Buy or Sell Dolphins, Eagles, Bengals, Giants, Titans


We’re only two weeks into the NFL season, but already it feels like the sky is falling for some 0-2 teams while other 2-0 squads are flying high.

Yep — it’s Overreaction SZN.

We wait so long for new numbers and data that it’s almost impossible not to react when a presumed contender comes out of the gates flat and loses their first two games. Likewise, it’s easy to get too excited about a hot start and dream big, especially for teams that weren’t expected to be great.

So just how bad do things look for the winless Bengals and Titans, and are the undefeated Giants, Dolphins and Eagles really playoff-bound … or more?

For today’s Friday Futures, let’s go around the horn on five teams with unexpected starts and play a little round of Buy or Sell. How do we play these teams’ futures going forward?

Buy or Sell: Bengals

The Bengals were a couple plays from winning the Super Bowl and entered the 2022 season with an overhauled offensive line and sky-high hopes for another run. Now they’re 0-2. Life comes at you fast.

Cincinnati outplayed Pittsburgh in Week 1 and should have won, even with five turnovers. The Bengals were bad against the Cowboys, but had the ball late with a chance to win. This team isn’t far from 2-0.

The offense has not been anything close to expectation. Cincinnati has the second worst early down offense per RBSDM, and the remade line has not been up standard.

Defenses are hanging back to take away Joe Burrow’s deep ball, and the Bengals have failed to adjust. Joe Mixon has been ineffective running into light boxes, and Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins haven’t made their usual big plays.

Shockingly, this talented offense ranks last in DVOA through two games. But Burrow, Chase and Higgins are too good for this to last. Like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and other young QBs, Burrow and this offense will adjust and cook again. And the defense has actually been solid, so the Bengals should be just fine once the offense finds its way. The line should also improve as it gels, and it won’t have to deal with T.J. Watt and Micah Parsons every week.

Take a look at the next nine opponents on Cincinnati’s schedule: Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Saints, Falcons, Browns, Panthers, Steelers and Titans. Only one of those teams has a top-15 QB. The Bengals have a top-five option in Burrow and a distinct offensive advantage in all but one or two of those games.

There are tough defenses on that list, though, so those games won’t be easy. And look at the final six games: Chiefs, Browns (with Deshaun Watson), Bucs, Patriots, Bills, Ravens. That’s a murderer’s row, and that combined with an 0-2 start in a tough AFC means Cincinnati’s margin for error is razor thin.

I can’t sell on the Bengals before a great Week 3 spot against the Jets, and it’s hard to sell with a soft schedule stretch coming up. But I’m definitely not buying either, especially with that daunting final stretch.

The Bengals will be better going forward, but better might only mean eight or nine wins, and that’s probably not enough in the loaded AFC.

Verdict: HOLD for now, but look for a spot to sell later.

Buy or Sell: Titans

The Titans are another 0-2 squad, and their prognosis is not as good.

This team’s identity is built around Derrick Henry and a smash-mouth rushing attack, but he hasn’t been the same since returning from injury. He’s had 54 carries for just 169 yards — an ugly 3.1 YPC — and RBs with his size, age and injury profile typically don’t return to form.

Henry isn’t King Henry anymore, especially behind a faltering offensive line that might be a bottom-five unit. The Titans no longer have an identity. They also have the worst early down defense in the league and are without star pass rusher Harold Landry for the season.

Through two games, the Titans rank in the bottom four in DVOA on offense, defense and special teams — that’s everything.

The Titans should’ve beat the Giants in Week 1. They never had a chance in Buffalo on Monday night, but that loss was not as damaging since it was an expected loss as their toughest game on the schedule.

Up next for Tennessee are winnable games against the Raiders, Colts, Commanders, Colts again and Texans. But winnable games are also losable, and check out this five-game stretch waiting for the Titans in the back half: Chiefs, Broncos, Packers, Bengals and Eagles in a row, with the Chargers and healthy Cowboys still after that.

The door will always be cracked open in this weak division. Even if the Titans only win those three upcoming road games, they’d still be in the playoff mix at 3-4, but 3-0 in the AFC South. If you want to back this team, you’re far better off backing them to win the division (+200) than just making the playoffs (+150).

I’m selling though, and I’m selling hard. This roster looks cooked, and this feels like a transition year. We already saw rookie QB Malik Willis against the Bills. If this season continues to get away, the Titans could turn to Willis to see what they’ve got, and that likely means a whole lot of losing.

The Titans are -155 to miss the playoffs, an implied 61%. That means 39% to make, and 0-2 teams have made the playoffs just 11% of the time since 1990, including none in the last three years.

I’m betting on Tennessee missing the playoffs, and I’ll also sprinkle their odds to have the worst record in the league at +2900 in case the bottom totally falls out.

Verdict: SELL, -155 to miss the playoffs and +2900 worst record.

Enough doom and gloom — let’s get excited about some 2-0 teams.

Speed kills, and Miami’s speed has been overwhelming. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle stretch the field vertically, leaving a ton of room underneath for the equally speedy Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. Baltimore’s defensive backs traveled 6,131 yards on pass plays Sunday, more than any DB group all last season.

This offense will be a nightmare matchup for the wrong opponent. We’ve long seen NFL teams wear opponents down with physical play, grinding it out on the ground in the Titans mold. What if Miami is a modern speed version of that, wearing opponents down by running them silly in the pass game? The Dolphins could be an intriguing live bet option for late comebacks.

