I'm back to try again after an abysmal first week where I was throwing darts at a dartboard! This week is a weird week where there are not a ton of games that feel familiar and you're getting games like the Detroit Lions traveling out to Arizona to take on the Cardinals. I'll remind everyone that these picks are free advice so you get what you pay for! In all seriousness I've had success picking NFL games before in the past, but I always warn people that the first couple of weeks in any NFL season always feel like a crap shoot because teams haven't shown their identities yet and you're basing picks off of what you perceive teams will be and what little (useless) information you can gather from preseason. With that in mind here come the Week 2 picks.
All lines current as of 10 p.m. Wednesday night from footballlocks.com
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-11.5)
I said it last week and I'll say it again, even I don't anticipate the New York Jets will be a good team this year I really think they have one of the most talented defensive lines in all of football and while I don't think they'll win a ton of games, I think they can keep most games close as long as their quarterback can avoid giving points away. Watching the New England game last weekend reinforced the fact that this is a team that has some offensive kinks that need to be worked out. I don't love the Thursday night games especially for the away teams, but I'll take the Jets keep this game close and stay with in the 11.5 points.
San Diego Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5)
I was stunned with the performance the Eagles put together in the first week of the season and it's possible that the Eagles will be much improved this year, but I'm still hesitant. On the other hand the Chargers looked like the same old Norv Turner lead Chargers--a team that is often it's own worst enemy. The Chargers still have some talent and even though the fast-paced offense of Chip Kelly might be overwhelming I don't think the Eagles are 7.5 points better than the Chargers. I think the Chargers cover the 7.5 points.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)
The Browns played very poorly last week in a few phases, but the big thing that sticks out is that the Browns went 1 for 14 on third down conversions against the Miami Dolphins and Brandon Weeded averaged 5.5 yards per pass attempt. I don't think they'll do that poorly on third downs again and I think they have a solid group on defense. The Ravens on the other hand are in a transition from a Ray Lewis led team to a Joe Flacco led team, but the Ravens aren't providing Joe Flacco with a ton of weapons in the passing game. I think the Ravens will win this game, but I'll take the Browns to cover the spread.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-9)
I don't think many people saw that game coming from Tennessee last week and there were probably a number of people who lost in survival pools. The Titans made the Steelers look like the worst offense in the league keeping them under 200 total yards for the day, while they sacked Big Ben 5 times. Are the Titans that good or are the Steelers just going to be that bad? The Texans on the other hand had trouble with the San Diego Chargers, but are a loaded team everyone expects to contend for a Superbowl. Last year the Texans beat the Titans by 24 and 14. I don't like how high the spread is and I think the Titans have really improved along the offensive line with the additions of Chance Warmack and Andy Levitre and if they can put together a solid rush game they should be able to stay within a touchdown even though I'll always be worried picking game with Jake Locker, I'll take the 9 points for the Titans
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5)
I thought in my mind the point spread here will be higher, but maybe I'm leaning too much of my preconceived notions of the teams heading into the season. I have high expectations for the Colts and really like their young talent, meanwhile I'm very skeptical about the Dolphins as a new and improved team. I think the Colts win this game by more than a field goal, but if the Dolphins win they'll have shown me something and I'll have to re consider them moving forward.
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Buffalo Bills
Generally speaking if teams were evenly matched the home team will be favored by 3 points. This line indicates that the Bills on a neutral field would be 6 point underdogs to the Carolina Panthers. I think the Panthers have some nice players (and how good would Luke Kuechly look on the Giants), but they are still a team trying to figure out winning. The BIlls are a team that always seems to be a little better than their national perception (even though never all that good) and I liked what the Bills showed last Sunday against the Patriots and I think they could win this game out-right so I'll take the three-point cushion with the Bills.
St. Louis at Atlanta Falcons (-6.5)
I had high expectation for the Rams defense and thought there showing against the Cardinals was a let down, they could not cover Fitzgerald all day on Sunday and this week they get a heavy dose of Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons are also terrific at home and are coming off a rough loss to the Saints. I think the Falcons win this game by more than a touchdown.
