Week 2 Picks

Posted: 09/18/2016 by levcohen in Football

I guess it’s not surprising that, a week after a historically close slate of games, only one team (Carolina) is favored by more than a touchdown this week. How much of an aberration was Week 1? Well, I wouldn’t expect to see so many one and two point games this week, but it’s not an accident that games have become both higher-scoring and more exciting over the last few years. The NFL’s made a conscious effort to increase passing production, and a byproduct of that uptick in passing is that teams can now mount comebacks they would have had no chance of starting with the old rules. The league is moving closer to college football, which features huge swings from quarter to quarter and has score-friendly rules that allows teams to come back from 20+ point deficits in the fourth quarter fairly often. Now, none of this means anything specific for Week 2, but consider this a suggesting to keep the TV on even if a game seems out of hand.

*- Upset pick

Cincinnati Bengals (1-0, 0-1 against the spread) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0, 1-0):*
Spread: Steelers favored by 3.5
Over/under: 48.5
My prediction: The Steelers looked soooo good on Monday against the Redskins. In fact, they looked pretty much unstoppable, with the usual exploits from Antonio Brown and the offense (437 yards) complemented with a defense that shut down Washington’s offense when it counted. It’s no surprise that the majority of the public money on this game is flowing to the high-profile Steelers. But it’s never smart to overreact to a Week 1 performance, and I’m a little less impressed with Pittsburgh’s Week 1 performance than most people simply because I didn’t think the Redskins would be any good this season even before last week. Brown will have plenty of joy again this week, because there’s no way he can be stopped. But I expect Cincinnati’s defense to be a bit smarter about defending him. Doubling him up with a corner and a safety seems like an obvious idea, but on both of Brown’s touchdowns the ‘Skins had him single-covered. In Geno Atkins and Co., the Bengals also have more defensive talent than the Redskins and should be able to do a better job at getting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and slowing down running back DeAngelo Williams. I envision a lower scoring game in this one, and I think the Bengals can pull it out to move to 2-0 in two tough road games. This is the game of the week. Bengals win 23-20.
Bengals cover
Under

Tennessee Titans (0-1, 0-1) at Detroit Lions (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Lions favored by 6
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: My head says that the spread is too high. The Lions just took faced a really bad and injured Colts defense and still needed a game-winning field goal to emerge victorious. Meanwhile, the Titans squandered a chance to knock off the Shaun Hill-led Vikings, but people might be underestimating the talent of Minnesota’s defense. So yeah, my head says pick Tennessee to cover the spread. But my heart says that the Lions are clearly the better team, and that Tennessee’s run-heavy strategy may keep the score low but won’t ultimately keep the Titans in the game. I was leaning towards going with my heart, but then I realized that these are the Lions and they never make things easy for themselves. Lions win 24-20.
Titans cover
Under

Baltimore Ravens (1-0, 1-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Ravens favored by 5.5
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: I kind of like Josh McCown. Cleveland’s replacement for an injured (that was quick!) Robert Griffin III was sneaky-good at times last year and can actually throw the ball down the field, unlike most backup quarterbacks. Alas, McCown had no talent around him last year and has no talent around him this year. Baltimore didn’t look particularly good in their Week 1 win, which I’m thankful for because I believe it’s the only thing keeping this spread below a touchdown. After this week, Cleveland’s next two home games are against New England and the Jets, which makes me think it might be a while before they’re getting this few points at home. I’ll lay the points and go with the team I trust to make big plays. Ravens win 27-17.
Ravens cover
Over

Dallas Cowboys (0-1, 0-0-1) at Washington Redskins (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Redskins favored by 3
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: I said that I never thought the Redskins would be good this year. But I’m still surprised that they’re only giving three points at home against the Cowboys and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who was decent (I guess) in Week 1 but showed that he has no capability of driving his team down the field when his running game isn’t working for him. The running backs will see more daylight against a Redskins front seven that got destroyed by DeAngelo Williams than they enjoyed against a rejuvenated Giants front, but I have more confidence in Kirk Cousins and Washington’s offense in a high-scoring game than I do in Dak Prescott. Redskins win 31-20.
Redskins cover
Over

