Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Twelve of 16 underdogs covered in Week 1, including nine winning outright, and the rash of upsets appears to have caused some misconceptions in the sports betting space.
No, this doesn’t mean favorites are bound to bounce back and dominate Week 2. It also doesn’t mean underdogs are going to keep up the pace. Either suggestion is a case of the gambler’s fallacy.
And, no, it also doesn’t mean the NFL is set up for even more parity than in a normal year. It might mean that, but it’s too early to tell. There are a lot of games still to be played, and more likely than not, a few teams will differentiate themselves and sit on the top of future odds boards by the end of the regular season.
Finally, and most upsettingly, no, I did not take advantage of the run of underdogs. The pick’em had its poorest Week 1 in its history, going 1-4 on plays and 7-9 overall picking every game against the spread.
I’m ready to bite back, however, and attack Week 2.
Read below for picks of every Week 2 game, separated into three confidence categories and listed in rough order of confidence. Lines are the best currently available in las Vegas on the chosen side.
San Francisco 49ers -3 at Philadelphia Eagles The 49ers are still a play at -3.5, but at the moment, there’s still a -3 at -120 (risking $1.20 to win $1) available, which is a much bigger edge. The 49ers have proven their ability to manage back-to-back cross-country road games in the past under coach Kyle Shanahan and stayed on the East Coast this week. Consistency has always been Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts’ biggest issue, so don’t put too much into his team’s high-flying offense from Week 1 just yet.
Indianapolis Colts +4 vs. Los Angeles Rams This line implies the Rams are full point better than the Seahawks, which trashed the Colts 28-16 as 3-point favorites in Week 1, and that seems generous. The Colts are still well-coached and poised to give the Rams’ offense more trouble behind DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard than a declining Bears’ team could manage.
New England Patriots -5.5 at New York Jets The Patriots played much better than the final score of a 17-16 loss to the Dolphins indicated, mostly being undone by a pair of lost fumbles. The Jets played a lot worse than the final score of a 19-14 loss to the Panthers indicated, saving face with a late touchdown after a day of anemic offense. There’s no reason why this spread shouldn’t be around 7.
Seattle Seahawks -5.5 vs. Tennessee Titans Seattle is the most complete team no one is talking about. Tennessee gave up more than 400 yards and 6 yards per play to Arizona, so it’s scary to think how much further it could sink against an even better offense on the road in one of the league’s toughest venues.
Miami Dolphins +3.5 vs. Buffalo Bills Buffalo’s usual edge of a coaching advantage behind Sean McDermott is a bit neutralized here as Miami’s Brian Flores also continues to show he belongs in the same upper-tier category. The Dolphins have also closed the gap from a talent perspective with a productive offseason and the progression of their young core, making any line more than a field goal unnecessary for a relatively evenly-matched divisional home team.
Carolina Panthers +3.5 vs. New Orleans Saints Don’t be surprised if these two defenses wind up among the very best in the NFL. That was certainly the case in Week 1, as the Saints rate first EPA per play on defense and the Panthers sit fourth. This game could therefore be the lowest-scoring affair of the week, making every point on the spread more valuable.
Minnesota Vikings +4 at Arizona Cardinals Reminder: Multiple projection systems rated the Titans as the worst defense in the league coming into the season. So some hesitation is necessary before anointing Arizona’s offense off their 38-18 at Tennessee. Minnesota will provide significantly more resistance.
Baltimore Ravens +3.5 at Kansas City Chiefs Yes, the Ravens’ defense fell apart to allow for a Raiders’ comeback victory on Monday Night Football but the Chiefs were far from sterling in their own 2021 season debut. They were outgained by nearly 2 yards per play and had to rely on some timely turnovers to eke out a win against the Browns. Given the disappointment of both performances, there’s no reason this number should have jumped from 2.5 to 3.5 on Tuesday morning.
Dallas Cowboys +3 at Los Angeles Chargers The Chargers’ post-game win expectancy for their 20-16 victory over the Washington Football Team was a poor 40% according to Football Outsiders. That means they benefitted from some good fortune and weren’t the most efficient team on a play-by-play basis. The Chargers continue to be among the NFL’s most overhyped sides.
Las Vegas Raiders +5.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers Las Vegas’ defensive strides are real, especially up front, and Pittsburgh’s offensive line is a level down from the Baltimore trench the Raiders just terrorized. The potential absence of edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue is a hit, but the Raiders would be a play if he's on the field and this number bounces back up to +6.
Jacksonville Jaguars +6.5 vs. Denver Broncos This number was as low as Denver -1.5 over the summer, and a 5-point shift is too drastic no matter what happened in Week 1. Denver looked impressive in destroying the New York Giants 27-13 as 3-point favorites, while Jacksonville was awful in a 37-21 loss at Houston as 3.5-point favorites, but starting the year with back-to-back road games on the east coast is no easy task.
Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 at Chicago Bears Chicago sits last in the NFL at -3 net yards per play through one week, and there’s not much reason for optimism going forward until potentially when rookie quarterback Justin Fields takes over. The Bengals, meanwhile, were more efficient than a stellar Vikings’ team in a 27-24 Week 1 win. With this number shooting below a field goal, consider taking Cincinnati on the moneyline at +120 (risking $1 to win $1.20) or better instead of taking the small amount of points.
Green Bay Packers -11 vs. Detroit Lions The Lions looked every bit as bad as advertised before a furious late rally to lose only 41-33 to the 49ers. The Packers were even worse in their 38-3 loss to the Saints, but the Lions don’t have anywhere near the same caliber of defensive personnel.
Houston Texans +13.5 at Cleveland Browns Unless I’m certain a team is among the best in the NFL, I’m not interested in laying double digits early in the season. I’m far from certain the Browns belong in that category, even as others and even the betting market seem to think so.
Washington Football Team -3 vs. New York Giants The Giants were a decent look at the opening price of +4.5, or even 4, but this number has gone too far unless you think there’s a major drop-off from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Taylor Heinicke. I don’t. Laying 3 points requires paying -115 (risking $1.15 to win $1) at a couple sports books but mathematically that’s a much better bet than than -3.5 at -110.
Atlanta Falcons +13 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers The Buccaneers have shown they deserve to be the top power-rated team in the NFL, but they’re not so unstoppable that they should merit an extra two-point tax on every point spread. For the second straight week, the Buccaneers’ line looks inflated with a couple extra points tagged on.