As stated in the first post of this series, I am going to take a dive into that week’s slate of games and try to dig up some trends. Hopefully, they give us an edge when making game selections each week.
Of course, trends are trends…until they’re not. The goal here isn’t to plant a flag based on a trend, rather to simply shine a spotlight on these trends that exist and talk through some of them as food for thought.
On the Road Again
Every year, there are few NFL teams that have the unfortunate task of opening the new season with back-to-back road games. Even with home-field losing some mojo through a number of recent trends, playing on the road in the NFL is still a tough endeavor. Doing so twice in a row is even rougher, especially to start the season.
Over the past 10 seasons, teams opening the season with back-to-back road games have posted just a 7-26 record straight up. Against the spread, they are 10-22-1. Over the past five seasons, those teams are 3-15 heads up and 2-16 against the spread.
Dating back to last season, there were four teams that opened up the season away-away and they went 1-3 both heads up and against the spread in Week 2, with the Chiefs being the only winner.
Favorites are slightly better at 4-9 straight up, but still are victim to failing to cover often, posting a 2-10-1 record against the number.
This weekend, there are four more teams playing their second consecutive game on the road in the 49ers, Bills, Chiefs, and Colts with Kansas City and Buffalo entering the week as favorites.
Traveling Off of Overtime
The Colts also find themselves on the other side of another negative trend, which is playing on the road after playing in overtime the previous week.
Since 2013 when the NFL changed their overtime rules to what they currently are, teams traveling off an overtime game the week prior are 33-71 (31.7%) heads up and 41-61-2 (40.2%) against the spread. In 2018, they were just as poor head-to-head (4-9), but a bit more even against the spread (6-7).
Underdogs in that scenario have been even worse, however. Road dogs coming off an overtime game over that span are just 13-51 (20.3%) straight up and 23-39-2 (37.1%) when it comes to covering the line. Favorites are a bit better, going 18-16 straight up and 16-18 against the spread.
Covering the flip side, home teams off of overtime are 38-35 (52.1%) overall with a 30-41-2 (42.3%) mark against the spread.
To compound matters, it gets worse when that extra period occurred in Week 1. Teams that started the season in overtime and then traveled the following week are 1-6 overall with a 2-5 mark against the spread since the rules change.
Joining the Colts on that trend this week are the Chargers and Cardinals. The Chargers are favorites, but their game against the Lions is also one in rarified air with the Lions also coming off an overtime game in Week 1. It is just the second time over the past 20 seasons both teams playing in Week 2 are coming off of a Week 1 overtime game.
Big Losers in Week 1 Have Been Good Bets in Week 2
We know the NFL is a fairly neutral playing field in totality. There are only a handful of truly elite teams and only a handful of truly awful teams each NFL season. The rest are thrown in a large blender of parity that invites weekly variance.
With that in mind, when a team gets crushed, it’s because they fell on that negative side of variance that given week. More often than not, those teams find themselves playing competitively the following week.
Over the past five seasons, teams that suffer a double-digit loss to open the season have come back in Week 2 and covered 22-of-34 times (64.7%) while going 18-16 outright. A year ago, of the six teams that lost by double-digit points to open the season, four came back and covered the following week.
We had five such games this season, with the Buccaneers, Falcons, Giants, Steelers, and Dolphins all getting smacked in the face in Week 1. I don’t know if I’d go around throwing money on the Dolphins this week, but we typically see the market overreact to a team suffering a Week 1 beatdown.
The Patriots are HUGE Week 2 Favorites
Speaking of the Dolphins, they got absolutely obliterated in Week 1 59-10 by the Ravens. Miami hasn’t made it public knowledge they are openly tanking the 2019 season, but Stevie Wonder can see they are actively putting themselves in an immediate place to not play competitive football this season with an eye of rebuilding from scorched earth.
Hosting the Super Bowl champs in the Patriots in Week 2, Miami finds themselves as 19-point underdogs. That is almost an implied level of discrepancy you only see on the collegiate level.
In fact, there are only 14 recorded games with a line this large with the last coming in 2013. Actually, there were two that season, with both involving the 4-12 Jaguars against the two Super Bowl teams (Seattle and Denver). The hapless Jags were a whopping 26.5-point dog to the Broncos and covered while they were a 20-point dog to Seattle and lost by 28 points.
But I digress. Of the 14 times we’ve seen a line this large, the underdog is 12-2 against the spread. To make matters more interesting, the Patriots are 1-6 straight up and against the spread over their past seven games in Miami.
The good news is the Patriots are no stranger to laying a lot of points. Under Bill Belichick, New England has been double-digit favorites 64 times. Over the past five seasons, they’ve been a double-digit favorite 22 times, going 20-2 straight up and 15-6-1 (71.4%) against the spread.
Don’t Visit Denver in the Fall
Denver is a great city and you should totally go there, but for NFL teams, visiting Denver early in the season has been a nightmare. Since 2000, teams visiting Denver in the month of September have posted just a 6-31 record. Over the first two weeks of the season, they are only 1-22 over that span.
The most interesting part of this dynamic is the Broncos are underdogs at home this week to the Bears, which is rare for them early in the season. Denver has been a home dog over the opening two weeks of a season just three times over that span, winning outright and covering all three times.