1:00 PM EST
Betting Line Provider: BetOnline
Bengals -4.5 over Jets
This week is do or die for the defending AFC Champions who absolutely cannot afford to start the season 0-3 if they have any hopes of making it back to the Super Bowl again this year. However, despite the ugly start, there is no panic out of the Bengals locker room — from either the players or the coaches. In an interview earlier this week defensive end Sam Hubbard had this to say: “you cant let the 0-2 start affect you. People look at you and your demeanor, how you handle adversity. All you can do is get back to work. And we’re excited to get back to work.” Joe Burrow, when questioned about team morale during his usual Wednesday press conference earlier this morning: “we’re not panicking. We’re two games in, and we’ve got 15 games left. Let’s all just take a deep breath and relax, we’re going to be fine. I’m not worried about it.” Head coach Zac Taylor offered similar optimism: “I know that we’re going to be a really good football team.”
No one within the Bengals organization is overreacting to their less than stellar start and neither am I. It’s not like the Bengals have been terrible or have gotten blown out in both games, far from it. They lost both games as time expired on game winning field goals in games they easily could have and ‘should’ have won. In Week 1, their long snapper got hurt, resulting in a missed extra point and a missed field goal, either of which would have won the game. Last week they took the Cooper Rush led Cowboys lightly and got into an early deficit that they were unable to quite climb out of. If they played that game again this week and Cincinnati came in fully focused, they would blow Dallas out. It’s a long season and the Bengals are far too talented on both sides of the ball to not bounce back in a serious way and it starts this week.
Last year the Bengals had their mid-season surge where they won four out of five games which was culminated by an extremely satisfying 41-17 blowout victory over their divisional rival Ravens. They had another big divisional game on tap the following week against the Browns and sandwiched in between was a road game against the lowly Jets. It was a classic let down spot and unsurprisingly the Bengals came in totally flat (much like they did against Dallas last week) and lost outright as 12 point road favorites. Coming into this game at 0-2, a literal ‘do or die’ game, I have zero worry about Cincinnati being unfocused or taking the Jets lightly. Thanks to the Bengals outright loss against Dallas and the Jets fluke win over Cleveland last week, we are getting a real bargain price on the Bengals in this matchup, the definition of a true ‘buy low’ spot.Outside of the final flukey two minutes last week, the Browns dominated the Jets on both sides of the ball and the Bengals will pick up right where they left off. Nick Chubb trampled the Jets for three touchdowns, so Joe Mixon figures to have a big day. The Bengals offensive issues have stemmed from their poor offensive line play — Burrow has been sacked a league high 13 times already — but the Jets do not have anyone nearly as skilled as T.J. Watt or Micah Parsons coming off the edge. Jacoby Brissett who is awful had an 80% completion percentage last week against the Jets so the far superior Burrow who will actually finally have more than two seconds in the pocket will have plenty of time to pick apart the Jets susceptible secondary with his plethora of skilled offensive weapons.
Joe Flacco turned back the clock last week throwing for four touchdowns and zero interceptions but I’d lay -1000 odds on an ‘under 4 TDs and over 0 INTs’ parlay in this game. The Bengals offense has had its issues, but the defense has looked every bit as sharp as last year’s Super Bowl caliber unit. The Jets have not been a team who has handled success well during Robert Saleh’s tenure. They won a grand total of four games last season and followed all four of those wins up with non-competitive losses in the next game — losing those games by a combined 40 points. I look for the Bengals to come out inspired on both sides of the ball and a similar double digit beat down of the fat and happy Jets coming off a win will be no surprise to this bettor. Look for the Bengals to get a season saving win, and to do so in resounding fashion. Take the Bengals.
1:00 PM EST
Betting Line Provider: BetOnline
Panthers +3 over Saints
The Panthers are 0-2 and in desperation mode, but they haven’t been a bad team at all, losing on two last second go ahead field goals of 55+ yards. If they were 2-0 or even 1-1, they wouldn’t be a home dog here and that presents us some great value.
The Panthers have gone through some growing pains in their first two games which is to be expected of an offense with a new quarterback in a new system in the first couple of games playing together. Mayfield JUST missed his receivers on multiple big plays in both games to start the season — more than a handful of ‘close but no cigar’ downfield throws that just missed connecting. Last week against the Giants, the Panthers were -2 in turnovers (two fumbles) and they left a ton of points on the field in the red zone as they were just 1 for 4 in scoring position. There is plenty of reason to expect positive regression for Mayfield and his receivers as they continue to build chemistry with each other.
Despite their offensive problems, Carolina’s defense has been elite. Their defense controlled the line of scrimmage in both of their games and they did a great job blanketing the Giants receivers for the majority of the game. On a yards per play basis, the Bills are #1, the 49ers are #2, the Bucs are #3, and the Panthers are right there at #4. If it wasn’t for TWO 55+ yard field goals, the Panthers would have won that game. Will Lutz is one of the best kickers in the league, but this will be the first outdoor game that he has played since last year — not a kicker who I expect to kick multiple long field goals with any consistency this afternoon.
The Saints had high expectations entering the season but I haven’t been impressed. They were pushed around by the Falcons who were the preseason favorite to be the worst team in the NFL, and needed a late comeback and last second field goal to narrowly win a nailbiter 27-26. Last week they were no match for the Bucs, getting blown out by Tom Brady and company in a game that was never competitive. The Saints are also all sorts of banged up already in week 2 which is never a good sign. Jameis Winston is dealing with bank and ankle injuries and looked like a shell of himself last week. Alvin Kamara is banged up, Taysom Hill is hurt, they have cluster injuries in the secondary and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk is missing a few weeks due to a bad elbow. This is not a team who has any business being a road favorite this week, especially against a Panther team who matches up well against them.
