There is nothing quite like NFL Week 1 and the analysis after it’s complete. Unfortunately, what usually comes along with the analysis are the overreactions.
I’ve heard it all over the last few days: The Bills should be crowned already … the Bengals’ run last postseason was a fluke … the Chiefs’ offense is better than ever without Tyreek Hill … the Vikings have overtaken the Packers … the Cowboys are done … blah, blah, blah.
Some of the boasts may have roots and eventually blossom, but they may also turn out completely the opposite. Many will end up somewhere in between.
The reality is Week 1 is just one of 17 games for each team. Nothing has been formulated yet; we’ve only gotten hints of what could happen. To put it in perspective, do you see overblown analysis of the first 10 games of an MLB season, or the first five games in the NBA? The answer is not really.
With that in mind, bettors need to understand that teams tend to react and progress from their Week 1 results to their Week 2 games similarly year after year. I like to quantify these reactions through the use of betting systems, and I have 13 of them detailed below.
This year’s Week 1 action was unlike any in recent memory, with many expected favorites going down outright. It was a bloodbath in survivor contests, and from everything I’ve heard and read, it was a mega-windfall for sportsbooks, culminating with an upset win by the Seahawks on Monday night when over 90% of the tickets and money was on the favored Broncos. As usual, there were also some very close games, and some lofty scoring totals. These traits, and several others, form the foundation for the systems in this report.
Let’s take a foundational look as to why these angles may be consistently successful.
The NFL is a huge momentum league. With only one game every week, teams have a lot of time to either stew on losses or bask in victories. Between games, losing teams may start to doubt themselves and winning teams may get overconfident.
The betting public and media sensationalize this type of thinking and theorize that what they just saw in Week 1 is the new standard. Bookmakers are thus placed in the precarious position of having to juggle what just happened with what should happen in Week 2, all while figuring out what the public thinks will happen. It is a fine balancing act.
In my opinion, the systems below come as a result of two things:
1. Bookmakers not wanting to overadjust
2. Bookmakers trying to balance their sides against new public sentiment
Overadjusting seems to be getting more common in college football, but in the pros, with all of the money that is wagered on every game, bookmakers realize they can’t radically adjust their lines in such a short window. They are forced to wait out the first few weeks of any given season in hopes that everything balances out.
Because of this “oddsmaker patience,” I believe these one-week transitional systems are only valid this early in the season.
Think of the above explanation as you read through each system, and trust the systems you think make the most sense. All 13 angles have a winning percentage of at least 58.3%.
1. Week 1 favorites of 6 points or more that lost (or tied) have bounced back with a record of 18-4 SU and 18-4 ATS (81.8%) in Week 2 since 2002 (+ 13.6 units; ROI: 61.8%; Grade: 75).
Week 2 plays: Play on Cincinnati, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Denver
Analysis: Teams favored by 6 points or more in Week 1 are typically well respected and naturally tend to bounce back when aided by a sense of urgency. In 2020, San Francisco and Indianapolis both responded to Week 1 upset losses with easy Week 2 wins. In 2021, Buffalo rebounded quickly against Miami, winning 35-0. This system is currently on an 8-1 SU and 8-1 ATS surge.
2. Week 2 favorites or underdogs of less than 3 points playing an opponent that scored more than 30 points in Week 1 are 44-14 SU and 38-17-3 ATS (69.1%) since 2003 (+ 19.2 units; ROI: 33.1%; Grade: 67).
Week 2 plays: Play on Minnesota, Washington
Analysis: These 30-point scorers may have overachieved in Week 1 and are naturally due for a letdown, or their performance led to an overinflated line in Week 2. Last year, 10 teams hit the 30-point mark in Week 1. This year, there were only four. The two teams that would call for a “play against,” Philadelphia and Detroit, squared off in a 38-35 shootout in Week 1.
3. Teams that topped their Week 1 point spread by 8 points or more in nonconference games are 19-8-3 to the Under (66.7%) in Week 2 since 2002 (+ 10.2 units; ROI: 34%; Grade: 67).
Week 2 plays: Play Under in L.A. Chargers-Kansas City and Tennessee-Buffalo
Analysis: Week 1 higher-scoring teams typically grab the attention of bettors. Having lit it up against unfamiliar opponents, they typically come back down to earth offensively against higher totals from oddsmakers. It will take some guts to bet the Under in Thursday’s AFC West game.
4. Teams playing a second straight divisional game in Week 2 are an impressive 33-13-1 SU and 32-14-1 ATS (69.6%) since 2003 (+ 16.6 units; ROI: 35.3%; Grade: 67).
Week 2 plays: Play on L.A. Chargers, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Green Bay
Analysis: Divisional games typically require greater focus and intensity, and these teams are well prepared the second time around. The four qualifiers this week went 2-1-1 SU but 1-3 ATS in Week 1.
