Well, that was a fun opening week. As always, the unexpected happened. For instance, the Rams racking up 46 points and outscoring the Colts offense with their defense. Or, the Chiefs spanking the Patriots at Gillette with Alex Smith having two touchdowns of 75+ yards in which the ball traveled more than five yards in the air.
The opening week is when many of our preconceived notions about the season come crashing down around us and we re-evaluate (often overreacting) to where things stand.
A bit of advice. Just because the Patriots burned you in Week 1, doesn’t mean the same will happen throughout the rest of the season. On a similar line of thinking, just because the Jaguars put up 10 sacks, it doesn’t mean they’re the second coming of the 1985 Bears defense. So, we keep that in mind heading into this week’s picks.
It was an okay start to the year, going just under .500 ATS, we’ll try and do better this week. As always, the confidence levels are as follows.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
Off we go! All lines courtesy of CBSSports.com.
Houston Texans @ Cincinnati Bengals (-6) Thursday 8:25 p.m.EST
Straight up: Bengals
Level of confidence: Heads or Tails…Toss Up
Both of these teams were awful in Week 1. The offenses combined to score seven points. Both offensive lines seemed to be doing their best matador impressions in Week 1 “ole-ing” opposing pass rushers into the backfield. That’s what makes this game so hard to read.
Sure, the Texans are starting a rookie QB on the road, behind a bad line. But, the Bengals are starting Andy Dalton, he of the five turnovers (four picks, one fumble) in Week 1, against a defense that features J.J. Watt, Jadaveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus. Despite the 29-7 score in Week 1, much of that was not the defense’s fault. They gave up just two offensive touchdowns and 280 yards.
I don’t think the Texans will pull this one out (again, the aforementioned rookie getting his first start), but I do think it’s closer than a touchdown.
Locks of the Week- No Way We Can Lose
New England Patriots @ New Orleans Saints (+6.5) Sunday 1 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight Up: Patriots
I have bad news for those of you hoping that the Patriots have finally fallen off. It’s twofold. The first part is that the Patriots haven’t started 0-2 since 2001, Belichick’s second year. Secondly, the Pats have won the Super Bowl each of the last three times that they’ve started 0-1.
Granted, the defense is a big problem. It seems that the stars traded away over the past several seasons has left the unit a little slower with less depth which showed in the opener. Drew Brees and the Saints offense can certainly exploit that, but the Saints have nowhere near the defense the Chiefs do. They allowed Sam Bradford to look like, well, Tom Brady. Now they face actual Tom Brady, plus their old teammate Brandin Cooks.
Buffalo Bills @ Carolina Panthers (-7) Sunday 1 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Panthers
The Bills, despite their win in Week 1, looked pretty bad. Outside of LeSean McCoy (22 carries 110 yards, 5 catches 49 yards), the offense looked average at best. On defense, they allowed the Jets to be within two points (14-12) late in the third quarter. If you think that’s because the Jets are better than expected, I’d suggest you watch the Jets play the Raiders this weekend and get back to me.
On the flip side, the Panthers defense looked dominant (as it should) against a bad 49ers offense, racking up four sacks and two turnovers. While Cam Newton looked rusty in coming back from shoulder surgery, he took fewer hits, which is good news in terms of his rehab and for the long-term. I see this as a ten point win for Carolina, especially going against their former coordinator.
New York Jets @ Oakland Raiders (-13.5) Sunday 4:05 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Raiders
The Jets looked exactly how we expected them to in Week 1; like the worst team in the NFL. They mustered just 214 yards of total offense, Josh McCown threw two interceptions and they nearly had two more turnovers fumbling twice.
Meanwhile, the Raiders defense looked like a much improved unit against a solid Titans offense. The defense is really the question mark with this Oakland team and if they have that side of the ball figured out, combined with the high-powered offense, this could get out of hand quickly.
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks (-14) Sunday 4:25 p.m. EST
Straight Up: Seahawks
Okay, okay. This seems nuts. The 49ers scored just three points in Week 1 against a Panthers defense that is nowhere close to the unit that Seattle brings this weekend. Fair.
But, Seattle scored just nine points on a Packers defense that also isn’t exactly expected to be one of the top units in the league. The problem, once again, was the offensive line. Mike Daniels basically had a penthouse in the Seahawks backfield. The Niners defense may not be intimidating, but they’ve got three first round picks along the defensive line and Gus Bradley as their new defensive coordinator. That, combined with the offensive line, could have Russell Wilson running for his life once more again on Sunday.
Feeling Pretty…..Pretty Good
Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) Sunday 1 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Chiefs
Big Red welcomes his former team to K-C following an opening week upset victory over the Patriots. It’s been five years since Andy was the head coach in Philly, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to crush his former team. The Chiefs offense looked like a completely different animal last week with the explosive Tyreek Hill and rookie RB Kareem Hunt playing featured roles. They’ll face an Eagles defense without its top corner, but a much better front seven than the one New England showed last week.
Carson Wentz had some good and some bad moments in Week 1 and his becoming more consistent will be the key to Philly’s season. The Chiefs won’t have Eric Berry (torn Achilles), but they do still have shutdown corner Marcus Peters who is a ballhawk. In the end, I think the Chiefs win by a touchdown.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens (-8) Sunday 1 p.m. EST
Straight Up: Ravens
The Ravens defense looked really good against the Bengals in Week 1, terrorizing Andy Dalton and forcing him into five turnovers. But, the offense was a mixed bag. QB Joe Flacco is still clearly recovering from the back injury he sustained in preseason and, the gameplan was adjusted accordingly with 42 run plays against just 17 pass attempts.
