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Opening Line Report - Week 2
We saw some impressive performances in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season (Rams, Lions, Jags, Chiefs, even the Bears in a loss), and we saw some ugly ones, too (Bengals, Texans, Colts, Cardinals, Patriots). But what are we to make of just one game? Should we write it off as too small a sample, or should we expect more of the same from these teams?

We asked a pair of prominent Las Vegas bookmakers – the Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook’s Ed Salmons and the Wynn’s John Avello – for their thoughts on what they saw in Week1, as well as on the week ahead.

Lines below are from the Westgate as of about 2 p.m. ET on Monday, with early moves and differences among books noted.

Thursday, Sept. 14

Houston at Cincinnati (-3.5, 38.5)

This matchup of two of Week 1’s most disappointing teams saw the line move in the home favorite’s direction from its opening number of Cincy -3 at the Westgate.

The Bengals were blanked at home by Baltimore, 20-0, thanks largely to Andy Dalton’s five turnovers. Salmons isn’t necessarily high on Cincy this season, but he’s hesitant to put too much stock into Sunday’s performance.

“They’re not as bad as they showed,” Salmons said. “To me, they’re a .500 team. They obviously played atrociously.”

The Texans suffered their own embarrassment at home, losing to Jacksonville, 29-7.

“I don’t know what they are on offense, other than not very good,” Salmons said of the Texans.

Perhaps a move from Tom Savage to Deshaun Watson can help change that.

Sunday, Sept. 17

Tennessee (-1.5, 43.5) at Jacksonville

The wiseguys may finally get paid off on the Jaguars.

“Their season wins (6.5) is a battle of public vs. sharps. Sharps like them ‘over’, the public was pounding them ‘under,’” Salmons said of the Jags.

With Jacksonville’s win on the road Sunday, those ‘over’ bets are off to a good start. 

The win didn’t surprise Salmons, who’s become a believer in the Jags.

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“For years now they’ve been drafting high in the first round and drafting a ton of SEC-type players,” Salmons said. “…. I said early (in Sunday’s game), ‘Houston’s got no chance, Jacksonville’s just killing them everywhere on defense.’

“And with (Doug) Marrone coaching the team now, it’s essentially like a Tom Coughlin-coached team that’s going to run the ball, ball control and let their defense win games and not turn the ball over, and that’s exactly what they did (Sunday).  Jacksonville I buy into. They’re going to have a chance at winning that division (AFC South) this year.”

Despite the Jags winning and the Titans losing at home to Oakland, Tennessee was bet up from -1 to -1.5 in early wagering.

Said Salmons, “Tennessee is the most talented team in the division, but the coach (Mike Mularkey) is really bad. I don’t like the Tennessee coach at all.”

Cleveland at Baltimore (-7.5, 41)

Browns rookie QB Deshone Kizer was solid at home against the Steelers on Sunday, but gets his first test on the road next week. While the point spread stayed put from the Westgate’s opening number through the first 18 hours of wagering, the Wynn is dealing Baltimore -8.

Buffalo at Carolina (-7.5, 42.5)

The slightest of moves toward the dog on this inter-conference affair from the Westgate’s opening number of Carolina -8.

New England (-4.5, 53.5) at New Orleans

Early action went against the Patriots, who opened -4.5 at the Westgate, after their uninspiring opening week performance against the Chiefs.

“It’s probably one of the worst game I’ve seen them play since they lost that Monday night game in Kansas City (41-14 in Week 4 of the 2014 season) when everyone wrote them off,” Salmons said of the Pats. 

(The Pats, of course, went on to win the Super Bowl that season.)

“I’d never write the Patriots off,” Salmons added. “I would expect them to bounce back, but it’s always tough to play in New Orleans, so if they were to lose that game it wouldn’t surprise me. But I still think they’ll bounce back and win that division (AFC East). That division is just so bad.”

Arizona (-7.5, 44) at Indianapolis

This line jumped past the key number from the Westgate’s opener of Arizona -6.5. 

Neither team looked good in Week 1 – the Cards losing  35-23 at Detroit, the Colts getting rolled 46-9 at the Rams.

Both teams have fundamental issues working against them – for Indy, it’s coach and quarterback; for Arizona, it’s age.

“I can’t understand the Colts bringing (coach Chuck) Pagano back for another year. It just doesn’t make sense,” Salmons said. “And going with (Scott) Tolzien (in place of the injured Andrew Luck), who proved last year he can’t play – it’s just a disaster. If Luck doesn’t play, you’re looking at a team that’s in Jets territory.”

Perhaps Jacoby Brissett, who replaced Tolzien in the fourth quarter in L.A., will get a chance next week to prove that statement wrong.

