Early leans & analysis Wk 2
Early leans & analysis

Posted Friday at 4:00pm EST and odds 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’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 17

L.A. Chargers -3 over Titans

1.00 EST. The odds on this AFC contest haven't changed since it opened, an indication that sportsbooks and sharps aren't bullish on either side of the "3." At a base level we have two 0-1 teams squaring off in what should be a close game. After all, just 9 months ago, the Chargers and Titans battled in, you guessed it, a 3-point win for the Bolts. That line was also Chargers -3, but it was played at SoFi Stadium. Last year's odds suggested these were two even teams, but this number is distinctively different. Since the Chargers are 3-point favorites on the road, oddsmakers are telling you that they're actually 4-5-points better than Tennessee. Typically, most handicappers grant 1-2 points of value for a team simply because they're playing at home. Since the line hasn't moved, most sharp bettors evidently agree with this assessment.

That's because despite both teams losing in Week 1, the Chargers looked considerably better than the Titans, most obviously on one side of the ball. In a battle of two high-octane offenses, Los Angeles produced 34 points and 462 yards in a home loss to Miami. The game could have ended with either team on top, and although Brandon Staley's defense allowed over 500 yards and 36 points to the Dolphins (this is hardly a shock, Staley's prowess as a defensive-savant has been a let-down since he arrived in L.A.), that's not a final indictment on how good their defense can be. The Dolphins performed the same shtick early last season, exploding offensively against some of the best defensive coaches in the NFL. Others will fall victim to the speed and dynamism of the Miami attack; we're not so convinced that the Chargers will be as challenged this week.

The Titans lost in a strange 16-15 game last week at the Caesars Superdome. Just like we saw many times last season, the Titans' defense kept them in the contest. Ryan Tannehill and a shaky offense gained only 285 total yards, but it was Tannehill's interceptions that were the most concerning. 

Tannehill has steered the ship for Tennessee for the better part of four seasons, but there's concern that his best days might be behind him. While most of our wagers have little to do with Xs and Os, no bettor can ignore or discount the impact of an NFL quarterback. Their success is crucial to our ATS success, and watching Tannehill open the season throwing 3 uncharacteristic interceptions, even against a solid Saints' defense, was alarming. Last year Tannehill only had 6 total interceptions, by comparison. He just didn't look like himself. last Sunday. That said, it's only a one-week sample-size and the Titans will get a shot at vengeance on their home turf in Week 2. The "redemption angle" is worth consideration.

On the one hand, it's tough to imagine the Titans keeping up with a really good Chargers' offense and an ace like Justin Herbert. Both defenses are historically more vulnerable against the pass, after all, and we'd much rather trust in Herbert over Tannehill. On the other hand, both teams are dealing with some legitimate injuries. Electric Charger-RB Austin Ekeler hasn't practiced and is listed as questionable this week, and the Titans' are nursing injuries to star WR DeAndre Hopkins and starters in their secondary. This line is right and it's best to stay away. Recommendation: Chargers -3

Atlanta +1 over Green Bay

1:00 PM EST. Week 2 is almost always one of the better weeks to wager on NFL games because it follows Week 1 after the market and media got to see teams for the first time. It’s the biggest overreaction week and we urge you not to put too much emphasis on any one week performance, especially after Week 1. We should be able to take advantage of the market’s overreaction to what they saw in Week 1 and this game is a prime example of that.  

Atlanta closed last week as a 3½-point choice over Carolina and went on to beat the Panthers 24-10 but pretty it was not. Carolina out-everythinged the Falcons, including total yards (281-221), first downs (20-13), rushing yards, passing yards and everything else you can think of besides turnovers and penalties. The market was unimpressed with the Dirty Birds and this price is a reflection of that. 

Meanwhile, the market was highly impressed with Green Bay. One week without Aaron Rodgers and the Packers look just fine. The defense handled the Bears with ease, and Jordan Love carved up the defense (245 yards, three TD’s, no interceptions) even though he was without Christian Watson, which is to say without any wideout with a shred of past success. Aaron Jones left the game with a hamstring problem, but the game was already well in hand. The lack of top-shelf receivers didn't matter.  The Packers crushed the Bears 38-20 but it was 38-14 with just over three minutes left so throw in a garbage time TD for the Bears. 

