Week 2 Picks

Posted: 09/17/2017 by levcohen in Football

The four best quarterbacks in the NFL are facing off against each other today. Tom Brady’s Patriots travel to face Drew Brees’ Saints, while Aaron Rodgers and the Packers face Matt Ryan and the Falcons in Atlanta. I think it’s pretty hard to argue that anyone else is in the same league as those four, so this should be fun. There’s also the fact that all four defenses leave something to be desired. Last week was super low scoring, but I guarantee you that at least those two games will see their fair share of points. On to the picks.

Cleveland Browns (0-1, 1-0 against the spread) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Ravens favored by 7.5
Over/under: 39
My prediction: I was not particularly high on the Baltimore Ravens coming into the year. Then they destroyed the Bengals, a team I liked coming in, and I started to like the Ravens more. And then the Bengals failed to score a touchdown for the second straight week, and now I don’t know what to think. The Browns played well against the Steelers, but the Ravens have historically been very tough at home and this is not a good matchup for rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who held the ball for too long last week and now faces a team that had five sacks last week. Baltimore’s offense looks very vanilla, which could keep this game close, but I’m fairly confident that the Ravens will win the game. Ravens win 20-13.
Browns cover
Under

Buffalo Bills (1-0, 1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Panthers favored by 7
Over/under: 43
My prediction: I think the Bills are about to get a wakeup call. They dominated the Jets last week, as they won by nine points and were in control throughout the game. But that was the Jets, the laughingstock of the league. This is the Panthers, who at the very least have a tremendous defense. It’s going to be tough for Buffalo to put up points in Carolina because the offense just doesn’t have enough weapons. LeSean McCoy is going to get force-fed the ball, but the Panthers will be ready for him. Now, I’m not very confident in Carolina’s offense either (this could be a theme, as most games went under last week), but they have more weapons and are playing at home. Panthers win 27-14.
Panthers cover
Under

Arizona Cardinals (0-1, 0-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Cardinals favored by 7
Over/under: 44
My prediction: This is an atrocious game between two of the four or five worst teams of Week 1. There’s no question that the Colts are the worst team in football without Andrew Luck. They’re bad at everything, and that shouldn’t change much with Jacoby Brissett, who’s been on the team for less than two weeks, at quarterback. Even if Brissett is significantly better than Scott Tolzien, it’s impossible to pick the Colts to cover with any confidence. Then again, the Cardinals just lost David Johnson, the key to their offense, for a few months. #2 receiver John Brown is also out, and most importantly Carson Palmer looked horrendous last week. It might be a one week respite for Palmer and the Cardinals, but I think Arizona’s going to win this game handily. Cardinals win 30-17.
Cardinals cover
Over

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0, 1-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Chiefs favored by 5.5
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: On the one hand, this is a clear “everyone overreacted to Kansas City’s Week 1 performance and they’re not that good” week. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to imagine a team without a running game coming into Arrowhead, stopping Justin Houston and the Chiefs’ pass rush, and playing efficient offense. It’s also hard for me to imagine a team that just lost its top cornerback slowing down Tyreek Hill. At the same time, this is a good matchup for Philly’s defense. Last week aside, Kansas City has far more success throwing short passes to the middle of the field than they do attacking cornerbacks with deep passes. I’m also excited to see how Alex Smith plays when he’s under pressure, as he undoubtedly will be given how strong and deep Philly’s pass rush is. The Chiefs should win this game, but I think it’ll be lower-scoring and closer than expected. Chiefs win 23-20.
Eagles cover
Under

Tennessee Titans (0-1, 0-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Titans favored by 1
Over/under: 42
My prediction: If this game had been played in Week 1, the Titans would probably have been favored by at least five points. I think some correction was necessary, but this qualifies as overcorrection. I’m a big believer in the Jags’ defense, but I’m still not very fond of Blake Bortles or the offense. And Oakland was a really tough matchup for Tennessee, a team that is still the best all-around squad in its division. The Titans have the quarterback and weapons to handle Jacksonville’s defense better than Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson did. And they’ve been way better against the run than against the pass for a few years now. Stop Leonard Fournette and you stop Jacksonville. Titans win 23-17.
Titans cover
Under

