Week Two of the NFL is here, and so is your break down of all Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. Last week could have been much more profitable than it actually turned out to be, but a small profit is better than no profit.
Recommended Wagers Record: 4-2-1 ATS (64%), updated to reflect win on NYJ Thursday night.
As always, you can check out The Nickel Package podcast, which includes my top five plays in order of confidence for the week. Joe Fortenbaugh from the National Football Post joins me once again to analyze those picks and provide additional insight to the games I’ve selected. You can listen or download the MP3 file here.
The Nickel Package Record: 2-2-1 ATS (50%)
There’s no point in living in the past—let’s get this week started.
San Diego Chargers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Friday Line: Eagles -7, total of 55
Public Consensus: 59% on the Eagles, 72% on the over
The Pick: There’s no denying that Chip Kelly’s new look offense was a big hit in Week One, but is it sustainable for the entire season? I don’t think so. It’s only a matter of time before a good defense sets the blueprint for this gimmick, but the Chargers aren’t the team that’s going to do that. The Chargers’ defense was an absolute atrocity in the second half of their meltdown against the Texans on Monday night. Texans’ receivers were running free down the field and the combination of Ben Tate and Arian Foster was picking up yardage in huge chunks. LeSean McCoy looked like the most dominant running back in the league in Week One and the Chargers simply don’t have the ponies to slow him down. Unlike in years past where Andy Reid would completely forget about McCoy, Chip Kelly has made sure that he’s heavily involved in the offense. With McCoy breaking big gains, the Eagles will be able to utilize the play action pass to work the ball down the field against a porous Chargers’ secondary. Michael Vick will undoubtedly miss some wide open receivers and may even be good for a couple of careless turnovers, but Philadelphia will have no problem scoring points.
Meanwhile, the Chargers’ offense is still awful. San Diego benefited from some early mistakes by Houston to build a big lead on Monday night, but as usual, Philip Rivers crapped the bed in crunch time. Rivers is totally useless when he’s under pressure and although the Eagles only have a mediocre pass rush, their defensive line should still be able to dominate a hapless Chargers’ squad up front. The Chargers would be wise to involve Ryan Mathews heavily in their game plan to alleviate some pressure from Rivers, but for some unexplainable reason, Ronnie Brown saw almost as much action as Mathews in their season opener. To make matters worse, the Chargers are in the role of West Coast team playing a 1:00pm ET start on the East Coast—a spot that notoriously has been extremely tough to deal with. I just don’t see them competing here.
Eagles 31, Chargers 17
The Wager: There are a lot of factors working against the Chargers, but I’m still not ready to lay points with the Eagles just yet. The Eagles didn’t win a single game by more than two points last season, and although they’re obviously better this season, I just can’t find it in myself to swallow the points here. Pass
The Trend: The Chargers are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games following an ATS win.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
Friday Line: Ravens -6.5, total of 43.5
Public Consensus: 67% on the Ravens, 60% on the under
The Pick: These teams are far closer to equal than most people think. Cleveland laid an egg in Week One against the Dolphins, but there are some positives to take away from that matchup. For starters, their defense looks like it could be one of the league’s better stop units this season. The Browns held Lamar Miller to a measly three yards on 10 carries which bodes well for them against a team that needs to establish their running game to win. The Ravens lost six games last season, with Ray Rice only surpassing the 100-yard mark in one of those six losses. The Browns also have a good shot at keeping Joe Flacco in check. Flacco enjoyed an inexplicable amount of success in last year’s playoffs but if Week One was any indication, Flacco is back to being the mediocre quarterback that he’s been for the last five seasons. Flacco will be without his number one wideout in Torrey Smith—not because Smith is injured—but rather because Joe Haden has quietly become one of the best cover corners in the league. Haden limited Smith to 46 yards in their second meeting last season and is fresh off of holding Mike Wallace to one reception for 15 yards.