New Orleans Saints (0-1, 0-1) at New York Giants (1-0, 0-0-1):
Spread: Giants favored by 4
Over/under: 54
My prediction: How high would the over/under have to be for me to be tempted to take the under? I think it’d have to be pushing 60 points. I’m still hammering the over on New Orleans’s games as long as they aren’t playing a dominant defense. And while I was encouraged by what I saw from the Giants defensively last week, they’re still far from a dominant defense. They were soft against intermediate passes, which wasn’t really a problem against the Cowboys but will absolutely be against Drew Brees and the Saints. Unfortunately for New Orleans, the Saints defense has no chance of stopping any offense right now, let alone one as good as New York’s. The injury to top cornerback Delvin Breaux cripples an already-atrocious defense, so another good offensive performance from New Orleans will be wasted. Giants win 34-28.
Giants cover
Over

San Francisco 49ers (1-0, 1-0) at Carolina Panthers (0-1, 0-1):– Lock of the week
Spread: Panthers favored by 13
Over/under: 45
My prediction: Sorry to be boring and take this game as my lock, but after losing my lock last week I need to keep it safe here. I was half-hoping that people would be convinced after San Francisco’s 28-0 win over the Rams in Week 1 that the Niners aren’t god-awful, but it turns out that people are smarter than that. The Niners still stink, and the Panthers showed in Week 1 that they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with again this season. They ended up losing in Denver, but this is obviously a much easier matchup for them. 13 feels like — and is — a lot, but I’m not going to be the person to pick against the Panthers here, certainly straight up but also against the spread. I know this contradicts what I said at the beginning of this post, but if the Panthers take an early two touchdown lead, it’ll be all over. Panthers win 31-10.
Panthers cover
Under

Miami Dolphins (0-1, 1-0) at New England Patriots (1-0, 1-0):*
Spread: Patriots favored by 6.5
Over/under: 42
My prediction: Classic inflated spread here. The Patriots are the second most popular team in the country, and they’re coming off of a huge, upset win in a Sunday Night Football game against a really good team. Now, they’re facing a team that lost in a low scoring yawner in Week 1. But I was actually fairly impressed by Miami in their loss to the Seahawks, at least defensively. The real reason I’m picking Miami, though, is because I can’t resist picking against the Pats again. Yeah, I know I said I’d learned my lesson after last week, but apparently I was wrong. Maybe this week will do that, but I’d be pretty mad at myself if I missed predicting a pretty obvious letdown game for a team with a first-year starting quarterback against one with Ndamukong Suh and a swarming defense. Dolphins win 17-14.
Dolphins cover
Under

Kansas City Chiefs (1-0, 0-1) at Houston Texans (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Texans favored by 1
Over/under: 43
My prediction: In the first round of last year’s playoffs, the Chiefs beat the Texans 30-0 in Houston. What will make this week different? Well, I generally don’t like using a blowout last season (even late last season) to justify picking a similar result this year. The dynamics between one NFL season and the next are always so different and would be even if both team’s rosters were exactly the same. More to the point, they aren’t the same. Sean Smith led the Chiefs in tackles and had an interception in last year’s game, while Justin Houston was on the field and aided the pass-rush. This time around, Smith is gone and Houston is hurt, and the Chiefs had a hard time stopping the Chargers before Keenan Allen’s injury. Meanwhile, the Texans have made meaningful offensive improvements. Brock Oswiler might not be great, but he’s a better quarterback than Brian Hoyer, who was dismal in last year’s playoffs (15/34, 136 yards, four interceptions). Lamar Miller gives the team a talented running back who can take pressure off of the passing game, while Will Fuller makes things a lot easier for DeAndre Hopkins. The return of stalwart left tackle Duane Brown (missed last week) should also help, and I expect Hopkins to have a big game for an effective offense. The Texans have a really good defense, but we all know that by now. Texans win 24-17.
Texans cover
Under

Seattle Seahawks (1-0, 0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Seahawks favored by 6.5
Over/under: 37.5
My prediction: The Rams weren’t very good last week. In fact, they were atrocious. They have a horrific offense, and their hyped front-four got almost no pressure on Blaine Gabbert en route to a blowout loss at the hands of one of the worst teams in the NFL. And yet, there are legitimate reasons for Seahawks fans to worry about this game. First of all, their offensive line is still not full strength after looking shaky against the Dolphins and failing to provide many holes for the running game. If last week’s version of the Rams shows up, that won’t be an issue. But if the LA defense I expected before last week comes to play, Seattle could be in trouble, especially since they have a quarterback who normally relies on his mobility but is nursing an injury. The Seahawks should also be worried that the Rams are the type of team that lays an egg against a terrible opponent and then plays a great game the next week against a really good team. Luckily for Seattle, they can play a bad game and the Rams can play a good game with the Seahawks still coming out on top. That’s how anemic LA’s offense is. Seahawks win 17-13 in a game that’ll be very similar to the one Seattle played last week.
Rams cover
Under

