rams in the Thursday Night opener? For one, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford didn't do much to end the questions about his elbow injury and whether it is affecting his game. Stafford was sacked seven times by the Bills and threw three interceptions. He also struggled when targeting any player but wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who accounted for more than half of the Rams' receiving yardage.

The first game for the Falcons almost gave second-year HC Arthur Smith something to hang his hat on. And while they lost after allowing the Saints to score 17 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes, there were still reasons to celebrate. Cordarrelle Patterson is fresh again and running well, the defense played much better than expected, other than the whole fourth-quarter collapse, and Drake London debuted as the top receiver. It was not a bad look at all for Atlanta, which brings us back to the very appealing points the books are offering to get behind the Falcons.

Teams that dominate are often favored by 10 points but the Rams were not close to being dominating. They were manhandled in Week 1 and now we have to spot 10 points to back them? We have to wonder how many folks/touts/squares/pros/in this market are going to be anxious to spot 10 points with L.A. after watching its poor Week 1 performance. Incidentally, when this line first opened, L.A. was -10½, which is a favorite number, as books will often hang an enticing hook on key numbers like 3, 7 and 10. We urge not to bite, like many in this market already have.

Do we “like” the Rams spotting double-digits? No, we don’t but in our analysis of games, you never hear us using the terms like or feel. We don’t like anything and we feel nothing. Read forums and listen to prognosticators and you’ll often see them write or say things like, “I just feel that the Falcons are going to show up”. Or, “I just think that this is too many points”. If you are using or paying attention to terms like think or feel, your approach must be changed. If you want to discuss how you think or feel, call your mother.

We play numbers, situations and over/under reactions among other criteria. What we think or feel matters not. What you think or feel matters not. We see a curious number like 10 after a piss-poor performance from the favorite in prime-time and we have to question it. We see money coming in on Atlanta and have to trust that it’s an overreaction to what the market saw last week. Those factors combined with the hook the oddsmakers put on a key number like 10 to open has us leaning heavily to the favorite. Recommendation: L.A. Rams -10

Houston @ Denver -10

4:25 PM. All credit to the Texans for not only hanging around, but forcing the Colts into the very lame decision to play for a tie rather than the win in Week 1. If you missed it, the Texans gave the Colts all they could handle as better than a touchdown dog at home. Houston would take a 20-3 lead, which means that anyone in the market that bet the Colts, had a long swim back headed to the fourth quarter. A cover for Indy was never in the cards, but the Colts did storm back with 17 unanswered points in the final frame. While the Texans were expected to lose, blowing that big lead had to hurt.

A closer look at the box score shows that the Texans took advantage of a comedy of Colts’ errors including five fumbles (one lost) and a Matt Ryan interception. To say the Texans “hung on” might be generous, as Houston was outgained by 218 yards, lost the time of possession by nearly 10 minutes and had 13 fewer first downs. It wasn’t a pretty showing. If that same Texans’ team shows up in Denver this week, it’s going to get really ugly.

When one fails under the bright light, as the Broncos did so spectacularly on Monday Night Football, the market is going to take notice. It never felt like Denver never was going to cover that number, as the Seahawks took an early 7-0 lead and it was an uphill battle from that point for Denver to cover. The 17-16 final was a big story, as the Broncos played it safe, or stupid depending on who you talk to. Rather than take a couple shots to score, or at least get a little closer for a kick, Denver killed some clock and then lined up for a 63-yard field goal. It missed.

While the loss stung, the Broncos dominated that game in every facet except the final score. Denver outgained Seattle by 180 yards and held the rock more than seven minutes more than the ‘Hawks. What did the Broncos in was the same thing that does just about every team in—turnovers. Specifically, red zone turnovers. The Broncos were a pitiful 0-4 in the red zone and 0-3 in goal-to-go situations.

We can appreciate the hesitation to come right back on the Broncos this week, spotting double-digits, but the reality is, Denver might be one of the better value plays on the board this week. One has to figure this number is light when considering last week’s results. The Texans gave the Colts all they could handle and got a tie. Where it matters most, the Texans covered easily, meanwhile, the Broncs didn’t have a chance. We’re not going to be shy about swallowing these points. The true value is on the short-priced Broncs. Recommendation: Denver -10

New England -2 @ Pittsburgh

1:00 PM EST. The Patriots' offensive woes of the preseason extended into Week 1 when they were beaten 20-7 by the Dolphins. The loss of OC Josh McDaniels places the Patriots' offense on all new ground after more than a decade. That's not to diminish what the Miami defense accomplished, but the Pats were already a concern offensively this summer. Mac Jones was unable to keep the sticks moving and the rushing effort was far less effective than past seasons. It is just one game so far, but the offense doesn't seem to be on any particular path, let alone the right one.

As for the Steelers, well, as a +6½-point pooch, they squeaked out a win in overtime at the Bengals, and that's a positive for a team that finally moves on from the Ben Roethlisberger era and is not yet into the Kenny Pickett era.