The Browns did not look good offensively against Miami last weekend. Baltimore boasts a strong pass rushing tandem in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, so there’s good reason to believe that Brandon Weeden will be under constant pressure again in Week Two. With that being said, Weeden was nowhere near as bad as his Week One numbers would indicate. Weeden’s final stat line shows three interceptions and a 49.1 percent completion rate but the 48-year-old quarterback was victimized by drops all afternoon. Greg Little dropped a pair of passes; one resulting in an interception, while Travis Benjamin had trouble holding on the ball on occasion as well. Things aren’t guaranteed to improve this weekend with the same receiving corps but I’d bet that that Trent Richardson becomes more heavily utilized in the passing attack after making only two catches last week. Richardson is by the far the biggest playmaker on the Browns’ offense and Norv Turner has indicated that he’d like to get Richardson upwards of 20 touches this week. The Ravens get the nod because of home field advantage but I don’t see much separating these teams.
Ravens 19, Browns 16
The Wager: While I’m a little bit concerned about the Ravens’ dominance of the Browns in recent years, I think this year’s edition of the Browns is far more talented than years past. Also, I don’t buy into the notion that Baltimore’s extra rest helps them all that much in Week Two. Unfortunately, this line remains under the key number of seven at every sportsbook, so for now I’ll stay away. Pass
The Trend: The Browns are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games following a loss.
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
Friday Line: Texans -9.5, total of 43
Public Consensus: 53% on the Texans, 81% on the over
The Pick: The Texans were in disarray for three quarters against the Chargers before they finally got things going. I’d expect their fourth quarter success from Monday night to carry over into this matchup. Houston has upgraded their offense with the addition of a legitimate #2 wideout in DeAndre Hopkins and with Ben Tate splitting carries with Arian Foster (Tate is by far the better runner). Tennessee didn’t allow a score against the Steelers’ offense until late in the fourth quarter last week, but that doesn’t lead me to believe that the Titans can shut down the Texans. Pittsburgh has a poor offensive line that was made even worse when Maurkice Pouncey went down early on in the contest. The dominance that the Titans’ defense enjoyed at the line of scrimmage will be hard to come by against a very strong Texans’ offensive line. Tennessee had trouble stopping the run all of last season, giving up 127.2 yards per game on the ground. With the two-headed monster of Foster and Tate moving the ball on the ground, Matt Schaub will be working out of manageable situations all afternoon.
The Texans have fared extremely well against non-elite quarterbacks in recent years. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips puts an emphasis on stopping the run and forces average quarterbacks to try to win the game with their arm. This didn’t work out so well for the Titans in last season’s second meeting against the Texans as Jake Locker tossed three interceptions on route to a two-touchdown loss. Locker has struggled mightily on the road in his young career, completing only 52.8 percent of his passes with a meagre 6.2 yards per attempt. The Titans upgraded their offensive line in the offseason and Chris Johnson looks as good as he has in a long time, but that won’t be enough to get the running game going as the Texans sell out to stop the run. The Texans were one of seven teams to give up less than 100 yards per game on the ground last season, so you can bet that Locker will be struggling in long yardage situations all afternoon. The most likely scenario is that the Titans get behind early and the Texans’ strong pass rush tees off on Locker. This is precisely what happened in the first matchup last season when Locker got annihilated and was forced to leave the game. Tennessee is improved, but I don’t think they’re ready to compete with Houston on the road just yet.
Texans 26, Titans 12
The Wager: I’ve never been a fan of laying a lot of points and I’m not about to change that. Sure, I think the Texans win this game comfortably but the Titans are a team that has backdoor cover potential. There are better games to wager on this weekend. Pass
The Trend: The Titans are 7-21-1 ATS in their last 29 games against a team with a winning record.
Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts
Friday Line: Colts -2.5, total of 43.5
Public Consensus: 73% on the Colts, 59% on the over
The Pick: I can’t say I’m surprised by the Colts’ narrow Week One victory over the Raiders. If you eliminate the quarterback position, Indianapolis has one of the worst rosters in football, and that’s just not going to cut it as the year goes on. The general public sees the Colts as a high-powered scoring machine but they only scored into the 30s in two games last season. After scoring only 21 points against a terrible Raiders’ defense, they’ll have trouble matching that output against a very strong Miami defense. The Dolphins’ defensive line manhandled Cleveland’s offensive line last week and should be able to do the same against a weak Colts’ unit. Indianapolis can’t run the ball effectively with Old Man Bradshaw alone, so the Colts will likely be working out of third-and-longs all afternoon. Andrew Luck is good enough to occasionally move the chains in these situations, but he’ll find it difficult to do so consistently against Miami’s potent pass rush. Luck also has a tendency to be sloppy with the ball, as evidenced by his 23 turnovers in 16 games last season.
