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For The Win: Week 2

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here I am again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season, I will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but I will try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. I tend to rate games that I like (and some extras like Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight my best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars I don't truly like one way or the other, but will select to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season.

Last week, in a word, was brutal.  Nothing seemed to go my way, no matter where I turned.  But never fear, each week is a new one, and we have 15 games to draw upon to figure out who is who and which teams are worth picking each week.  This should get easier as we go, and there’s definitely some games I like this week.  Let’s get started.

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.

(Thursday) HOUSTON (+6.5) at CINCINNATI
Here is the first game of the week that I hate.  A team that was pounded by Jacksonville faces a team that was shut out at home.  How can we be confident in picking either team here?  I can see a path towards a Texans win more easily than the Bengals, though, so that is where I lean.  DeShaun Watson gets the short week to practice as the starter, and Houston’s defense will be eager to keep the Bengals off the scoreboard.  This has all the makings of the first of many ugly Thursday Night Football contests this year.  (As a reminder – here is how the NFL should fix this).  PICK: Texans

CAROLINA (-7) vs. BUFFALO
The Panthers took care of business on the road this past week by defeating San Francisco soundly 23-3 in the Bay area, and now they get the Bills for their home opener.  Buffalo will get too much credit this past week for winning at home against the Jets 21-12, simply because the Jets are terrible.  Frankly the Bills should have won more convincingly, and now with a trip to North Carolina, I just do not see them covering the touchdown with Cam Newton looking to shake more rust off this week.  PICK: Panthers

MINNESOTA (+6.5) at PITTSBURGH
The Vikings just trounced the Saints on Monday Night Football (Episode 1) with huge games from just about everyone in the passing game.  Now they visit the Steelers for Pittsburgh’s home opener, a week after a narrow victory over the Browns in Cleveland last week.  Granted that Ben Roethlisberger loves his home cooking (ever see the Roethlis-burger?), but I am going with a team that looks like it is firing on all cylinders even on the road and on shorter rest.  Getting nearly a touchdown is too much to pass up here.  PICK: Vikings

NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) at NEW ORLEANS
An angry Tom Brady is never a good thing, and we just saw Sam Bradford carve up the Saints defense on Monday.  Compounding the problems for New Orleans – six days between games compared to 10 for Patriots.  I will take New England and give just under a touchdown here. PICK: Patriots

PHILADELPHIA (+5) at KANSAS CITY
Andy Reid welcomes back his old team as the Eagles take the trip to Kansas City this week.  Both teams are coming off of big wins, and both looked strong in road victories last week.  Both offenses will be challenged against defenses that can take away a top option, but Kareem Hunt will create matchup problems for Philadelphia.  The Eagles can counter with Carson Wentz, who looks to be improving with every start.  This game should be close, so I am taking the points here.  PICK: Eagles

TAMPA BAY (-6.5) vs. CHICAGO
Both Tampa Bay and Miami are back in action after an untimely hurricane postponed the start of their respective seasons.  Chicago just lost Kevin White for the year, and Kendall Wright did not look very strong against Atlanta.  The Bears would not have been very productive at all if it were not for Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard, and the Buccaneers will be keying on both of those backs on defense.  Jameis Winston and Mike Evans should be able to pick apart the Chicago defense and win by a touchdown or more.  PICK: Buccaneers

ARIZONA (-7) at INDIANAPOLIS
In all honesty, I want no part of this game.  The Cardinals did not look very good at Detroit when at full strength, and now David Johnson is out for at least half of the regular season.  Relying on Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald with no balancing run game is a tall order, even against a woeful Colts team.  This has all the makings of a sloppy game that could be 16-13.  I will go with the odds here and the better quarterback, but I have very low confidence that Arizona covers that number.  PICK: Cardinals

CLEVELAND (+8) at BALTIMORE
Before you all me crazy for picking the Browns here, consider that they covered at home last week against arguably what should be a better team (Pittsburgh) than the one they visit this week.  Baltimore shut out the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 1, but the Browns scored 18 points on the Steelers.  Cleveland has given the Ravens some problems in the recent past, and the Browns are improving.  Am I calling for the road win?  Not exactly, but I do not trust a win by Baltimore by more than a touchdown.  I think the Ravens win on the strength of Justin Tucker’s leg, 20-17.  PICK: Browns

