NFL Week 2 Picks, Predictions: Bets for Buccaneers vs Saints, Bengals vs Cowboys, More
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: Demario Davis (left), Tom Brady (right).
Week 2 is “Overreaction Week” in the NFL, and it’s time to make some final picks for the week before we react all over again to Sunday’s slate.
We’ve already covered most of the games in detail below (click here to jump to that analysis), but we left three final decisions for Saturday. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check back in on the rest of our positions now that the lines have moved.
Remember, you don’t have to bet every game or go hard every week. I’m wading in cautiously with some tricky inflated lines.
Let’s start out by recapping our picks that remain unchanged from earlier in the week, sorted by confidence strength.
- Colts -3 at Jaguars
- Ravens -3.5 vs Dolphins
- Jets +7 at Browns
- Commanders +2 at Lions
- Seahawks +9.5 at 49ers
- Titans +10 at Bills
- Vikings +2.5 at Eagles
- Chiefs -4 vs Chargers
- Panthers +2 at Giants
- Cardinals +5.5 at Raiders
- Texans +10 at Broncos
- Steelers at Browns under 40.5
- Bengals -6 at Jets
Alright, that leaves three Week 2 games. Let’s get right to it and add one more bet to the ranks.
So what’s the right amount of reacting to the abysmal Rams performance from the NFL’s Opening Night? That offensive line looked like a disaster, and the defense didn’t stand a chance against Josh Allen. Were the Bills just that good or are the Rams that bad? It’s hard to say — and the public can’t seem to make up its mind either. This line has been bouncing around all week.
Sean McVay is 11-7 ATS in September and 15-8-1 ATS after a loss, but he’s also 1-4 ATS the last two years as more than a 10-point favorite. The Rams had extra rest after the early loss, though that shoddy line will be short one or two starters. The Falcons looked more bad than awful, and Arthur Smith’s offense moved the ball with surprising ease against a terrific Saints defense — Atlanta should really be 1-0. The Falcons feel like they could be a backdoor cover team, and even as this line continues to drop, it still feels a bit high.
The Pick: Falcons +10.5 (Pass) | Previously: Wait for the line to settle
We got the injury report we were waiting on, and it’s a mess. Somehow, old-man Tom Brady is pretty much the only healthy starter for the Bucs offense.
LT Donovan Smith (elbow; doubtful) and RT Tristan Wirfs (abdomen; questionable) may not play; Tampa’s already missing two interior starters so that’s four of five linemen. The weapons aren’t faring much better. Chris Godwin (hamstring) is out while Mike Evans (calf), Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and Russell Gage (hamstring) are all questionable. The Saints are far healthier — hard not to be — but are missing their left tackle and have a questionable Alvin Kamara (ribs), usually a lethal weapon against Tampa.
The Saints were expected to be an elite defense, but it was Tampa’s D that looked the part in Week 1. New Orleans was not impressive against Atlanta, but the Saints have been Brady’s kryptonite. He’s 0-4 against New Orleans in the regular season with a measly 13.3 PPG, and he’s always struggled against the sort of interior pressure the Saints bring.
Is that Saints’ D still in there? How will Jameis Winston do against his old team? And who in the world will Brady be playing with on offense?
I’ll pass on taking a side and ride with under 44 instead. Tampa’s defense looks great, the Saints are still loaded and neither team’s offensive line looks up to the task. Could be a weird one.
The Pick: Bucs -2 (Pass and play the under 44 instead) | Previously: Wait
This should have been Sunday’s big shootout, but Dak Prescott’s injury changed that in a hurry.
Dallas was a 2.5-point favorite Sunday morning before laying a complete egg in their opener. With Prescott out, along with the left side of the line, the Cowboys’ offense has been crippled. I wrote about how to fade Dallas in this week’s Friday Futures — I rated a healthy Cowboys offense sixth in the league, but the injuries leave them 26th.
Our Sean Koerner has the drop from Prescott to Cooper Rush worth 5.5 points, and Cincinnati reached as high as 8.5-point favorites. That’s an 11-point swing — double the presumed value — and makes it seem like we should play the number and bet on Dallas.
I’m going the other way.
That Dallas -2.5 line was badly mispriced, and the new Bengals line has come back down. Cincinnati moved the ball with ease and would’ve housed Pittsburgh if not for five turnovers. I would’ve made the Bengals one- or two-point favorites in Dallas before the Prescott injury, so Bengals -7 seems like a perfectly reasonable adjustment.
