As we get ready to tackle NFL Week 2 here in the Tuley’s Takes home office, we can’t help but look back at how great it was to have pro football back as scheduled.
Kudos to the NFL for executing its offseason game plan, under which it also had contingency plans to move early-season games in case COVID-19 caused them to be pushed later in the schedule. But none of that will be necessary. And the league announced over the weekend that about 5,000 players, coaches and team personnel had been tested and all had come back negative, so hopefully everyone keeps doing what they’re doing.
I also have to say that it struck me Sunday how normal the product looked on TV. In the future, you’ll see highlights of NBA games with virtual fans, NHL games with tarps over the seats and of course MLB with empty seats and cardboard cutouts and you’ll say, “That’s 2020.” But you can’t tell the difference with most NFL highlights.
Of course, I’m also happy about Week 1 because I was 4-2 ATS with my best bets in this column and 7-3 ATS with my pool-play leans on the other games. So hopefully we helped get some readers off to a good start (and hopefully some of you were following us here in “Point Spread Weekly” when the schedule was set in April and I gave early bet recommendations that went 5-0: Patriots -5.5, Jaguars + 8.5, Seahawks -1, Packers + 3.5 and Titans + 3.
It didn’t start so well. I lost the Thursday night opener on the Texans, and then the Browns, Bears, Jaguars and Packers all trailed in the early Sunday games against the Ravens, Lions, Colts and Vikings, respectively. The Browns never got back into the game, but the Packers and then the Jaguars rallied to take control and the Bears woke up from their hibernation to pull off an unlikely rally and beat the Lions. Then the Cardinals put the icing on the cake with their upset of the 49ers.
Saturday was a little less exciting, but we still started 2-1 ATS on the VSiN CFB Best Bets page. I had a losing week at 4-5 ATS on the VSiN CFB Consensus but am still profitable at 8-6 ATS on the young season. We’ll stick with our college football picks on those pages until we find something we really like to highlight here. Longtime readers know if I’m picking a favorite on the Consensus page, that means I just can’t make a good enough case for the underdog and I’m not actually betting on the chalk.
And that’s pretty much what I also do here as I give my “Takes” on the full NFL card. I won’t have a fave among my best bets, but I’ll make it clear which dogs I don’t have confidence in and which faves I’ll be using in many of my pools and contests when I have to pick every game. Lines are the consensus numbers around Las Vegas as of Tuesday afternoon.
Tuley’s Takes on NFL Week 2
Bengals at Browns (-6):
The Thursday nighter gives us two 0-1 teams that need to win to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start. Well, that’s about the extent of the hype around this matchup. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow played well in his debut against the Chargers, and the way the Browns’ defense was lit up by the Ravens, there’s no reason to think Burrow can’t keep the Bengals in this game as well. Best Bet: Bengals + 6 (pool play: Bengals 67/33 in my rare ATS contests that include “TNF” and all of them if offered + 6.5, but Browns 67/33 in SU contests).
Rams (-1.5) at Eagles:
The Eagles were favored on advance Week 2 lines, but it flipped after they were manhandled by Washington and the Rams knocked off the Cowboys. I’m not ready to throw the Eagles on the trash heap like a lot of people, but I just can’t pull the trigger on this home underdog as the Rams’ defense should pose the same problems that Washington did.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Rams 55/45 in SU pools but pretty much 50/50 in ATS contests).
Panthers at Buccaneers (-9):
Not as many people are jumping off the Bucs’ bandwagon after Tom Brady’s debut as the spread is actually higher than it was last week on the advance line. On the VSiN NFL Consensus page, I took the Panthers and the Over, and I’m going to stick with that. Both teams played shootout in their openers with neither defense looking like a juggernaut. Teddy Bridgewater played well in his Carolina debut and has enough weapons, especially RB Christian McCaffrey, to match Brady score for score.
Best Bet: Panthers + 9 for our purposes here, though wait to see if it gets to + 10 (pool play: Panthers 75/25 in ATS contests but still Bucs about 67/33 in SU pools), plus Over 48.5 points.