New England Patriots (0-1, 0-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Patriots favored by 6.5
Over/under: 57
My prediction: The Patriots will probably blow the Saints out of the water, but this is a ridiculous spread. Why are the Pats giving almost a touchdown on the road after their horror show in Week 1? I know the answer to that: we’ve seen this movie before, and the Patriots always bounce back in a big way after an embarrassing loss. But this time, things might be a little different because the defense looks hopeless. And playing against Drew Brees in the Superdome is still no easy task for a defense. New England’s offense should get everything it wants, but so, I think, should the Saints’ offense. I’m so down on both defenses that I’m going to pick this game to go over the monstrous 57 number. Patriots win 34-31.
Saints cover
Over

Minnesota Vikings (1-0, 1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0, 0-1):
Spread: Steelers favored by 6.5
Over/under: 45
My prediction: I was down on the Steelers’ offense last week because I knew that they generally struggle on the road. I didn’t know that Le’Veon Bell would look so rusty in Week 1, but that didn’t help. I’m much higher on Pittsburgh this week. I know Minnesota’s defense is quite good, but I don’t think any defense in the world will be able to stop Big Ben and Pittsburgh when their offense is whirring. Bell’s going to be a lot better this week, Antonio Brown is Antonio Brown, and I expect Ben to hit Martavis Bryant deep at least once at home. On the other side, an underrated Steeler defense that took Deshone Kizer down five times faces an unproven offensive line (sure, they dominated the Saints, but that was the Saints) with a banged up quarterback (Sam Bradford’s been on the injury report with a knee injury). The Steelers should win by a couple of scores. Steelers win 31-17.
Steelers cover
Over

Chicago Bears (0-1, 1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Spread: Bucs favored by 7
Over/under: 43
My prediction: We’re in uncharted territory here, because the Buccaneers are coming off of a Week 1 BYE. Will that help (they’ve had more time to rest and prepare for the Bears) or hurt (they’ll still be in preseason mode)? I guess we’ll see today. BYE week questions aside, Tampa’s clearly the better team. They have the much more dynamic passing game, with Jameis Winston throwing down the field to Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson while Mike Glennon attempts to dink and dunk his way down the field with a cast of misfits at receiver after top two targets Cameron Meredith and Kevin White were lost for the season. The defenses are about even, as Chicago’s D was very impressive against Atlanta last week, although that was at home. I expect a back-and-forth game, and I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach with Tampa because I’m not convinced that they’re as good as people think they are. Buccaneers win 21-17.
Bears cover
Under

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (0-1, 0-0-1):*
Spread: Chargers favored by 3.5
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: And here’s the other team that had a Week 1 BYE. It’s Jay Cutler’s first game as a Dolphin, so the focus should be on him. Is Adam Gase really the Cutler whisperer? How will Cutler handle the pressure that the Chargers will likely put on him? Will Miami really have a run-first offense? The answer to that last question is probably yes, at least early on. Jay Ajayi is a powerful running back coming off a great season, but there are questions about how he can hold up with a full workload over a full season. He’s already on the injury report with knee soreness, and the knee was why he tumbled in the draft. It has no cartilage and is probably a ticking time bomb. Of course, that shouldn’t matter this week. Ajayi will get all of the carries he can handle. I know the Chargers closed the deficit at the end of the game last week, but they didn’t impress me against the Broncos. They’ll have to play better to win their home opener. I think the Chargers are the better team, but the fact that the Dolphins are better-rested (LA played on Monday night) and have a healthy Ajayi could be the difference. LA will be without top corner Jason Verrett. Dolphins win 27-23.
Dolphins cover
Over

New York Jets (0-1, 0-1) at Oakland Raiders (1-0, 1-0):
Spread: Raiders favored by 13.5
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: Yeah, not much to say about this one. The Raiders looked excellent in Week 1 and now go home to play the Jets. It’s Marshawn Lynch’s first game in Oakland, the city he grew up in. The Jets are listless offensively and not much defensively, with a run defense that’s eons worse than it was last year. A spread of 13.5 is very rich, but remember that the Bills were favored by 8 points against the Jets last week. I think it’s an accurate spread, but I’ll pick the Jets to cover because why not. Raiders win 26-14.
Jets cover
Under

