NFL Predictions Week 2: Upset Picks and Projections

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 10:  DeShone Kizer #7 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Now is the time to bank on the upsets and build a bankroll.       

NFL bettors coming out of Week 1 know the drill. Kansas City took down New England, Chicago covered a big spread, Jacksonville won, the NFC East boasted an upset and Minnesota took an unexpected win. 

It goes on and on, but the point is simple: Few opportunities to build a huge, insurance reserve exist like in the first few weeks of an NFL season while teams are still figuring things out. 

And so are oddsmakers. 

Such a theme in mind, let's take a look at full picks against the spread and outline a few outright upsets to target. 

            

NFL Week 2 Schedule, Odds

Houston at Cincinnati (-6.5)

Arizona (-7.5) at Indianapolis

Buffalo at Carolina (-7)

Chicago at Tampa Bay (-7)

Cleveland at Baltimore (-7.5)

Minnesota at Pittsburgh (-6)

New England (-7) at New Orleans 

Philadelphia at Kansas City (-5.5)

Tennessee (-2) at Jacksonville 

Miami at L.A. Chargers (-5)

N.Y. Jets at Oakland (-14)

Dallas (-2) at Denver

San Francisco at Seattle (-14)

Washington at L.A. Rams (-3)

Green Bay at Atlanta (-3)

Detroit at N.Y. Giants (-5)

Bold denotes predicted winner against the spread. 

                    

Cleveland at Baltimore (-7.5)

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 10:  DeShone Kizer #7 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

One of the worst things a bettor can do is shy away from the Cleveland Browns this year.

Those Browns just came up shy against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 21-18 affair, when rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer had an up-and-down day, throwing for 222 yards with one touchdown and an interception while rushing for another score. 

But the positive signs were there. Young wideout Corey Coleman led the team with five grabs for 53 yards and a touchdown. Jamie Collins looked like the defensive leader the Browns expect him to be, and 2017 first-round draft pick Jabrill Peppers picked up four tackles and a pass defensed. 

Head coach Hue Jackson hit the proverbial nail on the head after the game, as captured by Patrick Maks of the team's official website:

Funnily enough, Baltimore didn't look as hot while picking up a win. A 20-0 win, at that. But the Ravens got to feast against a miserable Cincinnati Bengals team while Andy Dalton threw four interceptions (even managing to throw a pick in garbage time) and fumbled once. 

There's a tell with the Ravens most don't want to suggest: Joe Flacco didn't look right. The Ravens rushed it 42 times compared to 17 pass attempts, and that wasn't a necessary game plan considering the team rushed for 3.7 yards per carry. Flacco went 9-of-17 for 121 yards with a touchdown and interception. 

These Browns just held Ben Roethlisberger under 300 passing yards and Le'Veon Bell to 10 carries for 32 yards. It only takes one explosive play from Kizer to put the Ravens in the uncomfortable position of leaning on Flacco more than they'd like. 

Prediction: Browns 27, Ravens 20

               

Minnesota at Pittsburgh (-6)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 11: Sam Bradford #8 of the Minnesota Vikings drops back to pass the ball in the first quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints on September 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettc
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

About those Steelers.  

Pittsburgh looked sloppy at best against an upstart Browns team, committing 13 penalties totaling 144 yards and losing the time-of-possession battle despite rostering arguably the league's best running back and a nickel-and-dime passing attack that mimics a running game.

A Steelers victory seemed a given, considering Big Ben is 21-2 against the Browns for his career, but a date against a steamrolling Minnesota Vikings team won't provide the same wiggle room.

Those Vikings just clobbered the New Orleans Saints 29-19, a final score that doesn't do the disparity justice. 

Sam Bradford went a smooth 27-of-32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns while rookie running back Dalvin Cook piled up 127 yards on just 22 totes. At wideout, Adam Thielen led the way with nine grabs for 157 yards and Stefon Diggs exploded with seven grabs for 93 yards and two scores. 

"When I've got time to sit back there and kind of evaluate things, I've got all the confidence in the world that our guys outside are going to win," Bradford said, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Make no mistake—this isn't just the Vikings beating up on a bad defense. Not when Bradford is doing his best Aaron Rodgers impression on the run and otherwise: 

If Bradford remains this accurate in Week 2, a sloppy Steelers team will have a hard time keeping up. Pittsburgh won't have similar problems all year once everyone gets on the same page, but the Vikings are already there and Bradford is going to keep waking up a lot of people by showing off why the Vikings sacrificed so much to bring him aboard when Teddy Bridgewater went down. 

Prediction: Vikings 28, Steelers 20

       

Chicago at Tampa Bay (-7)

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Tarik Cohen #29 of the Chicago Bears eludes Brooks Reed #50 of the Atlanta Falcons during the season opening game at Soldier Field on September 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Falcons defeated the Bears 23-17.  (Photo by Jo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The idea of Week 1 rust applies here with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Mother Nature helped shove their Week 1 contest into postponement. 

On paper, the Buccaneers seem to have a potent offense with Jameis Winston throwing to Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. 

But if the on-paper outlook was a lock, they wouldn't play the games. Look no further than the Chicago Bears' Week 1 game for proof, too. 

There, the heavy underdogs put up a noteworthy fight against the Atlanta Falcons, a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance. An underrated Chicago front seven held Matt Ryan to one touchdown pass and the Falcons running game to a 2.8 per-carry average. Granted, Mike Glennon didn't turn heads in his debut, but rookie running back Tarik Cohen certainly did with five carries for 66 yards and eight catches for 47 yards and a score—leading the team in both rushing and receiving. 

"During one-on-one matchups in practice, it's ugly," Bears end Akiem Hicks said of Cohen, according to ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson. "You can hear the chatter, you know what I mean, going through training camp where guys get matched up on him are saying, 'Oh man, here we go.' And that's a great feeling because know he's not torturing us anymore."

The Bears have something positive to build on already heading into this one. Tampa Bay is just trying to get going and needs to do so in the face of an elite rush led by Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd. Look for the visitors to pull off a stunner.       

Prediction: Bears 24, Buccaneers 21

            

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. Odds via OddsShark.

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