Broncos at Steelers (-7.5):
I was high on the Steelers in the VSiN Pro Football Betting Guide and was happy to use them as favorites in my SU pools in Week 1, but I’m fading them here. Even without Von Miller, the Broncos have enough left on defense to turn this into another low-scoring affair like we saw Monday night in their 16-14 loss to the Titans. The oddsmakers are pretty much saying that will be the case with a very low total of 41.5, which also makes this 7.5-point head start even more valuable as points are at a premium.
Best Bet: Broncos + 7.5 (pool play: Broncos 75/25 in ATS contests but Steelers around 67/33 in SU pools).
Falcons at Cowboys (-4.5):
The Cowboys came up short against the Rams on Sunday night, but they get an easier matchup here in their home opener. I’m tempted to take the points with the Falcons and I’m sure I’ll be on them plenty of times this season as underdogs, but I can’t be too confident after seeing the Seahawks’ light up their defense for 38 points.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Cowboys at least 80/20 in SU pools but closer to only 55/45 in ATS contests).
49ers (-7) at Jets:
I was more than willing to fade the 49ers with the Cardinals in the opener, but I’m not doing the same here with the Jets. The 49ers are without WR Deebo Samuel and possibly also without TE George Kittle, but they should still have enough to win comfortably. A big part of the 49ers’ loss to the Cardinals was the scrambling of QB Tyler Murray, but Sam Darnold will be a relative sitting duck for San Francisco’s pass rush.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: 49ers in all SU pools but only about 60/40 in ATS contests, though all of them at -6.5).
Bills (-5.5) at Dolphins:
This line was only Bills -4 last week but has gone up to -5.5, with some books already at -6. I understand the move with the Bills’ rout of the Jets and the Dolphins’ loss to the Patriots but would consider the Dolphins if this gets to + 7 and maybe even at + 6.5. The Dolphins, who were very competitive late last season, also stuck around Sunday and nearly got the back-door cover. I just need the line to move a little more in our favor.
Best Bet: Pass, though would take Dolphins + 7 (pool play: Dolphins about 55/45 in ATS contests but increasing if getting + 6.5 or better, though still using Bills about 67/33 in SU pools).
Vikings at Colts (-3):
This is a conference game and takes on added importance for two playoff hopefuls trying to avoid an 0-2 start. The Colts had the most embarrassing loss of Week 1 to the lowly Jaguars (taking tons of survivor-pool players down with them), and I’m more confident in the Vikings bouncing back from their loss to the Packers.
Best Bet: Vikings + 3 -120 (pool play: Vikings around 67/33 in ATS contests though closer to 55/45 if only getting + 2.5) and 50/50 in SU pools).
Lions at Packers (-6):
This could have been a battle for sole possession of first place in the NFC North, but the Lions blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead to the Bears. If they allowed Mitchell Trubisky to do that to them, I’m not going to trust them to contain Aaron Rodgers, especially with how sharp he looked against a better defense in Minnesota.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Packers in nearly all SU pools but closer to 70/30 in ATS contests).
Giants at Bears (-4.5):
I was happy to take the Bears as underdogs at Detroit as they (barely) pulled the upset, but I wouldn’t rush to back them as favorites. In fact, I’m going to end up betting the Giants as I don’t trust the Bears in that role. I know the Steelers’ defense shut down the G-men, but I wasn’t as impressed with the Bears’ defense so Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and crew should have more success in keeping this game close or pull the minor upset.
Best Bet: Giants + 4.5 (pool play: Giants 67/33 in ATS contests though probably Bears in slightly more SU pools).
Jaguars at Titans (-9):
The Jaguars came through for me big-time against the Colts, but I don’t think I’ll take Gardner Minshew to work his magic for a second straight game. While I still lean that way, I also know we’ve lost some betting value as the advance line was Titans -10.5 and even -11 at some books but has been adjusted to single digits. Despite coming off a short week after the Monday night win at Denver, the Titans will be prepared for their division rivals.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Titans in nearly all SU contests and around 67/33 in ATS contests as it’s actually looking like the contrarian side).
