B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 2
Oh, do we have excuses for you.
Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski are picking every game against the spread all season long. And although the consensus fell just a cover shy of a wash in Week 1, it also felt like whatever could go wrong did go wrong.
Our gang was on the Carolina Panthers, who failed to cover by half a point. They took the Detroit Lions, who blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead. They sided with the Philadelphia Eagles, who were victimized by a backdoor cover against the Washington Redskins. They didn't imagine the Cleveland Browns would be so bad or that the Oakland Raiders would be so good.
They did at least unanimously steer you right on the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, but they were also in complete agreement that the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would cover spreads they fell well short of hitting at home.
Here is the end result:
T-1. Gary Davenport: 8-8
T-1. Brad Gagnon: 8-8
3. Brent Sobleski: 7-9
Consensus picks: 7-9
And here's their attempt to totally redeem themselves.
Lines from Caesars as of 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-1)
The Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are both 0-1, but Carolina hung with a Super Bowl contender in Week 1 while Tampa was a mess at home against a team that won four games in 2018.
With that in mind, our analysts are unanimously in Carolina's corner despite having to surrender a touchdown. And as Sobleski points out, that has a lot to do with trust.
"Turnovers tell the tale," he said. "Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is a turnover machine and always has been. The Panthers, meanwhile, only lost by three points to the reigning NFC champions despite committing three turnovers. Carolina should clean up its play in Week 2, while Tampa Bay can't trust its quarterback."
Even with quarterback expert Bruce Arians now serving as his head coach, Winston threw three interceptions last week against a San Francisco 49ers defense that intercepted just two passes all season long last year. He also fumbled twice (both were recovered by his team) and took three sacks while completing just 56 percent of his passes.
Newton didn't stand out against the Los Angeles Rams, but he was a heck of a lot less mistake-prone. And he and his cohorts remain at home, where they were 5-0 with a points-per-game average of 31.6 before Newton's bad shoulder became too much to overcome and their 2018 season fell apart.
Look for Christian McCaffrey to shine as the Panthers take it to an inferior division rival traveling on short rest.
Davenport: Carolina (-7)
Gagnon: Carolina (-7)
Sobleski: Carolina (-7)
Consensus: Carolina (-7)
Score Prediction: Panthers 30, Buccaneers 20
Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
We're all probably a bit terrified of the 13.5-point spread the Baltimore Ravens are giving up Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. That's because nobody knows how much of Baltimore's 59-10 Week 1 victory had to do with the opposing Miami Dolphins appearing to be flaming trash. Plus, the Cardinals should have plenty of momentum after rallying from an 18-point deficit to tie the Detroit Lions.
But even if they don't win by 49 points every week, the Ravens, who are always feisty in Baltimore, are certainly a bigger obstacle than the traditionally untrustworthy Lions on the road. That might explain why the majority of our experts are willing to lay nearly two touchdowns with Lamar Jackson and Co.
"The decision to pick the Ravens despite an enormous spread comes down to a simple rationalization: The Cardinals will likely look more like the team that couldn't manage any offense through three quarters against the Detroit Lions than the high-octane, fourth-quarter version when they face the league's top defense after one week," Sobleski said. "Plus, Jackson will likely shred a porous Cardinals D."
Jackson certainly shredded the Miami defense, posting a perfect passer rating on a five-touchdown day. And Arizona couldn't really slow down the Lions until the Lions started slowing themselves down.
Still, it looks like the Cardinals offense began to click for head coach Kliff Kingsbury in the fourth quarter and overtime, and we don't have unanimity as a result. Gagnon believes this line is inflated by Baltimore's Week 1 result and Arizona's slow start against Detroit, and he thinks Kyler Murray can go toe-to-toe with Jackson.
He's in the minority, but it's worth pointing out that those among this group who picked against the majority as lone wolves were 64-61-1 during the 2018 regular season and 6-4 last week.
Davenport: Baltimore (-13.5)
Gagnon: Arizona (+13.5)
Sobleski: Baltimore (-13.5)
Consensus: Baltimore (-13.5)
Score Prediction: Ravens 31, Cardinals 16
Buffalo Bills (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
Here's where we look for a correction.
The Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets on the road last week, but they did so despite turning the ball over four times and trailing 16-0 well into the second half. The New York Giants were crushed by the Dallas Cowboys, but their offense actually moved the ball well against a strong defense despite the fact superstar back Saquon Barkley had just 15 touches.
The majority of our analysts figure that means the Giants should actually be laying points when the two meet in East Rutherford on Sunday.
