The column is back for another week of bets! Week 1 was loads of fun. We went 3-1 with our ATS picks last week but lost our bonus two-team teaser at the end. Being at the Chargers game at FedEx Field, I could not watch the rest of the morning games live. After watching everything back, I’m not going to lie that I was pretty annoyed by Zach Wilson’s last-minute garbage-time touchdown with minutes left that ruined our Panthers bet. The game should have never been close; the Panthers left 15 or so points on the board. If you got the Panthers at the closing line of -3.5, that blip didn’t matter, and you got yourselves a winner. The Cardinals and the Browns put on a show to give us easy covers, and the Chargers pulled through in clutch time for the first time!
Regardless, we move forward to what is usually my favorite week of the NFL betting season, Week 2. Remember we went 7-2 last year on this specific week and there's a lot of reasons why I love it. It’s my birthday weekend- I don’t lose on my birthday weekend.
Week 2: Betting Strategy - Over Reaction Sunday:
I love betting Week 2 because everyone thinks they have all the teams figured out after one week. This is simply not the case. The truth is the Jaguars aren’t as bad as they showed us against the Texans, and the Eagles are not suddenly the best team in the NFC East.
The public and the market make huge swings in adjustments from Week 1 to Week 2. This is where we utilize the practice of “sport” betting- where we single out lookahead letdown and positive/negative regression spots to uncover. I’m a huge believer in spots bets. I’m using them to find the best NFL Week 2 bets, singling out lookahead, letdown, and tough schedule spots to uncover some spread or total value that may be flying under the radar of most bettors. It allows us to exploit some of the inefficiencies in these markets.
Week 2 Trends: Divisional Unders in Week 2 are 55-38-1 ATS since 2005 - also, underdogs went 12-4 ATS in Week 1
Now, to the Week 2 Picks:
Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
Spread: Chicago -2.5
The Bengals were one of many loud barking dogs in Week 1. They pulled out a 27-24 OT thriller against the Minnesota Vikings. Joe Burrow looked good coming off a significant knee injury, and it turns out Ja’Marr Chase can catch a football. After last week’s surprising performance, the Bengals are the square underdog of the week catching over 80 percent of the bets in this contest. On top of Cincy’s success, they are going on the road to play a team that was embarrassed on Sunday Night Football.
In reality, the Bears played a lot better than the 34-14 final score indicated. The Bears were playing in the worst possible spot of any team in Week 1. They were on the road for the home opener of a brand new stadium, and the defense didn’t have any way to prepare for the revamped Sean McVay offense with Matt Stafford under center. Since McVay disciple Zac Taylor implemented similar route concepts when he took over in Cincinnati, the Bears secondary can easily prepare for Cincy’s throw at them.
While Joe Burrow was great throwing the ball, the former LSU Tiger still had to run for his life. The Bengals allowed a league-worst 16.2 percent adjusted sack rate in Week 1. Basically, it looked as though there was zero improvement after their offensive line led the league in QB pressures last year by a significant margin. Now they have to go up against Khalil Mack and one of the league’s better front sevens. The Bengals were also able to take advantage of the league’s worst-rated secondary. Unfortunately, things won’t be as easy for Joe Burrow in the Windy City.
Offensively, there is a lot of talk. The Bears are going to struggle to move the ball against this “significantly” improved Cincinnati defense. I don’t see it. To begin, this defense was ranked 27th in total DVOA last year, and they added two starters in Trey Hendrickson and Chidobe Auwozie. It’s not like they shut down the Vikings; the Bengals defense was still below average last week, ranking 19th overall in DVOA, and they allowed 5.4 yards per play.
With Andy Dalton’s revenge game in the midst, the Bears should move the ball against this Cincy defense. The Bengals don’t have a guy who can cover Allen Robinson one on one, and Dalton just has to avoid the big turnovers—so we strongly advise fading the public underdog in this one.
Give me the Bears in the Windy City.
