Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 2 NFL Picks

NFL StaffContributor ISeptember 13, 2018

Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 2 NFL Picks

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Say you're an American who recently gained the ability to legally bet on sports. Say you decided to do exactly that, and you put an even amount of money down on all 16 Week 1 NFL games. Say you fully took the advice we provided on all 16 of those picks. 

    If you did that, you made some cash. 

    You're welcome to share some or all of your winnings with our experts, Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski, but they might prefer you hold on to your money and refrain from calling them names if/when they do let you down this season. 

    Here's how they fared individually (sorry, Gagnon) and as a group (you're welcome, Gagnon)...

    1. Brent Sobleski: 11-4-1

    2. Gary Davenport: 9-6-1

    3. Brad Gagnon: 5-10-1

    Consensus picks: 9-6-1

    Was it a fluke? Let's see what our analysts have in store for an encore...

                                  

    Lines based on consensuses at Odds Shark as of Wednesday, September 12. 

Bengals 34, Ravens 23

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    John Grieshop/Getty Images

    Editor's Note: The Bengals defeated the Ravens on Thursday Night Football 34-23

    Both the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals won by double-digit margins in Week 1, but our analysts agree the Ravens' victory carried more weight. 

    Sure, the Bengals scored 34 points on the road in an 11-point win over the Indianapolis Colts in Andrew Luck's return. But the Ravens absolutely embarrassed a 2017 playoff team with a 47-3 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

    That extended a promising summer for the Ravens, who appear to have finally found offensive balance and depth in support of a defense that has always been good. 

    At the very least, the Ravens are a hot-starting team—one that kicked off the 2016 regular season 3-0 and outscored the Bengals and Cleveland Browns 44-10 in their first two games of the 2017 campaign. That victory over Cincinnati was a road shutout in the Bengals' home opener, which might not be a good omen for what's to come Thursday night. 

    Davenport's concerns are focused on Cincinnati and its quarterback. 

    "Yes, the Bengals looked OK last week," he said. "They're even getting a point at home. But there are a few words that just keep swimming through my head that made this decision an easy one: prime-time Andy Dalton."

    Indeed, the Bengals have lost four consecutive prime-time games with Dalton at the helm, but it's also worth noting that each of their last seven prime-time losses have come by fewer than five points. Advantage: Baltimore, but this might not be a blowout. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Baltimore (-1)
    Gagnon: Baltimore (-1)
    Sobleski: Baltimore (-1)
    Consensus: Baltimore (-1)

    Score Prediction: Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 21

    Consensus is 0-1 to start the week. 

Houston Texans (0-1) at Tennessee Titans (0-1)

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    This line came in late as the football world awaited clarity on the health of Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who injured his elbow in the opener. And while the Houston Texans are road favorites despite the fact it looks as though Mariota will play, our analysts aren't satisfied with the early 1.5-point spread. 

    "Mariota is dinged, and Delanie Walker is out for the season with a broken ankle," Sobleski said. "The Titans offense scares no one, especially a talented Texans defense. As long as Houston keeps Deshaun Watson upright, this game may not even be close."

    Gagnon and Davenport agree, with the latter noting, "It could be Texans -7 and I'd still be on Houston." There are indications the Titans were pretenders when they made the playoffs despite a negative points differential last season, and they put together a dud performance even when Mariota and Walker were on the field against a bad Miami Dolphins team Sunday.

    Meanwhile, the Texans didn't have their A-game but still hung with the mighty New England Patriots on the road. They have a much better chance of bouncing back than their limping, arguably overrated opponent. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Houston (-1.5)
    Gagnon: Houston (-1.5)
    Sobleski: Houston (-1.5)
    Consensus: Houston (-1.5)

    Score Prediction: Houston 24, Tennessee 16

Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (1-0)

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Sunday's matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers does at least have a point spread, but the line has been all over the map thus far this week. That is, of course, tied to the fact the highest-rated passer in NFL history is not guaranteed to start at quarterback for Green Bay. 

    Minutes after lighting up the Chicago Bears on one good leg, Aaron Rodgers did declare in a postgame interview with NBC on Sunday night that he'd play against the Vikings, but his team has yet to confirm that, and No. 12 failed to participate in Wednesday's practice. 

    Even after seeing Rodgers put on a show against Chicago, and even while under the impression Rodgers will indeed suit up for a home game Sunday, our analysts are still picking the Vikings straight up.

    "That was some magic Sunday night against Chicago," Gagnon said, "but this Minnesota defense is still far better, and the Vikings have a lot more talent and experience on the offensive side of the ball. With all of that adrenaline gone, it'll be a lot harder for a far-from-healthy Rodgers to carry his inferior team against Minnesota, if he even plays."

