Week 1 NFL Takeaways: 2017 Edition

Week 1 in the NFL is in the books. In a time-honored tradition, let the overreactions begin! C’mon people, haven’t we been here before? Don’t you remember the Eagles and Vikings dominating the early portion of the 2016 season, only to come back to reality — and their preseason expectations — down the stretch?

Maintaining perspective is incredibly important for bettors when handicapping Week 2. Let’s sort through the important takeaways from the first 15 games, separating the meaningful from the anomalous. Once you’ve got a true sense of the Week 2 landscape, head on over to Bovada or one of our other trustworthy sportsbooks to put your newfound knowledge to use.


Week 1 Takeaways

Injuries

Before the season started, it was reasonable to be bullish on the Chiefs. Andy Reid’s first four seasons with Kansas City included a 43-21 regular-season mark and three playoff appearances. KC has young players who are worth getting excited about (CB Marcus Peters, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill to name a few) mixed with a solid veteran core, and the team is coming off a 12-win campaign. Their 42-27 Week 1 win in New England was incredibly impressive. But a big part of that victory was the blanket coverage that Eric Berry wrapped around Rob Gronkowski all night. The best tight end in the league was held to two catches and 33 yards. Berry won’t be keeping any other receivers toasty warm this season, suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in the win. He is arguably the second-best safety in the league after Earl Thomas and could be impossible to replace. Be careful if you plan on betting the Chiefs. Do not expect what you saw last week to continue for 15 more games.

Aside from Berry, there were plenty of other impactful injuries during Week 1. The Patriots suffered their own key injury against KC, seeing linebacker Dont’a Hightower go down with a knee problem. He is the most important member of New England’s defense and, though his knee may be healthy enough to play in Week 2, pay close to attention to his performance. If he isn’t near 100-percent, New England’s defense can be downgraded significantly.

Arizona running back David Johnson, a.k.a the first-overall pick every fantasy league,* left the Cardinals loss against Detroit with a wrist injury. If you take away DJ, Arizona’s attack is in deep trouble. Carson Palmer regressed significantly last year and looked just as bad out of the gate in Week 1. Without his do-everything safety net, Palmer’s geriatric shoulder may crumble under the pressure of trying to carry the offense.

Jacksonville looked good in a win over Houston, but wideout Allen Robinson is now done for the campaign with a torn ACL. Blake Bortles has not been able to fully capitalize on A-Rob’s potential, but he was still the club’s top pass catcher last year and removing him from the equation means (a) defenses will now show even less respect to Jacksonville’s passing game, regularly stacking the box, and (b) the long-suffering Bortles will have to turn Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee into a viable receiving corps.

Other guys who went down of note include Saints offensive lineman Zach Strief, Ravens running back Danny Woodhead, Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt, Eagles corner Ronald Darby, Chicago wideout Kevin White, 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, Dallas corner Orlando Scandrick, and four Texans (who all left with concussions).

Not all injuries are the same. Some impact teams more than others, but be careful betting on teams who are now playing with half a deck. Conversely, even if a team lost in Week 1, if they are healthy and facing a banged-up opponent moving forward, keep that in mind.

*Excludes leagues populated by nincompoops. 

Recency Bias

It is impossible to look at upcoming games without focusing on the most recent examples of a team’s work. That said, just because Andy Dalton threw four interceptions against the Ravens on Sunday doesn’t mean he will be garbage on Thursday night versus Houston. Alex Smith was at his best while beating the Patriots, but it was a relatively anomalous for a guy who has been in the league for over a decade. When the Chiefs battle Philadelphia on Sunday, it would be reasonable to expect what we have become accustomed to in recent years (an overly safe game-manager), not the guy who was better than Tom Brady on one given evening.

If you are a fan of a team that started the season well, you should be excited. If your team started slowly, it is ok to be concerned. However, good bettors are disciplined and alter their power rankings in an even-handed manner. It’s a pretty safe bet that Smith, Sam Bradford, Carson Wentz, and Jared Goff are not going to be four of the six most prolific passers this season. Pay attention to what takes place, but refrain from rash judgments. Recognize one bad week can be just that: not a trend, a singular lousy effort.

 

The public loves to bet on the Steelers and their QB Ben Roethlisberger (Photo by Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC License])

Stats

Last year was a strangely good season for the public, and mediocre for professional gamblers: big dogs (which the general population tends to bet against) failed to cover, while marquee teams (which Average Joes tend to back) cashed a lot of tickets.

In Week 1 the Browns, Jags, and Bears all covered, but so too did the Cowboys and Packers. Interestingly, home teams were 7-7-1 against the spread, and favorites were 7-7-1 for betting purposes. Watch the way the lines react if the Patriots and Steelers don’t cover in Weeks 2 and 3, or if the ugly squads start covering on a regular basis. The best approach early on is always wait and see being opportunistic when bad spreads appear.

 

Week 2 Advice

That information is all well and good, you’re saying now. But what, specifically, does it mean for me right now!

Yeesh, so demanding. But fine, you’re the boss, boss. Heading into Week 2, there are a couple lines that I quite like.

Texans at Bengals (-6.5): The Texans got banged up in Week 1 and are starting a rookie QB behind a bad offensive line on the road in Cincinnati. The Bengals were atrocious in Week 1 and have ample O-line problems of their own (which could be a serious problem against this Houston defense), but they stayed healthy, they’re getting CB Adam Jones and (likely) rookie WR John Ross back, and they have a veteran QB who’s (historically) been much better than he showed last Sunday. I’ll ride with Andy Dalton and the Bengals

Eagles at Chiefs (-5): The injury to Eric Berry will significantly alter the KC defense, and the team played its absolute best game possible in Week 1. Expect regression to their mean, with their mean now being lower than it was at the start of the year thanks to Berry being out. The Eagles are on the road for the second straight week, which is always tough, but they have a stacked front-seven that will get pressure on Alex Smith and prevent KC from taking too many deep shots. On offense, Philly surrounded Carson Wentz with some new weapons (like Alshon Jeffery) and he showed great chemistry with his receiving corps. I like getting five points with a potentially dominant defense against a KC team that just suffered a major injury.