Now to the overreaction. Green Bay was an underdog last week, albeit a small one against the Bears and now they go from being an underdog in Chicago to a favorite in Atlanta, who, incidentally, is superior to the Bears. How can that be? It can be because Green Bay looked very good while Atlanta did not despite beating Carolina. It’s really difficult for any team to open the year 2-0 on the road and Green Bay had issues that were not exposed last week. Jordan Love looked sharp going against the not-so-upgraded-afterall Bears secondary. Remember, Chicago gave up the most points in the NFL last season but Love and the Pack face a greater challenge here against an Atlanta defense that was greatly upgraded with numerous quality starters imported. The market is putting too much emphasis on Green Bay beating up on a Chicago team that wasn’t ready for Week 1. Recommendation: Atlanta +1

Houston -1 over Indianapolis

1:00 PM EST. The Texans drew a tough Week 1 matchup in Baltimore, and while they lost by 16 points, there were positives from the game. The final score was misleading too. Houston actually outgained Baltimore and did not cover the 9½-point spread. Rookie C.J. Stroud passed for 242 yards in his debut. New HC Deco Ryans most certainly improved that wonderfully soft Houston defense. This will be a team that gets progressively better this season. 

Meanwhile, the debut of Indy’s new offense and rookie quarterback went as well as could be expected against a solid Jaguars’ team. The rushing effort was anemic and sorely needs Jonathan Taylor to get off PUP and get back with the program. However, the passing effort was far better than feared, and there are realistic hopes that the Colts can digest all the changes, get some experience, and then challenge next year.

Colts QB Anthony Richardson only started one year at Florida, where he was as much a runner as a passer. Although he rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown versus the Jaguars, he also completed 24 of 37 passes for 223 yards and one score and that’s our focus here because Richardson is getting way too much credit this week. 

Anthony Richardson can run like crazy but he can’t throw the ball from here to there without a GPS. That was the scouting report on him coming out of college at Florida, when he completed 54.7% of his 393 career passes, and it was the scouting report again coming out of the preseason, when he completed 44.7% of his 29 passes and then he goes and completes 16 of his first 20 passes against Jacksonville? And of those four incompletions, two were batted down at the line of scrimmage and a third, an improvised throw downfield to tight end Mo Alie-Cox, probably should’ve been caught? That’s remarkable but is it legit?

Richardson posted a 64.9% completion rate in his NFL debut. That’s 10 (percentage) points higher than in college and 20 points higher than in the preseason. Dude had a great game but we’re always urging you to never put emphasis on one game. Too many accolades are being thrown his way and [perhaps Jacksonville’s defense had a really bad day. 

Based on media reports and public perception, the Colts look appetizing but we’re not biting. The Texans went into Baltimore, easily could have won and actually looked a lot less sloppy than the Colts did. We also have to question why oddsmakers made the Texans a 1-point favorite when they have the data that Houston gets less market backing than any team in the NFL and has for years. Buyer beware. Recommendation: Houston -1

N.Y. Giants -5½ over Arizona

4:05 PM EST. After Week 1 this contest could adequately be deemed an early "toilet bowl" between two teams going seemingly nowhere this season, but oddsmakers still have some faith in the fledgling G-men. So do we.

The Giants join the ranks of franchises that lost some stock in Week 1, and perhaps no team looked worse than Big Blue. Let's review. 

After a beautiful initial drive to open last week's game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants had a 3rd down and 2 on the Cowboys 8-yard line. Then their best offensive lineman committed a false start. Then Daniel Jones fumbled and lost 19 yards. Then the momentum really shifted when Giants' kicker Graham Gano had his field goal blocked and returned 58 yards for a touchdown. On the next drive, Daniel Jones and the Giants' offense went three and out for -10 yards. On the following drive, Jones threw a bad interception. Again Dallas returned it for a touchdown. Shockingly, with the air punched out of Metlife Stadium, the Giants were down 26-0 at halftime. It was not the contest anyone expected. 

