Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I begin my second season writing this column. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?
As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as totals or over/unders) with 1-3 “Stars”, which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.
Favorites went 4-11 against the spread in Week 1, an unusual way to start the season, with savvy bettors taking advantage of market sentiment that may have been too aggressive one way or another. Pittsburgh (+6.5) won outright in Buffalo; New Orleans (+3.5) shocked the Packers and Arizona (+3) easily took care of business in Nashville. Week 1 can be humbling, but it is wise not to overreact to it too much.
Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com
(Thursday Night) NY GIANTS at WASHINGTON (-4) (Over/Under 41.5)
A Twitter comment caught my eye on Sunday as the Giants offense was spiraling into yet another level of ineptitude. To paraphrase, the poster said: ‘Daniel Jones is good. Until he isn’t.’ It was a case of more of the same for the Giants faithful on Sunday, as a stifling Broncos defense rubbed salt in the wounds of an already listless offense. Jones seems unable to learn the lessons of the past when it comes to turnovers, his calm demeanor at times acting as his greatest enemy. While we shouldn’t completely rule out Big Blue as a contender this season on one performance, the signs are not promising.
Nor are they promising for the Washington Football Team, who look like they will be without starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for an extended period. Step up, Taylor Heinicke. Ron Rivera trusts the former Panther to cover for the ailing Fitzmagic, but to what extent can he consistently deliver sevens and not threes? Washington’s defense did not perform poorly against the Chargers; it was more a case of Justin Herbert willing his team to victory. One of these teams will finish Thursday night at 0-2, but I expect a bounce back from Big Blue. They have won five straight in this series and three straight in D.C. dating back to 2017.
Pick: New York
NEW ENGLAND (-5) at NY JETS (Over/Under 43.5)
It all looked to be set up perfectly for rookie quarterback Mac Jones on his first NFL start. The home crowd was rocking, and the Patriots were driving to take the lead over their division rivals with the clock ticking away. Then, out of nowhere, Xavien Howard knocked the ball from Damien Harris’ grasp and the rookie was left distraught. While the victory may sting in Foxborough this week, the bigger picture looks good for the Patriots. A strong defensive effort was buttressed by an excellent performance by Jones, who did not look a bit out of place on an NFL field.
The Patriots, therefore, deserve every bit of their five-point edge this week over yet another division opponent in the Jets. New York’s front seven provided stiff resistance at times to Carolina this past week, but even the mediocre Panthers offensive line was able to blow open holes. Imagine what New England can do. In this rookie vs. rookie quarterback battle, Zach Wilson will be one under siege – and that does not bode well with Mekhi Becton out. This is an excellent spot for the visitors.
Pick: New England
DENVER (-6) at JACKSONVILLE (Over/Under 45.5)
The Broncos have the formula to cause problems in the AFC playoff picture, with last week’s comfortable jaunt in New Jersey a prime example of how they can suffocate teams. Defensively, even without Bradley Chubb, they put the clamps on the admittedly feeble Giants offense. Expect that trend to continue over the coming weeks. Laying six points on the road at Jacksonville sounds about right considering the gulf in class between these two rosters.
As Teddy Bridgewater the veteran spreads the wealth to his pass-catchers, Trevor Lawrence will continue to find his feet in his second NFL start. There are already rumblings that all is not well in Jacksonville, with Urban Meyer’s coaching style rubbing some the wrong way. It remains to be seen how that will affect on-field play. The Jaguars were without an answer as Houston aggressively went for broke last week. Teams tend to respond in Week 2 and produce performances that are 180 degrees away from Week 1, but Jacksonville can’t be relied upon to do that. Not yet, anyway.
BUFFALO (-3.5) at MIAMI (Over/Under 48)
While many will point to Buffalo as one of the major disappointments of Week 1, the reality is that Pittsburgh’s defense came to play and turned a high-flying offense into a barely functional one. There are many ways to win football games; Buffalo was simply unable to muster the drives to counter the relentless Pittsburgh maelstrom up front. Josh Allen and his team are laying 3.5 points on the road against a very capable Miami team, a sure sign that, despite the Week 1 struggles, the market still firmly believes in the Bills.