The Cowboys played the third most man-to-man coverage in the league last season. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase hunt man coverage. Dallas led the league in DVOA against short passes but ranked 22nd against deep passes. If Burrow gets Cincinnati rolling, the Cowboys will have no way to catch up or stay in this. Dallas’s only path to victory is something like Trevon Diggs jumping a route for a pick-six. I’m willing to bet against that.
Bengals luck into Cooper Rush & Joe Flacco the next 2 weeks. In fact, look at the next 9 QBs on their schedule:
Rush, Flacco, Tua, Lamar, Jameis, Mariota, Brissett, Baker, Trubisky
Burrow is a MASSIVE advantage. Cincinnati is +325 to win the division at BetMGM. Buy low spot?
— Brandon Anderson (@wheatonbrando) September 17, 2022
Cincinnati gave a win away in Week 1, but luck is turning in the Bengals’ favor. They get Rush this week, Joe Flacco next week and a wildly easy slate of quarterbacks the next nine games. This could be a great spot to buy low on Cincinnati futures. The Bengals are +325 to win the division. This is a gift and a chance to hang a big number and get that first win.
The Pick: Bet Bengals -7 | Previously: Wait for the line to come back down
Editor’s Note: The content below was published on Wednesday. Check out the information above to see how — and why — Brandon ‘s picks have changed since then.
Welcome to Week 2, a.k.a. Overreaction Week.
All summer long, we waited for football, poring over the stats, ranking players and position groups, haggling in fantasy auctions and debating with friends. Football’s offseason can feel interminable — we go seven full months without any new meaningful data, eight or nine for some of these teams.
Suddenly, Week 1 brings a fresh batch of numbers and our brains go haywire.
For teams and players we liked, confirmation bias can reign supreme. For reads that didn’t go our way, we tend to overreact in an attempt to right the ship. Lines are soft in Week 1 because it’s all guesswork, and that often means huge swings and over-corrections in Week 2.
We had nine one-score games on Opening Weekend. Seven games were decided by a field goal or less, six came down to the final 30 seconds and we even had three one-point showdowns and a tie. It was the closest, most thrilling Week 1 in recent memory.
So naturally, we open Week 2 with nine teams favored by six or more points.
How do we not overreact to what we saw in Week 1 while also not under-reacting at the same time? We did learn a lot on Opening Weekend. The question is just how much it should impact our reads in Week 2.
Normally, we’ll dive into DVOA, EPA and all the fancy advanced metrics. But Week 2 is too soon for those numbers to have much use, so it’s still all about preseason reads. That means you may still want to refer back to my offense, defense, quarterback, coaching and offensive line rankings for context.
Here’s one last reminder on where I placed each team in the NFL hierarchy heading into the new season:
- The 8 Worst Teams
- The 8 Teams Taking a Step Backward
- The 8 Sleepers Trending Up
- The 8 Super Bowl Contenders
As always, I’ll make a pick for every game, but bettors don’t actually have to play every game. This week we’re sorting the picks below by confidence level: Bet, Lean, Pass, or Wait.
A “Bet” implies a full unit play, perhaps multiple units if confidence is high or playing an underdog moneyline like our Steelers upset special last week. A “Lean” is more like a half-unit play. “Pass” means we’re not playing a side at all at this number, though there may be another angle. And for the games marked “Wait,” we’ll return Saturday to make a final decision.
Let’s react to what we learned in Week 1 and make some winning picks.
This line is teetering right at the key number, and a half point either way could be a significant swing. Tampa Bay’s offensive line was problematic as expected in Week 1, and then LT Donovan Smith got hurt. The Saints pass rush has been Tom Brady’s kryptonite in Tampa, so we’ll watch that O-line injury report and see which direction this line moves.
THE PICK: Wait for the injury report and a move off the key number
The injury report is already out on the Cowboys, and it’s bad news. Dak Prescott is out for the foreseeable future, and this line has skyrocketed from Cowboys -2.5 on Sunday morning to more than 10 points in Cincinnati’s favor, and climbing. We’ll wait to see where the line settles.
THE PICK: Wait for the line to settle after the Prescott news
This is another line that’s been bouncing up and down all week as folks can’t seem to make up their mind on the Rams. The Rams were -13 heading into Sunday, -12 that night when I recommended playing Atlanta on The Action Network Podcast, and now -10. Let’s see where we land before making a call.
THE PICK: Wait for the line to settle
Oh baby, we got ourselves a good one on Amazon Prime. Pat Mahomes looked like his MVP self in Week 1, and Justin Herbert wasn’t bad himself. This division rivalry has been straight fire in recent years, and the winner Thursday gets a leg up in the brutal AFC West and probably becomes the early MVP favorite.