TENNESSEE (-2) at JACKSONVILLE
When I look at games for the week, the first thing I try and do is predict what the line will be.  For this one, I had it Titans -3, so I was close – but that one point can make all the difference in the world.  Jacksonville’s defense is very strong, but the loss of Allan Robinson will hurt.  The Titans did not fire on all cylinders against Oakland last week and they want to get to 1-1 with a win in the division.  I think they get the job done and win by more than just a field goal.  PICK: Titans

OAKLAND (-14.5) vs. NEW YORK JETS
Sometimes Las Vegas gets it right, and sometimes they set a number to try and bait you into picking one side or the other.  Many will argue that an NFL team can keep a game inside of two touchdowns most of the time, but that is where the argument breaks down.  The Jets are not an NFL team, aside from in name and scheduling.  The talent level is just not there, and the Raiders could easily win the AFC West.  I have this game closer to 20 points than 14, so a 31-13 score feels about right to me.  Look for a big win to come out of the Black Hole in Oakland this week.   PICK: Raiders 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-4) vs. MIAMI
Once again we have a team coming off of an unscheduled by week, but Miami travels out to California to take on a Chargers team that nearly came all the way back late on Monday to tie the game in Denver.  The Chargers will be glad to head home, and they have to be encouraged by how well they closed that game despite falling short against the Broncos.  Miami is a wild card right now and Jay Ajayi will look to get the Dolphins a win to start their season, but I expect the Chargers to get a boost from the home crowd (and possibly some road trippers from San Diego) to get their record up to 1-1.  I would love this game at under three, but I will still take the Chargers at just a few more points.  PICK:  Chargers

DALLAS (-1.5) at DENVER 
Dallas visits the Broncos for Denver’s second home game this week, but I do not think that the Cowboys care about going on the road this week.  Denver fell apart in the second half against the Chargers late on Monday, and you better believe that the Dallas coaches will be all over that game film.  Look for someone in the slot – Cole Beasley perhaps – to have a lot of targets against the Broncos.  That will set up Ezekiel Elliott to hammer the ball inside and possibly turn the corner, especially after how big of a game Melvin Gordon had on Monday.  Dallas looks better on paper in every area but pass defense, but that can be overcome.  I expect the Cowboys to move to 2-0 after a strong win in Denver on Sunday.  PICK: Cowboys

SEATTLE (-13.5) vs. SAN FRANCISCO
Let’s play The Analogy Game.  Seattle is to Oakland as San Francisco is to the Jets.  Get it?  I do.  Seattle should be favored by 16 or more here, so giving LESS than two touchdowns against a team that only got one field goal at home last week feels like an easy, EASY call.  Seattle gets their offense and defense going in Week 2 with a 34-13 win.  The only thing I am not sure about is that 13 number – it might be high.  PICK: Seahawks


LOS ANGELES RAMS (-2.5) vs. WASHINGTON
Washington was in the game against the Eagles all day, but a costly late turnover that led to a touchdown sealed their fate.  Kirk Cousins was not in midseason form, and now they have to travel all the way to Los Angeles.  Washington could right their ship here, but that is a long trek across the country after a poor showing in a home opener . The Rams fared much better last week and will look to ride the positive results with Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley.  I would love this game at under three, but I will still take the Chargers at just a few more points.  PICK:  Rams

GREEN BAY (+3) at ATLANTA
Sunday Night Football should have the best game of the week here (as they should) with the Packers visiting Atlanta to wrap up the Sunday action.  The Falcons survived a scare in Chicago last week while Green Bay kept a not-ready-for-prime-time Seattle team out of the end zone last week.  Both teams should light up the scoreboard with the Over/Under right around 54 points, and with the Falcons struggling to slow down the Bears quick, short passing game I expect Aaron Rodgers to go to school on that and use Ty Montgomery quite a bit out of the backfield as both a rusher and a receiver.  Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will certainly be productive here and I expect a 34-31 type game.  With that in mind, how can you not take Rodgers and the points?  I can’t pass that up.  PICK: Packers