The pick: Chicago (-2.5)
New England Patriots at New York Jets
Spread: Patriots -6
We have a battle between rookie quarterbacks in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Patriots are a team that has one of the more positive outlooks after a loss. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones had an 83% adjusted completion percentage against a very aggressive Dolphins defense. On the other hand, Zach Wilson had 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the Jets 19-14 loss against Carolina. It’s probably fair to note the Jets ran just four plays in Carolina territory until the middle of the third quarter.
We know that rookie quarterbacks routinely struggle against Bill Belichick’s defense. The Sith Lord in the grey sweater is 21-6 all-time against rookie quarterbacks, and only four of those QB’s have had QB rating above 90. I don’t expect Zach Wilson to be the fifth. The Patriots front seven is revamped and healthy after missing several starters due to Covid opt-outs last season. While I like the Patriots to win the game, the six-point number on the road is simply too high for me. So let’s pick under. (When Aaron picks three unders in one week, I’m obligated to pick one too.) We love defense at ATM media.
Belichick is going to play extremely conservatively with his rookie starting quarterback. New England finished 28th in pace during Week 1, averaging one play every 31.5 seconds. The Jets weren’t much faster, averaging 28.7 seconds per play.
Both defenses are the anchor and strength of their teams. Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded head coach, and he is going to try to win on that side of the ball. However, his offense is not going to take as many risks in this spot. Also, we get to use our trend of the week- the under in Week 2 division game cashes 59 percent of the time.
I see the Patriots winning this game 20-13. This will be a defensive struggle so you won’t catch much of the game on the red zone channel.
Check the never moving box score and cash the under ticket once the game ends.
The Pick: Under 42.5
Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: Denver (-6)
This is the game to target if we are trying to navigate the pendulum of NFL swinging narratives. The look-ahead line for this game was the Broncos -1.5 two weeks ago. Now the Jaguars get an extra 5.5 points after a brutal showing against the Texans. A team has never won their Week 1 game playing on the road with a rookie starting QB and with a rookie NFL coach in the Super Bowl era. It was a bad spot for Jacksonville. Now the narrative is shifting around Jacksonville, creating this monster line.
Denver looked good against the Giants last week. Teddy Bridgewater proved once again that he is a cover machine. However, how will Denver respond playing a second straight road game? Denver is 1-6 ATS following a win in their last seven. So the question has to be, is Denver this good, and are the Jaguars this bad? Both of those hypotheses have to be correct to justify this line.
The Jaguars offense didn’t look good against the Texans. Trevor Lawrence threw three (bad) interceptions; they were plagued with penalties and averaged just 5.8 yards per play. The one area they did excel in was their offensive line play. The Jaguars ranked third in the NFL in adjusted line yards in the run game and gave Lawrence a clean pocket to surrender a 2.2 percent adjusted sack rate. This offense has a chance to hold up against the Denver pass rush. We need this offense to stay ahead of the chains to be able to move the ball. The Jaguars still have a ton of offensive talent.
Offensively, the Broncos stats against the Giants are inflated due to Melvin Gordon’s 73-yard touchdown run. The Broncos ran for less than four yards per carrying when you take the play out of the equation. Vic Fangio wants his offense to play conservatively on that side of the football. Bridgewater averaged just 7.3 yards per completion
Nobody is giving the Jags a chance here, so fade the public, plug our noses, and hope for the best.
The pick: Jacksonville (+6)
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Spread: New Orleans (-3)
We get the first division matchup between Jameis Winston and Sam Darnold. We get to play a little bit of overreaction with this total. Last Sunday, the Panthers averaged 6.0 yards per play yet only scored 19 points. The Panthers left around 15 points on the board, kicking two red-zone field goals, and Sam Darnold fumbled the ball on a handoff on the Jets nine-yard line.
In the second half of the Saints-Green Bay game, the Saints could milk the clock. The Packers offense more or less gave up in the second half. That doesn’t take away from the great performance the Saints defense put on. But the Vegas oddsmakers are valuing them at a high mark after finishing No. 1 in overall DVOA last Sunday.
The total is discounted three to four points because of last week’s results. Both teams should be able to move the ball in this game. Four out of the last five meetings between these two teams have gone over this number. Winston has historically been a profitable over quarterback with his willingness to push the ball downfield.
