For The Win: Week 2

NFL picks against the Las Vegas lines.

Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I take the reins from Jeff Pasquino after writing a guest edition last year. 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.

Week 1 produced its fair share of thrills and spills, but buying into the hype too early can leave your bankroll dented in a significant way. Similarly, punting on teams that looked more like a JV squad than an NFL team would be premature – even for the Dolphins. The key thing is to remain sanguine, trust your process and your existing knowledge of teams, players, schemes and that gut feeling that can often be the clincher.

Like Week 1, this week’s action features some heavy favorites with generous points spreads. These lines can be an opportunity to pounce, but we must pick our spots wisely and rely on historical trends for added context. Without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s slate of games.

Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com

(Thursday) TAMPA BAY at CAROLINA (-5 to -6.5) (Over/Under 51)

The Panthers will be keen to get the bad taste of the Rams loss out of their system with a quick turnaround on Thursday night. The four-day turnaround is tough on players, but there is a sense that getting this game out of the way early in the year, when presumably most players are as healthy as they will be all year, is worth it. Carolina’s record against the spread as the home favorite under Ron Rivera is 27-19-1 and is bettered only by New England and Green Bay over that period.

The Buccaneers limp into Charlotte with their tails between their legs after suffering a chastening home defeat to the 49ers, who themselves weren’t world-beaters. Jameis Winston’s charitable streak knew no bounds, with not just one pick-six, but two. The Ringer’s Bill Simmons called it the rarefied ‘pick 12’. The four-day run-in, coupled with the fact this is a road game, explains the line move by 1.5 points – Vegas is clearly jumping ship on the Bucs, if you’ll excuse the thinly disguised pirate pun.

The one saving grace for the Bucs might be their defense, which played some excellent football on Sunday. They will need to be assignment-sound on Thursday night to contain a Panthers offense that can explode for points in bunches.

Pick: Carolina

ARIZONA at BALTIMORE (-13.5 to -13) (Over/Under 42.5)

Prior to Arizona’s clash with Detroit, the popular opinion was that the Lions, a run-first, smashmouth offense, would pound away and beat their opponents into submission. They succeeded for a while, controlling the ball while their defense hassled and harried Kyler Murray. But inevitably, the Lions disappointed and couldn’t maintain their vice grip on proceedings. The Ravens will not make the same mistake.

Quite frankly, if Murray thought the onslaught from the Lions was rough, the Baltimore one will make it look like a walk in the park. The Ravens don’t boast the same defensive star power that they used to, but they have the horses and the scheme to cause real problems. In Murray’s first road game, with an offensive line ill-equipped to hold up before breaking, the number one pick might be running for his life.

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