As Week 2 of the NFL season kicks off tonight in Cleveland, it is helpful to look back at Week 1 to examine the outcomes relative to the betting lines and the far-too-early playoff picture. In the opening week, betting favorites went 8-7-1 against the spread, with five of the seven covering underdogs getting outright wins. If not for epic kicking woes, including a missed extra point by former Patriot Stephen Gostkowski, Tennessee would have covered the two-and-a-half point spread instead of settling for a two-point win over the Broncos.
Outright Underdog Wins
The underdog to overcome the greatest point spread was Jacksonville, a 27-20 winner at home against Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts, seven-and-a-half point favorites. If the Jaguars continue to exceed expectations, they will complicate matters in the AFC South.
The Arizona Cardinals, who were also seven-and-a-half point road underdogs, ruined the season opener for the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers with a 24-20 victory. Second-year quarterback Kyler Murray connected with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for 14 receptions and 151 yards. Coupled with the Rams’ 20-17 upset of the two-and-a-half point favorite Cowboys, it appears the NFC West could be a four-team race in 2020.
Both NFC North games saw underdogs win outright on the road as Green Bay went into Minnesota and defeated the two-and-a-half point favorite Vikings. The Chicago Bears were three-point underdogs but capitalized on a series of Detroit Lions blunders to leave town with a 27-23 win. It appears the Lions will could once again struggle to compete in the division.
Finally, the Washington Football Team kept its poise at home and overcame a 17-0 deficit to take down the five-and-a-half point favorite Philadelphia Eagles 27-17. With the Giants also losing, the “Team with No Name” finds itself in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. The good news for the rest of the division is there are still 16 weeks to go.
What Will Week 2 Deliver?
Despite opening week wins, the Chargers find themselves nine-point underdogs to the Chiefs. The Jaguars face the same nine-point spread against the Titans. For Tampa Bay, the Tom Brady factor seems to have insulated Buccaneers from being punished by the oddsmakers following an ugly 34-23 loss to the Saints. Week 2 sees Tampa Bay as nine-point favorites in their home opener against NFC South rival Carolina.
For reference, nine games in Week 1 were decided by nine points or more, two outright wins by underdogs.
The Buccaneers are one of a handful of preseason playoff contenders that risk dropping to 0-2 with a loss, Only 11 percent of teams have that start the year 0-2 have recovered to make the playoffs since 2002. Combine that with the fact that an average of six new teams qualify for the playoffs every season, and 2019 postseason participants Minnesota, Philadelphia, and San Francisco should be a bit nervous going into Week 2. The Vikings are three-point dogs at Indianapolis, the Eagles are narrow one-point favorites at home against the Rams, and the Niners are favored by seven points as they travel east for an early game against the Jets.
Two teams looking to build on their big upsets from Week 1 are Washington and Arizona, as they face off in the desert. Once again, the Washington Football Team finds itself a sizeable underdog, this time by six-and-a-half points, on the road. Containing Murray and Hopkins will be the priority for Washington, but if they do, a 2-0 start would be the surprise of the season.
The last three games of the weekend bring us matchups featuring teams coming off wins in Week 1. The Chargers head home to Los Angeles for a showdown with the Chiefs. Seattle is a three-and-a-half point favorite for the Sunday night contest against the Patriots, and the week concludes with the Raiders hosting their first game in Las Vegas as six-point home underdogs to the Saints. The final five games played in Week 2 include just one team with a loss, the Houston Texans, who are getting seven points against visiting Baltimore.