HomeSportsWill Broncos and Patriots avoid an 0-3 start?

Will Broncos and Patriots avoid an 0-3 start?

We’re now two full weeks into the NFL season and everyone is stuck in that uncertain phase of fandom. If your team has been looking good, you’ve been careful to remind yourself that it’s only September. If the first two weeks have been a disaster, use the same phrase to fight the urge to fly into full-blown panic mode. Ahh, welcome to week 3. We have two data points for each team and we’re not sure which one to trust more.

If your team won or lost its first two games, I have news. It is important. And after this weekend’s games it will become even more important. In Week 3, nine teams will compete to improve to 3-0, which historically is a solid indicator that the postseason is approaching. Since the NFL merger in 1970, 75.6% of teams that start the season with three wins have ultimately qualified for the playoffs. There were only two teams that fit the profile in 2022 (Philadelphia and Miami), and both ended up in the playoffs.

The situation is more urgent for the teams that started 0-2. Over the past twenty seasons, 99 teams have started their season with three straight losses. Only one has turned things around in time to make the playoffs (Texans 2018). There are also nine teams that are currently 0-2 and will be competing for their season in a crucial Week 3.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have must win competitions in September. They say pressure makes diamonds, but on the playing field it can bring out the worst in teams. Must-win games are certainly not must-bet games. But as I was charting the odds this week, a few games with winless teams started calling my name. I’ll analyze what these teams need to do to avoid the dreaded 0-3 start, and whether I’m betting they can pull it off.

Russell Wilson’s play is trending in a positive direction, but opening the season with two straight home losses indicates that Denver may not get the results they expected in Sean Payton’s first season.

What Denver needs to improve against Miami: The pass defense. You better cover when you face Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Braxton Berrios. Miami may have the most feared offense in the NFL. It took just two weeks for Tua Tagovailoa to establish himself as the betting favorite (+500) for the league’s MVP. That’s bad news for a Broncos defense that just blew an 18-point lead by surrendering 35 points to Washington. Denver now ranks 27th in both EPA per play allowed and PFF coverage grade (57.4), and that’s after facing Jimmy Garoppolo and Sam Howell. They need to find a way to slow down the Miami offense if they have any chance of a road win.

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Best bet: Miami (-6.5)

This feels like a big number against a desperate Broncos team, but I believe it’s playable under the key number seven. Miami started 3-0 both head-to-head and against the spread in Mike McDaniel’s first season. This is a long-haul trip for Denver with an early start in Miami. The Dolphins were a solid home favorite last year (4-2 ATS), posting 70% coverage with an average margin of victory of 7.3 points over the past five seasons. Can Wilson keep up with Tagovailoa in a Vic Fangio revenge game? I’ll pay to see it.

After facing Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts in the first two weeks, Bill Belichick is probably happy to see a familiar face under center for the Jets.

What New England needs to do to get its first win: Run the football and protect Mac Jones at all costs. Belichick brought in Bill O’Brien to help solve the offense, but that’s no easy task when you’re constantly shuffling offensive line combinations due to injury. The Patriots roster is built to methodically move down the field ten yards at a time, and they don’t have the playmakers to overcome sacks or negative plays. Jets head coach Robert Saleh is known for turning up the pressure, but his defense has also allowed for the sixth-lowest success rate through two games. If the Pats can’t get the running game going, it will be a very awkward post-game press conference in New England.

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Best bet: New England (-3)

The Patriots offense won’t scare many teams, but this is exactly the type of game they have thrived in in the past. Elite offenses force New England out of its comfort zone, but that’s not what we get with the New York Jets. The handicap at heart is still Bill Belichick vs. Zach Wilson. The Patriots defense has tortured Wilson throughout his young career, and it seems to get worse with every outing. The last time he faced Belichick, the Pats defense allowed just 77 yards through the air, sacked him four times and held the Jets defense to 103 yards and 2.1 yards per play. Robert Saleh doesn’t seem ready to leave Wilson behind just yet, so there’s only one way to take a chance. The Jets’ roster total will likely be worth a look as well.

Statistics provided by rbsdm, pff, stathead, teamrankings, ftn

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