Washington at Cardinals (-6.5):
This line was wavering between 6.5 and 7 on Tuesday. I bet the Redskins + 7 and would certainly recommend that bet, but I’ll still make it a play at 6.5, which was the prevailing number around Vegas as of press time. The Redskins rallied from a 17-0 deficit to shock the Eagles, but this is really more a play against the Cardinals. VSiN regulars know I gave out the Cardinals as dark-horse NFC and Super Bowl contenders earlier this year and was thrilled by the upset of the 49ers, However, I’m willing to fade them as big favorites.
Best Bet: Washington + 6.5 or + 7 if you can get it (pool play: Redskins 75/25 in ATS contests, especially if offered + 7.5, though Cardinals still around 67/33 in SU pools).
Baltimore (-7) at Texans:
MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens looked like they were in midseason form from last season in the opener against the Browns, and they’re getting most of the early money this week and will also be a very popular teaser play. However, the Texans and Deshaun Watson showed they have plenty of offense even without DeAndre Hopkins. Yes, they lost 34-20, but they still stuck around and had a shot at the back-door cover, and I expect them to be right there with the Ravens here and hopefully get that one extra score if not pull the outright upset.
Best Bet: Texans + 7 or higher (pool play: Texans 80/20 in ATS contests, especially if offered + 7.5, and close to 50/50 in SU contests).
Chiefs (-8.5) at Chargers:
Speaking of the defending champion Chiefs, they’re big road chalk at the Chargers, who struggled to hold off the Bengals in their opener (pushing on the closing line of Chargers -3). It’s tempting to take this home dog after Jacksonville and Washington surprised in that role last week, but there seems too big a gap between these two teams and I would need more points. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Chiefs around 90/10 in SU pools and still at least 60/40 in ATS contests).
Patriots at Seahawks (-4):
The Sunday nighter is one of the toughest games of the week, at least from my point of view. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense looked great, though that was against a below-average defense in Atlanta. They face a much tougher test against the Patriots. New England’s offense has a completely new look with Cam Newton replacing Tom Brady, but I’m not sure it can keep up with Seattle. However, I think they will do enough to get this Over the total, which appears to be set a few points too low.
Best Bet: Over 45, but Pass on side (pool play: Seahawks 75/25 in SU contests but Patriots 55/45 in ATS contests with a little more if getting + 4.5).
Saints (-6) at Raiders:
The Monday nighter brings us the Las Vegas home debut of the Raiders ... though without home fans. Still, it should be a made-for-TV event. The problem for the locals is that the Saints came out of the game looking like the best team in the NFC if not the whole league. The Raiders won their opener on the road but benefitted from playing a Carolina team in transition. This just isn’t enough points for me to bet the take the home dog.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Saints in nearly all SU contests — I mentioned last week that I often go all in on the last game of the week so I have my strongest opinion going for me in case I connect the dots on a single entry — but closer to Saints 60/40 in ATS contests).
Tuley’s Takes on NHL/NBA
We’re not forgetting about the NBA and NHL playoffs, though our interest has been diminished by losing our future bets on the Golden Knights. That was a disappointing exit, but they were outplayed by the Stars. As of this writing, the Lightning were leading the Islanders 3-1. If the series is extended, I’ll take the Islanders in Thursday’s Game 6. If the Lightning face the Stars in the Stanley Cup Final, I’ll back the Stars as underdogs.
In the NBA, the Celtics and Heat started the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night. That series is a coin flip and I’ll pass unless I see something in the early games to change my mind. Game 7 of the Clippers-Nuggets series took place Tuesday night. If the Clippers advanced, I’ll probably do the same thing with an evenly matched Lakers-Clippers Western Conference finals. If the Nuggets knock off the Clippers, I’ll take them as dogs in Game 1 against the Lakers and probably throughout the series.