In Tuesday TPS reports, we’ll review the slate of NFL games with a focus on the lines and totals, and what to make of it all from a betting perspective. Or more specifically, what to make of teams as we move forward, evaluate their identities and look for betting opportunities.
Last night on Monday Night Football it looked early like the Arizona Cardinals (+3) would add one to the underdog column hosting the Dallas Cowboys. But momentum swung hard at the end of the second quarter when, after a 15-play drive that included a nullified touchdown pass, Cards kicker Phil Dawson shoved a field goal wide right. Dallas dodged a bullet and managed to knot the score 7-7 before halftime, before taking over in the second half.
But there was more excitement because the game’s total (46.5) was on the line very late in the game when Dallas led 28-17. Arizona drove deep into Cowboys territory needing a field goal an touchdown (plus two) to force overtime. Ultimately Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians went for the touchdown on a 4th-and-2 from the Dallas 2 where Carson’s Palmer pass to Jermaine Gresham was incomplete, preserving the under in dramatic fashion. Here’s the full snapshot on Week 3:
Underdogs (ATS): 11-5 (25-19-2 on season)
Home teams (ATS): 9-7 (25-20-2 on season)
Over/Under: 11-5 (22-24-1)
Underdog wins straight up: 7 (17 YTD)
Jacksonville Jaguars 44, Baltimore Ravens 7
Oh my, goodness gracious. The closing number was Ravens -3 although 3.5 and 4’s were available on Jacksonville throughout the week. Of course the number didn’t matter as the Jags covered wire-to-wire and led 44-0 until the Ravens lifted Joe Flacco, and Ryan Mallet picked up a garbage time touchdown. The Jaguars defense forced a very underwhelming Ravens offense to punt eight times in the first half alone, as Flacco didn’t complete a pass until just over four minutes remained in the second quarter. Both teams are now 2-1. Just be careful not to overreact and rush to back the Jaguars in Week 4.
New England Patriots 36, Houston Texans 33
Forget the spread (Pats by 13.5) — the Patriots needed a last minute comeback that, combined with the two-touchdown comeback the Packers required against the Bengals, nearly torpedoed approximately 90% of remaining entrants in survivor pools. Early in the third quarter it looked like the Patriots might pull away into cover territory (13.5 or 14 points) after Brandin Cooks ‘42-yard touchdown catch but the Patriots D couldn’t put a cork on Deshaun Watson, thanks to his mobility and play-extending ability. The Patriots need to generate more pass rush but what does a defense do about this?
Deshaun Watson 😳😳😳 pic.twitter.com/itAsV1NUyv
— Matt Connolly (@MattatTheState) September 24, 2017
A comfortable Texans cover resulted and it might have been a win if Bill O’Brien got aggressive (why not, on the road) and went for the touchdown, up 30-28, on 4th-and-1 from the Patriots’ 18-yard line with 2:28 remaining. Instead they kicked the field goal Brady ended up Bradying for the win. O’Brien would have gotten second-guessed either way but the Texans do have a perfect QB for a keeper and did run the ball pretty effectively.
New York Jets 20, Miami Dolphins 6
Somehow the Jets, who are supposed to be tanking, have more wins than the Giants who are definitely not doing so intentionally. Jets QB Josh McCown was downright efficient in this game and the Jets run defense swarmed Dolphins bellcow back Jay Ajayi, limited to a dismal 16 yards on 11 carries. The Jets were getting six points at home and pitched a shutout until Jay Cutler and DeVante Parker connected for a short touchdown pass when the clock struck zero.
Atlanta Falcons 30, Detroit Lions 26
Apparently the way to stop Matthew Stafford from completing fourth quarter comebacks is by pushing the clock into 10-second runoff territory. The Falcons (favored by 3) controlled this game but Matt Ryan tossed three interceptions — two off deflections from his wideouts on catchable balls, plus an a pick six at the end of the second quarter — that kept the Lions hanging around. Ryan hadn’t thrown an INT for 309 consecutive passes prior to the trio.
But the game, as everyone who bet this one knows, concluded in heart-thumping fashion when Stafford hit Golden Tate for a touchdown with 8 seconds remaining – for the win and cover! But wait! After replay, the officials ruled Tate down one yard shy of the end zone and because the clock would have been running, a 10-second runoff ends the game. Falcons cover! Home dog comes up short and the Falcons escape the NFC North by a hair once again (Bears in Week 1 ended near their own end zone.)
Buffalo Bills 26, Denver Broncos 16
One week after the Broncos (-2.5) shut down the Cowboys’ rushing attack in Denver, they did the same to Buffalo’s, holding LeSean McCoy to a mere 21 yards on 14 rushes and kept Tyrod Taylor and Mike Tolbert in check as well. But Denver just couldn’t get its offense going and repeatedly stalled in the Bills’ red zone. The Bills weren’t impressive but they didn’t turn the ball over and got just enough offense for the win (and obviously a cover) in an obvious Broncos letdown spot.
Chicago Bears 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 17 (OT)
Just the latest example of the Steelers struggling away from home. Roethlisberger was off and Le’Veon Bell went down more easily than we’re used to seeing. The only play here was (or should have been) the Bears +7.5 or +7 in response to overreaction to their whooping the week before at Tampa Bay. If the Bears can keep games close and work the ground-and-pound, they can compete with anyone. Bears running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined for 216 yards rushing on on 35 carries, plus nine receptions combined for 50 yards. Bears QB Mike Glennon only completed one pass (ONE!!!) to a wide receiver — Deonte Thompson for 9 yards.
