NFL forecast: Time to unleash home 'dogs

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

September 14, 2019 07:44 PM
Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan is 10-1 straight up and ATS in home openers for the Falcons, who are small home 'dogs Sunday night.
© USA Today Images

A poor first impression does not always last. It was an ugly season opener for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, but it was also predictable.

The Falcons faced an aggressive Minnesota defense that was a bad matchup for their weak offensive line. Ryan finished by passing for 304 yards, a deceiving number considering he piled up a lot of garbage yardage after trailing by four touchdowns in a 28-12 loss.

This is a more favorable matchup for Ryan against a Philadelphia defense that allowed Case Keenum to throw for 380 yards while sacking him only once last week. The Redskins also have a weak line and lack the elite wide receiver talent that Julio Jones and the Falcons possess.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is surrounded by playmakers and will be tough to contain, so that’s the main concern. But there’s typically some point-spread value with a quality team off a poor performance in Week 1, and that’s the case with Atlanta. Ryan is 10-1 straight up and ATS in home openers, so go with the 1½-point underdog in prime time.

Home ‘dogs are the theme this week. Oakland just missed my cut to the final five, and Cincinnati was a play before moving from a ‘dog to a small home favorite.

Four more plays for Week 2 (home team in CAPS):

* LIONS (plus-2) over Chargers: A fourth-quarter collapse last week has changed the way most bettors are viewing Detroit. But its defense was solid for three quarters, and Matthew Stafford was mostly sharp while passing for 385 yards and three touchdowns in the 27-27 tie at Arizona. The Chargers were more fortunate, escaping with an overtime win despite allowing the Colts’ Jacoby Brissett to complete 21 of 27 passes and Marlon Mack to run for 174 yards. The Lions will have a shot to win this game, and hopefully they close the deal this time.

* GIANTS (plus-2½) over Bills: The Giants have serious deficiencies on defense, with several holes exposed in Dallas as Dak Prescott passed for 405 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions or sacks. But the Cowboys have more weapons than the Bills, and Josh Allen is not a passer on Prescott’s level. It might be easy to forget Buffalo’s offense did not find the end zone in the first three quarters of a 17-16 victory over the Jets. The Bills have a top-shelf defense, but so do the Cowboys, who allowed the Giants to total 470 yards on 7.1 yards per play. The Giants made costly mistakes in key situations, often suffering from poor play-calling, and Saquon Barkley will get more touches after rushing for 120 yards on only 11 carries.

Eli Manning showed encouraging signs, hitting on 30 of 44 passes for 306 yards while getting sacked only once, and it’s obvious his offensive line is improved. For what it’s worth, Manning is 7-0-1 ATS in his career as a ‘dog against AFC East opponents. The perception of the Bills is inflated after their comeback win. The Giants are being downgraded a little too much after failing in a difficult road opener. The lookahead line for Week 2 showed the Giants as 1½-point favorites over the Bills, who are playing in MetLife Stadium for the second week in a row, but this is different because now they are in the favorite’s role.

* REDSKINS (plus-6) over Cowboys: Line inflation has created an opportunity to back Washington, which is much stronger defensively than the Giants. Dak Prescott, who picked apart the Giants, is 5-1 ATS against Redskins. The betting public is infatuated with Dallas, which will get all it can handle from this ugly divisional ‘dog.

* BRONCOS (plus-2½) over Bears: A scheduling advantage is working for the Bears, who opened on a Thursday and have four more days to prepare. After a pathetic three-point debut, Chicago coach Matt Nagy needs the extra time to fix his offense. The Broncos’ edge is just as obvious — new coach Vic Fangio, the Bears’ defensive coordinator last year, knows Mitchell Trubisky’s weaknesses and should have a smart plan of attack ready. Fangio likely had an eye on this Week 2 matchup all summer. Denver defensive ends Bradley Chubb and Von Miller, strangely quiet with no QB hits Monday in Oakland, will put the heat on Trubisky, who cannot pass with much accuracy from the pocket and does not release the ball as quickly as Derek Carr.

Denver has won seven straight home openers. And here are two interesting totals trends: The Broncos have stayed “under” in 10 consecutive games, and the Bears have gone “under” in six straight. With 41 being a key totals number, wait to see if the total ticks up from 40½.

Last week: 3-2 against the spread

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