The Chiefs offense looked just fine without Tyreek Hill, racking up 44 points and an absurd 9.2 yards per pass, but the Chargers overhauled their defense and are built to take away the deep ball and stop the pass under Brandon Staley. Could LA’s defense be the difference? Or will Kansas City’s new WR weapons open up more of the field with LA taking away the deep ball?
The Chargers look like they’ll be without two really important players, CB J.C. Jackson and WR Keenan Allen. I liked Chiefs -2.5 in our lookahead last week, but now the line has moved to reflect the injury report and killed the value.
This is a super fun game and everyone expects fireworks, but the best play might be on the under. The books have priced this total at 54.5, and that’s a huge number, especially on a short week. When the total is over 51, Thursday unders are 17-8-1 against the spread (ATS) all-time (68%). When that total is over 54 like this one, the under is undefeated at 7-0, covering by 13.8 points per game. It’s no fun betting against scoring and it’ll probably be a sweat. The two games last year sat at 45 and 48 points with 140 seconds left in each, then added 23 more points combined in those final couple minutes.
Still, the under is the right play with a line this high. If you do want to play a side, the Chargers +184 moneyline (implied 35%) is pretty tasty. And if you can wait and play live, you might just want to grab an underdog ML either way in a game that should be back and forth with plenty of scoring.
Let’s hope this one lives up to the billing.
THE PICK: Chiefs -4 (Pass, and play the under instead)
It’s hard to get a read on either of these teams yet, but have the Giants really done anything to earn our respect as nearly a field goal favorite? New York was getting shut out at the half and needed a late two-point conversion and a missed field goal to steal a game that probably told us more about Tennessee than it did the Giants.
This feels like a coin flip and was priced accordingly entering Sunday, so the post-Giants-win line movement is giving us a couple free points. I can’t be bothered to invest in either of these teams, though I may have to play Carolina if we hit the key number.
THE PICK: Panthers +2.5 (Pass)
Here’s our other lookahead pick, and holy smokes did we get value. I liked Raiders -2.5 before the weekend, and we’re already getting more than a field goal of value in a line that’s rising rapidly.
But is this an overreaction to one Cardinals loss to a great Chiefs offense? The Raiders weren’t particularly impressive in their loss, and this could shape up as a shootout with two good passing attacks and not much defense. I like the Raiders better, but this number has gotten far too inflated and a number of trends caution bettors against big favorites like the Raiders who might be living off reputation, especially against a team who’s rep went the other way.
THE PICK: Cardinals +6 (Pass)
That Broncos team on Monday night sure didn’t look like it deserves to be a double-digit favorite against any opponent right now. Denver moved the ball well enough and should’ve won the game if not for horrendous execution in the red zone and down the stretch, but the Broncos were hardly impressive.
Russell Wilson didn’t look comfortable in the pocket or getting the plays in on time from his new coach, and both of these teams played slowly. Houston’s entire m.o. is slowing things down, not giving up the big play and forcing teams to grind it out and execute. I’d rather play the under, and it’s tough to cover 10 points in a game that goes under.
THE PICK: Texans +10 (Pass)
We hit big fading the Colts in Week 1. Frank Reich is now 0-5 in Colts openers without ever covering, and Matt Ryan falls to 5-10 ATS in Week 1, failing to cover seven straight and without a win his last four times as the favorite. Ugly.
But it’s time to go the other way. Those trends take an abrupt about-face in Week 2. Reich is a perfect 4-0 ATS in Week 2 after getting that opener out of the way, and Ryan is an impressive 11-3 ATS, the most profitable quarterback in our BetLabs system. The Colts have covered only one of their last 15 season openers but went 9-6 ATS Week 2 during that same span.
For whatever reason, this coach, QB and franchise are never prepared out of the gates but recover in Week 2. Heck, the Colts already recovered in Week 1 and nearly stole the game. Indianapolis gave away an easy one and plays the Chiefs, Titans and Broncos next, so Indy needs this one.
The Colts have lost six straight in Jacksonville, including that ugly one to miss the playoffs in January. You might think that means staying away, but I think it’s buying us value. Indy has had this one circled on the calendar.
THE PICK: Lean Colts -4
This is all about matchups. There are two that tilt this in Baltimore’s favor.
Miami was the league’s pass-happiest offense in Week 1, making full use of new addition Tyreek Hill. But Baltimore has one of the five best secondaries in the league and looked like its old self defensively in the opener. This Ravens defense was built to defend the pass.
On offense, Baltimore is built to run. The Ravens passed more effectively in Week 1 but should see a stronger rushing effort as the line and RBs start to get healthier, and Miami still has a poor run defense and struggled to stop New England. Really, the Dolphins were not particularly impressive despite a comfortable win, with their two TDs coming on defense and on a fourth down broken play gamble just before the half.
