Despite Offseason Changes, Referees Continue to Be the Story in the NFL
After an official’s missed pass interference call potentially changed the outcome of January’s NFC Championship Game, another huge referee gaffe altered the course of a game in Week 2 on Sunday.
Ironically, it involved the same two games from last year’s NFC title matchup, and the missed call benefitted the same team.
After the Los Angeles Rams weren’t called for pass interference and ended up beating the New Orleans Saints in overtime at the end of last season, the two teams met again on Sunday, but this time, the game was played in L.A.
With the score 3-3 in the second quarter and the Rams in the red zone, quarterback Jared Goff was hit as he was about to throw. Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan picked up the ball and raced to the end zone, appearing to give the Saints at 10-3 lead.
After a replay review, the Saints were given the ball but not the touchdown because the referee mistakenly blew his whistle, ruling the play dead. Instead of leading by 7 points, the Saints instead found themselves down 6-3 at halftime, and they lost the game 27-9.
To make matters worse, superstar quarterback Drew Brees has a finger injury and will miss around six weeks. The Saints are confident that Teddy Bridgewater can keep the team in the hunt until Brees can return, but it does give hope to Atlanta and Tampa Bay, who are tied with New Orleans at 1-1, atop the division.
So Long, Big Ben
While Sunday was a miserable day for the Saints, it was a disastrous one for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coming off a 33-3 embarrassment to the New England Patriots in Week 1, the Steelers had a tough home matchup with Seattle on Sunday.
Not only did the Seahawks edge Pittsburgh, 28-26, to drop the Steelers to 0-2, they will now face the rest of the season without two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “Big Ben” grabbed his elbow after a pass attempt in the second quarter on Sunday and did not return.
If there’s a silver lining for the black and gold, it’s that backup Mason Rudolph performed admirably in the second half, going 12/19 for 112 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. However, the Steelers defense needs to be better.
The big beneficiary seems to be Baltimore. In what was expected to be a competitive division, the Ravens are 2-0, and the other three teams are a combined 0-5 (Cleveland plays at the New York Jets on Monday night). The AFC North is rarely a run-away, but things couldn’t look much better for Baltimore right now.
Surprising 2-0 Teams
Keep an eye on San Francisco and Buffalo. While not facing exactly stiff competition, both teams are 2-0 and won both of their games on the road. Both teams have enjoyed smart quarterback play, deep-running attacks, and sound defense in racking up wins over Tampa Bay and Cincinnati (49ers) and the New York Jets and Giants (Bills).
On the Sports Interaction App Buffalo are a low -254 on the money line for the win. It looks better value to take the -6.0 handicap at -110.
The Niners have picked up where they were expected to be in 2018. Jimmy Garoppolo is back at quarterback after he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3 last year. Now, San Fran has a good chance to start the season at 4-0 with home matchups against the banged-up Steelers and Cleveland coming up. That will set up an early-season showdown with the Rams in L.A. in Week 5.
The Bills’ prospects to go 3-0 look reasonable, with Cincinnati coming to town next week. However, 4-0 may be a bit of a reach, as the New England Patriots – who haven’t given up a touchdown since the AFC Championship Game in January – come to Orchard Park in Week 4.
Bad Beat of the Week
After a number of back-door covers in Week 1, the point spreads didn’t swing too wildly this Sunday. That’s not to say that outcomes didn’t flip-flop in the final minutes, as that’s a way of life for an NFL bettor.
Things weren’t looking good all night if you took Philadelphia at -1 on Sunday Night Football against Atlanta, as it was 17-6 Falcons midway through the third quarter. However, the Eagles scored two-straight touchdowns (the second one with only three minutes remaining in the game) to take a 20-17 lead.
With only three minutes left, anyone wagering on Philly probably figured a Falcons field goal to send the game to overtime was the worst-case scenario.
Well, it got worse than that. On 4th and 3, Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones on a pass so short it wasn’t even past the first down marker, but Jones got a couple huge blocks on the screen pass, and he outraced the other defenders for a 54-yard touchdown and a 24-20 Falcons lead.
Carson Wentz was able to take the Eagles into Atlanta territory on their final drive, but they needed a touchdown and were unable to get it.
How Bad Will It Get for Miami?
There are rarely certainties in the NFL, but this is one that’s unlikely to change over the course of the season: the Miami Dolphins are one of the worst teams in NFL history. Just eight days after starting the season with an embarrassing 59-10 loss at home, the Fins were an 18.5-point underdog at home to the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
The Dolphins were the largest home underdog in a dozen years, but that still didn’t stop the Pats from beating them by more than double the point spread (43-0). Despite the large spread, over 80 percent of the money wagered at a consensus of US sportsbooks was placed on the Patriots.
Going into Week 3, Miami is an early 20.5-point underdog at Dallas. The Cowboys have scored 66 points so far this year, while the Dolphins have scored 10. Expect that number to grow a bit if most of the money coming in on this game goes to the Cowboys. The spread is at -110 on the handicap with the William Hill app (USA).
The big question is, will Miami be more than a 27-point underdog at some point this season? That’s the NFL record, set in 1976 when the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the “Steel Curtain” version of the Steelers.
A spread that large will likely take place with Miami on the road and this weekend’s game against Dallas is probably the best road opponent on their schedule until they play at New England in Week 17. However, the Patriots may not have anything to play for in the final week of the regular season and rest starters, so an overwhelmingly high point spread in that game is tough to predict at this point.