(Monday) DETROIT (+4) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
A game I also do not like much bookends the picks this week as the Lions head to northern New Jersey to face the Giants on Monday Night Football.  Detroit took care of business at home against the Cardinals, 35-23, but it was not that pretty – but not nearly as ugly as the Giants’ offense in Dallas last Sunday night.  Eli Manning desperately needs Odell Beckham to try and jump start their passing game, as New York may give up on the ground game soon.  If Manning can have a clean pocket, I like the Giants to get a home win, but that is a big if for this game.  Detroit looks to be getting the Giants at just the right time, so I will take the 1-0 team and the points, but not with a ton of confidence.  PICK: Lions

BEST BETS

Once again this year I will give not only the "Best Bets" but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 "Star" scale. The more stars, the more I like that side of the game.

  • (Thursday) HOUSTON (+6.5) at CINCINNATI
  • CAROLINA (-7) vs. BUFFALO  
  • NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) at NEW ORLEANS
  • TAMPA BAY (-6.5) vs. CHICAGO
  • CLEVELAND (+8) at BALTIMORE
  • TENNESSEE (-2) at JACKSONVILLE
  • OAKLAND (-14.5) vs. NEW YORK JETS
  • SEATTLE (-13.5) vs. SAN FRANCISCO
  • (Monday) DETROIT (+4) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS

For the Win (Money Lines):

  • (Thursday) HOUSTON (“FOR THE WIN” +250) at CINCINNATI
  • PHILADELPHIA (“FOR THE WIN” +210) at KANSAS CITY
  • CLEVELAND (“FOR THE WIN” +330) at BALTIMORE
  • MINNESOTA (“FOR THE WIN” +230) at PITTSBURGH

Teasers:

  • 6-POINT TEASER: MINNESOTA (+12.5) at PITTSBURGH (OVER 39)
  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (9-5 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-0.5) at NEW ORLEANS
    • DALLAS (+4.5) at DENVER 
    • TAMPA BAY (-0.5) vs. CHICAGO  
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (3-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-0.5) at NEW ORLEANS
    • DALLAS (+4.5) at DENVER 
    • TAMPA BAY (-0.5) vs. CHICAGO
    • MINNESOTA (+12.5) at PITTSBURGH 
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (5-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-0.5) at NEW ORLEANS
    • DALLAS (+4.5) at DENVER 
    • TAMPA BAY (-0.5) vs. CHICAGO
    • MINNESOTA (+12.5) at PITTSBURGH
    • MINNESOTA at PITTSBURGH (OVER 39) 
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (7-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-0.5) at NEW ORLEANS
    • DALLAS (+4.5) at DENVER 
    • TAMPA BAY (-0.5) vs. CHICAGO
    • MINNESOTA (+12.5) at PITTSBURGH
    • MINNESOTA at PITTSBURGH (OVER 39)
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. BUFFALO    
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (11-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-0.5) at NEW ORLEANS
    • DALLAS (+4.5) at DENVER 
    • TAMPA BAY (-0.5) vs. CHICAGO
    • MINNESOTA (+12.5) at PITTSBURGH
    • MINNESOTA at PITTSBURGH (OVER 39)
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. BUFFALO  
    • (Thursday) HOUSTON (+12.5) at CINCINNATI 
  • 8-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (15-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-0.5) at NEW ORLEANS
    • DALLAS (+4.5) at DENVER 
    • TAMPA BAY (-0.5) vs. CHICAGO
    • MINNESOTA (+12.5) at PITTSBURGH
    • MINNESOTA at PITTSBURGH (OVER 39)
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. BUFFALO  
    • (Thursday) HOUSTON (+12.5) at CINCINNATI
    • (Monday) DETROIT vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (OVER 37)    

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • MINNESOTA (+6.5) at PITTSBURGH
  • DALLAS (-1.5) at DENVER 
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
  • None this week.

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK:  Houston (gulp), Minnesota, New England, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Tennessee, Oakland, Dallas

RESULTS

Last Week / Season

  • OVERALL: 6-10 (37.5%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 3-19 (13.6%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 2-4 (33.3%)

Good luck this weekend!

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com