For The Win: Week 2 - Footballguys

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season, this article will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but will also 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. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as point 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 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.

With Week 1 in the record books, we can expect a fair share of overreaction this week, which will color people's perceptions and influence betting. Countless times in the past, I have watched as my fellow gamblers, in a bout of overzealousness, go all in on a particular team after one exposure to them. This strategy often ends in tears for the unfortunate soul on the wrong end of it when the aforementioned 'chosen team' gets pulverized in Week 2. It is wise to glean as much as we can from Week 1, of course, but blindly following the first script thrown out way would be a mistake. A cautious approach and a discerning eye will guide us to profit in Week 2, so let's dig in.

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

(Thursday) BALTIMORE (pick to -1) at CINCINNATI (Over/Under 44)
After watching their two AFC North rivals trade blows in what can only be described as a rain-soaked drunken brawl of a football game, the Ravens and Bengals will look to produce a better display this Thursday. Despite the dominant performance Baltimore put together last week to embarrass the hapless Bills, one wonders if there might be an undue reverence afforded to them this week. The line is just 1.5 points, but that makes them a 4.5-point favorite on neutral turf, an indication of the sentiment in Vegas around the Bengals. Marvin Lewis' team should be buoyant after a win rubber-stamped by a spectacular defensive play, and there are plenty of positive signs from the likes of Joe Mixon and this revamped offensive line. Vegas isn't quite ready to get on the budding Bengals bandwagon, and neither am I. It all comes to trust, and Baltimore has more of that banked. PICK: Ravens

INDIANAPOLIS (+5.5 to +6) at WASHINGTON (Over/Under 45.5)
Ostensibly, these teams are headed in opposite directions heading into Week 2, but let us not jump to conclusions just yet. This is a classic example of a game where there has been an overreaction to one week of games. A casual dismantling of Arizona certainly deserves plaudits - and the Alex Smith-led Redskins will get plenty of them - but it is a small, insignificant notch on their belt. Bigger tests are ahead, though the signs are good. The 5.5 points being given to Indianapolis is in the correct range, but Washington hasn't quite earned it yet if you ask me. Meanwhile, here come the 0-1 Colts fresh off a bitter loss to the Bengals. Captain Andrew Luck's sidearm appears to be just warming up, and it will have to be in good condition by the looks of things. The Colts defense has a plethora of weak points to exploit, which will force the returning quarterback to go to the air early and often. This one reeks of a 'stay away' if you are planning to invest in either side, but in an arms race, I'd prefer to have Luck on my side. PICK: Colts

ATLANTA (-4.5 to -5.5) vs. CAROLINA (Over/Under 44)
The general football public will all have seen Atlanta limp to yet another disappointing finish in Philadelphia last Thursday night, with some already prepared to dismiss the NFC contenders. Not so fast, my quick-trigger friends! The Falcons could not ask for a better opponent in Week 2 as a beaten, battered and bruised Carolina offense comes to town. Atlanta has won eight of the past 10 meetings against their NFC South rivals at the Georgia Dome (and Mercedez-Benz Stadium) and will fancy their chances to make hay against an offensive line of Carolina that could be starting Amini Silatolu at right tackle. Cam Newton was under constant duress against Dallas last week; Atlanta should be able to cook up some blitz packages to get Newton off the spot and force quick, inaccurate passes. The total reflects Vegas' thoughts on the Carolina offensive ineptitude more than Atlanta's, which should see a considerable uptick after the Philadelphia debacle. Atlanta 23-10. PICK: Falcons

MINNESOTA (pick) at GREEN BAY (Over/Under 46)
Stunning, simply stunning. Yet again, Aaron Rodgers, like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, rescues the Packers from the brink of defeat. As a fan of the game, it is always a pleasure to see the Packers quarterback in full flow, but even Rodgers' biggest fans would be lying if they said that win wasn't just a little special. Mike McCarthy will need to cook up something equally special with Minnesota coming to Lambeau. In what could prove to be a pivotal clash for NFC seeding and the NFC North division title race, the Packers are favored only by 1.5 points at home - a nod to the success the Vikings have had in stifling Rodgers in recent seasons. Kirk Cousins will be stepping into this full-blooded rivalry game for the first time as Vikings quarterback; will he be ready for the occasion? The Bears exposed weaknesses in the Packers' inexperienced secondary but took their foot off the pedal late. In contrast, the Vikings will stay aggressive and will have a stouter defense to back them up. I hate to bet against the great man Mr. Rodgers, but here goes nothing. Vikings 23-20. PICK: Vikings

