NFL: Week 2 Handicapping Preview

Some thoughts on all 16 NFL games in Week 2. These are just opinions and I will tweet out any officials picks I make between now and Sunday morning.

Overreaction in the line?

Jets at Bills (+1.5)

Before Week 1 the Bills were a three-point favorite in this game. Money has come in on the Jets all week and we’ve seen a 4.5-point adjustment as of Wednesday night. The Bills looked awful against the Ravens especially on offense and now Sammy Watkins could be sidelined. I still don’t think that’s enough to justify the line move because Ralph Wilson Stadium will be rocking on Thursday night.

Chiefs at Texans (-3)

The line before Week 1 here was Texas -1.5. That seems fair to bring it up to a full field goal after the Chiefs needed a miraculous comeback to beat the Chargers in Week 1. However, the overreaction in this line comes from the Wild Card round last season. The Chiefs were between a three or 3.5-point favorite in Houston for that game. The Chiefs core remains intact and the difference for the Texans is Brock Osweiler will start instead of Brian Hoyer. Osweiler is an upgrade but not six points better. Remember the Texans were bet down to -4 against the Bears on Sunday morning. The Chiefs are much better than the Bears so seems like the value lies with Andy Reid’s squad.

Buccaneers at Cardinals (-6.5)

This line was at -8.5 before the Buccaneers beat the Falcons and Cardinals fell to the Patriots. The Cardinals were a -6 favorite against the Patriots before Rob Gronkowski didn’t make the trip to Glendale. When word got out that Gronkowski was out, the line ballooned to as much as -9.5. If the Patriots with Gronkowski were getting six then the Buccaneers should be over a touchdown underdog here. I don’t love taking bigger NFL favorites against the spread but this seems like the opportunity.

Colts at Broncos (-6.5)

Before I talk about the overreaction here, Trevor Siemian is a 6.5-point favorite over Andrew Luck. That is all I need to know to have a strong opinion on the Colts this week. The Indianapolis defense was horrible against the Lions but this line was -3.5 before last week. Siemian was fine in the opener against the Panthers but think he will show up flat here. A lot of value on the underdog with a huge edge at quarterback.

Bet against teams after crushing losses?

Saints at Giants (-4.5)

The Saints under Sean Payton have proven to be a much better team at home then on the road. Last week they blew a two-touchdown lead to the Raiders and lost by one point at home. Hard to see the Saints picking themselves up as they go outdoors to play the Giants. I’m not thrilled that the Giants are a favorite by this much but might be worth at shot.

Jaguars at Chargers (-3)

The Chargers picked up right where they left off from last season. In Week 1, they blew a big lead against division foe Kansas City. Now they return home where they have no advantage and the fans know they are leaving town after this season. San Diego’s offense stalled last week when Keenan Allen tore his ACL so not sure they should be a field goal favorite here.

Trust ugly ‘dogs? 

Titans at Lions (-5.5)

The Titans lost by more than a score to the Vikings but were unfortunate to give up two defensive touchdowns. Eliminating those costly turnovers would’ve made it a closer game. The Lions beat the Colts but now come into this game in a favorite role. Don’t think the Lions should be favorite by this many but you have to ask yourself if you are willing to back a team that is 5-28 in their last 33 games.

Ravens at Browns (+7)

Always have to favor home underdogs of more than a touchdown even if it’s the horrible Browns. This game could fall into the overreaction category because it was a 3.5-point line before Week 1. Josh McCown comes in for the injured Robert Griffin III, which I actually think is an upgrade for Cleveland. The Ravens offense was stagnant last week and Joe Flacco looks like he is still recovering from his knee injury. However, are you willing to back a really ugly underdog in this situation?

Seahawks at Rams

Not going to post a line here because the injury status of Russell Wilson will determine the spread. Although, some places have the Seahawks as a seven-point road favorite, which means they are assuming Wilson will play. The Rams played as bad as you can play on Monday night but don’t want to overreact to just 60 minutes of football. Jeff Fisher thrives in this situation as an underdog in a division game. The Rams also swept the Seahawks last season so if there was a situation for the Rams to cover, it would be in this game in their first contest back in Los Angeles.

Games I’m (likely) staying away from 

Falcons at Raiders (-5.5)

What have the Raiders done where they should be favorite by 5.5 against a team that’s only below average? The Falcons aren’t good enough to trust so I’m staying away.

