The first two weeks of any National Football League season follow a surprisingly consistent trend when making NFL picks against the point spread. The year opens with question marks strewn throughout each game and franchise and, after sixty minutes of football are completed, immediate answers are given.
The answers are, of course, wrong.
By comparison to other sports, a sixteen-game season is a small sample size. We see anomalies all the time. Because we are conditioned to believe what happens over the course of many months, we ignore the fact that it was built off only sixteen instances.
The same is true for the reactions that follow Opening Week.
Most football fans cast aside nearly everything that happens in the preseason. Often times, the on-field action has a negative effect on the viewer, as it constantly gives false positives and negatives. We file our observations in the metaphorical trash to be emptied later.
As soon as real games are played by the best eleven men suited for the job on one given play after another, we replace what we thought with what we think. We assign answers based on the present tense.
We, as football fans, incorrectly shift our mindset based on the outcome of only one game.
At least, the spread does.
There is likely no other week during the season where spreads, as a whole, will move as much as they do during the days leading up to Week 2’s set of games. Over-reaction and instant change-of-heart is everywhere, and we must not fall victim to the same fate.
Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.
*Confidence Picks – 2016 Season: 5-3 (Last Week: 5-3)
(2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2)
All Picks Against Spread – 2016 Season: 9-7 (Last Week: 9-7)
(2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4)
Indianapolis Colts (+6) at Denver Broncos
Indeed, the Denver Broncos are the reigning Super Bowl Champions, 1-0 already, and with an Opening Night win against the Carolina Panthers. They are, however, extremely flawed. So much so that they were a missed field goal away from losing, and won their first game despite themselves.
The end result of the Opening Night win for Denver largely masked how poorly the team played at key points, especially in the first half. All three turnovers were committed beyond Carolina’s 30-yard line – on the fringes of the ‘red zone’ – in an area where mistakes are often deadly. In fact, head coach Gary Kubiak had to coach his team out of the hole it dug by forgoing a game-tying field goal for a 4th down rushing attempt inside the five-yard line. It paid off, contributing to the win. And the perception that a top-notch Broncos team defeated a top-notch Panthers team.
The Broncos have the Panthers’ proverbial ‘number,’ as Denver has now played back-to-back games against Carolina, limiting the team’s offense and winning both times. But two wins against the same franchise spread over seven months does not mean Denver will roll through the league.
Indianapolis took too long to get its offense going in Week 1 but, once it did, it was comparatively unstoppable. After all, Detroit didn’t stop the Colts. The Lions just simply drove down the field and recouped the lead. The indictment, therefore, is on Indianapolis’ defense, but the Broncos’ repeated mistakes on offense suggest that Denver will not move the football nearly as fluidly as Detroit did. After all, two of Denver’s three touchdowns began no closer than the 25-yard line, and were not necessarily the result of stellar ‘red zone’ play.
Indianapolis’ heart-breaking loss in Week 1 results in an inspired encore as the Colts win by a touchdown and beat the spread.
Miami Dolphins (+6.5)* at New England Patriots
What a gift! Of all the days the Dolphins and Patriots could have met, we are lucky enough to get the matchup in Week 2. More importantly, we get the 0-1 Dolphins traveling to the 1-0 Patriots.
New England already proved it could win a game without Tom Brady. Miami already lost its first attempt at a new season of football. Isn’t it clear how poorly this is going to go for the Dolphins?
Outside of the records, nearly everything being said about the Patriots and Dolphins contains some level of truth with an added dose of hyperbole. Indeed, the Patriots proved they could win a game without Brady, but all they proved was that the team could win a game without Brady. Not necessarily every game.
The Dolphins did lose. They are 0-1. But the record does not indicate their opponent – Seattle, one of the league’s premier franchises – or the fact that Miami ultimately killed itself. The Dolphins had a number of missed opportunities, and leave one of the most difficult places to play to travel to a familiar stadium against a division rival. The same division rival that likely just boosted its public perception too high to maintain.
When we wrote about the Patriots’ first four games, we mentioned the opportunity to sell New England and pick against the team. Obviously, we missed the first time, but we can go right back to the gameplan for Week 2.
New England slides; Miami gains and beats the spread via a four-point Patriots win.
Click to here to sign up for Sporfolio to see rest of Mario Mergola’s NFL picks. Mergola finished with the highest total of correct NFL picks against the spread for the past two seasons – tracked by NFLPickwatch, and finished 2015 with an accuracy of 60.53% for his confidence picks.