"The Giants were beaten pretty handily in Dallas last week, but lost in that defeat was the fact that the New York offense actually played well against a solid Cowboys defense," Davenport said. "This isn't to say that the G-Men are a good team—let's not go overboard—but I'm not convinced yet that the Bills are, either. I'll take the home 'dogs here, even if I'm a tad queasy doing it."
We don't have unanimity because Sobleski—and likely many others—can't trust a Giants defense that was gouged by Dallas. But Bills quarterback Josh Allen isn't as equipped or well-supported as Dak Prescott. And on the other side of the ball, you can bet Barkley will be let loose this time around.
Davenport: New York (+1.5)
Gagnon: New York (+1.5)
Sobleski: Buffalo (-1.5)
Consensus: New York (+1.5)
Score Prediction: Giants 23, Bills 21
Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Washington Redskins (0-1)
After falling behind 7-0 to the Giants in Week 1, the Dallas Cowboys outscored New York 35-10 the rest of the way. Meanwhile, after taking a 17-0 lead against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1, the Washington Redskins were outscored 32-10 the rest of the way.
If there's any carryover into Week 2, Dallas should easily cover a 5.5-point spread in D.C. That's rarely exactly how this game works, but the majority of our experts are still (barely) comfortable rolling with the more talented team minus 5.5 points.
"Frankly, I was tempted to take the home underdog here after the Redskins squeaked out a backdoor cover last week in Philly, especially given how much yardage the Cowboys allowed at home against the Giants," Davenport said. "But the Dallas defense is better than what we saw a week ago while the Redskins are more like the team that choked away a lead against the Eagles than the one that raced out to a big lead early."
If you're looking for cherries on top, standout Redskins left tackle Trent Williams still hasn't ended his holdout, while blue-chip defensive tackle Jonathan Allen is out with a knee injury.
That said, these Redskins aren't substantially worse than last year's losing team. That squad beat the Cowboys at home and held a second-half lead in Dallas on Thanksgiving. The defense is still quite talented, and Gagnon figures the Dallas offense is destined to come back to earth a bit. He's got this pegged as a close game, which is why our analysts don't all agree.
Davenport: Dallas (-5.5)
Gagnon: Washington (+5.5)
Sobleski: Dallas (-5.5)
Consensus: Dallas (-5.5)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Redskins 20
Indianapolis Colts (0-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-0)
By installing the Tennessee Titans as a three-point favorite at home against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, sportsbooks are basically declaring they see the two sides as evenly matched.
Two of our three panelists don't see it that way and are happy to take the points with Indy, even as Andrew Luck enjoys retirement.
"The Colts went to Los Angeles and took the Chargers to the limit," Sobleski said. "The Titans, meanwhile, had a game handed to them by an embarrassingly undisciplined Cleveland Browns squad. Even with Jacoby Brissett leading the way, the Colts feature a better all-around roster than their division rival. An easy choice when oddsmakers are giving Indy points."
Yeah, Tennessee smashed the Browns, but the Colts are a much more disciplined team that isn't likely to take 18 penalties or lose its cool when the going gets tough. And while the Browns offensive line remains a liability, Indy's is one of the best in football. That'll make it hard for the Titans to fluster the opposing quarterback for the second week in a row.
And don't forget that the Titans are shorthanded, too.
Brissett is no Andrew luck. But Dennis Kelly is no Taylor Lewan at left tackle, and Lewan remains suspended. Tennessee could also again be without veteran guard Kevin Pamphile.
All that said, the Titans looked strong in Cleveland and are now at home against a quarterback they beat twice in 2017. We wouldn't fault you for laying three points there. Davenport did, and he hammered his two colleagues with a 133-116-7 record ATS in 2018.
Davenport: Tennessee (-3)
Gagnon: Indianapolis (+3)
Sobleski: Indianapolis (+3)
Consensus: Indianapolis (+3)
Score Prediction: Colts 24, Titans 21
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) at Houston Texans (0-1)
The Houston Texans outscored the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-10 in a pair of head-to-head victories last season. And while that was somewhat of a trainwreck campaign for Jacksonville, this one isn't off to a better start.
The Jags will be starting a rookie sixth-round pick under center against Houston. Though Gardner Minshew II impressed in his debut while relieving the injured Nick Foles against the Kansas City Chiefs, that might not be sustainable on the road against a stronger defense.
And thus our experts agree unanimously that the Texans should win their home opener by a double-digit margin.
"I'm admittedly a tad reluctant here just because that's a high number and I continue to be concerned about Houston's pass protection, as well as Deshaun Watson's ability to protect himself," Gagnon said. "But Watson was barely touched in his first meeting with a stacked Jacksonville D last year, and he had a strong game despite taking six sacks when they met again in Week 17. With so many potential issues on offense, I don't think an advantage in the trenches will be enough for Jacksonville to hang."
