Week 2 2016 NFL Predictions: Don’t Fall for the Overreactions

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The first week of the National Football League season is in the books and what do we know? That’s the question that all the sports channels, whether they are on television, internet or radio, are trying to tell you. The problematic thing is that NO ONE knows anything about the NFL season at this point; to say that you KNOW anything after one week of playing either means you’ve got great insight into one team and/or you are out there breaking the legs of the players so that their season is over!

Consider this tidbit of information. Last week, the Jimmy Garoppolo-led New England Patriots went into the desert in Arizona and everyone thought they were going to be thrashed, especially after it was learned that TE Rob Gronkowski was also going to miss the game. The line was +6 and the Pats went out and blew it away, winning outright over the Cardinals.

Fast forward to this week. One of the Patriots’ arch rivals, the Miami Dolphins, are coming to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday. The Dolphins have just come off a tough road trip to Seattle, where they put their own hurt on the Legion of Boom before falling at the end 12-10. Do you think that the ‘Fins get any love for that effort? No, they are currently a -6.5 dog to the Pats.

This is what I mean when I say you shouldn’t fall for the overreactions. It is typical that it will happen in the early part of the season (personally have always believed that they shouldn’t do a college football ranking until at least the third week of the season – then you actually know who is a contender or a pretender…are you listening Florida State?) because…well, that’s what the talking heads are paid to do…talk. Look at the Bills on Thursday night, who started off as a -3 favorite against the Jets. By the time the game started, the line had swung over to the Jets being the favorite and giving a point.

Injuries can also explain some of the swings, but it shouldn’t be that much especially if there is a quality backup. Cleveland Browns QB Robert Griffin III went down in Week 1 with a shoulder injury that has put him on the IR. Enter Josh McCown, who has been a serviceable backup/starter with NINE NFL franchises, tossed 73 TDs in his career and generally will have earned his NFL pension by the time he hangs it up. To put it bluntly, McCown isn’t a dewy-eyed rookie and there’s no reason that their opponent this week, the Baltimore Ravens, should have moved from a -4 favorite to a -6 favorite, especially with the game being played in Cleveland.

The best thing to remember is don’t fall for the overreactions. Go through your usual research and impartially analyze the information at hand. That will keep you from making ill-advised bets on the whims of the overreactions.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7) vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS

The Cardinals did not look like the same team that made the Final Four in the NFL last year. Perhaps it is another year of age on QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald, perhaps it was a defense that wasn’t ready for the Patriots. They certainly are going to have to improve on all aspects of the game (their second straight at home) if they are going to have an impact on the Bucs.

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Tampa Bay is much like the Cardinals except younger. QB Jameis Winston, RB Doug Martin and WR Mike Evans are coming together nicely and the defense, long the stalwart of the team, now doesn’t feel like it has to win every game. If the Buccaneers O-line can do the same job it did in Week 1, it could be another long afternoon for the Redbirds.

Atlanta Falcons vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (-4.5)

Again, we have a team that didn’t look very good playing at home last week (ironically against the Buccaneers) that is going to the West Coast. The Falcons are solid with QB Matt Ryan and RB Devonta Freeman, it is the defense that needs the work. Giving up four touchdown passes to Winston – who isn’t known as the second coming of Dan Fouts – is something that should have embarrassed the Dirty Birds.

It’s not going to get any easier for the Falcon defensive backs as they get another young stud of a quarterback in Derek Carr. With an arsenal that includes WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and RB Latavius Murray, Carr can basically pick apart nearly any defense. The Raider D is once again a formidable force, which should give the not-very-mobile Ryan some issues. The bookies aren’t giving any respect to the Silver and Black and they may regret it.

Green Bay Packers (-2) vs. MINNESOTA VIKINGS; OVER 43.5

The Packers impress me this year that they will do just enough to get the job done and little more. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, they didn’t cover the spread but did pull out a four-point win. This is a very similar game in that the Pack doesn’t have to wow anyone, they just have to go in and pull out the victory. With veteran QB Aaron Rodgers, that shouldn’t be a problem with the array of talent behind him.

The Vikings…ah, what could have been. Although they went south last week and beat the Tennessee Titans, the team didn’t look like the powerhouse it would have been with QB Teddy Bridgewater (out for the season – knee injury) under center. The Vikings might be a surprise and get into the playoffs with a wild card, but they’re not going to beat the Pack in this game.

Philadelphia Eagles (+3) vs. CHICAGO BEARS

The Eagles were a bit of a surprise in Week 1 with their rookie QB Carson Wentz, but it was a win over the Browns (predicted to win four games this year). The test will come when they go on the road, many said…but they didn’t expect the Bears to be this dismal, never seriously in the game against the Houston Texans on the road last week. These aren’t the old “Monsters of the Midway” and the offense is QB Jay Cutler and whomever they can find to put around him. The Eagles should come out of this game with a 2-0 record, but I’ll settle for covering the three-point spread.

