The Bettor's Guide to NFL Week 2

Justis Mosqueda@justisfootballFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2016

The Bettor's Guide to NFL Week 2

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    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    With one NFL week in the books, we're sitting at 6-9 against the spread, less than we had hoped for, but better than the morning slate alone presented us. Follow us this week as we hopefully get closer to the 55 percent win mark, the threshold many professional bettors strive to hit on for the season.

    Around halftime of last Sunday's morning slate, it looked like we were going to come ahead or push every single one of the nine early games, but a series of horrible events led us to a 1-8 record. Things adjusted with five spread wins over the remaining six games of the week, though.

    Now that we at least got a taste of what every team will look like this season, we have a better feel for how many points is too many when handicapping individual teams. Follow us as we overview Week 2's remaining 15 games to give you an edge, while highlighting our "locks of the week."

    As always, our lines are brought to you by Odds Shark.

    Record ATS total: 6-9

    Record ATS last week: 6-9

New York Jets @ Buffalo

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    Line: Buffalo +1

    Result: New York Jets 37, Buffalo 31

    In Week 1, the Buffalo Bills lost a six-point game to the Baltimore Ravens. In Week 2, the Bills lost a six-point game to the New York Jets.

    The difference between the two matches? A mere 48 points. It's hard to pin down exactly who the Bills will be in isolation, but you can come away with one fact: It's concerning that Buffalo is losing games when its head coach, Rex Ryan, is known for having teams come out the gate hot.

    If this is Ryan's team peaking at the beginning of the season, the Bills and Ryan are both in trouble.

    The Jets were eight yards from Quincy Enunwa away from having three 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher in Matt Forte, the running back who posted three touchdowns on Thursday Night Football.

    Buffalo did have two leads in this game, one in each half, but the final score doesn't truly reflect how the teams matched up with each other, as the Bills punched in a touchdown with a little more than a minute left on the clock, down 37-24.

    In the end, that garbage-time touchdown wasn't enough for Buffalo to cover, and the Jets came away with a victory against the spread.

    Cover: New York Jets

Dallas @ Washington

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Opening line: Washington -3.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Washington -2.5 (-115)

    Best away line: Dallas +3 (-120)

    The Washington Redskins embarrassed themselves on Monday Night Football when cornerback Bashaud Breeland got torched over and over again against the Pittsburgh Steelers' high-flying passing game. Luckily for them, they get the Dallas Cowboys at home this weekend.

    In Week 1, the Cowboys played a tight game against the New York Giants, a lesser team than the Redskins from a power ranking standpoint. Despite the hype that Dak Prescott built through his rookie preseason, he was unable to complete more than one ball of over 20 yards. The team's longest catch was by second-year former seventh-round pick Geoff Swaim, good for 21 yards.

    If the Steelers drew up a blueprint to beating Washington this week, it revolves around throwing to a star receiver. Dallas has one of those in Dez Bryant, but against the Giants, Prescott was only able to complete one pass to him, an eight-yarder.

    On top of that, the Cowboys defense lacks playmakers to the largest extent of any team in the NFL. Pittsburgh asked Kirk Cousins to pick apart its defense, knowing it had the speed to capitalize if he slipped up.

    Dallas, a team with two total quarterback hits in Week 1 (by cornerback Orlando Scandrick and defensive end Benson Mayowa, who started just his fourth game in the NFL), might fold to Cousins. Week 1 on Monday Night Football is always the overreaction game, and this year looks no different.

    Washington is favored by less than a field goal in some of these lines, which means that Dallas, a team which kicked off as underdogs against the Giants at home last week, would be favored by more than a field goal at home against the Redskins. The numbers don't add up here.

    The pick: Washington -2.5

San Francisco @ Carolina

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Opening line: Carolina -13.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Carolina -12.5 (-110)

    Best away line: San Francisco +14 (-117)

    Let's think about all of this.

    1. Carolina is coming off of a long week of preparation and rest after nearly beating the reigning Super Bowl champions on the road.
    2. San Francisco is coming off of a short week of preparation and rest.
    3. San Francisco has to travel from the West Coast to the East Coast to play an early game.

