Despite a fairly underwhelming bottom line, Week 2 was an extremely strong week. It’s important to evaluate every bet for quality of the read, not just the bottom-line result. On Sunday Night Football we lost our biggest play of the week when Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumbled the game away. We also managed to lose a bet on a 12.5-point underdog despite that team having the ball down 3 in the 4th quarter. Our only other loss came on the Chargers money line, and they lost on a last-second 56-yard field goal after the Chargers had two touchdowns taken off the board by penalties. Despite these unfortunate late-game swings, we went 6-3 on bets and won 2.08 Units on those bets. And in contrast to our close losses, most of the wins were smash plays. Most importantly, my process proved that it is once again working. After going 68% against the spread in 2020, we are now 13-8 in the 2021 season with our bets. And we are just getting started.
Week 2 Bets
|BUF -3 @ MIA||(-110)||1.5||9.13.21 (DK)||W||+1.36|
|LV @ PIT Under 48.5||(-115)||1.5||9.14.21 (FD)||W||+1.30|
|CHI -2.5 v. CIN||(-110)||1.5||9.16.21 (MGM)||W||+1.36|
|CAR +3.5 v. NO||(-110)||1.5||9.17.21 (FD)||W||+1.36|
|NE ML + LAC ML||(+123)||1||9.17.21 (FD)||L||-1|
|IND +4.5 v. LAR||(-114)||1||9.19.21 (FD)||W||+0.88|
|MIN +4.5 @ ARI||(-110)||2||9.15.21 (FD)||W||+1.82|
|ATL +12.5 @ TB||(-110)||2||9.17.21 (DK)||L||-2|
|KC ML @ BAL|
KC -1 @ BAL
BUF -3 (-110) @ MIA (1.5u) – BUF 35-0, Win 1.36 Units
Not much to say here. I predicted the Dolphins would once again struggle with Josh Allen and the Bills offense, which capitalizes against blitz-heavy teams with Allen’s mobility and the spread scheme. The Dolphins finally tried some new looks on defense and it actually worked okay, as Allen had a very underwhelming performance. But the problem was they sacrificed pressure for coverage, and unlike the Steelers they could not get consistent pressure with the front four. This allowed the Bills to move the ball well enough, and a good offense like this with so many options tends to succeed in the red zone.
The real story was how well the Bills defense played. They were absolutely crushing Tua before he got injured, and the Dolphins actually played slightly better with Brissett at the helm, who exhibited superior pocket presence and mobility. But the Dolphins had no chance with the kind of pressure the Bills exerted, particularly around the edges. Maybe Tua would have been better in garbage time, but this was going to be a big Bills win regardless from the first snap. Moving forward, the Dolphins will need to block the edges much better or it will be a long season for whichever quarterback is behind center.
LV @ PIT Under 48.5 (-115) (1.5u) – LV 26-17, Win 1.30 Units
This bet looked like a lock early on, and even into the 4th quarter. When the Raiders punted the ball up 16-7 with 13 minutes left, it was clear the Under was the right bet. But the Steelers suffered some major in-game injuries on defense (in particular T.J. Watt) to add to the surprise absences of Joe Haden and Devin Bush. Watt made his presence known early on both a third down run stuff and a sack fumble on Carr. But without Watt (and Alualu), Derek Carr started taking advantage and there were some late-game fireworks. Still, both offenses struggled early and the number was high enough to secure our win despite the injuries.
There are some interesting narratives emerging from this game. Derek Carr, who has been perennially underrated, is finally getting his due. And he played very well but the defensive injuries played a massive role in his success. When people who have recognized that Carr is underrated finally receive that validation, there can be a tendency to overreact and overrate his performance without contextualizing it. My view has not changed: he is an above-average QB who can make clutch throws but benefits from a strong run game. Meanwhile, I was encouraged by how many deep shots Roethlisberger took here. Last year the offense folded on itself late after relying on short passes all year, but Matt Canada seems intent on letting Ben rip. This will be a good thing for the Steelers if they can get their defense healthy.
