The full-fledged rebirth of the NFL occurred yesterday in a 12-game slate of action filled with excitement, swarming defense and a ton of games going under the total. The unders (full-game) hit in a whopping 10 of 12 games and many of them weren’t even close. The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks barely sniffed half of their total with a combined 26 points scored. In these Monday recaps, we’ll review the games with a focus on the lines and totals and what to make of it all from a betting perspective.
Week 1 NFL Betting Recap: Covers, So Many Under Games, Sacks and First Impressions
Buffalo Bills 21, New York Jets 12: Bills covered the closing line (a juiced up -7) and the game stayed under the 42 total. I didn’t watch a whole lot of this football game because Jets. Journeyman veteran QB Josh McCown averaged an impossibly low 4.8 yards per attempt on 39 passes against a so-so Bills secondary and Bilal Powell and Matt Forte averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. Worse, Jets fans don’t even have Craig Carton around to cry about it for them on WFAN in the morning.
The Bills are going to continue to grind it out on the ground with LeSean McCoy, who carried 22 times for 100 yards and Mike Tolbert, who will act as the change-of-pace battering ram. The Bills don’t have much of a passing attack and might lead the league in rushing again. If you’re a Jets fan, it may be time to find a support group.
Atlanta Falcons 23, Chicago Bears 17: The Bears covered the 6.5 or 7 and damn near won the game outright. The defending NFC champs did not resemble the offensive machine of ‘16. Much of Matt Ryan’s yardage went to tight end Austin Hooper, notably when Hooper took advantage of busted coverage on a third-and-long from the Falcons’ own 12. Under heavy pressure, Ryan sidestepped pressure and launched a ball that Hooper carried into the end zone with Bears hanging on him for an 88-yard score.
The Falcons scored fewer than 24 points only twice last season. Perception might keep totals in Falcons game high, at least until they begin booming again, so their upcoming unders are worth a look. This game would have stayed under 48 (barring an XP miss) even if the Bears had converted one of their last-minute cracks at the end zone for the go-ahead score. Bears QB Mike Glennon looked competent enough, considering the Bears lost starting wideout Kevin White (again) and already had lost No. 1 wideout Cameron Meredith as well as Alshon Jeffery in free agency. This offense will run through Jordan Howard and rookie Tarik Cohen, who will be this week’s fantasy football waiver wire sensation.
Jacksonville Jaguars 29, Houston Texans 7: Well this was just an abject disaster for Houston (-5.5), which saw Tom “Tin Man” Savage get raked down six times in the first half, including 3.5 sacks by the monstrous Calais Campbell. Head coach Bill O’Brien realized that the team was hopeless with Savage back there and inserted rookie Deshaun Watson in the second half. Watson fared… okay, at least better than Savage and led the Texans on a 75-yard touchdown drive that culminated with Watson’s first touchdown pass – an easy four-yard play-action strike to DeAndre Hopkins.
DEANDRE HOPKINS FINALLY HAS A QB AND HIS NAME IS DESHAUN WATSONpic.twitter.com/n15tlWwvvF
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) September 10, 2017
The Jaguars asked VERY LITTLE of Blake Bortles (11 of 21 for 125 yards and one touchdown) and fed the rock to rookie Leonard Fournette, who carried 26 times for 100 yards and a score. Combined with a legitimately fierce defense, bettors should not underestimate the Jaguars’ ability to keep contests close and low scoring. They’re currently a PK against the Titans at home next Sunday with a total of 43.5. The Texans can’t do much worse and may as well play Watson given Savage’s and the O-Line’s limitations. They’re a 3-point dog at Cincinnati on Thursday night in the “We Just Got Waxed” bowl.
Philadelphia Eagles 30, Washington Redskins 17: Another victory for under (49.5) bettors! This was a somewhat whacky affair that saw a combined six turnovers including a muffed punt (Washington) and a botched swing pass (Philadelphia) and two defensive scores (one each). The Eagles’ front seven, led by man-beast DT Fletcher Cox, is pretty scary and is going to feast on subpar offensive lines. His 20-yard fumble return for a score provided the comfortable cover in a game that was closer than the final number.
