Thu, Sep 14, 6:04am by Staff Writer
The opening week of NFL action left bettors and bookmakers alike scratching their heads.
Major underdogs like the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) and Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) managed to win outright – and convincingly at that. Expected to dwell at the bottom of the standings, the Chicago Bears (0-1) and Cleveland Browns (0-1) nonetheless covered big spreads facing perennial playoff teams.
And out of the league’s 32 teams, seven stumbled so badly they put up 12 points or less on the scoreboard en route to 0-1 records (New York Jets, Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and New York Giants).
All told, Week 1 was even more unpredictable than usual, which sets the stage for a wild Week 2.
Eight games kick off at 1:00 p.m. AEST on Sunday, including several intriguing matchups in which underdogs may have their day yet again.
The aforementioned Browns didn’t quite overcome the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) last week, losing 21-18 courtesy of a late score in garbage time. Even so, the Cleveland defense acquitted itself well, holding Pittsburgh’s powerful offense to just 14 points after a blocked punt and end zone recovery made it 7-0 Steelers in the early minutes.
They’ll have another shot at an AFC North rival this week, visiting the Baltimore Ravens (1-0) as 8-point underdogs (1.92).
The Jaguars are 1-0 for the first time in years, and they’ll be 2.5-point underdogs (1.92) at home when the Tennessee Titans (0-1) come to town. Given the 10-sack performance put up by the Jaguars’ defense last week, and Tennessee’s lackluster offense in a losing effort, wagering on Jacksonville to win outright (2.14) may be a popular Week 2 play.
The most competitive contest of Week 2 rounds out the Sunday afternoon slate (4:25 p.m. AEST), as the Dallas Cowboys (1-0) visit the Denver Broncos (1-0). Both teams looked great in Week 1 wins, and the spread is razor thin with Denver as 1.5-point home underdogs (1.92).
Here’s our best bets for the second week of the NFL season:
New England Patriots (0-1) @ New Orleans Saints (0-1)
The Superdome, New Orleans – 1:00 p.m. AEST on Sunday, September 17
Despite suffering a 15-point home loss to the Chiefs last week, and heading to the Superdome where the Saints enjoy one of the NFL’s best home field advantages – the Patriots are favored by nearly a touchdown.
As defending champions, and the league’s top team for the last decade, it might seem as though New England’s healthy spread is based on reputation alone. After all, quarterback Tom Brady looked every bit of his 40 years last week, while the defense surrendered 537 yards in a decidedly un-Belichickian performance.
But dating back to 2011, the Pats have gone an NFL-best 15-6 against the spread after losing the week prior. More recently, New England followed up each of its two losses last year by righting the ship in convincing fashion, with an average margin of victory of 17.5 points.
Simply put, the Pats don’t take their rare losses very well, and they tend to punish their next opponent to begin the healing process.
The logistics also favor New England, which opened the NFL season on Thursday Night Football, and thus enters Week 2 on 10 days’ rest. Conversely, the Saints’ uninspiring loss 29-19 to the Vikings was a Monday Night Football affair, leaving New Orleans just six days between starts.
Whenever the road team is favored bettors should pay attention, and a spread of more than six points should set the alarm bells ringing. Even with identical rest schedules and 1-0 records, I’d expect the Patriots to pound the Saints here – so I’m more than happy to back a well-rested juggernaut still smarting from last week’s wake-up call.
BEST BET: Patriots to win by more than 6.5 points: $1.94
Washington Redskins (0-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
I tabbed the Rams to win outright at (1.50) last week, and they delivered in a 46-9 demolition of the dilapidated Indianapolis Colts.
With defensive guru Wade Phillips on the staff – who you may remember as the driving force behind Denver’s Super Bowl-winning D in 2015 – the Rams recorded two “pick-six” interception returns for touchdowns, forced three fumbles, and added four sacks.
And they did all that without elite defensive tackle Aaron Donald taking a single snap. Donald’s contract holdout has ended, however, and he’ll be on the field to make L.A.’s defense even scarier.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is surely better than Colts backup Scott Tolzien, but even so, Cousins put up one of the worst stat lines of Week 1 (23/40 for 240 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). And that was against a relatively soft Eagles defense, one which lacks the upfront firepower that the Rams possess.
Throw in a long cross-country road trip for the Redskins, and the Rams should use their greatest asset to smother yet another subpar offense.
BEST BET: Rams to win by more than 2.5 points: $1.80
Miami Dolphins (0-0) @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)
After a tumultuous week saw their home opener postponed over Hurricane Irma fears, the Miami Dolphins finally begin their season with a road trip.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Chargers will host their first game in their new Los Angeles home after playing in San Diego for more than five decades.
Sufficed to say, emotions will be running high for this one.
But all that aside, I’m leaning hard towards the Dolphins for one simple reason: rest.
This team is ready and raring to go after an unexpected delay to their 2017 campaign. Meanwhile, the Chargers just left everything on the field in a comeback bid that fell just short, losing 24-21 to the Broncos – and on Monday Night Football no less.
That gives Los Angeles just six days to recuperate and gameplan for Miami, and despite what that score might suggest, this Chargers team looked thoroughly outmatched when trailing 24-7 in the fourth quarter.
Miami is fresher, and aside from the Jay Cutler enigma at quarterback, more talented up and down the roster. The Dolphins are 4.5-point road underdogs here, but I like them to win it outright against the drained and disappointed Chargers.
BEST BET: Dolphins win outright: $2.75
Odds supplied by Sportsbet and were correct at the time of publishing*
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