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It can be tough to evaluate based on pre-season, but with two out of three selections flying in last week and only a spread that landed on the nose depriving us from a clean sweep, I feel like we’re in a strong position to take the lot home this week.
Starting with Thursday night’s cracker in Charlotte, we’ve got quite a card to mark across a hectic weekend, so settle right in and pay good attention.
If you want to be consistent in this game, you need three things. You need to trust your pre-season expectation model, you need to pick up on the tendencies of each team while comparing their next opponents and you have to act quickly before the lines move.
Before the season began, I said the San Francisco 49ers would be a ten-win team with a top-five defence. They looked every bit a top-five defence, eclipsing their entire 2018 turnover total in just one game last week. So, given the form-line, alarm bells can’t be going off in Tampa Bay just yet.
Carolina, meanwhile, are riding the back of the best running back in football – a running back who may go on to be the best-ever at the position. Receivers struggled to separate against the Rams; Olsen didn’t really do a great job at sitting down in the zones – and Norv Turner can’t keep screening everyone to death.
There is no doubt that Carolina will task Devin White with sticking next to McCaffrey. There’s no doubt that his production will go down. If the Bucs offence doesn’t turn the ball over as often as it did against the Niners, we're all talking about how Tampa Bay looked every bit an efficient model on defence, who can cause serious issues for the Panthers in week 2.
I don’t care what logic you’re going to use to suggest that a three-score spread is madness.
I’m not particularly fussed that teams generally don’t lose by that many points in consecutive weeks.
I’ll tell you something else that teams don’t normally do: all but publicly display that you’re tanking away a year by trading piece after piece away from your franchise.
This Patriots team put up 33 points against the Steelers – granted who have the worst defensive coordinator the NFL has ever seen – and that’s no mean feat.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, retain home advantage here, but don’t even really know who they’re going to start. They took Fitzpatrick out of the game the other night to trial Rosen. It went about as well as you could expect.
Oh, and there’s a small matter of a potential Antonio Brown debut.
Is this some sort of joke?
Atlanta couldn’t move the ball against Minnesota’s front seven, and the system they play is so similar to Philly’s, that even if the Birds were three-point underdogs, I’d still be happy with this line.
Philly also aren’t walking into this one with blinkers on. They got a scare and had to work for it, big time. Atlanta lost yet another offensive lineman in September – this time Chris Lindstrom to a broken foot – and they now face an internal rush only bettered by the Los Angeles Rams.
Atlanta are best when they’re not stretched out, and Deion Jones can operate in the gaps up front. But DeSean Jackson’s presence means that they may have to play more zone and leave Wentz all day to pick out intermediate routes for first downs.
Can the Falcons move the ball? Maybe – to get within a touchdown.
Finally. It’s only taken 1,000 men to go through rigorous training only to be made redundant a few months later to get to this point, but look – they’re the perks of a seven-month off-season.
But at the time of writing, I can confirm we’re just one short day and eight very long hours away from the season kick-off and if that doesn’t get the pulses racing, then maybe sport isn’t for you in general.
I’m struggling to remember a better build-up to a campaign that contains so many young quarterbacks after a barren period of nowhere-near-good-enough signal-callers bringing up the NFL’s very congested rear.
But now, the talking is over. Football, welcome back.
This one boils down one particular aspect for me. Aaron Rodgers is next to impossible to shut down, even when you’re familiar with his scheme and systematic checks at the line of scrimmage. The implementation of a new offence for the first time in his glamorous career might seem like a tough burden at 35, but it’s even tougher for opposing defensive coordinators.
Generally, it’s accepted that you have to slow AR12 down, and you do that by playing coverages that combat his coach’s usual go-to plays in certain game situations. Now, that’s a tough read for those trying to halt a man who can make any throw.
I accept that the Bears’ home advantage counts for three points, but we’re getting the extra half point here, and given this is opening week, I consider this a scratch game. Oh, and did you know the defensive mastermind that made the Bears so great is gone to Denver?
Take the points.
Home advantage is important and it’s not overstated in general. But that blanket assessment doesn’t allow for these individual cases. Opening up on the road is far less of a big deal than it would be mid-season.
The Chiefs have built towards the Jags for some time. They’ll leave early for Florida – so early that it won’t feel like a road trip, especially given the hardly-raucous home crowd who won’t be tormenting them.
Jacksonville are a tough read, and while Foles is a welcome addition, their massive overhaul is significant. None of their pick-ups should enthuse, while the drafting of Josh Allen seems to be a long way away from impacting this early in the season.
People are forgetting this unit went 5-11 last year, despite some still whispering about them in playoff circles. Bizarre.
Chiefs by a touchdown.
The Colts are being shooed away from any positive talk because they lost their leader. While this may be the case, their defence has every major component it needs. They have a true free safety in Malik Hooker, a foil for tight ends in Darius Leonard and genuine pass rush from Justin Houston.
Meanwhile, the Chargers are receiving praise for few reasons. But nobody is talking about a 37-year-old immobile man with eight kids trying to navigate an offensive line that could be the worst in football.
Russell Okung is out for some time with serious pulmonary problems and their bright light Forrest Lamp has yet to tie down a starting job. That can’t be a good thing.
To combat this, expect a lot of slants and outside runs to try and keep the Colts defence on their toes early doors. But the Chargers won’t sustain drives that don’t have early run success, so there’ll be a lot of field goals attempts from them this year – a lot more than they’d like.
It slows the game down, and when that slows down, there’s fewer points to be scored. When it’s a low-scoring game, always back the dogs.
Indy have more than enough to get within the six-point spread here, even if Nate Peterman was in at quarterback.
NFL Market Watch
In the NFL season opener Cloudbet are best-priced at -103 or 1.5% for Europeans, which will be the case throughout the season. The Bears have attracted support and are now -3 (1.93) from -3 (1.99) yesterday (Sep 3rd). There was a 5 cents move toward the over on the Points Total (47) overnight but that was short-lived, drifting back to 1.99 that the over lands in the season opener.
Looking beyond Thursday night the Browns are the most fashionable pick of Week One, which has been the case since lines opened over a month ago. Was -5.5 (1.90) two days ago, but some sharp action opposing the public $, now -5.5 2.02.
Broncos are the biggest price-movers, Denver (-1.5) from 2.15 into 2.00 in the late game on Monday.
There was a move for Baltimore earlier in the week after Miami's monster (nod to Eric Hall) trade with Houston, with all signs pointing to a season-long tank towards the No.1 draft pick, and a franchise QB.
Ravens were 4-0 in pre-season (101-35). Opened 4.5, now solid (approx 1.95 each side) 7 pt favourites.
Easy to see some dogs being backed by sharps on match-day: Atlanta, Jax, Washington, Tennessee, Giants all candidates.
Other tidbits, Buffalo-NYJ total risen from 39.5 to 41 in the past week; LA Rams were -3, now -2.5 as Cam Newton's (Panthers QB) ankle injury appears to have healed. Philly was -8.5, now -9.5 but that isn't a big move given that 3 is the magic number. This can be interpreted as square action, hence easy to see sharp action on the plus come match-day.
Looking toward College action our nap is Texas San Antonio +25 v Baylor. The Roadrunners were getting 27 points, but that has been nibbled at over night. This converts to 1.03 /-3,334 for the Bears on the Money Line in this lop-sided game.