This is close to ‘do or die’ for Matt Rhule and his staff who are in most likelihood, quite literally, coaching for their jobs. He is the odds on favorite to be the first coach fired and there is a chance that could even happen if they lose today — a loss here would be his 10th straight dating back to last season. There’s an enormous sense of urgency here for both the coaching staff and players as teams who start the season 0-3 don’t make the playoffs, period. The underdog has been a great bet in this series, going 12-4 ATS over the last eight seasons. The Saints also have the unfavorable look ahead spot of playing in London next week, a historical ‘bet against’ spot regardless of any other factors.. And let’s not forget that the Panthers last year, a team who was FAR less talented on both sides of the ball compared to this team, blasted the Saints 26-7 as a similar three point home dog on this very field. A similar result today would come as no shock to this bettor. Wrong team favored, live dog here! Take the Panthers.
1:00 PM EST
Betting Line Provider: BetOnline
Colts +6 over Chiefs
On paper the idea of even betting the Colts makes you want to vomit, but those types of bets that are the hardest to place are usually the easiest ones to cash. I’m not sure that will be the case today, but the Colts are absolutely the value side. I am not debating that they have looked putrid to start the season, but I do take that with a grain of salt. We had a play on the Texans in week 1, which was far more of ‘anti-Colts’ than it was ‘pro-Texans’. Frank Reich has historically started the season slow, especially against divisional foes, so them struggling in the opener was no surprise, in fact it was expected. Last week the Colts were without their two starting receivers, and their two best defensive players. Matt Ryan is a quarterback who depends on his #1 receiver, so not having Michael Pittman was extremely problematic and resulted in the Jags just stuffing the box, limiting Taylor and shutting the Colts out.The Colts have looked like the worst team in the league through the first two games, but I think we are buying on them at their absolute lowest point. Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce both practiced all week and will be playing, so the Colts receiving corps will be back to full strength. With a threat of a passing attack, the Chiefs will not be able to just stuff the box which will allow Jonathan Taylor to pick up chunk yardage on the ground. I would have loved for Shaq Leonard to be back for this game as well after he practiced in full again all week, but unfortunately he is out but this is still too many points.
The Chiefs offense looks like they haven’t missed a beat without Tyreek Hill, absolutely rolling in Week 1 against the Cardinals and doing enough to win last week against the Chargers, but not having that elite playmaker will eventually cost them in some games this season, especially in roles like this where they are heavy road chalk. Despite the win last Thursday night, it wasn’t easy as the Chargers looked like the ‘right side’ most of that game and if not for a 99-yard pick six, the Chiefs would probably be 1-1 right now and this line would be closer to a field goal — where my power ratings have it and where it was on the look ahead line before the Colts were blanked 24-0 last week.
The Colts have been terrible road favorites under Reich, but they have been excellent in the underdog role — 9-3 (75%) as more than a field goal underdog under his reign. The Colts are not nearly as bad as they have looked, and with this being their home opener back in the dome where Ryan is most comfortable, I look for him to play much better and for this game to be far closer than most anticipate. Lastly, a very under-the-radar angle to this game is the fact that Chiefs elite kicker Harrison Butker is out again. I think this is going to be a field goal either way and I won’t be shocked if it comes down to Chief’s replacement kicker Matt Ammedola’s foot and he comes up wide left. Take the Colts.
8:20 PM EST
Betting Line Provider: BetOnline
Broncos +1.5 over 49ers
There is a common theme among all of these picks this week and that is fading overreaction. The Broncos instantly became an AFC favorite when Russell Wilson was traded, but I cautioned against crowning them so quickly as it would take a little time for Wilson to acclimate to his new offense and build chemistry with his new teammates. The Broncos lost in week 1 which came as no surprise, we had our largest play of the week on the Seahawks, and after struggling to put away the Texans last week, the Broncos went from a 3 point favorite in this game to a 1.5 point underdog. Outside of head coach, Denver is the better team and should not be an underdog in this game in Denver, period.
Nathan Hackett has looked out of his realm as a head coach, making some bad decisions in both games to start the season that cost him a win and almost did last week. However, I give Hackett credit for realizing his flaws, admitting, “we have to make sure the communication is clear and concise. I need to do better at making decisions faster and quicker and getting that information to the quarterback and being on the same page with him, it has to improve.” He hired Jerry Rosburg to be his assistant and I think this move is going to fix a lot of the issues that plagued the Broncos in the first two games.
The general consensus is that the Broncos offense has been bad in the first two weeks, but that isn’t true at all. They rank in the top five in yards per play both rushing and passing, but their issue has been in the red zone and the massive number of penalties they have been amassing. They outgained the Texans by 120 yards, but they were 0-2 in the red zone and had another 120 penalty yards. A lot of that has to do with coaching, but now that Hackett has an assistant to help him, I think a lot of those operational issues should hopefully be mitigated.
The Broncos have the better quarterback and comparable skill position players and defense. Denver is finally fully healthy and will have Jerry Jeudy, Patrick Surtain Jr. and Josey Jewell all back on the field for the first time all season. Stud defensive tackle Arik Armstead is out for the 49ers which is a big loss and will open up running lanes for Javonte Williams who is poised for a big game. Russell Wilson knows the 49ers well from his time in the NFC West, and he has dominated them, 8-2 SU against Shanny’s Niners.
I will admit something doesn’t seem quite right with Wilson this year, he isn’t running nearly as much and his decision making isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but I am not going to write him off just yet. He is still one of the best QBs in the league in my book and Denver in September is one of the strongest home field advantages that exists in the NFL. A part of me wanted to tease the Broncos up past seven, but the more I thought about it, there is no need. Denver wins outright but we’ll take the point and half just in case. Take the Broncos.