    With all that being said, the San Francisco 49ers only dropped six of their 11 losses last season by more than 14 points, while the Panthers won just five of their 15 victories by more than 14 points. According to TeamRankings.com, the Panthers were 8-2 against the spread at home last season, but one of the biggest reasons why that was true was the fact that they weren't two-touchdown favorites on a weekly basis.

    Per the same site, the 49ers were just 2-6 against the spread last season as a road team, but this squad looks different. Last year, San Francisco never reached 28 points in a single game, a mark the squad hit against the Los Angeles Rams in their shutout.

    Defensively, they proved that they could take away the run against the Rams, who struggled to get running back Todd Gurley going. Offensively, they scheme players in ways to open up the defense, which should be positive against Carolina, who, like Los Angeles, is stronger on defense than the 49ers are on offense from a personnel standpoint.

    At the end of the day, there are just very few situations in which double-digit favorites in this league make sense, let alone two-touchdown favorites.

    The pick: San Francisco +14

Tennessee @ Detroit

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Opening line: Detroit -5.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Detroit -5.5 (-107)

    Best away line: Tennessee +6 (-115)

    We took the Lions in their shootout last week, and we're going to take them again here.

    Since Jim Bob Cooter has taken over as the Detroit Lions' offensive coordinator, quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions in nine games, good for seven victories. Whenever you handicap against Detroit this year, you need to ask yourself two questions: Can a team hang in a shootout, or can a team take away the Lions passing game?

    Tennessee usually starts the season off hot, which is cause for concern after it lost at home by two scores in Week 1. In the last two seasons, after their initial game, the Titans are just 3-27, with 19 losses by six or more points.

    While Stafford is limiting his mistakes, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota seems to be the same player he was as a rookie. Expect interceptions and fumbles to continue to be a concern.

    If you turn the ball over in a shootout, you lose. Tennessee turns the ball over. The Titans lose at home and they lose big on the road, so this line's value seems to be right where it should be.

    The pick: Detroit -5.5

Miami @ New England

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Opening line: New England -5 (-110)

    Best home line: New England -6.5 (-110)

    Best away line: Miami +6.5 (-105)

    Hey look, the New England Patriots performed really well in a prime-time game, and the line has swung their way since it opened, while the Miami Dolphins quietly almost beat the Seattle Seahawks at home as the biggest underdogs of the week. The public is overreacting here.

    Though the Arizona Cardinals are a great team and may have a first-round bye in the playoffs, they lack a lot in their pass rush. That's why they traded for Chandler Jones from the Patriots this offseason.

    On the defensive interior, they couldn't get much pressure, as their only above-average defensive lineman is a 30-year-old two-gapping defensive end who came into the NFL with a 5.04-second 40-yard dash speed in Calais Campbell.

    The hardest thing to deal with in the NFL as a quarterback is interior pressure, as it forces you to throw off of your back foot. Look at Miami-Seattle if you want to see what Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can do against a ragtag group of offensive linemen, like the Patriots fielded in Week 1.

    Last week, New England closed as a nearly double-digit underdog against the Cardinals. Now they're respected enough at home to reverse engineer a line that would make them road favorites against a divisional rival?

    The pendulum swung way too far on this one.

    The line: Miami +6.5

New Orleans @ New York Giants

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Opening line: New York Giants -4 (-110)

    Best home line: New York Giants -4.5 (-107)

    Best away line: New Orleans +4.5 (-107)

    This is one of the harder games of the week to predict. These two squads had completely different matchups last week.

    The New Orleans Saints were involved in a shootout with the Oakland Raiders, while the New York Giants only allowed a single touchdown in a 20-19 game against the Dallas Cowboys. There is no truer "something has to give" game than this one this weekend.

    Last time the two squads faced off, they finished with 101 combined points in New Orleans. It's easy to imagine a shootout, which correlates with the 51.5-point over, the highest of this week in the NFL slate.

    In shootouts, you want to go with the dog if the line is over three points. At 4.5 points, this qualifies for the rule. Often, the last score wins on bets, which can come down to a field goal for an outright win or a backdoor cover.

