NFL Predictions Week 2: Last-Minute Picks and Advice for Sunday's Schedule

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 09:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)   Saquon Barkley #26 and Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 9, 2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jaguars defeated the Giants 20-15.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Week 2 might be the most difficult slate of games to pick during the NFL season. Do you trust the Week 1 performances or stick with your preseason expectations?

The two most difficult teams to work out in Week 2 are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coming off an offensive explosion against the New Orleans Saints, and the New York Jets, who cruised to victory over the Detroit Lions in Sam Darnold's debut.

When faced with these tough early-season decisions, it's best to remain skeptical of young teams such as the Jets. Maybe Darnold is capable of quickly pointing New York in the right direction, but any team led by a rookie quarterback will be prone to wild swings in production from week to week. It's best to not put too much stock in any one performance from that type of team.

To help you navigate the Week 2 schedule, here are picks against the spread (in bold) for every game on the schedule, followed by a breakdown of a couple of the most intriguing matchups.


Texans (-3) at Titans

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Vikings at Packers (-1.5)

Browns at Saints (-9.5)

Panthers at Falcons (-6)

Colts at Redskins (-6)

Eagles (-3) at Buccaneers

Chiefs at Steelers (-4.5)

Dolphins at Jets (-3)

Chargers (-7.5) at Bills

Lions at 49ers (-6)

Cardinals at Rams (-13)

Raiders at Broncos (-6.5)

Patriots (-1) at Jaguars

Giants at Cowboys (-3)

Seahawks at Bears (-3)


New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-3)

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a frustrating 16-8 loss against the Carolina Panthers in which they managed just 232 yards of offense, the fourth-lowest Week 1 total. 

In this matchup, however, the bigger concern could be the Dallas defense, which surrendered 147 rushing yards to a shaky Carolina ground game. 

Fifty-eight of those yards came from quarterback Cam Newton, which obviously Dallas won't have to worry about with Eli Manning under center for the New York Giants. But the Cowboys also gave up 83 yards on 17 carries to Christian McCaffrey and C.J. Anderson—an average of 4.9 yards per carry.

The Giants offense is propelled by rookie Saquan Barkley, coming off an impressive Week 1 performance in which he averaged 5.9 yards per carry against a stout Jacksonville Jaguars defense.

Dating back to the start of the 2015 season, Dallas is 0-13 when allowing 125 or more yards on the ground—a number that is certainly attainable for this Giants squad.

If the Cowboys defense is unable to hold Barkley in check, the Giants should be able to control the tempo of this game and win a close one in Dallas on Sunday night.

Prediction: Giants 24, Cowboys 21


Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints (-9.5)

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

On Saturday, the Cleveland Browns shocked the football world by announcing their intention to release Josh Gordon on Monday, just hours after revealing he would miss Sunday's game with a hamstring injury.

Strictly in terms of on-field impact, losing Gordon is a devastating blow to an offense that is already thin at receiver. Gordon only had three targets in Week 1, but after missing most of the team's offseason workouts, a slow start to the season was expected. He would likely have seen an increased workload as he grew comfortable with quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

The bigger impact from this news, however, could be how the team responds to the shocking announcement about Gordon's release and the effect it could have on the team's focus.

Multiple Browns players appeared to react to the news with not-so-cryptic tweets about their disappointment, including Myles Garrett and Christian Kirksey.

Regardless of the reason for Gordon's release and whether or not it's the right decision for the organization, the timing couldn't be worse. The Browns can't afford any distractions as they hit the road against the New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans will be focused, hoping to wash the taste of its 48-40 Week 1 loss to the Buccaneers out of its mouth. The Saints are the more talented team in this matchup, and if they are also the more focused team, this one could get ugly.

Prediction: Saints 30, Browns 17