Second-year Eagles QB Carson Wentz wasn’t perfect but possesses great pocket presence and quickness– a quality that led to his dance and strike to WR Nelson Agholor, who appears to have overcome his ‘16 case of the dropsies.
HOLY CARSON WENTZ 58 yard TD to Nelson Agholor!!! pic.twitter.com/aflooKhSyK
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 10, 2017
The Eagles, favored by 1, converted 8 of 14 third-down attempts against a vulnerable Redskins D. Kirk Cousins will put up numbers against lesser defense once he and Terrelle Pryor get into a rhythm.
Detroit Lions 35, Arizona Cardinals 23: Well here’s one of your two overs games, thanks to 20 fourth-quarter points from the Lions and Matt Stafford, who apparently still has some of that comeback pixie dust in his pocket. The Cardinals took a 17-16 lead into the final frame when their lack of David Johnson (wrist injury) and Carson Palmer’s continued demise pulled Arizona under.
Anyone holding a Cardinals (2-point road favorites here) under 9.5 wins ought to feel pretty good right now. I still think the Lions are frauds and look forward to seeing the opening number posted on their upcoming Monday Night Football tilt at the New York Giants, and blindly lean Giants in Odell Beckham Jr’s. (probable) return to action.
Las Vegas Oakland Raiders 26, Tennessee Titans 16: Well folks, last year’s 12-win campaign was no fluke. In a clash of AFC up-and-comers the Raiders proved too much and covered (+2.5) in a surprisingly low scoring affair (the total was 50.5). Marshawn Lynch didn’t light up the box score (18 carries, 76 yards) but he looked the same ‘ol pinballing Beast Mode as he did in Seattle and helped salt the clock late.
After the Jaguars’ result in Houston, the Titans have a road trip to Jacksonville to try for their first win and avoid a difficult 0-2 hole. The lookahead line was Titans -2.5 so there’s some value on Tennessee here with the number currently sitting at PK.
Baltimore Ravens 20, Cincinnati Bengals 0: Andy Dalton got booed at home on Sunday in a dreadful five turnover, four4 interception performance. I’ve heard some talk that the Bengals (-2.5) might put the Red Rifle in the holster in favor of AJ McCarron, which I don’t think is really close to happening. The Ravens defense is pretty darn good but Dalton did them some favors in another game that obviously went under (41.5).
Returning from a back injury, Flacco only attempted 17 passes (9 completions for 121 yards, one TD and one pick) as Baltimore ran the ball 42 times, mostly to Terrance West and Buck Allen for a combined 157 yards. The Ravens do have a pair of WR burners in Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace but may be content to go run-heavy as Flacco eases back. The game total number next week is 41 against the Browns.
Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Cleveland Browns 18: Yes, another under. The total was 47.5. But more importantly, a cover for the Brownies at +10!! Once again the Steelers proved less formidable on the road, at letast as “less formidable” a team can be that saw its leading receiver (Antonio Brown) catch all 11 of his targets for 182 yards. But the Browns D, missing Myles Garrett, held Le’Veon Bell in check — only 32 yards on 10 carries and 3 catches for 15 yards.
TJ Watt picks off Deshone Kizer for his first career interception! Welcome to the NFL @_TJWatt! pic.twitter.com/Qd0hypmU5P
— DRK Sports (@drksportsnews) September 10, 2017
Steelers rookie LB TJ Watt already has two sacks, two tackles for a loss and an interception (above) to his credit. But it was a very respectable performance from Cleveland, which fell into an early hole after a blocked punt touchdown. A lot of average bettors see “Browns” and bet the other side. Don’t do that. They’re getting a full touchdown at Baltimore next week and I’d look hard at those points.
