Things have started to stabilize a bit now in the NFL as through two games, we’re starting to get a feel for how good, or bad, each team will be this season. Along with that understanding, came a better week for us picks-wise as we went 9-7 against the spread and 11-5 straight up. Not bad right? Well, we’re still striving for better and as we enter Week 3 of the NFL season that’s the hope.
If you’re new to the column, we like to separate our picks into three different tiers. They 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.
Now, we haven’t been great on our locks of the week so far (4-4 overall ATS, but 3-1 last week) so, we’re going to continue to try and improve those just in case you know, you’ve decided to bet a few cookies on these locks of the week.
Off we go! All lines courtesy of CBSSports.com.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers (+2.5), Thursday 8:25 p.m.
ATS & Straight Up: Rams
Confidence Level: Feeling Pretty…..Pretty Good
The Rams have looked…surprisingly competent in their first two games of the season. After a terrible start to last year (particularly on offense) that ended with Jeff Fisher being fired, Sean McVay has come in and made this offense look at least average. That may not seem like a huge compliment but, considering the fact that Jared Goff didn’t look like an NFL QB last year and now he does, it’s quite an improvement. The defense was always going to be nasty and with Wade Phillips at the helm, they’ve been good.
That said, they did get gashed by the Redskins on the ground last week and that’s the one thing the 49ers can actually do on offense. Carlos Hyde is an effective back who can run on even the best defenses (evidenced by last week’s 124 yards against the Seahawks), so he could have a big day. That said, the 49ers offense outside of Hyde has been horrible (no touchdowns this season) and the defense has been just okay. I’ll take the Rams on the road by at least a field goal.
Locks of The Week…No Way We Can Lose
Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets (+6), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Dolphins
There’s a theme starting to emerge with the Jets this season; one that shouldn’t surprise you based on the team’s expectations coming into the year. They’re going to lose a lot of games. So, picking against them straight up will be pretty fruitful. But, against the spread, they are technically 0-1-1 since they pushed in the first game against the Bills by losing by exactly nine points.
That all said, the Jets looked awful last week against a good Oakland team. The Dolphins, on the flip side, looked pretty good against a solid Chargers team. Jay Cutler still concerns me, but at this point, if the line against the Jets is anything less than a touchdown, I’m highly considering it. In this case, give me the Dolphins.
Denver Broncos @ Buffalo Bills (+3), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Broncos
I’ve seen nothing to suggest that Denver’s defense will have any trouble stopping the Bills, particularly considering what they did to a usually dominant Cowboys offense last week. Trevor Siemian isn’t going to throw for four touchdowns, but the Bills scored three points last week against the Panthers. Yeah, I’ll take Denver.
Oakland Raiders @ Washington Redskins (+3), Sunday 8:30 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Raiders
The Raiders have looked every bit the AFC contender that people were expecting them to be coming into the season. Even the defense has looked solid, though they did give up 20 points to the lowly Jets last week. The Redskins, meanwhile, are still searching for their rhythm in the passing game, but they did manage a highly efficient running game last week against the Rams.
This seems dangerous to continue picking favorites. If this game was earlier in the day, with the Raiders flying cross-country, I might expect a little sluggishness. But, on prime-time, with a chance to really plant their flag as contenders after a 3-0 start, I think the Raiders will show out, taking this one by a touchdown, maybe more.
Seattle Seahawks @ Tennessee Titans (-2.5), Sunday 4:05 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Titans
I picked against the Seahawks against the spread last week because of their offensive line. I’m going to continue doing that here. Last week, they were at home, facing the lowly 49ers, and it still took them until the fourth quarter to score their first touchdown of the season. They escaped with a 13-9 victory.
Now, they fly into a couple time zones over to face a Titans team that found its stride in the second half against the Jaguars last week. The Seahawks gave up 124 yards rushing to Carlos Hyde and San Francisco last week, which likely has DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry licking their chops this week. Additionally, Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are probably pretty excited at facing the offensive line that has done things like this in the first two weeks.
Feeling Pretty….Pretty Good
Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5), Sunday 9:30 a.m.
ATS & Straight up: Ravens
Our first London game of the year! Get excited!
Okay, okay, you’re right, the London games are usually terrible and this one’s not even on regular TV. It’s streaming for free on Yahoo. Ignoring the early 9:30 a.m. start time and just looking at the two teams, the Ravens defense has looked dominant in the first two weeks while the Jaguars looked much improved in Week 1 before coming back down to Earth in Week 2.
The biggest problem for the Jags will continue to be Blake Bortles, especially against a Ravens defense that has already racked up eight turnovers this year. It will likely be your typical sloppy football game, but I still expect the Ravens to cover.
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles (-6), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Eagles
The Giants offensive line seems to be in a race with the Seahawks for which group can get their quarterback hurt first. Ereck Flowers alone gave up three sacks on Monday night against what is not exactly a ferocious pass rush in the Detroit Lions. This Eagles front has proved to be one of the league’s best through the first two weeks, tied for 4th in the league with eight sacks.
But, while the Eagles defense may be able to get to Eli Manning, the recent history between these two games suggests a close game. Each of the last three meetings have been decided by five points. That, combined with a Giants defense that should give the Eagles offense some problems, is why I’m taking the Giants, despite their issues, against the spread, with the Eagles winning.
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers (-5.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Panthers
The Panthers defense has looked like the real deal in the first two weeks allowing just three points in each of their games. But, it’s worth noting that those two games have come against two of the league’s worst scoring offenses in the Bills (25th) and the 49ers (31st).
