After a very exciting first week of football, it’s time for the encore. Week 2 is a very fascinating week of football; we get to find out which rising teams are legitimate, which teams are flukes, and which team’s seasons look to be over before they started. There are so many close matchups this week, that I have to concede, this was a very difficult slate of games to predict. Who’ll come out on top in all of these intriguing games? Let’s discuss.
TNF: Buccanneers (0-1) at Panthers (0-1)
Spread Pick: TB (+7)
Over/Under Pick: Over (49)
Score Prediction: Bucs 24 Panthers 27
On Thursday Night Football, we quietly have a very important game; the loser of Bucs-Panthers falls to 0-2. Obviously, neither NFC South team wants to have to come out of that deficit; this should be a very hard-fought game. Still, it’s hard not to favor the Panthers in this game. On a short week, it’s easy to give the advantage to a team playing its second straight game at home, but also on paper, Carolina is a much better team. With an interior pass rush and an opportunistic secondary that played well against the Rams this past week, they’re in good position to slow down quarterback Jameis Winston and the Bucs’ offense, while quarterback Cam Newton could be in line for a bounceback weak against a young, thin secondary. Add in all the different ways dual-threat Christian McCaffrey, as well as receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, can confuse Tampa’s defense, as well as the turnovers the Bucs offense is notorious for committing, and that’s more than enough for the Panthers to win this divisional matchup. Still, that seven-point spread is a hard sell for me; not only are the Bucs a likely back-door cover threat, but all the playmakers they have on offense, as well as the mini-flashes they showed defensively last week, could keep them in this game.
Cardinals (0-0-1) at Ravens (1-0)
Spread Pick: ARI (+13)
Over/Under Pick: Under (46)
Score Prediction: Cardinals 14 Ravens 23
We’ll see two of the league’s most exciting young dual-threat quarterbacks take the field this Sunday when Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson face off in Baltimore this Sunday. To be frank, the fact that team with the better quarterback (Murray) is a 13-point underdog is absurd; we may be hyping up the Ravens too much. Still, although they’ll likely fail to cover their huge spread, Baltimore should still win this game comfortably. Murray really struggled to identify blitzes last week, and against a defense that blitzes a lot, that’s certainly a concern for Arizona. Plus, no receiver on that offense has the ability to separate, and against a very strong Ravens secondary, they’ll likely have issues once again. I do think that Jackson will struggle more against a better pass rush, but Arizona’s secondary is just as bad as the Dolphins’ defense, and there’s not enough speed on their defense to deal with Jackson, running backs Mark Ingram and Justice Hill, and receiver Marquise Brown. It probably won’t be as conspicuous as it was last week, but the Ravens look bound to start their season 2-0.
49ers (1-0) at Bengals (0-1)
Spread Pick: SF (+2)
Over/Under Pick: Over (45.5)
Score Prediction: 49ers 27 Bengals 20
Though they lost, the Bengals were actually one of the most pleasant surprises of Week 1; they were extremely competitive in a very tough environment in Seattle. Because of this, they’re actually two-point favorites in their home opener versus the 49ers this week, which would’ve been hard to imagine before the season. This may be another example of overrating what we see from week one; the 49ers are clearly the better team. Though he struggled last week, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is due for a bounce-back week, and Cincinnati did not fare well in coverage versus the Seahawks. Similarly, their linebackers lack the athleticism to match up with San Francisco’s zone-running/screen-heavy scheme, and there’s also the issue of how can guard tight end George Kittle. Furthermore, the Bengals offense was the beneficiary of multiple “lucky” down the field connection made due to blown coverages, and though their decimated offensive line was fine against the Seahawks, that will likely not be the case against a stout pass rush led by Dee Ford and Nick Bosa on the edge, as well as DeForest Buckner on the interior. This is not a good matchup for the Bengals, who’ll be competitive, but will fall to an NFC West team for the second straight week with a loss to the 49ers this week.
Chargers (1-0) at Lions (0-0-1)
Spread Pick: LAC (-2)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47.5)
Score Prediction: Chargers 20 Lions 17
The Chargers have been absolutely destroyed with injuries to their offense (tight end Hunter Henry, receiver Mike Williams, left tackle Russell Okung), and also are without their best defensive player in safety Derwin James. Therefore, they’re in survival mode right now – they had to go to overtime to beat the Colts – and that’ll continue against the scrappy Lions this Sunday. This is not an easy game by any means for Los Angeles; Detroit has a quietly talented offense and a usually well-coached defense. However, despite the injuries, the Chargers still have an above-average secondary, a pass rush that should dominate against a weak Lions’ pass-blocking offensive line, and a wildcard in running back Austin Ekeler, who could once again be excellent against a weaker group of linebackers. It’ll be a close game, but quarterback Phillip Rivers has enough to work with on offense to compensate for the injuries, and the defense still remains a top-five unit; they’ll successfully fight their way to a road victory.
