In last week’s column, I mentioned the Under surge last Sunday in the NFL and we saw more lower scoring games again take place in Week 2.
Unders were 10-4-1 in Week 1 and for the season it is now 19-9-2. I want to highlight two teams in particular that have had some massive problems on the offensive side of the football through their first two games of the season.
The Cincinnati Bengals have been held without a single TD in two home games against Baltimore and Houston proceeding to go 0-2 SU and ATS from a side and perspective and 2-0 to the Under from a totals perspective in the process. Cincinnati has responded to their offensive woes by firing OC Ken Zampese following the loss to Houston last Thursday night. He had been the OC since the start of last season and was replaced by current Cincinnati QB coach Bill Lazor.
It’s a bit of a strange move considering Lazor is supposed to be tutoring QB Andy Dalton and making him better. Yet based on what I’ve seen, Dalton has been the worst player on the Bengals team in two games. That isn’t exactly a situation worthy of a promotion in my mind. That is also why I believe this is a move that may not do much if anything to turn around the problems that plague Cincinnati’s sputtering offense.
The Bengals have been held to 9 points in two games combined and rank 27th and 28th in the NFL respectively in yards per game and yards per play. The offensive line is at the forefront of the Bengals offensive struggles. They said goodbye to two key cogs on that unit from last season with the departures of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler and those two players have not been adequately replaced. The offensive line was average last year and it is worse than that here in 2017.
Dalton has a dismal QB rating when under pressure which has been a regular occurrence with this subpar Cincinnati offensive line this season. If you ask me whether there is a turnaround in sight for Cincinnati’s offense, I’d be very hesitant to say yes. The change in coordinator may light a spark but it may only be a short-term spark, not necessarily a long-term one. They still remain a ‘bet against’ squad for me in the near future.
Another team experiencing significant problems moving the football effectively are the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle’s offensive line is also at the core of their difficulties. It was a below average unit a season ago and they do not appear to be improved through two games this season. Seattle suffered a way under the radar but impact injury to projected starting left tackle George Fant in the preseason and that is a sore spot for this team up front along the offensive line and his absence has left Russell Wilson scrambling out of trouble routinely to make plays. The Seahawks are ranked 26th in total yards per game and 29th in yards per play and they have averaged barely 10 points per game in their first two contests against Green Bay and San Francisco. It’s worth noting that same Packers defense that shut down Seattle last week got gouged by Atlanta in a 34-23 loss on Sunday night.
Seattle has had a mediocre ground game and very negligible passing attack all due to the substandard play of their offensive line. Seattle is 1-1 SU but 0-2 ATS and like Cincinnati they are 2-0 to the Under and like Cincinnati, this is an offense that may not get things back on track anytime soon.
Turning to college football, most teams have now played two or three games by this point and we start to gain more of an understanding and knowledge regarding which teams are good, which are overrated and those that may have had some misleading results and being incorrectly priced or interpreted by the betting markets.
I will present a perfect case regarding this theory. The LSU Tigers were a bet against team for me on Saturday night as I chose Mississippi State +7.5, proving to be a winning wager for me and my clients. The narrative about the LSU Tigers through their first two games is one of a team that has a dominant defense and a solid run first offense that will be tough to stop.
I wasn’t sold on either of those designations heading into Saturday night which was by far the toughest test of the young season for LSU playing their first true road game of the season against Mississippi State in their SEC conference opener. I didn’t trust their run game to work as well on the road against a solid enough defensive front that Mississippi State has and if it didn’t, I had an even lesser amount of trust in LSU QB Danny Etling (a QB that couldn’t stick with a bottom feeder and lowly Purdue program at the time) to carry the team in the passing game through the air.
The LSU defense certainly was impressive in holding UT Chattanooga and BYU to a combined 10 points and 339 total yards on offense. However, one of those teams was an FCS squad and the other was a BYU offense that has been nothing short of inept and unable to do much of anything in terms of moving the football and scoring points against anyone in their first few games. BYU is 128th in the nation in total yards on offense at just 174 yards per game and 127th in the FBS in points per game.
Yet somehow LSU was given a heap of credit for that performance and were being lauded as a stifling defense. That same defense got ripped apart by Mississippi State on Saturday in that 37-7 loss to the Bulldogs as they had to face a leaps and bounds jump in terms of quality of offense and QB on the opposing side. Mississippi State dual threat QB Nick Fitzgerald and a very good Bulldogs offense carved up LSU especially on the ground as the Bulldogs amassed 285 yards rushing at a 5.9 yards per carry clip.
The point of this is to try and spot teams that have a swatch of games that make them look like a dominating squad on the surface but really all they did was end up feasting on a series of opponents that made them look better than they actually are. In LSU’s situation, the Tigers defense went to work on shutting down some very plodding offenses in their first two games which put their defense on a pedestal going into Saturday in which they didn’t belong. They got knocked down off it in a big way in Starkville, Mississippi over the weekend.