Excuses exist for the Jags' problems ever since they went to the AFC Championship Game in 2017. But the fact remains they're a hard team to get behind right now. They've now lost 11 of their last 13 games, and six of those losses have come by 13 or more points.
In their only victories since last September, they scored six and 17 points. Hence the consensus.
Davenport: Houston (-8.5)
Gagnon: Houston (-8.5)
Sobleski: Houston (-8.5)
Consensus: Houston (-8.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 28, Jaguars 16
Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0-1)
The Los Angeles Chargers merely survived in their home opener against a shorthanded opponent. But at about the same time, the Detroit Lions self-destructed against a supposedly inferior opponent.
Even though Detroit is now getting points in its home opener against Los Angeles, the majority of our experts can't back the hosting team in Week 2.
"There's a decent chance I'm going to regret the heck out of betting against this many home underdogs in Week 2," Davenport said. "But less than a field goal just isn't enough for me to pick a Lions team that blew a big lead late last week in the desert. The Chargers often play better away from Los Angeles, and I expect them to handle the Lions by double digits here."
He's right about that.
The 2018 Bolts were a perfect 8-0 in regular-season games played outside of Los Angeles (including a "home victory" over the Titans in London). But Gagnon wonders if that means they're due to lose on the road, and it's never easy to travel three time zones for a matchup with a hungry team coming off an embarrassment.
The Chargers were already shorthanded before key pass-catchers Hunter Henry and Mike Williams both suffered injuries in the opener, and the Lions actually looked good for three quarters in Arizona. So while we're leaning Bolts with only 2.5 points on the line, you might want to keep your distance here.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-2.5)
Gagnon: Detroit (+2.5)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (-2.5)
Consensus: Los Angeles (-2.5)
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Lions 24
Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Speaking of games to avoid, we have the Green Bay Packers beating the Minnesota Vikings by exactly three points. In other words, while two of our three experts are leaning toward the home favorite on a three-point spread, we're basically projecting a push at Lambeau.
"We just don't know what to expect from the Packers," Gagnon said. "They've had extra time to get the offense on track after struggling for much of their opener in Chicago. But that doesn't mean they'll suddenly turn a corner, and the defense could have more trouble with Minnesota's new-look, smashmouth offense."
Noting that the talented Vikings are now 7-1-1 straight up and 6-2-1 against the spread in 1 p.m. ET Sunday kickoffs since the start of last season, Gagnon is a dissenting voice here. But the element of surprise has faded after Minnesota threw only 10 passes in an elementary Week 1 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The Vikings might not be able to get away with that against a Green Bay defense that dominated the Bears.
This is also Rodgers vs. Cousins, and the latter is 4-25 in his career against winning teams. So our guys are giving the edge to Green Bay, but this is a divisional matchup between two strong teams that could go either way.
Davenport: Green Bay (-3)
Gagnon: Minnesota (+3)
Sobleski: Green Bay (-3)
Consensus: Green Bay (-3)
Score Prediction: Packers 24, Vikings 21
New England Patriots (1-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-1)
Sunday's matchup between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins is almost unarguably a battle between the league's best team and the league's worst team. But against a division rival, the Patriots have been installed as the third-largest road favorite in NFL history.
Is that taking it too far? The majority of our analysts believe so.
"I can't do it," Davenport said. "I just can't do it. Although the Patriots shelled the Steelers in Week 1 and could get Antonio Brown this week while the Dolphins just got annihilated 59-10 at home by the Ravens, I can't lay almost 20 points on the road. The Dolphins are bad, but they're still an NFL team, and they have a history of giving the Pats fits in Miami. Fun fact: Tom Brady has as many losses in Miami since 2013 (five) as he does at Gillette Stadium over that span."
Specifically, the Pats are 6-5 against Miami in their last 11 matchups. But four of those wins did come by 21-plus points, including a 35-14 road victory in 2016. Sobleski sees something like that happening again.
"The spread on this game might be the biggest in NFL history, and it still wouldn't be enough to pick against the Patriots," he said. "New England is the NFL's best team, whereas the Dolphins will show up to collect their weekly paycheck. It's a good thing that only a handful of Dolphins fans will show up to see this inevitable bludgeoning."
Regardless of who you back here, you'll likely have anxiety Sunday. The Pats showed against Pittsburgh that they have the firepower to pull away at any moment, but the back door will likely be open for Miami.
