It’s natural to read way too far into things after betting the first week of football — here’s what we actually know.
We call it Overreaction Monday.
It’s the same procedure as every year: The first week of the new NFL season is in the books, and experts, pundits, fans, and sports bettors go nuts over what they just saw.
Remember what happened in 2020: Tom Brady and Bucs lost by two scores at New Orleans, the Browns got smoked by the Ravens, and the Jaguars upset the Colts as seven-point underdogs. What did we learn from those results?
Tampa Bay quite recently won the Super Bowl, the Browns marched into the divisional round, and the Jaguars lost the next 15 games en route to the first overall pick. The ultimate takeaway, then, comes courtesy of Aaron Rodgers:
For sports bettors, it’s essential not to overreact. However, the first week is the only data point we can gather about actual performance in 2021, and it matters in some capacity. For the most part, it’s not worth looking at results at all. We are a lot more interested in the actual performance – the process of each team.
But since it’s only one game, there aren’t many performances that possess so much gravity that we must adjust our preseason evaluations or ourWeek 1 ratings significantly. We have to decipher what’s real and what’s not. We have to figure out which performances move the needle and reveal some critical information going forward.
Going into Week 2, the betting markets make some adjustments and establish spreads and totals where we as bettors must evaluate whether we agree or disagree with these adjustments. Let’s dig into some examples.
Performances That Matter
Losing 32-6 to the Eagles was a challenging ride for Atlanta, but instead of the actual result, I cared more about the way they lost.
We knew that their defense was very likely to be in the bottom-tier entering the season. But we had some promise about their offense. They had a rough matchup in the trenches, but Atlanta’s offensive line got destroyed for almost 60 minutes. They had no answer for Philadelphia’s defensive line. Defensively, defensive coordinator Dean Pees schemed up some exotic pressure packages, but it didn’t bring Jalen Hurts into panic mode.
Over the summer, bookmakers posted lookahead lines for Week 2. The Buccaneers opened as -8.5 favorites over the Falcons at home; last week, Vegas’ lookahead line was -9.5. At the time of this writing, I am looking at Tampa Bay -12 or -12.5.
Even though lookahead lines don’t carry the most market efficiency because early limits are low, the market made a three-point adjustment through the 10. Is that an overreaction after Week 1, or is the adjustment justified? I’m saying it’s both.
We didn’t learn anything new about Tampa Bay. They were as good as advertised and should have won by more points if not for a -3 turnover differential. Power rating-wise, I made a minor adjustment for Atlanta towards the downside, but none for TB 12 and Co.
Strictly going with my rating, I couldn’t possibly get to the Bucs laying 12.5 points. But based on that information fromWeek 1, I adjusted my number for the matchup. Atlanta will face as big of a challenge in the trenches as they met last week against Philly. Tampa Bay has a stout pass rush that should get the best of the Falcons.
On the other side, only getting pressure via blitzes is not the most fabulous recipe to catch Tom Brady off-guard. I agree with the market adjustment and came up with the Bucs -12 in this one.
Getting The Right Answers
Another Week 1 matchup that revealed some valuable information: Washington against the Chargers. It was likely the most misleading score last Sunday, as it didn’t mirror the actual 60 minutes on the field. It could have been 31-9 instead of 20-16.
Going intoWeek 1, the most considerable uncertainty around the Bolts was the strength of their new-look offensive line and what the scheme and play-calling from new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi would look like, and how quickly the offense could execute it.
I was surprised, and in a good way. Matthew Stafford and the Chargers moved the ball up and down the field, entering the red zone on six of their nine drives. It looked a lot like the Saints’ offense. I had the impression that Lombardi put his guys in the best position to succeed. They took everything that the defense gave them, and Justin Herbert looked extremely comfortable.
On top of that, their offensive line held up brilliantly against the fierce Washington pass rush. Rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater displayed All-Pro potential.
On the other side of the matchup, bettors would have been all over the Cowboys two weeks ago, grabbing 3 or 3.5 points in what could be a home game for America’s Team in Los Angeles. But the tremendous offensive performance from the Bolts combined with all the Cowboys’ inactives — DeMarcus Lawrence and Michael Gallup (injuries), La’el Collins (suspension), and potentially Randy Gregory (COVID-19) — push the market rightfully to 3.5 points at the time of writing.
For NFL bettors, Overreaction Monday is a hallowed tradition. But with just a bit of preparation, the path to separating helpful data from Week 1’s fool’s gold can begin to reveal itself.