The model is coming in hot with 7 bets this week. Let's take a look at where we're at.
Cincinnati @ NY Jets (+5.0)
Power Rankings: Cincinnati 15, NY Jets 25
Strength of wager: 2.72
Spread thoughts: This line opened at 5 and has remained there since. 5 is a weird number, so I wouldn't be surprised if it moves around a bit. As always, unless it crosses key numbers, those movements aren't a huge deal.
Keys to the game: The 0-2 Bengals travel to MetLife to take on the 1-1 Jets, fresh off a comeback win that was so absurd I don't even have to look at the boxscore to know that it was against the Browns. We know that Joe Burrow is far better than his numbers have been through 2 games. He's completing 64% of his passes, which is 3.3% below expectation. He's gaining a measly 6.0 yards per attempt and ranks 25th in PFF grades and 33rd in DYAR. PFF has charted him with 5 turnover worthy plays without a single big time throw. Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, will always be an advantage over virtually any defense, but the Jets secondary does have a few talented corners. DJ Reed was an underrated corner in Seattle, and he's picked right off where he left off. Quarterbacks have targeted Reed 10 times this season, and they have a QB rating of 0.0 on said throws. Sauce Gardner, the 4th overall pick in this year's draft, also holds his own.
The Bengals offensive line, which was overhauled at 3/5 positions in the offseason, isn't performing well either. In particular, LT Jonah Williams has already surrendered 10 pressures. RT La'el Collins also did not practice Wednesday with a knee injury. The Jets defensive line isn't scary by any stretch, but Quinnen Williams, the 3rd overall pick from 2019, has turned into an interior pass rushing animal. John Franklin-Meyers, Sheldon Rankins, Carl Lawson, and rookie Jermaine Johnson round out the defensive line, which gives them enough bodies to keep guys fresh. This will be an interesting spot in the trenches -- preseason, Bengals fans would certainly think their offensive line will have an advantage, but the Jets have enough to make things difficult.
With Zach Wilson still out, the Jets will continue to roll with Joe Flacco, who has done an admirable job to start the year. His main issue has been accuracy -- his 65.5% completion percentage is 4.6% below expectation. He is 3rd in PFF grades and 12th in DYAR, and PFF hasn't charged him with a single turnover worthy throw. What's more impressive is he's done it behind an offensive line that has struggled. Although injuries to Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown have forced them to start Max Mitchell at LT, everyone outside of Alijah Vera-Tucker is playing poorly. It is a solid group of lineman (save for Mitchell), so I do expect the results to improve. They'll have to deal with DT DJ Reed, who has already racked up 7 pressures, as well as edge rushers Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson. It's also worth noting that LB Logan Wilson's play in year 3 has improved tremendously, where he's been an asset against the run and in coverage. 10th overall selection Garrett Wilson broke out last week for 8 catches (14 targets), 120 yards, and 2 TDs. Wilson has still been running less routes than Elijah Moore, Tyler Conklin, and Corey Davis, but he's been their best receiver and should get more playing time going forward -- particularly since Moore has not played well. The Bengals secondary, which is full of solid players, have played well below their strength, but naturally that's not something we expect to continue. They've split their RB carries between Michael Carter and rookie Breece Hall, a strategy that makes sense as both have played well.
The Jets have improved in the last few seasons, and with Joe Flacco playing well, they aren't a team you can just role over. The matchup on both sides of the trenches should be intriguing. The Bengals have better days ahead, but we still like the points.
Houston (+2.5) @ Chicago
Power rankings: Houston 28, Chicago 31
Spread thoughts: This one actually opened at 3 and was bet down to 2.5 when the model grabbed it. That's where it's remained.
Keys to the game: Davis Mills has put together a very Davis Mills like season, completion 56% of his passes (an absurd 10.2% below expectation) and gaining 5.6 yards per attempt. He has one solid receiver (Brandin Cooks) and one reliable offensive lineman (LT Laremy Tunsil), although RT Tytus Howard -- the 23rd overall selection from 2019 -- has played well. The good news is he's up against a bad Bears defense. Their best pass rusher has been Trevis Gipson (8 pressures), but he's rushed the passer half as often as DE Robert Quinn. Nobody else on the defense has stood out, with the exception of cornerback Jaylon Johnson, a 2nd rounder from 2020. Johnson wasn't great in either of his first two seasons in the NFL, but he's been targeted just 3 times in 2 games, letting up just 1 reception, giving quarterbacks a 42.4 rating when targeting him. Johnson more or less sticks exclusively to the right side, meaning if the Texans want to have Cooks avoid him, they can.
