Hype, Trap, Bet: Don’t give up on the New York Jets yet
It’s fun to jump on the bandwagon. To board the hype train as it leaves the station, heading for greener pastures. Sometimes those pastures include some extra green in your pocket. Other times, it’s a one-way ticket to disappointment along with the rest of the public.
In the sports betting world, it’s essential to know the difference between a smart bet that the public is on, and a line that has taken on so much public steam that it’s moved past the point of being good value. A good bet at -110 odds isn’t automatically a good bet at -150 odds.
That’s what I’m setting out to do for you this season — help you spot those differences and think critically when you see something on TV, hear it again on a podcast, and then see it all over your social media feeds the rest of the week.
Believe the Fins hype
We’ve seen a lot of movement in the NFL futures market after the opening week of the season, especially in the AFC. Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill picked up right where they left off last season, with Tua dishing out 466 yards and 3 touchdowns, throwing two to Tyreek Hill, whose season proclamation of 2,000 yards doesn’t feel outrageous anymore.
Tagovailoa moved to +650 to win the MVP after entering the season at +2200. He now has the second-shortest odds of any player, trailing only Patrick Mahomes at +600. Hill is a +800 favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year, and the Dolphins (+140) are slight favorites to win the AFC East, with the Bills (+145) right on their heels.
Last month, I suggested taking a flier on Mike McDaniel to win Coach of the Year at +1800.
He’s now down to +1200, tied for the second-shortest odds.
It’s no surprise that the Dolphins’ futures market moved this quickly after last year’s start with Tua under center in 2022. Confirmation bias is real, and Week 1 presented the perfect setup for the Dolphins grabbing the No. 1 seed in the AFC: a Bills loss, the Jets losing Aaron Rodgers for the season and a couple of other AFC contenders looking rusty early on.
If you want to jump on the bandwagon, do so quickly. The Dolphins’ next five games are against the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and Carolina Panthers; a 5-1 start is very realistic. The Dolphins are projected at 10.6 wins with a 20% chance at the No. 1 seed according to ESPN Analytics, both the highest of any team in the AFC.
Beware of these traps
I like to think about sports predictions in three “buckets” of information: the things we know, the things we think we know, and the things we admit we don’t know.
For example, we know Kyle Shanahan likes to put his offensive playmakers in space. You can count on that the way you can count on Clark Griswold to get into a pickle during every family vacation. On the other side, we had no idea how the Ravens would split up targets in a newfangled Todd Monken offense, but we were at least aware of that unknown. Not a single Ravens WR was drafted in the top 100 of ESPN fantasy drafts despite many analysts loving Lamar Jackson’s prospects this season.
But that middle bucket — the things we think we know — has the power to confound, mislead and disappoint. That is never more applicable than after Week 1 of any NFL season.
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5, 41)
Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
The public collectively left the Buccaneers marooned on an island after they replaced Tom Brady with Baker Mayfield, yet they came out and beat the Minnesota Vikings as road underdogs. There was public hype for Justin Fields and the Bears, but they got blown out as home favorites against the Green Bay Packers.
The Week 2 lookahead line had the Bears favored over the Bucs by 1.5 points. By Monday, Tampa Bay had been bet up to 3-point favorites, and the Buccaneers’ playoff odds had moved from +400 to +220.
If all you see is final scores of 20-17 and 38-20, I could understand that kind of line movement. But a deeper dive unearths some new intel. The Vikings offense put up over 50% more total yards of offense than the Buccaneers, and the Vikings defense held Tampa to 3.6 yards per play, the third fewest in the league in Week 1. Minnesota had two turnovers in field goal territory, and a third giveaway that led to a short field and points for the Bucs.
Meanwhile, Chicago allowed a defensive touchdown (which have proven to be fluky year-to-year and game-to-game), and only got outgained by 18 yards by a Packers team that might be better than we think. DJ Moore was shut down by Jaire Alexander and Fields is now 0-5 against Green Bay with 4 TDs and 7 Int.
I’m not willing to let 60 minutes of football convince me that we were this wrong about both teams. ESPN Analytics still has the Bears as the higher rated team in FPI. If you can find a sportsbook giving you a 3-point spread, consider taking the Bears against the public line movement.
