NFL Pick’Em Picks For Week 2: Steelers, Vikings, More Favorites & Underdogs
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Vikings’ Adam Thielen.
I’ll be picking five NFL sides each week of the season for DraftKings‘ Pro Football Millionaire Pick’Em contest. Note that the spreads for this contest lock on Wednesdays, so some will be stale by the time you read this and thus not readily available outside of the contest. But you can check real-time NFL odds here.
Here were the five sides for Week 2:
- Pittsburgh Steelers -5.5: 1:00 p.m. ET (Sunday)
- Minnesota Vikings +4.5: 1:00 p.m. ET (Sunday)
- Los Angeles Rams -3.5: 1:00 p.m. ET (Sunday)
- Los Angeles Chargers -2.5: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
- Green Bay Packers -11.5: 8:15 p.m. ET (Monday)
Week 2 NFL Pick’Em Picks
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5)
The Las Vegas Raiders are coming off a primetime overtime victory against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night and are now faced with the task of flying east to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 1 p.m. EST start. While home-field advantage is decreasing year-over-year and it appears the rest of the league has caught up with this situational spot, this scenario hasn’t played out well for the Raiders historically during the Jon Gruden era. During the last three seasons, the Raiders are 3-8 ATS flying from east to west for a 1 p.m. ET start time while the rest of the league is 23-5 ATS.
Nonetheless, the short week has the Raiders in an awful spot given their lengthy injury report. The absence of Richie Incognito and the loss of right guard Denzelle Good with a torn ACL are particularly troubling against a Steelers defense led by T.J. Watt that had a 32.7% pressure rate and three sacks in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. With Derek Carr having a 31.8% passer rating under pressure, the Steelers defense should cause problems for Las Vegas.
Unlike the Ravens who were missing Jimmy Smith, the Steelers actually have an answer for tight end Darren Waller, who caught 10 of 19 targets for 105 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Minkah Fitzpatrick has played snaps in the slot and could do so this weekend — it’s likely we see them double cover Waller. Nevertheless, I’m not expecting the same numbers from Waller we saw last week.
While the Steelers only had 252 total yards and 4.6 yards per play in last week’s matchup, this offense should play a lot better against a Raiders team that gave up 406 yards to the Ravens and benefited from two Lamar Jackson fumbles. We should expect a bounce-back game from Ben Roethlisberger. When you consider that Carr is 3-6 ATS as a road underdog of six or more points since the start of the 2018 season, the 5.5 points feels cheap here. My model makes this game Steelers -6.5 so this will be one of my picks in the contest.
2. Minnesota Vikings (+4.5)
This spread is simply an over adjustment and overreaction to what we saw in Week 1. The lookahead line on this game was Arizona Cardinals -1.5 and the market has made a three-point adjustment based on the Cardinals’ dominant 38-13 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 1.
I believe that win said a lot more about the Titans than the Cardinals as Tennessee was 29th in Defensive Efficiency last year and struggled with a preseason COVID-19 breakout in addition to the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. The Titans made their living in play action last season and called it just five times on Sunday, so the problems in Tennessee can’t be understated.
Nevertheless, I believe this is a good spot for the Vikings to bounce back as Mike Zimmer is 17-10 ATS coming off a loss. In addition, teams that lost as road favorites in Week 1 have a record of 14-8 SU and 16-6 ATS (72.7%) in Week 2 since 2011. While the Cardinals are worthy of being the favorite in this spot, I believe this is too many points in a game that will likely be decided by a field goal.
3. Los Angeles Rams (-3.5)
I’m going to continue to fade the Indianapolis Colts while Carson Wentz — who is just 14-26 ATS in the past four seasons — is under center. His 2017 campaign in which he led the Eagles to an 11-2 record looks like a clear outlier in his career.
While it appears the Rams defense has taken a step back from what we saw last season, once again the Colts could come into this game with issues on the offensive line. They could potentially enter Week 2 without starting tackles Eric Fisher and Braden Smith, which certainly doesn’t bode well for the turnover-prone Wentz who leads the league in fumbles with 58 since joining the NFL in 2016. (Not to mention he’s coming off a season in which he threw 15 interceptions to just 16 touchdowns). It’s also troubling that left guard Quenton Nelson missed practice with a back injury this week, so that’s something to monitor as well.
Even more troubling for the Colts is the absence of corner back Xavier Rhodes and potential absence of linebacker Darius Leonard. They’ll be facing a Rams offense led by Matthew Stafford that comes off game in which they scored 34 points and had an explosive pass play rate of 11%.
I try not to overreact to a small sample size but based on what we saw from Russell Wilson against this Colts defense last week, I like the Rams offense to score early and often on their way to covering this number. With the Colts having a 0-4 ATS record as a home underdog under Frank Reich, it’s clear that this isn’t a team that over performs the market when facing superior teams. The Colts are floundering against the cream of the crop in the NFC and I’m not expecting that to change here.
4. Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5)
We’ve seen some movement on this line with sharp money pushing this spread up to 3.5 while it sits at 2.5 in the DraftKings contest. The stale line on the contest gives us a small edge without even handicapping the game. That said, it’s also important to dig into the football reasons for placing a wager.
Many people were impressed by the Dallas Cowboys‘ 31-29 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on opening night. Personally, I wasn’t. The Cowboys were out-gained in yards per play, yards per pass and yards per rush and were fortunate to have a chance to win the game as they had +3 turnover differential with the final turnover coming on a Chris Godwin fumble on a scoring drive, which would have all but iced the game.
Nonetheless, things don’t get any easier for the Cowboys as they fly to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers. They’ll have to deal with Justin Hebert, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams with the absence of their best pass rusher in Demarcus Lawrence. In a game that’s likely to be a shootout, the Cowboys have no hopes of stopping this Chargers team that had a 63% pass/run frequency in their Week 1 matchup against the Washington Football Team. Led by Chase Young and Montez Sweat, Washington has arguably the best pass rush in the league and still had a pressure rate of just 10.2% as Herbert got the ball out quickly. This Chargers offense converted 14-of-19 third downs and is facing a Cowboys defense that is a step down in competition from what they saw last week
The Cowboys are also dealing with the loss of right tackle La’el Collins and wide receiver Michael Gallup, which also hurts their offense ceiling. With an improved Chargers defense behind head coach Brandon Staley, I like this spot for the Chargers. The Cowboys are tied for the worst cover percentage in the NFL, going 6-11 ATS since the start of last season. I’m not expecting that to change here.
5. Green Bay Packers (-11.5)
Aaron Rodgers is coming off one of the worst performances of his career, completing just 30% of his passes for 133 yards with two interceptions. Although many people will overreact to that loss and the turmoil this Packers organization faced this offseason with Rodgers wanting to leave, I see it as an outlier.
The Packers offense — that ranked 31st in Expected Points Added in Week 1 — should easily bounce this week against a Detroit Lions defense that gave up 41 points and 442 yards, 8 yards per play and a whopping 11.5 yards per pass against the 49ers.
If they didn’t struggle enough in Week 1, things got worse for the Lions this week as they lost second-year cornerback Jeff Okudah for the season with an Achilles injury. This unit doesn’t have a ton of depth at corner and will be relying on rookies and replacement-level players to deal with an offense featuring Devante Adams. Overall, the Packers are in a prime bounce-back spot and, based on their history, they should be fine as they’re 26-13-1 (66.7%) ATS following a loss with Rodgers at QB.