Week 2 NFL picks against the spread
Picks for all 16 games with Eagles, Saints and 49ers best bets
The NFL is back and just as we expected. The Bucs, Ravens, and Jets lead the league in scoring, the AFC East is the best division in football, and the Browns have a better record than the Saints, Falcons, and Chargers.
Week 1 was a weird one as usual, with Ryan Fitzpatrick and James Conner lighting up fantasy scoreboards and teams looking shaky and unprepared for the new season. So what’s on tap for Week 2? More of the same, as we rely on defense and coaching to back our early picks and fall back on our preseason reads so we don’t overreact to one game. We cobbled together a winning 9–7 record Week 1 and went a perfect 3–0 on best bets, so we’re off to a good start.
If you’re still catching up, don’t forget to check out my monster season preview: 8 bottom feeders, 8 headed in the wrong direction, 8 sleepers, and 8 Super Bowl contenders. And when in doubt, it’s always good to know the better player in the most important position in sports. Let’s make some picks.
The stay aways
New York Jets -3 vs Miami
Both teams are coming off weird wins; Miami from the longest game in NFL history and the Jets off a short week and a road Monday night victory. Both defenses look good but were helped by Titans injuries and apparently by Stafford hand signals. One of these teams has a good chance at 3–0 (New York plays Cleveland Week 3 and Miami hosts Oakland). Isn’t a Jets win just more fun? We really need a week of everyone talking up Sam Darnold before he craps the bed in Cleveland in front of a national TV Thursday night audience and goes 3–10 the rest of the way.
Indianapolis +6 at Washington
This feels like an overreaction to a Week 1 Redskins win. Washington looked solid but so did Indy, and the Colts were a late Jack Doyle fumble away from Andrew Luck’s successful return being the talk of Week 1. Luck is back and looked good, and he could pick this Washington secondary apart. Indy’s secondary can get beat deep, but that’s never been Alex Smith’s forte. Andrew Luck needs to get Frank Reich his first win.
Houston -2 at Tennessee
Week 1 went about as bad as possible for the Titans. Delanie Walker is out for the season, both offensive tackles are hurt, and Marcus Mariota led the longest game in NFL history multiple times with injuries. Mariota practiced and looks like he’ll get the start, but we’re one tackle away from Blaine Gabbert behind a broken O-line facing J.J. Watt. Gabbert is 11–34 in his career and 0–5 against the Texans. Both these teams came into the season with playoff hopes and one will fall to 0–2 here. The Titans need this game more but they don’t appear to have adjusted to the new offensive scheme yet, and how can you blame them with all the changes?
Good teams beat bad teams
Los Angeles Chargers -8 at Buffalo
This has all the markings of one of those early East Coast games where the West Coast team comes out flat after a cross-country flight, and the Chargers always look half-hungover in September anyway. It looks like Joey Bosa will be out again, and the special teams looked worse than ever against the Chiefs. Vegas says an 0–1 Chargers team is 10 points better than the Bills, and it’s a pretty shocking line. They are begging us to take the Bills. But I have been waiting six months to bet against Josh Allen, and they honestly couldn’t set this line high enough to dissuade me.
Denver -5.5 vs Oakland
It’s entirely possible we’ll pick against Oakland 16 times this season. They did look better for a half than I expected with a solid run game, but Derek Carr is going to get crushed by this pass defense. Denver moved the ball quite well against Seattle but was held back by three Keenum interceptions. Add in a short Oakland week, Jon Gruden’s latest buffoonery, and recent home team domination in the series and it looks good for the blue and orange.
Los Angeles Rams -13 vs Arizona
Thirteen points feels excessive, especially for a Rams team coming off a short week. But L.A. made its living last year destroying bad teams, and the Cards are definitely a bad team. Arizona allowed drives of 8, 11, 15, 10, 3, 12, and 10 plays against Washington while the game was still in hand, and they didn’t have an 8-play drive of their own until it was already lost. The Rams beat Arizona by 16 and 33 last year, and they added 26, 34, and 37-point wins over the Texans, Giants, and Colts. These Rams are excellent front runners, great at home, and awesome against bad quarterbacks.
Ugly defensive prime-time games
Cincinnati PK vs Baltimore (Thursday night)
Don’t expect much offense. In fact, don’t expect much offense in any of the three night games this week, where the under is the best bet in all three cases. This one looks especially so with two good defenses facing offenses that overachieved Week 1 against two of the least talented teams in the league. Add in a short week of prep this early in the season, and this will be an ugly battle for early divisional supremacy. Surprisingly enough, the Bengals have won seven of the last nine in the series. We’ll go with that trend here.
