In what has become an offense oriented league in recent seasons the woes being endured by teams such as Carolina and Cincinnati are both troubling and surprising.
Both teams have what are considered balanced if not potent offenses directed by veteran quarterbacks who have had prior success. Yet both Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and Carolina’s Cam Newton have struggled greatly in their first couple of games.
Key injuries are always an issue and the fates of many teams can all but be determined by September casualties. Two of the biggest injuries of note have been suffered by Minnesota QB Sam Bradford and Green Bay WR Jordy Nelson.
Bradford was a late scratch prior to Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh and Nelson was injured in the first half of Sunday night’s game in Atlanta. Both the Vikings and Packers lost but it should also be noted both were road underdogs in those games and, according to those pointspreads, expected to lose.
Thus far underdogs have won 9 of 30 games outright but are just 14-15-1 ATS on the young season. Double digit favorites are 1-2 ATS. The points have mattered in just five games, aside from the single Push.
Despite the trend in recent seasons toward more offense, UNDERs have an early healthy lead versus OVERs with the first 30 games producing 18 UNDERs, 11 OVERs and 1 PUSH through Sunday night.
The first of several games played at foreign sites occurs this Sunday with the early starting game between Baltimore and Jacksonville that will be played in London. The NFL continues to shove these games down our throats all while Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about how the fans are his number one priority. Tell that to the four teams that will play only seven home games this season as a result of playing in London or Mexico City.
Here’s a preview of the 16 games to be played this week.
LA Rams -2.5 at San Francisco (41): Neither team is expected to challenge for even a .500 record. Both teams have new head coaches and a core of young talent, especially on defense, which should be the strength of each while their respective offenses develop. The 49ers have faced much better early competition, losing to Carolina and at Seattle while the Rams routed Indianapolis and lost a competitive game to Washington. Both of those games were at home, which suggests a decline in performance in their first road test. In what handicaps as a low scoring contest the preference is to take the points with the home dog. SAN FRANCISCO
Baltimore -4 vs. Jacksonville (40): Note the 6:30 a.m. start time for this game; you should consider making any plays before calling it a night on Saturday. QB play continues to be an issue for the hosts with Blake Bortles likely on an ever tightening leash. The Ravens should have success reigning in a still developing Jacksonville running game with the Jags more likely than the Ravens to make key mistakes. BALTIMORE
Cleveland -1.5 at Indianapolis (40.5): Both teams have struggled in starting 0-2 although the Colts fared much better in their home OT loss to Arizona than in their opening week blowout loss at the Rams. Cleveland was competitive in their two losses, both to Division rivals. Although Power Ratings might make a case for Cleveland being the better team and worthy of being favored it’s long been difficult to ask a bad team to do something good, especially on the road. INDIANAPOLIS
Pittsburgh -7.5 at Chicago (45.5): The Steelers are off to a 2-0 start and the offense figures to get better week by week as RB Le’Veon Bell gets into peak condition after missing the preseason. The Chicago defense is improved versus last season and it should continue as this season progresses. We should get a good effort from the Bears which makes the points attractive although do note that the Bears play a few days later, next Thursday at Division rival Green Bay. CHICAGO
Miami -6 at NY Jets (41): The Jets are likely to be this season’s version of the 2016 Cleveland Browns. Week after week the “sharps” jumped on the generous points the Browns were getting each week en route to their 1-15 record, going 4-12 ATS. Miami defeated the Jets twice last season, by 4 at home in midseason and by 21 at this venue late in the season as Miami was on its drive toward a Wild Card. And the Jets were a much better team last year than are this season. MIAMI
Denver -2.5 at Buffalo (41)Houston +13 at New England (43.5): This one looks too easy, doesn’t it? After a near perfect game last week against Dallas the 2-0 Broncos play their first game on the road and are laying under a FG. Buffalo, after a nice showing in their opening week win over the Jets, was ineffective on offense in last week’s loss at Carolina. The defense played very well, recording 6 sacks against Panthers QB Cam Newton in a 9-3 loss. Over the past 6 seasons home dogs of 2.5 are 29-22 ATS winning outright nearly half of those games (25). Denver was in that role last week at home when they beat Dallas. BUFFALO
