Too many bettors took the bait with the Dallas Cowboys, thinking the Tony Romo on display in the opener would be the same hot-handed quarterback to show up for the season’s second Sunday. Think again.
It’s easy to say in retrospect, after Romo was caught sleepwalking in Seattle, but you could sense what might be coming with the Cowboys and other similar teams. Most of the big winners from Week 1 turned out to be bad bets in Week 2.
"The teams that looked great last week have struggled," said MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood, who had a good first week and a "great" second week.
The NFL is a bait-and-switch charade that sometimes fools even the sharpest handicappers, and overreacting to what you saw last can be the worst plan of action. The Cowboys and Washington Redskins, the public’s favorite plays in Week 2, can be used as examples.
Romo and the Cowboys stormed into New York and upset the Giants on opening night, when everyone was watching. Power ratings were adjusted, and Dallas’ stock soared. Seattle was 0-1 and starting a rookie quarterback. This looked easy.
On the Fox pregame show, a former NFL coach (Jimmy Johnson), quarterback (Terry Bradshaw) and defensive end (Howie Long) put their heads together and each picked the Cowboys to win.
"They were all laughing," Rood said. "Straight down the line, they didn’t even have a second thought of picking Seattle."
Who’s laughing now? The Seahawks, 3-point underdogs, controlled the game from start to finish and ambushed the Cowboys, 27-7. Romo was outplayed by the rookie, Russell Wilson.
The books took the money that was wagered on Washington, too. The topless photos of Kate Middleton were a hotter topic, but no player was a hotter commodity last week than Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Not to blame Griffin, because he played well, but the spot was better for St. Louis. Bet from 3- to 4-point home underdogs, the Rams won 31-28, and that was another upset you could sense was coming.
"People love those short prices on road favorites," Rood said, and a third example was the New Orleans Saints, who were 2½-point favorites at Carolina.
Drew Brees and the Saints were humbled at home by the Redskins in the season opener, so the so-called bounce-back effort was expected from Brees.
"Everyone was saying the Saints can’t lose two in a row," Rood said, and what he didn’t say is that type of logic is what makes a bookmaker’s Sunday.
This is not written in hindsight, because I didn’t take the bait on the Cowboys, Redskins and Saints. I bet on the Seahawks and Rams and steered clear of the third game.
Other sides that appeared unbeatable in Week 1 and got beat in Week 2 were Chicago and New England. Praised all week as the best team in the league, the Patriots were stunned 20-18 by the Arizona Cardinals, who were 13½-point road underdogs and plus-600 on the money line.
Ripped by the Bears in the opener, Indianapolis rebounded to upset Minnesota, 23-20. The Colts were bet against all week and closed as 3-point home ‘dogs, but rookie quarterback Andrew Luck stuck it to a weak Vikings defense.
Notice the pattern that developed. Buffalo and Miami also were left for dead after lopsided opening losses, but the Bills and Dolphins each won in blowouts.
The New York Jets looked phenomenal while putting up 48 points on the Bills. Seven days later, the Jets were flattened 27-10 by Pittsburgh.
Only four teams are left standing at 2-0 straight up and against the spread – Arizona, Houston, San Diego and San Francisco. The 49ers are the most impressive by far.
Rood said there was "heavy, heavy action" on San Francisco, which closed as a 7-point favorite in its 27-19 victory over Detroit. The 49ers are for real, and Jim Harbaugh is one of the few coaches who gets a strong effort from his team every week.
Underdogs went 7-5-2 ATS on Sunday, with six winning outright, and that’s also a formula that makes a bookmaker’s day.
Philadelphia is 2-0 straight up but 0-2 ATS after a pair of one-point wins. The Eagles slipped by the Ravens, 2½- to 3-point underdogs, 24-23 thanks to Joe Flacco folding his hand in the second half.
Flacco is typical of most teams in the league – hot one week and humbled the next – and that’s why it’s all so tough to handicap.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts "The Las Vegas Sportsline" weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.