Welcome to the Week 2 edition of our NFL Bets of the Week column. Here, I’ll strive to identify a handful of games per week that I feel have profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Depending on circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics for one game. We’ll strive for quality over quantity here as well — the focus will only be on spots that seem to truly be advantageous, and I’ll then take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
We’ll take a quick look at how things went in Week 1, followed by a leap into a trio of interesting scenarios for Week 2.
Recapping Week 1
Week 1 winners: Chiefs money line (+155); Panthers -3
Week 1 loser: Cardinals -0.5
Season record to date: 2-1
Week 2 picks
Indianapolis Colts at Washington Redskins
DraftKings Line: Redskins -5
Over/Under Total: 45.5
I see this line as largely Week 1-driven given the Colts’ double-digit loss and a Redskins team that essentially dominated a healthy Cardinals squad. While I’m certainly not blind to those results, I’m keeping them in perspective. I believe there are factors on both sides of the equation this week that could lead to a closer game than anticipated and, more specifically, a Colts cover of the five-point spread.
Beginning on the Indy side, it now seems officially safe to say Andrew Luck is back. While he didn’t connect deep downfield in the opener against the Bengals, he did hit Eric Ebron on a perfectly thrown 26-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline that had plenty of velocity. Luck put it up a whopping 53 times overall, seemingly eradicating nagging doubts about his shoulder.
The rest of the Colts offense appeared to be in reasonably good shape as well, considering they were playing their first regular-season game under a new offensive system. T.Y. Hilton caught a touchdown, Jack Doyle and Luck appeared to pick up where they left off in the former’s breakout 2016, and Ryan Grant was efficient with a high volume of short targets. The rookie duo of Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins hauled in 10 passes between them, as well.
Meanwhile, the Redskins had their way with a Cardinals squad that seemed spooked after a rough first half. Arizona ran only 14 offensive plays and gained two first downs. While no one will confuse Sam Bradford with Kurt Warner, the veteran has looked far better than he did Sunday on many occasions. Moreover, David Johnson played considerably below the level that earned him a shiny $40 million extension he’d just inked Saturday night.
The Redskins took advantage of that early momentum, but they don’t have the personnel to dominate teams in that fashion on a consistent basis. They see a major bump in the caliber of competition at quarterback this week as well, not to mention at tight end. While Josh Norman is still stout at one corner for Washington and should see plenty of Hilton, be mindful that the Colts are aware the much less reliable Quinton Dunbar is available as a target on the other side. Dunbar could often face off against a player who knows him well: Grant, the ex-Washington receiver.
Washington was also vulnerable last season in some areas that don’t match up well with the Colts offense’s strong points. The DC team ranked in the bottom 10 in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns allowed to tight ends. They were in the same range in both yardage and touchdowns surrendered to running backs. Indianapolis was also a combined 8-4-1 versus the spread as a road underdog over Luck’s most recent pair of full seasons (’15 and ’16). Meanwhile, the Redskins were 2-5 versus the spread after wins last season.
Yes, the Colts defense is suspect, but the Redskins aren’t exactly a team with the firepower to fully exploit that. Jordan Reed can certainly keep a defense on its heels, but a lack of proven deep threats should help an Indy secondary that can be beaten downfield. Additionally, it remains to be seen how Adrian Peterson looks a week after handling 28 touches. He could certainly have a little less oomph in his step than in a Week 1 when he was the most rested he’ll be all season.
While a road environment and a defense that will give up points keeps me off the money line for Indy here, I see them covering a slightly inflated spread.
The Pick: Colts +5
Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers
DraftKings Line: 49ers -5
Over/Under total: 47
If the Colts-Redskins line smacks of playing the Week 1 result a tad, then this game takes it to another level as far as the Lions are concerned. Yes, we all saw Detroit unravel in every possible way on Monday night, and on their home turf no less. But no, they’re nowhere near as incompetent as they looked. It’s my thinking (but clearly not that of the oddsmakers) they’ll be out to demonstrate that this week.
