As a reminder, this column is all about getting the juices flowing and the thoughts percolating. My official Best Bets come out on Thursday, but these are the ones that have caught my eye initially.
I’ll also remind you that betting early is a good way to take advantage of a line that is a little off. Sharp money usually comes in and corrects these lines as the week goes on, so the quicker we can jump on them, the better we will fair.
With that in mind, here are the juiciest early lines:
LAR -2.5 @ CLE
The Rams are still good. Repeat, the Rams are still good.
They have a dynamic running game (Gurley or otherwise), three explosive receivers, and a staunch defense. They have beaten the Panthers and the Saints. Throw in all the qualifiers you want, but those are two good teams who can win any game.
Meanwhile, the Browns got smoked by the Titans and then beat but did not dominate the quarterbackless Jets on Monday Night.
Perhaps the most concerning trend in that Monday Night game was the Browns inability to run, and their insistence on repeatedly running on first down. There’s not enough room in this article to go into why that is such a poor decision, but follow Warren Sharp on Twitter (and me while you’re at it) and he will school you on how running puts you behind schedule and makes you more predictable on later downs.
The other thing that the Monday Night game did was offer a blueprint on how to fluster Baker Mayfield. If you take away Odell Beckham’s 89 yard touchdown, and if the Browns do not convert a fourth down via penalty in the first half, then this could have been a field goal fest. Gregg Williams’ defense disguised its coverage all night and Baker struggled. That should be the Rams’ guiding light as they take the field with far more talent than the Jets had.
Essentially, what this boils down to, then, is that the Rams have looked just as dominant as their Super Bowl run last season, and the Browns have looked just as haphazard as their tumultuous year last season.
Perhaps Baker Mayfield is better than Jarred Goff, perhaps. But what is for sure is that Sean McVay is better than Freddie Kitchens, the Rams D is better than Cleveland’s, and the Rams offense is more efficient than the Browns.
A three point Rams win is likely, especially given these first two weeks. And last season. And their entire existences.
BAL +7 @ KC
Call me crazy, but I do not think these teams are as far apart as Vegas is indicating here.
Offensively, it is not a stretch to say the Baltimore is in the top five (three?) offenses in the league so far in terms of efficiency and production, and while Kansas City may be first, that is not a significant gap.
Meanwhile, Baltimore has the better defense of the two, that, despite being aided by Kliif Kingsbury’s best bet ruining field goals, held a potent Arizona squad in check.
The way I see it, Baltimore can keep pace in a shootout and would have the advantage if the points aren’t flowing.
Keep in mind this is merely an early week look, and a deeper dive might reveal to me that the line is not a place where we have leverage, but on the eye test alone, Baltimore is better than a touchdown spread against anybody.
DET +7 @ PHI (with an eye on the over at 48)
Week one can be a fluke, but if we have seen something twice through two weeks, we can start to investigate whether it is a trend.
Through two weeks, Philadelphia has been bad on defense, especially the secondary.
After allowing an offensive, passing explosion to Washington in Week 1, Philadelphia turned around and allowed a noodle-armed Matt Ryan to rack up 300 yards and support two 100 yard receivers.
Add in the fact that two of Philadelphia’s injury prone receivers are now dealing with injuries, and the results seem to indicate the offense and the defense dealing with some issues.
Meanwhile, the Lions have shown the ability to score and defend moderately well on their way to a win and a tie. That could easily be two wins, however, except that Matt Patricia is a bad coach and loves to run the ball despite having a pro bowl quarterback and two pro bowl receivers.
If one thing were to give me pause in this game it would be that Patricia triples down on being a smash mouth grind it out team. However, if he gives Stafford any leash in this game and the defense steps up against a battered Eagles’ offense, a touchdown margin is far too wide.
CIN @ BUF over 43.5 (and BUF -6)
You know I have to have a Buffalo bet in here, but it looks like Vegas is hip to the Bills as a cash cow. Although I will probably end up with some money on the Bills at -6, this time I believe it is the over that is really going to deliver for us. Either way, at the rate they’re going they’ll be buying me a house (although perhaps just a fixer upper in Northern New York).
In this case, though, Vegas has overlooked both the Bills and the Bengals. Each side is working with an explosive offense that can score in bunches, and although the Bills defense is good, the Bengals is not.
And when the Bengals fall behind, they throw. And when they throw, the Bengals score more, turn the ball over more, and stop the clock more. In fact, even though they got drubbed 41-17 last week by the 49ers, the Bengals still had a 300 yard passer and two one hundred yard receivers while getting sacked four times and turning the ball over multiple times.
So, with more time with the ball and a porous defense, we can bank on Josh Allen and the Bills to put up their customary offensive showing that includes big pass plays and a productive running game. The potential for a defensive score or a garbage time score for the Bengals just adds to the appeal of this bet.
Don’t put the house on the over or on the Bills, but put enough so that when they win, you can grab a sweet little pad in the greater Buffalo area.
OAK @ MIN over 42
This is a shockingly low total for a game between two teams who have operated fairly efficiently on offense.
Perhaps Vegas is looking at this game from the defensive perspective, but that would be discounting the fact that good defenses can also create higher total games.
For example: If Minnesota gets out to an early lead in this game, they are going to run Dalvin Cook early and often. Running Dalvin Cook frequently is a great way to score points. Meanwhile, if Oakland opens up their offense to try to catch up, they will most likely be hitting big plays or turning the ball over, both of which can easily lead to points.
Some teams that run often do so in a way that depresses the score. Minnesota’s running game, however, is a weapon that should in fact be seen as a factor in the total score.
So to summarize: Minnesota should be winning the majority of this game. When Minnesota is winning, Minnesota runs. When Minnesota runs, Minnesota scores. If Minnesota scores, Oakland will be going all out to score. Scoring leads to overs. Overs lead to money for us.
BONUS EARLY BETS
TEN -2 @ JAX
This is the Thursday Night game, so if you are going to lock it in, the sooner the better.
Full disclosure, I snagged this line at -1.5 in my picks league by being proactive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this rises to -3 or more by kickoff.
Currently Jacksonville is experiencing a mini-mutiny that includes their star cornerback demanding a trade after a sideline confrontation with Doug Marrone. Add into this last weeks inexplicable and deflating loss to Houston to start the season 0-2, and this team could go off the rails quick.
Tennessee isn’t a world beater, but they are a solid team who can easily go into a dysfunctional Jacksonville and get a comfortable win.
NO +4.5 @ SEA
Are we sure Seattle’s good? They currently have a one point win against Cincinnati who was blown out by San Francisco and a two point win against a Pittsburgh team without their starting quarterback.
New Orleans looked dysfunctional with Teddy Bridgewater in the game against the Rams, but to be fair that was mid-game and they had just been stone cold robbed by the refs...again.
This is more of a think and watch pick, but I may be betting on the Saints’ infrastructure and against the Seahawks 2-0 mirage.
DEN @ GB under 43
These are two staunch defenses and only one good quarterback. The chances of the Broncos being shut out or almost shut out are about as high as they can be, and although Green Bay’s offense has looked good, they have scored 10 and 21 points in their games this season, and Denver’s defense is capable of continuing that streak of lows.