Miami, in what is quickly becoming a typically Brian Flores-y style, pulled a win out of seemingly nowhere in Foxborough, shocking the natives and reminding us that this team often finds a way. It’s a tired cliché, to be sure, but an accurate one to describe this Dolphins squad. Jaylen Waddle flashed in his debut and scored a touchdown for his troubles, while the defense showed enough to at least give Allen something to think about as he studies the tape. Buffalo starting 0-2 would be unimaginable, wouldn’t it? Expect a tight game decided by three points or less.
SAN FRANCISCO (-3.5) at PHILADELPHIA (Over/Under 50)
If you’re a 49ers fan you are likely still shaking off the cobwebs from Sunday’s barnburner in Detroit. The unlikely series of plays that led to Jared Goff having a chance to tie the game was comical, but ultimately Kyle Shanahan’s men prevailed. A trendy team entering the season, the 49ers will have to make a few more missteps before Vegas starts to ping them. This week, they are once again installed as road favorites, though the task doesn’t look quite as straightforward as it might have in the preseason.
That is because the Eagles showed many this past week that they have plenty going for them. Their line play is among the league’s best when it is clicking. Exhibit A is what they did to Atlanta on both sides of the ball last week. A similar script this week would give them a decent chance to cause an upset. Jalen Hurts made some impressive throws too, with his mobility opening additional options in the ground game for Miles Sanders. A slight edge to the visitors here, but the half-point is tempting.
Pick: San Francisco
LA RAMS (-4) at INDIANAPOLIS (Over/Under 47.5)
It has only been one week and one game, but don’t the Rams have the look of a no-nonsense playoff team ready to cause havoc? Sean McVay’s team were not perfect on Sunday night, but they were one of the sharper teams of the opening stanza and are every bit deserving of their favorites tag here on the road. Incredibly, the Rams are 36-0 when leading at halftime since 2017.
Indianapolis’ defense got blitzed by the Russell Wilson-Tyler Lockett show on Sunday, but this unit should be able to at least compete against the Rams. As Carson Wentz continues to get used to his teammates and build chemistry, however, the Rams have a clear edge. In the trenches, it will be interesting to see how the Colts’ offensive line holds up against the Rams’ front seven. Strong lean to the road team.
Pick: Los Angeles
LAS VEGAS at PITTSBURGH (-5.5) (Over/Under 47.5)
The Raiders produced what will likely be looked back upon as one of the most memorable comebacks of the 2021 season on Monday night, ripping out Baltimore’s hearts in the process. Derek Carr kept slinging it, despite problems linking up with number one target Darren Waller for long periods. Defensively, Las Vegas has plenty to work on and game scripts like these will not be conducive to a winning campaign. This week’s draw is not the worst, however. After all, Pittsburgh’s offense is not what it used to be; how stout the Raiders defense will be is the real question.
Mike Tomlin’s squad should feel quietly confident of getting out to a 2-0 start with the Raiders coming to town off a short week. Typically, high emotion games like the Monday Night Football clash takes it out a team; lying in wait is a Steelers defense that should have its way with an unsteady Raiders offensive line. I expect the line to move a little bit in the home team’s favor, so try to get in at -5.5 if you are bullish on Pittsburgh to take care of business.
CINCINNATI at CHICAGO (-3) (Over/Under 45)
The Bengals eventually got over the hump last week in an overtime face-off with Minnesota, but some of the play-calling down the stretch left a lot to be desired. What is clear is that the Cincinnati offense under Joe Burrow is going to put balance first. Joe Mixon should continue to see plenty of work, and there may be plenty of opportunities on the outside for Joe Burrow to exploit against a suspect Bears secondary unit.
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton may still be licking his wounds after the beating he took at the hands of the Rams front seven last week. The gulf in class was clear in that match-up; this week, that gulf is not so gaping and the Bears should be competitive. As such, the three-point line is reasonable. It was heartening to see Justin Fields get some action last Sunday. One wonders how much longer Matt Nagy will wait before throwing the rookie in and letting the show really begin.
