Early NFL picks (Week #2)
NFL PICKS (WEEK #2)
BY PROFESSOR MJ
(click here for audio MP3 version, corresponding to episode #5 of "The Sports Investor Podcast")
Hello NFL fans, I hope you enjoyed Week #1 where we only got 5 upsets out of 15 games, including 3 small ones (the Ravens shutting out the Bengals, the Lions beating the Cardinals at home and the Raiders coming on top at Tennessee). The 2 bigger upsets came from the Chiefs at the Patriots on Thursday night (snapping an 81-game winning streak by New England when leading at halftime at Gillette Stadium in regular season games), and the Jaguars winning by 22 points at Houston despite being 6-point underdogs prior to the game.
When looking at the early lines for Week #2, three games have caught my eye because of fairly significant differences between my projected lines and the actual point spreads. Let’s look at them one-by-one.
PICK #1: Colts +7.5 vs Cardinals
The Colts were embarrassed big-time in Los Angeles, losing 46-9 to the Rams. As if it was not enough, head coach Chuck Pagano got confused in his press conference after the game, giving credit to the 49ers instead of the Rams! Without Andrew Luck, Indianapolis looked horrible. Things cannot get uglier, can they? Scott Tolzien got benched in favor of former Patriot Jacoby Brissett, who may get the start this Sunday since Luck will miss at least two more games. I expect the Colts to play much better; they still have some weapons on offense with Frank Gore and T.Y. Hilton.
Meanwhile, after jumping to an early 10-0 lead over the Lions, the Cardinals were outscored 35-13 over the last three quarters. To make matters worse, Arizona lost its star running back David Johnson to a wrist injury until December. Here is a key stat: Johnson accounted for 36% of Arizona’s total offensive yardage last year. Their offense will now rely on a 37-year old quarterback (Carson Palmer) and a 34-year old wide receiver (Larry Fitzgerald). I don’t like that.
So all-in-all I expect both offenses to struggle quite a bit, leading to a close game, which is good news when you are taking a 7.5-point underdog. As of Wednesday, 78% of spread bets have gone on Arizona. As a contrarian, that’s something I like to see.
PICK #2: Rams -3.0 vs Redskins
As mentioned earlier, the Rams looked great in a 46-9 win over the Colts. The former #1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Jared Goff, finally got his first career win after going 0-7 last season. He threw for 306 yards, while his previous career high was only 235. He looked like a brand new player: he was accurate and looked decisive. He had a good connection with newly acquired Sammy Watkins, as well as third-round pick Cooper Kupp (isn’t that a cool name?). They both looked pretty good, while Todd Gurley also had a nice impact in the passing game (he wasn’t so great running the ball, only getting 40 yards on 19 carries).
The Redskins did not impress me in their season debut, dropping their opener 30-17 at home against the Eagles. Washington’s offense struggled most of the time, as they scored only 10 points since Ryan Kerrigan’s interception accounted for 7 of the Skins’ 17 points. Their leading rusher only had 30 yards. Their defense did a decent job, though, but could not handle Carson Wentz all game long.
Overall, I believe the Redskins will have trouble putting points on the board because of their lack of firepower, coupled with an underrated Rams defense that dominated in Week #1, despite missing their best player, defensive lineman Aaron Donald who is likely to be on the field this Sunday. Los Angeles may not score 40 points again this week, but I’m confident new coach Sean McVay will find a way once again to get them to move the ball effectively.
PICK #3: Saints +6.5 vs Patriots
With 84% of the bets going on New England so far, it’s fair to say that most people expect the Patriots to rebound this week after a very bad second half against the Chiefs last week. Their defense allowed a whopping 537 yards to Kansas City. Based on the look on Bill Belichick’s face in his post-game press conference, I’m glad I did not have to go through 10 days of practice with the Patriots because you can bet he was very upset.
They may or may not rebound, but I feel like a 6.5 spread is too much, and that New England may be overrated a little bit. We all know how great Tom Brady is, but he is not getting any younger; did you know he completed only 16 of his 36 passes in Week #1? Their leading receiver, Danny Amendola got hurt once again, and seems unlikely to play with a concussion.
Meanwhile, the Saints disappointed by losing 29-19 in Minnesota. They still have Drew Brees under center, with Ted Ginn and Michael Thomas, who caught 92 passes last year, to catch Brees’ passes. They also seem loaded at running back with Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram in the backfield, even though neither could get going last week. It should be easier to score points at home against the Pats, as opposed to playing in a loud stadium in Minnesota. This game won’t be a walk in the park for New England.
Here is a quick recap of my 3 picks, along with the associated lines posted on 3 selected bookies (you can have a look at my in-depth sportsbook reviews here):
SPORTS INTERACTION: Colts +7.5 at -110 against Cardinals
BOOKMAKER.EU: Colts +7 at -105 against Cardinals
BOVADA: Colts +7.5 at -115 against Cardinals
SPORTS INTERACTION: Rams -3.0 at -110 against Redskins
BOOKMAKER.EU: Rams -2.5 at -119 against Redskins
BOVADA: Rams -3.0 at +100 against Redskins
SPORTS INTERACTION: Saints +6.5 at +105 against Patriots
BOOKMAKER.EU: Saints +6.5 at -109 against Patriots
BOVADA: Saints +7.0 at -110 against Patriots
Thanks a lot for reading this report, I hope you found it insightful and I invite you to listen to “The Sports Investor” podcast that I just launched this week with already 4 episodes in the book. Whether you are listening from iTunes or Stitcher, I would be very grateful if you could rate the podcast, and leave a little feedback. Thank you very much and we’ll talk again soon!