5. Teams playing as underdogs in their second straight divisional game are 15-12-1 SU and 19-9 ATS (67.9%) in Week 2 since 2004 (+ 9.1 units; ROI: 32.5%; Grade: 65).
Week 2 plays: Play on L.A. Chargers, New Orleans
Analysis: A subset of System No. 4. This has been an outstanding moneyline system as well, hitting outright winners at 55%, so don’t ignore that betting option. Both play-on teams this week settle into underdog roles after Week 1 wins.
6. Teams that lost (or tied) as road favorites in Week 1 have bounced back with a record of 16-10 SU and 19-9 ATS (67.9%) over the last 10 seasons (+ 9.1 units; ROI: 32.5%; Grade: 65).
Week 2 plays: Play on San Francisco, Indianapolis, Denver
Analysis: Week 1 road favorites are usually highly regarded teams, good enough to bounce back from a loss and, in most cases, avoid an 0-2 start. The four qualifiers last year went 3-1 ATS.
7. Teams that lost on the point spread by more than 14 points in Week 1 divisional games are 13-7 SU and 13-6-1 ATS (68.4%) in Week 2 since 2007 (+ 6.4 units; ROI: 32%; Grade: 62).
Week 2 plays: Play on Green Bay
Analysis: Week 2 point-spread adjustments tend to go against teams that were beaten soundly by divisional opponents and are, in most cases, overadjustments. The Chicago-Green Bay line on Sunday night doesn’t seem to be affected by last week’s results, but the Packers are at an important juncture and need to respond.
8. Teams that won by 3 points or less in Week 1 are 33-17-1 to the Under (64.7%) in Week 2 since 2005 (+ 13.2 units; ROI: 25.9%; Grade: 60).
Week 2 plays: Play Under in N.Y. Jets-Cleveland, Tampa Bay-New Orleans, Carolina-N.Y. Giants, New England-Pittsburgh, Seattle-San Francisco
Analysis: This one is tough to explain, but it could stem from the emotional toll of winning a close game and the potential offensive letdown that might occur, at least early in the next game. Whatever the reason, being 16 games over .500 gives the system merit.
9. Week 2 teams that went Under their Week 1 total by at least 17 points are 24-14 to the Over (63.2%) since 2008 (+ 9.6 units; ROI: 25.3%; Grade: 57).
Week 2 plays: Play Over in Miami-Baltimore, Tampa Bay-New Orleans, New England-Pittsburgh, Cincinnati-Dallas
Analysis: These teams underachieved offensively in Week 1, creating a situation where oddsmakers adjust too quickly. Early public perception says these offenses could be worse than expected. This system proves it’s too early to make that conclusion. Unfortunately, two of four games that qualify for this system directly contradict System No. 8.
10. Teams that lost by double digits in Week 1 are 41-24-2 ATS (63.1%) in Week 2 over the last 10 seasons (+ 14.6 units; ROI: 21.8%; Grade: 56).
Week 2 plays: N.Y. Jets, New England, L.A. Rams, Dallas, Arizona, Green Bay
Analysis: This is as direct of an overreaction system as there is, and it goes against all that the betting public was told they learned in Week 1. Teams that were beaten soundly in their openers tend to come back strong in Week 2.
11. Teams whose opponent played in the weeknight season opener — giving the opponent extra rest — are 14-20 SU but 20-13-1 ATS (60.6%) in Week 2 since 2005 (+ 5.7 units; ROI: 16.8%; Grade: 55).
Week 2 plays: Play on L.A. Chargers, Atlanta
Analysis: Routine, routine, routine. Teams that play in the NFL opener are out of the typical routine. Extra rest is typically valued more in later parts of the season. This is usually a tough system to stomach since it requires fading two of the better teams in the league.
12. Teams that had Week 1 divisional wins of 7 points or more are 25-19 SU and 24-16-2 ATS (60%) since 2006 in Week 2 (+ 6.4 units; ROI: 14.5%; Grade: 52).
Week 2 plays: Play on Miami, Minnesota
Analysis: Momentum from a big divisional win in Week 1 seems to carry over. This system is only 3-5 SU and 4-4 ATS over the last two seasons, so it's teetering on the edge of being removed from the list. Both qualifiers this week are road underdogs against teams that were road winners in Week 1.
13. Teams facing opponents that allowed 38 points or more in Week 1 are 22-15 SU and 21-15-1 ATS (58.3%) in Week 2 since 2002 (+ 4.5 units; ROI: 12.2%; Grade: 50).
Week 2 plays: Play on Washington, Las Vegas
Analysis: Betting against teams that were bad defensively in Week 1 is a sound idea. Detroit allowed 38 points to Philadelphia in Week 1 and faces Washington, while Arizona allowed 44 to Kansas City and gets another AFC West team in Las Vegas.