Davenport: Miami (+18)
Gagnon: Miami (+18)
Sobleski: New England (-18)
Consensus: Miami (+18)
Score Prediction: Patriots 31, Dolphins 16
San Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
Both the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals exceeded expectations and easily covered the spread in Week 1, making their Week 2 matchup a tricky one to handicap. Ultimately, Cincinnati is giving up only two points in a home matchup with a West Coast team that's been stuck on the East Coast for more than a week, so that seems like the safer bet.
We have a unanimous consensus as a result, but don't get carried away on this one.
"I don't trust either team right now," Gagnon said. "The Bengals should have more trouble in pass protection against a strong San Francisco front than they did in Seattle, but at least they're back home. And Zac Taylor's offense was impressive right off the bat. San Francisco's revamped defense should keep this close, but Jimmy Garoppolo still doesn't look right, and he didn't get much support from a depleted running game in the opener."
Coming back from a torn ACL, Garoppolo passed for only 166 yards in Week 1, and running back Tevin Coleman is now sidelined with an ankle injury. This'll be a tough game for the 49ers to pull out, and they're getting only two points.
The 49ers don't look likely to start 2-0, so betting on a correction with the Bengals makes some sense.
Davenport: Cincinnati (-2)
Gagnon: Cincinnati (-2)
Sobleski: Cincinnati (-2)
Consensus: Cincinnati (-2)
Score Prediction: Bengals 23, 49ers 20
Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
One week after losing by 30 points in their season opener, the Pittsburgh Steelers are laying four points against a quality opponent. That strikes the majority of our analysts as odd, which is why our gang is backing the visiting Seattle Seahawks with four points in their back pocket.
"The Seahawks didn't dominate against the Bengals like expected, and the Steelers can't be as awful as they looked against the Patriots," Sobleski said. "Both squads have yet to show their true colors. Seattle can control the clock, allow quarterback Russell Wilson to make plays when necessary and keep a difficult game in Pittsburgh close."
Gagnon has his reservations. Seattle is traveling now, and this is Pittsburgh's home opener. The Steelers are likely angry about what happened in Foxborough on Sunday night, and they've become adept at bouncing back. They've lost six games by 20-plus points this decade, and they went 6-0 directly after those losses, outscoring their opponents by an average of 16.7 points in those affairs.
That robs us of unanimity, but never shy away from betting on Russell Wilson and Co. to keep it close. The Seahawks have lost by four or more points only three times in their past 20 games.
Davenport: Seattle (+4)
Gagnon: Pittsburgh (-4)
Sobleski: Seattle (+4)
Consensus: Pittsburgh (-4)
Score Prediction: Steelers 24, Seahawks 23
Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) at Oakland Raiders (1-0)
The Kansas City Chiefs' high-powered offense didn't miss a beat after top wide receiver Tyreek Hill suffered a shoulder injury in their opener against a strong Jacksonville defense. They're now going up against an Oakland Raiders defense that likely played above its head in the opener and is on short rest while dealing with injuries to defensive backs Gareon Conley and Johnathan Abram.
As such, two of our three experts are willing to give up a touchdown with the Chiefs.
"No one is really buying the Raiders as being good," Sobleski said. "They just happened to play a poor Denver Broncos squad to open the season. The Chiefs are among the league's best and will expose an Oakland defense that no longer features first-round safety Johnathan Abram because of a shoulder injury."
However, Gagnon believes the Raiders can win this straight up, so beware. The Raiders know the Chiefs well, and they played them tough in a 40-33 home loss last December. They've won three straight home games since then and have a lot of momentum coming out of that Monday night opener.
That might not be enough to win or even cover against the nearly unstoppable Chiefs, but with Hill out, this isn't cut-and-dry.
Davenport: Kansas City (-7)
Gagnon: Oakland (+7)
Sobleski: Kansas City (-7)
Consensus: Kansas City (-7)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 31, Raiders 21
Chicago Bears (0-1) at Denver Broncos (0-1)
It's always tricky when Week 2 opponents laid eggs in Week 1. That makes the Chicago Bears a scary play after they scored only three points in their home opener, especially on the road against the Denver Broncos.
But Chicago is the far superior team, the defense was superb against Green Bay, and the Bears are giving up less than a field goal in Denver.
That's enough to place two of our three guys on Chicago's side, but Gagnon isn't buying it.
"We often see teams regress after sudden breakout seasons, and I wonder if the Bears are going to suffer that fate," he said. "Mitchell Trubisky was a mess against Green Bay, and it won't be any easier on the road against a strong defense that is coached by former Bears coordinator Vic Fangio. I wish I was getting a full field goal for the Broncos, but I think they can pull off the upset in their home opener."
