Week 1 featured a lot of road favorites and those are often tough to back in the NFL. That seemed especially true for the season openers after a lot of the better teams left their starters on the sideline throughout the preseason.
As it turned out, it was a mixed bag for road favorites, including a 49ers loss in Chicago that looked more like a water polo match than a football game.
As we move ahead to Week 2, it’s imperative to identify point spreads that look like overreactions. One data point may not fully represent a team. Also, a lot of Week 1 games were sloppy with a lot of turnovers, and it was clear that a lot of quarterbacks and wide receivers need to work on their timing. We should see improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, but that’s far from guaranteed.
Here are the opening lines I like for Week 2:
Indianapolis Colts (-4, 45.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Colts were unimpressive in Week 1 against the Texans but did figure some things out in the fourth quarter to erase a 20-3 deficit. Indianapolis outgained Houston 517-299, ran 22 more plays and had a 5.7 to 4.4 edge in yards per play. The Colts only cashed in on two of their five red-zone attempts and missed a field goal.
Jacksonville also failed on three of five red-zone attempts to help squander a + 2 edge in turnover margin in its loss to Washington. The Jaguars also allowed a 70% success rate on third down. They certainly looked improved on offense with 6.2 yards per play but had a lot of defensive issues.
This line looks pretty cheap with Indy in a good bounce-back spot after having a pretty big offensive day that was hidden by red-zone inefficiency.
Pick: Colts -4
New York Jets at Cleveland Browns (-6.5, 42)
The Browns picked up an emotional win over Baker Mayfield and the Panthers but came out of the game with several concerns. Their running game was very good and they had possession for more than 38 minutes, but Jacoby Brissett did not look good at all. He was 18-of-34 for 147 yards and made inaccurate throws all over the field. The Browns’ wide receiver room is pretty weak as well. While they can ground-and-pound their way to victories, winning by margin may be more of a challenge.
It wasn’t a good look for the Jets in Week 1, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh is now 11-4 in season openers and had his team ready to go again. In my opinion, Baltimore is one of the best teams in the AFC, so it was a difficult matchup for New York right out of the gate.
The Browns may be an above-average team, but it’s hard to see them covering spreads such as this one with Brissett’s shortcomings. The Jets now have some film on their running game and it’s clear that every team will load the box against the Browns.
The spread of 6.5 looks a little lofty with a Cleveland team that is going to struggle to put up a lot of points.
Pick: Jets + 6.5
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-9.5, 44)
The Bears beat the 49ers, but it was an ugly offensive performance. The weather and the field conditions obviously played a huge part, but Chicago managed just 3.6 yards per play. The offensive line is rated as one of the worst in the NFL. A couple of big plays made the difference, but there was a lot of bad football in the first half and that will likely be the norm for the Bears this season.
The Packers didn’t have the excuse of weather to explain their horrific performance against the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers clearly missed Davante Adams and didn’t have much of a rapport with his receivers. The Packers ran the ball effectively with 6.2 yards per carry, so maybe they’ll rely a little more on the ground game in this matchup against a division rival. Pass protection was a huge problem and it looks like Rodgers is going to need a little time to jell with his revamped skill-position group.
It will be a heavy lift for these two teams to get into the mid-40s. As pedestrian as the offense is for Chicago, the defense still could be pretty good.
Pick: Under 44