Four Overreactions to Avoid from NFL Week One
It is easy to get swept away with the results of Week One. The Cowboys are Super Bowl Favorites! The Patriots are finally old and declining! The Jets are… well..the Jets. So not EVERYTHING was unexpected in the NFL’s opening weekend, but there were a few results that opened eyes.
So how do we know what was real and what was a mirage?
After all, it was just three years ago when the same two teams met, a similar (and even less so) dispiriting loss occurred, and the same frantic leap from ledges commenced. Article after article was written about the aging Patriots roster and the inevitable creep of Father Time finally setting in. Two Super Bowl victories later, are we really so eager to doubt Coach Bellichek and the Golden Boy??
My point is simply that it is EASY to draw large conclusions from a small sample size, especially for games that happen in nationally televised and highly visible places. But overreacting to a single event is an absolute gift for Vegas, who devours the reactionary general public for breakfast. You don’t see a lot of sportsbooks going bankrupt, and there is a reason why: they are cold, rational, and objective. Lines don’t move on emotion. We’d all be wise to mirror them accordingly.
Here are four overreactions to avoid in the upcoming weeks.
#1. The Patriots Are Vulnerable
Yes, I saw the game too. And yes, like nearly all NFL fans who do not make their home in the Boston area, there is a little perverse glee in watching the Pats flair and flounder and give up 41 points in their opener; at HOME no less. But this is also the same team whom Vegas was legitimately entertaining wagers upon whether or not they would go a perfect 16-0 this season. 0-1 is just that, 0-1. It was an ugly second half, but we saw an ugly first half from the Pats last February, and well… you know how THAT turned out.
Here’s all you need to know. Vegas already has them as a 4.5 point favorite on the road in tricky New Orleans next week before even seeing New Orleans on the field tonight. A road favorite against one of the better offenses in the NFL in an arena with raucous noise and a reasonable opponent. Vegas hasn’t jumped ship. I’d be cautious moving with the herd on this overreaction.
They are still the prohibitive favorite to win the Super Bowl (+450) and the AFC (+200) and are a whopping -800 favorite to win the AFC East. As Aaron Rodgers would likely advise, R-E-L-A-X. Everything is just fine in Foxboro. Now, they get shredded for 40+ and drop to 0-2? Then we can talk. Maybe. But for now, it was just one game – and not an unprecedented one in their current decade and a half run of dominance.
#2. DeShone Kizer Will Make the Browns Respectable
Rookie DeShone Kizer looked pretty solid in a better-than-expected season debut against the heavily favored Steelers. But the Notre Dame quarterback was just 4-8 last season in college, so I am not sold his arrival does much to make the 1-15 Browns any better than slightly more respectable AFC North doormats. Also, keep in mind, the Steelers offense was basically saying hello to one another after an offseason full of injuries and holdouts. They will get much better over the next few weeks and work out a lot of issues. I am not willing to say the same about Cleveland.
Kizer kept the game close, and 20-30 for 222 yards is a pretty respectable debut. This week he gets to go on the road, to division rival Baltimore who looked simply ferocious on defense, going into Cincinnati and picking off Andy Dalton four times in a 20-0 shutout victory. And before people just to the “Bad Andy” dismissal, the Ravens had lost their previous five trips to Cincinnati. That defense looked terrific, and next week they get to feast on a rookie QB at home. He may not equal Andy Dalton’s staggering four-pick disaster, but trouble is on the immediate horizon for Kizer.
The over-enthusiasm over a decent day provides a nice possible opportunity at the wagering window this week, especially if you can steal another half point down to just seven. Either way, I’ve got no faith in the Browns or Kizer in Week Two on the road. If you like the Browns, you can now get them at the tidy price of +5000 to win the AFC North.
#3. The Los Angeles Rams Are Contenders
Not so fast. Yes, hanging 46 points is always impressive. But doing it at home against the Luck-less Colts is less so. Scott Tolzien continued the Colts two-decade long tradition of being absolutely abysmal when their Pro Bowl franchise quarterback is on the shelf with an injury, laying one of the two biggest clunkers of the opening weekend, and easily the most lopsided scoreline. However, the +700 to win a division with the Seahawks (and even Arizona) in it? It still feels a little too slim to me. The Rams will be a fun team to watch, and if Jared Goff can take the next step forward in his progression and begin to live up to #1 Pick status, they could be a contender for a playoff spot. He looked great in the opener, going 21-29 for 306 yards, but I wouldn’t read too much into the opening weekend romp. Without Luck, the Colts might be the challengers for the worst team in the NFL. That roster is pretty suspect, but Luck covers up some of the deficiencies. And the defense is simply terrible.
I’m not OUT on the Rams being a quality team this season, just cautioning to take Week One for what it was worth: a very good performance, at home against a very BAD team.
#4. Blake Bortles Saved His Job With a Week One Win
Winning is the best deodorant, but there is still some stink surrounding the Jaguars quarterback situation. The tensions bubbled over in the preseason, and for a while, it looked like he would lose his job to Chad Henne. We know Allen Robinson isn’t a big fan but is a Week One win – a resounding one at that – over Houston enough to buy him a little more time?
Bortles got the win, but with an 11-21, 125 yards, 1 TD stat line, he didn’t do much else to cement his status as the incumbent starter or inspire any already-flagging confidence. The Jags have another winnable game, albeit a tough one, at home against Tennessee, and if they can grab the W, they will be 2-0 with a pair of wins over the top two contenders in their own division. But if the defense delivers again and Bortles struggles, the heat will be ratcheted up near boiling.
The Jags did get a road win against a division rival, however, you want to slice it, and their division odds cut all the way down to +275. There’s some value in a young, athletic, talented team in a mediocre division, but I think their quarterback issues are far from resolved.
Those are my four biggest overreactions from Week One. There are two “reactions” that could fall into the former category, or perhaps are just valid observations. The Giants and Bengals both were projected to have explosive offenses and be teams that could challenge their more established division front runners for a divisional crown. The combined three points and erratic quarterback play of Eli Manning and Andy Dalton get the easy headlines, especially given the mercurial nature of both in the past. But the dreadful line play of each team is a worthy concern, and why any extreme reaction to either’s chances in 2017-2018 doesn’t seem too dramatic. They both could really struggle if the line play doesn’t improve quickly.
The Bengals only get a few days to figure it out, as they get the Texans in Cincinnati for Thursday Night Football, while the G-Men will try to lick their wounds against the Lions on Monday Night Football.
We will see if predictions of their demise prove to be overreactions, but for now, I remain cautious on both teams outlook.