Throughout the season, every week will feature a little bit of the inexplicable. Great teams like the Packers and Patriots will lose games it feels they should have won, while the Seahawks and Panthers will win a few games against better teams. In most cases, we’ll treat those wins and losses almost like anomalies, keeping each team with about the same perceived value rather than shifting them greatly one way or the other. As such, you do yourself a disservice by treating Week 1 any different. It’s OK to think the Chiefs stink after getting creamed by the Bills if you already thought they weren’t a good team heading into the season. It’s not OK to treat the Steelers and Falcons as mediocre teams if you had them both in the playoffs, or even the Super Bowl (as I did). So we won’t, though one of those two is likely in for another loss this week. It’s not the one facing the Seahawks. On to the picks.
Bears (+7) at Saints
This is about how the line should look if we ignore everything about Week 1. Is that fair to these teams? The Saints are down one, maybe two of their top receivers, and while Drew Brees is the cog that makes the NO passing machine work, a less-talented supporting cast is definitely cause for concern. I still think Atlanta is very good, which makes it hard to ignore what Chicago did in the opener. The Bears locks the NO passing game up and wins with a heavy dose of Matt Forte again.
The Pick: Bears +7, Under 48
Chiefs (+8.5) at Lions
It’s likely that the Chiefs aren’t as bad as they looked in Week 1, while the Lions probably aren’t as good as it appeared. In reality, the Chiefs are still pretty awful. I took them Under 7.5 wins in a recent Vegas trip and I couldn’t be more happy about it after last week. Add defensive gem Eric Berry’s injury to the list of reasons why the Chiefs are finishing last in the AFC West this year. While Detroit stays healthy, it could be one of the top five offenses in the league. This line feels low — you almost think this matchup deserves to be treated like the Seahawks-Steelers line.
The Pick: Lions -8.5, Over 45.5
Jaguars (+9) at Jets
The first thing that strikes me about these two teams is that the Jaguar defense might be better than we realize. They held a team led by Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt, two explosive offensive weapons, to 14 points in the opener. The Jets may not be able to run roughshod over the Jaguars front four, and with Santonio Holmes a game-time decision for this one, it’s possible the Jaguar running game can get an early lead and sit on it once again for a shocking victory. Consider this line about three points too high.
The Pick: Jaguars +9, Under 39.5
Raiders (+3.5) at Bills
In a vacuum, I think the Raiders beat the Bills seven or eight times out of 10. Oakland has a great defensive line, Buffalo has one of the worst offensive lines in the league and Darren McFadden could go off for 200 yards against the Buffalo run defense. However, the Raiders played the late Monday night game in Week 1, and now they travel east to play a one o’clock game on Sunday. Tough scheduling luck for the Raiders. We see a lot of crazy things early in the season; how nuts would it be to see the Bills at 2-0 atop the AFC East?
The Pick: Bills -3.5, Under 43.5
Cardinals (+4) at Redskins
The Redskins roll into this one relatively healthy and coming off a big win against a division rival in Week 1. The Cardinals needed a Patrick Peterson punt return (say that 10 times fast) to down the Panthers, last year’s worst team. Watching the game, the Panthers looked like the better team in that one save for a busted coverage on a backup TE for a TD and a 10-yard pass that turned into a 70-yard TD when the safety couldn’t make the tackle. The Redskins are the far better team right now.
The Pick: Redskins -4, Over 45
Ravens (-6.5) at Titans
The Ravens were probably the most impressive team of Week 1, destroying Super Bowl favorite Pittsburgh at home. However, it’s just one game, and now the Ravens have to take to the road and face a Titans team that will have a renewed focus on running the ball. Baltimore should have to sell out to stop the run, and that could leave Kenny Britt and Jared Cook with mismatches and some long TDs. Tennessee’s defense does just enough to keep this one close.
The Pick: Titans +6.5, Over 38
Seahawks (+14.5) at Steelers
Despite Pittsburgh being embarrassed at the hands of the Ravens, they’re still a really good football team. The line says that this is going to be a blowout, and it is. I’m not sure Seattle’s offense could move the ball against Pittsburgh’s backups, and it wouldn’t shock me to see Pittsburgh hold them under 150 yards of offense. We have to go with the Steelers here; we’ll feel pretty stupid if we don’t and Pittsburgh goes up 17-0 20 minutes into the game.
The Pick: Steelers -14.5, Under 40
Packers (-10.5) at Panthers
In theory, the Packers should easily win this game, but as described a few paragraphs above, Carolina actually may have outplayed Arizona in Week 1, but victimized themselves with bad special teams. Green Bay looked great, but they aren’t the 16-0 Patriots reincarnate. This is a huge number for a favored road team, and it seems far likelier the Panthers keep it close than get blown out at home.
