With a few home dogs coming through and some big favorites losing outright, sportsbooks made out great in Week 1. Me? Not so much. There’s a U2 song to describe how my first week went, and it’s not “Beautiful Day.”
Understandably, you may not want to trust my picks for Week 2. But Week 1 is often full of stupid results, and we all need to help each other sift through the garbage to determine which teams are for real and which ones are a farce. Here’s what I think heading into a bounce-back week for half the league (and a lot of prognosticators). And after having a read through, check out our reviews of the top five sportsbooks, where you’ll find everything you need to know to make the best bet for you.
Week 2 ATS Picks
Thursday, September 14
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals (-4)
Arguably, no quarterback had a worse Week 1 than Andy Dalton. And yet it’s the Texans that might be making a switch under center in Week 2. Rookie Deshaun Watson wasn’t supposed to start this soon, but desperate times could call for a quick Bill O’Brien hook, if his ankle is healthy enough to go. Luckily, the Texans have had recent success over the Bengals no matter what the situation under center is. Last season, Tom Savage won his first career start over Cincinnati, while in 2015, T.J. Yates came on in relief of an injured Brian Hoyer to lead the team to victory. As long as Watson/Savage don’t fumble every snap, Houston’s D has shown it can limit Dalton enough to keep this game close, especially given the embarrassing state of the Bengals’ offensive line.
Pick: Texans (+4)
Sunday, September 17
Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7)
The road Steelers continue to be one of the most frustrating offenses to watch. With every non-Antonio Brown player still in preseason form, Pittsburgh couldn’t put the pesky Browns away. A similar effort this week will result in a loss to the Vikings. However, over the last two years, Pittsburgh has gone 6-0-1 ATS when favored by six or more at home. So even though Minnesota showed a surprisingly effective deep passing game last week, don’t expect them to keep pace with the Steelers in what should be a rebound effort for the Triple Bs. (Although if early season Sam Bradford burns me again, I’m gonna travel to the Eagles facilities and poop in Howie Roseman’s car.)
Pick: Steelers (-7)
Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers (-7.5)
Cam Newton didn’t look great. Neither did preseason OROY favorite Christian McCaffrey. Yet the Panthers still rolled 23-3 in San Francisco thanks to a defense that looked far more like the revolutionary 2015 version, rather than that let down of a 2016 follow-up. Buffalo looked decent as well, although a win against the Jets may have only proved the Bills are the third-worst team in the league. Despite the division-two level competition, the play of Tyrod Taylor was encouraging coming off both a rough preseason and a concussion. Even though Buffalo keeps taking away all his pass catchers and basically waiting for him to burn out, the feisty QB still brings it each week. Faced with a lot of these annoying 7.5-point lines this week, I’m going to show faith in Taylor and a run-heavy Bills squad here. (The football gods owe us some close games after a lackluster opening weekend.)
Pick: Bills (+7.5)
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6)
The Bears were one of the few teams to look good in a losing effort last weekend. Yet all the positives from Chicago’s great defensive play was undermined by another huge offensive injury, losing receiver Kevin White for the year. With running back Tarik Cohen the only explosive option left in the passing game, it’ll be hard for Mike Glennon to dial up a great revenge game against his former team. And while Bucs fans should still worry about Jameis Winston’s penchant for dumb turnovers, the Bears haven’t managed a takeaway since Lovie Smith was patrolling their sideline (instead of burning down Tampa’s). With an extra week of prep, you have to like the Bucs here.
Pick: Buccaneers (-6)
Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Thank heavens for the Colts. In a Week 1 featuring a number of surprising performances, a Luck-less Indy team fulfilled our Dennis Green-style expectations. As long as no. 12 is sidelined, the Colts will continue to get a Jets-level of disrespect, starting with being huge home dogs to a Cards team that completely imploded in Detroit. Down David Johnson and with Carson Palmer playing just as terribly as last season (despite entering the year “well-rested”), Arizona is still expected to roll. If Jacoby Brissett starts, he shouldn’t make as many errors as Scott Tolzien, but the issues on the Indy roster run far deeper than a QB that throws two pick-sixes.
Pick: Cardinals (-7.5)
New England Patriots (-4.5) at New Orleans Saints
There’s a graveyard of analysts who have prematurely declared the end of this dominant Patriots era. There’s an even larger wasteland of bettors who have foolishly assumed the Superdome still offers some semblance of home-field advantage. This game will be an exciting shootout with the Pats defense poised to struggle; but Brady has never opened a season 0-2; the Saints have started the last three that way. Why mess with tradition?
Pick: Patriots (-4.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)
In terms of public hype, these were two of the biggest winners of Week 1. Now one will come crashing back to Earth. Andy Reid has already bested his former team once before, but it’ll be tough to replicate with the heart and soul of the defense, Eric Berry, lost for the season. Carson Wentz will make mistakes against this secondary, but he’s also shown an ability to make some ridiculous plays out of nothing. after a having a week off against the Pats feeble pass rush, the Chiefs o-line will finally get a test this week. I’ve heard Reid’s record after bye weeks brought up in reference to this game, since “Thursday games are kind of like a mini-bye.” Well, Reid is just 1-4 outright after his last five Thursday games. Kansas City’s offense was impressive last week, and I like them to win here. But I predict they’ll follow a more conservative, ball-control approach this week.