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0, 1-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Cardinals favored by 7
Over/under: 50
My prediction: I’m disappointed that the spread is this high, but I didn’t think for a moment about picking the Buccaneers. I still have faith in Arizona’s talent, and I think they’ll respond in a big way to the loss last week. Tampa Bay won convincingly against Atlanta last week, but their defense still wasn’t all that good and Arizona is not Atlanta. The Cardinals really should have won last week, but they were sloppy and ended up needing to rely on a game-winning field goal attempt, which ultimately missed. I don’t think things will be as tight this week against a more forgiving defense that should allow the Cardinals to get things going both on the ground and through the air. Cardinals win 35-20 in a game that shows us more about Arizona than Tampa.
Cardinals cover
Over

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1, 1-0) at San Diego Chargers (0-1, 1-0):*
Spread: Chargers favored by 3
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: This is a tossup game between two bad teams coming off of two very different losses. Everything was going so well for the Chargers, who led Kansas City 21-3 at halftime and looked primed to pull off the road upset, but then both the game and stud receiver Keenan Allen’s ACL were blown. That can’t be easy to rebound from. Meanwhile, the Jaguars were actually better than I expected in a close home loss against the Packers. They didn’t play well, and I don’t think they can sniff .500 this year, but this is a really good spot for them this week. I certainly wouldn’t usually trust Blake Bortles on the road, but playing in San Diego is barely playing on the road. There are probably more Cowboys fans living in California than there are Chargers fans in the world. Now, the Jags aren’t the Cowboys, and I’m sure there won’t be too many Jacksonville fans at the game, but the Chargers have a notoriously weak homefield advantage. That, along with the fact that San Diego is poor enough defensively to have blown that huge lead last week, will be enough for the Jaguars to win this game. Jags win 27-17.
Jaguars cover
Under

Atlanta Falcons (0-1, 0-1) at Oakland Raiders (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Raiders favored by 4
Over/under: 48.5
My prediction: This one is simple for me: I think the Raiders are pretty good, I think the Falcons stink, and I know the Raiders are home. Raiders win 31-23.
Raiders cover
Over

Indianapolis Colts (0-1, 0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Broncos favored by 6.5
Over/under: 46.5
My prediction: My advice is to watch this game only when the Colts have the ball, because that’s when this game will be really interesting. The Broncos will score some points, but that’ll be more as a result of Indy’s atrocious defense than because they have a super talented offense. I think we can safely pencil in the Broncos for 20-27 points. The game, then, will be won or lost by Indianpolis’s offense. Can the Colts, whose offense looked so good in the second half against the Lions, perform against Denver’s terrifying defense? I’m leaning toward “no,” but I also have to remember to never count out Andrew Luck. The Colts always go down big, so they’ll go down big in the first half. But Luck will get hot just in time to bring his Colts all the way back into the game… and they’ll lose by a few points. Broncos win 26-23.
Broncos cover
Over

Green Bay Packers (1-0, 0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0, 1-0):*
Spread: Packers favored by 2
Over/under: 43
My prediction: I like the Vikings here because I think their defense will be the single best unit on the field tonight. The Packers are solid on both sides of the ball, and I think they’ll eventually be more than solid on offense, but their offense is going to need time to gel, and their Week 1 performance didn’t fill me with confidence. They did enough to beat the Jaguars, but the Vikings are a different defensive beast. It must be said that Minnesota will be without both Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes — two key members of the defense — tonight, so my pick of the Vikings is slightly riskier than it otherwise would be. But I loved what I saw from this defense last week, and I think the offense will be good enough with Sam Bradford under center to knock off the Packers. Vikings win 21-17.
Vikings cover
Under

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0, 1-0) at Chicago Bears (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Bears favored by 3
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: Carson Wentz was awesome last week, and so were the Eagles as a team. That’s why they ended last week with the second best DVOA in football. But their win came against the Cleveland Browns, barely an NFL squad. And a quarterback’s second career start is always a heck of a lot harder than his first. We’re very likely to see Wentz come back down to earth this week. This won’t be a blowout, though, because, although I’m not projecting a big game from Philadelphia’s offense, the Bears aren’t very good either. This is really a game I could see going either way, and since there were so many one point games last week, it would feel wrong to get through this post without picking a one point game. Bears win 24-23.
Eagles cover
Over

Upset picks:
Bengals over Steelers
Vikings over Packers
Jaguars over Chargers
Dolphins over Patriots

Lock of the week:
Panthers over Niners

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