OH MY LAWD! Was that not one of the most electric opening days of football ever?! It starts off with a back and fourth between two playoff contending teams, battling to the last possession. Then ends with an OT thriller that saw odds bounce from 80% Baltimore victory, to the Raiders almost losing the game with a 90% win probability, just to throw an interception on the 6-yard line. Not only that, we saw a heavy favorite in Buffalo lose to the great Steelers defense. A couple new quarterbacks in new situations have completely different results. And we also had the Packers give us – well, whatever the hell you want to call what that was on Sunday. Most importantly though, we put some money in our pockets. We went 2-1 last week, losing only our Vikings bet at -3. I’ll take that loss as Cousins and the crew looked great. The defense still has so many holes, that he will need to be great to win. That’s the goal of these weekly articles though. It’s a long 18-week season now, and we want to look at betting as a big picture. Only taking games we believe in, and really hammering those down. Now last week had a record number of under dogs take over, as well as cover. This week I see some regression to the mean but I think we have some money out there to take advantage of.
Philadelphia Eagles @ San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)
Are the Eagles really this good? I mean maybe it’s a byproduct of playing the Atlanta Falcons defense, but Jalen Hurts was a baller on Sunday. He finished with a 126.4 QB rating, 326 total yards, and three touchdowns.”Jalen was in complete control the whole game.” Those were words from Philadelphia Eagles head coach in his press conference after the game. Maybe I’m day dreaming, but I think Hurts took the reports about trading for Deshaun Watson personal. We saw who the leader of this locker room is. We also saw four different Eagles have five targets, and the young receiving talent really come through with those opportunities. Smith led the team with 71 yards, and caught a beautiful ball by Hurts for his first career touchdown. Now as I said earlier, maybe all of this success was because they played the worst defense in the NFL. Atlanta couldn’t contain the defensive line, Ryan didn’t make enough plays to put them in position to win, and the Atlanta defensive line was extremely outmatched. On the Miles Sanders touchdown run, he wasn’t even touched. Now this was just one matchup, but the fans in Philly are believing in this new era. Now they will take this great performance, and test their new found growth against one of the most consistent machines in the league. It’s not a complete NFL season without the 49ers losing some of their best talent to knee injuries.
According to Ninersnation.com, the 49ers had the second most injury riddled season in the last 20 years, missing a total of 166.6 adjusted games lost last year. Despite the poor luck, they still had their hat into the playoff ring up until the final weeks. So now we will see the best rushing offense in the league once again try to make lemonade out of lemons. Raheem Mostert went down after just two carries, and will be out for at least the next eight weeks. This is after the surprising news that third round rookie Tre Sermon wasn’t suiting up for the game on Sunday, allowing another rookie shine. Elijah Mitchell is a sixth round rookie, but he didn’t show it. Finishing with over 100 yards, a touchdown, and a 5.5 YPC.
We also saw the 49ers utilizing Trey Lance almost immediately, giving him the ball to score a touchdown on their first possession in the redone, and he delivered. The biggest surprise to me was how it didn’t seem to effect Jimmy G. He was still able to put together a 300+ yard performance with zero interceptions. The biggest concern was how the 49ers essentially took the second half off after having a 28 point lead. This allowed the Lions to storm back, and almost complete the comeback. This should be a wake up call that this is the NFL, and you can lose any week, especially against a better offense. Perhaps an offense that looks as skilled as Philadelphia. Now its time to really dig into my favorite matchup in week two. As I said earlier, the fans in Philadelphia really believe in the talent on this roster. We saw Jalen use his legs to keep the defense on their heels. His dual-threat nature will be key for their success. The young wide receivers are still finding their footing. Raegor missed most of last year with injuries, and rookie Smith is still very undersized in the NFL. This will also be very important because San Francisco is going to be applying the pressure. According to PFF, Jared Goff faced pressure on 20.7% of his drop-backs. Goff isn’t nearly the athlete as Hurts, but that pressure helped the defensive backs. Goff could only muster up an average of 6.0 yards per attempt. This might play into the Eagles gameplay, as Hurts only averaged 3.0 average depth of target. I think the biggest matchup to watch will be Hurts and the RPO vs the dangerous edge rushers in SF. Can we also ask ourselves if San Francisco will be able to run the ball as effectively as we saw on Sunday? I mean, the Eagles allowed a wide receiver average 7.7 yards per carry, and a team average of 4.8 YPC. That may of worked against Mike Davis and company but expect SF to eat if they can’t make the necessary changes. The best way to beat the Eagles, is not letting the dynamic offense on the field. I can only assume Shanahan knows this as well, and will come ready. Both of these teams could be fighting for a playoff seed later on in the season. You best believe whatever offense has the ball last will be victorious. I think SF will win this game, but give me the Eagles to cover the 3.5 point spread.
Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angelas Chargers (-3)
What is your belief in moral victories? Dallas went into opening night with all of the cards stacked against them. Star quarterback Dak Prescott was coming into 2021 after suffering a gruesome ankle injury in week 5 of last year, then we saw him miss a month of training camp with a shoulder injury. Now he is tasked with overcoming those odds, and play the defending Super Bowl Champions who returned every single starter from that title run. Dak then loses his All-Pro guard right before the game, and he said, I DON’T CARE! This guy goes out and throws 58 times for 403 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Tampa Bay was excellent at eliminating the run, by allowing Dak to do what he wanted through the air. Ceedee had some bad drops throughout this game, but Dak never lost faith and peppered him with 15 targets. We saw that Ceedee is going to be a YAC machine this year. He seemed to accelerate to max speed with ease. Pair that with a guy in Amari Cooper, who seems to be the most trusted hands on the team. Any time the Cowboys needed a sure thing, Amari was always open. I think we are seeing him put all of the negative chatter to rest, and as long as he can stay healthy I expect a career year. But you lost. Despite everything that offense did, the team still lost. The defense forced Tom Brady into 4 turnovers – and still lost. Despite forcing all of those turnovers, the defense had multiple broken coverages, and zero sacks. 0-1, and now in the hole against a guaranteed playoff opponent.
