[NOTE: Let’s use this as the open thread to discuss Sunday’s games.]
It’s easy to overreact to Week 1 in the NFL, but it’s important to not let one game completely alter how we view these teams and the season. However, Week 2 can come with some fairly serious consequences. 2-0 teams typically have a 61 percent chance of making the playoffs while 1-1 teams sit at 41 percent. That drops drastically for 0-2 teams, who are at just 10 percent. Keep that in mind when watching these games this week.
Last week’s picks turned out OK, a 9-6-1 record that I’ll take not knowing much about these teams. Week 2 can be even trickier because we think we know something, but often don’t have the full picture yet. Remember these picks are strictly for fun and entertainment purposes and please for your sake do not take these picks as gambling advice. Lines used here come from the Westgate Las Vegas via OddsShark. Home team in CAPS.
Baltimore (PK) over CINCINNATI
The best sign of a good team isn’t the ability to beat other good teams, it’s the ability to blow out the bad teams. That’s exactly what the Ravens did to the Bills. Cincinnati had a massive comeback against the Indianapolis Colts, but allowed the Colts to take the lead in the first place. I’ll lean Baltimore here, but I’m not expecting another blowout. It’s the first Thursday night game on short rest, so I’d take the under.
[UPDATE: Cincinnati’s 34-23 victory makes this one a loss on the picks ledger.]
TENNESSEE (+1.5) over Houston
Marcus Mariota was a full participant in practice Wednesday and his status had held this line from being released in a few places. The Titans lost to the Miami Dolphins in one of the strangest games of the season with hours worth of delays due to weather. Houston and Tennessee are probably pretty close to even — they’re 13th and 18th in Football Outsiders’ DAVE, which combines Week 1 results and preseason projections this early in the season — so let’s go with the home team getting points.
[UPDATE: with Marcus Mariota likely out for the Titans, I’m changing this pick to Texans -1.5]
GREEN BAY (PK) over Minnesota
Aaron Rodgers is unreal and he probably shouldn’t be bet against. Strangely, Rodgers’s knee injury against the Chicago Bears allowed the Packers to stay in a quick rhythm offense that moved the ball. It took away from Rodgers running around and doing typical Rodgers stuff, but he still did some crazy Rodgers stuff from the pocket on one leg. Minnesota might be the slightly better team — sixth in DAVE to Green Bay’s eighth — but the Packers are at home, which makes it more even.
NEW ORLEANS (-8.5) over Cleveland
The shootout between New Orleans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was easily the most surprising result of Week 1. While there’s going to be a lot of people thinking the Saints were overrated because of it, they should also remember the team scored 40 points in that game, Drew Brees had 9.8 yards per attempt, Alvin Kamara had over 100 receiving yards, and Michael Thomas was uncoverable. Cleveland, meanwhile, couldn’t win a game with a plus-5 turnover ratio. It’s hard to trust the Browns coaching staff to overcome what’s probably going to be a high scoring game — at least on one side.
Carolina (+6) over ATLANTA
In the past week, the Falcons lost Keanu Neal for the season during the game against the Eagles and lost Deion Jones seemingly out of nowhere. Those are two massively important pieces to an Atlanta defense that was only 22nd in yards allowed per drive last season. Those two guys are the speed in the middle of the defense that cover up for some mistakes. Carolina’s offense didn’t look great against Dallas, but this game should see all of the Christian McCaffrey touches and if that’s the case, the Falcons might not be able to do anything about it. The Falcons might have to rely even more on the offense and while that might work against some other defenses, the Panthers’ D is too good to get into a shootout.
WASHINGTON (-6) over Indianapolis
The Washington offense was in a groove against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1. It was Alex Smith throwing short passes — the shortest of the week by a significant margin — Adrian Peterson running like a modern running back, and Chris Thompson already returning to form. Indianapolis really doesn’t have anyone on defense that should be able to stop that. Andrew Luck played well in his return, but like his other Colts seasons, he might have to play against his teammates as well as his opponents.
PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) over Tampa Bay
No team that won in Week 1 had a quarterback play worse than Nick Foles. He became the first quarterback to win a game with at least 30 passes below 3.5 yards per attempt. We can assume he’ll play a little better this week. The interesting thing about the surprising Tampa Bay win is the Buccaneers still only came out 21st in Football Outsiders’ VOA (no opponent adjustments), which only takes Week 1 into account, because the defense (and special teams) was so bad. We know a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense won’t consistently be that good, but there’s less evidence to prove the defense, which finished 32nd in DVOA last season, won’t consistently be that bad.
Kansas City (+4) over PITTSBURGH
The Steelers laid their annual egg on the road and came out with a tie. They still came out of the game 12th in VOA and first in DAVE. Pittsburgh finished sixth in VOA on defense in Week 1 and the question will be if they have anyone who can prevent Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill from connecting deep. If they don’t this might be a high scoring game because the Chiefs’ defense could be one of the league’s worst units. If that’s the case, let’s take the points in that scenario.
JETS (-3) over Miami
It’s strange to say about a game that started off with a pick-6 on the first throw, but everything went right for the Jets against the Lions on Monday night. The defense dominated and the offense was often put in great starting field position with not a lot of pressure. Miami was the winner of the storm game, but it feels like we’ll learn a lot more about these teams in Week 2 than we did in Week 1.
Chargers (-7.5) over BUFFALO
There’s a point where I would start to think about no picking the Chargers here, but 7.5 ain’t it. Buffalo completely collapsed in Week 1. The offense being bad wasn’t surprising, but allowing the Ravens to tear through the defense was. The Chargers had the top offense in Week 1 by VOA, so the matchup isn’t going to get any easier. Josh Allen might not be Nathan Peterman bad, but the lack of talent on the offense isn’t really set up to help any quarterback, especially a raw rookie.
SAN FRANCISCO (-6) over Detroit
The 49ers really struggled against the Vikings, even more than the eight-point differential would indicate. But they didn’t struggle nearly as much as the Lions. The Detroit defense looks like a unit that can be outschemed and that’s not what you want going against Kyle Shanahan. San Francisco might not be the sleeper team many though, but the Niners at least look to be better than the Lions.
RAMS (-12.5) over Arizona
Arizona really didn’t show up against Washington and the parts you would have expected to, like David Johnson, had disappointing usage. It’s going to be a bit of a transition here, especially on defense. This was a team built for James Bettcher that hired a head coach with a vastly different defensive philosophy. A defense in transition is not what you want to run against the Rams — just ask Jon Gruden.
DENVER (-6) over Oakland
Last week, we talked about the Denver altitude being a big factor in early season games. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll admitted after Week 1 that it had an impact on a few of Seattle’s players. That’s going to come into play again this week and against a worse team.
New England (-1) over JACKSONVILLE
This is a rematch just about everyone should want to see. The Jaguars probably would have won the AFC Championship Game if they continued being aggressive throughout the second half, but they sat back and allowed the Patriots to do Patriots things. With Leonard Fournette not 100 percent, it might cause Jacksonville to be a little more aggressive throughout the game, which would be to their benefit. But until further notice, always pick the Pats is not a bad strategy to have.
Giants (+3) over DALLAS
Neither one of these teams played particularly well in Week 1 and this Sunday night game might not be pretty. By VOA after Week 1, the Giants are ahead of the Cowboys (19th to 24th), but by DAVE these two teams aren’t close (ninth for Dallas, 31st for the Giants). The truth is probably somewhere in the middle and there’s really no result on Sunday night that should come as a surprise.
CHICAGO (-3.5) over Seattle
The Seahawks have played a dangerous game with the blocking in front of Russell Wilson for the past few seasons. This might be the week when it really becomes a problem. Khalil Mack had himself a day against the Packers and lined up against the right tackle on all of his pass rushing snaps — watch them here. Seattle’s right tackle is Germain Ifedi, who has yet to develop as a former first-round pick. It’s hard to see that working out for a Seattle offense that’s already down Doug Baldwin, regardless of how superhuman Wilson can be at times.
Last week: 9-6-1