It’s important to remember the first three quarters of that Ravens game. Miami buried itself early. The defense and special teams have not been good, and the Dolphins won’t score 28 points in the fourth quarter or get 469 yards and six TDs from Tua Tagovailoa every week.

I’m intrigued by Miami — too intrigued to sell — but this is not the moment to buy. Buffalo comes to town on a seven-game win streak against the Dolphins, and Josh Allen has lit this defense up, winning by 19.3 PPG over that stretch. Then it’s a quick turnaround before Thursday Night Football in Cincinnati. Miami could easily be 2-2 one week from right now.

The schedule begs us to wait and see if this Mike McDaniel offense holds up.

We need more data, and the buy point might be after Week 6 with Miami’s next five games after that: Steelers, Lions, Bears, Browns, Texans. If the Phins hit that stretch 4-2 or 5-1, it’s probably time to buy stock. But the final six games come against the 49ers, Chargers, Bills, Packers, Patriots and Jets, so Miami needs to stay hot to withstand that brutal stretch.

Tagovailoa is intriguing MVP candidate. He leads the league in yards and TDs and is on pace for 6,282 yards and 60 TDs. He’s also third in EPA and EPA + CPOE behind only Patrick Mahomes and Allen. Those numbers are valuable predictors for MVP historically.

Tagovailoa is currently +2000 to win MVP, and McDaniel is the favorite to win Coach of the Year at most books. I can’t blame you for wanting to invest, but you’re paying peak value right before a likely dip against the league’s best defense.

If you wait and Miami wins these next two games, you probably lose any window to buy. But you could also just play both Dolphins underdog moneylines rolled over for around +500, so why not just do that if you believe that much?

I’ll wait for more info. What Miami is doing on offense is new and intriguing, but we need to see if it’s sustainable and if the rest of the team catches up.

Verdict: HOLD until we see this team against Buffalo and Cincinnati.

 

Buy or Sell: Eagles

I’m not waiting around with the Eagles. I was buying Philadelphia all offseason, and you should buy stock now if you don’t have any yet — or more if you do.

Jalen Hurts played the game of his career on Monday, and this offense is a nightmare with its run game and added vertical threat. Don’t overlook how good the defense was either, shutting down a dangerous Vikings attack. Those Detroit and Minnesota wins should look better and better in time.

They might also end up among the toughest games on Philadelphia’s schedule. The Eagles still have six games against the terrible NFC East and four against the even worse AFC South.

Per Football Outsiders, the Eagles have the softest remaining schedule in the entire NFL. Somehow, they have only one game left against a team even favored to make the playoffs!

You’re buying high, but the Eagles’ schedule is so soft both now and going forward that there’s not going to be a better buy point. This team has potential to finish top five on both offense and defense, and with that schedule, the Eagles could be a real threat to win 12-plus games and contend for the first seed in the NFC.

I recommended the Eagles’ division odds last Futures Friday at -150. There’s still value there, even at -200 — but what about Jalen Hurts at +1100 for MVP?

Be careful.

Hurts has only thrown one TD thus far and ranks seventh in EPA and EPA+CPOE. He’s been good but not great, and those numbers are meaningful for MVP. Hurts was a tremendous long shot value in the spring if you grabbed him at 50-1, but he’s the third or fourth favorite now. The Eagles could win 13 games and the first seed with a team effort, even without Hurts putting up MVP numbers.

The better way to back Philadelphia is Nick Sirianni at +900 to win Coach of the Year.

The Eagles’ 1-seed odds are shorter odds than that, but if Philly beats out the Bucs, Packers and Rams, Sirianni would be a strong candidate with a winning COY profile. He was my pick before the season, and unlike Hurts, he still has real value at his number.

It’s time to buy Philly stock, and Sirianni might be the best way to do it.

Verdict: BUY the -200 division odds and Sirianni +900 Coach of the Year.

Buy or Sell: Giants

The Giants are 2-0 but got their wins against a pair of 0-2 teams (Titans and Panthers), and they probably should have lost to both.

New York has been nothing special.

The Giants rank 18th in offensive DVOA and 20th in defensive DVOA. Credit Brian Daboll for getting the most out of his team in two coin-flip games, but there could be a reckoning coming. The Giants have been the third-worst early down defense, but terrific on late downs. Early downs are more predictive, so that spells trouble.

The Giants don’t have a quarterback. The line is one of the worst in the league. The defense looks bad. Saquon Barkley is fun, but this is not a team to invest in.

The problem is we can’t really fade Giants futures either. New York is favored the next two weeks against the Cowboys and Bears, and the Giants have a super soft schedule — like Philadelphia — with six NFC East games, four AFC South games, plus Detroit, Chicago, and Seattle.

The NFC is soft. Nine wins could make the playoffs. Could the Giants go 7-8 in their remaining games with that schedule? It’s possible.

I’m selling New York, but the over/under of 8.5 and odds to miss the playoffs at -140 aren’t the play. Instead, look for a spot to bet against the overvalued Giants game-to-game, and if New York does emerge 4-0, we’ll circle back and short their stock hard then.

Verdict: SELL by fading an overvalued Giants team game-to-game.



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