Rookie Coaches Struggling with Fundamentals
As I was studying this past weekend's NFL boxscores, it struck me that some of the new head coaches are having big troubles getting their teams to execute on offense so far this Preseason. How are their teams going to be ready for the regular season if they're still kicking the ball around now?
Let's run through how the five teams with new head coaches have performed so far.
BUFFALO: Sean McDermott
The Bills turned the ball over FOUR times this past Thursday in a 20-16 loss to Philadelphia. Buffalo fell to 0-2 in the Preseason because they also lost to Minnesota the prior week. The offense gained less than five yards-per-play in both games, and struggled to convert third downs. Worse, newly acquired Anquan Bolden retired from football over the weekend. I've taught students in my College of Advanced Sports Betting not to overreact to exhibition results. That's certainly true for all the veteran teams right now who are just coasting (too many to list). But, Bills fans should be panicking because they don't have a proven quarterback...and, so far...they don't know what they're doing!
LA CHARGERS: Anthony Lynn
The Chargers were absolutely obliterated in Week One against Seattle. They came back this past Sunday needing to do something to impress the home folks in their new city, and looked awful vs. New Orleans. Yes, Philip Rivers isn't seeing much action (he didn't even play Sunday). But, he needs a strong coaching hand to keep him in check. Can McVay do that? Note that the Chargers didn't score an offensive TD vs. the Saints, getting on the board only by way of interception return. They gained less than 160 yards and turned the ball over twice. If McVay is destined to be a success, it might take longer than expected. If you watched the game on NFL Network, you know the Chargers looked virtually helpless all day...even against a team that doesn't care much about exhibition performance.
SAN FRANCISCO: Kyle Shanahan
What a mess. The Niners turned the ball over FIVE times in a blowout loss to Denver. Half of their 14 points came on a kickoff return TD. They did get a win in their opener the week before. But, that was keyed by a big second half against backups who weren't going all-out. Sometimes rookie coaches can be a smart bet in August because they are trying to get wins. Shanahan was trying to get a win vs. Denver and his team imploded. Another team with QB issues too.
DENVER: Vance Joseph
The Broncos were helped by facing the Niners. Those five takeaways helped set up cheap points. The biggest problem here was that possible starting quarterback Paxton Lynch looked like he had no idea what he was doing. He did complete some very short passes. But, gaining 39 yards in the air on 13 attempts is abysmal! Joseph is a defensive-minded head coach. That mindset often has trouble teaching young QB's how to improve. The Broncos are 2-0, but against teams who may be destined for 4-12 type seasons (Chicago and SF), neither of whom has a quality, veteran QB. I'm hoping the betting market overreacts to the scoreboard. I think Denver's going to have trouble moving the ball vs. good opponents.
LA RAMS: Sean McVay
I'm surprised to report this to you. But, I have to admit that I liked what I saw from the Rams in their win over the Raiders this past Saturday. That game got a lot of play here in Las Vegas since the Raiders will be moving here soon. Jared Goff made some good downfield passes, and the Rams fought all night for the second week in a row to win outright as an underdog. Now, the Dean of Sports Handicapping isn't telling you that the Rams are suddenly a Wildcard threat. But, I had them on my list of possible disasters in 2017. I'm now at least open-minded about real improvement under this head coach. Definitely worth further study. That's an important lesson for students...don't lock yourself into old perceptions if something new inspires improvement. I'm already thinking about the regular season opener vs. the Colts, who may still be without Andrew Luck at that time.
Those are the five new head coaches. Handicappers should think long and hard about how their teams might perform in this week's dress rehearsal games. Then, use those performances to signal likely results in Week One of the regular season (and maybe even the first month). Your homework this week is to map out clear expectations for those five teams this week based on their opponents...and then to study the first month of the regular season for those five teams specifically.
Betting markets are most vulnerable when NEW dynamics are in play. There are no mysteries about the New England Patriots with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. You can go through several other coach/QB combos and know what to expect in 2017. It's much more volatile with the five teams I've discussed today. Volatility is a sports bettor's friend.
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