Houston +13 at New England (43.5): The Texans do benefit from the extra rest and coach Bill O’Brien is a former Bill Belichick assistant. The Pats are nursing some injuries, including TE Rob Gronkowski with an injured groin. The Texans do have one of the best defenses in the NFL and certainly one much better than the Pats faced last week. While it’s hard to see the Patriots losing a second straight home game there is plenty of room in this line for the Texans to get the money in a losing effort. HOUSTON
New Orleans +6 at Carolina (48.5): New Orleans had the misfortune of facing the Patriots following a loss last week and thus the 36-20 loss could have been expected. The Saints offense does step up in class against a feisty Carolina defense but, at the same time, the defense is likely not to be as challenged by what has been a rather pedestrian Panthers offense through two games. The last 3 meetings between these Division rivals have each been decided by a FG and the other meeting in the past two season, in Carolina’s 2015 Super Bowl season, was decided by 5. NEW ORLEANS
Tampa Bay (NL) at Minnesota: The status of Minnesota QB Sam Bradford, a late scratch last Sunday, kept this game off the boards early in the week. With Bradford the Vikings likely come about a FG favorite. Without him this game probably falls around a pick. After their opening week game was postponed due to Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay flexed its collective muscle in an impressive 29-7 rout of visiting Chicago. Regardless of Bradford’s status, the preference is to expect a low scoring game. UNDER
Atlanta NL at Detroit: With Detroit playing at the Giants this past Monday night this game was off the boards earlier in the day although Atlanta is projected to be a 3 point road favorite. The Lions still have issues in running the football and on defense. Yet to show signs of the oft cited “Super Bowl lose hangover” the Falcons remain a “go with” team at reasonable prices as long as they continue to play well, especially with one of the NFL’s more potent offenses. ATLANTA
NY Giants NL at Philadelphia: In 17 games last season the Giants never managed to score more than 28 points in a game. The defense is still elite and likely will be called upon to keep the Giants in games until the offense gels, if it ever does. Laying more than a FG to a Division rival, even at home, is risky when the visitor has an experienced QB (Eli Manning) and a top flight defense. UNDER
Seattle +2.5 at Tennessee (43.5): Seattle’s offense has been quite sluggish through two games, managing just 21 points and 537 total yards in starting 1-1. It might be a bit premature for the Titans to be favored over a team that has plenty of experience and has made the Playoffs in each of the last 5 seasons. Intangibles count for much in this type of matchup and an outright ‘upset’ would not surprise. SEATTLE
Kansas City -3 at LA Chargers (45.5): Kansas City has won 6 straight games against the Chargers and it remains to be seen if their temporary home outside LA will be an advantage or a disadvantage considering the apparent lack of enthusiasm of their new fan base. Normally it would be tempting to back the home underdogs with a quality offense led by Philip Rivers. But considering the recent series history and evidence suggesting this is the Chiefs’ most talented team over this span there is reluctance. KANSAS CITY
Cincinnati +10 at Green Bay (45.5): Cincinnati’s offensive woes that have resulted in zero touchdowns through two games have already cost their offensive coordinator his job and there is speculation that HC Marvin Lewis and/or QB Andy Dalton could be next. The Packers suffered multiple injuries in that loss, most notably WR Jordy Nelson who is questionable for this contest. A poor effort here resulting in a one sided loss could cause added turmoil in the Cincy locker room with their season being doomed at 0-3. CINCINNATI
Oakland -3 at Washington (53): Oakland has played very well in starting 2-0. After going 5-0 on cross country trips last season they began 2017 with a win at Tennessee and followed that up with a 45-20 blowout win at home over the pathetic Jets. Washington lost to Philadelphia at home to open its season before winning at the improved Rams last week. Washington is not a bad football team but are not considered contenders. Still, getting a FG at home is tempting and one has to be impressed by the 229 rushing yards the ‘Skins gained against the Rams (39 attempts) in a fine display of physical football. WASHINGTON
Dallas -3.5 at Arizona (47.5): Cardinals QB Carson Palmer is showing his age (37) and the loss to injury of RB David Johnson places added burden upon him. The defense is also showing signs of decline and the window may be closing on the Cardinals’ chances of being a Super Bowl contender. After poor games from both QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliot and a defense that was embarrassed in Denver look for an emphatic bounce back from the Cowboys who have too much offensive balance and a defense that may not be as good as it looked in their opening win over the Giants but also is not nearly as bad as it showed last week. DALLAS
Last week: 9-6 (w/o MNF)