How good are the Cowboys? How bad are the Giants? A one-game sample-size isn't enough to answer those questions, but there's still reason to have faith in the G-Men this weekend, especially considering who they're facing.

The Cardinals fought hard last week and showed a lot of grit behind new coach Jonathon Gannon. That they lost almost seemed inevitable - they were 7-point underdogs in DC - and that they kept it close until the end wasn't all that surprising either. The Commanders are another team in growth, with a brand new starting QB, and Arizona was able to expose some of that naivete. Regardless, the Cardinals entire roster is seemingly in-flux as pundits debate if they're "tanking" this season, and this week they're facing a team with an entirely different energy.

This is one of those ugly bets where you just put down your cash and look away. NO ONE likes what they saw from the Giants last weekend. They didn't score a point and they were out-played in every facet of the game. Hell, it was over by halftime. But the Giants are a team with tremendous potential. Second-year coach Brian Daboll won AP Coach of the Year honors last year for a reason, resurrecting a less-talented roster and even winning a playoff game in his inaugural campaign. While still a developing team, the Giants' foundation is solid and far ahead of a franchise like the Cardinals. We expect Daboll, Jones, and the rest of the Giants' roster to answer the call. Recommendation: Giants -5½

New England +3½  over Miami

8:20 EST. Unlike many other contests this weekend, it's hard to feel too confident about a wager on this one. We'll change the order of this write-up to highlight what we mean.

The Dolphins' offense soared last Sunday, stacking up 536 yards and 36 points, on the road, against a very talented LAC defense. Tua Tagovailoa had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 466 yards and 4 touchdowns. The speed and raw athletic ability of Miami's role-players was on full display. It was the kind of scene we saw many times last season before Tagovailoa incurred head injuries, and it's reason enough to believe they can be a contender in the AFC.

Contrarily, the Patriots defense looked all-world last Sunday against the defending NFC Champions. New England limited Philadelphia to only 251 total yards. They sacked Hurts twice, forced a fumble, and only permitted 4/13 third down conversions. In essence, they made one of the league's most potent attacks look very mediocre in Week 1. Despite losing, now they have a second straight home game to build off that momentum. 

We know those two units, the Dolphins' offense and Patriots' defense, will battle all game. What we don't know is how well the Patriots' new-offense will play against Miami's good-not-great defense. Last week gave Patriots fans reason for optimism. The Eagles are a very formidable defense, top-5 according to many "experts," yet New England managed to out-pace Philly for four quarters. Mac Jones was only sacked twice - a low mark considering how historic Philly's front-seven was last season - and they outgained Philly 306-154 in total yards. They also gained 7 more first downs (24-17), and went 3-5 in red-zone efficiency. Jones looked more confident and the operation looked more in-sync. While the Dolphins were letting Justin Herbert go up and down the field at SoFi Stadium last Sunday, the Patriots' were finding their rhythm in Foxboro. Bill O'Brien's playbook showed some buy signs in Week 1, but they'll need it to accomplish even more in Week 1.

Going back to last season, the Dolphins have covered four straight games. The Patriots are 0-5 in their last five games against the closing number. Something has to flip eventually, right? If the Patriots can keep pace and limit the Dolphins for at least parts of this battle, this should be close. Not to mention, two straight coast-to-coast road games for Miami isn't easy. We'll lean the direction of another underrated home dog. Recommendation: New England +3½

Our Pick

Early leans & analysis (Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)

Tampa Bay +5 -101 over Philadelphia
Carolina +4½ -103 over Seattle
Detroit -3 -113 over Atlanta
Denver +215 over Miami
Dallas/Arizona under 43½ -110
Cleveland -3½ +100 over Tennessee
Green Bay -1 -110 over New Orleans
Chicago +12½ -110 over Kansas City
Pittsburgh +2½ +112 over Las Vegas
Early leans & analysis Wk 3 over