If one is to hear the expression “over/under” in sports they assume it refers to the score. But this week, I think the biggest danger for the average handicapper is to over respond or under respond to the actual results from the first weekend.
The Buffalo Bills lost at home in their season opener to the Pittbsburgh Steelers. That result puts the Bills in a miniscule minority of National Football League teams that have recovered from a home loss on the opening weekend and gone on to win the Super Bowl. How many times has it happened?
Of the 55 Super Bowl winners only one of them lost on opening day on their home field, that was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. They lost in overtime to the New Orleans that year, then went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII over the Oakland Raiders. Every other team that didn’t prevail on their home field in their opening game failed to win a Super Bowl.
When the bell rings, the teams most likely to end their campaign in a hail of confetti are the ones that open with a victory. The Bills didn’t. They brought back to mind what David Letterman said was heard in the Bills locker room before they gave up a first half lead and lost Super Bowl XXVIII to the Dallas Cowboys, “Hey, save some of that champagne for after the game.”
The Bills pushed the Steelers around in the first half last Sunday, took a 10-0 lead to their halftime locker room before getting steamrolled over the final 30 minutes to end up on the wrong side of a 23-16 score.
This Sunday, the Bills travel to Miami to meet the Dolphins. Miami edged the New England Patriots on the road Sunday, 17-16, in a game they were fortunate to win based on stats alone. Now the public is licking their chops for the Bills to even their season with a win and catch the Dolphins in the AFC East.
Seems easy. Right?
Thing is, the Dolphins won their opener on the road and the Bills lost theirs at home. From purely a motivational perspective, this is not a great time to jump on the Bills, even though their talent and the situation seems to make them a logical play.
Confidence in the Bills this week is paramount to believing what we think we know over what is, based on actual results.
The most important way to evaluate first week action is to find a team that overcame physical, situational or motivational factors. When a team is a prohibitive favorite and bet on by a huge majority of the public, they can come up like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did last Thursday in their opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
Good enough to win the game, but failing to cover the point spread.
The Los Angeles Rams opened at home, everybody and their brother picked them to handle the Chicago Bears, and they did.
Does this mean anything?
Yes. It means the Rams are good enough to dominate when they are expected too. Something that happens less than you might imagine and even fewer times does a heavy favorite with a high majority backing them both win the game and cover a bloated point spread.
So far, the addition of Matthew Stafford to the Rams already talented roster looks like a winner. This week, the Rams are in Indianapolis to meet a Colts team that failed against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday even while in a positive home field underdog role.
We don’t yet know how good the Seahawks are, but we know they were good enough to win their opener convincingly in a tough situation.
Which means this, either the Seahawks are very good or the Colts aren’t very good.
Both might be true, while we do know the Rams are really, really good. Los Angeles is probably better than the Seahawks, and in an enviable situation based on actual results to handle the Colts on the road.
Not ready to underestimate the Bills off their loss, or overestimated the Dolphins after their opening win. But to acknowledge the Colts may have more problems than we initially thought is up for confirmation this Sunday when we know a proven winner is perfectly poised for a second straight victory.
Qoxhi Picks: Los Angeles Rams (-4) over the Indianapolis Colts