    And since it's safe to guess that sudden bad news for Rodgers would only push the line in favor of Minnesota, that's about all you need to know. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Minnesota (PK)
    Gagnon: Minnesota (PK)
    Sobleski: Minnesota (PK)
    Consensus: Minnesota (PK)

    Score Prediction: Minnesota 24, Green Bay 21

Cleveland Browns (0-0-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    For the first time since December 2015, the Cleveland Browns played on a Sunday and didn't lose. Emboldened, they're now in search of their first road victory since October of that year. In fact, it's been nearly four years since the Browns last won a road game in regulation, which explains why they're nearly double-digit underdogs despite possessing a better record than their opponent. 

    Our experts are siding with the New Orleans Saints, mainly because the Browns failed to fully take advantage of a gift-wrapped opportunity against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, but also because they might be running into a real talented opponent at a real bad time. 

    "I want to believe the Browns can keep this game close," said Davenport, who has the guts to admit he's a Cleveland fan. "But after getting 48 dropped on them at home by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints are going to be all kinds of cheesed, and the Browns couldn't win a game that the Steelers desperately tried to hand them last week. So I'm doing something I don't generally like to do and laying over a touchdown."

    He's not alone, but we lack unanimity because that's too high a line for Sobleski. And it's worth noting that Sobo lost just four games against the spread in Week 1. There are valid questions about the Saints defense, and the Browns do look as though they're greatly improved, so we won't blame you for passing on that 9.5 number. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: New Orleans (-9.5)
    Gagnon: New Orleans (-9.5)
    Sobleski: Cleveland (+9.5)
    Consensus: New Orleans (-9.5)

    Score Prediction: New Orleans 35, Cleveland 24

Carolina Panthers (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Six-point spreads often make it hard to go against the favorite, just because lines in that range usually indicate that team has a significant, clear-cut advantage while paying out with a mere one-touchdown victory.

    Our panelists aren't falling for it in the case of Sunday's matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons.

    "I know the Carolina offense didn't exactly light it up in Week 1 and Atlanta's at home," Davenport said, "but there's no way I'm giving almost a touchdown to take a team allergic to scoring them. Throw in that Atlanta's already down Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, and I think the Panthers win this game outright."

    So do Gagnon and Sobleski, neither of whom appear to have much confidence in Atlanta's anemic red-zone offense and depleted defense, even at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where they beat the Panthers by 12 points in their last regular-season home game. 

    "This is one of the strangest lines I've seen in a while," Gagnon said, "especially because this is likely to be a low-scoring game considering Atlanta's struggles under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Carolina's injuries on that side of the ball."

    Predictions
    Davenport: Carolina (+6)
    Gagnon: Carolina (+6)
    Sobleski: Carolina (+6)
    Consensus: Carolina (+6)

    Score Prediction: Carolina 20, Atlanta 17

Indianapolis Colts (0-1) at Washington Redskins (1-0)

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Can new Washington Redskins quarterback and 2005 No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith outduel a younger No. 1 overall pick for the second consecutive week? Two-thirds of our panel believe that after dominating Sam Bradford and the Arizona Cardinals, the Smith-led Redskins will move to 2-0 with at least a seven-point victory over Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. 

    "I think Vegas is still giving the Colts extra points for Luck's presence," Gagnon said, "but in his return against the Bengals, we were reminded that the guy simply has too much on his shoulders. I believe in Luck, but I trust Smith and his team a hell of a lot more right now. Dude was the highest-rated qualified passer in football last year, and against the Cardinals, he picked up where he left off in Kansas City. With the Redskins at home, a six-point spread isn't enough against an opponent that just isn't there yet on defense and doesn't have enough pieces on offense."

    Alone in dissent, Sobleski disagrees. That's worth noting because it's entirely possible both relatively mediocre teams move closer to the mean after somewhat extreme results in Week 1.

    At the very least, that makes this game a tricky one to bet on. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Washington (-6)
    Gagnon: Washington (-6)
    Sobleski: Indianapolis (+6)
    Consensus: Washington (-6)

    Score Prediction: Washington 27, Indianapolis 20

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    The similarities between the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hard to miss.

    After Philadelphia rode a famously deep defensive front to the Super Bowl last season, the Bucs played copycat and loaded up their defensive line with fresh talent, even poaching two 2017 Eagles in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen. 

