Hopefully you read our piece on Saturday and parlayed the three morning teams: Baltimore, Kansas City, and Tennessee. If you did, you are very welcome. Even though we barely missed on Detroit and really whiffed on Denver, Week 1 was still profitable. We aim to do no worse than 3-2 and feel our approach will yield several 4-1 weeks with the elusive 5-0 week happening at least a couple of times this season.
So what did Week 1 tell us regarding our picks. Let's break it all down.
- Tennessee +5. Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns.
The Titans seemed to surprise many people last Sunday but not us. Our model had Tennessee covering the spread at 59% and the regression indicated that the game should have been a pick 'em or 1 point favor for either team. Keep in mind that Tennessee is not a bad football team. In fact, they have gone 9-7 the last three seasons. They are not a sexy team but they get the job done. There was a lot of hype with the Browns and they definitely did not live up to it. When the spread was -5 in favor of Cleveland, the value was just too good to pass up. Did we think Tennessee would win by 30 and that the moneyline bet was a good play? No but we knew Tennessee would put up a good fight and that they did and more.
Tennessee will host the Colts who looked pretty good without Andrew Luck (so sad that they finally have a good o-line to protect Luck and Luck retires but who can blame him for all of the punishment he had to endure before the o-line improvements) and the Browns will be on Monday Night Football at the New York Jets. Hard to tell which direction we will lean but Tennessee at -3 is still good value. Taking Cleveland as a road favorite against a much better Jets team on paper will be a tough pill to swallow. We saw what happened when you get an amped up team hosting Monday Night Football with the Raiders chanting F*** AB over and over again (more on that later in this piece). I could see Darnold and Bell putting up a big game in the Big Apple.
- Baltimore -6.5. Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins.
This was easily our favorite play of Week 1 and boy did the Ravens deliver. Our model had Baltimore covering at 56% and regression had the Ravens favored by about 13 points. Lamar Jackson was given the keys to the kingdom with Joe Flacco fleeing to the Rocky Mountains and Jackson did not disappoint. People often talk about the Heisman jinx when you are finally in the NFL but actually we have seen Heisman winners perform well at the professional level for the past 10 - 15 years and Jackson is on a path to becoming a Pro Bowl type of player. He was hitting all of his WRs, especially rookie Marquise "Hollywood" Brown from Oklahoma. Even another former Heisman winner piled on the punishment on Miami with RGIII going 6 for 6 and throwing a TD pass. The Dolphins, as we expected, are simply cold fish (pardon the pun an actually Dolphins are mammals). This will be a very, very long season for them and the Ravens look like the odds-on-favorite to win the AFC North division.
The Ravens return to Baltimore for their home opener and will host the reigning Heisman winner Kyler Murray. It is a big spread at -13.5 and we might stay away or perhaps consider taking Arizona. Murray showed us a lot with how he quickly turned things around in the final quarter and OT against Detroit last Sunday. The kid is a winner, pure and simple, and reminds us of Russell Wilson but a tad smaller. Still, playing at home and playing on the road against a very good defense are two completely different things. Miami, on the other hand, will be a massive home dog. I can't remember any NFL home team being nearly a 20 point underdog. This will probably be another stay away game. This is the NFL, not college, and professionals should at least keep the game within 2 TDs regardless of the mismatch. We will be curious to see what the models say here.
- Kansas City -3.5. Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars.
Another great victory again for us! If you parlayed our three morning plays for the 2nd half bets, you still would have made money! How do you not take a strong Super Bowl contender as a -3.5 favorite even if it was on the road against a decent opponent?! What helped was the super high temperatures (over 100 degrees) and such conditions favor the better offense. The Jaguars simply could not keep pace with Pat Mahomes and company. The depth of the Chiefs is what is most impressive. Tyreek Hill gets hurt and guess what ... Sammy Watkins goes off. It's truly a case of "pick your poison" when it comes to the Chiefs offense. As for the Jaguars, they might still be OK with QB Nick Foles landing on the IR. Garnder Minshew was a stud at Washington State last year and seemed very comfortable last Sunday. Still, the Chiefs are a Super Bowl contender and the Jaguars are a middle-of-the-pack team. Only giving up 3.5 points for KC was incredible value.
