Lost in all of the talk about Jack Del Rio's decision to go for a two-point conversion, and thus the win for Oakland over New Orleans last Sunday, was the fact that so many NFL still coaches still don't know when the right time to go for two is. And that idiocy was on full display in Week 1 of the 2016 season.
First of all, Del Rio's decision was absolutely the correct one, even if it hadn't worked. New Orleans' defense looked lost out there. They couldn't cover, couldn't tackle, and they were completely exhausted after a long drive and daunting quarter. Del Rio had all the momentum, and it was a smart play.
I liked Del Rio's moxie, but in the flow of play it was also the right call. And I really don't mind it that much if teams try to play for some early momentum or attempt a two-point conversion in the first quarter or with a lead in the first half. Sometimes you just catch a team by surprise or you can make a statement. But there were too many other instances where coaches show a shocking ineptitude at basic game management by going for a two-point conversion when logic, and math, dictate that they should not.
(Del Rio's call to go for two with eight minutes remaining was correct also. Again, not just because it worked. But because what he was going for - tying the game - versus not going for it or not getting it - which would've meant Oakland needed a field goal to win or, if the Saints got a field goal, needed a touchdown to win - didn't change the game for the Raiders.)
The most glaring examples of mistakes occurred in Atlanta and Tennessee. Since the Atlanta game was a bit more complicated (it involved a team that was down three scores in the third quarter), I will instead focus on the Titans game. Their situation is one that comes up quite often and yet it is stunning to me how many coaches get it wrong.
Tennessee was down 15 points with less than one minute remaining and no timeouts. Admittedly, the odds of winning this game are slim to none. But that doesn't change the basic strategy. In this instance, the Titans need these things to happen: a touchdown, an onside kick, and another touchdown. Now, at some point they will need a two-point conversion. But in that group of things that needs to happen, the most important one is not the two-point conversion - it is the onside kick! So the goal of every coach there should be to get to the most pivotal and difficult play, the kick.
Coaches have to put themselves in a situation where recovering that onside kick matters. By going for two (like Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey did) and failing (like the Titans did) he essentially ended the game because the Titans were now nine points (two scores) down.
This is essentially the same principal as fouling and when to shoot a 3-pointer versus when to take a layup at the end of basketball games. The goal is simple and straightforward: extend the game. By kicking the extra point the Titans would've extended the game and given themselves the best chance to win for the longest period of time. Again, this is basic game strategy.
The other most common mistake that coaches make is going for a two-point conversion too early. (This is what Dan Quinn did down 18 points in the third quarter.) This decision is usually based on the score at the moment. But it fails to account for variable change and assumes that the opposing team won't score again, which is usually false. In Quinn's situation, a missed two-point conversion and a field goal by the Bucs - two high-likelihood outcomes - would've changed Atlanta's needs from a field goal and touchdown to two touchdowns. That is a massive difference.
It is pretty simple when it comes to 2-point conversions. If a coach wants to go for it early in the game as a kind of sneak attack then fine, do your thing. When it comes to strategic game management decisions, however, the rule of thumb is super simple: wait as long as you possibly can before you go for two, until the point when you literally have no other options. Extend the game, guys. Extend the game.
Here is Doc's Sports NFL Power Rankings for Week 2:
1. New England Patriots (1-0) - The Patriots are an absolute machine. And it should be terrifying to the rest of the NFL that they went to Arizona - who is one of the five or six best teams in the league - and beat the Cardinals without arguably their two best players. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Patriots, if they stay healthy, are the best team in the NFL. If you bet against this team you are an idiot. There is simply no upside in it. Either bet on New England or stay away from the game. The Patriots are 19-8 ATS in their last 27 home games, and the home team is 8-0 ATS in the last eight meetings with the Dolphins.
2. Green Bay Packers (1-0) - I can't see the highlight of Aaron Rodgers' touchdown to Devante Adams enough. What an amazing play. Bad news for the Packers is that they won but they didn't cover the spread, and they were outgained by 50 yards on the day. It should also bother the Packers that their short-yardage offense, particularly in the two goal-to-go situations, was again punchless. Green Bay worked hard on becoming more physical this preseason. It's not a good sign if they can't push around the Jaguars. Green Bay is 7-2-1 SU against the Vikings. The public loves the Pack this week. No team in the NFL is seeing such one-sided action this week, with a hearty 83 percent of the bets in that game coming in on Green Bay.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) - Having most of their starters take the preseason off almost came back to bite Pittsburgh. The Steelers were sluggish and out of sync early on Monday, and if the Redskins had executed a bit better Pittsburgh might have found itself in a hole too large to climb out of. Instead the Steelers hit the jets and looked like their unstoppable selves in the second half. Oh, and Antonio Brown is a god. Pittsburgh has gone 13-5 ATS in its last 18 games against a team with a winning record, and the Steelers are 40-25 ATS with Big Ben under center against divisional opponents. The Steelers are just 1-6 ATS on Sunday following a Monday Night Football game and just 2-12 ATS as a home favorite after a win on MNF.