    The pick: New Orleans +4.5

Kansas City @ Houston

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Opening line: Houston -1.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Houston -2 (-110)

    Best away line: Kansas City +2.5 (-102)

    Before the Monday Night Football double-header kicked off, 11 of 14 games came down to one score. The exceptions were Minnesota-Tennessee, which featured multiple defensive touchdowns, Cleveland-Philadelphia, which featured the team with the worst Super Bowl odds in the league, and Houston-Chicago.

    Houston scored 23 points to Chicago's 14. If not for Brock Osweiler throwing an interception at the 19-yard line, that game could have easily have finished 30-7 in Houston's favor. It dominated all game.

    Despite starting the game off to a 7-0 deficit, the squad nearly doubled Chicago's rushing-yard total and controlled the ball for over 36 minutes. With the Texans defense in place and a new wide-open passing attack offensively, the squad looks more like the 2014 Arizona Cardinals than a team that got blown out at home against Kansas City by 30 points in the playoffs.

    The Chiefs did not have as dominating of a Week 1 effort, though. Late in the third quarter, San Diego was beating Kansas City by three touchdowns to the tune of 24-3.

    It wasn't until Alex Smith's touchdown to Tyreek Hill and the Chargers' injury to receiver Keenan Allen that the Chiefs were able to get hot on the offensive side of the ball while San Diego became a one-sided offense that combined for 16 offensive snaps and no points in its last four drives combined.

    If Kansas City falls to Houston, it might not get back up. It's hard to speak in definitive terms after one week of play, but the Texans looked like the better team last week, and in Houston, there's no reason why they shouldn't be favored by three points.

    A field goal at home wins this game? I'll take it.

    The pick: Houston -2

Baltimore @ Cleveland

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Opening line: Baltimore -3.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Cleveland +7 (+113)

    Best away line: Baltimore -6.5 (-110)

    If not for a 66-yard touchdown reception against Cover 0 on a 3rd-and-short, the Baltimore Ravens would have lost a 7-6 game to the Buffalo Bills last week.

    Currently, they are seven-point road favorites, the largest road favorites of any team so far this season. On a neutral field, they'd be 10-point favorites over the Cleveland Browns, while they'd be 13-point favorites at home.

    Three teams have been favored by more than a touchdown in any game over the first two weeks.

    1. Seattle over Miami, which Miami covered.
    2. Arizona over New England, which New England won outright.
    3. Carolina over San Francisco, which has yet to be played.

    Baltimore isn't Seattle. Baltimore isn't Arizona. Baltimore isn't Carolina.

    The Ravens are much closer to the Browns unit-by-unit than they are to playoff contenders, which makes this line insane. No one wants to bet on Cleveland, who lost in Week 1, but Baltimore was very close to not scoring a touchdown in Week 1.

    You don't want anything to do with either of these teams long-term, but if books are giving money away while the public is still buying into the brand of Ravens football they're accustomed to seeing, we'll take it. Baltimore won five games against the spread last year, according to TeamRankings.com, and bettors still haven't corrected their valuation of the team.

    The pick: Cleveland +7

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Opening line: Pittsburgh -3.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Pittsburgh -3 (-115)

    Best away line: Cincinnati +3.5 (-115)

    Monday Night Football games can be tricky. Often, we overrate teams who play on isolated prime-time games, and MNF provides an even more dangerous valuation because teams are coming off of a short week.

    While you might have Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown's dominance against the Washington Redskins branded into your mind, what you may have forgotten is that Cincinnati's top wideout, A.J. Green, made an absolute mess out of Darrelle Revis in a close win on Sunday.

    Pittsburgh is one of five or so legitimate contenders in the AFC, but this point spread might be a little too high. On a short week, the Steelers are favored by more than a field goal?

    From a power ranking standpoint, I think it would be insane to claim that the Steelers are better than the Bengals after one week of play. Last year, Vegas underrated Cincinnati on the road, as TeamRankings.com had them going 8-0 as the away team last season.

    Until we're proven wrong, we're going to treat these teams as about even.