Vikings (1-0) at Packers (1-0)
Spread Pick: GB (-2.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (43.5)
Score Prediction: Vikings 17 Packers 31
Out of all the early games on Sunday, the game with probably the most on the line is this Vikings-Packers matchup in Green Bay. The winner goes to 2-0 and establishes themselves as potentially the team to beat in the division. However, despite the excitement, the Packers appear to have the clear upper-hand in this game. Not only should there be a lot of positive energy with it being their home opener, but they just happen to have all the assets necessary to slow down the Vikings. Minnesota is trying to establish the run, but Green Bay’s defensive line should quickly put that the rest against a weak offensive line, and their pass rush should also excel as well. Then there’s the Packers offense, which didn’t do well against the Bears in Matt LeFleur’s first game as a head coach, but they’ll have ten days to get adjusted to the scheme, and receiver Davante Adams should flourish against a surprisingly low-quality group of cornerbacks. Add in quarterback Kirk Cousins’ inability to beat winning teams, and I’m predicting a Packers blowout. (I’m giving Minnesota a late garbage-time touchdown in my score prediction)
Jaguars (0-1) at Texans (0-1)
Spread Pick: JAX (+8.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (43.5)
Score Prediction: Jags 13 Texans 16
This is the ultimate game of disadvantages. The Texans may be coming off a heart-breaking Monday Night Football loss to the Saints, and thus will be on a short week, but that doesn’t compare to the Jaguars, who were embarrassed at home by the Chiefs and will be without quarterback Nick Foles due to a broken clavicle. Sixth-round rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew may have played well in place of Foles last week, but can he replicate that success for a second straight week? At the very least, it’s definitely possible; Houston’s secondary has major issues and was repeatedly exposed by New Orleans. However, he fell to the sixth round for a reason – he doesn’t have ideal arm talent – and it’s not as though the Jaguars have a lot of weapons for him to rely on. It’ll likely be a tough game for Jacksonville’s offense, especially since a hungry JJ Watt (zero tackles on Monday) has the luxury of facing off against a rookie right tackle in Jawaan Taylor. I’m concerned about Houston’s offensive line against an elite Jacksonville pass rush, but they clearly have the quarterback advantage with Deshaun Watson, who could be on track to being in contention for the MVP award after an amazing Week 1 performance, and also are simply more talented. This game should be a lot closer than the spread would indicate, but it’s very difficult to imagine the Jaguars pulling off the upset on the road.
Patriots (1-0) at Dolphins (0-1)
Spread Pick: NE (-19)
Over/Under: Under (48.5)
Score Prediction: Pats 34 Dolphins 6
The Patriots may have had their difficulties winning in Miami in the past, but that won’t be enough to erase the fact that this could be one of the greatest mismatches in recent NFL history. New England is coming off a 33-3 rout of the Steelers and has a flawless roster, while the Dolphins are definitely tanking and just lost 59-10 to a mediocre Ravens team. Therefore, not only is the 19 points the Patriots are favored by reasonable, it’s likely not enough. If Lamar Jackson was able to pick apart Miami’s defense, imagine what quarterback Tom Brady, who may have receiver Antonio Brown in his arsenal, will be able to do to them. The same thought process applies on the other side of the football; if the Patriots shut down a solid Steelers offense, they theoretically should be able to practically eliminate a Dolphins offense that has zero talent. Honestly, the only factor preventing another 40-point blowout is that New England will likely pull their starters early.
Bills (1-0) at Giants (0-1)
Spread Pick: BUF (-1.5)
Over/Under: Under (44)
Score Prediction: Bills 23 Giants 13
For a second straight week, the Bills will be at MetLife stadium. After a comeback win versus the Jets, they’ll look to secure of a sweep of New York, facing a Giants team that fell flat in a 35-17 destruction in Dallas last week. It’s a prime game for quarterback Josh Allen; New York’s pass defense was miserable last week; their secondary is too inexperienced, and their pass rush is mediocre at best. Meanwhile, there’s no speed on this defense to keep up with Allen’s speed, and Allen should be able to make plays with his arm down the field similar to Dak Prescott last year. Furthermore, the Bills defense dominated against a check-down-heavy offense last week, and facing a very similar scheme this week, that success will likely be replicated. It’s scary to pick a road favorite with an inconsistent quarterback, but the Giants are not a good football team by any measures; this should be an easier game for the Bills than anticipated.