Justin Fields is a developing prospect, but the purpose of these breakdowns is to talk about our bets for the coming weeks, not to try to predict how he'll develop going forward. Through two games, Fields is 33rd out of 34 qualifiers in PFF grades and 31 out of 33 qualifiers in DYAR. It shouldn't be too surprising given the fact that the Bears have done nothing to build around the 11th overall pick from a year ago. The offensive line is a mess, with the only saving grace being RT Larry Borom. Fields has been under pressure on 47.5 dropbacks this season, but part of the blame is on Fields himself -- his average time to throw of 3.54 seconds is firmly in "grandma slow" territory. As a runner, he's averaging 2.5 yards per attempt and has a fumble. Darnell Mooney and TE Cole Kmet were supposed to be at least respectable receiving options, and they've combined for all of 4 receiving yards combined. David Montgomery, to his credit, is averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. When the only nice thing you can say about an offense is about the running back, you have some real problems. The Texans defense isn't scary by any stretch, but I do expect Jerry Hughes to have his way with the offensive line. Huges may be 34, but he's still winning 15% of his pass rushing snaps (per PFF) and has never shown true signs of aging. They have a few other rotational players that can provide pressure in the right situation, and this is certainly the right situation. The secondary could be the avenue for guys like Mooney and Kmet to get going -- Derek Stingley Jr, the 3rd overall selection in this years draft, has already been targeted 19 times, giving up 12 receptions for 168 yards. Veterans Desmond King and Steve Nelson haven't fared much better, and neither has 2nd round rookie S Jalen Pitre. It's borderline illegal to play defense in the NFL, it'll take time for the young guys to figure it out.
New Orleans (-3.0) @ Carolina
Power rankings: New Orleans 12, Carolina 29
Spread thoughts: BREAKING: WE'RE BETTING A FAVORITE. EVERYONE STAY CALM.
This line opened at 2 and was bet up to 3, where it remains. It's common for spreads on a key number to chill there.
Keys to the game: Oh Jameis, what would we do without you? (Answer: watch less entertaining football). Winston is a capable starter in the NFL, but he's capable of a wide range of outcomes thanks to his tendencies to simply not give a shit if a receiver is triple teamed down field. He's targeting them anyway. The perfect example of said range exists with the first two games of the season, where Winston received a PFF grade of 79.6 and a 46.9. I'll grant you, he faced defenses of very different talent levels (Falcons and Bucs), but it's still indictive of the Jameis we've seen for 8 years now. The good news is this matchup is much closer to the Falcons then the Bucs. Further, Winston has a legit wide receiver trio (Mike Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and rookie Chris Olave), a solid offensive line, and Alvin Kamara, who should be back after missing last weeks game with a ribs injury. The Panthers pass rush has come more or less exclusively from edge rusher Brian Burns, who but the weakness of the Saints line is with the guards. Burns will primarily see Ryan Ramczyk, who is one of the better tackles in football. The Panthers are also relying on a number of young defensive backs who haven't played well -- the Saints receivers should win.
Baker Mayfield is 30/33 in DYAR and 32/34 in PFF grades. I'm not sure if his disaster of a 2021 season was truly due to a bad shoulder, but it's impossible not to think that he's still going to struggle until we see otherwise. His offensive line has held up fine, but LT Ikem Ekwonu, the 6th overall pick in the draft, has been downright awful, particularly from a pass protection standpoint. Between Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan, the Saints shouldn't have any issue pressuring Mayfield. DJ Moore is a an excellent receiver, Christian McCaffrey excels both as a runner and receiver, but the rest of the Panthers weapons haven't shown up. Robbie Anderson has flashed big plays, but he's been inconsistent -- 54% of his yards have come on a single play. The Saints have excellent linebackers (Pete Werner and Demario Davis) to help neutralize McCaffrey, and Marshon Lattimore to help neutralize Moore. If Mayfield is going to bounce back, I don't see it starting here.