If the Colts’ defensive performance against the Raiders last week was any indication, the Dolphins shouldn’t have much of an issue moving the chains in this contest. Terrelle Pryor can’t throw a football through an open door from five yards away but he somehow managed to keep the Raiders within striking distance all afternoon. Ryan Tannehill looked pretty solid against a strong Browns’ defense, which is particularly impressive because Browns’ cornerback Joe Haden completely shadowed Mike Wallace all afternoon. Indianapolis doesn’t have a cornerback capable of shutting down anything but a computer, so Tannehill should have all of his wideouts at his disposal this weekend. After a disappointing Week One in which he only picked up 10 yards on the ground, Lamar Miller should be able to get back on track against a Colts’ run defense that surrendered 137.5 yards per game on the ground last season. Unless Andrew Luck can pull another incredible game out of his ass, the Dolphins should be able to pull out a road victory.
Dolphins 20, Colts 17
The Wager: These teams met last year at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Colts emerged by a field goal when Andrew Luck led his team back from behind in the fourth quarter. Miami has the luxury of having seen Luck before and the Colts won’t have the emotional “Chuckstrong” factor that was working for them last year. A three point spread here implies that these teams are equal on a neutral field—I strongly disagree. Dolphins +3 (BoDog or SIA), pass at Dolphins +2.5
The Trend: The underdog is 40-18 ATS in the last 58 games involving the Dolphins.
Carolina Panthers @ Buffalo Bills
Friday Line: Panthers -3, total of 43.5
Public Consensus: 52% on the Bills, 75% on the under
The Pick: I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Panthers were very disappointing last weekend, but that’s not entirely true. Carolina was a DeAngelo Williams’ fumble away from potentially taking the lead against arguably the best team in the league, and their defense was fantastic from start to finish. The issue right now with the Panthers is their offense. Cam Newton did not look very sharp in the preseason and couldn’t put together any consistent drives against the Seahawks in Week One. I don’t want to give Newton a pass, but the Seahawks’ defense is a lot different than the Bills’ defense. Buffalo will once again be without two of the mainstays in their secondary as Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore are sidelined with injuries. Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Greg Olsen struggled to create separation against the Seahawks’ stout defense but they’ll have no problem finding holes down the field against the Bills. Buffalo has a strong front seven that is capable of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but Cam Newton hasn’t taken more than a pair of sacks in eight straight games so I don’t picture him on his back very often here. Carolina should also enjoy some moderate success on the ground. DeAngelo Williams stinks but Buffalo is fresh off of a season where they allowed almost 150 yards per game on the ground.
As I already mentioned, Carolina’s defense looked awesome against the Seahawks last weekend and I can’t imagine the Bills causing this stop unit any problems this week. The Panthers may sport the best front seven in all of football with Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy, Star Lotulelei, Dwan Edwards, Luke Kuechly, Jon Beason, and Thomas Davis. Carolina just limited Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards on the ground, after Lynch finished last season with five 100-yard plus performances in his last six games. C.J. Spiller is an elusive back but it seems like he’s still mired in a timeshare with the less effective Fred Jackson, so I just don’t see the Bills producing much in terms of rushing yardage. If the Panthers are going to be exploited, Buffalo will have to take advantage of their questionable secondary. E.J. Manuel looked decent in his first career NFL start last week but I doubt he’s going to be able to carry the Bills on his shoulders in this one. The Panthers are very good at generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks and should be able to force Manuel into making some bad throws. Buffalo is coming off an extremely tough loss to the Patriots and I’m not sure that a young team can easily put that loss behind them.
Panthers 19, Bills 13
The Wager: This is one of the few games this weekend where I really don’t have a strong opinion. Carolina should wipe the floor with Buffalo but winning on the road in the NFL is tougher than it seems. I’m also not too interested in laying points with the Panthers considering their struggles on offense in the preseason and in Week One. Pass
The Trend: The Bills are 5-13 ATS in their last 18 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game.
