Week 2 of the 2013 NFL season begins shortly, with the New England Patriots going toe-to-toe with their AFC rival New York Jets in a Thursday Night Football matchup.
Gamblers looking to get a leg up early are going to want to get down on the action, which means it’s time to start reading into the top stories and biggest injuries relating to the two teams involved.
Let’s take a look at the latest lines for each game, make some picks against the spread and then dive into Thursday’s nationally televised contest along with a few others.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-12) vs. New York Jets
Gang Green is soaring into Gillette Field on a high note upon winning the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jets have plenty of momentum in their favor, while the Pats are reeling from a near-loss to the Buffalo Bills.
To make matters worse for New England, emerging running back Shane Vereen has been ruled out until Week 11 at the earliest, young tight end Zach Sudfeld pulled his hamstring during a no-catch performance and top receiver Danny Amendola is unlikely to participate due to a groin injury.
Although any team with Tom Brady under center has an excellent chance of winning—look no further than the game-winning drive the captain orchestrated in the final moments of Week 1 for proof—it’s not going to be as easy as the oddsmakers are predicting.
Geno Smith proved to be much more capable than he looked in the preseason, as the rookie quarterback connected on 24-of-38 passes with one touchdown and just one interception against the Bucs, compared to an ugly 16-of-30 passing for 199 yards, a score and three interceptions, plus a safety in an exhibition game against the Giants.
His accuracy and elusiveness will make him a nightmare for the Pats defense to stop, especially on third down. If Smith can extend drives and keep Brady and the New England offense on the sidelines, things are looking up for the Jets.
It’s unlikely that New York can steal this one, but it should put up a great fight and keep things much closer than expected.
Pick: Jets +12
NEW YORK GIANTS (+5.5) vs. Denver Broncos
The third edition of the “Manning Bowl” takes place on Sunday afternoon, with Peyton’s Broncos travelling to MetLife Stadium to take on Eli’s Giants.
Whilst the elder Manning may have a 2-0 advantage on younger Eli, things could be a bit different this time.
Peyton is coming off a seven-touchdown performance in the season-opener against the Baltimore Ravens, but doesn’t have the advantage of going against a retooled defense playing its first game at 5,280 feet of elevation and getting exhausted by a hurry-up offense.
Denver will certainly try to keep the tempo up in what should be a shootout, but the Big Blue defenders are going to rise to the challenge. There is no way Manning goes off for another seven touchdowns and he’s bound to make a mistake at some point in the contest.
The G-Men are especially motivated to win here and avoid an 0-2 start, as the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys embarrassed this squad in front of the nation on Sunday Night Football.
Don’t be surprised if the two brothers under center keep things close throughout the day with big throws and clutch plays, with the final score of this one decided by less than a field goal.
Pick: Giants +5.5
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-7) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Bengals are going to prove to the world that the 2013 Steelers are a fraud, as if the Tennessee Titans didn’t manage to expose the team enough in the opener.
Pittsburgh struggled mightily to generate any offense on the ground in Week 1, gaining just 32 yards on 15 carries in the 16-9 loss. Jonathan Dwyer was brought back in shortly after the game, showing just how desperate this squad is for production out of the backfield.
Ben Roethlisberger did his best to jump-start the aerial attack, but finished by completing just 21-of-33 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was a sacked five times and projects to spend even more time scraping himself off the field against the Bengals’ ferocious pass rush.
To make matters worse, the Steelers' tough defense was devastated by a key injury, as veteran Larry Foote ruptured a biceps and could be lost for the season. Superstar center Maurkice Pouncey is also done for the year, as the 24-year-old tore his ACL and MCL.
It’s an ugly time for Pittsburgh football fans, and a Monday Night Football shellacking at the hands of the AFC North rival Bengals is only going to make it worse.
Pick: Bengals -7