Dallas Cowboys (1-0, 1-0) at Denver Broncos (1-0, 0-0-1):*
Spread: Cowboys favored by 2.5
Over/under: 43
My predictions: This is a tough, tough game for Dak Prescott and Dallas’s offense. It’s an offense that didn’t look great last week against the Giants. Ezekiel Elliott will obviously be a featured part of the offense, because he always is and because Denver’s run defense is far weaker than it’s pass defense. But Prescott wasn’t particularly sharp last week, and the Giants didn’t have that much trouble with Dallas’s offense. And Denver’s offense is significantly better than New York’s without Odell Beckham. It’s not great, but against the Chargers it was at least adequate. I don’t really understand why the Cowboys are road favorites here. They’re the better team, but Denver’s a tough place to play and Dallas will be without top corner Orlando Scandrick. I expect either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders to have a big game in a small upset win. Broncos win 24-20.
Broncos cover
Over

Washington Redskins (0-1, 0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0, 1-0):*
Spread: Rams favored by 2.5
Over/under: 46
My prediction: On paper, this is a good matchup for the Rams. They get Aaron Donald back for a game against an offensive line that struggled against the Eagles. And their Todd Gurley-led offense gets a plush matchup against a team that couldn’t stop the run last year and only did so against Philly because the Eagles can’t run the football. But there are a few reasons I expect the Redskins to come into Los Angeles and beat the Rams. First of all, I don’t think Todd Gurley is good. And I don’t think the offense is good. In fact, I think it’s still one of the worst offenses in football. It’s a lot better than it was last season, but it was one of the worst offenses in recent memory last season. Additionally, Washington’s offense is a lot better than it showed last week against an underrated Eagles defense. Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor are dangerous weapons. Jordan Reed is the second best tight end in the league. They just couldn’t show it last week because Kirk Cousins was really poor. I’m going to side with two years of evidence that Cousins is pretty good over one week of horrendous play. Redskins win 27-21.
Redskins cover
Over

San Francisco 49ers (0-1, 0-1) at Seattle Seahawks (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Seahawks favored by 14
Over/under: 42
My prediction: How many times have we seen the Seahawks struggle on the road before coming home to hammer their next opponent? Let’s just look at last year. The Seahawks lost 9-3 in Los Angeles, then came home and beat the Niners by 19. They scored five points in Tampa and then came home to beat the Panthers by 33. They were destroyed at Green Bay and then beat the Rams by 21. The year before, it was the same thing. It’s actually becoming a tradition for the Seahawks to lose at Lambeau and then come home and dominate their next game. This’ll be the third straight season that happens, because the Seahawks are obviously going to destroy the 49ers. Seahawks win 35-10.
Seahawks cover
Over

Green Bay Packers (1-0, 1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0, 0-1):*
Spread: Falcons favored by 3
Over/under: 56.5
My prediction: It’s a rematch of the 2016 NFC Championship Game, which the Falcons won 44-21. I’m pretty sure this game is going to have a different feel. LaDarius Gunter was the guy guarding Julio Jones last year — he just got released. Corners Demarious Randall and Quinten Rollins are healthy now, and the Packers dominated Seattle’s defense. They aren’t going to shut down the Falcons in Atlanta, but I’m positive that they’ll do a better job than they did last season. The real story here, though, is what happens when the Packers have the ball. I’m intrigued by Atlanta’s defense, but this is obviously as tough as it gets. If the Bears were able to move the ball against the Falcons, what do you think Aaron Rodgers will be able to do? My guess: a lot. It’s Atlanta’s first game in a new stadium, but the Packers are the better team and will show it tonight. Packers win 35-31.
Packers cover
Over

Detroit Lions (1-0, 1-0) at New York Giants (0-1, 0-1):
Spread: Giants favored by 3
Over/under: 42
My prediction: This isn’t a marquee Monday Night Football matchup, but it’s one I’m intrigued by nonetheless. It all hinges on Odell Beckham Jr. If OBJ plays, the Giants have a clear edge. If he doesn’t, I don’t think they have enough offense to keep up with the Lions. That’s not to say that the Lions will have a lot of offensive success, because I don’t think they will. New York’s defense is phenomenal, and Detroit’s offensive numbers against Arizona last week were a bit skewed by meaningless late TDs. It’s a talented offense, but the Giants have shut down better. I’m going to assume Beckham plays and pick the Giants to win 23-16.
Giants cover
Under

Upset picks:
Packers over Falcons
Redskins over Rams
Broncos over Cowboys
Dolphins over Chargers

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