    The pick: Cincinnati +3.5

Tampa Bay @ Arizona

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Opening line: Arizona -7.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Arizona -6.5 (-110)

    Best away line: Tampa Bay +7 (-110)

    Carson Palmer just hasn't looked like Carson Palmer since his injury late last season. It's the reason for his massive statistical dropoff and why the Arizona Cardinals got routed by the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.

    This is a massive issue for Arizona, as its entire offense is built around a high-flying passing attack. If Palmer is regressing, the Cardinals will have to transition to a reconstructed offense midseason, like the Kansas City Chiefs somehow were able to do last season once running back Jamaal Charles went down.

    Last week, despite the warning signs around Palmer, the New England Patriots went to Arizona as nearly double-digit underdogs by the time the Sunday Night Football game kicked off. The Cardinals are getting the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that they were victims of the biggest upset of the week and finished last year with a 3-6 home record against the spread, according to TeamRankings.com, despite finishing 13-3 in the regular season.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed flashes of a pass rush last week against the Atlanta Falcons, something relatively new for the team. Quarterback Jameis Winston has also proven that he can take over a game by himself.

    Arizona shouldn't be more than a field-goal favorite over the Buccaneers on a neutral field. The Cardinals couldn't beat the Patriots without a starting quarterback, their most talented player in Rob Gronkowski or either of the squad's starting bookends.

    This line would mean that the same team would be a road favorite in Tampa. This line is just too high for anyone who has seen the Cardinals from December on.

    The pick: Tampa Bay +7

Seattle @ Los Angeles

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    Opening line: Los Angeles +3.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Los Angeles +7 (-120)

    Best away line: Seattle -6.5 (-110)

    The Los Angeles Rams are getting absolutely no respect on a national level after they were blown out in one of Week 1's only multi-score differences. On a short week after Monday Night Football, you wouldn't think that Los Angeles would be the play here, but you need to take account of everything surrounding this game.

    Last week, the Seattle Seahawks struggled mightily with the defensive interior of the Miami Dolphins, and the Rams may have the best interior player in the league in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He's going to make several highlight plays in this game. Book it.

    On top of that, the Seahawks' starting quarterback, Russell Wilson, threw more passes than he ever has in a regular-season game last week, and he struggled to get the offense going, with his personal worst passer rating of any September game since 2014. He also had an issue with his ankle that visibly affected him, which could lead to a lack of mobility—his greatest strength—this week.

    Seattle usually starts slow, but not "biggest favorite of the opening week and almost blew a game" slow. You'd figure that there's going to be a lot of energy in Los Angeles' first home game, so a three-point swing for home-field advantage might be a low projection.

    With that being said, if we accounted for about a four-point swing for home-field advantage here, this line would be in favor of the Seahawks at home by over two touchdowns. They scored 12 points last week against a worse defense than Los Angeles will field on Sunday.

    I thought y'all learned your lesson.

    The pick: Los Angeles +7

Jacksonville @ San Diego

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Opening line: San Diego -2.5 (-110)

    Best home line: San Diego -3 (-110)

    Best away line: Jacksonville +3 (+105)

    Last week, the San Diego Chargers built a 24-3 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs before eventually collapsing in the second half and losing in excruciating fashion. The biggest difference between the two halves for the Chargers was the availability of Keenan Allen, who was torching cornerback Marcus Peters before tearing his ACL.

    Without Allen, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had to run his offense through running back Danny Woodhead and tight end Antonio Gates, who are well-aged at this point in their careers. The Chargers finished with the third-worst record in the league according to draft order last season, and without Allen, they very well might repeat.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars kept it close with the Green Bay Packers, but they forced the Packers to kick two short field goals and couldn't get star receiver Allen Robinson going. But they at least looked like a functional team.

    There isn't anything special about this line of thinking. The Chargers are three-point favorites over the Jaguars, despite the fact that San Diego has a horrid home-field advantage stemming from their fanbase not knowing if the squad will even be there next season.

    Jacksonville should be favored on a neutral field. This line is broken. The Chargers were 2-6 at home against the spread last season, according to TeamRankings.com.

    The pick: Jacksonville +3

Atlanta @ Oakland

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Opening line: Oakland -6.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Oakland -4.5 (-107)

    Best away line: Atlanta +5 (-110)

    Last week, the Atlanta Falcons nearly beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but due to the Buccaneers' interior pressure, they couldn't pull away. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan must be happy that his next opponent, the Oakland Raiders, have no true interior threats, as their big pressure players come off the edge.

