The NFL is back. Week 1 brought us everything we expected. Plenty of underdogs got to the window (60%), with only two failing to cash as moneyline winners. In Week 1, the number of upsets is never a surprise to bettors or sportsbooks. We know they are coming, but that’s only half the battle. Pinpointing the favorites that will fall flat on their faces is where the real payoff lies.
I didn’t see the Seahawks' stunning loss coming, especially after the Rams placed Cooper Kupp on IR. Meanwhile, I thought the 49ers were vulnerable enough to put the Steelers in a 6-point teaser, and they cruised to one of the week’s most lopsided wins. There were plenty of victory laps, but also some big misses to ensure the clown mask GIFs and emojis slid back into the recently used section of my phone.
Whether Sunday was a betting success or a bevy of bad beats, Monday night presents an opportunity to finish off the week with a win. The New York Jets host the Buffalo Bills on "Monday Night Football." After waiting patiently all summer and watching him interact with his new teammates on "Hard Knocks," we finally get to see Aaron Rodgers play football as a New York Jet.
The game is meaningful for both teams, which are expected to battle throughout the season in a highly competitive AFC East. The Patriots' and Dolphins' performances strongly support the notion that it's the strongest division in football. The three-time defending AFC East champions are currently small road favorites at BetMGM. Road favorites were 4-1 ATS in Week 1, with the Bengals being the only team to come up short. The Cowboys, Eagles, Jaguars and 49ers all rewarded bettors who weren’t afraid of the chalk. I will have a play on the side and the total, so let’s take a closer look at where the value lies Monday night.
The Bills’ season ended with a disappointing home playoff loss to the Bengals, escalating the urgency for head coach Sean McDermott to get Josh Allen to his first Super Bowl. The shortcomings, by their own standards, have slightly skewed our perception of how dominant the Bills have been under McDermott. The last three seasons, Buffalo has posted a 37-12 record while notching two 13-win seasons. The Jets may have solved the one position that plagued them last year, but I’m not convinced it makes them a better team than Buffalo right away.
There are a few reasons why I am not expecting fireworks in Rodgers' debut. First, we can’t underestimate the importance of continuity. It’s imperative for a quarterback to be on the same page as his wideouts in order to play at an elite level. They simply don’t have the live reps with Rodgers yet. That’s why it made sense when he lobbied for Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb to join him in New York. Last season, Rodgers was very vocal about his receivers having to earn his trust. Catching the ball consistently is the easy part, but they have to be at the right place at the right time. They have to see the field as he sees it and anticipate where he expects them to be. It takes time. Tom Brady threw two interceptions and a pick-six in his first game with the Buccaneers. On paper, the talent is there. But it takes time to come together.
An even bigger concern I have about the Jets in this matchup is the offensive line. Every veteran quarterback needs protection. Rodgers enjoyed the support of a solid offensive line in Green Bay, and now downgrades to a Jets unit that finished 2022 with the league’s third-worst pass-blocking grade. With McDermott taking over the defensive play-calling, I expect the Bills to be very aggressive in keeping Rodgers off his spots. Buffalo lost Tremaine Edmunds in free agency, but returns the majority of the defensive players that helped make the Bills fifth best at generating pressure, along with ranking in the top 10 in terms of coverage.
If the Bills didn’t read all the summer headlines about this Jets offense, I’m sure McDermott read them out loud in all the meetings. This is a statement game for the Bills to remind everyone that the AFC East runs through Buffalo. Allen led one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL last season (No. 2 in EPA per play). His newest weapon, TE Dalton Kincaid, will create some tough matchups for the Jets’ defense. I’m comfortable Allen can generate enough offense for the Bills to come away with a big win and cover this short number.
I’m also playing the total. We are headed for a competitive divisional matchup where both defenses have a decent chance of success. I will take the under at 45.5. There were better numbers earlier in the week, so congrats to those who pounced and have some nice CLV. The first week of the season is typically lower scoring as teams knock off the rust. Last year’s games in the opening week averaged only 40 points per game. So far this season, the under has hit in 11 of 15 games. The Jets' offense has high-end potential, but it also likely will look its worst in the early going before it has a few games to jell.
Best Bets: Bills -1.5 and under 45.5