In the past two seasons, no team has made the playoffs after starting 0-2. However, of the 24 playoff teams of the past two years, 14 (or 58%) have started 1-1. So while it is just one game and it seems crazy to suggest that a team could play itself out of contention already, the trends strongly suggest that they can. So, in a lot of ways, it's desperation time for teams who lost last weekend and generally desperate teams make for pretty good bets.
Our picks for the early games in week one can be found here. Below are the picks against the spread for the 4pm eastern and primetime games.
Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (+3) - This is really a game of two teams with divergent unlikely scenarios last week. Dallas lost their game as a result of two Tony Romo turnovers last in the game. San Fran put their game away with two Ted Ginn kick returns for TDs. Lighting is not likely to strike twice (four times?) again. Here's the dilemma, my gut tells me that the Cowboys are clearly the better team, but basically all trends and comparable games favor the 49ers. Teams like the Niners have won and covered the spread most of the time and the Cowboys are on the second of back to back road games. I'm going to go against the trends here though. Pick: Cowboys
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos (-4.5) - This line has trended up this week from 3.5 The Bengals won on a bit of fluke play last week in Cleveland and now they have to travel for their second straight road game to start the season. So the trends are against them. Denver was very sloppy last week against the Raiders, but they did show a lot of fight back at the end. I'm going to go with Denver to cover, but this game really does have 21-17 heartbreaker where you lose by a half point written all over it. Pick: Broncos
Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins (+3) - Miami's offense looked surprisingly competent against the Patriots, but their defense was shockingly incompetent. The Texans on the other hand, did everything well against the Colts. I see another higher scoring affair, but the Dolphins again won't keep pace. Pick: Texans
San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots (-7) - Call this the "Power Rankings Bowl" because the winner will undoubtedly top most of those polls come Tuesday. This line has only crept up a half point, so obviously people are feeling that it's a fair line. I'd love for it to pop up to 7.5, because the Chargers would become a nice play in my mind. That said, they're not bad as is. Over the last five years, road teams that are 7 point underdogs have actually covered the spread 52% of the time. Plus, the Chargers found out this week that TD machine Mike Tolbert's knee showed no damage and he's expected to play this weekend. The trend tells me the Chargers are a slightly better pick, but I just don't trust that team this early in the season. Pick: Patriots (but watch if this line goes up)
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons (+1) - It's a surprise to see Atlanta, who only lost once at home last year in the regular season, actually be home dogs in this game. The Eagles looked very solid against the Rams and the Falcons were awful against Chicago, but you still wouldn't expect to see a popular Super Bowl pick be a home underdog. There's a few things at work here to pay attention to. For one, the Falcons are a very good home team and they're desperate. However, the Eagles manhandled this Falcons team last season in Philadelphia with Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Michael Vick back on the fast track in that dome with all of his weapons? That's a scary proposition. Plus, teams favored by 1 on the road have covered the spread 57% of the time and won outright 58% of the time. Pick: Eagles
St. Louis Rams at New York Giants (-7) - I've actually seen a few lines on this game. As high as 7 and as low as 5.5 in favor of the Giants. The money seems to be headed New York's direction. Certainly the injuries the Rams sustained play a big part there, but the Giants really didn't look in their opener either and have a ton of injuries to deal with themselves. The Rams won't have Danny Amendola or Steven Jackson, their top two offensive weapons, while the Giants will be without Osi Umenyiora and possibly both Hakeem Nicks and Justin Tuck.
This is the Monday Night game, so we're going to hold off on this pick for another couple days to see some of the injury reports. However, as of now the trends actually favor the Rams here. Teams like the Rams have covered 67% of the time in games historically similar to this one.