The Saints aren’t either of those offenses and should be able to score some points in this one. The question is whether their defense will be able to stop the Panthers. The good news for me in picking the Saints ATS is that the Panthers lost a major offensive weapon when Greg Olsen broke his foot last week. The reliable tight end has been Cam Newton’s safety blanket over the years and now Newton, who hasn’t looked full strength yet, will have to go it without him. Both teams score in the 20’s, the Panthers come out on top, but the Saints are within a touchdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Chicago Bears (+7), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Steelers
I’m hesitant about this pick. The Steelers offense still hasn’t looked right, even in putting up 26 points against the Vikings last week. They did get a big day out of Martavis Bryant, which was nice to see, but Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t exploded the way we’re used to. Missing all of preseason seems to be hurting him at the moment. The other problem I have here is Ben Roethlisberger. His home/road splits over the past couple years have been dramatically different. His QB rating drops about 15-20 points on the road versus home.
Now, the reason I’m sticking with Pittsburgh is because the Bears looked just awful last week against Tampa Bay. Mike Glennon’s final numbers didn’t come out looking awful (31/45 301 1 TD 2 INT), but the touchdown came in garbage time and one of the interceptions was a pick six. With Jordan Howard still struggling with a shoulder injury, the Bears offense largely falls on Glennon and well, we saw how that worked out last week.
Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals (+3), Monday 8:30 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Cowboys
The Cowboys got blown out last week in Denver and there’s been plenty of discussion this week about how good they actually are and whether or not they’ve taken a step back this year. Let’s not overreact. We’ve seen many a team get dominated by that Broncos defense over the years. Sure, the Broncos found the “blueprint” for beating the Cowboys, which is, stopping the running game while also having corners physical enough to disrupt Dallas’ receivers.
You know how many teams are capable of doing that? Not many. The Cardinals defense, in theory, should be able to, but they gave up 35 points to a Lions offense that can’t run the ball at all and 13 points to the Colts and Jacoby Brissett last week. This isn’t the same dominant unit we’ve seen in previous years and, the offense is a mess. Cowboys on the road by a touchdown.
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots (-13.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Patriots
I always get worried when lines are set at two touchdowns or more. Rarely are teams in the NFL that bad that they’re not able to keep the score within two touchdowns. For example, last week we had a pair of 13.5+ point lines and only one of the favorites covered.
This week, the Patriots are coming off a beatdown of the Saints and playing a rookie QB at home. So, I get why the line is so high. But, the Patriots injuries have continued to pile up, last week Gronk injured his groin on top of the injuries already incurred by Danny Amendola and Dont’a Hightower. Plus, the Texans defense is much, much better than the Saints D. Brady and Belichick have had plenty of success against Bill O’Brien teams, but that was with Julian Edelman and Amendola in the fold. Yes, I think Watson will struggle because Belichick eats rookie QBs for breakfast, but I just don’t think the Pats offense is going to go crazy like it did last week.
Heads or Tails….Toss Up
Atlanta Falcons @ Detroit Lions (+3), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Falcons
This is one of the more fun match-ups of the week. Two high-flying offenses (both Top 10 in PPG) against two relatively unproven defenses. Atlanta’s defense looked good last week against the Packers, but Green Bay was missing its starting tackles. The Lions looked good against the Giants, but well, we already covered how bad the Giants offense has been.
It really comes down to which offense you think will be more effective and less turnover-prone in this game. Historically, Matt Ryan has been slightly less likely than Stafford to thrown interceptions (2.2% INT rate vs. 2.5%). I also trust DeVonta Freeman and the Falcons running game more than Ameer Abdullah (history of fumbles) and the Lions rushing attack. I’ll take the Falcons on the road.
Cleveland Browns @ Indianapolis Colts (+1.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Browns
The Browns struggled last week against a good Ravens defense. Deshone Kizer looked like a rookie QB in that one, turning the ball over five times. You’re going to have ups and downs with rookies. That said, Kizer gets a much easier task this week against a Colts defense that is pretty porous, allowing 381 yards per game. The Colts offense looked more competent under Jacoby Brissett last week, but still, I’ll take the Browns to get their first win.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Green Bay Packers (-8.5), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Straight up: Packers
I know, I know. The Bengals haven’t scored a touchdown yet! How could you pick them to cover the spread? A couple reasons. One, the Packers injury questions. Seriously, look at their injury report.
Secondly, after A.J. Green’s comments following last Thursday’s game against the Texans, I think there’s going to be a steady diet of throws sent his way this week and I’m not sure there’s a guy on the Packers who can cover him.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think the Packers win by a touchdown, but picking them to win by two possessions is a little much with their two tackles, Randall Cobb, Mike Daniels and Jordy Nelson nagged by injuries.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers (+3), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Straight up: Chiefs
Poor Phillip Rivers. To steal a line from Dan Le Batard, Rivers perpetually finds himself in a situation where he’s down four with the ball late in the game, and the Chargers never find a way to win. Each of the first two weeks, they’ve had a shot at a field goal to tie of win the game and both have been missed.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, came back down to Earth a little bit last week after their explosion in Week 1 against the Patriots. Their defense hasn’t been as crisp as in year’s past as they’ve given up 27 and 20 points respectively in each of the first two weeks. I expect the Chiefs to pull it out, but it’ll be a close one once more.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Buccaneers
There’s no line on this game at the moment on CBS Sports or Sportsline, so we can’t pick ATS. But, with the QB uncertainty in Minnesota, I’ll take the Buccaneers.
Straight up: 11-5
Straight up: 20-11