LA CHARGERS (-7) at BUFFALO (Over/Under 44)
After a putrid no-show performance in Baltimore that quickly and ruthlessly erased the memories of playoff glory just a season ago, along come the Chargers. Buffalo's brass has a decision to make on their starting quarterback, how to protect him behind a sub-par offensive line and myriad other issues. The primary concern for second-year head coach Sean McDermott has to be the man under center: is there any point in this organization delaying the inevitable and keeping faith in Nathan Peterman? Our survey says no, so a Josh Allen appearance (or start) is within the realms of possibility. As for the Chargers, yet another home loss in a stadium filled to the rafters with Chiefs fans will have done little to dispel cries of 'same old Chargers' from media and fans alike. However, the perfect remedy for what ails them awaits in Orchard Park. This Bills team is reeling and the line could continue to creep up. Chargers bounce back in a big way. Los Angeles 31-10. PICK: Chargers

HOUSTON at TENNESSEE (off the board)
The Texans endured a rather forgettable start to their season, with their first offensive play resulting in a fumble, and a turnover. It is perhaps a sign that not everything Deshaun Watson touches will turn to gold this season, as it did last. Despite their problems, I would guess the Titans wouldn't mind switching places with their division rivals. There are question marks over the availability of starting quarterback Marcus Mariota - who didn't distinguish himself with his performance last week - and starting tight end and offensive Jenga piece Delanie Walker has been lost for the season. Even if this contest had a line associated with it, the recommendation would be a hard pass. Houston gets the nod in what could be a sloppy affair. PICK: Texans

KANSAS CITY (+5) at PITTSBURGH (Over/Under 49.5)
In the preseason many pundits touted the Chiefs as a potential AFC contender - and you would be hard-pressed to argue that point on the evidence thus far. That enthusiasm has to be tempered, of course, with the fact that it is just one game. The Patrick Mahomes hype train is roaring ahead as scheduled, and if anything it has picked up pace after a phenomenal performance in Los Angeles. One NFL Media journalist has called Mahomes favorite Tyreek Hill 'one of the 10 to 12 best players in the NFL' and an MVP contender. Andy Reid's team has plenty to be smiling about, but Pittsburgh will pose a different set of problems. Ben Roethlisberger traditionally plays his best football at home, and it should be noted that despite a rocky performance in Cleveland, this Steelers offense is more than capable of matching Mahomes blow for blow. What casual pundits are forgetting is just how vulnerable this Kansas City defense appears to be. Pittsburgh should be able to take full advantage, though the Chiefs will keep it close, in what should be a fascinating clash. PICK: Chiefs

NY JETS (-3) vs. MIAMI (Over/Under 44)
The unflappability of Sam Darnold was on full display on Monday Night Football as the precocious rookie picked himself up off the canvas after a pick-six on his first professional pass. The Jets looked every bit a plucky upstart in their upset of the Lions, and they should come into this week with a little weight off their shoulders. With a short week, ordinarily you would favor the team with more time to prepare - in this case, Miami. And while the Dolphins certainly had the extra day, they were forced to play the longest official game in NFL history due to a pesky lightning storm. The line looks about right here, but you have to trust the momentum here. The Jets defense, an energetic and fast unit, might give Ryan Tannehill all he can handle. PICK: Jets