St. Louis Rams @ Atlanta Falcons
Friday Line: Falcons -6.5, total is 47
Public Consensus: 56% on the Falcons, 51% on the over
The Pick: As I mentioned in last week’s Falcons-Saints write-up, I strongly believe that the Falcons are the most overrated team in the league. Atlanta was very fortunate to pull out a lot of close victories last season but they still remain way too soft on defense to be a legitimate contender. Atlanta was only able to generate a couple of sacks on Drew Brees last weekend after mustering an insignificant 29 sacks in all of last season. Sam Bradford has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career but he hasn’t had a group of receivers this potent in his NFL career. Tavon Austin and Jared Cook looked great in Week One, running excellent routes and giving Bradford reliable targets down the field. Chris Givens was shaded by Patrick Peterson all afternoon but he can also be a big playmaker against weaker defenses. Atlanta’s top corner Asante Samuel is still dealing with an injury, leaving it up to a group of scrubs to try to shut down St. Louis’ passing game. Not bloody likely.
The Falcons usually rely on their offense to win them games, but there are some major question marks for Atlanta this season. For starters, the health of Roddy White is a big concern. White served as a decoy in Week One but his ankle was obviously nowhere near 100 percent as he could barely make any cuts. The Saints’ defense was able to focus their efforts on shutting down Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez as White never really posed a threat to them down the field. It’s rare to see the Falcons held to less than 20 points, and it’s even rarer to see it happen against one of the league’s worst defenses. The biggest question mark of all though is the Falcons’ offensive line. Matt Ryan was constantly under duress last weekend and the Rams boast arguably the best pass rush in the league with Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the outside. Ryan will need Steven Jackson to help carry the load this week, but that may not be in the cards as Jackson was only given 11 carries in Week One. The Rams’ defense will also be inspired to shut down their former teammate. St. Louis proved that they could play with the big boys last season with wins over Seattle and San Francisco, and if the Falcons aren’t careful, the Rams could pull off a big upset here.
Rams 24, Falcons 23
The Wager: Any time I think a team can win the game and they’re hovering around a touchdown underdog, I’m going to pull the trigger. These teams are far more equal than the media would have you believe. St. Louis thrived in the underdog role last season and I think they’ll continue to make strides this year under Jeff Fisher. Rams +7 (BoDog)—I’d play the Rams +6.5 if there wasn’t a seven on the board.
The Trend: The Rams are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 road games.
Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers
Friday Line: Packers -7.5, total of 49.5
Public Consensus: 72% on the Packers, 96% on the over
The Pick: Everyone is trying to figure out what happened to the Redskins on Monday night. Washington was unbelievably bad for three quarters against the Eagles. Robert Griffin III looked rusty; Alfred Morris had a case of butter fingers going on, and the Redskins looked inept on almost every single drive. Then the fourth quarter came along and RGIII looked like the same quarterback that took the league by storm last season. I’d expect that to continue this week. Green Bay had an entire offseason to prepare for San Francisco’s offense and still managed to get torched for 34 points. Granted, the 49ers had some new wrinkles and didn’t run as much of the read option, but that still has to be demoralizing for the Packers’ defense. Green Bay’s secondary was an abomination last week so I’d expect Griffin to have plenty of success moving the chains through the air. The Redskins also had to abandon their running game pretty early last week after falling behind big in the first half, but the team that led the league with nearly 170 yards per game on the ground last season should get back on track against a defense that allowed 4.5 yards per carry.
Unfortunately, the Redskins don’t have much of a chance of slowing down Aaron Rodgers and company. Rodgers was outstanding against the 49ers’ defense on the road last week, and should have little to no trouble with the feeble Redskins’ secondary. The one issue for the Packers may be pass protection. Ryan Kerrigan has passed all of his concussion tests and is set to return for this matchup barring any setbacks in practice. With Kerrigan and fellow stud rush linebacker Brian Orakpo on the outside, the Packers’ offensive line which features a rookie left tackle, should have their hands full. Rodgers will surely throw a lot of quick bubble screens to counteract Washington’s rush, but that type of strategy can’t work for an entire game. The Packers also have the luxury of being able to run the ball this season with Eddie Lacy in the fold. Lacy only managed 41 yards on 14 carries in the season opener, but the Redskins’ defense isn’t nearly as strong against the run as the 49ers are. Green Bay should win this matchup but their issues on defense should allow for Washington hang around.