Last Week:  3-1-1
2016 Season Overall:  6-1-1

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The Titans failing to cover the spread against the Vikings (Tennessee +2.5, lost 25-16) and the push by the New York Giants over the Dallas Cowboys (Giants -1, won 20-19) were the only blemishes on what was otherwise a pretty good week (and good for you if you found the Giants in a “pick ‘em” as some odds makers had it). If you can go 3 for 5 (with one push) over the course of a season, you’re going to do pretty well. Let’s see if this week holds up to the scrutiny.

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NFL Week 6 Picks: Trends Aren’t Necessarily Something to Follow

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In the National Football League, there are some trends that occur in betting that amateurs usually get caught up in (you know, if you’re in an area where you can legally place a bet on a sporting event). Everyone loves to take a team coming off a bye week, figuring that the extra rest will have recharged the batteries of the squad and have them fresh for the first game back from the bye. As of 2013, teams coming off the bye week won 53.4% both straight up and against the spread, not as much as you might think.

One trend that does have some legs for some reason is the West Coast team traveling to the East Coast for a game. According to a study in 2013, since 2005 a West Coast team that traversed the continent to play on the East Coast had a record of 44.57 against the spread, a winning percentage of .436. If the teams were traveling to the Central Time Zone, they also had a horrible win rate against the spread, 37-44 (.457). Going to the Mountain Zone, the West Coast team was a bit better off, going 22-10 (.688).

While the average person might say “AHA!” and run with this, you still have to do the math. The West Coast teams are the Oakland Raiders (putrid for much of the last decade), San Diego Chargers (42-38 over the past five years), San Francisco 49ers (three outstanding seasons between 2011-13 with an 8-8 slate in 2014 and a 6-10 record in 2010 and dismal results prior to 2010) and the Seattle Seahawks (23-41 between 2008-11, 36-12 between 2012-14). As you can see, the teams who make up the “West Coast” franchises have had long stages where they weren’t exactly the best team to be making a difficult trek across the country to play the games. Basically, whenever you see someone spouting about a “trend” that always has to be followed, you have to put your own analysis to the test before you jump off the diving board.

This week in the NFL is a tough one, with several games that could go either way. There are some good choices, however, if you’re brave enough to take the risk (home team in CAPS, pick in bold).

Arizona Cardinals vs. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (+4); UNDER 45

Here’s an example of one of those trends that has actually been scientifically proven. When a dome team goes to play an outdoor team in conditions where the temperatures are around 40 degrees, the dome team only wins the game about 20% of the time. The forecast for Heinz Field in the Steel City on Sunday is for temps to hover around 44 degrees with a gusty wind knocking the chill down to 39 degrees. Although Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald has some experience playing in these conditions (he played college ball for the University of Pittsburgh), the Cardinals are that dome team that will have problems with outdoor games.

I also like the Steelers in this game because they seem to have figured out that running the ball with RBs Le’veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams might be a good way to operate the offense while QB Ben Roethlisberger is out and Michael Vick (still dangerous, by the way) is under the center. If the Steelers are able to control the pace of this game, they’ll stay close to the Cardinals and keep it under 45 total points for the game.

Chicago Bears (+3.5) vs. DETROIT LIONS; UNDER 44

This is the game that will be on the NFL Sunday Ticket bar televisions in Hell. Both teams are downright ugly and it is stunning as to why. The Lions aren’t exactly bereft of talent with QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson, but they are the only team in the NFL so far this season without a win. The Bears have had some injury issues, but that doesn’t explain why they are averaging slightly more than 17 points per game and seemingly have begun the “fire sale” to gut the team and rebuild for the future. The Bears have shown that, on occasion, they can stop an opposing offense, thus I’ll take the former “Monsters of the Midway” and go UNDER in what will be a torturous affair.

Miami Dolphins vs. TENNESSEE TITANS (-2); UNDER 43.5

After their game two weeks ago in the United Kingdom, the Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin. Whenever you are firing your coach four games into the season, that isn’t going to bode well as to your chances for the remainder of the year.

Still, we see a couple of the “trend” theories playing out here. The line originally opened at Titans (-3), so that has closed up a bit (perhaps because of the “bye week” trend?) and the O/U was set at 45.5. It’s now dropped to 43.5 as some weather conditions have arisen that could cause some issues for the teams (“warm weather” team playing in bad conditions?). The Titans are going to bring a good game against the ‘Fins, with the Titans averaging 25 points per game and QB Marcus Mariota looking very solid behind center, thus they get the pick.

Last Week:  5-0-1
Overall:  19-8-2

SO CLOSE to perfection last week! The only pick missed – and technically not missed but a push – was the Seahawks losing to the Cincinnati Bengals by three, the exact spread of the game. This week’s going to be a bit tougher to fade, but we’ll see what happens.