HOUSTON at CLEVELAND (-12.5) (Over/Under 48)
The Texans proved that the "nobody believes in us" factor can be a strong motivator for teams. While nobody is expecting Houston to sweep to an AFC South division title, Tyrod Taylor and his teammates are showing no signs of rolling over. The fact that Houston is getting 12.5 points this week, therefore, is a little strange. Perhaps it is a reminder, at the same time, that one week does not make a season. The Browns are still in a different class to the Texans on paper.
Cleveland went toe to toe with Kansas City yet again – just as they did in the playoffs last season – but it only took a couple of errors to undo all their good work. Baker Mayfield is arguably playing better than he ever has, so the Browns should feel confident that his solid play, combined with a stouter defense, will propel them to a playoff berth. That postseason place starts with knocking off opponents like this, but 12.5 points is far too rich.
NEW ORLEANS (-3.5) at CAROLINA (Over/Under 44)
In a Sunday of storylines, perhaps none stood out more than that of New Orleans trouncing the Packers – and it wasn’t even in the Superdome. As the city of New Orleans continues to pick up the pieces from Hurricane Ida’s devastation, their team did them proud. Jameis Winston tossed five touchdowns in a casually brilliant display, while the defense did the rest. The Saints’ clashes with the Panthers over the years have tended to be close-run affairs, so 3.5 could be a number to exploit here.
The Panthers may not have earned any style points for their victory over the Jets, but there were positive signs that a young defense had grown up a little bit. Derrick Brown and Brian Burns stood out and could prove tricky for the Saints to handle. Where Carolina’s offense could win is out wide, especially after the news that Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore will miss time with a thumb injury. If Sam Darnold can stay protected, opportunities could materialize downfield.
MINNESOTA at ARIZONA (-4.5) (Over/Under 51)
The Cardinals stormed Fortress Nashville last Sunday, taking away the will of the Titans players quickly and never looking back. Chandler Jones’ performance stole the headlines defensively, while Kyler Murray’s collection of ‘did that just happen?’ plays continue to pile up. Arizona has quietly assembled a formidable crew of pass-catchers, while they have the personnel on defense to keep Dalvin Cook under wraps.
Minnesota’s game plan on offense revolves around getting Cook into a rhythm early and feeding off that with higher percentage passes. The Vikings looked demoralized and a bit flat in the Queen City last week, and one wonders if Kirk Cousins’ time as a starter could be on borrowed time. While there were flashes of what could be, Mike Zimmer has his work cut out this week to steady the ship.
ATLANTA at TAMPA BAY (-12.5) (Over/Under 52)
NFC South clashes tend to throw up a few unexpected results, but that is not on the cards as the listless Falcons travel to Tampa Bay. The Matt Ryan-led offense failed to get into any sort of rhythm after their first possession last week, floundering as the early season rust told. There will no quarter given this week against the Super Bowl champions; if Atlanta repeats the effort of last week, the Bucs could easily top 50 points.
The 12.5-point line here is something we should get used to with the champions this year. Week 1 proved to us that the Bucs are in the mood for a repeat, with key starters putting in star performances. The connection between Tom Brady and Mike Evans will be worth watching to see if they can get on the same page. Otherwise, this is a match-up to avoid in terms of the spread. Atlanta is, however, 10-4 to the under since early 2020. That 52 total could therefore be the best way to attack this game.
Pick: Tampa Bay
TENNESSEE at SEATTLE (-5.5) (Over/Under 54)
The Titans are notorious for laying eggs in key spots under Mike Vrabel, and at least once or twice a season they inexplicably get demolished in front of their fans. With the 12th Man back in full throat this Sunday, the task will not get any easier. Derrick Henry got bottled up against Arizona and could face a similarly hostile reception from the Seahawks’ revamped front seven.
