Prelude: The NFL Week One Blog led to a ton of great notes, analyses of public perception, winners, and discussion. But that was just the beginning.
Moving forward, I'd like to try to continue to put together a comprehensive NFL blog breaking down every single game, much the way I have done with NBA and MLB since December of last year. It hasn't been easy - it has taken countless hours, and it has ALL been 100% free. That will never change.
I do want to make one small change to the NFL blog moving forward, though. Last week's blog generated a great response for the first 24 hours it was posted, but then seemed to dwindle over the course of the week, aside from a bump and a note here and there.
So, starting with this blog, I'll be posting a few writeups every day, rather than all of them at once. They'll be chronological, so a few 1pm games will come up Monday night or Tuesday morning, a few more Wednesday, and so on until we cover the whole card. The goal will be to get a lively chat going on each set of 2-4 games and keep the blog fresh throughout the week.
Pro Notes: Week One featured a PERFECT 5-0 NFL Jumbo-Sweep! To answer the question you haven't asked, yes, I'm quite pleased with getting out of the gates with a surge! For those that joined on the ALL-ACCESS pass, thank you, and congrats on getting the Sunday 4-0 card! For those that joined for just the Sunday Night game, thank you, and we got a nice win on the Dallas/Washington Under! For those that joined for the Monday Night Football Best Bet, thank you, and the Chiefs did us right. For those that were on board for all 5 plays, thanks, and there's more to come!
Most of you know the drill, but if not, let's get more WINNERS this coming weekend! I'll be doing the SAME THING, with an ALL-ACCESS PACKAGE for EVERY Sunday play ($25), a potential NBC LATE PLAY (if I have one, $15), and a potential MONDAY NIGHT PLAY (if I have one, $20). You can get any and all of those throughout the week, at my Pro Page, here: DANBEBE.COM!
Week 1 Recap and Lessons Learned:
No more logical way to kick off a blog than to take a quick look back at week one. Certainly, we'll cover more in each individual write-up, the overarching theme coming out of week one is that on Sunday, the big-time public teams (namely, the Colts, Dolphins, Packers, Niners, Titans and Cowboys) went 3-3. There was a notion that "public teams" dominated week one, but really, I believe that synopsis is skewed a tad by the fact that the MOST public team, the Packers, did, in fact, cover.
What we will continue to see, however, are home teams feeling more comfortable in the early going. Home teams went 12-4 SU in week one, and considering the level of energy in buildings, it's no surprise that only the best road teams were able to prevail. Here in week two, we'll stick to a similar plan. Home openers are worth more than a mid-season home game, and pairing that concept up with a home team that lost by a deceptive number is a nice value-combo.
What lessons did you all learn, besides that the NFL loves to punish Detroit?
Sports Wagering: NFL
Buffalo Bills @ Green Bay Packers (-12) with a total of 43;
On the surface, this game appears to have blowout written all over it, and if we're in week 7 or 8, I might do a double-take. But, early in the year, and this is something I noted repeatedly last week, these double digits do get covered a little more often. The Packers put up 27 on the road in Philadelphia, a place that had been a bit of a house of horrors for Green Bay, so scoring a similar number at home seems rather reachable. Of mild concern to those that like the Pack, starting tailback Ryan Grant is out for this game, so Brandon Jackson is going to be the feature back. Still, the key to this blog, and to the individual games, is going to be how perception plays a role in setting the line, and it's safe to say this line isn't as inflated as I expected. The initial move, not surprisingly, was up to 13, and a few books are already creeping up towards 2 touchdowns. Why? Well, not only did Green Bay show that they can score, but Buffalo showed they can't. The Bills scored just 10 points in their home opener against the Miami Dolphins, so to come into Green Bay and try to stay close to the Packers definitely feels like a tall order. Without getting into too many specifics, a 2-touchdown line leaves the door wide open for a backdoor cover, but this blog kicks off with a game where I happen to think the public side might very well be the right one. As far as the total is concerned, the Packers might score 30, but will Buffalo score 15? This number feels about right to me, and if anything, I'd look at the Under, since Buffalo tends to play some ugly games, and opponents can often get roped into a slower pace...especially if things get out of hand, early.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Tennessee Titans (-4.5) with a total of 38;