Packers 28, Redskins 24
The Wager: I’m very tempted to take Washington here. The Redskins have gone from a Super Bowl sleeper pick to a bunch of losers in the public’s eyes after being exposed on national television by the Eagles. If I knew with certainty that the Redskins would go back to running the offense that made them so successful last season, I’d be in play here. I may change my mind by Sunday. Pass
The Trend: The Redskins are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games overall (dating back to last season).
Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs
Friday Line: Chiefs -3, total of 46.5
Public Consensus: 75% on the Cowboys, 55% on the under
The Pick: The Chiefs destroyed the Jaguars in their season opener but Jacksonville is just so bad that I can’t really gain any valuable information from that matchup. Kansas City’s new look offense was able to dink and dunk their way downfield all afternoon, but that’s not going to work against the league’s better defenses. Dallas is susceptible to the long ball but that doesn’t play into the Chiefs’ hands here. Alex Smith takes care of the ball and prefers to throw short, safe passes than take shots down the field. This type of offensive strategy will counteract the Cowboys’ strong pass rush but it will also keep Dallas’ strong group of linebackers more involved in the game. While the Chiefs aren’t likely to move the ball consistently, they’re also not very likely to turn the ball over, even against a Monte Kiffin defense that is predicated on forcing turnovers. That in itself should be good for the Chiefs to eke out a win because the Cowboys are bound to shoot themselves in the foot at some point.
The Cowboys’ defense forced a whopping six turnovers last week, including two that led to defensive touchdowns, but Dallas’ offense couldn’t get much going against a subpar Giants’ defense. That doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys against a Chiefs’ defensive unit that I think can be elite this season. Kansas City has an excellent pass rush and aside from Tyron Smith at left tackle, the Cowboys have a pretty weak offensive line. Anyone who’s ever watched a Cowboys’ game knows that Tony Romo makes some horrible decisions under pressure, and that could prove to be the difference in this matchup. DeMarco Murray picked up 86 yards on the ground against the Giants last week but the Chiefs’ defensive front is much better than New York’s, so it’s hard to envision Murray replicating that success. Romo will have to make some plays down the field and while he’s fully capable of hooking up with his plethora of targets, he can also be careless with the ball. Ultimately, I think that this is a game where the defenses win out, so I’ll back the team that should have the better field position and the lesser likelihood of turnovers all afternoon. I’d reluctantly side with the Chiefs in a close game.
Chiefs 20, Cowboys 16
The Wager: The Chiefs looked enticing earlier on in the week but a) I’m a diehard Cowboys’ fan and don’t want to bet against my team early in the season, b) Kansas City is in a huge look ahead spot with the Eagles on deck—Andy Reid against his former team, and c) Dallas is one of the rare teams in professional sports that actually plays better away from home. Pass
The Trend: The Cowboys are 4-14 ATS in their last 18 games following a win.
Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears
Friday Line: Bears -5.5, total of 42
Public Consensus: 70% on the Bears, 63% on the over
The Pick: The Vikings are a bad football team. Adrian Peterson singlehandedly carried Minnesota to the playoffs last season but that success isn’t going to be duplicated this year. As long as Christian Ponder is under center, Minnesota is going to be a bad football team. Ponder’s road numbers in the past calendar year are ok, but when you look at his track record in outdoor stadiums you may just vomit all over yourself. In Ponder’s last four outdoor starts, including one against these very same Bears, he’s averaged a quarterback rating of 55.2 and a disgusting 4.6 yards per attempt. In those starts, he’s accounted for four touchdowns and seven turnovers. Yes, he’s that bad. Minnesota will literally need a 200-yard performance from Peterson if they stand any chance of winning this game. AD broke away for a 78-yard touchdown in his first carry last week but failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark against the Lions. Why? Well, Detroit was able to sell out to stop the run all game since there was no threat of Ponder beating them with his arm. And then there’s the Jerome Felton factor. Felton isn’t a well known name amongst NFL fans but he was key to Peterson’s success last season. Felton is one of the best run blocking fullbacks in the NFL but he’ll be serving the second game of a three game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. The Bears will stack the box to contain Peterson and that should pretty much do it for Minnesota’s chances here.