CHI -2.5 (-110) v. CIN (1.5u) – CHI 20-17, Win 1.36 Units
Early on in the game, Andy Dalton and the Bears made clear they were right side and I was feeling great about my bet. They matriculated down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive, and looked to be doing the same thing on their next drive before Dalton got injured and Fields took over. On the other side of the ball, Burrow predictably struggled to move the ball consistently because you can’t play predictable football when you are outmatched in the trenches. Yet that’s what Zac Taylor insists on doing, and it does not work.
But Fields gave the Bengals some life. He really struggled to move the offense, and is much more reliant on big plays. Unfortunately his best throw of the day was dropped by Allen Robinson in the end zone. But the most concerning aspect of his game was bad decision-making. He consistently held the ball too long, and at one point was very lucky to recover his own fumble on a bad sack. He also threw a terrible interception with the Bears up 10 points late in the 4th, allowing the Bengals to pull within 3. If I had known Fields would have been playing most of the game, I would not have placed this bet. But luckily Dalton’s early touchdown and a pick-six for the Bears were just enough to ensure we got the cover. Unfortunately, the Bears project to be a high-variance offense with Fields (as opposed to Dalton), which will make betting on them tough in the short term.
CAR +3.5 (-110) v. NO (1.5u) – CAR 26-7, Win 1.36 Units
The most impressive unit in football through the first two weeks has to be the Panthers defense. They haven’t faced the toughest competition, going against the Jets and a banged-up Saints team. But they have completely shut down both teams. I’ve been very impressed with their pressure schemes, which were on full display as they beat a strong Saints offensive line, particularly around the edges. In this game, Winston was constantly under siege and he is not a particularly good quarterback under pressure. So his underperformance was somewhat predictable and a big part of my handicap on this game.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints defense was missing several key players in Lattimore, Davenport, Alexander, and Gardner-Johnson. This is not a deep team and I was happy to capitalize on these absences. The defense is a strong, aggressive unit generally speaking. But these types of defenses tend to experience the most regression due to injury. They obviously missed their two cornerbacks in covering the Panthers’ speedy wide receivers and missed Davenport and Alexander up front to pressure Darnold and slow down CMC. But on top of that, the level of trust that enables such an aggressive play style breaks down with the new players and the whole defense can take a step back. That happened in the first half, and the Panthers took advantage. In the second half, the Saints defense actually stepped up and got to Darnold much more frequently. But the offense was still unable to capitalize and the Panthers got the easy win at home.
Most bettors undervalue the impact of cumulative injuries like the Saints experienced in this game. That made the Panthers a very smart play this week and could lead to an underrated Saints team once they get healthy.
Parlay: NE ML @ NYJ, LAC ML v. DAL (+123) (1u) – NE 25-6, DAL 20-17, Loss 1 Unit
The Patriots took care of their side of the parlay easily. Belichick against a shaky rookie quarterback is one of the easiest bets in the NFL. I included the Chargers because I liked them to beat the Cowboys but did not want to pay the -3.5 that books were laying. It ended up being the strangest game I’ve ever graded. I do believe the Cowboys deserved to win the game overall, as they had a slightly easier time moving the ball due to a far superior run game. So overall, this was not a winning bet. I won’t rehash all the unfortunate things the Chargers experienced, because they had enough chances to win and failed to capitalize.
The Cowboys were impressive for the second straight week, particularly with their offensive play-calling. Dak looks as sharp as he has ever looked and their use of 2 running backs really caused the Chargers problems. I will have to upgrade this offense slightly to account for their progression. And Herbert is a magician at times, but the offense needs to be more consistent, particularly on early downs, to be an elite offense. I believe they can get there, because they have an elite quarterback and smart coaches. But it’s important to recognize they aren’t quite there yet and not get overconfident.
IND +4.5 (-114) v. LAR (1u) – LAR 27-24, Win 0.88 Units
This game was a matchup play for me that went against public narratives. Yes, the Rams are a better team than the Colts. But winning money on the NFL requires you to identify when teams will outperform and underperform relative to expectation. The Bears showed last week that even a bad team can move the ball on this Rams defense if they have a good run game and short passing game. That is exactly what the Colts do best. And unlike the Bears, who rely on Allen Robinson in the pass game, the Colts do not have a meaningful receiver who Ramsey can negate to an advantage. The Rams capitalized on broken coverages against Chicago and my biggest worry was that the Colts would repeat the Bears’ mistakes, but I hoped the Colts could keep it close by shortening the game with long drives.