    The Eagles were sure to replenish their own D-line, which means Sunday's meeting between Philly and Tampa Bay will contain two stacked defensive fronts and two heavily hyped backup quarterbacks. And although Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers undoubtedly put together a more laudable Week 1 performance than the team they're essentially trying to become, our crew is unanimously prepared to lay three points with Nick Foles and the Eagles. 

    "We know who Ryan Fitzpatrick is," Gagnon said. "We've been watching him for well over a decade. He's never been as lights-out as he was against the Saints in Week 1, but he does hit some pretty high peaks. Problem is, he's never been capable of sustaining that, and now he's going up against a defense that embarrassed a much more talented Falcons offense in Week 1."

    Throw in that the Eagles are more battle-tested and well rested, and three points aren't enough for our experts to consider the Bucs based on one big performance.

    Predictions
    Davenport: Philadelphia (-3)
    Gagnon: Philadelphia (-3)
    Sobleski: Philadelphia (-3)
    Consensus: Philadelphia (-3)

    Score Prediction: Philadelphia 26, Tampa Bay 16

Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0-1)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The home-field edge that made Atlanta a quasi-heavy favorite against Carolina also surely made the Pittsburgh Steelers four-point faves against a Kansas City Chiefs team that was substantially more impressive in Week 1. 

    But once again, our experts unanimously agree Vegas is overvaluing an inferior home team. 

    "So much for the Chiefs offense taking a slight step back with Patrick Mahomes under center," Sobleski said. "Andy Reid has big-time playmakers at every position, and the Steelers secondary is still suspect. Furthermore, Ben Roethlisberger is coming off one of the worst games of his career, and one has to wonder if his inevitable decline has already begun." 

    Indeed, Roethlisberger—who threw more interceptions last season than all but three other quarterbacks and is coming off a catastrophic five-turnover Week 1 performance against the Browns—hasn't been right. That showing in Cleveland was jarring for a future Hall of Famer, especially considering the help he got from running back James Conner. 

    Conner posted a league-high 192 scrimmage yards while scoring twice in place of Le'Veon Bell, who continues to hold out. What happens if Bell sits again (very likely at this point) and Conner comes back to earth (a strong possibility)?

    The Chiefs might have the NFL's most loaded offense, and they've proven to be hot starters. Even at Heinz Field, those circumstances will make it difficult for the Steelers to win, let alone cover a four-point spread as a favorite. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Kansas City (+4)
    Gagnon: Kansas City (+4)
    Sobleski: Kansas City (+4)
    Consensus: Kansas City (+4)

    Score Prediction: Kansas City 28, Pittsburgh 23

Miami Dolphins (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)

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    Al Pereira/Getty Images

    Few expected either the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins to start 2-0, but one of these teams will at the very least be tied for first place in the AFC East on Sunday night. Which Week 1 overachiever will come through? It's not an easy read, at least when taking a three-point spread in favor of the Jets into account. 

    It would be easy for the inexperienced Jets to regress after coming down from a major Monday Night Football high that saw them pummel a team that had a winning record in 2017. But it would be just as easy for the Dolphins to fall back to reality after a weird Week 1 home victory over a team that won a playoff game last season. 

    And that's why this one is so hard to diagnose. 

    As of Wednesday afternoon, the vast majority of sportsbooks had the Jets as a three-point favorite, which is about as safe as it gets for a toss-up between divisional opponents with similar momentum. That makes this more hinky than usual, but Gagnon and Davenport are leaning green.

    "This is the type of game that I can just envision ending 17-14 or 20-17," Gagnon said, "so the push is in the mix if you can't get a 2.5 or a 3.5 for a team you feel particularly confident in. If you're sticking with 3, it's hard not to go with the more talented team at home."

    While the Jets have the less experienced quarterback, they are indeed the deeper team. And while the jury is still out on Sam Darnold, he does have a higher ceiling. In his home debut, our panel is siding slightly with Darnold's squad. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: New York (-3)
    Gagnon: New York (-3)
    Sobleski: Miami (+3)
    Consensus: New York (-3)

    Score Prediction: New York 20, Miami 17

Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-1)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Pardon the double negative, but some games come down to who you mistrust the least. This might be one of those games. 

    The Los Angeles Chargers have done little to gain our trust, especially early in recent seasons. They started 1-4 in 2016 and 0-4 in 2017, and they dropped a winnable opener at home against the Chiefs on Sunday. 

    Now ATS bettors are asking them to go across the country and win by at least an eight-point margin? Our experts are reluctantly on board. 

    "This smells like a game that could come back to bite me—the Chokers (er, Chargers) traveling east for a 1 p.m. ET start," Davenport said. "But the Buffalo Bills are so bad. So very, very bad. Like, "a tuna salad sandwich that's been sitting in the Arizona sun for four days" bad. A 7.5-point line is nowhere near enough for me to take a bite of that sandwich."