As long as Jay Cutler can protect the ball, the Bears should be able to win comfortably but that’s easier said than done. I’m convinced that Cutler drinks a bottle of whiskey prior to each game. Cutler looked good in last week’s win over the Bengals but he’s proven to be one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks of the last decade. After missing last week’s game, the Vikings welcome defensive tackle Kevin Williams back into the fold which should allow for Minnesota to dominate the line of scrimmage against Chicago’s putrid offensive line. Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman has put an emphasis on protecting Cutler in the pocket but that’s not likely to happen against the likes of Williams, Jared Allen, and Brian Robison. The Bears surrendered 44 sacks last season and that number isn’t actually indicative of the amount of pressure that Cutler faced on a weekly basis. With that being said, the Vikings’ secondary is absolutely atrocious and there’s no chance in hell that they can contain Brandon Marshall on the outside. Even if Minnesota chooses to double Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett should have plenty of space to work down the field. Chicago remains a work in progress but they’re still far superior to Minnesota in almost every facet of the game.
Bears 27, Vikings 13
The Wager: I’d love to back Chicago here but I have too many bad memories of watching Cutler shit the bed. If I back a favorite, I have to have trust in their quarterback, and I’m afraid that’s not the case here. Pass
The Trend: The Vikings are 8-20 ATS in their last 28 outdoor games.
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Friday Line: Saints -3, total of 47.5
Public Consensus: 67% on the Saints, 94% on the over
The Pick: I touted the Bucs as one of the worst teams in my write-up last week and my opinion obviously hasn’t changed after their pathetic performance against the Jets. Tampa Bay could only muster 250 total yards in that matchup, and managed to commit an insane 13 penalties. Josh Freeman is an absolute train wreck and the Bucs will continue to struggle offensively as long as he’s under center. Freeman failed to throw a touchdown in the preaseason, all while being sacked a whopping nine times. The former Kansas State product has been a huge liability since his rookie year and to make matters worse, his offensive line looked awful in last week’s matchup against the Jets. Tampa Bay may get Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks back for this matchup but it may not matter as the Saints were able to generate consistent pressure on Matt Ryan last weekend. It seems as though Rob Ryan’s new defensive scheme is paying immediate dividends. Tampa Bay will try to establish Doug Martin in this contest but it won’t be easy for the standout running back to break off big gains when the Saints don’t have to worry much about Freeman beating them deep down the field. The Bucs’ offense just doesn’t have what it takes to keep Drew Brees off the field.
The Saints’ offense didn’t exactly light it up against the Falcons in Week One but Brees will love seeing the Bucs in Week Two. Brees completed 53 of 76 passes against the Bucs’ defense last season, throwing for eight touchdowns and only one interception. The former Super Bowl MVP will be without the luxury of passing to Marques Colston this week as he’ll likely be stranded on Revis Island, but he still has an overabundance of other weapons on offense, including a matchup nightmare in tight end Jimmy Graham. The Bucs have a huge asset at defensive tackle in Gerald McCoy, but they still won’t be able to generate pressure on Brees without sending the blitz, leaving them susceptible to big plays down the field. New Orleans has won three straight meeting against Tampa Bay and I’ll be shocked if it isn’t four straight after Sunday.
Saints 38, Buccaneers 21
The Wager: This is a bad line. Tampa Bay has been horrible at home in recent years and New Orleans is simply a different team under Sean Payton. I fully expected to see the Saints installed as at least 4.5-point favorites here so I’ll gladly capitalize. I can’t believe people still have faith in the Bucs and Josh Freeman. Saints -3
The Trend: The Buccaneers are 9-25-1 ATS in their last 35 home games.
Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals
Friday Line: Lions -1.5, total of 48
Public Consensus: 81% on the Lions, 83% on the over
The Pick: In spite of their loss in Week One, I was actually pretty impressed with the Cardinals. Arizona still has the same putrid offensive line that they had last season but Carson Palmer performed fairly well under duress all afternoon. Despite my constant ragging on Palmer, he’s definitely a huge upgrade for Arizona simply based on the fact that he gives his receivers a chance to make plays. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andre Roberts are a strong trio of wideouts that can expose a questionable Lions’ secondary. This is different than years past where Fitzgerald was the only reliable target—all of these guys can make plays. Arizona can also get a small contribution from Rashard Mendenhall, although it might be difficult against a Lions’ run stopping unit that held Adrian Peterson in check last week.