What us and the rest of the market knows is that New England lost by 13 to Miami and couldn’t move five yards while the Steelers beat the Super Bowl runner up. The upset special this week by Kirk Herbstreit, college analyst who has seen four NFL games in his life, is Pittsburgh. As Herb says, “Why is Pittsburgh an underdog at home after beating Cincinnati in Cincinnati”? Good question. We’ll tell you why Herb. Al Michaels will not.

You see, Pittsburgh is the luckiest sports team on the planet. Here’s a team that made the playoffs last year after winning nine games while outplaying nobody. It was one miracle after the next last year in one of the NFL’s most misleading won/loss records ever. You know what else was extremely misleading? Pittsburgh’s win over Cincinnati last week. Are you aware that Cinci lost the turnover battle 5-0? You might want to read that again because it’s not a typo. When you’re +5 in turnovers in a single game, you’re supposed to win by 30 points and not in OT. Cinci outgained Pittsburgh by 170 yards. Despite turning it over five times, the Bengals held a 17-minute edge in time of possession. Does anyone even realize how insane that time-of-possession stat is? When the opposition gives you the ball five times, losing the time of possession battle by 17 minutes is f**king embarrassing and actually reveals what a rat-shit team you really are. The books know it, we know it, and now you know it too if you did not already.

Rarely do we focus on injuries, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Steelers lost their best defensive player and maybe the best defensive player in the league in TJ Watt with a torn muscle. Watt will be out for weeks. It’s not a coincidence the Steelers defense went into a tailspin after Watt left the game.

We should mention that Bill Bellichick coached teams are known for discipline, few mistakes and paying great attention to detail. If you make the same mistakes under him, you’ll be out of a job quickly. New England turned the ball over three times last week and lost the turnover battle by that same margin. That ain’t happening again this week. And if you need one last nugget, Pittsburgh plays Cleveland on Thursday Night Football. Recommendation: New England -2

Chicago @ Green Bay -10

8:20 PM EST. When you are the kind of guy who spends his offseasons with Joe Rogan and you are winning, you are “eccentric”. “Adventurous”. Maybe even “enlightened”. When you are losing, you are a “bad leader,” and a “poor decision maker”. In short, you’re a selfish a*****e.

The media has influence, and when we hear them hamming the same points some day in and day out, regardless of channel, we take note. We know Aaron Rodgers spent more time this offseason in the mountains of who knows where “furthering his spiritual journey”. Those are our words not his. He’ll tell you where he was and what he did if you really want to know. Rodgers was shown giving everyone on the Packers sidelines s**t from the rookies to the coaching staff for their perceived indiscretions. If the Packers had won against the Vikings, or hell, just didn’t get embarrassed, Rodgers would have got the long leash the mainstream always gives him. However, he played like hot garbage. The defense was supposed to be a strength—one of the best in the league. It was a dumpster fire. The narrative is that Rodgers missed many reads of his own. There were open receivers everywhere, don’tcha know? One loss, and the pitchforks in Packer land are getting sharpened.

There were published reports from ESPN that on the ground in Vegas, the Vikings were one of the biggest liabilities of the day. We hate to use terms like “sharps,” or “squares,” but unfortunately they are accepted terms that are being spread en masse from all the new mainstream attention sports wagering is getting. The point is, the market faded the Packers and it paid off with ease.

Maybe we’ve seen too many of these Packers/Bears prime time games that our minds are poisoned, but going back to the days of Brett “Text Me, Guv” Favre, the Packers have owned the Bears in these spots more often than not. Rodgers already told the Bears and their fans last season that he “owned” then and always has after a late rushing touchdown sealed a 24-14 Green Bay win and cover as a 5½-point favorite.

Last week, on their home field, the Bears were a 6½-point pooch that won outright 19-10 in a rain soaked game. It was a nice win on the surface, but Chicago benefited greatly from a 49ers' team that could not get out of its own way. The Bears won the turnover battle 2-1, and had many of their drives extended by the 12 penalties for 99 yards the 49ers inflicted on themselves. Whistle to whistle, the Bears had fewer first downs, put up 127 fewer total yards (Chicago couldn’t move the ball two feet in the first half), and lost the time of possession by nearly seven minutes.

Because this game is on Sunday Night Football, it is going to get a ton of action. Week over week, more and more people are headed to the window to make a wager. The more people in the market, the more saturated it becomes. The media’s influence is only getting larger. There are dopes on every channel spewing terrible sports wagering advice all day and night on ESPN, Fox Sports, TSN, Sportsnet, BT Sports, SKY Sports, et al. If there’s a sports channel and gambling is legal, they have a promo code for you. Just remember, if you are being offered something from DraftKings, FanDuel or any other outfit on TV, it’s probably not in your best interest.

Back to the Packers. They looked awful and are spotting -10 points. That's a difficulkt bet to make but we'll repeat that we're not in the prediction business. We are going to trust the process that strongly suggests the Packers are spotting far fewer points on their home field than they ought to be. That’s value, friends. Recommendation: Green Bay -10



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