New York Giants +3 at Dallas (Sunday night)
Ohhhh, Sunday night. You shouldn’t have. No really, you shouldn’t have. Nobody needs to watch these teams play in prime time every season. Both teams are coming off tough games against physical defenses, and both struggled to move the ball. Home field never seems to matter in these NFC East battles, and the road team has won 7 of 16 in this series, which has been a sweep four of the last five years. This just feels like a coin flip, so we’ll take the points and the under.
Seattle +3.5 at Chicago (Monday night)
I’m sorry, what? Vegas is calling the Bears the better team here? This seems like an overreaction. Seattle will be missing Doug Baldwin, and Khalil Mack is going to absolutely terrorize this awful Seahawks line. Russell Wilson will have to do it himself, but what else is new? Mitch Zoobisky can’t throw left and can’t hit wide open receivers. Are you really taking that guy against Russell Wilson and a Pete Carroll defense in a must-win game? No thank you.
Two huge NFC divisional battles
Carolina +6 at Atlanta
Both of these teams took a beating in Week 1. Atlanta lost two Pro Bowl defenders in Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, while Carolina lost Greg Olsen and is already missing both its starting offensive tackles. The Falcons looked better than the Eagles in the opener until their red-zone struggles shined through yet again, and Matt Ryan should be able to pass all over this Panthers secondary. He might need to with Devonta Freeman banged up too. It feels like Atlanta is the better team, but are they six points better? Let’s take the points on what could be a close battle.
Green Bay +1 vs Minnesota
Let’s keep this very simple. Minnesota is better at every position except quarterback. They’re the better team. But this is about pride and revenge. The Vikings ended Aaron Rodgers’ season last season, and Green Bay has been whining about it ever since. Rodgers will play, and the Packers will find a way to win their Super Bowl. Minnesota has bigger Super Bowl dreams this year.
Two even bigger AFC battles
Kansas City +5 at Pittsburgh
The Steelers typically have Kansas City’s number. Pittsburgh has won six of the last seven matchups, and the Chiefs haven’t won in Steel City since 1986. But five of those Steelers wins were by one score, and this line smells fishy. Aren’t the Chiefs the better team? Pittsburgh looked terrible Week 1 and may have something rotten in the locker room with this LeVeon Bell mess. If Patrick Mahomes begins his Kansas City tenure with back-to-back road wins over the Chargers and Steelers, Chiefs fans will be dancing in the streets.
New England +1 at Jacksonville
New England often stumbles in September as they round into shape, winning “just” 72% of their September games versus 80% every other month this decade. The Jaguars led the Pats by double digits in the fourth quarter last January, and that was in Foxborough. Ball control with a tough run game and a nasty defense is exactly the sort of game plan you want against New England. So why am I still picking the Patriots? Belichick, Brady, and Bortles. Those three Bs plus a banged-up Fournette are enough reason to take the Pats, but don’t be shocked if they lose.
Week 2 best bets
Philadelphia -3 at Tampa Bay
This line is quite an indictment of Nick Foles, but it doesn’t make sense. Every year one Week 1 game throws everyone off the scent, and this year it was Bucs-Saints. Tampa connected on eight deep passes and added a fluke fumble-return TD and still only won by one score. (By the way, if an interception-return TD is called a pick-6, shouldn’t a fumble return score by a frick-6? I digress.) Tampa is not this good, Ryan Fitzpatrick definitely isn’t this good, and Philly’s roster definitely is. The Eagles have extra rest, and they have the secondary to take away the deep ball and the line to handle Tampa’s front seven. We may get a return of playoff Foles in this one.
New Orleans -8.5 vs Cleveland
This is let’s-not-over-react-to-Bucs-Saints-part-II. Everything went wrong for New Orleans and they still had a chance to win the game. Everything went right for Cleveland and they still couldn’t win it. Tyrod Taylor isn’t built to beat this Saints secondary deep unless Josh Gordon goes all 2013. The Saints aren’t going 0–2 at home against two bad teams to start the season, and they’ll score enough to make sure of it.
San Francisco -5.5 vs Detroit
Detroit was awful Monday night, giving up 17 straight and 31 straight in two different stretches to the youngest quarterback in NFL history, and their offense mounted only one touchdown drive. Meanwhile, San Francisco was quietly very impressive. They went on the road missing their best RB, WR, and LB and still lost by only one score against a tough Vikings team, and that was despite three turnovers including a fumble at the one and a pick-6 plus multiple big pass plays that fell through. These 49ers look good, and they’re going to roll up Detroit’s kitty cats if they come out soft like Monday.