Pick: Eagles (+5.5)
Tennessee Titans (-1.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
With a win here, the Jaguars would already have a stranglehold on the AFC South. I know it’s the dumbest division in football, but that just sounds wrong. “Sacksonville” isn’t going to have the same success against the Titans, and Blake Bortles won’t be able to hide behind the run game all afternoon across the field from a Tennessee offense capable of posting a ton of points.
Pick: Titans (-1.5)
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)
Even at their worst (so basically, their average), the Browns play the Ravens tough. Not including a blatant tank job last season, where Hue Jackson sat Cody Kessler even though the QB spotted the team a 7-6 halftime lead, Cleveland has kept five of the last six games against Baltimore within seven points. It’s fair to say that, after a competitive start to the year, this Browns team isn’t tanking. The Ravens defense showed they’re so dominant that they could single-handedly cover a spread like this, generating five takeaways against the Bengals. This is a tough spot for Deshone Kizer in his second start, but unless you’re buying the half-point here, I have trouble trusting the Ravens offense to cover, especially without do-everything RB Danny Woodhead.
Pick: Browns (+7.5)
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders (-14)
After watching this performance, let’s make a rule for this season; I should never have to justify picking against the Jets. If that sounds like a lazy cop-out, I promise that in the unlikely scenario I’m ever backing them, I’ll write you some truly poetic analysis.
Pick: Raiders (-14)
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (-4)
This year was supposed to be different for the Chargers, yet Monday’s loss would’ve fit right in with their best soul-shattering losses of 2016. Now, they only have a short week to turn around and prepare for a well-rested Dolphins team that came into their much more populated house last season and stole a game off them. But if the Chargers looked same old, same old last week, then doesn’t that mean Jay Cutler will follow suit this week? I understand there are reasons for optimism around Miami, but until I see something from Smokin’ Jay, I can’t financially back this bunch.
Pick: Chargers (-4)
Dallas Cowboys (-1.5) at Denver Broncos
The Broncos offense almost duped us all into thinking it was a changed unit, until a fourth-quarter meltdown showed it still has a long ways to go to be average. Huge sacks took them out of field goal range while turnovers put their D in an even tougher spot, after already suffering big losses on the defensive line. I can’t keep track of where we are on Zeke Elliott’s playing status anymore, but holes will emerge in the run game big enough for fat ol’ Alfred Morris to fit through if Denver doesn’t get some good injury news this week. Take Dallas to roll here.
Pick: Cowboys (-1.5)
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-13)
Too bad this game isn’t in Santa Clara, because it will be over by halftime. We’ve seen the Seahawks respond to early season road losses by drubbing underwhelming opponents at home in each of the last two seasons (26-0 over the Bears in 2015, and 37-18 over the Niners in 2016). The defense looked sharp on Sunday, and the offense should rebound against San Fran, especially now that Reuben Foster is sidelined.
Pick: Seattle (-13)
Washington at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5)
The Rams posted the most dominant win of the weekend, and we still don’t know a thing about them, since it came against an FCS team. What we know about Washington is that the offensive line won’t be able to handle the Rams’ pass rush after getting bullied by Philly for four quarters. But all the turnovers caused by poor line play obscured what was a solid game from Washington’s defense. They’re not the sexiest unit out there, but they’re capable of bringing back one of the NFL’s most fun past-times: Jared Goff bashing.
Pick: Washington (+2.5)
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5)
The Falcons avoided an ominous start to the year, after nearly blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. The defense showed poise, hanging on for a 23-17 win, albeit against Mike Glennon and the Bears. Against the Packers, Steve Sarkisian’s offense will need to be more aggressive, because Green Bay won’t be held to 17 points two weeks in a row. Perhaps the Falcons will get Julio Jones more involved, after the wideout saw just five targets in Week 1? Even if that is the case though, I’d hate to pass up the opportunity to take the Packers as a dog, a spot in which they’ve gone 7-3 in since 2015.
Pick: Packers (+2.5)
Monday, September 11
Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-5)
Boy was I wrong about the Giants’ offense. Three seasons of Odell Beckham have left Eli Manning spoiled, to the point where all his receivers are expected to make one-handed grabs on terrible throws that are three yards behind them. Turns out only OBJ can take Manning turds and turn them into diamonds, like he did against Detroit last season. Until he returns to the lineup, I’m not expecting New York to ever cover a five-point spread, and neither will most of the public. The longer we go without a report confirming Beckham will play, the longer this line will stay off the board at most books. And since these picks are due on Tuesday, I’ll side with the Lions (although the way the Giants’ tackles looked, that’s probably the play regardless).
Pick: Lions (+5)