The Chiefs are a much higher road favorite, this time in Oakland, a defense they dominated twice last year. The Raiders surprisingly played a great game even with the Antonio Brown distraction. Giving up 7.5 points is a lot to ask and this might be another stay away. The Jaguars will hit the road to play the Texans who lost a very close and entertaining game in the Big Easy. Jacksonville is getting 8.5 points which is very good value. A part of me thinks that this spread is impacted by Foles' injury and not giving Minshew enough respect. The Texans defense is OK but nothing special. While the Texans have a strong passing game, the running game is average. Bottomline is that the Texans offense is not the Chiefs offense. We will be curious to see what the model and regression tell us.
- Detroit -2.5. Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals.
I have to say that I am really disappointed with the outcome of this game. We really felt we were on our way to a 4-0 Sunday until the Lions let the foot off the gas pedal after being up 24-6. To blow an 18 point lead in the 4th quarter against a subpar team is inexcusable. The 4th quarter and OT quickly reminded us that the Lions cannot close out an opponent regardless of how much talent they have on their roster. No wonder they have made the playoffs just 3 times in the last 19 years and haven't made it past the wild card round since 1991. We also quickly learned that Kyler Murray is someone to keep a close eye on this season. He looked like a rookie for the first three quarters and then looked like a Pro Bowler in the 4th quarter and OT. Even though we were hoping Detroit can close out Arizona with a game winning FG (and of course get us the cover), a part of me wanted to see the young kid from Oklahoma earn his first victory in dramatic fashion. The Cardinals definitely made the right move by selecting Murray. He has a bright future.
The Lions return to Motor City and will be a home dog by 2.5 points to the LA Chargers. The Chargers are a legitimate playoff contender and should find themselves knocking on the door to the Super Bowl again in January. Only giving up 2.5 points against a team that struggled late in the game to an inferior opponent has us leaning towards the Chargers. There is nothing right now that makes us like the Lions even as a home dog but we will see what the models tell us later this week. Arizona gets a much tougher test by travelling cross country to Baltimore. Murray passed his first test by finishing strong in his NFL debut. He will now be a 13.5 point underdog against a superior team. We mentioned that this might be a stay away game. We can see Baltimore giving Murray a strong dose of reality or Murray continuing to impress. Hard to tell but that is why we have models!
- Denver pick 'em. Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders.
We really felt we had the steal of the century when picking Denver as a pick 'em in the Super Contest and then to see the line move to -3 on Saturday due to the Antonio Brown debacle. What we underestimated was the resolve of the Raiders but of course we didn't know that Brown would be released by the Raiders until our picks were submitted. Hosting Monday Night Football can be a very big deal for a home team, especially if you don't get many Monday Night games. In fact, last night was the last Monday Night Football game ever in Oakland since the Raiders will be moving to Sin City in 2020. Derek Carr was highly accurate and the Broncos looked lost. Even with a thin WR group, the Raiders did not have any issues moving the football. They had a nice blend of passing and running, especially with rookie Josh Jacobs making his presence felt. The Broncos also looked lost and their poor production last night, in my humble opinion, was more due to their ineptitude than anything special from the Raiders defense.
Oakland will stay at home and take on a much better football team: Kansas City. Should the Raiders continue to play well, we might keep hearing more F*** AB chants and I suspect those chants will be even louder. The Raiders are a 7.5 point home dog and maybe that will drive them to keep proving the naysayers wrong. Even though the Chiefs scored 40 points in Oakland last year, they gave up 33 points which of course would not cover 7.5 points. This week will be challenging given the high spreads. The Broncos will host the Bears and be a 2.5 point home underdog. Keep in mind that the Bears played on Thursday night last week and the Broncos were on Monday Night. That is 4 extra days of rest for Chicago. Of course the Bears offense was awful in Week 1. Expect a very low scoring game and perhaps we stay away from this one as well.
Not many Week 2 spreads jump out at us. This is why we perform machine learning models and regression. We will be back with our Week 2 picks by this Saturday.