    Oakland's defense against the New Orleans Saints, who scored 34 points and nearly won, is also problematic. If this were a three-point line, it would be much more difficult to pick a side, but it's not.

    In the last 44 games the Raiders have played, they've only won four games by five or more points. Last season, despite a 7-9 record, they only won three games by five or more points.

    TeamRankings.com also had the Raiders at 2-6 against the spread at home last season. This line is setting Oakland up for failure.

    The pic: Atlanta +5

Indianapolis @ Denver

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Opening line: Denver -4 (-110)

    Best home line: Denver -5.5 (-110)

    Best away line: Indianapolis +6.5 (-110)

    The Indianapolis Colts can only throw the ball. The Denver Broncos can only really play defense at a high level.

    Something has to give in this game. In terms of picking one side of the point spread, this may be the most difficult game of the week.

    Are we at the point where we trust Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian to beat any team in the league by a full touchdown, though? We're stuck between a rock and a hard place here, but at the end of the day, this line favors Denver by less than a field goal on a neutral field, which is fair considering how little depth the Colts have on the defensive side of the ball.

    Denver's defense is going to do two things: try to suffocate your receivers and rush the passer at the highest level imaginable. T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett may be a mismatch for most defenses, but they aren't against Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby.

    The Colts win in shootouts, but the Broncos just don't let that happen. Six of the Colts' nine wins since the start of the 2015 regular season have been one-score games when they've scored 24 or more points.

    Of the last 11 games Denver has played, including last year's playoffs, it has only allowed one team to score 24 or more points in regulation, the high-flying Pittsburgh Steelers. On paper, it doesn't make sense to trust Indianapolis to come out with a win, and you have to have more faith in the Broncos defense than any other unit on the field.

    The pick: Denver -5.5

Green Bay @ Minnesota

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Opening line: Minnesota +2.5 (-115)

    Best home line: Minnesota +2.5 (-110)

    Best away line: Green Bay -2 (-110)

    Week 1 offensive points by the Minnesota Vikings: 12

    Week 1 offensive points by the Tennessee Titans: 16

    Week 1 defensive points by the Minnesota Vikings: 13

    Shaun Hill posted a 2-7 record in his last nine away starts before last week, when the Vikings somehow scored more off of two turnovers than Minnesota's offense could post all day in Nashville. Here's the problem: Aaron Rodgers isn't Marcus Mariota.

    If not for Mariota's mishaps, the Titans would have had a feasible path to victory. If Minnesota needs a pick-six to win this game, though, it's in for some bad luck, as Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception for a touchdown since 2009, even on the road.

    Maybe the Vikings start Sam Bradford. Maybe they don't. Either way, you shouldn't expect much from either Hill, as we learned in the first game of the season, or Bradford, who has spent less than a month with the team's playbook since his late preseason trade.

    As long as Green Bay is less than a field-goal favorite, we're going to take it. They won by four last week on the road, and that was after kicking field goals on drives of 68 and 73 yards. They easily could have won by 12 if just two bounces went their way.

    In many ways, the Packers' score wasn't indicative of their dominance against Jacksonville, while the Vikings' victory was a bit fluky when you take into account the defensive scores.

    The pick: Green Bay -2

Philadelphia @ Chicago

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Opening line: Chicago -1.5 (-110)

    Best home line: Chicago -3 (-115)

    Best away line: Philadelphia +3 (+105)

    Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had a good game against the Cleveland Browns, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

    Reminder: Last year, the 2-14 Tennessee Titans looked like they were going to set the NFL on fire with Mariota. Philadelphia won big last week, while Chicago lost big.

    When the public zigs, you zag. It's time to zag.

    The pick: Chicago +3

Locks of the Week

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    1) Jacksonville (+3) @ San Diego

    2) Green Bay (-2.5) @ Minnesota

    3) San Francisco (+14) @ Carolina

    4) Cincinnati (+3.5) @ Pittsburgh

    5) Kansas City @ Houston (-2)

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