And, of course, in case you missed one of the all-time, Leon Lett-esque boneheaded NFL showboating gaffes, behold Bears cornerback Marcus Cooper after a blocked field goal, for what should have been an easy touchdown. Luckily the Bears got the ball back on the 1-yard line and at least picked up a FG.
Wow. #PITvsCHI pic.twitter.com/gG6Ry6Uylr
— NFL (@NFL) September 24, 2017
Philadelphia Eagles 27, New York Giants 24 (home fave, no cover)
The Giants (+5 or 5.5) changed gears with a no huddle offense, which definitely helped, but they couldn’t take advantage of key Eagles defensive losses, including DT Fletcher Cox and LB Jordan Hicks who both went down during the game. Finally, in the fourth quarter, the Giants offense came alive for the first time in a long time. Aided by a fourth quarter 77-yard Sterling Shepard touchdown catch, Giants backers got the cover, but Eagles paid on the moneyline thanks to a 61-yard (!!) last second field goal by rookie Jake Elliott after Brad Wing shanked a late punt. For those on the Giants ATS, the FG was a welcome sight because overtime could have allowed an Eagles TD and cover.
Indianapolis Colts 31, Cleveland Browns 28
In a game that probably very few people watched outside of Cleveland or Indianapolis, the Colts (+1) managed a three touchdown flurry in the second quarter and converted on 8 of 17 third downs. Both teams are bad but the Colts may be less bad. The Browns had opportunities but the wideouts dropped an absurd seven passes combined, offering no help whatsoever to rookie QB DeShone Kizer. The Browns can bounce back as a home underdog in Week 4 if their WRs can figure out how the catch the football and if they get either/both of DE Myles Garrett and LB Jamie Collins on the field.
Minnesota Vikings 34, Tama Bay Buccaneers 17
The Bucs closed around 1-point favorites (or PK) when the Vikings announced that Sam Bradford would miss the game and that Case Keenum would start in his place. A funny thing happened when Keenum played: he played pretty well! It helped that Tampa Bay was missing several key defenders, including CB Brent Grimes, DT Chris Baker and LB Kwon Alexander, PLUS DE Noah Spence and Lavonte David left the game with injuries. Tampa’s running game is nonexistent (Doug Martin due to return from suspension in Week 4) and the Bucs were forced to abandon it entirely once the Vikes put them in a 28-7 whole. Easy cover for the Norsemen.
New Orleans Saints 34, Carolina Panthers 13
In a do-or-die game for the Saints (+5.5) in Carolina, the Saints did. Playing without center Ryan Kalil, TE Greg Olsen and top WR Kelvin Benjamin (down early with a knee injury), the Panthers offense was a mess. Cam Newton, still not 100% apparently after offseason shoulder surgery, is still sailing passes or firing laser beams, neither of which are (easily) catchable. The Saints entered comfortable cover territory late in the second quarter and never looked back.
Tennessee Titans 33, Seattle Seahawks 27
After eight punts and about 50 combined yards in the first eight possessions, the scoring began. Seattle committed too many penalties (11 accepted for 98 yards) and sprung some leaks in run defense, including a 75-yard game-breaker from DeMarco Murray on the Titans’ first play of a new drive. Seattle’s offensive line showed some improvement but this offense relies way too much on Russell Wilson’s magical scrambling ability. Wilson’s fantasy football numbers were fantastic (29 for 49 for 373 yards and four TDs) but now it’s time for mild panic, Seahawks (+2.5) fans.
Green Bay Packers 27, Cincinnati Bengals 24 (OT)
The Bengals cover look pretty secure after DB William Jackson jumped a route and took an Aaron Rodgers pass to the house for a score, only the second pick-six Rodgers has allowed in his entire career. The Bengals brought consistent pressure with six sacks (two via LB Carl Lawson) as GB protection continues to struggle without starting LT David Bakhtiari and RT Brian Bulaga (left game, ankle). Something to continue to monitor when evaluating Packers spreads.
Kansas City Chiefs 24, Los Angeles Chargers 10
Sharp money was on the Chargers (+3) in a desperation game, but Kansas City capitalized on excellent field position in its first two possessions of the game after Philip Rivers interceptions, turning both into touchdowns (4 plays, 43 yards and 4 plays 34 yards) to take a 14-0 lead. The Chargers did manage five sacks and largely kept a lid on the Chiefs offense until Kareem Hunt exploded for a 69-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to put the game and put the cover to bed.
Washington Redskins 27, Oakland Raiders 10
Very impressive performance by Washington. The front seven stymied Oakland’s well-respected offensive line and put ‘em on their heels, sacking Derek Carr four times and holding Oakland to a mere 150 yards of offense (a chunk of that in garbage time). The Skins were fired up and Kirk Cousins was almost perfect in a 25-for-30, 365-yard, three TD performance. Dominating game for what appears to be a playoffs-caliber Redskins squad. They won’t be catching a FG at home again anytime soon.
See you tomorrow for the updated NFL Power Rankings.