Los Angeles Rams 46, Indianapolis Colts 9: As everyone expected, the Super Bowl-bound Rams (-4.5) led all teams in scoring on Sunday. (This is the only other over game by the way.) No, not even Nostradamus had that one. The Andrew Luck-less Colts and backup Scott Tolzien got thoroughly embarrassed – allowing two pick-sixes and four sacks behind a porous offensive line that didn’t even have to face the Rams’ stud DT Aaron Donald, who just ended his holdout.
Rams QB Jared Goff notched his first win (after seven losses as a starter in ‘16) and looked pretty good overall, finding a nice connection with rookie WR Cooper Kupp (4 receptions for 76 yards) and Sammy Watkins (5 for 58) — certainly a better starting pair than last year. Can the Rams seriously compete for the NFC West against the Seahawks? Much too early to say. Remember in general as a bettor and a human being not to react too much to any one week, especially Week 1. The 2016 Miami Dolphins started 1-4 and looked like an abject disaster at that time, until Jay Ajayi became the bellow and rushed for 529 yards in the ensuing three games en route to 10-6 and a Wild Card berth. That said, the Colts are absolutely terrible.
Green Bay Packers 17, Seattle Seahawks 9: This defensive battle was a far cry from the offensive-minded affair that the 49.5 total implied. Both offensive lines struggled (no surprise for Seattle) and the game turned early on a would-be defensive touchdown for Seattle that got called back due to a dubious unsportsmanlike conduct call on Cliff Avril for a block in the back on Aaron Rodgers after an interception. Avril barely touched him but any contact on the QB is likely to draw a flag:
Naz Jones with a PICK SIX!!!!! HOW DID HE HAVE THE AWARENESS FOR THIS!!! #Seahawks #SEAvsGB pic.twitter.com/lnDuequNSb
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) September 10, 2017
In one word, Seattle’s offense sucked. They mustered only 225 total yards as Wilson was under siege most of the day. Nearly half of Seattle’s 90 rushing yards came from two Wilson scrambles (40 yards). The Packers got to watch their former RB Eddie Lacy struggle for the opponent. Meanwhile the Seahawks defense was excellent, pressuring Rodgers heavily throughout and holding Packers rushers to just three yards per carry. Seattle’s defense will lead the team to 10 wins but if the offense doesn’t congeal, they’re doomed in January.
Carolina Panthers 23, San Francisco 49ers 3: Cam Newton did well enough despite some overthrows and a bad miss on a would-be wide-open TD pass to tight end Ed Dickson. The Panthers, 5.5-point road favorites, simply overwhelmed the Niners offense and limited them to only 2 of 11 on third down conversion attempts. Niners QB Brian Hoyer got sacked four times and never had much time to throw. Another under game (44.5har) and it wasn’t close. The Niners defense deserves credit for holding Carolina largely in check, but unfortunately lost rookie linebacker Reuben Foster to an ankle injury, the severity of which is not yet clear.
Dallas Cowboys 19, New York Giants 3: It wouldn’t be surprising if Eli Manning developed claustrophobia last night because he spent much of the evening in breathing distance of Cowboys pass rushers if not wrapped up in their grasp. Much of the Giants offensive line is terrible – right tackle Bobby Hart, right guard John Jerry and to a lesser extent on Sunday, left tackle Ereck Flowers. This was the Giants biggest problem in ‘16 and they did nothing to address the issue (it was a bad market for free agent linemen) in the offseason but cross their fingers. And the Cowboys produced heavy pressure rushing just four! Witness the horror:
Zeke Elliot certainly proved his worth. He has the benefit of running behind a stout offensive line in Dallas (-6, covered) but Elliott has the shiftiness, burst, vision and power that no one else on the depth chart possesses. Despite having to play nearly the entirety of the first half, the Giants D performed well overall, holding the Cowboys to just 19 points in a game that went way under 46. Odell Beckham Jr. should be back on the field against Detroit and he’s going to need to take a dozen slant passes long distances to the house given how little time Eli has in the pocket.