Eagles at Bears (-3)

Carson Wentz was terrific in Week 1, which means I can see him struggling in this setting on Monday night. The Bears as a favorite usually doesn’t end well and Chicago’s home field advantage has really decreased over the last several seasons. Maybe look under in this game.

Packers at Vikings (+2)

Sounds like Sam Bradford will start but need to wait and see how he plays before taking the Vikings with confidence.

Dolphins at Patriots (-6.5)

Wish these teams weren’t playing each other so I could fade both of them here. Dolphins are playing their second road game in a row and went all the way to Seattle last week to lose in the final minute. The Patriots had a huge effort on Sunday night and this game is set up for them to have a huge letdown.

Bengals at Steelers (-3.5)

Steelers looked great on Monday night but Bengals are playing with playoff revenge. Can’t really pick a side here but can see if being a hard-nosed AFC North game where points are harder to come by.

Cowboys at Redskins (-2.5)

Never force a pick on a NFC East game. Such a hard division to figure out as we saw last week in Dallas.

49ers at Panthers (-13)

This is an awful schedule spot for the 49ers. They played on Monday night and now have to go across the country to play a 10 am pacific time game. The Panthers had four extra days to prepare and are coming off that Thursday night loss. Laying double digits in the NFL is tough but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers dominate. A first half play might be a suggestion since the game is early.

 

Eagles Season Win Total Pick

I don’t think it’s a secret that the Philadelphia Eagles are going to struggle to win games in 2016. There has been nothing but negative press about the team since they hired Doug Pederson, whose only previous head coaching experience was on the high school level. Pederson played and was an assistant in Philadelphia, and comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree. He followed Reid to Kansas City and served as the offensive coordinator for a unit known for their methodical play. The Chiefs were second to last in offensive plays per game in 2015. Pederson inherits a mess left by Chip Kelly and takes over an offense that ran the second most plays last year.

I outlined the Eagles quarterback situation in my Week 1 preseason predictions. Since that game, Carson Wentz suffered broken ribs but hopes to return before the preseason is over.

The Eagles are thin at skill positions on offense. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles were two players that Kelly brought in at running back and remain on the roster. Mathews is injury prone and Sproles is a situational back. Wide receiver is another area that is lacking in skill on the depth chart. Jordan Matthews isn’t a No. 1 receiver yet and there’s a lot of question marks after that. Kelly drafted and signed his own players who are used to playing in a high-tempo offense. It will be hard for the current players on the roster to adjust to how slow the Eagles will play.

The Eagles took another blow when offensive lineman Lane Johnson was suspended 10-games for a failed PED test. I watched the Eagles first preseason game and they couldn’t keep Chase Daniel or Wentz up right. It’s a bad offensive line and even worse if Johnson’s suspension is upheld.

My prediction for the Eagles season is they start 2-6 or worse. Sam Bradford will fail to play well and the Eagles fans will call for Wentz to start. Eventually Pederson will cave in and bench Bradford for the rookie. When Wentz is in it will be a downgrade at the quarterback position. The team will have less of a chance to win games but it will benefit them in the future. However, this bet is for this season and I don’t see a way the Eagles win eight or more games. Take the under on their season win total because I think they will finish with one of the worst records in the NFL.

Pick: Eagles under 7 (-165)

Ravens Season Win Total Pick

Season win totals in the NFL are one of my favorite ways to attack the season. Last year I went 5-0 with season win totals involving the Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers, Steelers and Browns. There’s a lot of value in these long-term props. The only issue is waiting until December and January to know if you cashed a winner.

My favorite season win total for the 2016 NFL season is over 8 (-135) on the Baltimore Ravens, which is a team I identified back in January. After all the injuries, I was confident that Baltimore would bounce back after a 5-11 season.

Baltimore has been one of the most consistent NFL teams since John Harbaugh took over in 2008. The Ravens have made the playoff six times in that span and the only time they finished with a losing record was last season.

I would throw everything about the 2015 campaign out the window. The team was ravaged by injuries. Quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Terrell Suggs all suffered season-ending blows. Those key players will be back for this season. Another player who got injured before the season was wide receiver Breshad Perriman. The rookie didn’t play a snap last season and is expected to give a big boost to the Ravens offense.

Because the Ravens struggled last season, they are being priced as an average team. The bias from last year is where value is created. The Ravens would have to go under .500 for me to lose this bet and that has been a rarity in the Harbaugh era. Well-coached teams off a down year are usually a good bet to go over their win total. I’m picking the Ravens as the season win total bet I’m most confident in.

