NFL Week 2 Picks on Chiefs vs Jaguars, Ravens vs Bengals, More
Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes (left) and Lamar Jackson.
The quality of football in Week 1 wasn’t always particularly high, but the NFL produced plenty of drama, storylines and narratives to overreact to from the first of 17 data points we’ll get on each team during the regular season.
Now, it's onto our NFL Week 2 picks, which present a handful of betting opportunities — but it also presents the challenge. What’s signal and what's noise from Week 1? How much should we adjust our priors on a team after their Week 1 showing?
In the AFC, four of the top projected teams all underwhelmed expectations as the Chiefs, Chargers, Bengals and Bills all lost as favorites this week. That could present some opportunities to buy low in Week 2.
Here’s my thoughts on all 16 Week 2 NFL games.
|Week 2 Picks|
Thursday Night Football
Vikings vs. Eagles
Our first true short week of the season presents a really interesting betting spot. On one hand, the Eagles were totally outplayed for large stretches of their Week 1 matchup with the Patriots. Based on our own Action Network Luck Rankings, the Eagles were the ‘luckiest’ team in the NFL, meaning the final score was the most misleading of any in the opening week. The Vikings are a major regression candidate from last year, but the market is well aware of that.
It was Week 2 of last season on Monday Night Football when the Eagles slammed Minnesota as a two-point home favorite. The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in that matchup, and as a result, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense were totally stymied. Cousins will be under pressure a lot yet again on Thursday, but the Eagles defense is a bit more vulnerable here.
The Eagles linebacker situation is dire after Nakobe Dean was ruled out. Both corner James Bradberry and safety Reed Blankenship are doubtful and questionable, respectively. With that being said, will it matter if the Eagles get a ton of pressure? I’m not so sure.
It could be a rough matchup for Cousins on the road in primetime. The market has moved this through the key number of seven from Philly -7.5 to -6.5, but I’d more likely lay Philadelphia than take the points if it is under seven. The Eagles offense was bad in Week 1, but I’d expect more Dallas Goedert and D’Andre Swift, as well as less rust, in Week 2.
Verdict: Lean Eagles -6.5
Raiders vs. Bills
This fits into the Week 1 overreaction trend perfectly.
The Raiders covered and won outright as a road underdog in Week 1, while the Bills had the most embarrassing loss of the weekend on Monday Night Football after Josh Allen turned the ball over four times. Everyone is down on the Bills now because of Allen’s erratic play, but it’s important to remember how good Buffalo is as a frontrunner and that Allen struggled in both meetings with the elite Jets defense last season too.
Allen has been considerably more reckless with his play since the halfway point of last season and that makes Buffalo a more vulnerable favorite. He has just 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions in his last 10 regular season games, and he didn’t exactly play consistent football in Buffalo’s two playoff games either. This is still an elite roster overall, albeit the defensive side didn’t really get tested on Monday night against Zach Wilson.
Jimmy Garappolo very quietly finished Week 1 on a new team as the No. 1 quarterback by CPOE + EPA composite. And that came against a Broncos defense that graded out as a preseason top-five pass coverage unit in the NFL. There’s been a consistent disagreement on Garoppolo amongst the film nerds and the analytics community, but his results speak for themselves from last week.
This is a natural bounce-back spot for the Bills, but I still have too many questions to lay this big of a number.
Chargers vs. Titans
Everyone fell in love with the Kellen Moore Chargers offensive output on Sunday, but I saw the same problems in the passing game that existed under Joe Lombardi last season. It’s true that the Chargers ran the ball a lot more and did it successfully. They had a 66% success rate on rushing attempts, which is bonkers-level efficiency.
We need more of a sample against a non-Vic Fangio two-deep style defense before making any real conclusions. The Chargers ran the ball well above expectation on 2nd and long and Justin Herbert’s air yards per attempt were also not meaningfully different from the past years. If those two continue, I don’t think the Chargers will reach the elite level of offensive efficiency, but it may not matter against Tennessee.
On one hand, the Titans are the exact kind of physical run game that could run all over the Chargers and bully them. On the other hand, Ryan Tannehill is on #WashedWatch following Week 1. I’ve long been a ‘Tannehill is underrated’ person, but he finished dead last in CPOE + EPA composite and his performance didn’t pass the eye test on rewatch either.
There’s no way I could lay three on the road with the Chargers, but concerns about Tannehill keep me off Tennessee too.
Verdict: Pass (Bet Tennessee at +3.5)
Colts vs. Texans
It’s hard for me to have a truly objective take about Anthony Richardson given how high I was on him in the pre-draft process as a high-end talent. But the Colts were quite successful on early downs against the Jaguars defense. Richardson has his limitations and Shane Steichen called the game with training wheels on. No real deep shots and no throws to the left side of the field consistently.
But Richardson didn’t look overwhelmed at all, the Colts defense remains an average unit across the board and they took a lead into the fourth quarter despite going 1-for-5 on 4th down and coming up with zero points on five separate trips past midfield.
