There is a delicate dance that NFL bettors do during the beginning of every season: How much do I need to react to what I saw in Week 1?
Sharp bettors have traditionally done very well in the first quarter of the season because they let the rest of the market overreact to what they saw in a very small sample size. But in this untraditional year with limited training camps and no preseason, perhaps there needs to be a stiff adjustment on some teams.
Here are a handful of Week 1 observations, and my thoughts on how bettors should view them moving forward.
Minnesota’s defense will struggle early. From Week 1 of the 2019 season to Week 1 of the 2020 season, the Vikings have turned over roughly 60% of their defense. Over the next eight weeks, Minnesota will face Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers.
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San Francisco will be fine. The 49ers had one of the league’s longest injury reports heading into Week 1, and it certainly showed. San Francisco finished their Week 1 game with three healthy wide receivers and no George Kittle, yet still had a chance to win in the fourth quarter in the Arizona red zone. With upcoming games against the Jets, Giants and Dolphins, the 49ers should have opportunities to get back on track.
The Eagles’ offense is in trouble. It is easy to point to the injuries to Miles Sanders and Lane Johnson as the reason for their struggles, but this roster was thin before Week 1. Why draft Jalen Hurts with a second-round pick and not have him dress for the game?
Here are this week’s selections:
Browns -6 vs. Bengals: Since 2012, seven rookie quarterbacks have had to play on a short week within the first eight games of their career. Those teams went 1-6 with ONE touchdown pass in those seven games, compared to ten interceptions. Those quarterbacks completed 48.6% of their passes. BROWNS
Colts -3 vs. Vikings: The Colts had ten more first downs than Jacksonville, out-gained the Jaguars by 204 yards and held a 1.3 yard-per-play advantage. The Colts knocked a lot of people out of their survivor pools, but there is no reason to overreact to the final score. COLTS
Cardinals vs. Washington FT, Total 46.5: Washington deserves a lot of credit for its Week 1 effort, but let’s not ignore the box score. Washington averaged 3.4 yards per play (last in the league), 2.2 yards per rushing attempt (31st), and 5.1 yards per pass attempt (29th). All five of Washington’s scoring drives started in Philadelphia territory. UNDER
Titans vs. Jaguars, Total 43: Jay Gruden’s stint as a head coach did not go very well in Washington, but he still deserves some respect as an offensive mind. His three years in Cincinnati led to three playoff appearances and helped Andy Dalton get a $115 million contract. Gruden laid out a great game plan for Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars’ offense in Week 1.
But on the defensive side of the ball, Jacksonville did not force the Colts to punt the football once. Tennessee should find similar success against the Jags’ defense. OVER
Steelers -6.5 vs. Broncos: On Monday night, South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews Tweeted about the Denver Broncos, “I’ve only been watching football for over 60 years. I can’t remember worse time management.” Pittsburgh looked like a rusty team with a quarterback that had not played in a year. Denver looked like a poorly-coached team, and one that now has to fly across the country on a short week. STEELERS
Saints -5.5 at Raiders: Most Raiders fans went into last week’s game against Carolina with one thing on their mind: “If we stop Christian McCaffrey, we will win.”
But after the first couple series, McCaffrey was not the problem. Teddy Bridgewater had unlimited time in the pocket to find a receiver. The Raiders generated one sack against a middle-of-the-road Carolina offensive line after finishing No. 25 in sack percentage last year.
New Orleans’ offensive line is not middle-of-the-road. Both Pro Football Focus and The Sporting News have the Saints’ offensive line as the second-best in the NFL. The Raiders’ defensive backs are not good enough to cover Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders without help of a pass rush.
New Orleans did not play a particularly good game against Tampa Bay last week and still scored 34 points. I will be on the Saints’ team total over, and I am willing to lay the points with the visitors. SAINTS
Last week: 4-2