As is often the case in the first week of a new season, there are both shockers and surprises in addition to games that go pretty much as both linemakers and bettors expect.
The Cleveland Browns are already assured of a better season in 2017 than they experienced last season by virtue of a 21-21 against Division rival Pittsburgh on Sunday. Should they go on to lose their next 15 games the Browns, at 0-15-1, would still better their 0-16 record of last season but would not eclipse the 1-15 record of 2016.
What makes that tie game especially noteworthy is the Browns were +5 in turnover margin. Dating back 30 seasons to 1988, there were 243 games in which a team was +5 or more in turnover margin. Those teams were a combined 235-8 Straight Up and 227-14-2 Against the Spread (ATS).
Since the Browns entered the NFL in 1999 they are one of just four teams to have lost such a game and now they earn the distinction of also having a tie. If there is any tangible positive to take from the Browns’ performance in the tie game it is that they did reward their backers who took pointpreads of +3.5 or +4, making them now 2-1 ATS in those ugly efforts.
Week 1 often raises many more questions than it answers. The same is true of Week 2 when we get our initial indication of how teams respond to their efforts in Week 1.
In assessing what a team needs to do to make the Playoffs a reasonable approach would be for a team to go 6-2 at home and split their eight road games for a 10-6 record. That is usually good enough to earn at least a Wild Card and also has won Division titles.
Baltimore PK at Cincinnati (44): They’ve split their season series the past two seasons. Four of their last five meetings have stayed UNDER the Total. Just one of those games – their second meeting last season – produced more than 40 total points. UNDER
Indianapolis +5.5 at Washington (45.5): Often there is an overreaction to opening week results, especially in matchups of teams that had contrasting performances. Washington appears improved, but they will be challenged by a more talented QB this week than last. INDIANAPOLIS
Carolina +5 at Atlanta (44): It can be argued the Falcons played better in defeat on the road than the Panthers did in their home victory. And the Falcons played the better foe. ATLANTA
Minnesota (NL) at Green Bay (NL): Aaron Rodgers is now listed as probable for this, their second straight Divisional game to open the season. This is an excellent spot for the hosts but the Vikes have the talent and balance to win here. Aside from Rodgers versus Kirk Cousins, it’s hard to find where the Packers have another significant personnel edge. MINNESOTA
LA Chargers -7.5 at Buffalo (43): Buffalo had the worst performance of any team last week, losing 47-3 at Baltimore. DE Joey Bosa missed the opener for the Chargers and is listed as doubtful for this contest. He is a difference maker. Given their penchant for slow starts and the intangibles surrounding this game, an outright upset should not be a surprise. Certainly the points are generous. BUFFALO
Houston NL at Tennessee: Fundamentally the Texans have both the better defense and more explosive offense. Although Watson is expected to play, should he miss the game the Houston defense is strong enough to overcome his absence against a pedestrian Tennessee offense, even with a healthy Mariota. HOUSTON
Kansas City +5 at Pittsburgh (52.5): The Chiefs have not had much success in recent seasons against the Steelers yet all but one of their eight meetings over the past decade has been non-competitive with most of the Chiefs’ problems related to a lack of offense. Yet only once in their last seven meetings has Pittsburgh topped 20 points. KANSAS CITY
Miami +3 at NY Jets (44): Miami’s 27-20 home win over Tennessee was marked by a pair of lengthy weather delays yet still gave Dolphin fans reason for optimism. Concerns about a midweek hurricane could disrupt Miami’s preparation for this game. The Jets have won three of the last four meetings and although the Jets may have just played the best game they will play all season they are worth backing here at a FG or less. NYJ
Philadelphia -3 at Tampa Bay (44): We should see a better effort from Philly QB Nick Foles who was inconsistent against Atlanta. Tampa Bay still has major concerns on defense. The Tampa offense is unlikely to come close to repeating their effort of last week (529 yards of total offense) but in what handicaps as an uptempo game this Total appears a bit soft. OVER
Cleveland +9 at New Orleans (49): Cleveland appears to be a much improved team but their better chance for a win may be back at home next week against the Jets, a team out to prove they can follow a strong effort with a second such one. NEW ORLEANS
Arizona +12.5 at LA Rams (45.5): The Rams’ defense should have success against QB Sam Bradford but the Arizona running game with David Johnson might be able to chew up clock. And in Todd Gurley the Rams have an outstanding RB of their own. Both defenses should outshine both offenses, which generally leads to a low scoring game. UNDER
Detroit +5.5 at San Francisco (47.5): Detroit’s confidence may be shaken after Monday night’s effort whereas the Niners simply were outplayed by a better team in Minnesota. The fundamental edges are with the 49ers, who have to feel confident in going against Detroit QB Matthew Stafford who had perhaps the worst game of his career Monday night, tossing four interceptions. SAN FRANCISCO
New England -2 at Jacksonville (45): Given the history of New England, laying under a FG to a team that is largely challenged offensively can be risky. Let’s look toward the Total with the prevailing thought being the Pats don’t need to take too many chances against a defense that has the capability to score more than the offense and just be patient. UNDER
Oakland +5.5 at Denver (46): Teams often show the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 and with Jon Gruden now having had a week to evaluate his team under real game conditions we might see more changes from the Raiders than from the Broncos. These teams have split their last six games which have mostly been competitive. OAKLAND
NY Giants +3 at Dallas (42): This has been a very even series recently with the teams splitting their last dozen meetings. Interestingly, the Cowboys swept the series last season after the Giants did the same in 2016. NY GIANTS
Seattle +3.5 at Chicago (43.5): Both teams opened with competitive road losses and the loser here drops to 0-2. New Chicago coach Matt Nagy will be challenged to get his team to get over the tough loss in Green Bay. If successful, he should get a solid winning effort from a team that has many solid edges with the exception of QB as Mitchell Trubisky is still evolving and showing promise. CHICAGO
Last week: 7-8-1