Two teams that won their season opener at home will butt heads down in Tennessee in week two. What can we take away from week one that we can apply to this one? Well, for one, Tennessee won big over the Oakland Raiders, which should drive a bit more of the public money to the Titans' side. It's not the same as blowing out a team that people respect, but bettors definitely respond to seeing a team win by 20+ points. Chris Johnson electrified his crowd, got a ton of coverage on ESPN over the weekend, and has caused this line to jump to 5.5 or 6 at a lot of books after only a day of betting. Pittsburgh is coming off a hard-fought home win over the Falcons, which helps keep this line reasonable on the Tennessee side, but also, in my opinion, made the Steelers look better than they played. Pittsburgh won that game with defense, and shutting down Matt Ryan and co. at home is going to be a little easier than trying to contain Vince Young and the fastest man in the NFL. Dennis Dixon did a solid job, but I believe he'll be seeing a better defense this week, and unless he can figure out a way to punch in a TD, Pittsburgh is in danger of dropping this road contest. Early in the season, we have to keep our eye on these short home favorites, and barring any especially suspicious line moves (none of which have happened yet), my first feeling is that the home favorite is still not getting as much respect as they should. Tennessee is a dangerous team, and while the Titans are going to be the slightly more public choice in this one, Pittsburgh's namesake is going to keep this line under a TD, probably until gameday.
Baltimore Ravens (-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals with a total of 38.5;
The first thing I notice when I look at this game is that the total's first move was up to 40. This is interesting, largely because everyone and their mother saw the Ravens defense absolutely crush the New York Jets on the Monday Night Football early game. One would have thought that, perhaps, the first move on this total would be down a point, or at least holding steady, because the marquee stuff, the ESPN coverage, was mostly going towards the Ravens defense. The Bengals coverage was largely based on how they got spanked by the Patriots on the road, not as much about how many points the Pats scored, but moreso just that Cincinnati's defense got gashed. Not surprisingly, the public likes the Under. I'm not saying I like the Over, but without the Jets defense on the field, and Flacco free to sling it to his 3 top tier receivers, I could definitely see the Ravens scoring 20. I can see the Bengals scoring 20, too. The Ravens defense is not as good as what we saw on Monday Night Football. The Jets inability to make any plays, penalties, Sanchez's lack of confidence, and Shonn Greene putting the ball on the ground (which forced LT into the game far more than he should be) definitely kept New York from scoring almost as much as the Ravens defense did. Carson Palmer is solid, and the Bengals had success against Baltimore last year, as the Ravens secondary isn't what it once was. In addition, the combination of all the positive press Baltimore is getting with the world seeing Cincinnati get blown out has created some line value on the Bengals side. This game definitely is one of interest, especially if that side gets up to a FG.
Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) @ Detroit Lions with a total of 41.5;
Mike Hook and I discussed this game on the Tuesday TiSB podcast, since Detroit got, perhaps, the most media coverage of any team not in a primetime game over the weekend. Not because they won or played particularly great football, but because of the Calvin Johnson non-catch. First off, it was a catch. Unbiased opinion, since I'm from Los Angeles, but that was nuts. Second, I've been pouring over the numbers on this game and trying to figure out if the press is actually creating value on, or against, the Lions. But, complicating matters is the injury to Matthew Stafford's throwing shoulder that's going to keep him out for at least a month. As I mentioned elsewhere, Shaun Hill is a much more capable backup than Daunte Culpepper was last year, and practicing with the first team is going to put him in a better spot, but without Stafford, the Lions are definitely missing a key cog. Whether it's the Stafford injury, the public perception, or something else, this line has made an immediate move up to 4.5, and as high as 5 in a couple places. To me, that number would be way, way too high if Detroit was healthy and confident. As it stands right now, I think the best move is to wait and see how Hill performs after a week of getting snaps. Also, if Michael Vick plays the way he did in the 2nd half of Philly's week-one game with Green Bay, I have no idea how the Lions expect to slow this team down. They're going to have to score with the Eagles, and without Stafford, that's not going to be easy. I also think the Detroit defense overperformed in week one against a confused Jay Cutler. This side screams pass to me in every sense of the word. If I were to play the total, I would look at the Under if Kolb starts, and potentially the Over if Vick starts. And if we don't know? Yet another reason to stay the heck away.
Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys (-8.5) with a total of 42.5;
This might be my least favorite game on the entire Sunday card (sorry Stew). From a watching standpoint, these are two of the teams that disappointed the most in week one, though I suppose the expectations were significantly higher for the Cowboys than the Bears. From a betting standpoint, it's very difficult to bet on a game where you have two teams that made the public nauseous in week one. Certainly, the Cowboys are always going to get public money because of the star on the helmet, but this line is massive for a Cowboys team that has literally shown NOTHING offensively in the 2010 season, or preseason. So, how do we handle the knowledge that the public is trying to pick the lesser of two evils? Well, my guess would be that oddsmakers are going to try their darnedest to split the public money, since I don't believe the sharps are set to take a massive stance on either side. The total, however, might draw public interest in the Over. Low 40's looks low to most bettors, even though it's probably pretty fair. The Chicago defense shut the run down completely in week one, and combine that with Tony Romo looking shaken in the pocket against the Redskins defense and I think you've got a nice shot to hold the Cowboys to 24 points, or less. Some simple math would seem to indicate that the Bears should only score about 16-17 (based on the opening total and side), and the Dallas defense looked very, very good in week one. I think people forget that the Cowboys can play defense, and the low scoring results from their rivalry loss with the 'Skins was not an aberration.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Cleveland Browns (-2) with a total of 39;
This game is a huge public perception hot-spot because of the way the Chiefs played on Monday Night Football, but this is where it becomes so, so important to bet smart. Really stop and think about what you saw in that Monday Night game. Did you really see the Chiefs "beat" the Chargers? Or did you see the Chiefs take advantage of the weather, the crowd, and a vastly superior special teams? How many teams are going to get outgained and outplayed in every "tangible" statistical category and still win? The answer to that question is "not many," but with the corollary that those few are usually going to occur in huge TV games. It's no coincidence that the big home dog is going to make some lightning-in-a-bottle plays in those huge games. But now, the Chiefs have to take that offense that did next to nothing on the road to a rather hungry Cleveland fanbase. The home opener for the Browns isn't going to be the same level of rowdy we saw in Kansas City, and the health of Jake Delhomme is certainly a question mark, but between the way the Browns were unable to capitalize on the road in their opener, and the way the Chiefs looked like the second coming in theirs, well, let's just be careful before following what that final score tells you from week 1. As far as the total goes, it may look low, but I must remind everyone, once again, to remember how the Chiefs got to 21 points. The Browns offense still seems weak, and the Chiefs might not have cracked 7 points if not for turnovers and punt returns.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers (-3) with a total of 40;
Another interesting perception hot-spot. As I've said, this blog's individual writeups will focus largely on perception and matchups, since I type these early in the week, and line movement has yet to be a huge factor, or at least not the way we see things bounce later in the week. So, with public perception in mind, I think week 1 didn't change the way people view the Bucs. This is a team that the public sees as pretty bad, but I believe that, for some reason, they're viewed as just a hair better than the rest of the bottom feeders. Why, I'm not sure. They sure didn't look very strong in week 1, but they did squeak out a win, thanks to the lackluster play of their opponent, and largely, Delhomme's issues with the turnover. Carolina comes into this one looking like garbage. They were unable to get a ground game going against the Giants in week 1, and starting QB Matt Moore was murdered by Osi Umenyiora late in the game, causing him to be taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons. He appears to be close to healthy, and I believe the verdict is a concussion. All signs seem to indicate he'll start against Tampa, barring any setbacks. So, with that in mind, and considering the Panthers are looking to pick up their 7th straight divisional home win (clearly, they have a home field edge), this line is relatively cheap. As far as the total goes, again, I have trouble taking an Over until a team shows me they can score. Plus, we know Carolina wants to win with a running game, which should, to some degree, shorten the game.
Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons (-7) with a total of 44;
This game is, in my opinion, a little bit short on public perception angles. The Cardinals played the Rams in week 1, and truly escaped with a win in that one. Folks are a little low on this team, but probably for good reason. Arizona, without Kurt Warner and without Anquan Boldin, isn't very good. They still have some talent, some "opportunistic" members of their defense, but this is probably going to be a down season for the Cardinals. For the Falcons, they played the Steelers tough, tough defense in week 1, on the road, and as we covered in our week 1 blog, the Falcons were not a good road team, at all, in 2009. Now, back at home, and getting some significant respect with this line, the Falcons have to put up or shut up. I happen to believe that, given what we've seen, and what we know, this line is probably about where it should be. The initial move was down to 6.5, which leads me to believe that the Cardinals are expected to play better this week than they did in week 1, but you couldn't talk me into backing Arizona here if I gave you all week. The total is intriguing to me, since I think we're seeing a lower number than we would have if neither team played in week 1. Both teams have their "marquee" guys on the offensive side of the ball (Fitzgerald, Ryan, Turner, White, etc.), so to get a low/mid-40's number to work with makes me think that the Falcons' disappointing offensive effort against the Steelers, and the Cardinals stumbling over themselves in St. Louis has driven this number down a couple ticks. It might still be too high, that is true, but with the way we saw Michael Turner rip weak run defenses to shreds last year, the Falcons could very well put up 28.
Miami Dolphins @ Minnesota Vikings (-6) with a total of 42.5;
Of all the games on the Sunday card, I'm not sure I'm less interested in any. Seriously, I considered not even profiling this game, because I believe the combination of the question marks these teams left for us in week 1 with the very fishy opening line makes this side nearly unbettable for me. Let me elaborate. The Vikings showed us very little in their opener. That run defense is still among the best in the League, though they weren't tested a ton by the rather pass-heavy Saints offense. Still, against the Dolphins, a rush-first team, the Vikings are going to get a workout up front. Offensively, Favre looked tired. He made some nice plays in the first half, but adjustments made by the Saints, combined with, perhaps, some lack of conditioning, left Minnesota fairly impotent in the final 30 minutes of their road opener. The Dolphins snuck by Buffalo, one of the worst teams in the NFL, so it's tough to get a read on what this team really is. They should have an improved passing attack, with Henne having an offeseason to mature, and Brandon Marshall on board, but we didn't see much there in week 1, either. Then, the line. I know I said this blog would focus more on perception, and clearly the perception is that the Vikings are going to be good, with all the success they had last year and Favre back, but opening at just under a TD is absolutely a strong opening number for the Dolphins. The total is also relatively low for a team with Favre and Adrian Peterson. As we mentioned with Carolina, the Dolphins are a team that shortens games by keeping the ball on the ground, but they're going to have to air it out a little to beat the Vikings, and to me, all the factors going head-to-head in this game just makes it too dicey. Thoughts welcome.
St. Louis Rams @ Oakland Raiders (-6) with a total of 37;
I wonder if perhaps I'm seeing something wrong, but I have the Raiders opening as a 6 point favorite. If that is indeed correct, then this line has made the largest move of any game thus far, all the way down to Raiders by 3.5. Some of that is the result of Oakland getting positively stomped in week 1 by the Tennessee Titans, losing by 25 points, tied with the other Bay Area team for the biggest losers of week 1. The other part of that line move is clearly big money. The line hasn't moved through a key number, so it's not colossal cash, but a 2.5-point line move is going to require some significant dough. So, our job is to figure out why. I already made mention of the Raiders looking like a team that has a long way to go. That might account for a point, 1.5 at the most. But the Rams didn't really do anything to account for that other move. St. Louis lost their opener, relying heavily on Sam Bradford, as he attempted a ridiculous 55 passes. He tossed a couple interceptions, but it seems like the team is pretty pleased with his progress, overall. Let's not forget, though. The Rams have been bad for a while. Is this really a team that we think can keep it close with anyone on the road? This is another game where you're going to have to back a mediocre club, and that generally eliminates a lot of the inherent line value. I do believe the Raiders will make a little noise before the season is over, but not sure I'd play them as a favorite. In terms of the total, I simply ask, "Will anyone break 17 points?" The Raiders defense isn't as awful as Tennessee made them look, and we know the offense is pretty feeble. But, in a game with two terrible teams, turnovers happen, mistakes happen, and you could see 14 points in 2 minutes, then 24 points in the other 58.
