The Muffed Punt: Week 1 blowouts can bring big Week 2 money – if you don’t overreact

Week 1 of the NFL season is known for eliciting exaggerated reactions from loyal football fans, who’ve spent the past seven months craving pigskin the same way your kids crave Paw Patrol.

“Yeah, I know you like the show, but it’s not worth all the tears and tantrums when things don’t go your way. Now get off the floor, Daddy’s trying to watch the Cowboys…”

None of those Week 1 knee jerks were bigger than the overreactions put forth from fans of the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Rams, and Cleveland Browns. Or by fans of the teams that waxed their asses in Week 1: the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, and Philadelphia Eagles.

In a week that featured four one-point games and six contests decided by less than a field goal, those matchups above provided some very one-sided results. The Redskins were smoked 38-16 on Monday Night Football, followed by the Niners blanking the Rams 28-0. The day before, the Browns lost in the Browniest of fashions, falling 29-10 to the Eagles.

Reactions to those results would have us believe the world is coming to an end for those big losers. For the big winners, they might as well start booking hotel rooms in Houston. Sports betting, however, may have a different opinion.

Going back to 2010, teams coming off a loss of 14 points or more in Week 1 are a surprising 15-11-2 ATS in Week 2, receiving an average spread of +2.6. And shrinking that down over the past four NFL season, teams fresh from a two-touchdown or worse beating are 10-5-2 ATS – covering the spread 67 percent of the time – in their Week 2 follow-up.

It would seem all that overreacting to opening game results has inflated Week 2 lines just enough to give value to those downtrodden teams. Washington is a field goal favorite hosting Dallas Sunday, while the Rams are getting a touchdown at home versus the Seahawks, and Browns are +5.5 hosting the Ravens.

So, if overreacting to one-sided finishes can pump value into Week 1 losers, does it do the opposite – and drain value – from Week 1’s biggest winners? Have I spent the equivalent of a 2010 Honda Civic’s Auto Trader pricetag on Paw Patrol action figures? You’re damn skippy.

Sizing up the same time frame (2010 to 2015), NFL teams walking tall off a Week 1 win of 14 or more points are just 9-18-1 ATS – covering only 33 percent of the time – versus an average spread of -1 and posted an 11-17 SU mark. And going back to 2012, they’re a slightly less broke-ass 7-10 ATS (41 percent ATS winners) with an identical win/loss record.

That leaves football bettors to question the Steelers giving 3.5 points to the Bengals at home, the 49ers getting 13.5 points from the Panthers on the road, and the Eagles as 3.5-point pups in Chicago Monday night.

One and done

As mentioned above, there were four one-point games on the Week 1 scoreboard – the first time that’s happened since 1982. Those drum-tight losses can sting a little more than others, which could be why NFL teams coming off a loss of just one point went 1-7 SU and ATS in their following game last season. Those teams coming off the close defeat lost by an average score of 27.5 to 17.75. The Jets bucked this trend Thursday night with a win in Buffalo, leaving Carolina, New Orleans, and Dallas to feel the sting heading into the weekend.

Primetime pups

I caught some crap on Twitter Thursday night – which is like saying I got sand in my shoe at the beach – after sending out the primetime underdog stat we’ve been tracking since last season. The big issue wasn’t with the stat itself but with the Jets-Bills spread, which bounced between the two AFC East rivals as favorites, even sitting at a pick’em at some books.

Well, the line closed New York +1 and the Jets made good on this red-hot dog trend with a 37-31 road win. Going back to last season, NFL primetime underdogs are now 34-20-3 ATS – a blistering 63 percent winning clip – including a 4-1 ATS record in primetime games so far this season.

Sharps like…

There are two games garnering sharp action, according to Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology. First, wiseguys have laid the points with Houston, taking -1.5, -2, and -2.5 – where it currently sits.

“We’re trying not to go to -3 and will avoid it if at all possible,” says Simbal.

The other team luring in respected action is Washington, which is giving three points to Dallas Sunday. According to Simbal, this is a “pros versus joes” game with the smart money on the Redskins and the public pounding the Cowboys.

“It’s a short week for the Redskins,” notes Simbal.