Seahawks (1-0) at Steelers (0-1)
Spread Pick: PIT (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 14 Steelers 26
The Steelers are coming off arguably one of their worst losses in team history- a 33-3 beatdown from the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Because of this, their stock is completely down; they’re falling down power rankings, being overshadowed by the Ravens, and are actually being seen as an afterthought. That was just one loss though, and the Patriots have always caused trouble for them. In their home opener against an opponent they’re more equipped to beat, I sense a bounce-back for them. The Steelers offense is centered around receiver Juju Smith Schuster, but New England’s ability to play man coverage and cover him in the slot neutralized the entire offense. However, facing a team that plays a lot of zone coverage and lost their nickel corner Justin Coleman this offseason, Smith Schuster could have a huge game, especially from the slot; Pittsburgh should be much better offensively, especially since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has notoriously huge home/road splits. Additionally, the Seahawks run-heavy offense isn’t a great fit for a Pittsburgh defense that is built to stop the run, and the team overall is just 1-8 in road September games over the past few seasons. Simply put, everything is on the Steelers’ side in this game; they’re one of the best bets of the week.
Colts (0-1) at Titans (1-0)
Spread Pick: IND (+3)
Over/Under Pick: Over/Push (44)
Score Prediction: Colts 23 Titans 21
Out of the tight matchups this week, the one that might be going the must under-the-radar is this AFC South face off between the Colts and Titans. Whereas Tennesee is trying to prove themselves as a legitimate contender after steamrolling the Browns, Indianapolis is trying to prevent a tough 0-2 start after a heartbreaking loss to the Chargers. This was probably the toughest game to pick this week – it’s practically even – but a couple factors go in the Colts’ favor. For starters, they were a product of bad luck last week, with kicker Adam Vinatieri missing two field goals and a PAT, while the Titans were able to take advantage of the Browns’ 180 yards of penalties. Then there are the two teams’ matchups for last season, including a game in which defensive coordinators Matt Eberfleus’ defense held the Titans offense to zero points and completely shut down quarterback Marcus Mariota. Both teams are well-coached and could easily win this game, but the Colts need this win more and are generally the more consistent team. Combined with Mariota’s bad performance versus Eberfleus’ defensive scheme and expected regression to normal for each team, and their case is just a little stronger than Tennesee’s.
Cowboys (1-0) at Redskins (0-1)
Spread Pick: DAL (-5.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (46.5)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 38 Redskins 14
After an impressive win versus the Giants last week in which quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 400+ yards and four touchdowns, the Cowboys are starting to receive buzz as a potential Super Bowl-caliber team, and for good reason. Under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, it appears the team will be running a much more modern offense centered around play-action, and with the talent they have, this could be a top-ten offense. Against a Redskins defense that allowed multiple big plays to Desean Jackson, is without defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, and has no clear strength, it’s easy to see that offense dominating once again, no matter what their run-pass ratio is. Yes, Washington scored 27 points last week in Philadelphia and Dallas struggled defensively, but the Cowboys are set at all facets of defense; their secondary won’t be tested much by Keenum and will be able to keep receiver Terry McLaurin in check, their pass rush should do well against a poor offensive line that is still without left tackle Trent Williams, and receiving back Chris Thompson could have a rough day against arguably the best group of linebackers in the NFL. Overall, don’t expect this game to be close at all.
Chiefs (1-0) at Raiders (1-0)
Spread Pick: KC (-7)
Over/Under Pick: Over (53.5)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 41 Raiders 24
The Raiders were one of the major friendly revelations of Week one; despite a dramatic week, they were able to overcome the drama to beat a Broncos team that’s very strong defensively. This week, however, they’re facing a completely different animal. The Chiefs just scored 40 points with ease against one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, and now have the luxury of playing a team that is on a short week. Yet, they’re only favored by a touchdown after opening as 9.5-point favorites? What is there to justify any bet on Oakland? Their secondary is extremely thin with the injuries to rookie safety Jonathan Abram and top cornerback Gareon Conley, and even without receiver Tyreek Hill, Kansas City has so many weapons (receivers Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman, tight end Travis Kelce) to utilize in the passing game. Plus, do we really trust one of the slowest group of linebackers to contain running backs Damion Williams, LeSean McCoy, and Darwin Thompson as runners or receivers? The Raiders did impress offensively last week with quarterback Derek Carr getting the ball out quickly, but they’re built to be efficient and control the clock, not engage in a complete shootout. This one’s a no brainer; the discrepancy between these teams cannot be exaggerated.