Pick: Ravens over 8 (-135)

NFL: Preseason Week 1 Handicapping Preview

Some see the NFL preseason as bad football but I see it as great opportunities to find point spread value. Unlike the regular season, coaches usually open up about their game plan. If you read articles and tweets from beat writers, you will find out how many snaps the starters will play and how the team will approach the game.

It’s too early in the week to know about how teams will approach these games but I have found three contests in Week 1 of preseason where I think I have a strong angle.

One thing I look for when picking preseason games is quarterback competitions. There are several teams with two of more quarterbacks that still think they will win the job and will be giving their maximum effort when they get an opportunity. I also looked at teams with new coaches. The best way to win over a fan base and impress the local media is to win in your home debut. There a several of those cases right off the bat.

Buccaneers at Eagles (-3) 

The Eagles haven’t played a game under Doug Pederson but the pressure is already on the first-time head coach. It started when the team re-signed Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel followed Pederson from Kansas City to Philadelphia. It looked like those two would battle for the starting quarterback job until a third player entered the picture. The Eagles traded a package of draft picks for FCS star Carson Wentz. It looks like Bradford is the favorite to start in Week 1 of the regular season but it can’t help his confidence that his coach wanted a player from North Dakota State so desperately that they traded valuable assets for him.

Philadelphia is a market that wants to win now and the media isn’t shy to share their honest opinions about the team. Because of that I think Pederson will want to make a statement in his first home game in charge, even if it doesn’t count in the standings. Quieting the media and satisfying the fans early should be motivation for the Eagles to want to win the game.

As mentioned before, the quarterback competition for the Eagles is still up for grabs so we should see four quarters of play from three motivated players who think they can win the job. Chase Daniel is familiar preseason situations from his days with the Saints and Chiefs so this pick is partly on him to play well. The motivation for the new coach and quarterback competition leads me to taking the Eagles.

Pick: Eagles (-3) over Buccaneers

Cowboys at Rams (-3.5)

The NFL is back in Los Angeles and the Rams open their preseason schedule at home against the Cowboys. A few factors have me favoring the Rams against the spread in this game even though they are giving more than a field goal. Motivation is the first reason as the Rams will want to put on a show for their new fan base and collect a win.

The Rams are another team with a quarterback competition. Case Keenum is listed as the starter for now but rookie Jared Goff has to believe he can win the job, and St. Louis might leave the first team offense out so the first overall pick gets a fair shot.

This pick is also a play against the Cowboys. Dallas was plagued by injuries last season and it’s already beginning in training camp. Backup quarterback Kellen Moore broke his ankle and running back Ezekiel Elliott has been banged up. The Cowboys main priority is to get out of the preseason without anymore injuries, so I’m guessing Tony Romo and the starters will only see one series if they suit up.

The Moore injury really hampers the Cowboys in this game as rookie Dak Prescott is now the backup. Jameill Showers is Dallas’ other option. I’ll take the Rams here as they have a huge edge when it comes to the quarterback position and the motivation angle.

Pick: Rams (-3.5) over Cowboys

Texans at 49ers (-3)

The biggest takeaway from the 2015 preseason was that Chip Kelly wants to win and isn’t afraid to run up the score. Philadelphia finished the month 3-1 with a point differential of +56. Kelly showed off his hand-picked offensive offensive weapons and the buzz was so great that the Eagles became a Super Bowl favorite because of their exhibition game play.

Things didn’t work out in Philly and now Kelly is back on the west coast with the 49ers. He faces a huge challenge as he tries to resurrect the career of Colin Kaepernick and attempts to get the most out of Blaine Gabbert. It doesn’t look pretty but these two players will be looking to impress their new coach and win the starting job. Kelly will let both play and he’s a coach you want to back in preseason based off his track record.

The Texans have a new quarterback and running back this season but here’s another team that just needs to get out of the preseason without anymore injuries. Most notably, J.J. Watt is in danger of missing the start of the regular season after undergoing back surgery. Houston will want Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller to get used to the new offense but I’m going to predict Houston will wait until the second or third game of preseason to put them on display. The 49ers are a bad team but I feel comfortable in supporting Chip Kelly in this spot.

