The attention paid to Week 1 of any NFL season is a bit overwhelming. Armchair quarterbacks can always analyze big performances, surprise results, key injuries and plenty more. Increasingly, we see mass overreaction. Case in point this week, as Matt Youmans dedicates much of his feature story to putting the first nail in the coffin of the Packers off their humbling 38-3 loss to New Orleans. He discusses plenty of other takeaways from the first week, and surely his thoughts echo those across the country.
The reality is that Week 1 is just one of 17 games on the 2021 schedule. Nothing has been formulated yet, and we’ve gotten only hints of what could happen. To put it in perspective: Do you ever see overblown analysis of the first 10 games of a baseball season? The first five contests on a team’s NBA slate? The answer is not really.
Bettors really 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 11 systems designed to help bettors turn what they saw in Week 1 into profits in Week 2.
This year’s Week 1 action was unlike any in recent memory, with 12 underdogs covering point spreads. There were some significant upsets, most notably with losses by last year’s conference runners-up, the Packers and Bills. The Raiders also pulled a miracle in turning back Baltimore after trailing by 14 points early. As usual, there were also some very close games and some lofty totals put up. These traits and several others form the foundation for the systems I am about to share.
Let’s take a foundational look at why these angles might be consistently successful. First, the NFL is a huge momentum league, and with only one game every week, it gives a team a lot of time to stew on a loss or bask in a victory. During this time, losing teams might be starting to doubt themselves, or winning teams may be thinking too highly of their own games. 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 a precarious position of having to juggle what just happened with what should happen the next week along with what the public thinks will happen. It is a fine balancing act.
In my opinion, these systems come as a result of two things. First, bookmakers don’t want to overadjust, and second, bookmakers try to balance their sides against new public sentiment. Overadjusting seems to be getting more common in college football, but with all the money wagered each week on the pros, they realize they can’t radically adjust their lines in such a short window simply because of one result. They are forced to wait out the first few weeks of a season in hopes that everything balances out. Because of this “oddsmaker patience,” I believe that these one-week transitional systems are valid only this early in the season. So let’s take a look, and then take advantage.
Each of these 11 angles has a winning percentage of at least 58.9%.
1. Week 2 teams playing as favorites or underdogs of fewer than three points against opponents that scored more than 30 points the previous week are 41-13 SU and 36-15-3 ATS (70.6%) since 2003 (+ 19.4 units, ROI: 35.9%, Grade 70)
2021 plays: Play on Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Francisco, Green Bay
Analysis: It seems that these 30-point teams might have overachieved in Week 1 and are naturally due for letdowns or overinflated lines in Week 2. A very high total of 10 teams topped the 30-point mark last weekend. Only four qualify for the system as of now, though a few relevant games had lines of 3.5 points.
2. Week 1 favorites of six points or more that lost their games have bounced back with a record of 17-4 SU and ATS (80.9%) in Week 2 since 2002 (+ 12.6 units, ROI: 60%, Grade 70)
2021 play: Play on Buffalo
Analysis: Teams favored by six points or more in Week 1 are typically well-respected clubs, so naturally they tend to bounce back when aided by a sense of urgency. In 2020, San Francisco and Indianapolis responded to Week 1 upset losses with easy Week 2 wins. For 2021, the Bills need to rebound quickly against Miami. This system is on a 7-1 SU and ATS surge.
3. Teams that beat their Week 1 point spreads by eight or more in nonconference games are 18-6-3 Under (75%) the total in Week 2 since 2002 (+ 11.4 units, ROI: 47.5%, Grade 70)
2021 plays: Play Under in Denver at Jacksonville, Arizona vs. Minnesota and Seattle vs. Tennessee
Analysis: Week 1 overachievers that lit it up against unfamiliar opponents typically come back to earth offensively against higher totals. After this system had no qualifiers in 2020, there are three plays for 2021.
4. Teams playing a second straight divisional game in Week 2 are an impressive 32-12-1 SU and 31-13-1 ATS (70.4%) since 2003 (+ 16.7 units, ROI: 37.1%, Grade 65)
2021 plays: Play on Miami, New England
Analysis: Divisional games typically require greater focus and intensity, and these teams are well-prepared the second time around. In 2020, three games qualified on this system and went 2-1, though Cleveland won and failed to cover while Jacksonville covered but lost outright. Tampa Bay took care of business SU and ATS. For this year, only Miami and New England, head-to-head combatants last week, are in play.