Seattle Seahawks @ Denver Broncos (-3) with a total of 40;
This game is a perception gold mine! Does that mean we have a play? Maybe...not necessarily, but we sure as hell have some fodder for this blog. The Seahawks, the visitors, come to town off a decisive victory, at home, over the slightly overrated 49ers. The box score tells bettors that the Seahawks were, pardon my lack of class, "the shiz," and to their credit, they did play a good game. But not 25-point win good! The Niners committed all sorts of sins, turnovers led to Seahawks points, and that stadium is well known as one of the loudest in the nation due to its unique design. Can this team, with so many new pieces, new coaches, new attitudes, take that operation on the road and play as well? Clearly, this team is better with a healthy Matt Hasselbeck, but we all know that's about as reliable a body as uncooked pasta. On top of that, they're playing in altitude, on the road, so that only adds one more small wrinkle. Seattle was, as discussed on the Tuesday podcast, one of the teams that looked way better in the box score than they actually are. Denver, meanwhile, was one of the teams that I thought looked worse in their loss than they actually are. That team played a pretty solid game, though they had issues finishing drives. Knowshon Moreno should be better every week as he heals up from a hamstring injury, and Denver traded for Lawrence Maroney (though I can't definitively say I know his role yet). But let's be frank. Denver's receiving corps is young, Orton is a reliable, but unspectacular QB, and unless they establish a running game, they're in trouble. Based on that, I think we're seeing a pretty fair total. Denver would prefer a slugfest, and Seattle would prefer to air it out. The total we're seeing is somewhere in between. The perception of these teams isn't giving us much to work with on the total, though I definitely expect Seattle to score fewer points this week on the road, and perhaps be the team that makes the key mistakes.
Houston Texas (-2) @ Washington Redskins with a total of 44.5;
Houston is certainly going to be the public side off last week's dominant performance against the Colts, and this game comes down to the simple question of whether Houston is that good, or whether Indy's defense is so weak that, perhaps, we were duped into thinking they're stronger than they are. Maybe it's the fact that I've had Matt Schaub a few times on my fantasy teams, but I like the Texans. They're exciting, they have a tremendous lead receiver in Johnson, Foster has emerged as a solid back - what's not to like? Well, the defense got a nice test in week 1, and I would imagine that the Redskins won't put quite the same pressure on them that Peyton Manning can, but they're also going to be facing a much tougher defense, and they'll be doing so on the road. This line has moved up to a FG, and I'd be surprised to see it get higher than that. From a pure perception standpoint, if you were going to fade it, you'd play Washington, but I happen to think this game is much more complex than others on this list. Washington is going to score more in this one than they did against the Cowboys solid defense. This game is feeling like a pass to me, as I'd really like to see Houston on the road before buying into the hype. This was officially the "waffling writeup" of the week.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ San Diego Chargers (-8.5) with a total of 45;
Almost any time you've got a team coming off a Monday Night Football game, there are going to be some perception angles. Certainly, too, when it's a bit of an unexpected Monday Night Football result (for those not in the know, of course), that's going to create even more ripples in the perception lake. So, not surprisingly, this line's initial move was down to a TD. This is a long way for Jacksonville to go to play this game, and certainly the Chargers are likely to do a better job of taking care of the ball, not getting blasted by an opponent's special teams, and Jacksonville won their first game largely because it was at home against a team of roughly equal talent. Just look around if you don't believe me. Everyone is abandoning ship on the Chargers after just one game. The public is betting Jacksonville! Yes, the Jaguars. Jacksonville, against a good team, has, literally, one weapon. Against bad teams, other guys become weapons, but against the Chargers, who actually showed a strong defense in that Monday Night game (don't forgot how well they put the clamps on KC), it's going to be Jones-Drew or bust. Be careful taking the points here, with the way the Chargers looked to everyone on the planet. This is a very winnable game for San Diego, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them take out some aggression in their opener. The total is right on the money. No strong notes from game 1's results that we can either back or fade in that regard.