Miami’s defense gave Lamar Jackson all sorts of problems last year. That tells me John Harbaugh will have a counter plan and an answer, and this is no longer a one-man team. Harbaugh is 28-19-1 ATS in September, the second most profitable coach since 2005.
THE PICK: Lean Ravens -3.5, and bet if it hits -3
The Browns have a chance to start 2-0 for the first time since 1993. The last time Cleveland started 2-0, the Browns featured Bernie Kosar and leading WR Michael Jackson and were led by Bill Belichick. It’s been so long since this team started 2-0 that this franchise literally stopped existing in between.
Still … we’re giving Jacoby Brissett six points??
Cleveland was much better than the Panthers in Week 1 but nearly blew it anyway, needing a 58-yard field goal to save the win. Six points matches the second most Brissett has ever been favored by, and it feels like too much in a game that should move quickly with plenty of running and a pair of teams that both ranked top-three in run defense last week. That sets up well for the Jets to keep this close in a game with a meager total of 40.
In games with a total below 42 since 2018, underdogs are an impressive 88-54-3, covering 62% of the time. Six points is a lot for Brissett, and it’s even more when so little scoring is expected. Take the points.
THE PICK: Lean Jets +6
Everyone’s darling Lions came back for a valiant Week 1 cover, but not before falling behind by three scores first. That late push seemed to keep the public on Detroit, and I don’t get it. Washington actually won its game unlike Detroit, and all the Lions proved on Sunday is that the defense might be as bad as ever. The defensive difference is what separates these teams, and it’s why I think Washington should be favored, not Detroit.
Don’t fall in love with the Lions just because they scored a bunch of points. History tells us high Week 1 scoring leads to entrapment. Teams that scored 30 or more in the opener are just 51-69-4 ATS the following week, an ugly 42% cover rate. It’s even worse for teams that missed the previous year’s playoffs (36% ATS) and a devastating 4-16-1 ATS (20%) for teams that won five or fewer games the previous year.
One nice backdoor outburst doesn’t erase a full season of stink, and the Lions just told us that themselves one year ago when they fell behind 38-10 in the opener, “came back” late for a backdoor cover, and then promptly lost by 18 and failed to cover the following Sunday.
Take the Commanders, and play the moneyline too.
THE PICK: Lean Commanders +2.5, and bet if it hits +3
Would you believe Seattle has won four straight and 15 of 17 in this rivalry? That may not matter much now that Russell Wilson is gone, but that didn’t seem to stop the Seahawks on Monday night.
We learned very little about San Francisco in Week 1 other than that they got unlucky in a Chicago monsoon. Still, both teams are run-first which should mean a fast-moving game that may not see many points. This total is at 42.5 and falling, so Seattle could fit the Jets trend above — this is a lot of points to cover when we don’t expect much scoring.
Seattle’s pass defense looks beatable, but Trey Lance may not be ready to take advantage yet. I’m still not sure the Seahawks are any good, but their commitment to bleed the clock in the run game could make them a sneaky cover team. Kyle Shanahan continues to struggle as a favorite at 14-25-1 ATS (36%), including now 10-13 straight-up since 2021. I’m not ready to go that far, but I will take the points.
THE PICK: Lean Seahawks +9
We get two Monday night games this week, and this first one should feel familiar. The Titans upset the Bills each of the last two Octobers with Derrick Henry piling up 143 yards in one meeting and five TDs between the two.
Tennessee is just a bad matchup for the Bills, who have gone all on a roster built to pass and stop the pass while quietly being pretty mediocre on either end of the run game. Can these Titans still run the ball? That remains to be seen, and it didn’t look great on Sunday. Still, Henry has been the wrong matchup and it’s yet another spot where a run-first underdog could bleed the clock and limit chances for the opponent to get too far ahead.
Buffalo looked unbeatable in the opener, but the Bills were the league’s highest variance team last season, and Mike Vrabel and Tennessee just seem to bring out the worst in them.
THE PICK: Lean Titans +10
The two most exciting games this week bookend the Week 2 slate. The NFC suddenly looks wide open with the Cowboys falling off the radar and the Packers, Bucs and 49ers slipping back, and these two teams look poised to step into the void.
Philadelphia rolled to a huge lead and looked the part offensively with a big A.J. Brown game, with the stud WR adding a downfield dimension to the dangerous run game. Minnesota looked even more dangerous. The Vikings had the No. 2 Offensive DVOA in Week 2 and sent Justin Jefferson all over the field, shredding a very talented Packers defense. Nick Sirianni and Kevin O’Connell were my two picks for Coach of the Year. But are we sure the right one is favored here?