5. Teams playing as underdogs in their second of back-to-back divisional games are 15-11-1 SU and 19-8 ATS (70.3%) in Week 2 since 2004 (+ 10.2 units, ROI: 37.7%, Grade 62)
2021 play: Play on Miami
Analysis: This is basically the same as No. 4, only adding a line qualifier. The motivation of being an underdog to a divisional opponent provides the needed incentive for these Week 2 dogs to pull the upset. This has been an outstanding moneyline system over the years as well, hitting at 57% on outright winners, so don’t ignore that option. However, Jacksonville did lose outright while beating the point spread last year. For 2021, Miami didn’t exactly dominate the Patriots, but it was an important win, and the Dolphins will try to take early control of the AFC East with a second straight divisional win over Buffalo.
6. Teams that lost as road favorites in Week 1 have bounced back with a record of 14-8 SU and 16-6 ATS (72.7%) in Week 2 over the last nine seasons (+ 9.4 units, ROI: 42.7%, Grade 62)
2021 plays: Play on Baltimore, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Green Bay
Analysis: Week 1 road favorites are usually highly regarded teams. They have proven good enough to be able to bounce back from opening losses, in most cases avoiding 0-2 starts. Last year Philadelphia lost a second straight game in ugly fashion, but the Colts did bounce back, beating Minnesota handily. This year there are four qualifiers if you include the Packers, who played as a favorite on the road though at a neutral site.
7. Teams that lost on the point spread by 15 or more points in Week 1 divisional games are 11-5 SU and 11-4-1 ATS (73.3%) in Week 2 since 2007 (+ 6.6 units, ROI: 41.2%, Grade 60)
2021 plays: Play on Atlanta, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Green Bay
Analysis: Second-week point-spread adjustments tend to go against teams that were blown out by divisional opponents in Week 1, and in most cases they’re overadjustments. For 2021, we have four qualifiers, all of whom lost big as opening-week favorites.
8. Teams that won close games in Week 1 by three or fewer points are 31-17-1 Under (64.6%) the total in Week 2 since 2005 (+ 12.3 units, ROI: 25.1%, Grade 60)
2021 plays: Play Under in Cincinnati at Chicago, Miami vs. Buffalo and Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta
Analysis: This one is genuinely tough to explain — but its success is tough to argue. It’s going to take courage to play an Under in Buccaneers games after seeing how explosive that offense looked a week ago.
9. Teams whose opponents played in the weeknight season-opening game and thus have extra rest are 14-18 SU but 20-11-1 ATS (64.5%) in Week 2 since 2005 (+ 7.9 units, ROI: 24.7%, Grade 60)
2021 plays: Play on Atlanta, Los Angeles Chargers
Analysis: Routine, routine, routine. Teams that play in the season opener are out of that typical routine, and most teams rely on that for peak performance throughout the season. Extra rest is typically valued more later in the season. This is usually a tough system to stomach, since it requires fading two of the better teams in the league.
10. Teams facing opponents that allowed 38 or more points in Week 1 are 22-14 SU and 21-14-1 ATS (60%) coming back in Week 2 since 2002 (+ 5.6 units, ROI: 15.6%, Grade 52)
2021 play: Play on Seattle
Analysis: Playing against teams that came up bad defensively in Week 1 is a good idea, as in many cases the ground has been laid for these being bet-against teams for the season. Tennessee allowed 38 points to Arizona in Week 1 and faces another tough NFC West opponent at Seattle. Detroit and Green Bay also allowed 38+ a week ago, but they cancel each other out in their “MNF” tilt.
11. Teams that recorded big Week 1 divisional wins by seven points or more are 25-18 SU and 23-16-2 ATS (58.9%) since 2006 in Week 2 (+ 5.4 units, ROI: 13.1%, Grade 50)
2021 play: Play on Houston
Analysis: Momentum created by a big divisional win in Week 1 seems to carry over into Week 2. This system went only 3-4 SU and ATS last season, so it is teetering on the edge of removal from the list. An unusually high number of teams qualified in 2020, so perhaps that contributed to its mediocre performance. Over the other 14 seasons, there were only 34 qualifiers. For 2021, we have just one qualifier, Houston, which put up an unexpectedly strong performance against the Jaguars in Week 1.