NFL Picks Week 2: Game-by-Game Advice for Current Vegas Spreads

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorSeptember 12, 2017

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs catches an 18-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

Not long ago, the narrative floating around was that the NFL had become too quarterback-friendly, offense-centric and harsh against defenses that seemed like they were being scrutinized with every referee flag flown on the field.

There was some merit to that line of thought, but after Week 1 of the NFL season, the defenses are swinging the power pendulum to their sides for the moment.

Six teams scored in single digits, with four teams failing to register a touchdown. Two of those teams managed just a field goal (the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers), and another one put up a goose egg (the Cincinnati Bengals in a 20-0 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens).

That defensive trend might continue this week, as some games look like it will be the first team to 20 points wins.

Here's a look at each game and picks against the spread. All odds are via OddsShark.

         

Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals (-5)

These two teams combined to score just seven points last week. Naturally, it's hard to expect either of them to light up the scoreboard on Thursday Night Football.

Expect this game to be similar to last year's slugfest (a 12-10 Texans win). This time around, the home team wins thanks to some late heroics from Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green.

Pick: Bengals 14, Texans 13

          

Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7)

Yes, it's just one game, but the Minnesota Vikings looked ferocious in a 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints that wasn't as close as the score indicates. Quarterback Sam Bradford looked excellent as he found leaks in the New Orleans Saints pass defense all game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a much tougher task, but Vikings running back Dalvin Cook looks like the real deal and will be the difference in this one.

Pick: Vikings 17, Steelers 13

           

Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Indianapolis Colts

Two stars are out as Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will sit with injuries.

Expect Cards wideout Larry Fitzgerald to play the hero in this one. There is no one in the Colts secondary who can stick with him out of the slot. That's less of a knock on the Colts and more of a compliment to a 14th-year wide receiver who doesn't seem to age like the rest of us.

Pick: Cardinals 17, Colts 13

          

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)

Quarterback DeShone Kizer is exactly the jolt of energy the Cleveland Browns offense (and the whole team, really) needed. His playmaking ability will suit him well during his career, and he should only improve under the tutelage of sharp head coach Hue Jackson.

However, a road date with the stingy Baltimore Ravens defense is a tall task for any team, let alone a rebuilding offense. Expect Kizer to lead Cleveland to a few more wins than expected this season, however.

Pick: Ravens 23, Browns 10

      

Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5)

If Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry was playing in this game, the pick would be Kansas City. But without the star defender, the Chiefs defense isn't the same. Yes, Kansas City still has cornerback Marcus Peters, edge-rusher Justin Houston and others, but Berry is the heart and soul of the team.

This should still be a close matchup, but Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz looks like he made a big leap between his rookie and sophomore seasons. He'll lead a late scoring drive for the win.

Pick: Eagles 20, Chiefs 17

      

Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5)

The Chicago Bears hung tough against the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons before losing 23-17. Although Chicago was hurt badly by the preseason loss of wide receiver Cameron Meredith, this team has a never-say-die attitude that should help it all year. In particular, the front seven of the defense is stingy, and the running back duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen is formidable.

But the problem is the back end of the Bears defense, as it doesn't have anyone who can shut down (or attempt to slow down) a legitimate No. 1 wideout. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have that in target monster Mike Evans, who should have a big day.

Pick: Buccaneers 17, Bears 6

     

Tennessee Titans (-1.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars' formula under new head coach Doug Marrone may work: They'll use a ground-and-pound offense behind running back Leonard Fournette and a fantastic defense behind young playmakers such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

The talk all offseason in Jacksonville has been surrounding the quarterback controversy, but maybe it won't matter as much as previously anticipated.

What will matter is the unfortunate loss of No. 1 wide receiver Allen Robinson for the season to a torn ACL, and that will hurt the Jags all year, especially if they fall behind games. That will be the case this Sunday as the Jags fall short in a low-scoring contest.

Pick: Titans 17, Jaguars 10

        

Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers (-7)

It's the Carolina Panthers vs. the Carolina Panthers North as the original Panthers face the team that is now run by the Panthers' former assistant general manager (Brandon Beane) and defensive coordinator (Sean McDermott).