LA on the other hand went into Sunday as a favorite, going against a team that probably over performed last year in WFT. Justin Herbert really controlled this game, and their 13 minutes more time of possession show a small glimpse. They also put up 160+ more yards than WFT, and went 14-19 on third downs. He looked like the Rookie of the Year award winner that finished last year on a tear. The defense followed up with allowing the fewest passing yards by any other team on the week. Now that was against a back up quarterback that was thrust into action in the middle of the second quarter, so take that for what it’s worth. Justin Herbert played really well, but he had some huge mistakes. Losing a fumble and an interception inside the redone to name a couple. The team also had two field goals on the 15, and 9 yard line. The defense had some good moments but Dallas is a way different beast. My biggest question is, how does Vegas see LA as a 3-point favorite? Dallas put up the third highest yard total on the week, Dak looked incredible coming off an injury, and the defense also forced the most turnovers in the league last week. I know Zeke didn’t finish with a high yardage total, but he never got enough opportunities. Now he will get to face a Chargers defense that gave up 126 yards last week. The matchup to watch will be Derwin James and Chris Harris trying to figure out how to slow down this passing attack. Dak will get his, but limiting the big play will be crucial. LA needs to win the third down battle like they did last week. Justin Herbert was extremely efficient, and dumping the ball off to Ekkler could be crucial in keeping that offense on the sidelines. Ekkler looked crisp despite the hamstring troubles, and Fournette saw success in the passing game last week. Ekkler is the best pass catching back in the league, so I expect a big game from him. But I still think LA has some growing to do. Those four drives in the redzone, that only led to 6 points, gives me a lot of pause. Dallas also didn’t lose that game if you ask me. Brady went out and proved his greatness again on a big stage. Brady+Primetime= A Brady Win. Dallas is going to cover the +3 and win this game outright, and I think by a touchdown.
LA Rams (-4) @ Indianapolis Colts
Matthew Stafford is here LA fans, and I bet he already seems like everything you hoped he would be. He completed two touchdowns of 56+ yards, and had a perfect QB rating in his debut with LA. In an interview after the game, Matthew Stafford says: “I’ve done everything I can to work as hard as I can and get myself in this team, and they’ve wrapped their arms around me. It felt good to be out there, and play with them tonight. Such incredible players on this team. I’m lucky to be a part of it. I want to do everything I can to try and lead this team where it wants to go.” He has completely won over the locker room and validated the front office that took the big risk on signing him. The defense looked pretty solid, but perhaps some holes were found in the running game. We know that they have two of the best players in the league at stopping the pass (Donald and Ramsay). Even with that said, David Montgomery was able to find large holes at an average of 6.8 yards per carry. That’s telling me that not only did he get passed the first level of defenders, but was able to net positive yards past the second level as well. Now we are talking about them facing a team who had arguments for them being the best rushing attack in the league. Indianapolis just loves to crush their fans hearts in week 1. Going back all the way to when I was still in high school, 2010, this franchise has only been able to win one week 1 matchup in the last 11 seasons. That is the worst week 1 record in the league during that time span. Maybe it’s bad luck when it comes to matchups, or maybe they don’t believe in rough training camps. I mean they knew this season they didn’t want to push players too hard as they lost the best player on their team, Quentin Nelson, as well as their star quarterback that traded for in the off-season, Carson Wentz to the same exact injury. Thankfully both players were able to get fully healthy in time to watch the defense allow Russel Wilson to have one of the best quarterback performances on the week.
The Colts could only force five incompletions and allowed Russ to cook up 4 touchdowns through the air. Also allowing the Seahawks to rush for 140 yards on the ground, which finished as the 8th most by any team on the week. This doesn’t put all the blame on the defense, but the offense played rather well. Wentz didn’t force any interceptions, Johnathan Taylor looked great coming off a monster finish, but there were mistakes made. They had six drives end in less than 5 plays on the day. Another that saw them march inside of Seattles Redzone, only to be sacked for 9 yards on a 4th and 2. I think this team will finish as a playoff contender. The defense is not as bad as they looked on Sunday but will they be drastically better? I mean, Stafford carved an arguably better defense in Chicago. So which storyline do you believe will be the biggest factor on Sunday? Will it be a Johnathan Taylor Show? Dating back to last season, he has averaged 136 yards, and a touchdown in the last seven weeks. What about Carson Wentz’s chance against this vaulted pass defense in LA? The game script against Seattle didn’t allow them to lean on their run game, and it forced Wentz to try and go out and win that game. That proved to us that he just isn’t in sync just yet with this offense. Meanwhile Stafford looks right at home with his new team. McVay’s system allows guys to be open. He schemes mismatches, but totally relies on the quarterback making the correct read. Stafford has always been a true “gamer” but sadly played for a franchise who has shown zero ability to build a roster. The Rams saw an opening to really turn their franchise around. Im’ going with the narrative that this Rams team is a Super Bowl contender. That Matthew Stafford might win the MVP ( his odds went from +1700 to +800 with one performance) if he can lead this team to a top 2 record in the NFC. Yes, this team will for sure need to find some running identity, but I think they are playing a good Colts team at the right time. Rams win this one and cover the -4.