    Regarding travel concerns, the good news for Davenport and Co. is that on trips to the Eastern time zone last season, the Bolts actually beat the Jets and New York Giants, took the Jacksonville Jaguars to overtime and played the New England Patriots close. They start slow, but they travel well, and the Bills look like prey right now. 

    Buffalo will be starting raw rookie Josh Allen at quarterback. And while Allen has a higher ceiling and is probably a better option than second-year disaster Nathan Peterman, the short-on-accuracy Wyoming product is probably in for a rude awakening against a talented defense that badly punished Peterman in his first career start 10 months ago. 

    This line might only be 7.5 because nobody would feel comfortable enough backing the Chargers beyond that, but the reality is this game has blowout written all over it.

    Predictions
    Davenport: Los Angeles (-7.5)
    Gagnon: Los Angeles (-7.5)
    Sobleski: Los Angeles (-7.5)
    Consensus: Los Angeles (-7.5)

    Score Prediction: Los Angeles 38, Buffalo 10

Detroit Lions (0-1) at San Francisco 49ers (0-1)

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    There are a lot of moving parts here, because the following declarations can't possibly be totally debunked at this juncture: 

    1. New head coach Matt Patricia has ruined the Detroit Lions, who were embarrassed by a supposedly inferior team in their home opener. 

    2. The league has figured out new San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who signed a five-year, $137.5 million contract in the offseason before posting a 45 percent completion rate and the NFL's third-lowest qualified passer rating in a three-interception Week 1 loss against the Vikings.

    Garoppolo could stink again, or he could bounce back nicely against a much weaker defense. Patricia's Lions could stink again, or franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford and a veteran roster could be inspired (and desperate) enough to overwhelm a banged-up, intimidated 49ers team. 

    Last week's picks champion is more likely to buy into the Niners than the Lions, with coaching and preparation factoring in. 

    "Jets players said after the game they were calling out Detroit's plays based on formation," Sobleski said. "The 49ers may not have looked as good as expected against the Vikings, but they're still more talented than the Lions and could pick up on the same keys." 

    Gagnon has his doubts about those tells and believes that an experienced Detroit team will at least keep it close in the Bay Area. But he's in the minority. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: San Francisco (-6.5)
    Gagnon: Detroit (+6.5)
    Sobleski: San Francisco (-6.5)
    Consensus: San Francisco (-6.5)

    Score Prediction: San Francisco 30, Detroit 21

Arizona Cardinals (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)

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    John Cordes/Associated Press

    It's tough to move a line into the teens in Week 2, especially when you're looking at a divisional game between a good team on short rest and an opponent that is coming off an eight-win season. Theoretically, there's a good chance the Los Angeles Rams won't blow out the Arizona Cardinals. 

    But the Rams appeared to be catching fire as their opener against the Oakland Raiders progressed, while the Cardinals were embarrassed nearly as badly as the Bills and Lions. 

    That's enough for our analysts to agree Los Angeles will run away from the Cards at home. 

    "I know the Rams are giving a lot of points," Gagnon said, "but did you see how sad the Cardinals looked Sunday? The Redskins are average at best, and they smashed the Cards on their home turf. Arizona is just waiting for the Josh Rosen era to begin now, and I can't imagine Sam Bradford will be any better against L.A.'s jacked defense."

    Teams do sometimes improve or regress significantly from week to week, which is why it'll be tempting to take those points and roll with the Cardinals here. But consider that plenty of the teams that struggled significantly in their openers last season—the Bengals, Jets, Colts, 49ers, Seahawks, Giants, Saints and Chargers, for example—were pretty much just as bad in Week 2. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Los Angeles (-13)
    Gagnon: Los Angeles (-13)
    Sobleski: Los Angeles (-13)
    Consensus: Los Angeles (-13)

    Score Prediction: Los Angeles 31, Arizona 13

Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Are the Denver Broncos back? With key new faces on both sides of the ball, the Broncos beat the Seattle Seahawks in their season opener. They did so despite a so-so performance from new quarterback Case Keenum, who threw three interceptions Sunday but is highly unlikely to make that many mistakes against a soft Oakland Raiders D in Week 2. 

    With that said, we still don't have much of a sample from the Keenum-led Denver offense or the Jon Gruden-run Raiders offense, which is why Davenport is confident but cautious while looking at a line that's vulnerable to a backdoor cover. 

