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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week 2 NFL Predictions 2011: Teaser Edition

As a rule of thumb it's best to only include teams in teasers that cross the critical numbers and limit them to 2 teams per.  There are always exceptions to the norm, but this method provides the most value. 

Check out the Sportsbook Review Football Teaser Odds Chart to find out what book will offer you the best value.

When the lines opened, DET was quickly bet up to -9, but since then it's dropped back down to the -8.5/-8 range at many places (-8 at Intertops).  Try to shop around to ensure you tease them below -3.   

UPDATE: The GB line is coming down from -10 at some places.  I'd be surprised if it came down into the teaser window  (-8.5), but keep an eye on this during the week.

Green Bay Packers -4 & Detroit Lions -2

Week 2 offers one of those "exceptions to the norm" with the Green Bay Packers.  I wasn't surprised that a lot of the early action came in on GB on the opening line, but double digit favorites always make me nervous.  Last year I got burned a couple of times when I teased down NE against CLE and NO against ARI.  I'm hoping to avoid that fate this year as I wholeheartedly believe that GB can cover a 4 point spread against the lowly Carolina Panthers.  

This could be a case of the best team in the NFL against the worst team.  So why would I bother to tease them down?  Simply put, a backdoor cover is just too high of a risk when it comes to covering 10+ points.  GB could completely dominate this game, be up by two touchdowns, only to see CAR drive down the field and put up a garbage TD against a prevent defense.  By putting them in a teaser, we eliminate all of that stress and unnecessary worry.

There are also a couple factors that are in CAR's favor that shouldn't be overlooked.  Put up your hand if you thought Cam Newton would put up over 400 yards passing in his NFL debut.  Yes, ARI has a horrendous secondary, but nothing in the preseason indicated that kind of performance from the 1st overall pick.  Steve Smith looks rejuvenated as he had one of his best games in a couple of seasons.   The tight ends also saw a lot of action in week 1.  Shockey and Olsen combined for 7 catches and 129 yards.  Ron Rivera might be a defensive coach, but he knows that this is a passing league and you need to be able to move the ball and score a lot of points to win games.  It was a bit of a surprise that CAR's running game got held in check, but both Williams and Stewart are finally healthy at the same time and could provide the kind of balance needed to keep the pressure off of Newton.   GB has a rock solid defense, but it's no longer a given that CAR will get shut down the way they would have last year and they might have to do it without standout CB Tramon Williams. 

On the other side of things, Aaron Rodgers is going to be a nightmare for CAR's defense all day long.  Now they must figure out a way to slow down the Super Bowl MVP without their best linebacker Jon Beason.  Dan Conner is a decent fill in, but he's a clear downgrade at the middle linebacker spot.  This could open the door for Finley to have a monster day.  But with GB's offense it really is a case of pick your poison.  There is an absurdity of riches on the outside with guys like Nelson, Jennings, Jones, and Driver to choose from.  Now you throw in week 1 rookie phenom Randall Cobb into the mix and defensive coordinators are going to have a lot of sleepness nights.  And if all this fails, Rodgers has the ability to scramble out of the pocket and pickup first downs with his legs.  Starks is pushing Grant for first team reps and Kuhn is a reliable short-yardage and goal line option.  Making matters worse for opposing teams, GB's O-line actually played pretty well to start the season.  If that continues I'm not sure anybody in the league will be able to stop them.  I give credit to Chris Gamble for shutting down Larry Fitzgerald last week, but CAR is going to need a lot more than that to cover GB's 3 and 4 wide sets.  

Having said all that, the other factor that CAR do have on their side is home field advantage.  This is a little nugget I stored away from my observations in the preseason.  When CAR opened at home they were greeted with a ton of energy, enthusiasm, and noise.  For once, CAR might actually have some sneaky value in the line thanks to their home turf, but they'll also need to have a competitive start to maintain the advantage.  If CAR can create an early turnover and get an early lead, it might be a long climb back for the Packers.  

In reality, I'm simply playing devil's advocate and trying to make a case for the Panthers.  I don't believe this game will be a nail-biter in the 4th quarter and I fully expect GB to win by at least a touchdown, if not completely blow them out.

In the other half of the teaser we have the surging Lions against a turmoil-ridden Chiefs team.  Before week 1 I would have likely passed on this matchup, but I can't ignore all the evidence.  I was a big believer in DET before the season started, but I also liked what KC was doing as well.  Now I'm not so sure.

All preseason coach Haley preached to his team, the fans, and the media that his only goal is to prepare for the regular season opener.  It seems everyone on the roster missed the memo because they looked like the same lackluster team that went through the motions in the preseason.  At no time in the game did the team wake up and make it a fight.  That is surprising given the amount of young playmakers in the lineup.

Breaston was supposed to open things up for Bowe on the outside and I picked Charles to have a monster season.  On defense they have a nice core of young studs who were on the verge of stardom.

Instead, KC has lost TE Moeaki for the season and now news breaks that their best defensive player Berry has joined him on injured reserve.  These are critical losses for a team that can't afford to lose them.  Last year they didn't lose a single starter for no more than 5 games.  Team depth isn't very impressive so replacing that kind of playmaking ability is going to be tough.   

I was never a big fan of Matt Cassel, but I thought he was surrounded by enough talent to manage them to victories.  Is it possible that he's another Derek Anderson?  Possibly.  Either way, KC needs to figure out what they're made of very soon because DET isn't a team that is going to lay off the gas and give them a break.

I correctly predicted DET to come out of the gate with a victory and it marks the first time in 5 years that they've put up a "W" to start a season.  Their offense was explosive and dynamic as they dominated the yardage, first down, and time of possesion stats in the box score.  The final score doesn't really tell the tale as DET whipped up on TB pretty good.  Now that Berry is out for KC, the downfield passing game looks all that more promising and Javid Best should find more room to run in the open field as well.  DET put up a whopping 27 points from long drives while KC only managed 7.  This is a stat that you'll see a lot of in my write-ups throughout the year as more and more teams start from their own 20 yard line to start a possession.  

On defense, new middle linebacker Stephan Tulloch has brought a new energy to DET's front 7.   Louis Delmas has a bruised hip and might miss the game, but DET should have more than enough pressure on Cassel to negate the loss.  I expect KC to rely heavily on the run game and short passing game to reduce of the impact of DET's lethal pass rush, but in order to stay in this game KC is going to need some down field plays. Stafford and company are simply playing too good right now to try and win a low-scoring affair.  Prediction: Bank GB -4 & DET -2.

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