Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is almost complete with just a pair of Monday night games to be played.
Rather than providing answers, each season’s opening week gives rise to many more questions.
For example, was Houston’s 34-7 blowout win over Indianapolis more an indication of how much improved the Texans are or will QB Peyton Manning’s absence from the Colts’ lineup have an even greater impact than imagined?
Was Carolina rookie QB Cam Newton’s impressive debut a sign of things to come or an indictment of the Arizona defense?
There are some handicapping tenets that are worth mentioning in trying to sort out answers to the many questions that the opening week – and the next few weeks – will raise.
First and foremost, do not overreact to what you saw last. Put things in perspective and recall that a team is never as good as it looks when it plays its best nor as bad as when plays its worst.
The challenge for the handicapper and bettor is to determine the level of a team’s performance in a game – average, below average, or above average. Only down the road, in hindsight, can we truly make a determination as to what the opening week’s results represent.
Despite the expectation of low scoring games in Week 1, the results through Sunday showed the OVER with a substantial 10-3-1 edge. The line push was Philadelphia’s 31-13 win at St. Louis with the total 44.
Favorites covered in just five of the 13 games with the Arizona/Carolina matchup resulting in a point spread push. Of the eight underdogs to cover, six won outright with both Buffalo and Chicago posting impressive wins.
Jacksonville’s victory as an underdog came as a result of late money pouring in on visiting Tennessee that had the Titans go off as 1 point favorites after opening up the day as 1 point underdogs.
Here’s a look at Week 2 using representative Monday mid morning lines from the few places that them posted at the time.
Bears +6½ at Saints (47): Chicago was impressive in its opening win over Atlanta. With the Saints having an extra few days to prepare and facing the prospects of an 0-2 start, they should be very aggressive in establishing and lengthening the lead. SAINTS.
Chiefs +7½ at Lions (44): The Chiefs were embarrassed at home by Buffalo and should perform better this week. Detroit looked very sharp in a decisive win at Tampa Bay. Last week’s results mean the line will be inflated, making it more attractive to play a motivated underdog. CHIEFS.
Jaguars +10 at Jets (37): The Jets step down in class and are primed for a much better effort. Jacksonville steps up in class and lacks the talent to keep pace. JETS.
Raiders (NL) at Bills: Buffalo may have had the most impressive performance of opening week, winning on the road 41-7 at KC. Oakland opened at Denver on Monday night. Buffalo’s defense is expected to be vastly improved and face a less potent offense here. UNDER.
Cards +4½ at Redskins (42½): Both teams are off comeback wins. New Arizona QB Kevin Kolb put up decent numbers in his debut but the Cardinals defense has to be a concern after allowing Carolina rookie QB Cam Newton to throw for 422. OVER.
Ravens -5½ at Titans (37½): The Ravens could be in for a letdown following the huge divisional win against Pittsburgh. Tennessee is expected to show steady improvement over the course of the season. TITANS.
Seahawks +14½ at Steelers (38½): This one could get ugly as Pittsburgh plays its home opener following a one sided loss at Baltimore. Seattle rallied from a 16-0 halftime deficit at San Francisco to get within 19-17 before special teams two late scores. Look for the Steelers defense to come up big and limit Seattle to single digits. UNDER.
Packers -10½ at Panthers (45): Carolina rookie QB Cam Newton faces a stiffer challenge against a Packers defense that is much better than it showed against the Saints. Laying double digits on the road is rarely recommended so the preference is for the lesser of two unattractive options. PANTHERS.
Bucs +3 at Vikings (41): The Vikes have perhaps the NFL’s top RB, in Adrian Peterson but QB Donovan McNabb had some awful stats in the loss at San Diego. Tampa failed in a fourth quarter comeback attempt against Detroit. The stronger running game and veteran QB laying the short number is the better option. VIKINGS.
Browns -2 at Colts (37): It appears as if it will be a very long and trying season for the Colts without QB Peyton Manning. The Browns began their season with a thud, losing at home to lowly Cincinnat. It’s often better to rely on proven class though playing shorthanded than on a team that has yet to show it can deliver. COLTS.
Cowboys -3 at 49ers (41½): Niners QB Alex Smith was an efficient 15 for 20, but for only just 124 yards. Dallas will be steaming after blowing a 14 point fourth quarter lead for the first time in franchise history. Dallas is the more talented team on both sides of the football and prepared to avoid 0-2 start. COWBOYS.
Texans (NL) at Dolphins: It’s hard to find fault with any aspect of Houston’s performance in their dominating 34-7 win over Indianapolis. Texas will face a Miami team that can run the ball much better than did Indy. That could provide opportunities for the Miami passing game to have some big plays in what should be a high scoring contest. OVER.
Chargers (NL) at Patriots: Barring key injuries on Monday night, New England should be favored by a touchdown. Few teams are as well prepared and well coached as the Patriots. Few are as poorly prepared and coached than San Diego. The talent is fairly close but the intangibles point in only one direction. PATRIOTS.
Bengals (NL) at Broncos: The Bengals displayed a solid running game. Rookie QB Andy Dalton was injured and backup Bruce Gradkowski engineered the comeback against Cleveland. Denver is expected to be much stronger defensively this season. UNDER.
Eagles -2½ at Falcons (49½): These teams have met in each of the past three seasons and the Eagles have won all three by double digit margins. So why the very short opening line? The NFL is never as easy as it looks and teams often bounce back after extreme performances. If so, expect the Falcons to be sharp and the Eagles a bit flat. FALCONS.
Rams (NL) at Giants: The line figures to be around 6. If Chad Bradford and Steven Jackson play, the Rams could be competitive, but their absence could result in a Giants blowout. Injuries to the Giants defense suggest we should see enough scoring to see this game exceed the posted total which could be in the range of 38 to 41. OVER.