I’d bet Indianapolis at any dog price here (where the market opened), but as a road favorite, I’ll pass on this divisional matchup. It’s a great teaser option on either team +7.5 too.
Verdict: Pass (Bet Indianapolis as an underdog)
49ers vs. Rams
Matt Stafford’s late-down efficiency on Sunday was borderline historic.
Matthew Stafford on third down today: pic.twitter.com/rVda6xE6h0
— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) September 11, 2023
The Rams completely stunk on early downs. They couldn’t run the ball effectively and didn’t have Cooper Kupp. It didn’t matter at all. Stafford was in vintage form and then some against a maybe overrated Seattle defense. If he’s able to recreate that magic again in Week 2 against an elite Niners defense, I’ll tip my cap.
The NFC West remains cyclical. The 49ers own the Rams. The Rams own the Seahawks. The Seahawks own the Niners. It seems to be in a never-ending pattern, but I fear for the Rams defense trying to stop the Niners on Sunday too.
Verdict: Pass; maybe target some SF alt spreads
Jets vs. Cowboys
What did we really learn about these two teams in Week 1? Zach Wilson is still really bad, the Cowboys pass rush is still elite and that’s probably all that will matter come Sunday. The Cowboys eviscerated a similarly flawed Giants team on Sunday night, but it’s hard to lay 9.5 on a game with a total below 40.
The Jets offensive line is quite mediocre in pass protection and Dalvin Cook’s 13 carries for 35 yards aren’t striking the fear into any defense. Breece Hall broke a couple of big runs, but the play-to-play success on the ground wasn’t really there. New York won the game because Josh Allen gave it to them, and Dak Prescott is considerably less careless with the ball generally.
Wilson can magic up a play or two to get some points on the board, but the ball-hawking Cowboys defense is sure to bait him into some turnover-worthy plays.
Prescott wasn’t particularly good against the Giants in Week 1, but he also wasn’t asked to do much. If this line ballooned over 10, I’d hold my nose and bet Wilson and the Jets. That would be an overreaction to the Aaron Rodgers injury (lookahead was -3/-3.5).
Verdict: Pass (Jets +10.5 or more is a bet)
Bears vs. Buccaneers
I came into the season lower than the market on both teams and didn’t see much in Week 1 to change my opinion of that, despite an upset win for Baker Mayfield and the Bucs. Easiest pass on the board.
Giants vs. Cardinals
Daniel Jones will get a lot more time to throw, and Joshua Dobbs will be under constant duress against Wink Martindale’s heavy blitz defensive approach on Sunday. Even with that being said, the Giants lack of explosive weapons on offense makes them a very vulnerable road favorite here.
They didn’t really address the glaring lack of talent at receiver in the offseason, and it showed against Dallas. This would be Giants or nothing since the number has come down following their embarrassing loss, but I’m in no rush to buy the Giants yet.
Commanders vs. Broncos
I’m really not sure they can set this total low enough after last week’s Arizona/Washington game finished with 36 points including a defensive score. Washington’s offense with Sam Howell finished the game 25th in overall efficiency despite playing the league’s worst team. Even if you take out the defensive touchdown, the Commanders were a league-average offense.
Howell took six sacks, had just a 6.5 yards per attempt and didn’t look the part of an NFL starter. Russell Wilson played better than last year, but the Broncos offense still seriously lacks explosiveness. The two leading receivers for Denver last week: Adam Trautman and Samaje Perine. It sounds absurd to bet an under at 38.5, but Denver is going to play a lot of games in the teens this year again.
Verdict: Lean Under 38.5 (Bet at 40)
Packers vs. Falcons
Matt LaFleur made life rather easy for quarterback Jordan Love. The Packers established the run, protected him well and LaFleur designed the reads and throws to help his young QB. I don’t see much in this Atlanta defense to see how they stop the run or pressure Love either, so it should be another successful day for the Packers QB.
This is the real test for Joe Barry’s defense. We’ve seen teams power through the Packers soft underbelly on the ground for years now, and Atlanta is well poised to do that. The problem is pace. Arthur Smith has slowed these games to a crawl, and that’s scary given Green Bay’s slow pace as well.
Verdict: Lean Over 40.5
Dolphins vs. Patriots
Bill Belichick shut down one of the best offenses in the NFL last week and New England still lost at home. The Eagles had no answers for Belichick’s changing defenses and they had a hard time getting push on the offensive line. Belichick will look to shut down another elite offense on Sunday against Miami at home in primetime.
I’m not discounting his ability to do it. The weather looks good for the game, but the same changed-up looks that threw off Philadelphia’s offense could be replicated to throw off the timing of the Dolphins on Sunday.
Mac Jones played ‘better’ on Sunday, but there’s still a long way to go for this offense. Monitor the Patriots offensive line situation before betting this, but a more run-heavy approach from New England (they won’t be down 16-0 in the first quarter again) and the Belichick defensive masterclass potential leaves this total too high for me.