Russell Wilson will be relishing the chance to add to his haul from last week as he surveys the highly suspect Titans secondary. Expect offensive coordinator Shane Waldron to let Russ cook from the early exchanges, building a lead and forcing Ryan Tannehill to enter into an arms race. The total of 54 appears a little high, especially if the Titans offense struggles like last time out.
DALLAS at LA CHARGERS (-3) (Over/Under 55)
The Cowboys have quickly gone from Hard Knocks heartthrob to presumptive NFC East champion in one week of play. Any lingering questions about Dak Prescott’s injury were put to bed swiftly last week when he exploded for over 400 yards in a losing effort against the Bucs. All signs point to the Cowboys being a force to be reckoned with, but the Chargers have every reason to believe they can send Jerry Jones’ men off to an 0-2 start.
Los Angeles has its swagger back, it seems, under Brandon Staley. The victory in Washington last week lost some shine with the Ryan Fitzpatrick injury, but previous Chargers teams wouldn’t have staged that comeback. Justin Herbert continues to blossom into one of the best up-and-comers at quarterback, making this game a must-watch affair in the late afternoon window. Get your popcorn ready, but if you have to take a side here, make it the over. The Cowboys are now 8-2 in the last 10 with Prescott at quarterback.
(Sunday Night) KANSAS CITY (-3.5) at BALTIMORE (Over/Under 55)
The Chiefs have the Ravens’ number. Having beaten Baltimore in the past three meetings, they should feel confident of making it four in a row. The Vegas masterminds continue to place a points spread tax on the Chiefs, but even so, the Chiefs are only laying 3.5 points. It is worth noting that Andy Reid’s team is just 2-10 in the last 12 against the spread. Could the Chiefs’ luck run out here, perhaps?
The short week will force the Ravens to reflect on the stunning loss to Las Vegas while reducing their preparation time for one of the most diverse offenses in the league. That is not a formula for success. Lamar Jackson will be eager to put the two fumbles behind him and deliver a better display in front of the home faithful. Normally this would be a good spot – Sunday night spotlight, home team off a loss – but how can we pick against Patrick Mahomes II?
Pick: Kansas City
(Monday Night) DETROIT at GREEN BAY (-11) (Over/Under 48)
Interestingly, the Lions have covered seven of the last eight against the Packers. Few will expect anything more than a fighting display from the visitors here, however, even with the comeback king Jared Goff at the helm. Getting 11 points is a little bit surprising, but the experts fully expect the Packers to bounce back in style. Can the Lions get by with a hint of Dan Campbell bravado? Probably not.
Green Bay has not been embarrassed often under Matt LaFleur. Even with all the Aaron Rodgers drama during the offseason, few would have anticipated such a whitewash at the hands of the injury-riddled Saints. Aaron Rodgers tends to produce some of his best moments in primetime, but -11 is too steep a price to pay.
Once again this year this article will give out not only the Best Bets but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Star scale. The more stars, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game.
This week, we will focus our bets around the following lines:
- 1 MIAMI (+3.5) vs. BUFFALO
- 2 PITTSBURGH (-5.5) vs. LAS VEGAS
- 3 KANSAS CITY (-3.5) at BALTIMORE
- 4 LA RAMS (-4) at INDIANAPOLIS
With these likes in mind, here are the Week 2 selections:
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.61-1 ODDS)
- MIAMI (+3.5)
- LA RAMS (-4)
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.42-1 ODDS):
- PITTSBURGH (-5.5)
- KANSAS CITY (-3.5)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
- 4-TEAM MONEY LINE (3.13-1 ODDS)
- PITTSBURGH - FOR THE WIN
- DENVER – FOR THE WIN
- KANSAS CITY – FOR THE WIN
- SAN FRANCISCO – FOR THE WIN
PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Kansas City, Denver, Pittsburgh, Miami, LA Rams
Last Week / Season
- LAST WEEK: 7-9
- SEASON OVERALL: 7-9 (43.75%)
- BEST BETS: 2-2 (50%)
- PICK OF THE WEEK: 2-3 (40%)
Good luck this weekend!
Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org