13) Cleveland has a first-time head coach, a star WR who has played one game in December the last two years (3 catches for 35 yards) and high expectations (they’re favored to win the AFC North, at 5-4 odds). Lot of combustible personalities for a team that is 1-18-1 in season openers, but Mayfield showed great promise at QB LY, and 2nd year QB’s have done well lately.
Browns went 7-9 LY despite a +7 turnover ratio, after going 1-31 the previous two years; they spent the most $$$ in NFL LY on WR’s, and now they add Beckham, not the most dependable guy (played in 16 of 32 games the last two years).
Last three years, Cleveland is 2-22 SU on road; under is 16-6-1 in their last 23 home games. Browns are favored to win their division; they’ve been favored in only four of their last 48 games.
12) Troy Aikman says you can’t teach a QB to be accurate, which has to be scary for Buffalo’s fans; Josh Allen ranked 39th among 39 qualified QB’s in adjusted completion %age; he was dead last (28%) in completion %age while under pressure. No bueno.
Buffalo spent the most $$$ in the NFL LY on running backs; they ran the ball the 5th-most in the league. Bills went 6-10 LY but was 3-0 in games decided by 3 or fewer points, a red flag. Allen has to throw the ball better, or else…….
11) Cincinnati hired Zac Taylor as HC because he worked for Sean McVay for a year; Taylor’s father-in-law is former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman. Bengals scored 31.5 ppg in their first four games LY but once TE Tyler Eifert got hurt, their offense went in the ashcan (20.2 ppg) the rest of the season.
Last two years, Bengals are 12-7 vs spread as an underdog; they were 2-5 LY in games decided by 8 or fewer points. Taylor took a long time hiring a defensive coordinator; we’ll see if finally firing Marvin Lewis (131-122-3 in 16 years as HC) was a good move.
10) Atlanta Falcons ran 73 plays inside opponents’ 10-yard line LY; Falcons’ success on plays inside 10-yard line ranked 28th in NFL.The new OC is Dirk Koetter; last time he called plays in the NFL was 2017, when his Tampa Bay Bucs ranked 24th in red zone offense- he’ll need to do better than that this year.
Last two years, Atlanta is 2-6 vs spread as an underdog, 4-11 vs spread in true road games.
9) Dallas was 9-3 LY in games decided by 8 or fewer points; they spent the most $$$ in the league on their offensive line. Prescott is the 43rd-highest paid QB in the NFL for one more year, but they’ll have to break the bank for him next winter.
Last three years, Cowboys are 16-10 vs spread as a favorite; under is 17-7 in their road games.
8) Lions were #2 in NFL LY in $$ spent on QB’s; Matthew Stafford has a 66-75 career record in the NFL, 0-3 in playoff games. He is 31 years old.
Last two years, Detroit is 10-5 vs spread on road, 8-4 vs spread when favored. LY was the Lions’ worst SU record since 2012; they fired Jim Caldwell after consecutive 9-7 seasons, and hired a first-time HC because he was on a team with Tom Brady.
Lions’ last playoff win was in 1991; I still had hair in 1991.
7) Last time a college coach jumped to the NFL with as much fanfare as Kliff Kingsbury going to Arizona was Chip Kelly going from Oregon to the Eagles in 2013, but Kelly wasn’t fired at Oregon. Philly had a minus-24 turnover ratio in 2012; it improved to +12 in 2013, the biggest reason why the Iggles improved from 4-12 to 10-6. Eagles wound up going 27-22 under Kelly, 0-1 in playoffs.
Last year’s Cardinals were minus-12 in turnovers; is a similar scenario going to play out? Redbirds went 1-7 SU at home LY, after going 9-6 in 2016-17. Kingsbury is their third HC in three years, with a rookie QB starting- they’ll be interesting.
6) Aaron Rodgers will be 36 in December; he played LY with a broken bone in his leg and an MCL sprain, but he didn’t get along with coach McCarthy, so coach McCarthy is ex-coach McCarthy, and Matt LaFleur is the new coach, in part because he worked for Sean McVay.
Green Bay is 13-19 SU the last two years; they were 3-6 LY in one-score games. Packers are 5-12 vs spread in their last 17 games as an underdog.
If you play fantasy football, Davante Adams was targeted on 28 red zone plays LY; no one else had more than nine such targets. Will that change under LaFleur?
5) NFL QB’s drafted from 2012-17 went 37-59 SU as rookies, 63-44 in their second year, and Mitch Trubisky (4-8 in ’17, 11-3 LY) followed that pattern LY.
Bears were +12 in turnovers LY, which will be hard to duplicate; they were +17 in sacks, had 17 fewer penalties, and three more (6-3) return TD’s.They better have a good season this year; their salary cap for 2020 is a mess- they’ll likely need to purge some veterans next winter.
4) Ravens were 6-1 LY when Lamar Jackson started at QB, 4-5 when Joe Flacco started; now Flacco lives in Denver. Ravens ranked 31st in NFL LY in money spent on QB’s; they ranked #1 in spending on cornerbacks.
Average total in a Ravens’ game in 2017 was 40.6; LY, it was 44.8. Six of Flacco’s last seven starts stayed under the total. Baltimore scored 20+ points in all seven Jackson starts, with only loss 27-24 at KC- over was 4-3.
3) Denver went 6-10 LY despite a +7 turnover ratio; they’ll have their 4th different #1 QB in five years this season, with Keenum off to Washington. Broncos were #29 in NFL LY in $$$ spent on their offense; despite that, their offense efficiency improved from 31st to 14th, but they hired defensive-minded Fangio as their new coach. Go figure.
Last two years, Broncos are 4-10 vs spread as a favorite, 1-6 at home. Not good.
2) Last year, Houston led the NFL in $$$ spent on defense; they were 30th in $$$ spent on their offense— playing a young QB helps there. Watson is 14-6 as an NFL starter; Texans jumped from 4-12 to 11-5 LY- they went 1-3 vs Brady/Luck, 10-2 vs an assortment of average to lousy QB’s on the rest of their schedule.
11 of Houston’s 16 games LY were decided by one score; they were +13 in turnovers, which is a major red flag when you combine those two. Hard to go +13 again and if they don’t, those close games go the other way.
DeAndre Hopkins had 19 red zone targets LY; no one else had more than eight.
1) Carolina Panthers have never had consecutive winning seasons, so LY’s 7-9 record could be a source of optimism- they were 3-7 in games decided by 8 or fewer pioints. Panthers haven’t won a playoff game since losing the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. It would help if Cam Newton’s shoulder is healthy, which remains to be seen.
Last three years, Carolina is 2-7 as a road favorite; Panthers led the NFL LY in $$ spent on defensive linemen- their overall defensive efficiency slipped from #7 to #22 LY.