New England Patriots (-1.5) @ New York Jets with a total of 40;
This game is a lesson in line-reading. I'll try to go through this as logically as I can, but be warned that these paragraphs often end up just as a stream of thoughts. So, week 1. The Patriots go to town on the Bengals, basically pounding them before Cincinnati could even figure out what was going on. Once the Bengals got some rhythm going, they made a small comeback, but the Pats still found ways to score. What most people SAW was New England looking awesome, and Cincinnati looking overmatched. What most people should have seen was New England's defense looking marginal, and indeed, Brady and Welker looked very good. The Jets played the Ravens on Monday Night Football. What most people saw was Mark Sanchez stinking up a storm and the Jets defense doing everything in their power to keep the worthless offense in the game. What most people should have seen was, well, pretty similar to that. The Jets lost their stud nose tackle for the year, which will probably hurt them more against teams that run the ball a bit more, but still a tough loss. The question that makes this game so interesting is whether Sanchez looked awful because the Ravens are still that tough or because Sanchez is just not going to grow as a QB for a while (or never?). That's a good reason to avoid the side, though I'd be inclined to (if someone put a gun to my head) go WITH the perception, for better or worse, and take the road favorite before I'd bet on the Jets. The Pats struggled on the road last year, and this game could indeed be close, which is why I, again, suggest waiting for a better side. As far as line-reading goes, that's where the total comes in. This is a very low total for a game involving the Patriots, and it's only come down to 38.5. Oddsmakers believe the Jets will succeed at slowing things down, and that total line makes backing New England awfully scary.
New York Giants @ Indianapolis Colts (-5.5) with a total of 46.5;
This line is funny, as it went up to 6 at Bodog, and down to 4.5 or 5 just about everywhere else. Another lesson in having multiple outs. As far as perception goes, I believe the Colts are still the public team, despite the first week's results. The proof if that is in the fact that even with this line above a FG, most bettors think the Colts are going to take care of business. This comes back to a point that Marco made on the NFL Specialty podcast (digression: if you guys aren't listening to the 2 Specialty Shows every week, I pity your bankroll), where the absolute BEST teams in the NFL, or at least the teams that have the longevity of the Colts, are basically immune to the effects of an ugly loss, in terms of perception, in the short term. In fact, because the Colts have that running tally of 12-win seasons, and because Peyton Manning is universally regarded as The Man, the week 1 loss might actually increase public bets on Indy, since no one expects them to open the season 0-2. For folks that watch the games and study the teams, you guys are aware that the Giants are putting up points. They did it in the preseason, they did it in game one, and they'll do it against the Sanders-less Colts D, which has been just miserable. In a shootout, it's not easy to win by more than a few points. I believe this game is decided by a TD or less, which makes the Giants and the Over look interesting, but keep an eye on how the games go during the day because this line is going to go somewhere, and you can probably make a good prediction off the other "public" games results.
New Orleans Saints (-4.5) @ San Francisco 49ers with a total of 44;
Fresh off a victory over the "who knows how good or bad they are" Minnesota Vikings, the Saints take their show on the road...to the Bay. Let's keep this one a little simpler. Monday Night home dogs are almost always in play, until the public catches on. That usually happens mid/late-season, and then suddenly the home dogs get decent again after losing one or two. I'd say we're still in the wheelhouse of home dogs being decent bets. Based on the perception that the Niners are awful, which is how they looked in week 1, this line is moving up. I wouldn't draw too much from the line movement in this game, since, as of mid-week, over 90% of the tickets being printed appear to be headed to the Superbowl Champs. So, bet the Niners, right? Well, not so fast. The Saints last played on the opening Thursday, which means they've had significantly more time to get ready than San Francisco. On top of that, the Saints were quite good on the road last year, so the home field edge isn't quite as strong as with most other visiting teams. Sure, the Monday Night aspect means that the Niners will probably play better, but that Saints defense can definitely force some turnovers, and that's absolutely a point of concern if the Niners fall behind and have to pass. Bottom line, there's probably a little value on the Niners, especially if the line continues to slowly climb, and especially if this game becomes a bailout spot, but getting to that touchdown on the line is key.