Biggest line move…

Seattle at St. Louis. CG Technology opened this Week 2 spread before last Monday’s games, in which the Rams were shutout by the 49ers, 28-0. That forced the opening line of Seahawks -3 to jump to -6.5.

“The Rams were atrocious and this move is because of how simply horrible the Rams looked Monday,” says Simbal.

Biggest sweat…

Miami at New England. After winning outright as 9.5-point underdogs at Arizona in Week 1, the betting public is drinking the Patriots Kool-Aid. Simbal says just about every parlay has the Patriots -6.5 on it, heading into the weekend.

“If the Dolphins can get there, that would be very good,” he says.

Banker game…

There are a trio of games that will likely decide NFL Week 2 at the sportsbooks. On top of the Fins-Pats tilt, most parlays are tied to Seattle -6.5 at L.A. and the Ravens -5.5 at Cleveland.

“If the Patriots and Ravens cover in the early games, we’re going to be in a real ugly spot needing the Rams to beat up those parlays in the afternoon,” says Simbal.

Injury to note

Dont’a Hightower (knee), LB New England Patriots

You take Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski out of the equation and football bettors lose their minds, as evidenced by the Patriots’ spread hiking from +1 to +9.5 for Sunday night’s game in Arizona. I doubt Dont’a Hightower will cause the same chaos of he sits out Sunday’s matchup with the Dolphins due to a bum knee.

Hightower deserves your respect. Not only is he New England’s defensive captain but he’s also the linchpin to the Pats’ defensive schemes. The Patriots rely on him to switch between strongside and middle linebacker in the 4-3 formation and hold the fort in the 4-2 set. New England is already without the suspended Rob Ninkovich and is slowly inching Shea McClellin into the system, so Hightower’s absence could be devastating if he’s out or even less than 100 percent.

We know how to pick’em

Despite all the nail bitters in Week 1, there aren’t many short spreads in Week 2. The tightest line on the board as of Friday is the 2.5 points being served by the Texans to the Chiefs. As we do each week in this section, we’re closing the Covers matchup page and turning the handicapping over to each teams’ cheerleaders. Who’s got the hottest squad?

Sunday menu

I wasn’t home to cook up some grub last Sunday (I was in Las Vegas enjoying eggs benedict), so the Mrs. made sure to put in her order for Week 2. She’s a meat and potatoes kinda gal (keep the lude jokes to yourself), so it’s straight up pot roast with veggies in the slow cooker. It’s like a football-scented Glade PlugIn.

Easy (money) like Sunday morning

I told a passionate group of Vikings fans that I really liked the Titans to cover the +2.5 while at the Mirage sportsbook in Vegas last Sunday. My pick didn’t go according to plan, and if taking a bath at the book wasn’t enough, that same gaggle of purple-clad Vikes supporters made sure to remind me which side I was on after the game was over. I still hear their drink-ticket fueled barbs in my dreams…

Pick: Green Bay Packers -2.5

This week, I’m locked in my fortress of solitude – AKA my basement – and the only Minnesota fan giving me shit will be my brother. Sorry Chad, I’m picking against your beloved Vikings once again. Gimmie Green Bay at -2.5 to spoil the party at the brand new U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday Night Football.

Going back to 1987, when the Dolphins opened what is now known as “Hard Rock Stadium” (groan) NFL teams playing in a regular season stadium opener are 13-10 SU and just 10-12-1 ATS with an 11-12 Over/Under mark in those contests.

Song for Sunday

Did I mention we were in Vegas for Week 1? I did, didn’t I. Covers called the Mirage sportsbook home for the NFL kickoff, showcasing our site to the legions of football bettors and gave one lucky gambler a free $1,000 bankroll to bet on Sunday Night Football. Good times.

Funny enough, the song of the week was this gem below. Hot Tub Time Machine seemed to be on TV anytime we looked, it played in the casino a few times, and it’s a fitting tune now that I’m back in the basement for Week 2.

However, this cock rock classic by Motley Crue is bittersweet music to the ears of NFL bettors who have banked on the home side since the start of the season. Host teams are just 5-12 ATS heading into Sunday’s action. So much for “Home Sweet Home”. Enjoy the games!

Follow Covers’ Senior Managing Editor Jason Logan on Twitter @CoversJLo. Check out JLo’s Covers archive for his latest features and columns.


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