As for the Cardinals,  Salmons said, “Carson Palmer is getting old and older and older, and David Johnson got hurt. ... There’s a lot of people who thought the Cardinals would bounce back this year, but they sure looked like an old team (Sunday).”

Philadelphia at Kansas City (-4.5, 48)

The Westgate opened K.C. -4, the Wynn posted -5.5, and the line settled somewhere in the middle, between -4.5 and -5, after early bets were booked.

Ironically, our conversation with Salmons turned to the Chiefs’ suddenly-potent offense that features weapons like Tyreek Hill and rookie Kareem Hunt.

“Kansas City’s got some pretty good speed and could give any team troubles the way they can stretch the field,” Salmons said. “They present some problems.”

But they have a problem of their own.

“Losing (Eric) Berry is a killer – you’re talking about one of the best safeties in the game,” Salmons said. “I think Kansas City can still win that division (AFC West). I think their defense is better than the Raiders defense, but you just don’t know how much of loss (Berry) is going to be.”’

Minnesota at Pittsburgh (-7, 45)

This line stuck at a touchdown during the first few days of wagering, as the betting market waited to see what the Vikes look like Monday night.

Chicago at Tampa Bay (-6.5, 43)

While the Bucs were adjusted from -6 to -6.5 Monday at the Westgate, Salmons expects the Bears to take a step forward under John Fox this season.

Chicago nearly beat the defending NFC champion Falcons on Sunday, but, down 23-17 in the closing minute, failed to get into the endzone with four chances from the 5-yard line.

 “The Bears I buy,” Salmons said. “I think they’re going to be dramatically improved this year. You can see how strong they were on both the offensive and defensive lines (Sunday).”

Miami at Chargers (-4, 44.5)

LAC -3.5 was posted on the Statosphere’s board Sunday night but was snapped up quickly, and the book joined the rest of the crowd at -4.

Jets at Oakland (-14, 43.5)

The Westgate removed the hook from its opener of Raiders -14.5 less than an hour after posting Week 2 lines. The Wynn was dealing -13.5.

Washington at Rams (-2.5, 46)

Some shops are dealing Rams -3 (even).

Salmons expects the Rams to improve under first-year coach Sean McVay but cautions against buying too much into them until they start to proving themselves against better teams. With an Andrew Luck-less Colts team followed by the Redskins – both at home – there’s only so much to be gleaned from the first two weeks of the season.

“The Rams are going to be better this year. We thought that going in, just with the coaching change,” Salmons said. “Jeff Fisher was so outdated it was a joke, and how he lasted as long as he did was mind-boggling.”

But, he added, “It’s hard to judge the Rams until they play someone we think is a playoff team.”

Dallas (-2.5) at Denver

While the Westgate has held steady at Dallas -2.5,  some shops are dealing -2, and the line at CG Technology has been as low as -1.

San Francisco at Seattle (-12.5, 43.5)

The Niners were available on Monday for +13.5 for those interested in the dog here.

The Wynn’s Avello sees a dropoff in Seattle, but thinks the Seahawks will still win their division.

“The Seahawk defense, on a scale from 1 to 10, they’re still an 8, but they’re not a 10 like they once were,” Avello said. “But they’re going to win their share of games.”

Green Bay at Atlanta (-2.5, 53.5)

Some shops are dealing Atlanta -3 (even), but based on the number for last season’s NFC Championship game, the Falcons price looks cheap in this spot.  As 6.5-point faves, the Falcons trounced the Packers 44-21 last January.

Next week’s Sunday nighter marks the Falcons’ regular-season debut in their new digs, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Monday, Sept. 18

Detroit at Giants (-5.5)

Sunday night was one to forget for Giants fans, as they watched their team gain a paltry 233 yards in a 19-3 loss at Dallas.

“Eli Manning can look as bad as he can look good,” Avello said. “Not having Odell Beckham certainly hurts, but I expected the Giants defensive line to shut down the run game, which they didn’t, so it was just a bad game for the Giants all around.”

The Lions, meanwhile, were resilient in their win at home against Arizona, but Salmons is reserving judgement.

“We’ve seen this from Detroit in the past, that they can rise up and play well at home against not the top teams but the borderline playoff teams,” Salmons said. “But whenever they play Green Bay or any of the really good teams, they never seem to be able to play up with those teams.  Until I see Detroit can beat the top-flight teams, I think nothing more of Detroit than what I thought before the year.”

We’re not sure the Giants provide the sort of benchmark Salmons is looking for.

 

Marcus DiNitto is a writer in Charlotte, N.C., who covers sports betting and all kinds of other stuff. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusDiNitto.

  
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