The Browns looked much improved against the Steelers in Week 1 and I think this line is still undervaluing that improvement. After falling to the Steelers more explosive offense by just three, I think the Browns keep it close here too.
Arizona Cardinals @ Indianapolis Colts (+7) Sunday 1 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Cardinals
The Cardinals flat out embarrassed me last weekend. Things looked promising after they picked off Matt Stafford and took it to the house in the first quarter, but everything went downhill from there. Carson Palmer looked awful, while the Cards also lost star running back David Johnson for 2-3 months due to a dislocated wrist. That’s a bad omen for the Cards season considering he was a HUGE part of the gameplan.
However, the Colts will be without Andrew Luck and we saw what Scott Tolzien can (or more accurately, can’t do) last weekend. Jacoby Brissett (with a grand total of six practices) could be the starter Sunday, but either way, the Colts without Luck, are a bad team. The defense allowed 300 yards passing to Jared Goff last week.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+2) Sunday 1 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Titans
Okay, the Jaguars defense looked unbeatable last week. They’ve invested a lot on that side of the ball and it paid off in Week 1. But, that was against a Texans team with a below average line, uncertain QB play and with Blake Bortles not having to do anything. You’ll forgive me if I don’t expect the same against a Titans team that was one of the better offenses in the league last year.
Minnesota Vikings @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5) Sunday 1 p.m EST
ATS & Straight up: Vikings
Am I missing something? This line feels pretty high for a Vikings team that shined on Monday Night football, particularly on defense, allowing just 19 points (seven in garbage time) to the Saints. Yes, the Steelers have Antonio Brown who will get his and Roethlisberger generally plays better at home but, this still seems high.
I like the Vikings defense a lot, and I like rookie back Dalvin Cook a bunch. I’ll take the upset here.
Heads or Tails…Toss Up
Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7) Sunday 1 p.m. EST
Straight up: Bucs
The Bears had a chance to win the game against the defending NFC Champion Falcons this past weekend in Soldier Field. Were it not for a drop by Jordan Howard on the goal line on the final drive, the Bears may have won.
For the Bucs, their opening game was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Now, they’ll play 16 straight. While the Bucs are a potential playoff team, we saw how shaky teams looked last week in their first game of the year and, that could be the case for Tampa going up against the Bears. I think the Bucs will win, just might be closer than a TD.
Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers (-4) Sunday 1 p.m. EST
Straight up: Chargers
The other team in that postponed game for the Bucs, the Dolphins now start the year on the road in Los Angeles against the Chargers. The Chargers defense stuffed the Broncos in the fourth quarter of their Monday night game, and only a blocked field goal kept them from sending the game to OT.
The Dolphins defense is far less terrifying than Denver’s and I’m still not sold on Jay Cutler on offense. But, the Chargers have a tendency to play close games, with nine of their 16 games last season being decided by a touchdown or less. I think the Chargers win, but by a field goal at home.
Dallas Cowboys @ Denver Broncos Sunday (+2.5) 4:25 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Broncos
The Cowboys offense picked up right where it left off last year, with Ezekiel Elliot running for over 100 yards and Dak Prescott taking care of the football en route to their 19-3 Week 1 win. The defense was surprising as it completely shut down the Giants offense, though that may be more of an indictment of the Giants than anything. Somewhere Odell Beckham’s agent was smiling watching that game.
For the Broncos, we know they’re built upon a suffocating defense and an offense that can do just enough to win games. The question is whether or not they can stop the Cowboys rushing attack as that was the defense’s lone weakness last year, though they looked solid against Melvin Gordon last week. I’ll take the Broncos at home.
Washington Redskins @ Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) Sunday 4:25 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Rams
The Redskins offense looked out of sync last week against Philadelphia’s front seven that harassed Kirk Cousins all day long. That prompted Cousins to call out his offensive line this week. Not the best way to start the year.
Meanwhile, the Rams are feeling great following their 46-9 shellacking of the Colts thanks to the defense and a suddenly competent looking Jared Goff. Maybe I’m reading more into Washington’s struggles that I should be, but I think the Rams can pull this one out by a field goal.
Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons (-3)- Sunday 8:30 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Packers
A rematch of the NFC Championship game featuring two teams that well, didn’t look great on offense in Week 1. Granted, the Packers have an excuse as they faced a Seattle defense that looked just a ferocious as the groups that helped them make back-to-back Super Bowls a few years ago. Aaron Rodgers and company should be fine.
The Falcons on the other hand, didn’t have the same rhythm that they did last year, and it seemed like they were still adjusting to new play caller Steve Sarkisian. Interesting tidbit on this game though. Rodgers is 0-4 against Dan Quinn coached defenses in his career. This isn’t the same Packers defense that got throttled by the Falcons last January (mostly because they actually have NFL defensive backs who aren’t hurt this time) and this might be the time Rodgers finally gets that first win.
Detroit Lions @ New York Giants (-3)- Monday 8:30 p.m. EST
ATS & Straight up: Lions
The Lions offense continued its high-flying ways under newly paid QB Matt Stafford last week. They seem to have found a new weapon too in rookie receiver Kenny Golladay, who had two touchdowns including this ridiculous grab in the end zone.
If Golladay continues making catches like that, this Lions receiving corps is scary with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Golladay. The Giants defense was good last week in spite of the loss, they just got worn out from facing so many plays because the offense couldn’t do a thing.
If Beckham misses this game, I’d expect the Giants to struggle again. Either way, I still like Detroit enough to take them on the road at MetLife.
Straight up: 9-6