NFL Week 2 Picks: Underdogs Who Will Cover Massive Spreads
Home-field advantage can be important in the NFL, but as Week 2 approaches, there are several teams hitting the road who are being significantly underestimated.
Two of the three biggest underdogs against the spread won their 2013 season openers, albeit not in the prettiest fashion, and are being totally counted out in divisional matchups against the reigning champions of their four-team subgroup.
Meanwhile, a team that mounted a furious comeback charge in the first Monday Night Football game is being totally discounted in their maiden traveling trip of the year.
It's often wise to heed the advise of the odds-making mavens, but let's look at some of the spreads that are far too high and will definitely be covered.
Note: Point spreads are courtesy of Bovada.
New York Jets (+13) over New England Patriots
OK, so it is only the second career start for Jets quarterback Geno Smith, but even tossing that aside, the Patriots aren't exactly the formidable powerhouse they're typically known to be.
This hosting New England bunch still has its most important fixtures in head coach Bill Belichick and legendary signal-caller Tom Brady. That's really the only reason the spread appears remotely reasonable.
Brady has barely anyone to throw to, though. Danny Amendola, who had 10 catches for 104 yards in the opening win in Buffalo, is all but certain to miss Thursday evening's game in Foxboro.
Both Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola are unlikely to go for the Patriots on Thursday. Vereen's out. So could be a tougher spot than expected.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 10, 2013
The notion that the Patriots will still steamroll the Jets seems ridiculous, given the lack of weapons at Brady's disposal.
Look for Brady to find a way to win the game late and for Smith to make a costly error, but it won't by any means be a blowout.
Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 17
Tennessee Titans (+10) over Houston Texans
There are always shocking upsets in Week 1, but the Titans beating the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field had to be among the most surprising.
The Steelers' defense didn't allow the new-look Tennessee offensive line to get much push and establish a strong ground game with Chris Johnson, but the defense was the story.
As Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com points out, the handprints of senior assistant Gregg Williams on the defense's swarming game plan were "unmistakable." The tactics saw opposing QB Ben Roethlisberger get sacked five times.
It was in stark contrast to what the team's defense looked like in 2012, per La Canfora:
...The Titans were historically bad on defense last season...they ranked dead last in average margin of defeat, dead last in five-minute drives allowed, 31st in points allowed, 30th in first downs allowed, 30th in plays over 10 yards allowed...While Sunday was but one game...the scope of the Titans' defensive dominance merits noting.
Houston knows how to play defense of its own, but it took the defending AFC South champions a 21-point deficit to wake up, rally back and beat the San Diego Chargers on Monday night.
That should give the Texans plenty of momentum in their first 2013 contest at Reliant Stadium, but the revamped offensive line the Titans sport with top draft pick Chance Warmack and Andy Levitre should produce better results.
Which team is likeliest to pull the upset?
There also has to be a bit of a vengeance factor for Tennessee QB Jake Locker, whose second NFL campaign was derailed when he was injured in last year's first contest against Houston on the same field.
Locker's setback came just one week after he threw for a career-high 378 yards in an overtime win against the Detroit Lions.
It's a bit too bold to say that the Titans will shock the league for the second week in a row to start this season.
However, they will at least establish a physical brand of football against a reputedly finesse team in the Texans and give them more than they bargained for.
Prediction: Texans 24, Titans 17
Washington Redskins (+8) over Green Bay Packers
It took a lot of grit and determination for Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III to suit up and play in Week 1 after undergoing major knee surgery following last year's postseason exit.
The rust showed, but it's wise to cut Griffin a bit of a break sine he hadn't taken a single snap in the preseason. He looked like a different quarterback in the second half of a 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and he won't be to blame if his team drops to 0-2.
Winning at Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers and Co. is no easy task, but Washington's defense was simply knocked off balance by the Eagles' fast-paced offense, the likes of which the league hadn't really seen before.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett implied that the issues his unit had have been addressed:
Haslett: "Obviously we didn't play very well in the 1st half and much better in the 2nd half. That's probably how I'd judge that."— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) September 12, 2013
Rodgers put up 333 yards and three touchdowns on the vaunted San Francisco 49ers defense on the road. Betting against him at home isn't the wisest decision, especially with a superior plethora of targets at his disposal.
Then again, the Packers still haven't proven capable of establishing a legitimate rushing attack, and Griffin should only continue getting more comfortable in his second outing.
This is going to be a much tighter game than expected. Green Bay should win narrowly, but don't be surprised if Washington wins outright.
Prediction: Packers 34, Redskins 31
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