PHILADELPHIA (-3) at TAMPA BAY (Over/Under 43.5)
This game looks a whole lot different for the Eagles than it did in preseason, a shift in perception triggered by a stunning display from the Buccaneers offense in Week 1. Could this be an example of a classic overreaction to one game, against a (once again) suspect Saints defense? Absolutely, that is a possibility. Ryan Fitzpatrick was pulling the strings like a master conductor on Sunday, ripping the Saints coverage to shreds with pinpoint passing, ably assisted by a quality surrounding cast. The Super Bowl champions are afforded the tag of favorites, but could a sloppy Nick Foles performance in Week 1 inspire the upwardly mobile Bucs at home? Ultimately, I see this game as a 'back to normal' type of clash where these two teams' true colors will be on show. In that type of color rush, it is green all the way. PICK: Eagles

NEW ORLEANS (-8 to -8.5) vs. CLEVELAND (Over/Under 49.5)
The Saints, surely the target of much vitriol from eliminator pool participants this week, won't enjoy film review ahead of their Week 2 clash with the Browns. A defense that looked to have turned a corner was, well, eviscerated by the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Marshon Lattimore, a huge reason for said defensive turnaround, was picked on relentlessly and looked human. There was a paltry pass rush effort from the front seven, providing ample time for Fitzpatrick and forcing Drew Brees to match the Harvard man blow for blow. This is not the script New Orleans envisaged for this season, but things can change in a heartbeat when the hapless Browns come to town. Even as Zane Gonzalez was lining up for that potential game-winning field goal last week, something deep down inside me predicted its failure. So it proved, and a tie was the best Cleveland could muster. Tyrod Taylor should be able to get this offense going in the right direction on the fast track of the dome, but a riled-up Saints team should be able to bounce back here. Saints 42 Browns 24. PICK: Saints

LA RAMS (-10 to -12.5) vs. ARIZONA (Over/Under 45.5)
The Rams needed a half to get back into their rhythm on Monday night, but it wasn't long before Jared Goff and company were ripping the Raiders to shreds. The Sean McVay offense looks every bit as nuanced and creative in its 2018 guise, so we should expect similar 30+-point outputs throughout the season. The home team should have an easier time of it this week against a hapless Cardinals team which, under new head coach Steve Wilks, may be doing its fair share of soul-searching this week. This line is by far the largest of the week, a nod to Los Angeles' talent and a snipe at Arizona's lack of talent. It won't be before Cardinals fans are calling for Josh Rosen to come and save the day - but it won't be this week. If you like Sam Bradford check-downs, this is the game for you. A muscle-flexing game for the fancied Rams. PICK: Rams

SAN FRANCISCO (-3 to -5.5) vs. DETROIT (Over/Under 47.5)
The 49ers have every reason to be optimistic after a valiant effort in Minnesota last week. Jimmy Garoppolo was under pressure early and often against a fearsome front seven, but to his credit he kept his cool and continued to fire darts downfield. Garoppolo finally tasted his first defeat as a starter, but the sense is the arrow is trending upward for the team from the Bay Area. Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions appear to be trending way down after an opening day loss to the Jets at Ford Field. New head coach Matt Patricia looked flustered and frustrated on the sidelines as he watched his defense routinely picked apart and his offense routinely picked off. This started at 49ers by three points, but has since had a Monday Night Football tax applied, bringing it up to 5.5 points. This might be a slight reach by the betting public, a knee-jerk reaction to a one-off horror show, but it is difficult to see past the home team here. San Francisco 30 Detroit 17 PICK: 49ers

NEW ENGLAND (-1.5 to -2) at JACKSONVILLE (Over/Under 45)
The rematch of last year's AFC Championship game will be the one to watch in the late afternoon slate. Will Doug Marrone have learned his lesson about being too conservative against a team of the quality of New England? In some ways, not having Leonard Fournette available might be a blessing in disguise for the home team, who effectively utilized the pass-catching and open field running skills of T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant last January to keep the Patriots off balance. What hasn't changed from last year is the Jacksonville defense which, despite giving up some chunk plays to the Giants, managed to ice the game with a pick-six and overall looked every bit the formidable unit of 2017. The Patriots are justifiable favorites, although the doubters will make the argument that Belichick's teams often start seasons slowly. Still, there is a 'been there, done that' factor with New England that you can't help gravitating towards, while the Jags are still big game neophytes. PICK: Patriots