Bears (0-1) at Broncos (0-1)
Spread Pick: CHI (-2)
Over/Under Pick: Under (40)
Score Prediction: Bears 13 Broncos 10
The Broncos are 22-1 in home games in Week 1 or 2 since 2000, while head coach Vic Fangio knows Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s offensive scheme after serving as his defensive coordinator last season. So, Denver should be the pick to win this game, right? Not at all, actually. Denver had the opportunity to get off to a fast start against a Raiders team that couldn’t catch a break, yet let them dominate the game. Notably, they struggled to protect quarterback Joe Flacco, who couldn’t move the ball down the field at all, against a pass rush that totaled just 13 sacks last where. How are they expected to have any chance against the league’s top defense? With a terrific pass rush-secondary combination that allowed just ten points to Aaron Rodgers last week, it’s easy to imagine Chicago absolutely shutting down a stale Broncos offense this week, and if that’s the case, all the pressure will be off for the offense. Denver’s defense is very strong, but I trust a Bears offense with several talented skill position players, including scatback Tarik Cohen against a thin linebacking core, to make enough plays to get to at least thirteen points, which should be enough to win this game. Oh, and the Bears are on a ten-day break, while Denver played the late Monday Night Football game, thus being at a significant disadvantage.
Saints (1-0) at Rams (1-0)
Spread Pick: LAR (-2)
Over/Under Pick: Under/PUSH (52)
Score Prediction: Saints 20 Rams 31
It’s the game that everyone’s talking about; the Saints and Rams will meet up in a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game. As much as New Orleans wants to get their revenge for the infamous “no-call”, they won’t; the Rams will win this game. Quarterback Jared Goff is significantly better at home than he is on the road, and he’s also had a lot of success against this Saints defense in the past. Said defense was exposed in the secondary multiple times, and facing a deep group of receivers that includes Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp, they’ll likely be exposed again this week. If that happens, that’ll completely open it up offensively for Los Angeles, who also should be able to run the ball effectively against a defense that allowed 7.8 yards per carry last season. On the other side of the ball, the Rams had a lot of success shutting down receiver Michael Thomas and the short passing game in that NFC Championship Game, and facing a quarterback who can’t stretch the ball down the field, that’ll likely be the case once again. On a short week on the road against a team that matches up well against them, this could be a really rough game for the Saints.
SNF: Eagles (1-0) at Falcons (0-1)
Spread Pick: PHI (-2)
Over/Under Pick: Over (52.5)
Score Prediction: Eagles 34 Falcons 31
It’s hard to imagine that the Falcons, as home underdogs, are actually going to start a season 0-2 after having playoff and Super Bowl aspirations. Therefore, the fact that I’m picking against them speaks to how I feel about the Eagles. They may have started out slow when they were shaking off their preseason rust, but if not for a garbage-time touchdown, they would’ve outscored the Redskins 25-0 after being down 20-7 in the second half. The addition of receiver DeSean Jackson has made their offense even more dangerous, and quarterback Carson Wentz appears to be the MVP front-runner many thought he would be. The receiving depth and overall talent in the passing game is a great fit against a defense with concerns with their pass rush and at cornerback opposite of Desmond Trufant; it wouldn’t surprise me if Wentz throws for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. I am also predicting success for quarterback Matt Ryan, receiver Julio Jones, and the Falcons’ explosive offense as well against a questionable secondary, but the Eagles have a pass rush to take advantage of an offensive line that struggled at times last week. That’ll likely be the difference; Philadelphia, who’s had success against the Falcons in recent years, will come away with a very close victory.
MNF: Browns (0-1) at Jets (0-1)
Spread Pick: CLE (-6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (44)
Score Prediction: Browns 35 Jets 17
The Jets are broken down right now, which spoiled what could’ve been a great Monday Night Football game. Quarterback Sam Darnold will likely be out until Week 5 with mononucleosis, receiver Quincy Enunwa is on IR with a neck injury, and linebacker CJ Mosley, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, and tackle Kevin Beachum are all questionable to play with various injuries. Now, the Browns will be able to get the rebound blowout win they need after their shocking 30-point loss at home to the Titans last week. New York’s defense was already suboptimal with a poor pass rush and secondary, and that’ll allow Mayfield and Cleveland’s dynamic passing game, who’s shaky offensive line won’t be able to get in the way, to thrive. Meanwhile, Mosley and Williams’ injuries could also mean a huge game for running back Nick Chubb as a runner and a receiver; the Browns should easily score at least thirty points in this game. Even on the other side of the ball, Cleveland’s defense is very talented and simply needs to mesh together, and facing quarterback Trevor Semien and taking advantage of the Jets’ offensive line is the perfect way to do so. Heck, even if Darnold was healthy, head coach Adam Gase’s insistence on using 11-personnel would be tough against Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks’ defense anyway. The spread may have jumped by four points after the loss of Darnold, but that isn’t enough; I’ll take the Browns to win by at least three scores.