The Pick: Panthers +10.5, Over 46.5
Buccaneers (+3) at Vikings
These teams had very similar experiences in Week 1; neither offense looked particularly good and non-offensive touchdowns made their final scores closer than they probably should have been. In fact, both Tampa Bay and Minnesota only had one TD on offense each. The difference between the two matchups is that the Buccaneers faced a Lions team at home it needed to beat to legitimize itself as a playoff contender, while the Vikings had no business being in a competitive game with the Chargers in San Diego. That tells me the Vikings are a little bit better.
The Pick: Vikings -3, Under 42
Browns (-2) at Colts
The Colts looked awful in Week 1, falling behind early and abandoning their offensive game plan while trying to catch up, which led to them falling behind even further. This line seems like a reaction to that particular performance. But let’s not let the Browns off the hook either; they failed to beat what should be a terrible Cincinnati team at home and ruined several Survivor league entries right off the bat. On the other hand, I had the Texans in my Survivor league for a reason. When two bad teams play, the road team shouldn’t be favored, and the Browns still have to prove they aren’t a bad team.
The Pick: Colts +2, Over 40
Cowboys (-3) at 49ers
This is a game where you can truly throw out the records. The 49ers were in danger of losing to the Seahawks, a bottom-three team by any measure, at home before Ted Ginn Jr. returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns. You obviously can’t count on that every week. Meanwhile, the Cowboys played very well and would have beat the Jets on the road were it not for a brain fart. The Cowboys might be as good as the Ravens, while the 49ers don’t look as good as the Titans. The Baltimore-Tennessee line is 6.5, this should be the same.
The Pick: Cowboys -3, Over 42.5
Texans (-3) at Dolphins
I don’t have to tell you how bad the Dolphins were defensively last week; Tom Brady’s 517 yards can tell you that. We really don’t know much about the Texans, other than they’re good enough to blow out a terrible team at home. Houston was just 2-6 on the road last year, and this matchup is going to be a huge test for a team with playoff aspirations. While they very well may go out and make a statement, this line feels too high. We just don’t know enough about how each team will perform when they’re facing a team not on extremes of the talent spectrum. Miami surprises with a win here.
The Pick: Dolphins +3, Under 48
Chargers (+7) at Patriots
The Chargers proved they still have what it takes defensively by completely shutting down the Vikings’ passing “attack.” The offense looks as dangerous as ever. Meanwhile, the Patriots looked unstoppable on offense last Monday, making a solid Miami defense look foolish. Fast forward to Sunday, the Patriots are up seven or 10; do you really count on Norv Turner to pull the right strings to come back and win this one? When in doubt, take the team on the positive side of a coaching mismatch
The Pick: Patriots -7, Over 54
Bengals (+3.5) at Broncos
This line opened at 4.5 but quickly was bet down a full point. I was a little flabbergasted that people were lining up to get behind rookie QB Andy Dalton winning two straight road starts to begin his career. Denver seems like such an easy pick on paper. Then you look at the injury list. Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey should be out, softening the Denver defense. Knowshon Moreno and Brandon Lloyd should also be out, putting the offense in the hands of Willis McGahee and Eddie Royal. Fine, Cincinnati it is.
The Pick: Bengals +3.5, Under 40
Eagles (-3) at Falcons
This is certainly going to be a game with a lot of energy as Michael Vick returns to Atlanta with a Super Bowl contender behind him. The Falcons also envision themselves as title contenders, but an 0-2 start could come close to de-railing them. What if the entire NFC South, thought to be one of the better divisions in football, starts 0-2? We may find out; Philadelphia has no business losing this game after taking apart a pretty good Rams team on the road in Week 1.
The Pick: Eagles -3, Under 50
Rams (+6) at Giants
Neither team is where they want to be right now after losing in Week 1, but the Rams at least played a solid game against the Eagles and were just beaten by the Vick factor. Backup running back Cadillac Williams did a great job filling in when Steven Jackson went down. There’s no reason rookie TE Lance Kendricks can’t duplicate Fred Davis’s 100-yard effort from last week. The Giants should be able to move the ball as well, so this could wind up being a shootout. St. Louis looks better on both sides of the ball right now, so I’ll take them for the upset.
The Pick: Rams +6, Over 44
Rams/Giants Over 44
Rams (+230) over Giants
Best Bets: 3-2
Upset Special: 0-1
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