Week 2 NFL Picks: Trends To Bet On For Browns-Bengals & 4 More Games
Bobby Ellis/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Burrow
- Browns-Bengals. Cowboys-Falcons. Bills-Dolphins. Chiefs-Chargers. Texans-Ravens.
- Find out which profitable betting trends inspired five of Matthew Freedman's early Week 2 NFL picks.
Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books. Sportsbooks, that is. (Nailed it.) Now it’s time to take an early look at the Week 2 lines.
Although I am not a trends bettor, I find that trends help me identify spots I should consider further when analyzing games. Using our Bet Labs database, I have uncovered some intriguing NFL trends for five games this week.
Early Week 2 NFL Picks
Click on a pick to skip to that analysis.
Browns-Bengals Under 46
Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | TV: NFL Network
I have this theory that when two bad teams that know each other well face off, the under tends to be sharp: In this scenario, general incompetence and shared familiarity combine to lead to low-scoring games, and that drives point totals to the under.
I imagine that this dynamic is especially relevant early in the year, when fan optimism — one might say naïve enthusiasm — is at its zenith, allowing sportsbooks to inflate their totals and shade lines to the over.
Let’s see if there’s any historical data supporting this idea.
If we look at divisional matchups between two teams that failed to make the playoffs the previous year, we see that the under is 330-285-8 since 2004 (as far back as our database goes). That’s good for a 4.2% return on investment (ROI), and it has a B+ grade within Bet Labs. Not bad.
If we screen for games early in the season — Weeks 1-2 — we get an A-graded under record 44-23-1 (27.2% ROI).
The Browns averaged just 4.5 yards per play on their way to six points in Week 1 while the Bengals underwhelmed with marks of 4.4 and 13.
According to my calculations, those numbers are not good.
Cowboys -6.5 vs. Falcons
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX
Now that Jason Garrett is no longer with the Cowboys, Dan Quinn tops my personal “Bet against him no matter what” rankings.
During Quinn’s tenure of five-plus years as the Falcons head coach, opponents are 45-36 against the spread (ATS, 7.9% ROI) — and 39-26 ATS (16.4% ROI) if we remove the Kyle Shanahan-spurred 2016 season.
The Falcons can keep up with any team in the league on offense: In Week 1, quarterback Matt Ryan had 450 yards passing while wide receivers Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage each had 100 yards receiving. But the Falcons also allowed 322 yards and four touchdowns passing to Russell Wilson, and entered the year with Pro Football Focus’ No. 30 secondary.
The Falcons simply cannot get any defensive stops.
As for the Cowboys, head coach Mike McCarthy is 123-92-7 ATS (12.3% ROI) for his career and an A-graded 53-34-4 ATS (18.6% ROI) as a home favorite.
With an offense that was No. 1 last year with 6.5 yards per play and a defensive line with elite edge rushers DeMarcus Lawrence and Everson Griffen, the Cowboys should be able to separate themselves from the Falcons.
Action: Cowboys -6.5 (-105) at FanDuel [BET NOW]
Limit: -7 (-110)
Bills-Dolphins Under 43
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS
The under didn’t hit last week, but Bills games tend to go low because of the team’s complementary style of play.
The Bills defense was Nos. 2 & 6 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric in 2018-19, and on offense, the team tends not to run up the score. Instead, the Bills prefer to control the ball. Last season they were No. 7 with a 45.0% run rate. The season before that, No. 4 at 46.4%.
In Week 1, the Bills allowed just 4.8 yards per play while averaging only 5.0 yards themselves. This is not the kind of team that finds itself in shootouts.
In three-plus years with head coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are an A-graded 31-20 to the under (18.9% ROI), and with run-focused scattershot quarterback Josh Allen, the under is 20-9 (34% ROI).
Additionally, the Bills are even more content with a grind-the-clock approach to game management on the road, which has resulted in an astounding under record of 12-2 (67.1% ROI) in Allen’s starts outside of Bills Stadium.
Last week, the Dolphins managed just 4.6 yards per play as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for a meager 191 yards and threw a loathsome three interceptions.
I doubt the Dolphins will do their part in Week 2 to drive the total to the under.
Action: Under 43 (-110) at PointsBet [BET NOW]
Limit: 42 (-110)
Chiefs -6.5 at Chargers
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS
The Chiefs didn’t have a world-beating performance in Week 1: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for just 211 yards on 32 attempts. And yet they still put up 34 points and covered the 9.5-point spread.
With Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs are every inch a Super Bowl champion … and the Chargers aren’t. They’re a mess.
The Chargers barely covered their 2.5-point spread against a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut and a Bengals team that last year had a league-worst 2-14 record. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor looked lost, and running back Austin Ekeler — the team’s most explosive playmaker and a top-four receiver at his position — had just one target.
The Chargers simply look like they cannot hang with the Chiefs, and Reid is one of the best road coaches in the league. As strong as the home-field advantage is at Arrowhead Stadium, Reid is an A-graded 66-44-3 ATS (17.4% ROI) when playing outside of Kansas City.
In his six divisional games against Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, Reid is 4-1-1 ATS (48.8% ROI).
Action: Chiefs -6.5 (-125) at PointsBet [BET NOW]
Limit: -7 (-120)
Texans +6.5 vs. Ravens
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET | TV: CBS
Only a fool would bet on the Texans and against the Ravens in Week 2 — and I am that fool.
The Texans lost by 14 points to the Chiefs last week while the Ravens beat the Browns by 32 points: The 2019 No. 1 seed in the AFC by virtue of their league-leading 14-2 record, the Ravens will be a popular team to back this week.
Against the Browns, quarterback Lamar Jackson was already in MVP form, passing for 275 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 45 yards. Few quarterbacks are in his class. But Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson should not be discounted.
Watson is No. 6 among modern-era quarterbacks with 8.1 adjusted yards per attempt and No. 8 with 32.3 yards rushing per game. His truncated 2017 rookie season with 1,597 yards and 18 touchdowns passing and 253 yards and two touchdowns rushing in six starts is the stuff of legend.
With Watson, the Texans can probably hang with the Ravens. As an underdog, Watson is 12-6 ATS (31.4% ROI).
It probably helps that they’ve had three extra days to prepare for the game. I don’t think all that highly of Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, but in his five games with 10 days to prepare coming off a Thursday game, BOB is 5-0 ATS (99.1% ROI).
Action: Texans +6.5 (-110) at DraftKings [BET NOW]
Limit: +5 (-110)
Matthew Freedman is 610-482-23 (55.9%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
He’s the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Rosemount, Minnesota, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.