Still, that 2.5-point line has to be tempting for those who have more faith in a Bears team that went 12-4 last year and bottled up Aaron Rodgers and Co. in their opener. Put Davenport and Sobleski in that category.
The Bears had the league's best scoring defense last season, which could be problematic for Joe Flacco. This is a big step up from Oakland.
Davenport: Chicago (-2.5)
Gagnon: Denver (+2.5)
Sobleski: Chicago (-2.5)
Consensus: Chicago (-2.5)
Score Prediction: Bears 21, Broncos 17
New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
The whole gang probably wishes the Los Angeles Rams were laying an extra half-point at home against the New Orleans Saints, but they're still betting unanimously that New Orleans will exact revenge for that controversial NFC Championship Game loss in January.
"What's up with Jared Goff?" Gagnon asked. "He was a mess in Carolina, and he hasn't been good since last November. Todd Gurley II is no longer a bell cow, either, and the Panthers pushed the Rams around in the trenches. The challenge is much stronger against the high-flying, revenge-seeking Saints, who have the weapons to exploit a vulnerable run defense. This is a classic toss-up game between two Super Bowl contenders, but Drew Brees looks determined while Goff and Co. look a little lost."
In seven games against opponents that won six or fewer games in 2018, the Rams went 7-0 with an average margin of victory of 19.7 points. But in their other nine games, they were 6-3 with an average margin of victory of only 0.5 points. In other words, they bullied bad teams and played good teams close.
The Saints are undoubtedly a good team. And while they're infamous for starting slow, they appeared to get over that hurdle with a thrilling Monday night victory over the Texans to kick off the season.
Buy that extra half-point if you want to be safe, or just roll the dice with the Saints on the moneyline.
Davenport: New Orleans (+2.5)
Gagnon: New Orleans (+2.5)
Sobleski: New Orleans (+2.5)
Consensus: New Orleans (+2.5)
Score Prediction: Saints 28, Rams 27
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
It's hard to be comfortable betting on the Atlanta Falcons at this point.
The Falcons covered the spread only five times in 2018 and were humiliated by the Vikings in their season opener. So in this case, our analysts are applying KISS logic: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
"The Falcons are a better team than they showed last week in Minnesota, and Philly's secondary was suboptimal against Washington," Davenport said. "But there's no way I'm picking the Falcons against the Eagles after that Twin Cities turd."
As Davenport mentioned, the Falcons fell behind 28-0 in a blowout loss in which they could do nothing to stop a one-dimensional Minnesota offensive attack. We pinned a lot of their problems last year on injuries, but little appears to have changed.
"The Falcons can't get a consistent pass rush," Gagnon added. "They can't defend the run, they can't block for Matt Ryan, they can't get anything going on the ground and they were just physically overmatched against Minnesota. I've lost trust in that entire team, and this is a bad matchup with the tougher and more talented Eagles laying less than a field goal."
Davenport: Philadelphia (-1.5)
Gagnon: Philadelphia (-1.5)
Sobleski: Philadelphia (-1.5)
Consensus: Philadelphia (-1.5)
Score Prediction: Eagles 26, Falcons 21
Cleveland Browns (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)
After entering 2019 with higher expectations than either franchise has had in years, the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets lost in crushing fashion in Week 1.
But there's little doubt that the Browns are far better than the Jets on paper, and the majority of our gang is looking to take advantage of the fact they're laying less than a field goal against an opponent that was also terrible this past Sunday.
"Make no mistake, the Browns were pathetic in Week 1 against the Titans," Davenport said. "Pitiful. Putrid. All of the other bad 'P' words. But many of their problems appear correctable—like, say, not getting the most penalties they've had in a game in more than 65 years. The Jets were plenty terrible while choking away last week's matchup with the Bills, and the Week 2 status of Quinnen Williams and C.J. Mosley is uncertain. I'll lay the points with the team I just flat-out believe to be better."
Despite all of their issues against the Titans, the Browns hung around until they started to force things and the wheels fell off in the fourth quarter. They aren't likely to take nearly as many penalties again this season, let alone one week later. And while the Jets led the Bills in the second half Sunday, their offense could barely move the ball all day. Adam Gase's new offense scored only eight points, and the Browns won't be any less challenging.
Gagnon agrees with Davenport, but we lack unanimity because Sobleski is getting behind the Jets in their home opener. And that's worth considering, because it's tough to read both of these teams right now.
Davenport: Cleveland (-6.5)
Gagnon: Cleveland (-6.5)
Sobleski: Cleveland (-6.5)
Consensus: Cleveland (-6.5)
Score Prediction: Browns 24, Jets 17