I went 1-2 on picks last week, with Tampa as the lone winner and Cleveland and Dallas as the losers. All three had incredible finishes, so at least everyone was provided with a proper sweat. On the week, favorites won outright in 14 of the 16 games, while only covering in seven games. The NFL saw overs hit in 11 of 16 games.
Before we head to Week 3 picks, I wanted to continue a theme I have been discussing for many weeks. Prior to the Week 1 games, there was speculation that offenses would be rusty out of the gates and that defenses would have an early advantage. I wrote about how the closest comparison we have to this season would be the 2011 season, which saw labor strife.
In those first two weeks, overs hit at a 72% clip. This season through two weeks, overs have hit in 20 of 32 games, a mark of 60%. What’s even more impressive is that the average scoring output per game this season is 50.4 points. This is the highest mark the NFL has seen through the first two weeks of a season and is 4.8 points higher than what the NFL saw all of last season. In 2011, the average point total scored in the first two weeks was 46.9 but dipped to 44 points the rest of that season as defenses started to gain more traction.
While I don’t believe games will continue on this torrid pace, I do think that scoring will continue to be higher than normal. Part of the reasoning to the higher scores could be rusty tackling on defense and a lack of stamina. But one unquantifiable theory is how the lack of fans and noise at stadiums is impacting both sides of the ball. No fans should help offenses as they can better hear quarterbacks calls and audibles at the line of scrimmage.
You would also expect offensive penalties caused by crowd noise to be lower and that is what we have seen. In fact, through the first two weeks, we have seen a large dip in the number of false starts per game. So far there have been 1.65 false starts per game, which is well below the 2.25 and 2.56 per game figures we saw in the prior two seasons through the first two weeks. In the prior five seasons, there have not been fewer than 2.0 false starts per game in the first two weeks of the season.
Favorite Week 3 Picks
Giants +4 vs San Francisco (-110)
This is mainly just a fade of the Niners due to their incredible injury list this week. They will be missing offensive starters Jimmy Garrapolo, George Kittle (questionable), Tevin Coleman, and Raheem Mostert. On defense, they are down Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, and Richard Sherman. Bosa (third) and Ford (15th) both ranked in the top-15 in pressure rate last season and are being replaced by journeyman Kerry Hyder and rookie Javon Kinlaw.
The Niners are going to be fielding a defense that will be without five of their seven highest-graded defenders last season, according to PFF. They will be missing 209 of their 377 defensive pressures from last season. Add in all of the injuries on offense and I just don’t see who this line is greater than 3. The Giants have been competitive in the first two games and I expect them to find a way to win on Sunday.
New England -6 vs Las Vegas (-110)
I have been touting the Raiders for a few months as my surprise team for the AFC but the difficult schedule held me back a bit. The Raiders have shown themselves well so far and are coming off a primetime win against the Saints on Monday Night Football. Now they have to fly across the country on a short week for a 1pm Eastern game on Sunday.
They also have to face a New England team off of a tough last-second loss to Seattle. This is a prime spot for New England as they are 72% against the spread off a loss with Bill Belichick as head coach. They have covered by an astounding six points per game in this scenario.
The Patriots defense will come in highly motivated after allowing Russell Wilson to throw for 288 yards, five touchdowns, and over 10 yards per attempt. I expect that defense to tighten up here against the Raiders and take away Darren Waller after he tore up the Saints.
Cam Newton should have a field day against a Raiders defense that has allowed 6.7 yards per play and 8.2 yards per attempt to Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Brees. I like this at anything under 7.
Record YTD: 3-2-1 (60%)