It's also a battle between one team that's looking toward the future (Buffalo) and one team looking to win right now (Carolina).

The Panthers looked good in their road opener against the San Francisco 49ers. If the defense slows down Bills running back LeSean McCoy, Carolina should cruise to a two-touchdown win at minimum.

Pick: Panthers 24, Bills 10

      

New England Patriots (-4.5) at New Orleans Saints

This is the first of two track meets that stand out among a bunch of ugly offensive football games this week. Contrary to the rest of the matchup sans one, the Patriots vs. Saints game shouldn't disappoint.

The difference should be the downfield playmaking ability of New England Patriots wideouts Brandin Cooks (who was drafted by New Orleans before being traded in the offseason) and Chris Hogan. A few deep bombs will be the difference.

Pick: Patriots 37, Saints 27

            

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (-4)

A 24-21 loss to the Denver Broncos was undoubtedly disappointing for the Los Angeles Chargers, but don't expect the close defeats from last year to be the norm.

The Bolts are balanced on offense and defense and feature one of the game's best young stars in edge-rusher Joey Bosa. If everyone stays healthy, this team can compete for the AFC West crown in a loaded division.

The Miami Dolphins also might be a bit rusty after Hurricane Irma caused them to postpone their Week 1 game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Los Angeles should win this one by a few scores.

Pick: Chargers 27, Dolphins 10 

        

Dallas Cowboys (-1.5) at Denver Broncos

Although the Denver Broncos pass defense has been phenomenal in recent years, their run defense has not been as stellar since the beginning of the 2016 season. Per Football Outsiders, last year's unit ranked 21st of 32 NFL teams.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was slowed down on Monday Night Football (18 carries, 54 yards) against Denver, but Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and a stout offensive line form one of the best rushing attacks in football. That will be the key in a close Cowboy win.

Pick: Cowboys 23, Broncos 20

       

Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5)

This is a game that almost seems too close to call.

On one end, it's possible that Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins finds a good rapport with new wideout Terrelle Pryor Sr. and has a field day.

On the other end, it's possible that Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who just returned to the team after a lengthy holdout, dominates the trenches and disrupts the entire Washington offense.

The guess here is that both teams go back and forth all game, but a late Washington field goal from Dustin Hopkins is the difference.

Pick: Redskins 17, Rams 16

        

New York Jets at Oakland Raiders (-13.5)

This is the first of two lopsided games starting later in the afternoon on the West Coast.

The New York Jets front office is clearly building for 2018 and beyond, meaning that this season is a total loss.

Against an Oakland Raiders team with Super Bowl aspirations (one that just pulled off a minor upset against the AFC dark horse Tennessee Titans on the road), the Jets have no chance, especially considering that they are flying cross country.

Pick: Raiders 27, Jets 10 

       

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-12.5)

The bright side for 49ers fans is that the defense looks pretty decent this year. It should be able to slow down opposing offenses and keep the team in most games until the fourth quarter.

However, the offense isn't quite ready for prime time as it rebuilds under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Expect a lot of growing pains this season, especially when facing stout teams like the Seattle Seahawks, but brighter days are ahead for San Francisco before the end of the decade.

Pick: Seahawks 27, 49ers 7

       

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5)

The Sunday Night Football matchup is a rematch of the 2016 NFC Championship Game, when the Atlanta Falcons crushed the Green Bay Packers, 44-21.

That's not happening this time around, but the game should still feature plenty of points on both sides.

In the end, give the slight edge to the home team, but this should go down to the final drive.

Pick: Falcons 38, Packers 34

        

Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-5)

The New York Giants offense has no life when wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is not on the field. They are unable to throw the ball deep, and they can't run. It's that simple.

But if OBJ is back, then the Giants offense is at least competent and can hang with any team in the league because the defense is one of the best units in football.

They will grind out some ugly games this year when neither team scores 20. If Beckham suits up for this one, expect this matchup to fall into that category.

Pick: Giants 17, Lions 10