Depending on how you like to think of it, we are either 1/17th or 1/18th of the way into the 2022 NFL regular season. (Actually, as of Monday we’re only 15/16ths of the way through Week 1, but I think we can all agree nobody needs to start their football gambling reading week seeing all the decimal points that would come along with factoring that in.)
Either way, there’s a whole lot of football left to be played, and whichever team you root for, however poorly your Sunday bets did, it’s way too soon to panic.
We totally get the instinct. You’re worried the Rams and Bengals both have the dreaded Super Bowl hangover. You’re ready to throw in the towel on the Trey Lance experiment. Dak Prescott is out six to eight weeks, so the Cowboys’ season is over. Aaron Rodgers is nothing without Davante Adams. The Raiders were overhyped, the Lions are gonna be the same old losers, Bill Belichick is washed, Kliff and Kyler are never going to make it work, and on and on.
Oh, and there’s the flipside, with some fans and bettors wanting to pencil in the Bills or Chiefs for the Lombardi Trophy, or counting their fantasy league first-place money because they drafted Justin Jefferson, or looking at the Giants’ schedule and talking themselves into a 4-0 start and double-digit wins.
But look at what the bookmakers did with the Week 2 lines. For the most part, they barely budged ’em. Full details below, but the Rams are still double-digit favorites over the Falcons. The Niners are nearly into double digits at home against the Seahawks, as are the 0-1 Packers hosting the 1-0 Bears. The Patriots lost and the Steelers won, but the sportsbooks favor the Pats (narrowly) in Pittsburgh.
The only line that moved more than a point or two was the Bengals-Cowboys line, and that’s based on Dallas having to start Cooper Rush at quarterback. On a related note, the Cowboys are now the longest shot to win the NFC East at FanDuel:
So go ahead and panic, Cowboys fans. And Cowboys bettors, rip up your tickets with 16 games to go. (You know, assuming you’re one of those weirdos who places bets in person and has a ticket to rip up.)
But everyone else, relax. There was a monsoon in Chicago, the Rams ran into the buzzsaw Bills, the Packers also looked lousy in Week 1 last year. Rationalize. Then recharge. And get ready for Week 2. Let’s look at the opening lines and assorted betting odds and ends for the action ahead.
The consensus lines
Most lines vary by half a point in either direction, with slightly different vigs from book to book, so it’s always advisable to price-shop at all the available mobile sportsbooks in your state. But here are the consensus (most commonly found) spreads for each of the 16 games in Week 2:
Chargers at Chiefs (-3.5)
Commanders at Lions (-1.5)
Jets at Browns (-6.5)
Buccaneers (-2.5) at Saints
Panthers at Giants (-2.5)
Patriots (-1) at Steelers
Colts (-4.5) at Jaguars
Dolphins at Ravens (-3.5)
Falcons at Rams (-10.5)
Seahawks at 49ers (-8.5)
Bengals (-6.5) at Cowboys
Texans at Broncos (-10)
Cardinals at Raiders (-3.5)
Bears at Packers (-9.5)
Titans at Bills (-10)
Vikings at Eagles (-2.5)
Line move to watch
That Pats-Steelers line could go any which way. Pittsburgh has the most consistent track record in the NFL of just never being below average no matter what, and yes, there were some fluky elements to their win over the Bengals, but they did still beat the defending AFC champs, but now they’re going to be without their defensive superstar T.J. Watt and, meanwhile, nobody can imagine a Belichick team starting 0-2, but Mac Jones is dealing with a back injury, but there were a lot of random bounces that went against them in their loss in Miami, and … I could keep writing this run-on sentence forever, but I’ll just end it by saying I wouldn’t be surprised if Pittsburgh ends up favored by a couple of points, especially if Sunday’s showdown is between Mitch Trubisky and Brian Hoyer.
Intriguing moneyline underdogs to consider
Bronze medal: Seahawks +328 (Caesars Sportsbook) at 49ers. It’s only been a couple hundred words since I advised you not to panic about Lance and the Niners, but it’s quite possible that the sophomore slinger stinks — and that having Jimmy Garoppolo breathing down his neck won’t help. Nobody expects much from Seattle this season, but +328 is a decent “bet a little, win a lot” proposition in case Lance is a disaster.
