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Slow Starter Frank Reich
For whatever the reason may be, the Indianapolis Colts do not start well under Frank Reich. They’ve caught their stride in previous Octobers and Novembers, but as Reich enters his fifth season on the Indianapolis sideline, he is still in search of his first Week 1 victory. The former Buffalo Bills quarterback is 0-4 straight-up in those openers and 0-3-1 ATS in those four games. Our best guess is that Matt Ryan will be the fifth different starting quarterback for the Colts in the last five years under Reich and naturally it can take some time for a new quarterback to be installed in Reich’s offense. Nick Sirianni also left his post in 2021 as Colts’ offensive coordinator for the head coaching gig in Philadelphia. Sunday’s clash with the
Texans in Houston is eerily similar to the 2020 opener for Indy, a loss on the road in Jacksonville. The quarterback for the Colts was Philip Rivers in what ended up being the final season of his career. Who knows how much juice Ryan has left in the tank? The opponent was not supposed to be any good and snuck up on the Colts. Throw in the fact that divisional underdogs are 29-9-1 ATS in Week 1 since 2014 and we’ll gladly play the Texans down to +7.
Underdog Mike Tomlin
Who wouldn’t want Mike Tomlin coaching their football team? He’s never had a losing season in his career in the steel city. That means he wins most of the games he should win and sprinkles in a few upsets along the way to either make up for a hiccup or simply send a message to the rest of the AFC. Therefore, he’s a great bet as an underdog, having posted an astounding 43-25-3 ATS record in his career as a pooch. Then when you factor in he’s in the same divisional dog spot we mentioned earlier, and we’re all over the Steelers at +6.5 on Sunday. This game feels similar to Pittsburgh’s opener in 2021. The Steelers won
outright as 6.5-point dogs in Buffalo. Now they face another offense loaded with weapons in Cincinnati and our bet’s on the defensive guru Tomlin and his high-end talent on that side of the ball to keep the Bengals at bay and cover this number for us.
By now, you probably know that Baker Mayfield is the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers and his new team is playing his old team, the Cleveland Browns, on Sunday in Charlotte. The Browns will start veteran journeyman Jacoby Brissett in this game as Deshaun Watson’s suspension begins. What kind of offense is Cleveland going to bring to the table in Watson’s absence? Probably a very vanilla one that relies heavily on its ground game to play ball control and keep games close into the fourth quarter. That may work for the Browns enough during Watson’s suspension to keep them afloat and in the mix for a wild card. However, in this spot, we think it’s negative and we’ll take Carolina at the PK/-1 price the Panthers are being put up at. Mayfield has always been an emotionally-charged quarterback dating back to his days in college. Remember when he planted the Oklahoma flag at the 50-yard-line in Columbus after a big win for the Sooners against Ohio State? That’s the player we think we’re going to get on Sunday. Carolina head coach Matt Rhule is firmly on the hot seat entering the season and in need of early season wins. Christian McCaffery is healthy for once and the weapons for Carolina are certainly better than those of Cleveland’s to where the Browns might not be able to follow that game script of running the football and keeping it low scoring. We’ll bet on a hungry Panthers team on Sunday in this one.
Double the Fun
We’ll give you two for one here to wrap things up because the handicaps are very similar in a pair of divisional games this weekend. New England is catching 3.5 in Miami and Atlanta is a 5.5-point home underdog against New Orleans. That’s right, Bill Belichick is a dog of more than three against first-year head coach Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins. The Patriots have historically struggled in Miami but they went down to South Beach early in the week to get acclimated. The reason we’re lumping in both of those games in one paragraph is because we have two pretty profitable trends in play here. We’ve already mentioned the divisional dogs angle in Week 1 plenty and New England and Atlanta both match it. However the opponents for both teams are trotting out new coaches. In the last four seasons, new head
coaches making their team debuts in Week 1 are 7-16 ATS and an even worse 3-19-1 SU. Belichick as a dog against a new head coach feels so weird I want to type in again and do you really trust Dennis Allen in the first game post Sean Payton with the Saints as close to a TD favorite on the road? Remember, Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas both haven’t been on the field much lately for New Orleans too. The Patriots and Falcons both profile as live underdogs on Sunday.