New York Jets at Dallas Cowboys (-9, 38)
Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Yes, Aaron Rodgers is out for the year. Yes, the Cowboys pass rush looked dominant against the Giants. No, I’m not willing to say Dallas wins this matchup by double digits more than 50% of the time.
New York just beat a Super Bowl contender with Zach Wilson under center the whole game. This same Jets defense just forced 4 Josh Allen turnovers (shoutout to Jordan Whitehead for already hitting a season-long contract incentive) and now gets to face the league leader in interceptions from last season. Rightfully deserved or not, there’s pressure on Dak Prescott to improve his game and he didn’t deal with any pressure in Week 1, so he’s still an unknown.
The lookahead line for this game was Dallas -3. Is the drop-off from Rodgers to Wilson worth 6 points in line movement?
When Wilson and Breece Hall both play, the Jets are 5-0. In the nine full games Wilson has played since last season, the Jets are 6-3 ATS, allowing only 15.7 PPG, and haven’t lost by more than seven points in any game.
ESPN Analytics agrees, predicting that the Cowboys should be favored by 6.7 points. A touchdown spread feels about right here, but the events of the past few days have the public backing the Cowboys like it’s the Globo Gym Purple Cobras against Average Joe’s Gymnasium.
The bets to make
Jets to win the Super Bowl (+5000)
This isn’t for the faint of heart, and it is simply a value play, worth only a very small sprinkle.
Zach Wilson made better decisions both on the field and in the press last week, and the Jets only need him to be a replacement-level QB to succeed.
Coach Robert Saleh says Wilson “made a drastic improvement from a year ago”.
There’s also still the possibility that New York does add a veteran presence or trades for a starting QB. Joe Fortenbaugh laid it out this week.
Since 1970 merger, 39 teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-2.
Vikings 0-1 and +7 at PHI on TNF. 0-2 likely.
0-2 & then:
2-5 possible heading into GB Week 8. Trade deadline is 10/31. Jets should be monitoring Cousins very closely.
– Joe Fortenbaugh (@JoeFortenbaugh) September 13, 2023
The Vikings could potentially start 2-5 with the Eagles, Chargers, Chiefs and 49ers all coming up before the trade deadline. The pending free agent is capable of supporting talented wideouts and would rejoin Dalvin Cook.
Here’s how the Jets futures have unfolded in 2023:
Opened at 30-1 with Wilson at QB, with Caesars acknowledging New York might look to add a QB.
Moved to 16-1 preseason with Rodgers at QB.
Currently at 50-1 with Wilson at QB, and the possibility of New York adding a QB.
The Jets are 1-0, with the Bills, Chiefs, Bengals and Chargers all starting 0-1. They’re arguably in a better spot than they were before Rodgers was rumored to arrive, and the odds have gotten much better.
ESPN Analytics gives the Jets a 1.9% chance to win the Super Bowl, which rounds to +5000 implied odds. They’re one of only five teams the model currently sees as a value in that market, and the only value longshot of 20-1 or longer.
That model also is acting as if Wilson is the Jets’ starting QB all season — any acquisition and the numbers look even better.
DJ Moore over 44.5 receiving yards (-119)
Moore’s receiving yards prop is listed at 44.5 at Caesars Sportsbook, which feels criminally low.
To say Moore disappointed in Week 1 would be an understatement of Fyre Festival-like proportions, but it’s easily explainable. Jaire Alexander is an elite cornerback and Moore only had 2 targets and 2 catches all game against the Packers, both when lined up away from Alexander.
Looking ahead to this week, the Buccaneers just allowed 334 passing yards to Kirk Cousins, including 150 to Justin Jefferson, and Moore has had sustained success against the Bucs in his career.
Moore has averaged 10.8 targets per game with 6.6 catches and 88.3 receiving yards over the past four seasons against Tampa Bay, compared to 8 targets per game, 4.6 catches and 66.2 yards against every other team. That split transcends multiple quarterbacks and head coaches and highlights how the Buccaneers have struggled to stop opposing WR1s for years.
Justin Fields also threw 37 times in Week 1, so whether it comes via volume or efficiency I’m happy taking the over on Moore’s receiving yards until it gets closer to 60. Anything under that is an overreaction to what we saw last week.