Pick: 49ers (-3) over Texans

Panthers vs Broncos Props

I will start off by saying I don’t have an opinion on the side or total in the Super Bowl. The Panthers are the better team but I don’t feel confident enough in betting them -6 on a neutral field. The Broncos have the best defense in the league and that’s a lot of points to give. On the other side, I have no interest in fading this Panthers juggernaut that have proved me wrong most of the season.

If you like the Panthers against the spread then you probably could make a correlated bet to the over at 45. If the Broncos cover then you have to expect a lower-scoring game, similar to the AFC Championship.

The good thing about the Super Bowl is the amount of prop bets that are offered. I think there are some great opportunities here and it’s much easier than handicapping the full game. Here are my three favorite props for Sunday:

Will there be a Defensive or Special Teams Touchdown? No (-155)

It might not always be attractive to take a prop at minus-money. In this case you have to bet $155 to win $100 but I think there’s tremendous value in this bet. As good as the defenses are for both teams, a Super Bowl game is usually played very conservatively. Both teams don’t want to make mistakes, which limits the chance for an interception for a touchdown. Both teams are have strong special team coverage units so I’m not worried about a return touchdown. As of Thursday morning, this is the prop I feel most confident about.

Highest Scoring Half? 2nd Half & OT (-115)

As mentioned above teams are conservative in the Super Bowl. This is especially the case early in the game. A scoreless first quarter is very possible in a Super Bowl especially in this game with a low total. This is something you can almost automatically bet for every Super Bowl and I would get on it soon before it moves off -115. If you like this prop I would also recommend taking “No” on either team scoring in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game.

Panthers (-115) to have the longest punt return in the game

I also like the Broncos to have more punts and the betting market is indicating that. The Broncos are -165 to have more punts than the Panthers. So that means Carolina will have a better chance to return punts and Ted Ginn Jr. is a dangerous punt returner.

 

 

NFL: Championship Sunday Handicapping

Patriots at Broncos 

The Patriots are a three-point or 3.5-point favorite at the Broncos on Sunday. The same Patriots team that was only a five-point favorite against the Chiefs last Saturday. This line for the AFC Championship Game is saying the Patriots would be close to 10-point favorites if this game was played in Foxboro.

Are the Chiefs five points better than the Broncos? Not a chance. A Broncos are probably the better team and have an advantage at almost every position other than quarterback.

The big question in this game is Peyton Manning. I expect the Patriots to force Manning to beat them with mid-range and long throws. New England will look to stop the run and contain a screen-pass game.

There’s not much value in betting on the Patriots against the spread so I will approach this game by picking against the Broncos defense. I will tweet out official plays but will likely go under the Broncos team total, which is currently posted at 20.5. I will also take a closer look at the first half under for this game.

Cardinals at Panthers

Let’s get this out of the way early. I think the Cardinals are a slightly better team than the Panthers. The Panthers are a 3-point favorite so I think there is some value in the Cardinals.

The first half for the Panthers couldn’t have gone better against the Seahawks. A long run by Jonathan Stewart set up an early touchdown and pick-six by Luke Keuchly put Seattle in an early hole and they could never recover. It was a dream start for Carolina and I don’t think that will happen this week.

I do like the Cardinals to win straight up and think their wide receivers will be able to have success against the Cardinals secondary. Josh Norman has had a very strong season and will likely be able to contain Larry Fitzgerald. I will look at the props for Michael Floyd and John Brown in this game. I think both could be very productive playing away from Norman. Floyd got the headlines last week with his two touchdowns receptions but Brown had more receptions and targets. He didn’t score a touchdown but his a deep threat that could change the game in one play. I will post the props I like on Twitter but they will likely involve Brown over receiving yards and to score a touchdown.

As for the side, I will tweet an official pick on the Cardinals later but will hold out hope the line gets to 3.5-points.

NFL: Divisional Round Handicapping

Chiefs at Patriots (-4.5)

I think there is value in the Patriots with this line. A month ago they would be closer to a field goal favorite. New England had an extra week to get healthy, which includes star wide receiver Julian Edelman. I can see the Patriots taking an early lead and the Chiefs having to chase a lead. Alex Smith isn’t the quarterback you want when trying to close a deficit. The Chiefs looked great last week but they returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and took advantage of five Texans turnovers. The Chiefs might seem tempting but I’m not going to overthink this one. It’s Bill Belichick with a two weeks to prepare against Andy Reid. I’m going to side with the Patriots. Pick: Patriots (-4.5) over Chiefs 

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