4. Denver Broncos (1-0) - Can the Broncos beat Andrew Luck? He has had their number the past few seasons and the Broncos have gone just 1-10 ATS in their last 11 meetings with the Colts. I feel like this spread would be closer to 3.5 if Denver had lost its game in the final seconds (Carolina missed a FG at the buzzer) and the Colts had beaten the Lions in the final seconds (Detroit scored to go ahead with four seconds to play). So this line is inflated, and the public is biting, with around 63 percent of the betting action on the home team. I was much less impressed with Trevor Siemian than just about everyone else was. But Denver's running game was outstanding, and if they can pound the rock like that against the Colts I think the home team will be OK.
5. Arizona Cardinals (0-1) - As I have said for the past month, something just doesn't look right with the Cardinals. I know that a lot of people would be singing a different tune if they had simply made their final field goal and beaten the Patriots. But it took a superhuman effort by Larry Fitzgerald just to keep the Cardinals in that game, and there is no way that a supposed Super Bowl contender should've looked that bad against a backup quarterback. Maybe that game was a wakeup call. Bruce Arians was calling out players by name for their poor play, and I can only imagine what practice was like this week. If Arizona really is as good as people think, they are they will come out with a vengeance this week against a dangerous Bucs team.
6. Carolina Panthers (0-1) - Carolina is kind of in the same boat as Arizona. If their kicker had simply made his last-second field goal instead of missed it then we'd probably have an entirely different vantage on this team. I am not worried about them, although I did drop them from No. 1 to No. 6! Hey, the time between Week 1 and Week 2 in the NFL is time for some of the biggest overreactions in sports! Even I am not immune! Carolina is 20-7 ATS in its last 27 home games and 10-3 ATS in its last 13 conference games. The Panthers will want to deliver an early knockout against the 49ers on Sunday. Carolina doesn't want to let a Chip Kelly-led team, which have always been known to score points in bunches, hang around in this one.
7. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) - The Seahawks spread is off the board this week because of the unsettled status of Russell Wilson. Wilson finished Seattle's game against Miami last Sunday and is scheduled to practice this week, so I would be stunned if he was not on the field Sunday in Los Angeles. Seattle's September swoon is starting to look like a pattern as they have gone just 3-3 straight up in the first month of the season the past two years. That includes an ugly 2-7 ATS record in Week 2 over the last nine years. Seattle has gone 8-3 ATS in its last 11 division games, though, and this is a Seahawks team that is used to playing under the brightest lights. Los Angeles is going to be crazy on Sunday. But this veteran team should be ready.
8. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) - Adrian Peterson looked absolutely lost out there on Sunday. The Vikings really should think about forcing him to get some touches in the preseason because I feel like this is becoming an annual AP event. The Vikings are playing their first regular-season home game in their new billion dollar stadium. And I wonder how much the public relations angle is at play behind their decision to start Sam Bradford this week. ("New quarterback! New stadium! Give us money!") I think the Vikings are making a mistake by rushing Bradford into the system too quickly. I think he can be a long-term answer for this team (if he stays healthy), but putting him out there before he knows what he is doing is reckless and dangerous. The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings with the Packers. Minnesota is 20-8 ATS at home and now 38-17 ATS in its last 55 games, one of the best marks in the NFL.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) - There are three big revenge games this weekend. Houston and the Jets both have a chip on their shoulders and are facing teams that ended their years last season. But the Bengals have the biggest revenge motivation of anyone this week when they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. Cincinnati was on the wrong end of a violent playoff game last January, and whichever team can keep its composure this Sunday will have a huge advantage. The road team has won four of the last five meetings in his series, and the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six. The Bengals absolutely have to run the ball better against Pittsburgh than they did against the Jets (19 carriers, 57 yards) to keep Big Ben and Antonio Brown off the field.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) - I have to think that the momentum of last week's amazing comeback win will carry over into this week's trip down to Houston. Add in the confidence that Kansas City has after knocking off the Texans twice in Houston last season and I think that K.C. is a very dangerous underdog this weekend. The wise guys don't agree. The betting action in this game is essentially 50-50. But the spread in this game has moved from 1.0 to 2.5, indicating that the big money is coming down on the home team as Houston looks to avenge last year's playoff thumping. But Andy Reid is 81-50 ATS (62%) in his career on the road and 10-5 ATS in road openers.
11. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) - The Ravens didn't exactly look like a well-oiled machine in their win over the Bills last Sunday. Joe Flacco was sacked four times, but it was encouraging to see the way he moved around in the pocket and the way he spread the ball around in the passing game. That 3rd-and-1 pass to Mike Wallace that went for 66 yards and a touchdown was an extremely ballsy call by Marc Trestman. But Flacco came through and let the defense dominate. The Ravens defense allowed 60 points in two games against the Browns last year, and Baltimore hasn't covered the spread in Cleveland since 2012. We will see if last week's defensive effort was an aberration. Including the preseason, the Ravens have covered the spread in seven straight games going back to last year while going 6-1 SU.
12. New York Giants (1-0) - I can say this, at least, the Giants defense had a game plan and they absolutely refused to deviate from it. New York just would not even think about blitzing or bringing any kind of pressure on Sunday, which was kind of odd facing a rookie quarterback making his first start. On one hand you can say, "Hey, it worked." But it really didn't, as the Cowboys moved the ball at will and controlled the clock the entire game. Against any competent team the Giants would've gotten rocked with that passive approach. It is also interesting that in Ben McAdoo's first high-pressure game management situation - 4 th-and-1 from the Dallas 37 with 1:12 to play and a chance to win the game outright - he took the safe way out. Again, McAdoo was rewarded for the wrong decision thanks to Dallas' utter incompetence.
13. New York Jets (0-1) - The Jets should get used to seeing that wide receiver screen plenty more this season. They did not defend it well at all, and I think New York has some serious problems in the secondary. Obviously Darrelle Revis has lost a step. But Buster Skrine is mediocre at best, and New York's backup corners stink. The safeties aren't much better, so New York better hope that its front seven continues to get significant pressure. Sheldon Richardson returns this week, but Muhammad Wilkerson is questionable for Thursday's game. The Jets will be working a major revenge angle in this game. Buffalo knocked New York out of the playoffs last year with a Week 17 win up in Orchard Park.
14. Oakland Raiders (1-0) - The Raiders won one that they absolutely shouldn't have last week and now they come home as a big public favorite. Two-thirds of all the wagers in this Atlanta game have come down on the host Raiders. But Oakland is a mind-numbingly bad 5-23 ATS as a favorite in their last 28 attempts.
15. Houston Texans (1-0) - The Texans are the TGIFriday's of the NFL. They are a strip mall chain restaurant masquerading as an NFL franchise. This team did absolutely nothing that impressed me in their win over Chicago, one of the worst teams in the league, and the Texans had no business covering the spread in that game. Much will be made of Houston's revenge motivation against the Chiefs this weekend due to the fact that it was Kansas City that humiliated the Texans 30-0 in last year's playoffs. But the fact is that Kansas City is just that much better than the Texans. The Chiefs won here in Week 1 last year as well, and Kansas City will go for the trifecta this Sunday.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) - I don't want to get too excited too quickly about the Buccaneers. However, they kept sliding up the rankings mainly because the next five teams behind them have such systemic, fundamental issues with them that I couldn't justify posting any of them any higher. I absolutely love Dirk Koetter's aggressive nature. This guy is in attack mode at all times. Jameis Winston is still a turnover waiting to happen. But Tampa Bay's aggressive downfield passing game is going to cause a lot of people a lot of problems this year because Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are as good as it gets. Be wary of the bandwagon, though: Tampa Bay is just 3-11 ATS following a win against the spread.
17. Washington Redskins (0-1) - Oh my god, tackle someone. Anyone. Washington's strength last season was in the trenches. But this team got tossed around like a rag doll against the Steelers on Monday. Washington is on a short week, but a visit from their most-hated rivals should keep them focused. The Skins have had Dallas' number in recent years and are a healthy 9-3 ATS in the last 12 meetings. However, the favorite is just 9-27 ATS the last 36 times that these teams have gotten together. Kirk Cousins, who has as much pressure on him as any quarterback in the league this season because of his tenuous contract situation, needs to shake off that horrid game on MNF. Quickly.