Detroit looked outstanding offensively in Week One, but the Cardinals’ defense will prove to be a much tougher test than the Vikings’ defense did last week. For starters, Arizona has a legitimate #1 cornerback. Patrick Peterson isn’t going to shut down Calvin Johnson but he’ll definitely give him a battle on the outside. The Cardinals’ pass rush will also prove to be a stiff test for the Lions’ offensive line. Arizona didn’t register a sack against the Rams last week but they did boast one of the best pass rushes in the league last season. Additionally, Matthew Stafford often holds on to the ball for far too long, so the Cards will have a better chance of getting to the quarterback than they did against “Captain Checkdown” Sam Bradford last weekend. And let’s overlook the fact that the Lions could have easily shot themselves in the foot against a better opponent last week. Jim Schwartz may just be the worst head coach in the NFL and Detroit continues to play a stupid, undisciplined brand of football. Penalties have proven to be costly to the Lions in the past, especially in hostile road environments. These teams met when the Cardinals were in the midst of a nine-game losing streak last season—Arizona thrashed Detroit 38-10. This one will be closer but I still like the home team.
Cardinals 26, Lions 20
The Wager: I think the wrong team is favored here. The Lions have lost 10 of their last 13 road games with their only victories in that span coming against Jacksonville, Philadelphia (when they were awful last season), and Oakland. Arizona is a tough place to play, especially for an undisciplined team. Cardinals +1.5
The Trend: The Lions are 1-8-2 ATS in their last 11 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Oakland Raiders
Friday Line: Raiders -5.5, total of 39
Public Consensus: 70% on the Raiders, 69% on the over
The Pick: Jags-Raiders 2013; I can’t imagine a worse game in the history of football. Seriously, I’ve spent the last twenty minutes starting at my computer screen wondering if I could get away with completely removing this game from the blog. Chad Henne gets the start for the Jaguars in replacement of the injured Blaine Gabbert, and while Henne is a complete pile of trash, he’s still a huge improvement at quarterback for the Jags. Jacksonville was completely screwed last week when Maurice Jones-Drew couldn’t get anything going on the ground, but that shouldn’t be much of an issue against Oakland. The Raiders’ defense is epically bad. Don’t let last week’s performance fool you; the Raiders’ stop unit has less talent than the cast of The Goldbergs. Oakland can stack the box to try to limit MJD, but Henne is actually capable of throwing the ball more than five yards downfield, so that may not be a sound strategy.
The way that people are talking about Oakland, you’d think that they actually beat Indianapolis last week. As an Ohio State Buckeyes’ fan, I have a soft spot in my heart for Terrelle Pryor but there’s no doubt in my mind that this isn’t going to end well. Pryor completely caught the Colts off guard last weekend, but now that opposing defenses can watch some tape of him; this experiment will be over very soon. It’s not like Pryor can just keep handing the ball off either. I don’t know what happened to Darren McFadden but he’s somehow managed to age ten years in the span of one calendar year. McFadden is literally defying science. Ok, I need to stop now. I think Jacksonville is slightly less garbage with Henne at the helm than Oakland with Pryor at the helm, so I’ll go with the upset.
Jaguars 27, Raiders 23
The Wager: If you have any money on this game may God have mercy on your soul. Pass
The Trend: The Raiders are 5-18 ATS in their last 23 games as a favorite.
Denver Broncos @ New York Giants
Friday Line: Broncos -4.5, total of 54.5
Public Consensus: 61% on the Broncos, 77% on the over
The Pick: The Giants are nowhere near as bad as they looked against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football last week. New York was unbelievably careless with the ball in Week One, but they managed to stay within striking distance in spite of six turnovers. Eli Manning threw for 450 yards in that contest and showed great chemistry with all of his receivers against an improved Cowboys’ secondary. The Broncos will likely be without Champ Bailey again for this contest and they’ll soon find out that the trio of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle is a much bigger test than Torrey Smith, undrafted free agent Marlon Brown, and senior citizen Brandon Stokley. The Broncos are also still missing their elite pass rusher in Von Miller, which will allow Eli Manning more time in the pocket to hook up with his wideouts. Denver did generate four sacks last week but those sacks came in garbage time when the Broncos had built up a big lead and the Ravens had become one-dimensional. I also think David Wilson is in line for a big bounce back game here. The Giants’ coaching staff has decided to give Wilson another shot after his fumbling issues last week, and based on Wilson’s explosiveness in the preseason, I can’t fault them for that decision. Denver has a strong rush defense but they won’t keep Wilson in check all game.
