NFL Handicapping: Don't Overreact to Broncos Impressive Week 1 Performance
by Trevor Whenham - 9/10/2013
If you have read much of what I have written — repeatedly — about the Broncos leading into this session, then by now you probably think I sound like a Grinch. After seeing their truly impressive performance against the Ravens in their opener, though, my message of general bearishness about the team — at least from a betting perspective — is now more important than ever.
It’s not that I don’t like this team — at their full potential they are the best of the AFC and the second-best in the NFL behind only San Francisco. It’s just that jumping wildly on their bandwagon — especially for futures and other bets with a longer perspective — just doesn’t make sense. The defense has depth issues. More significantly, their quarterback, while only barely mortal, is far from young and is a year removed from an injury so serious it called his career into question and led to the franchise built around him to cut him loose. They are good, but they are vulnerable, and you buy into the frenzy surrounding the team and ignore that at your own risk.
Value is going to be extremely tough to find on a team worshipped like this one is right now. When you are handicapping them, then, here are four common sense factors to keep in mind:
Manning is not actually on pace for 112 TDs
Manning was incredibly impressive in the opener, but that is just not a sustainable effort over the course of the season — no matter how good he is. He’s going to face much better defenses, people are going to start covering his tight end, and he is going to have to work harder for what he gets. He’s also going to have days in which he just plain doesn’t shine. Last year he would have been MVP if it weren’t for Adrian Peterson, yet in Week 2 he threw three picks at Atlanta, and the next week he only completed half his passes against Houston — both in losing efforts. Playing football is hard, and even the best players are going to hit rough patches. It would be a real mistake to assume that he can achieve even a fraction of what he did in the opener each time he plays — if he even stays healthy.
The public thinks he is on pace for at least 112 TDs
When the public is confronted by a huge performance from a star player or team, they immediately assume the best possible outcome is sure to happen. All objectivity goes out the window, and they get blinded by hype and possibility. They bet with their heart, not their brains, and all value is lost. Until Manning’s feet touch the ground again, the public will bet this team recklessly, and the longer he stays hot the more ridiculous the public’s betting will get. That’s good news for objective bettors who know how to pick their spot. This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t bet on the Broncos when it makes sense — it would be shocking if the Jaguars could cover any spread in Denver, for example. It just means that you need to be cautious and be sure that you are making a logical decision — not a hype-fueled one.
You could be a starting receiver for the Ravens
The Broncos beat the defending Super Bowl Champions in prime time, but that’s only a technicality. In reality, they beat a team facing all sorts of changes. The two players that have defined their franchise for years — Ed Reed and Ray Lewis — are gone. Their receivers are so bad that you could start for them — even if you have never played before. The Ravens couldn’t get anything going when it mattered, and they were powerless to disrupt the momentum the Broncos had. The worse things got, the more frustrated the team got, and the uglier the results. That opponent was not good and is not a good reflection of what to really expect from the Broncos going forward. We really don’t know that much more about this team than we did before — we thought they would be good, and they are. We still don’t know how the defense can hold up against a powerful offense or how the offense will fare against a prepared defense.
It’s only one game
The Super Bowl is rarely awarded in September, and what happens in the first week is often not an indicator in any way of what can be expected in later weeks — or in the postseason, when things really matter. Last year, for example, Mark Sanchez threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns as his Jets scored 48 points — eight more than they scored in their last three combined en route to a 6-10 record that was flattering. It is crucial to have perspective and patience when evaluating teams early on — especially in a situation like this when public enthusiasm is so wildly out of control.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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