Verdict: Lean Under 46.5
Seahawks vs. Lions
The roar was restored on Thursday night in the Lions stunning road victory, but I came away from the game lower on Detroit than I was prior to kickoff. Our Action Network luck rankings had them as the second most fortunate team in Week 1, in large part thanks to a tipped pick six in the second half that completely turned the tides.
The Seahawks had excellent early down defense before getting exposed on late downs by some ridiculous play-making from Stafford. That’s unlikely to repeat. The Lions should have success pressuring Geno Smith thanks to the injuries to the Seattle offensive line, but this is a classic Week 1 overreaction line. Seattle lost badly as a home favorite. Detroit won as a road underdog. Now the spread is inflated, and I’ll back the Seahawks.
What is QuickSlip?
QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Browns vs. Steelers
It’s not easy to make the case to back the Steelers here at home after the 49ers embarrassed them in Week 1. The Steelers just lost Diontae Johnson and Cameron Heyward to injury, and Heyward is especially important to slowing down the Browns rushing attack. Kenny Pickett looked inaccurate and inefficient in the Week 1 loss, but the Niners do that to a lot of teams.
I’ll save you all of the trends on Mike Tomlin off a loss, Mike Tomlin as a home underdog, etc. They’re all good. Teams who get blown out tend to bounce back far more often than not in the next week as well. Teams who lose by 17 or more playing a team that won by 17 or more the previous week are 103-65-4 ATS (61% win rate) the ensuing week. No team in the NFL is as good or as bad as they looked the week before. As a result of the Week 1 lopsided results, Cleveland is now laying the same number San Francisco did in Pittsburgh last week.
Cleveland isn't without its injuries though as right tackle Jack Conklin was ruled out for the year. T.J. Watt should wreck the Browns offense and wreak havoc in the pocket against Deshaun Watson, who did not look improved much at all last Sunday.
Buy low, sell high and bet Pittsburgh as a home underdog.
Saints vs. Panthers
Second straight week I’ll be betting against New Orleans as a short favorite. The Saints on balance deserved to beat Tennessee, but it wasn’t easy for them to separate at all. Tennessee’s red zone offense cost it the game on Sunday, but the Saints and Derek Carr looked exactly as I thought they would.
Carr isn’t going to change who he is at this point in his career and the Saints project to be an extremely average offense overall.
Carr had an extremely accurate game inside the dome, but it’ll be tougher for him to replicate that on the road in a divisional primetime game. The Panthers defense performed really well against a physical Atlanta offense on Sunday, and Frank Reich has generally followed up a poor Week 1 showing with a good Week 2 showing year after year in Indianapolis.
Chiefs vs. Jaguars
Kansas City played without its two best non-QB players in Week 1 and still should have beaten Detroit if not for some absurd variance and dropped passes that went against them. The Chiefs defense will have its all-pro pass rusher back in the fold and the offense will have Travis Kelce back in the lineup.
As a result, I’m going to buy the Chiefs here, even in Jacksonville. The Chiefs closed as a 9.5-point favorite at home in this matchup in the divisional round of the playoffs. Not much has meaningfully changed now except home field, so why is Kansas City only laying three?
The Chiefs laying more than three is a danger because they love to win close, they get backdoored often and don’t run up the score when leading in the fourth. If Mahomes is laying three or fewer and basically just needs to win the game, he’s a considerably safer bet. The market moved this from -2.5 to -3 off the Jones news, and it might not be far enough.
I certainly wouldn’t lay 3.5 here, but as good as Trevor Lawrence was at times against the Colts, the mistake plays and bad reps came a bit too frequently for me. His highs are a top-five QB level, but his consistency isn’t there yet. There were also real holes in the Jaguars defense evident on Sunday that a better running back and quarterback would have exploited.
Ravens vs. Bengals
Fairly certain I’ve bet on the Ravens in every matchup against the Joe Burrow Bengals, expect the Week 18 matchup last season. Let’s run it back. Burrow had some of his worst games of the year last year against Mike MacDonald and they’ve consistently had success in slowing down this offense when all of their corners aren’t injured like the end of the 2021 season.
You can equate the Bengals loss on Sunday to rust or typical Bengal Week 1 woes. But don’t expect them to just flip the switch. Joe Burrow missed a lot of time in training camp and preseason. This is one of those rare games where you’d expect the market to open more favorably toward Baltimore after the Ravens won by 10+ and the Bengals lost by 10+ in Week 1.
Instead, the market has moved this game to the point where we now get John Harbaugh catching more than a field goal. Harbaugh is 18-8-1 ATS as a divisional underdog. Lamar Jackson struggled himself in Week 1 and the injury bug has already bitten Baltimore, but I had almost no gap between these two teams preseason and can’t get to this price after Burrow looked way, way off from an accuracy perspective in Week 1.