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NFL Betting: What We Learned from Week 2 (2021)

by September 20, 2021
Derek Carr

Historically speaking, Week 2 is arguably the best time to find overreaction and act on it. It’s the only week of the season where one game can — and has — reset expectations for an entire season. This was the focal point of last week’s column.

Now, we can look back at what actually happened and gauge if it is sustainable or regression back to the mean. That will help in all of our betting decisions for the weeks to follow.

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The NFC West Keeps Rolling

This was a direct topic from last week’s article, and I commented that the NFC West might be 8-0 after two weeks. Almost. The Rams, Cardinals, and 49ers all won and improved to 2-0, while the Seahawks lost. In overtime. That was the difference between a perfect start to the season for four teams in the same division and a 7-1 record.

What makes it even more interesting is that there still won’t be any division games for those four teams in Week 3. We have another opportunity for a perfect sweep by the NFC West, which would continue to build momentum and anticipation for when they finally start attacking one another.

Unfortunately, in terms of using any of this information for our betting needs, we have to wait and play it out on a week-by-week basis. The matchup with their respective opponents will dictate the edge — or lack thereof — where the only real play might be taking advantage of the juicy odds for either Arizona or Seattle to win the division.

The Panthers and Saints Dramatically Change Their Perceptions

The Carolina Panthers beating the Jets at home on Opening Day was nice, but it wasn’t a ‘statement win.’ Beating the New Orleans Saints after New Orleans dominated the Packers? That will get some attention.

The head-to-head battle between these division teams left us with two clear points of emphasis:

  1. The Panthers are not to be taken lightly. Their defense has been superb, and their offense is full of weapons. Quarterback Sam Darnold appears to be revitalized and, as long as he can prevent a collapse or regression, Carolina cannot be overlooked.
  2. The Saints are not perfect. This feels obvious — and was made more obvious by the loss to the Panthers — but there were talks around football circles that New Orleans was now going to be better without Drew Brees. We just had firsthand experience as to how the Saints could lose.

The one word I use every week is “perception.” It’s everything in the world of picking games against the spread. Be careful targeting either of these two teams following Week 2’s game, as their perceptions definitely shifted.

The Raiders are Good

Actually, this isn’t a surprise. Las Vegas quietly had a top-ten offense last year and moved into 2021 with the all-important continuity between quarterback and head coach. We’re seeing that come to fruition in the form of a 2-0 record and Derek Carr playing like an MVP under center. Can it continue? Yes. But that’s not where we should focus our attention.

Unless the Ravens and Steelers — the two teams the Raiders beat, to date — lost games at a frantic pace, the football-watching world will start to take notice of what Las Vegas is doing. The edge we currently have with the team will start to vanish. Remember this and try not to pay a premium when one appears. The good news is that we can lean on the Raiders as one of the league’s better teams that should continue to compete throughout the year.

The Buccaneers Keep Rolling

The defending champions are now 2-0, and their elite offense has paved the way in both wins.

Thats’ the common thought, anyway.

Indeed, Tampa Bay has been solid offensively and, as a team, scored at least 31 points in both games — and 79 combined. Let’s not overlook that the Buccaneers scored only 28 points and carried a small, 3-point lead into the fourth quarter against Atlanta. It was only via two defensive touchdowns in the final 15 minutes that the Buccaneers pulled away with as powerful a final score as we see now.

The Buccaneers are in a position to keep winning games, but notice that both games featured Tampa Bay giving back some of its late lead.

The Chargers can’t Escape Heartbreak

It’s almost a running joke at this point, except it isn’t funny for the Los Angeles Chargers. They have a longstanding history with heartbreak, and Week 2 gave the team its newest installment.

The conversation around the Chargers was that this team was different. It had found the next franchise quarterback and was going to win games it otherwise shouldn’t — and not the way around. Through two weeks, Los Angeles is 1-1 in a division that includes the 2-0 Raiders, 2-0 Broncos, and, of course, the Chiefs.

Los Angeles was somewhat excused for not showing its prolific offense against a great Washington defense — or a defense many expect to be great — but failing to score more than 17 points against Dallas is a problem. The Cowboys had previously allowed at least 20 points in 15-of-their-last-17 games. The average points allowed since the start of last year? 29.6.

With a trip to Kansas City on deck for the Chargers, we have an opportunity to be bold and look ahead to what Los Angeles could be. As of now, though, history appears to be repeating itself.

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros, as well as the creator and content-editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola. He has also been one of the industry leaders in NFL against-the-spread picks over the last 7 years.