Four early Week 2 NFL lines I like

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

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Week 2 is an overreaction week in the NFL. All of the build-up and anticipation for the season comes to a head in Week 1 and bettors formulate strong opinions about what they’ve most recently seen.

Oddsmakers and bettors will both make adjustments that are too big based on what happened with the first round of games. We only have one data point out of 17 in the books for each of these teams, but that one data point usually carries too much weight.

Here are a few games that stand out to me among the early lines for Week 2, along with a couple early picks:

New England Patriots (-3.5, 47.5) at New York Jets

The Patriots vs. Dolphins game had a heavy betting handle in Week 1, as bettors had opinions on both sides of the game. New England ultimately lost 17-16 as a 3.5-point favorite. The Patriots were one of the more polarizing teams in Week 1 because everybody wanted to see how Mac Jones would play and if New England’s defense was improved.

The Patriots may have fallen short, but they were undoubtedly the better team. New England had 5.6 yards per play to 5.0 YPP for the Dolphins. New England was 11-for-16 on third down; Miami was just 4-of-11. The Dolphins scored touchdowns on both red zone trips, but New England scored one touchdown in four red zone trips with two field goals and a turnover. It was the type of game that New England should have won.

The Jets, meanwhile, managed only 4.2 YPP against the Panthers. The running game was non-existent and New York only got to the red zone once. The Patriots are 9-1 straight up in their last 10 games against rookie QBs, and Belichick is 21-7 against rookie QBs overall since taking the reins in 2000.

Rookie QB Zach Wilson, who was sacked six times by a Panthers defense that had just 29 total sacks last season, didn’t look comfortable against Carolina and now faces an evil genius that dials up great gameplans against rookies. This line was more like -4.5 in the market before the Week 1 results, and New England did nothing to deserve a discounted number. The Patriots are a good early-week pick.

Pick: New England Patriots -3.5

Buffalo Bills (-3.5, 47.5) at Miami Dolphins

Similar to the last game, the Week 1 results are having too much influence in the line. Buffalo lost to Pittsburgh 23-16 and it was an ugly loss as nearly a touchdown favorite. The Steelers scored a special teams touchdown on a blocked punt that really wound up being the deciding factor in the game. Buffalo had some unfortunate drops in third-down situations and wound up essentially -3 in turnover margin with a pick and two turnovers on downs.

The Steelers didn’t cross midfield in the first half of the game. Pittsburgh’s defense played really well, so that unit deserves a lot of credit, but we know that the Buffalo offense has a much higher ceiling than what we saw on Sunday.

Miami’s defense, on the other hand, couldn’t get off the field on third down against New England. The Patriots were 11-for-16 on third down and most of those conversions came on Mac Jones passes. Bills QB Josh Allen had the highest completion percentage on third down of any QB with at least 100 pass attempts last season at 67%. Tua Tagovailoa was only at 50% last season and the Dolphins had third-down issues in Week 1.

This line has not been adjusted down like the first game listed, but the Bills are better than what they showed us and the Dolphins may not be.

Pick: Buffalo Bills -3.5

Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns (-11.5, 48)

Penultimate game manager Tyrod Taylor played very well in Week 1 for the Texans, but that was against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags already seem to be a team in turmoil based on the reports coming out of Florida. Houston converted 12-of-21 third-down attempts, a percentage that this offense will have no chance to uphold in the near-term, let alone the long-term.

The Texans ran 75 plays, a pace that they are unlikely to keep up against a ball control offense like Cleveland’s this week. The Browns may have played a little more aggressively, especially early, against the Chiefs because the way to beat the Chiefs is to outscore them. The Browns went for it twice on fourth down in the first quarter and were rewarded for their aggression. Maybe they try to take the points against a different team.

Once Kansas City adjusted to Cleveland’s offense, the Browns had 126 yards on 21 plays in the second half. They had 318 yards on 32 plays in the first half.

The look-ahead total for this game was 45.5. This seems like a big adjustment, particularly to what Houston did against a bad Jacksonville team. Cleveland’s gameplan to beat Kansas City will likely end up being a lot different than the plan against Houston. That should slow this game down and the Texans offense should also experience some regression.

Pick: Under 48

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers (-3, 52)

Dak Prescott threw the ball 58 times in Week 1. The Cowboys were forced to keep pace with the Buccaneers offense, but Mike McCarthy had no reservations about putting his QB in harm’s way. Even with reports in the preseason of a tired shoulder, Prescott was firing away on Thursday Night Football.

Prescott had at least 47 pass attempts in four of his five full games last season. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore seems to prefer throwing the football. Prescott should be throwing early and often here against the Chargers as well.

Justin Herbert threw 47 times in his first game with new head coach Brandon Staley and new OC Joe Lombardi, who called a ton of pass plays in 2014 and 2015 with the Detroit Lions.

With all these pass attempts in the forecast, the over 52 looks a tad low on the fast track of SoFi Stadium. The Chargers had six red zone trips in Week 1, but only scored two touchdowns. The Cowboys had four trips inside the 20 and only scored one touchdown. We should see lots of yards, lots of pass attempts and lots of point-scoring opportunities here.

Pick: Over 52

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