Washington Redskins at Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
Do you know what can cure an ailing offense? A match-up against the Green Bay Packers. The Packers defense is pretty bad and RG3 and company should be able to make some plays. On the other hand, the Packers offense can be terrific and the Redskins defense is full of question marks and they employ a lot of guys in the secondary who are either young or prone to giving up big plays. I expect a pretty high-scoring game and I'll take the Packers being more than 7.5 points better than the Redskins .
Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs (-3)
The Chiefs are one of those weird teams I'm not sure how to feel about. Everything I read and heard in the off-season told me the Chiefs were going to be a much improved team--the team everyone thought they would be last year and then last week they went out and trounced the Jaguars 28-2. But it was just the Jaguars. On the other hand the Cowboys were able to capitalize off of 6 Giants turnovers to start out the season 1-0. I think the Chiefs will protect the football much better than the Giants did last week, the Chiefs also have cornerbacks that match up well with the Cowboys wide receivers in Brandon Flowers and Shaun Smith. I think the Chiefs pass rushing duo of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston could also give the Cowboys problems. I think (hope) the Chiefs win this game by more than three points.
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (-6)
The Bears had a big win on Sunday against a team I think will be one of the better teams in the league this year (the Bengals). The Vikings on the other hand played poorly against the Lions in most capacities. I think the Bears are clearly the better team, but I don't like laying 6 points in divisional games and I think the Vikings will come out very motivated to avoid a dread 0-2 start a year after making the playoffs. I think the Bears win, but by less than 6 points.
New Orleans Saints (-3.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I'm having a difficult time understanding why this line is only 3.5 points. Am I missing something? I don't like the way the Saints plays on grass, but the Buccaneers looked absolutely awful for large stretches of the game against the Jets and I'll take the Saints to win by more than 3.5 points.
Detroits Lions at Arizona Cardinals (-1.5)
I know everyone calls Reggie Bush a "bust", but when you take out of context where he was drafted (2nd overall) and just look at him as a player he's a very useful NFL player who can change the dynamics of an offense even if he isn't producing at an extremely high level. He adds a nice complement to Calvin Johnson and what the Lions want to do on offense. The Cardinals are a team that is overlooked even though they have a nice defense and quality position players. It remains to be seen how great of an impact Carson Palmer will have on the team throughout the season, but the offense didn't look nearly as pathetic as it looked in almost every game last year against the Rams this past weekend. One of the most interesting matchups to watch this entire weekend will be Calvin Johnson lining up against Patrick Peterson--two freak athletes going to battle that's what footballs all about. I thought the Cardinals looked much improved and I'm still not convinced the Lions can stay out of their own way, even though they are talented. I like the Cardinals to win this game outright.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders (-5.5)
The Jaguars are absolutely terrible. The Raiders are just bad and at least Pryor looks like he might bring some excitement to the team and they have more playmakers than the Jaguars do. I think the Raiders win by more than 5.5 points and I recommend Jaguars fans start watching quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Tajh Boyd to get a look at their future.
Denver Broncos (-4.5) at New York Giants
There are a lot of things I don't love about this game. I don't like that the Broncos had an extra few days to prepare for the Giants. I don't like how the Giants cornerbacks matchup with Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker (Welker's numbers against the Giants he had 16 catches for a 196 yards), and I don't like the Giants trying to game-plan for Peyton Manning. On the other hand the Broncos might be without Champ Bailey and will be without Von Miller and they have to contend with the Giants offense. Are the Broncos 7.5 points better than the Giants on a neutral field? That's what the line says. I'm going to hope that Eli finally exercises the can't beat his big brother demon this weekend but admit that I'm being a big homer. Giants to win outright
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-3)
This should be a very fun game to watch and is really a pick em game. The Seahawks are a talented team that is difficult to beat at home, but the 49ers are no slouches either. I'll take the 49ers to win this game outright though I really think it's a coin toss and I don't have a strong feeling either way.
I think the Bengals are the better team, but wowza! The Steelers are 7-point underdogs? That just doesn't look right. I'll take the Steelers to cover the 7 points, though based on Week 1 that wouldn't be a smart bet.
Hopefully I'll have some more success this week, but in any event teams identities will start to emerge and people will be able to make picks based on the 2013 team product and use much less guesswork.
Follow Jesse on twitter @NFLmocks
Week 1 Record: 3-13