18. Atlanta Falcons (0-1) - Dan Quinn came to Atlanta with the rep of an defensive mastermind after "leading" the Seattle defense for years. However, Quinn's Falcons combined, as a team, to register just 19 sacks last year, worst in the NFL. How did it go in Week 1? Zero sacks. It is comical how terrible this team's pass rush has been for the past five years, and they seemingly have no idea how to fix it. The Falcons were doing some really creative things on offense early in that game - like that fake pitch shuffle pass - but their inability to do the simple things (like the run the ball) is what cost them. The Falcons are now just 2-11 ATS in their last 13 games, and I can tell you that the natives in Hotlanta are extremely restless right now.
19. Buffalo Bills (0-1) - Things are just not good in Buffalo right now. Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay are both hurt, and the Bills lost starting left tackle Cordy Glenn. Glenn's backup, Seantrel Henderson, is suspended, so things are not looking good at all for an offense that mustered just 160 yards on just 48 plays against the Ravens. Buffalo, which has beaten the Jets SU and ATS five straight times, opened as a three-point home favorite but is now a home underdog. The home team has won seven of nine straight up in this series while going 6-3 ATS.
20. New Orleans Saints (0-1) - Lost in the discussion about Oakland's decision to go for two to win the game is the fact that New Orleans was on the wrong end of absolutely the worst call of the weekend. The refs made a horrific pass interference call on fourth down to sustain Oakland's drive, meaning the Saints were really robbed of that win on Sunday. Sean Payton has really had New York's number and is 4-1 SU and ATS against his former team. New Orleans rung up 608 yards against the Giants last November in a wild 52-49 win in the Superdome. But this is just Drew Brees' second trip back to New York in about 10 years, and the last time here he suffered Payton's lone loss to the Giants, a 52-27 bludgeoning in 2012.
21. Dallas Cowboys (0-1) - Oh my god, it is just so amazing to watch this team of losers. They just absolutely never fail to be complete and total losers in the most high-pressure situations! Their consistency is amazing! Think of them as kind of the anti-Patriots. Terrence Williams' ill-fated decision to stay in bounds in the final seconds was just Peak Cowboys. I would expect Dak Prescott to force the ball Dez Bryant's way about 12 times this Sunday against the Redskins after Bryant made just a single catch against the Giants.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) - Wait, so the Jaguars aren't going to the playoffs now? The Jags bandwagon may have gotten a little too full, too fast. But there was definitely a lot to like about how they squared up with Green Bay. And while the focus was on the fourth down that they didn't covert on the final drive, you have to give them credit for the three big fourth downs they did get just before that. This is actually the fourth season in a row the Jaguars have faced San Diego and sixth time this decade. The Jags are 0-5 SU and ATS in this series, including losing by six last year as a five-point home favorite. They will need a better plan for guarding Antonio Gates, though, as Gates beat them for two touchdowns in last year's contest.
23. Detroit Lions (1-0) - I think Detroit is going to be a fun and maddening team to watch all season. The Lions offense is absolutely legit. Their group of receivers is extremely talented, and Matt Stafford was razor sharp last week. Also, their two running backs are exceedingly quick and explosive. The Lions are going to be tough to stop. The problem, though, is that their defense is atrocious and it will be equally tough for this team to stop anyone. Tahir Whitehead just looked lost in coverage last week, despite being credited with two pass deflections. Detroit is taking over 70 percent of the action
24. Tennessee Titans (0-1) - Let's start with the positives for Tennessee. They played well enough that they absolutely should've won that game. The defense looked faster and more physical than it has in years. I know they were only facing Shawn Hill. But Minnesota has some playmakers, and the Titans really dictated the tempo of that game while completely shutting down the Vikings. However, a loss is still a loss and Tennessee is now a hysterically bad 17-38 ATS in its last 55 games. Tennessee has gone 1-7 ATS on turf and is just 6-22 ATS in the game after a straight-up loss.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) - It was just the Browns. I know, I know: Carson Wentz looked legit. But, again, it was just the Browns. And the truth is that even with Cleveland gifting the Eagles extra possessions with turnovers, safeties and bizarre fake punt calls, Philadelphia really didn't have complete control of that game until deep into the fourth quarter. But a win is a win. And now the Eagles have a great chance to go 2-0 against an inept Bears team. The underdog is 8-3 ATS in this series and the road team has won six of the past nine meetings going back to 2002.
26. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) - Andrew Luck did what he could to keep the Colts in the game. But Indy's decimated secondary didn't stand a prayer against the Lions passing game on Sunday. What's worse is that they were horrid against the run as well, allowing 116 yards to a Lions team not exactly known for power football. The Colts are another team, like Atlanta and Buffalo, that is really hitting the panic button early in this season. And if things don't go well against Denver's suffocating defense the lights could go out quickly on Indy's season. The Colts are on a 9-0 ATS run against Denver and have beaten them each of the last two seasons, including a playoff win in Mile High in Jan. 2015. Indy is 19-8 ATS in its last 27 games after a loss.
27. Miami Dolphins (0-1) - Would you believe that Miami actually has a winning record (3-2 SU) against the Patriots over the last five meetings? It's true. What is also true is that the Dolphins got screwed by having to make the long flight out to Seattle the week before heading all the way up to New England. I actually felt like Miami's offense was a bit better than its numbers last week in Seattle. Kenny Still dropped that long touchdown pass, and Miami was stuffed on a fourth down early in the game when they obviously should've kicked the field goal. Twenty points would've been enough to win that game. Miami is 0-4 ATS in its last four trips to Foxboro and just 3-13 ATS in its last 16 games against the AFC. However, they kept up their amazing success of road teams covering in their games by beating the number again last week.
28. Chicago Bears (0-1) - That was some vintage Jay Cutler indifference on Sunday. I mean, that was the really good stuff. His overmatched offensive line and undermanned receiving corps did as much as their limited skill sets actually allow them to. But rather than be any type of leader in a winnable game, Cutler went Full Aloof and instead was a drain on his team's existence. I swear to god I am so sick of watching that loser play quarterback for my favorite team. The Bears are 4-11 ATS as a home favorite on Monday Night Football.
29. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) - Look, that was by far the worst game of the weekend with neither San Francisco nor Los Angeles doing anything to instill any confidence that they are decent football teams. But credit where credit is due; the 49ers were ready to play. Blaine Gabbert missed a ton of throws. But he showed a lot of moxie and was willing to throw his body around to lead this team. Now the 49ers face an ugly situational disadvantage this week: they have to travel West Coast to East Coast for an early start, on a short week, facing a team with extra time to prepare that is also off a loss. Gulp.
30. San Diego Chargers (0-1) - San Diego's season, which is already marred by the negative cloud of dark karma hanging around their stadium situation, could not have possibly gotten off to a worse start. The loss of Keenan Allen cannot be overstated. And right now Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead are the only two backs and receivers even capable of making a play for Phil Rivers. I mentioned last week how putrid San Diego's defense had been all preseason, and we saw it in spades in last week's second half. I don't expect much crowd support with the Jaguars in town this week and would predict a fittingly lackluster effort from the Bolts. San Diego is 1-6 ATS at home but 12-4 ATS in their last 16 September games.
31. Los Angeles Rams (0-1) - I tried to tell you that there was just no way the Rams should be favored over anyone on the road. This team stinks. That shutout loss was no aberration. The NFL is such a pass-dependent league that you simply cannot be as bad as the Rams are at quarterback and wide receiver on offense and as clueless in the secondary on defense and still think that you are going to win games. I know much will be made of the Rams' return to Los Angeles this week and the crowd should be pretty electric. But at the end of the day a team still needs players, and I just don't think the Rams have enough. The underdog is 9-3 ATS in the Seattle series and the Rams are 6-2 ATS in their last eight against the Seahawks.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-1) - No! I am furious that Bob Griffin got himself injured and is out for the next three months. Griffin is a comically inept quarterback, and I felt like the Browns were much, much worse with him under center compared to Josh McCown. Now the Browns might actually have a chance of scratching out some ATS wins. McCown torched Baltimore last year in a 33-30 overtime win and a 33-27 loss. Including the preseason and going back to last season, the Browns have lost eight straight games and are 1-7 ATS. The one bright spot was rookie defensive end Carl Nassib. That boy can play.
Throughout the season I will have my NFL Power Rankings every Wednesday. My next ones will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Robert Ferringo is one of the top football handicappers in the country and tallied an unrivaled $20,800 in football profit between 2011 and 2015, including his amazing 2013 NFL season in which he hit 62.1 percent (95-58). Robert has produced 14 of 22 winning football months and an amazing 37 of 57 winning football months over the past decade. Robert has hit nearly 60 percent winners over his last 750 totals picks and is the most prolific big play football handicapper in the nation, going 101-63 (62%) on all football plays rated 5.0 or higher since 2010. Also, Robert's proprietary KING College Football Betting System has posted three of four winning seasons and is 122-92 over the last three years (57.0 percent).
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