The Vikings offensive revolution feels more sustainable than Philly’s. We’ve seen that scheme work in LA and elsewhere, and Jefferson in the Cooper Kupp role is finding mismatches left and right. Philadelphia’s attack still feels a bit gimmicky at times, and Jalen Hurts is far more limited as a passer than what Kirk Cousins can do with all those weapons.
The Eagles defense is supposed to be better but did very little to stop the Lions, so Minnesota may run just as well as Philadelphia. The Vikings pass rush was a huge factor against the Packers, but Green Bay was missing both tackles. Philly has the best offensive line in the league, so it’ll be much tougher sledding this week. That matchup could be an X-factor.
This could be a playoff preview, and it feels like a coin flip. That means we’re getting free points with a rising line, so I’ll take the points.
THE PICK: Lean Vikings +2.5
The 2022 Patriots are road favorites? In this economy?!
New England was awful in Week 1, one of those teams that got a lot of negative preseason buzz and then lived down to expectations. The Pats went down 17-0 at the half and looked lifeless. The offense was bad and mistake prone, and the defense gave up big plays and could’ve given up more.
New England’s offensive line was especially troubling, considering the next opponent on the schedule. Pittsburgh lived in Cincinnati’s backfield in the opener, and while T.J. Watt is a huge loss, the Steelers have Cam Heyward and a lot more where that came from. Pittsburgh sacked Joe Burrow seven times and forced him into five turnovers.
The Steelers weren’t particularly inspiring on offense either, and it’ll be time to fade Pittsburgh soon. But are they really home dogs against this uninspiring Patriots team? Mike Tomlin continues to reign supreme in an underdog role. He’s now 46-23-2 ATS as a dog, covering two of every three, and that includes a pristine 14-3-2 ATS at home, covering 82% of the time by 6.5 points per game with an impressive 13-6 record straight-up.
There are trends that favor Bill Belichick off a loss and in toss-up games, but in this case, I wonder if those trends are actually just buying us value on Pittsburgh when the Steelers should be favored. And don’t forget, Mac Jones is dealing with a back injury that can flare up anytime. Our Sean Koerner has the swing from Jones to Brian Hoyer as worth 3.5 points, and even if Mac plays, a lack of mobility behind a bad line against this pass rush could be lethal.
Underdogs in games with a total below 42 are 88-54-3 ATS since 2018, covering 62% of the time and even better at 40-22 ATS at home. There’s a Week 2 trend that favors Pittsburgh too. Week 1 underdogs that are road favorites the following week like New England are an awful 4-14-1 ATS since 2005, covering only 22% of the time and losing nine of the last 10 outright.
Belichick has defied all the trends before, but Tomlin as a home underdog is not just any opponent and this Pats team might just not have it.
THE PICK: Bet Steelers +2.5
We’ve backed a ton of underdogs in Week 2, but it’s time to go chalk with our final bet of the week. And what’s chalkier than Aaron Rodgers at home? Just take a look at any number of trends in our favor:
- Rodgers at home: 65-34-6 ATS (66%)
- Rodgers as a home favorite: 60-33-3 ATS (65%)
- Rodgers at home in primetime: 22-10-1 ATS (69%)
- Rodgers as a division favorite: 42-24 ATS (64%)
- Rodgers after a loss: 39-21-1 ATS (64%)
- Rodgers against the Bears: 20-7 ATS (74%)
Pick a trend, any trend, and it’ll tell you overwhelmingly to back Rodgers and the Packers in a home get-right spot against the Bears. Chicago won Sunday but had 73 yards in 40 minutes before a handful of monsoon plays broke the Bears’ way. As for the Packers, they had a dropped 75-yard TD on their first play from scrimmage and also got stuffed on fourth and goal, and they did just fine against a Vikings team that looks pretty good.
Besides, it’s the Packers and the Bears and we’ve seen this movie a thousand times. Chicago is Rodgers’ most profitable opponent ATS, and I ranked Green Bay top-three in both offense and defense coming into the season while Chicago was bottom-two in both so this is a mismatch in every direction.
Need a couple more trends to seal the deal? Teams that lost by double digits in Week 1 like the Packers are 40-25-2 ATS (62%) the following game over the past decade. We’re getting free value after a Packers loss, and Green Bay has been pretty good after a loss. Matt LaFleur is a perfect 9-0 straight-up and ATS after a loss in his career, covering by 10.1 points per game.
R-E-L-A-X, Packers fans, you’ll be fine. It’s only the Bears.
THE PICK: Bet Packers -9.5