Last week, I decided to pick Houston at home against Chicago, which worked out (as would have the other teams I was considering: Kansas City and Seattle). As long as you didn’t pick the Cardinals or Colts, you probably advanced last week, so let’s move on to week 2:
|Date & Time||Favorite||Spread||Underdog|
|9/15 8:25 ET||NY Jets||-1.5||At Buffalo|
|9/18 1:00 ET||At Detroit||-6||Tennessee|
|9/18 1:00 ET||At Houston||-2.5||Kansas City|
|9/18 1:00 ET||At New England||-6.5||Miami|
|9/18 1:00 ET||Baltimore||-6.5||At Cleveland|
|9/18 1:00 ET||At Pittsburgh||-3.5||Cincinnati|
|9/18 1:00 ET||At Washington||-3||Dallas|
|9/18 1:00 ET||At NY Giants||-4.5||New Orleans|
|9/18 1:00 ET||At Carolina||-13.5||San Francisco|
|9/18 4:05 ET||At Arizona||-6.5||Tampa Bay|
|9/18 4:05 ET||Seattle||-6.5||At Los Angeles|
|9/18 4:25 ET||At Denver||-6||Indianapolis|
|9/18 4:25 ET||At Oakland||-5||Atlanta|
|9/18 4:25 ET||At San Diego||-3||Jacksonville|
|9/18 8:30 ET||Green Bay||-2||At Minnesota|
|9/19 8:35 ET||At Chicago||-3||Philadelphia|
There are five teams that are 6.5-point favorites or greater, but I’m way too scared of Seattle against Los Angeles or of Baltimore on the road to take either of those teams. Miami is at New England, but I see no reason to take the Patriots now when Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are not around. Save the Patriots for later.
The obvious pick is Carolina against San Francisco, especially in smaller pools. I have no hot Blaine Gabbert related takes to offer, but I am hesitant to pick such a large favorite given the size of my pool. On the very small chance that there is an upset, I would be sitting pretty, and that’s one of the ways to approach big pools. Would remaining schedule override that? Carolina hosts Tampa Bay in week 5 and the Saitns in week 1, along with the Chargers in week 14. Those games could be good times to have one of the best teams in the NFL in your back pocket. This is one of the largest spreads all year, and certainly a safe pick, but I’m going to lean away.
That leaves Arizona/Tampa Bay, along with Detroit (hosting Tennessee) and Denver (hosting Indianapolis) as large favorites. I am not desirous of putting my dollars behind Trevor Siemian (or Oakland, at -5 against Atlanta) just yet, so that leaves Arizona and Detroit.
The Cardinals bet seemed like a great one a week ago, but then Arizona lost and San Francisco won. There have been 33 games in week 2 in NFL history where the home team was 0-1, facing a 1-0 team, and still favored by 5+ points. The home teams are 25-8 (76%) in these games. Is that comforting? Maybe, maybe not. Last year, it happened 3 times, and two of those were losses!
Philadelphia lost in the opener to Atlanta, then faced a 1-0 Dallas team without Dez Bryant and was a 5-point home favorite. The Eagles lost, 20-10.
The Steelers lost to the Patriots in week 1 last year, and faced the 49ers, who surprised the Vikings on Monday Night Football. Pittsburgh blew out San Francisco, 43-18, as 6.5-point favorites.
Indianapolis lost in week 1 to the Bills, while the Jets beat the Browns. That didn’t move the needle much: at home, on MNF, the Colts were 7-point favorites, but lost, 20-7.
The previous 3 years, tho, the 1-0 host team went 4-0 (2014 Packers, 2013 Falcons, 2012 Packers, 2012 Giants for those curious). Yeah, the Cardinals looked just okay in week 1, and yeah, Jameis Winston and the Bucs looked good, but that’s not enough to scare me off of Arizona. Even if we limit things to just week 2 home favorites that were 0-1 against 1-0 teams by between 5 and 7.5 points, the 1-0 team still won 69% (18-8) of those games. That perfectly matches the win percentage (69%) of home teams in general that are 6, 6.5, or 7 point favorites going back to 1978.
You are going to want to use Arizona at some point, of course, so I could see the argument for saving them. There are still home games on the schedule against the Rams, 49ers, and Saints. So I’m starting to talk myself — despite the above — into going with the Lions. I don’t know if there will be a better week to use them. Picking against Tennessee seems pretty safe: the Titans are 3-24 in their last 27 games. And the loss at home to Minnesota was not inspiring. So I’m on the fence here: again, this may be the case where in bigger pools, it makes more sense to go with Detroit, to both save the Lions and since my hunch is more people will be on Arizona.
What do you think?
10:30 EST Sunday update:
I’m going with Detroit:
The Panthers are obviously enormous favorites — the line is up to -13 — but the future value of Carolina + the heavy ownership makes them less attractive. I am never going to pick Baltimore on the road, and as between Arizona and Detroit, the future value makes the Lions a clear pick.