NFL Week 2 Picks: Underdogs That Will Cover Lofty Lines

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 8: Quarterback Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets looks to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of a game at MetLife Stadium on September 8, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Bucs 18-17. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Herm Edwards would make a horrible gambler. His rallying cry of "You play to win the game" won't bear much credence to those looking for NFL underdogs that will simply cover the spread.

It's risky to say Team X will lose by three or four points rather than seven, but that discrepancy can make all the difference sometimes. Well, not in the actual games, but you get the point.

This is not to say these teams will pull off an upset. This is a look at the teams whom, were they to play on Sunday Night Football, would lead Al Michaels to nonchalantly mention the spread when the actual game grew out of reach.

As of Wednesday, these teams are entering Week 2 with the odds emphatically against them. Even if the final outcome proceeds according to plan, expect these contests to play out closer than expected.

Note: All betting lines are courtesy of Vegas Insider.


New York Jets at New England Patriots (-12)

The Patriots are the Patriots and the Jets are the Jets. Lately that alone has warranted 10 points. 

Right now, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are receiving too much benefit of a doubt when everything else is falling apart. 

One game is hardly enough to deem the Jets fixed, but they can muster some points against an equally shaky defense. For the past two seasons, New England succeeded in spite of its defense, and fellow rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel held his own during his professional debut.

What should concern New England is the deteriorating group of skill players surrounding Tom Brady. Stevan Ridley gained a spot in Belichick's doghouse by fumbling the ball on opening weekend. Shane Vereen promptly took over the spot with fervor, only to land on the injured reserve with a broken wrist.

Rob Gronkowski needs more time to recover, rookies Zach Sudfeld and Kenbrell Thompkins underwhelmed after getting hyped up the entire preseason and's Ian Rapoport reported that Danny Amendola's first DNP for the Pats will come sooner than expected.

Brady is an amazing quarterback, but he's not a miracle worker. Someone has to help him out. While the Patriots have won their last five meetings, a similarly bleak Jets squad pushed the game to overtime during their initial showdown last season.

Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 13


St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons (-6.5)

A mix of giving the Falcons too much credit and the Rams not enough respect lead to a large line for what will be a close battle.

Imagine what the odds would like like had Atlanta converted one of its four goal-line attempts to secure a last-minute victory over the New Orleans Saints. While the Falcons lost to a tough divisional foe, the Rams narrowly defeated a subpar division rival.

A three-point victory over the Arizona Cardinals won't kick-start Super Bowl anticipations, but Sam Bradford delivering 299 yards is a welcome sight for St. Louis. The additions of Jared Cook and Tavon Austin could propel St. Louis to wild-card candidacy, while some regression in close contests could revert Atlanta to a 10-win squad fighting for a playoff spot.

Even during Atlanta's 13-3 campaign, six of those victories came within six points or less. Their defense isn't potent enough to blow a quality squad out of the water, and Roddy White's ankle injury hampers their offense's firepower.

The Falcons are firmly on upset alert this week.

Prediction: Falcons 27, Rams 23


Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders (-5.5)

The Jacksonville Jaguars are bad. I get it. They might be the worst team in the league, but the Oakland Raiders aren't that much better.

Terrelle Pryor performed solidly in his first NFL start, completing 65.5 percent of his passes while gaining 112 yards on the ground. He kept them within striking distance of the Indianapolis Colts despite Andrew Luck's blazing start, which has made them a sizable favorite against the Jaguars.

Two picks came with the good, and Pryor is far too untested to trust this early in the game. As for Jacksonville, an injured Blaine Gabbert allows the team to upgrade the position.

Right now, you're likely smirking at your computer screen, letting out with a laugh, "Chad Henne, what an upgrade. I'm so scared." Fair enough, but the man closed out last season with 646 yards and six touchdowns during his final two games.

Small sample size? Absolutely, but try to find a two-game stretch that makes Gabbert look good. 

This ugly game is a toss-up between two downtrodden squads. Neither team is good enough to forecast winning by a touchdown or more.

Prediction: Jaguars 10, Raiders 9