Even through the comedy of errors to which the Lions treated a national TV audience, we caught glimpses of the threat Detroit receivers can pose to a defense. Kenny Golladay, in particular, appears set to live up to his ample preseason hype. And Golden Tate is still Golden Tate. Meanwhile, Marvin Jones couldn’t connect with Matthew Stafford deep, but he did turn in a serviceable line (4-54) and flashed the wheels on a couple of missed opportunities. And speaking of Detroit’s gunslinger, despite taking his share of lumps Monday, his pride appears to be the only thing wounded after he threw four picks.
Enter the 49ers. They admittedly held their own in a tough road environment in Week 1 against the Vikings. Yet they currently have three fourths of their starting secondary sporting “questionable” designations. Richard Sherman is the one healthy component at present and could certainly present some matchup problems on his side, but the Lions could well wreak havoc with their other two top wideouts. Meanwhile, the absence of Reuben Foster (suspension) on the linebacking corps and the potential one of Malcolm Smith (hamstring) for a second straight week won’t help the San Francisco defense’s cause on Tate’s short routes, Theo Riddick’s outlet routes, or in their attempts to slow down dangerous rookie back Kerryon Johnson.
On the offensive side, San Francisco could well be missing Marquise Goodwin. His deep thigh bruise prevented him from practicing Wednesday, and he’s been deemed firmly questionable by Kyle Shanahan. Rookie Dante Pettis showed well in his debut after Goodwin exited against Minnesota, but remaining front-line wideouts Trent Taylor and Pierre Garcon don’t strike an inordinate amount of fear in defenses. Darius Slay’s presence in the Lions secondary further tips the matchup in Detroit’s favor. The Lions do need to be mindful of the athletic George Kittle at tight end, but it helps that they surrendered the third-fewest receptions to the position last season (59).
Detroit was only 2-2 against the spread as road dogs in 2017, but a better 4-3 versus the number after a loss. And after having offered up plenty of tangible factors and measurables as to why Detroit can both cover and win outright, here’s one that can’t quite be quantified but should be at play anyhow – they’re going to be a downright ticked-off squad in Week 2.
The Pick: Lions +5, Lions money line +180
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
DraftKings Line: Cowboys -3
Over/Under Total: 42
This game also caught my eye with what I feel is both a mispriced spread and money line. While it’s true that neither team impressed in Week 1, we can confidently label one’s struggles as largely circumstantial and matchup-based. The other? Well, let’s just say the Cowboys look to be in for a long season.
A comparison of the skill positions on both of these squads begins to tell the tale. The Giants’ Eli Manning is essentially an average passer at this point in his career, but he has an exponentially better chance of outplaying his talent level with the likes of Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram around him. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott is certainly an NFL-caliber signal-caller, but he’s been hung out to dry. Ezekiel Elliott is an elite talent, but one of the most pedestrian collection of receivers in the NFL and an even more lackluster tight end group leave both guys as the focuses of essentially all of the opposing defense’s attention.
Dallas will automatically make any secondary they play this season better with their lack of a consistent deep threat. New York will be able to crowd the box on every down against Elliott and bring the house against Prescott as well. They won’t have much fear of the back-end consequences in either scenario. This was the case in Carolina in Week 1. It’s going to make it extremely difficult for Dallas to move the ball with any degree of consistency.
While the Giants weren’t any great shakes on offense themselves versus Jacksonville, they’ll be far from the only team that struggles to put up points against that vaunted defense this season. Their top two stars — Barkley and Beckham — also found their way to strong afternoons. Plus, keep in mind that if not for Kaelin Clay’s muffed punt with 54 seconds remaining and the G-Men down 20-15, New York would have had a chance to try a game-winning field goal.
The Giants sported a winning record (4-3) against the spread as road dogs in 2017. That was with an injury-decimated squad for a good portion of the season. Then, Dallas was just 2-3 versus the number as a home favorite with more talent on offense than this year. New York has the talent in the secondary to suffocate whatever passing game the Cowboys try to muster. And the G-Men have also proven one of the more effective foils for Elliott over his first three career encounters against them. He’s averaging just 3.8 yards per tote on 68 attempts against the Giants over his first two seasons.
This is a game where the talent level – especially on the offensive side – tips the scales pretty heavily in favor of the underdog. New York should not only cover but also take home a win.
The Pick: Giants +3, Giants money line +132