DENVER (-5.5) vs. OAKLAND (Over/Under 45.5)
The Raiders, almost as if they could feel in the air the expectation and impending move to Las Vegas, produced a pitiful performance under the lights on Monday Night Football. Derek Carr appeared to be hesitant, missing open targets and throwing inexplicable passes into the dirt - and the waiting hands of defenders. To call them out of sorts would be a complementary designation for what was a rudderless team. Jon Gruden has his work cut out to restore some confidence in his troops ahead of this trip to Mile High, where Denver looked poised and comfortable for most of last week's win over Seattle. Yes, they had their blips, but the Case Keenum experience started off on the right foot. While there was a temptation to take the points with Oakland - after all, it was just one week - the smart play is to go with the home team. Boasting a far superior pass rush and the kind of offensive talent Oakland can only envy, the Broncos should be able to leave a Cheshire cat-like smile on John Elway's face by the time this one ends. PICK: Broncos

(Sunday Night) NY GIANTS (+3.5 to +3) at DALLAS (Over/Under 44)
There is nothing quite like the spectacle of watching two 0-1 teams square off in primetime with their seasons hanging in the balance. Everyone will be aware that only around 10% of teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs, so the Giants and Cowboys players will be under no illusions how important this game is. Not to mention the fact it pits division rivals, both of whom looked wobbly in Week 1, against each other. The Giants should perhaps fancy their chances to stifle a toothless Dallas offense after their putrid effort in Charlotte. New York's defense has enough quality pieces to create problems here; the issue will be whether their offensive line can handle a talented Cowboys pass rush. These teams may end up canceling each other with their mutual problems, but the Giants are the smarter pick - especially if the 3.5 points is available. PICK: Giants

(Monday) SEATTLE (+3) at CHICAGO (Over/Under 43.5)
Seattle, predicted by most to be a doormat team in 2018, was anything but in Week 1, putting together a respectable performance in Denver. The looming Earl Thomas storyline and potential trade must be a distraction for this team, despite what their public proclamations indicate. Still, Russell Wilson somehow manages to make the most out of very little and will be confident of creating some chunk plays against a Bears secondary that folded in the second half against Green Bay. As for the home team, there are myriad reasons to be optimistic despite the Lambeau loss, most notably Khalil Mack's impact and the growing confidence of Mitchell Trubisky in this Matt Nagy offense. What this game may come down to is experience, though, and Pete Carroll and Wilson have the edge in that department. The Bears' conservatism last week spoke volumes. Seahawks 23 Bears 20. PICK: Seahawks

BEST BETS

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.

Week 1 threw up some fascinating storylines. While Vegas has created some challenging lines to test our faith in teams this week, there are several promising games for 6-point teasers, ranked below from best to worst:

  • LA RAMS (-6.5) vs. ARIZONA
  • NEW ORLEANS (-2.5) vs. CLEVELAND
  • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at BUFFALO
  • KANSAS CITY (+11) at PITTSBURGH

With these likes in mind, here are the Week 2 selections:

* ONE STAR GAMES *

  • ATLANTA (-5.5) vs. CAROLINA
  • (Sunday Night) NEW YORK GIANTS (+3) at DALLAS
  • DENVER (-5.5) vs. OAKLAND
  • (Monday) SEATTLE (+3) at CHICAGO
  • 6-POINT TEASER: NEW YORK GIANTS (+9) at DALLAS (Under 44)
  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
  • (Monday) SEATTLE (+9) at CHICAGO
  • (Sunday Night) NEW YORK GIANTS (+9) at DALLAS
  • ATLANTA (+0.5) vs. CAROLINA

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • NEW ENGLAND (-2) at JACKSONVILLE
  • NEW YORK JETS (-3) vs. MIAMI
  • BALTIMORE (-1) at CINCINNATI
  • KANSAS CITY (+5) at PITTSBURGH

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • None this week.

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: New England, Kansas City, New York Giants, Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco

Good luck this weekend!

RESULTS

Last Week / Season

  • OVERALL: 9-7 (56.3%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 16.6-8 (67.5%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 6-2 (75.0%)

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

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