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Skin in the Game: Week 2

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Well, our foray into weekly NFL betting is off to a rough start as we were immediately introduced to a “bad beat.” We fell victim to the garbage time touchdown, a situation that has haunted both sports bettors and fantasy sports players for as long as those things have existed. Before we take a look at our Week 2 options, we’ll recap what went wrong for us in Week 1. (Hopefully in future installments we’ll instead be recapping what went right while counting our money.)

The most obvious fly in the ointment was the aforementioned garbage time touchdown from the Redskins. After a slow start, the Eagles dominated the second half and took control of the game. In the process, they also put us in the money by taking a 12-point lead. And then Washington scored a meaningless touchdown with six seconds remaining as the Eagles were simply in “make sure nothing crazy happens” mode. Unfortunately, that score also cost us our cover and sunk our hopes of cashing either of our bets.

We also missed on the under 45 bet, and it became clear late in the second quarter that if we wanted the Eagles to win, we were going to have to sacrifice at least one of our bets. The W on the field is most important, and I’ll gladly take that and give up a winning bet, but we had an opportunity to still take home some money.

It was really the slow start on defense that did us in. We expected a slow start from the offense, but we did not expect Case Keenum and the Redskins to carve up the Eagles defense. We didn’t expect Washington to get anywhere near 27 points, and when they had 20 in the first half we were in trouble. The first half struggles also altered the flow of the game. If the Birds had been able to establish a lead early and start to control the pace of the game, it would have been beneficial to us.

Even the best laid plans are susceptible to go awry, and while we were extremely confident in our research, the trends we saw, and the outlook of the teams on paper, it simply didn’t work out this time. Fortunately, the Eagles walked away with a win and we have 15 more opportunities to hit some bets.

So, let’s get back on the horse and take a look at the outlook for Week 2 against the Falcons.

Eagles (-2) at Falcons, Over/Under 52.5

We’ll start with the trends. Doug Pederson is 3-0 against the Falcons as coach of the Eagles. The Birds have won those games by an average of 6.7 points, with the smallest margin of victory being five. The average total score of those games was 31.3, with a low output of 25 and a high of 39. There are some interesting numbers there.

Now, we’ll look at each team.

The Eagles bounced back from a slow start to beat the Redskins. The offense was magnificent in the second half and produced the way we expected it to. However, the defense left a lot to be desired. A depleted and unthreatening Redskins offense moved the ball at will in the first half. The double trouble of suspect play in the secondary and an inability to get pressure made it difficult for the defense to have any kind of impact.

Atlanta, meanwhile, was throttled by the Vikings 28-12. Matt Ryan was intercepted twice and sacked four times and Devonta Freeman lost a fumble. The Falcons were down 14-0 in the blink of an eye, trailed 21-0 at the half, and fell behind 28-0 before salvaging a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The way the game script played out makes it difficult to take too much from this game, but the four sacks stand out.

The Falcons will be hungry to get rid of the bad taste of their Week 1 beatdown and will be playing their home opener.

So, how should we approach this game from a betting standpoint? The line opened at Eagles -1, so the movement tells us money is coming in on the Eagles. Likewise, the over/under opened at 51, so better are liking the over right now.

Despite the Falcons playing with their backs against the wall a bit and hosting their home opener, I like the Eagles in this game. I think they’re the better team and I think they want to prove that the first half against Washington was an aberration. When you add in Pederson’s success against the Falcons and the small line, I’m comfortable laying the points.

The over/under is a different story. On paper, everything about this game screams over. Both teams have elite quarterbacks surrounded by plenty of weapons, neither defense impressed in Week 1, and the game is indoors. It’s no surprise much of the money has been on the over and caused a 1.5-point increase in the number.

However, in the three Eagles-Falcons games in which Pederson was head coach none of them came even close to a total of 50 points. I also think Pederson will take some of what he saw in Week 1 and try to keep the running game involved, shortening the clock a bit. Atlanta struggled against the run in Week 1 which could further incentivize Pederson to push the running game. Going against every instinct I have, I’m leaning towards the under here. Perhaps if you wait until late Saturday or early Sunday you could even get yourself another point or point and a half to play with if the current trends continue. The confidence level on this bet is low, but it’s the side I’m going with.

The pick: Eagles -2 and Under 52.5

Season record: 0-2

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