Silver medal: Saints +130 (multiple books) vs. Buccaneers. New Orleans is 4-0 vs. the Bucs in the regular season since Tom Brady came to Tampa, and in fact has won seven straight regular-season meetings between these NFC South rivals. Any plus-money on the Saints at home here is attractive.
Gold medal: Jaguars +176 (FanDuel) vs. Colts. Indy fell behind 20-3 against Houston, rallied like hell to tie it, and that was the best the Colts could do. Matt Ryan’s best attribute at age 37 is … stability? Supposedly? Are we sure this Colts team is actually any better than this starting-to-figure-things-out Jags team? And they’re favored on the road?
Textbook teaser candidates
Fans of the three-team (or more) teaser know what to look for: favorites of 6 or more who become very safe bets if you reduce the spread by about a touchdown. Here are this week’s options that fit the bill:
Browns: Can tease down to -0.5 or +0.5 at home against Joe Flacco and the Jets.
Rams: Can tease down to -4.5 or -3.5 hosting Marcus Mariota and the Falcons.
49ers: Can tease down to -2.5 or -1.5 at home against Geno Smith and the Seahawks.
Bengals: Can tease down to -0.5 or +0.5 in Jerry World against Cooper Rush and the Cowboys.
Broncos: Can tease down to -4 or -3 hosting Davis Mills and the Texans.
Packers: Can tease down to -3.5 or -2.5 in Lambeau against Justin Fields and the Bears.
Bills: Can tease down to -4 or -3 at home against Ryan Tannehill and the Titans.
Pick three (or more), pick 6 points or 7 (or 6.5), and let the sweating of a +140 or so return begin. There are a couple of themes here, as it’s all home teams (except Cincy) against mediocre-to-sub-mediocre quarterbacks (except maybe Tannehill). There are never any sure things, but Broncos-Packers-Bills, taking the seventh point to get to or beyond a field goal, feels relatively safe.
Chalky Survivor pool candidate of the week
The first week of Survivor pool play didn’t go as planned for some:
And with that Titans missed FG, 2,850 of the 6,133 Circa Survivor entries are dead.
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownM2) September 11, 2022
But plenty of popular picks delivered, from the no-sweats (Ravens, Chiefs) to the yes-sweats (Saints, Eagles, Commanders).
For Week 2, the Week 1 Survivor survivors will naturally be gravitating toward those bigger favorites listed in the “textbook teaser” section. The Browns make a lot of sense if you’re trying to use a team you doubt you’ll need later, but the Rams, in what is almost a must-win game already, shape up as the most popular play this week.
Most valuable MVP bet
One week in, it feels like you can’t go too terribly wrong with favorites Josh Allen (+500 at numerous books) or Patrick Mahomes (+600 at FanDuel), and right behind them is Justin Herbert (+800 at Barstool Sportsbook, BetRivers, and other books with odds supplied by Kambi). But if you’re looking to take a stab on a longshot, Jefferson is out there at 80/1 at the Kambi books. His Week 1 line of 9-184-2 accounts for such a staggering share of Kirk Cousins’ splits (66.4% of the yards and 100% of the touchdowns) that Jefferson just may be that rare wide receiver who can outshine his QB for MVP if his team happens to grab a No. 1 seed.
How ‘bout those G-Men?! Brian Daboll has jumped into the Coach of the Year mix as a co-favorite at +800 at FanDuel, while Saquon Barkley has the shortest odds for Comeback Player of the Year at +500. Curiously lurking behind Barkley is Washington rookie running back Brian Robinson at +700, who may get that Alex Smith-style sentimental bump just for taking the field after getting shot.
In other awards odds news, T.J. Watt is no longer the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year (but you can still bet him at +4000 if you hate money), and rising up in his place is Myles Garrett at +500 at both PointsBet and FanDuel.
According to DraftKings, the AFC winner is now -125 to win the Super Bowl, while the NFC winner is +105. The bookmakers may just be guilty of under-reacting to Week 1 on this one.
Photo: Daniel Bartel/USA TODAY