The real issue for the Giants is how they plan on slowing down Peyton Manning. The entire world watched Peyton carve up the Ravens’ defense for seven touchdowns in Week One, and now he’ll be on extra rest against one of the worst secondaries in the league. Well, New York isn’t going to stop Manning but they have a chance of slowing him down. The Giants have a good pass rush that can take advantage of the interior of the Broncos’ offensive line. Manny Ramirez is a huge question mark at center with Dan Koppen on the IR and JD Walton on the PUP List. New York caused havoc on the interior against the Cowboys last week, and although Manning is tough to sack, the Giants can at least force him to make throws under pressure. It also seems to take Manning a lot of time to get into rhythm, so if the Giants score points early as I expect them to, the Broncos will have to play this game from behind where they could become one-dimensional. I know it seems like I’m grasping for straws here but I really think that this game has strong upset potential. It’s a sickening feeling to pick Eli over Peyton, but I’m going to go with my gut here.
Giants 30, Broncos 27
The Wager: Right now the line stands at Broncos -4.5. Now imagine this game was in Denver instead of New York. Take away the 3-point home field advantage for the Giants and give it to the Broncos—would Denver really be -10.5 at home to New York? I don’t think so—maybe -7.5, but not into double-digits. I love capitalizing on what I perceive to be strong line value and I’m ready to do so here. Giants +4.5
The Trend: The Giants are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games against a team with a winning record.
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
Friday Line: Seahawks -3, total of 44.5
Public Consensus: 54% on the 49ers, 51% on the under
The Pick: This San Francisco 49ers are one of the best teams in football but I have a hard time picturing any team upsetting the Seahawks at home this season. Seattle’s offense didn’t look very good in Week One against Carolina, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the Seahawks topped 24 points in only one of their roads contest last season. At home, Seattle was nearly unstoppable as the 49ers learned firsthand in their 42-13 beatdown at CenturyLink Field in Week 16. Russell Wilson has completed 65 percent of his passes in his last 14 starts, with a stellar 25 touchdowns to only five interceptions. San Francisco’s pass defense looked very shaky last week against the Packers. Wilson should be able to exploit matchups against the free falling Nnamdi Asomugha and the mediocre Tarell Brown. Wilson can also rely on Marshawn Lynch to help to move the chains. Lynch’s 111 yards on the ground in last season’s Week 16 matchup can be thrown out the window because the 49ers were without Justin Smith for that contest, but it should be noted that Lynch ran for 103 yards on 19 carries in the Week 7 matchup against the 49ers. If San Francisco’s defense doesn’t improve on their less than average performance from last week, this game could be over in a hurry.
On the other side of things, Seattle’s defense matches up very well with San Francisco’s offense. The 49ers were able to take advantage of a weak Packers’ secondary last week, but they’ll have to face off against two stud cornerbacks in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, who’s expected back in the lineup on Sunday. Sherman and Browner are both big bodies that can easily play one-on-one with Anquan Boldin, while the Seahawks’ cover linebackers and safeties also should be able to limit Vernon Davis’ opportunities down the field. Without Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham in the lineup, Colin Kaepernick will have to rely on his legs to pick up some first downs here but that’ll be easier said than done against a defense that practices against Russell Wilson week in and week out. The Seahawks are familiar with the read-option and were successful in shutting down Kaepernick in Seattle last season. The 49ers love to pound the rock to set up manageable third down situations, but the Seahawks also sport a strong rush defense that limited opponents to 103.1 yards per game on the ground last season. Seattle matches up very well with San Francisco and that’s not even taking their enormous home field advantage into account.
Seahawks 28, 49ers 16
The Wager: This will be the first and last time that you get to lay a field goal or less with the Seahawks at home this season, and I’m ready to capitalize on that. The Seahawks are 10-0 straight up and 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games at CenturyLink Field for a reason—this is the loudest and toughest place to play in the NFL. I’ll gladly back Seattle at a short price. Seahawks -3
The Trend: The Seahawks are 18-4 ATS in their last 22 September home games.