The game went exactly according to plan. The Colts squandered a 1st and goal from the 1 and another 1st and goal, yet still had a chance to win this game after a punt mishap by the Rams. They moved the ball most of the day, and Wentz looked sharp and accurate. He did have a few questionable moments but overall this felt like two playoff teams battling it out. That is, until Wentz got hurt and Eason took over. Eason was terrible and almost blew this cover late. But I was happy to walk away with the win here, increasing my confidence in my analytical system, because it works.
MIN +4.5 (-110) @ ARI (2u) – ARI 34-33, Win 1.82 Units
Another game where my read looked dead on early, as the underdog Vikings took an easy 20-7 lead in the first half. Cook was gashing the Cardinals all over the place and Cousins looked comfortable on play action and roll-outs. This was what we expected from the Vikings. But Kyler Murray is one of the most explosive players in the league, and the lead was never safe. In fact, thanks to an incredible play by Rondale Moore and a 62-yard field goal, the Cardinals took the lead by half time. But the second half was well-fought, and the Vikings should have won this game outright but their kicker missed a 37-yard field goal as time expired. Still, getting the +4.5 on Minnesota was a strong play.
Murray is spectacular at escaping pressure and extending plays. With a really strong receiving group, this spells trouble for any secondary that cannot keep up. While Patrick Peterson played well on Hopkins, Arizona’s other options abused the rest of Minnesota’s weak secondary. This led to a couple of massive plays where Murray just had to throw to an open man. But Arizona’s basic offense (before Murray escapes the pocket) is still mediocre. It features tons of stop routes and screens, which good defenses can shut down. Good defensive reads and bad decisions by Murray led to two interceptions and a third that likely should have been picked off. They also do not run well in general. Continuing to look for spots to fade Arizona as big favorites should be profitable, but they should never be counted out of any game with a healthy Murray making plays.
ATL +12.5 (-110) @ TB (2u) – TB 48-25, Loss 2 Units
Early on this bet looked like a miss, as the Bucs’ explosive offense put up points in a hurry. The Falcons looked discombobulated on offense once again and we saw miscommunications and strange play calls. It looked like a new coach breaking in an offense. But they started to click in the second quarter and the Falcons got back in it. Matt Ryan is still a good quarterback who can handle pressure, and the smart offensive concepts started to show. On defense they got natural pressure on Brady and sacked him 3 times. The Falcons turned it around and forced the Bucs to punt with 13 minutes left, down 28-25. An outright win was on the table at that point.
But of course, the Bucs pinned them deep with a fantastic punt. Then Matt Ryan threw two pick-sixes late in the 4th quarter and the Bucs somehow covered the massive spread. You always play with fire betting against an explosive team, but this ending marred what was a very promising game for Atlanta. This offense is just getting into a groove and should be vastly underrated coming out of this game because (1) they improved as the game went on against a tough defense, and (2) the final score does not do justice to the Falcons’ effort.
KC ML (-112), KC -1 (-110) @ BAL (3u) – BAL 36-35, Loss 3 Units
The toughest loss on the slate, particularly because it was our biggest play and Kansas City had the win locked up before Edwards-Helaire fumbled. My read on the Kansas City offense was mostly correct as they carved up the Ravens with ease, earning an incredible 19 of their 20 first downs on first or second down. But Mahomes had a really bad interception on a play where his biggest weakness was on display: he tries to make something happen on every single play, and seemingly never takes a small loss. In this case, he should have thrown it away but did not, taking away an opportunity for a field goal and giving the ball back to Baltimore.
The real story – and where I missed badly here – is this Chiefs defense. It is a major problem, particularly against the run. Next week will be very interesting because after opening the season against arguably the two best rushing offenses in the league, they face the pass-happy Chargers. I know they have some guys on IR, lost Breeland, and moved some guys around, but their precipitous drop on defense early has been truly shocking. They are virtually unbettable as favorites until they show some teeth on defense.