We get this number below the key point of 45.5, 47, and 48. Too much value here to pass up.
The Pick: Over 45
Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals
Spread: Arizona (-4)
We have two franchises going in opposite directions after Week 1. The Cardinals obliterated the defending AFC South champs by 25 points. The game was never in doubt. Meanwhile, the Vikings suffered a brutal road loss to the projected last-place Bengals. The Vikings offense struggled- accumulating 49 more penalty yards than actual rushing yards.
If you read our season previews, then you have a familiarity of how I feel about these two teams. The Cardinals are on the rise making the correct defensive acquisitions through free agency and the draft to put them in a position to take the next step. While the Vikings tried to fix a flesh wound with a band-aid and Neosporin. After what Joe Burrow did last week, the cuts in the secondary are still bleeding. They are going to be exposed by this Cardinals passing attack on Sunday.
The Vikings ranked in the bottom four in passing yards allowed last season. Their biggest offseason additions were 32-year-old Patrick Peterson, 35-year-old Xavier Woods, and 32-year-old Bashaud Breeland. Although this is a revenge game for Patrick Peterson, the long time Cardinal. I expect him to try to shadow DeAndre Hopkins.
While a big focus on this game is how Kyler Murray is absolutely going to rail this Vikings secondary, I think the Cardinals biggest advantage is at the line of scrimmage. Chandler Jones is on pace to record 85 sacks this year. Yes, that's hyperbole, but he looked awesome in Week 1. The Cardinals led the NFL in pressure rate in Week 1 against the Titans. Now they get to face one of the lowest-rated offensive lines in the league. Jones will be able to feast against Rashod Hill or rookie Christian Darrisaw. I’m not sure the Vikings will be able to get push upfront to get their ground game going. The improved Cardinals defense makes this team a legitimate contender. I believe they make another statement in their home opener Sunday.
The pick: Arizona (-4)
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
Spread: Kansas City (-3.5)
Fun fact, me and Patrick Mahomes were born on the EXACT same day. You best believe I ain’t betting against the GOAT on his birthday weekend. Actually, you should stay away from betting against Mahomes the whole month of September. In September, Mahomes has averaged over 330 yards per game, and thrown 35 passing touchdowns while also avoiding a single interception. On top of that, his impressive stats make him undefeated in the month of September in his starts at 11-0. It helps Andy Reid s a thousand new gimmick plays every offseason. The Chiefs were able to come through late against the Browns after a sluggish first half in Week 1.
The Ravens are technically a team that was built to beat this Chiefs team. They are a ground attack team. They are physical at the point of attack on both sides of the football. They have two corners that excel in man coverage, they have a top tier defensive front. They should be competitive against them.
But the reality is, the Chiefs dominate this series. The Chiefs are one of the best teams against the blitz, and the Ravens have the highest blitz percentage in the league by a country mile. While the Chiefs are vulnerable against the run, they actually match up well against Baltimore’s rushing attack. A lot of this is because they play their ends at a 9 technique, an alignment on the outside shade of the last lineman on the line scrimmage, that helps the defense gain outside leverage. This limits Lamar Jackson’s ability to get to the edge on read options. It also limits the explosive running plays Baltimore relies on. The Chiefs have also done a great job of jumping out to big leads, forcing Lamar to throw.
I think that’s what is going to happen here. The Chiefs' defense showed up in the second half holding the Browns to just one offensive score. The Chiefs will most likely get Frank Clark and Tryan Mathieu back in their defensive lineup. Two enormous additions for the Chiefs defense.
On the other side, Ravens left tackle Ronnie Staley is unlikely to suit up, and overall, the Ravens lack depth at the tackle spot after they traded Orlando Brown to the Chiefs. I think this is an ugly spot for the Ravens. Their offensive line struggled at times against the Raiders last week. Frank Clark and Chris Jones will present a much tougher test.
I expect Mahomes and the Chiefs to put a big number early. I’ll take KC in the first half here. In Patrick Mahomes I trust.
The pick: Kansas City - first half (-3)
For all his picks, make sure Austin on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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