LAS VEGAS — If winning in the NFL was all about quarterbacks and high-scoring offenses, Matt Ryan and the Falcons would be sitting pretty after two weeks instead of buried in an ugly 0-2 hole with a coach on the hot seat.
Ryan ranks No. 2 in the league with 723 passing yards and is tied for second with six touchdown passes. Yet while Atlanta has scored 64 points, its defense has surrendered a league-high 78. Defensive breakdowns and a special teams blunder led to the Falcons’ late meltdown Sunday in an improbable 40-39 loss at Dallas.
“There was a lot of wise-guy money on the Falcons,” South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said. “The Falcons will put points on the board, but their defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed.”
The wise guys were on the right side. Atlanta, which closed as a 3-point underdog after the line opened at 6, covered the spread and should have won the game. Falcons coach Dan Quinn, a former defensive coordinator, is failing at his specialty and his job is in jeopardy.
How will bettors play the backed-against-the-wall Falcons in Week 3? In a so-called must-win spot, Atlanta is a 3½-point home favorite over Chicago. The line opened at 3 on Sunday night, so it appears smart money is staying loyal to the Falcons. Bettors might also be fading the Bears, the most fortunate 2-0 team in the league.
“I don’t think the public is going to want to bet many of these 0-2 teams,” Andrews said. “But if you look at the history, not many teams go 0-3, and not many teams go 3-0.”
Eleven teams are 0-2, including the Giants and Jets. Last season, five teams started 0-3 — Bengals, Broncos, Dolphins, Jets and Steelers — and none made the playoffs.
But just as all schedules are not created equally, all 0-2 teams are not the same. Some teams still have hope and others are hopeless.
Still have hope
Bengals: Cincinnati, with a point differential of minus-8, should remain competitive. Joe Burrow has looked worthy of the No. 1 draft pick while completing 60 of 97 passes for 509 yards with three TDs and one interception.
“Are the Bengals good? Not really,” Andrews said. “But Burrow looks pretty good, and that team could cover as a ’dog.”
Dolphins: Narrow losses to the Bills and Patriots are no reason to give up. A young team that figures to improve still can win with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. At some point, Miami will turn to rookie Tua Tagovailoa to get a glimpse of the future.
Eagles: This might be a hopeless situation if not for the sad state of the NFC East, where the Cowboys were lucky to avoid 0-2. Carson Wentz has thrown four interceptions, and Philadelphia has been outscored 64-36. Dallas will leave the door cracked open for Philadelphia, a 6½-point home favorite over the Bengals this week.
Falcons: Aside from a game at Green Bay in Week 4, Atlanta faces a considerably easier schedule through early November.
Texans: No team opened with a more difficult schedule than Houston, which fell to the Chiefs and Ravens. After the Texans are 3½-point ’dogs at Pittsburgh in Week 3, the schedule softens and quarterback Deshaun Watson will get a chance to lead a comeback to playoff contention.
Vikings: A week after Minnesota allowed 43 points to the Packers, Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions in a 28-11 loss at Indianapolis. The Vikings are on the brink of hopelessness, but it’s a team that won a playoff game last season and Mike Zimmer is a coach capable of steering a turnaround.
Broncos: Andrews said it’s too soon to “totally bail” on the Broncos, but injuries are wrecking their season. After losing top pass-rusher Von Miller, Denver lost quarterback Drew Lock (right shoulder) for two to six weeks and wideout Courtland Sutton is officially done for the season with a blown knee. The Broncos, with a -7 point differential, are tough enough defensively to hang in most games but won’t win much.
Giants: Daniel Jones almost pulled off a comeback in Chicago, but the Giants are without injured running back Saquon Barkley for the rest of the season. Although first-year coach Joe Judge will keep the team’s effort level up, the betting public will bail.
Andrews said, “I don’t think the Giants have much talent, and they just lost Barkley, who was their best player, so there’s not much hope there.”
Jets: The sportsbooks took a beating Sunday, partly because bettors jumped all over the 49ers as 7-point road favorites in their 31-13 victory over the Jets. Who’s taking 10 points with coach Adam Gase and quarterback Sam Darnold this week against the Colts?
“Not only do the Jets lack talent, but the talent they had can’t get on the field because of injuries,” said Scott Kellen, a professional bettor and VSiN analyst. “The Jets are a mess.”
Lions: There was hope in Detroit entering the fourth quarter of Week 1, when the Lions blew a 17-point lead against the Bears. There was hope after one quarter of Week 2, when the Lions led the Packers 14-3 before getting outscored 39-7 the rest of the way.
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