    "The size of this spread makes me a little uneasy," he admitted. "But if Week 1 was any indication, the Raiders are incapable of generating any kind of consistent pass rush. Oakland's cornerbacks aren't good enough to hold up in coverage indefinitely against Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Keenum throws for 300-plus again, the Broncos move to 2-0 with a 10-point win and Gruden's 'master plan' motors on."

    It's unanimous—Gagnon and Sobleski don't feel any more confident in Oakland following an ugly home opener, and they agree the Raiders are in trouble against their division rival.

    Predictions
    Davenport: Denver (-6)
    Gagnon: Denver (-6)
    Sobleski: Denver (-6)
    Consensus: Denver (-6)

    Score Prediction: Denver 28, Oakland 20

New England Patriots (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It took a long time to get here, but we live in a world in which the New England Patriots are hardly favored to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. That 1.5-point spread is a testament both to how far the Jags have come and how much the Pats are hurting early this season. 

    "I understand why the line is so low, and I'd even consider jumping on the Jags if it were above a field goal," Gagnon said. "But when we're in that 1-2 range, you've gotta look at it like a pick'em. Jacksonville has more talent than New England, but we're still talking about Tom Brady versus Blake Bortles. The gap between the GOAT and Bortles compensates for every other advantage the Jags have (especially considering that Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette appears to be far from 100 percent) but I wouldn't bet my life savings against either of these teams."

    The Jaguars have never beaten the Patriots in a regular-season game. And sure, they put up a fight in the AFC Championship Game in January, but as Gagnon said, it's hard to pick a team quarterbacked by Bortles over a team quarterbacked by the most accomplished player in NFL history. 

    Had Bortles performed better than he did in Jacksonville's ho-hum season-opening victory over the New York Giants, our analysts might be more willing to roll the dice on the Jaguars against a team that gives opponents almost no margin for error and appeared to intimidate these same Jags in last year's playoffs. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: New England (-1.5)
    Gagnon: New England (-1.5)
    Sobleski: New England (-1.5)
    Consensus: New England (-1.5)

    Score Prediction: New England 23, Jacksonville 17

New York Giants (0-1) at Dallas Cowboys (0-1)

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The New York Giants were a mess last year, which is why we aren't putting much stock into the fact they were outscored 49-13 in two lopsided meetings with the competitive Dallas Cowboys.

    Prior to last year, nine of the previous 10 meetings between the Giants and the Cowboys were decided by one score, and neither team has been favored by more than six points in any of their last 14 matchups. 

    Dallas is a fairly predictable three-point favorite at home this time around, and our experts agree even that's too high. All three are on the Giants +3, while Gagnon thinks Big Blue will win outright. 

    "The Giants fell short against a tough Jags team, but they're only going to get better as Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley and that retooled offensive line become more acclimated with each other," he said. "I expect to see progress every week, and Manning has experienced plenty of success in Dallas. Throw in that the Cowboys offense doesn't look right, and I think the G-Men will have a clear-cut edge Sunday night."

    This meetings are typically toss-ups regardless of the sitethe Giants have won five of their last nine in Dallas, while the Cowboys have won four of their last six at MetLifebut rolling the dice on the Cowboys beyond three points seems like quite a risk at the moment. 

    Predictions
    Davenport: New York (+3)
    Gagnon: New York (+3)
    Sobleski: New York (+3)
    Consensus: New York (+3)

    Score Prediction: New York 20, Dallas 17

Seattle Seahawks (0-1) at Chicago Bears (0-1)

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears and the Seattle Seahawks seem like two teams going in opposite directions. However, our two highest-scoring game pickers from Week 1 believe oddsmakers have gone too far by making Chicago a three-point favorite against Russell Wilson and his already desperate team. 

    "These certainly aren't the Seahawks of old, but the new-look Bears aren't exactly world beaters, either," Sobleski said. "Chicago faltered during the second half against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Russell Wilson is another dynamic presence behind center, with Earl Thomas back doing Earl Thomas things to lead the defense. If the Seahawks can keep Khalil Mack in check—a big 'if'they match up well."

    That "if" is too big for Gagnon, who believes the Bears' Sunday night collapse in Green Bay had more to do with Rodgers' magic than Chicago's prowess. 

    If the Bears learned from the mistakes they made in the second half of that Packers game, they could be in for a successful home opener. But they remain green (figuratively), and with three points in hand, the better bet might be the team that wears green (literally). 

    Predictions
    Davenport: Seattle (+3)
    Gagnon: Chicago (-3)
    Sobleski: Seattle (+3)
    Consensus: Seattle (+3)

    Score Prediction: Seattle 23, Chicago 21