N.F.L. Week 2 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread

Last-second field goals. Teams flooding the field for congratulatory hugs before the game officially ended. Nine underdogs upsetting their opponents.

The first week of the N.F.L. season gave fans enough drama to make up for the seven months of off-season inactivity.

It will be hard to re-create that theater, but Week 2 includes a clash between playoff-caliber teams on Sunday night, divisional rivals on Thursday night and other matchups that will carry postseason implications as the year progresses.

Below are our picks against the spread.

Last week’s record: 5-11

All times are Eastern.

Here’s what you need to know:

Thursday’s Game

Giants at Washington Footballers, 8:20 p.m., Fox

Line: Washington -4 | Total: 41

Someone has to win, right? Then again, this is the N.F.C. East, so anything can happen. Running back Saquon Barkley is listed as questionable as the Giants (0-1) continue to monitor his workload in light of the knee injury that kept him out most of last season. But Barkley’s return in Week 1 didn’t help the team protect the ball any more than it did in 2020, and quarterback Daniel Jones lost a key fumble in the team’s loss to the Broncos.

Washington (0-1) will start Taylor Heinicke at quarterback with Ryan Fitzpatrick out, continuing the revolving door of passers the team has employed since 2018. (They trotted out three different starters in each of the past three seasons). Still, Washington can win if its defense rattles Jones. Its talented pair of edge rushers, Chase Young and Montez Sweat, should make that possible. Pick: Footballers -4

Sunday’s Best Games

Kansas City at Baltimore Ravens, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Kansas City -2.5 | Total: 55

When the Ravens (0-1) are done looking at tape from their Week 1 overtime loss to the Raiders, they should send the footage to Maxx Crosby’s agent. The Raiders defensive end sacked Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson twice and hit him five other times while repeatedly beating offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva off the line of scrimmage.

This week the same porous Baltimore offensive line that let Crosby have his way will collide with Kansas City’s elite pass rusher, Chris Jones, who sacked Baker Mayfield twice in Week 1 after shifting to defensive end from his natural spot on the interior line. The Ravens’ cast of replacement running backs was at least serviceable last weekend, but if that line cannot protect Jackson against Jones and his teammates, then good luck trying to keep scoring pace with Patrick Mahomes and company, who have beaten Baltimore in their last three meetings. Pick: Kansas City -2.5

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Bills -3.5 | Total: 47.5

After watching Josh Allen absorb three sacks and eight other hits from the Steelers defense last week, Coach Sean McDermott will certainly adjust the protection to keep his franchise quarterback upright. Lurking in the Dolphins secondary will be cornerback Xavien Howard, who led the N.F.L. in interceptions (10) last season. It was Howard’s forced fumble and recovery in the fourth quarter against the Patriots that broke the game open for the Dolphins’ Week 1 win. Allen and the Bills (0-1) should be able to keep their Super Bowl hopes alive, but with these A.F.C. East rivals sniffing each other out, it will be close. Pick: Bills -3.5

Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Seahawks -5.5 | Total: 54

The Titans’ experiment of adding receiver Julio Jones to Derrick Henry’s offense failed miserably in Week 1, when the two combined for 106 total yards. After giving up five sacks to Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones, Tennessee offensive lineman Taylor Lewan conceded on Twitter that Jones had exposed him.

Those problems, as bad as they were, may be correctable. More concerning was the fact that Tennessee’s defense allowed Kyler Murray to throw for 289 yards and score five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing). It’s fair to assume that same defense will struggle against Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who threw four touchdown passes against a tough Colts defense last week. Pick: Seahawks -5.5

Los Angeles Rams at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Rams -4 | Total: 47.5

Russell Wilson made one of the league’s better defenses look like an impostor in Week 1, and now Indianapolis must prepare for the offensive calculus of Rams Coach Sean McVay, who now has a quarterback who can execute his schemes. As Matthew Stafford dissected the Bears’ secondary for 321 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-14 victory last week, he looked more comfortable than ever throwing downfield strikes.

The Colts (0-1) signed the veteran safety Andrew Sendejo this week to help patch the secondary, but having to defend against two aggressive quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks seems too tough a task for Indianapolis. Pick: Rams -4

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Chargers -2.5 | Total: 55

What warm-up? Putting up 403 passing yards and three touchdowns in the Cowboys' Week 1 loss, Dak Prescott showed that he wasn’t going to ease his way back from last season’s gruesome ankle injury while nursing a shoulder muscle he strained in training camp. In that game, Ezekiel Elliott served mostly as a blocker against Tampa Bay’s defense. He might reprise that role against the run defense of Chargers (1-0).

The Dallas offensive line will get a boost now that guard Zack Martin, who missed the season opener on the Covid-19 list, is available. But it lost tackle La’el Collins to a five-game suspension for a violation of the N.F.L.’s substance-abuse policy. Couple Dallas’s offensive line reshuffling with the still-developing defense going against Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen, and it looks as though the Cowboys (0-1) may have to wait another week for their first win. Pick: Chargers -2.5

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Saints -3 | Total: 46

Jameis Winston began his tenure as New Orleans’ full-time starting quarterback with a win in part because of a smothering effort from the Saints’ defense against a Packers team that seemed to forget that the preseason had ended.

Continuity could be an issue for Winston this week as eight members of the Saints — mostly offensive coaches — tested positive for the coronavirus. The team is still practicing in North Texas while the city recovers from Hurricane Ida, and it could lose its top cornerback, Marshon Lattimore, who had surgery on his right thumb Tuesday. That’s a lot of responsibility to put on Winston, but the team’s experience and resolve could be enough to help it cover the spread against the Panthers (1-0). Pick: Saints -3

Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Steelers -6.5 | Total: 48.5

This will be a chess match between Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who had 105 receiving yards in Monday’s win, and the Steelers defense, which figures to rely heavily on the versatility of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. If the Steelers can disrupt Waller’s routes at all, they will force Derek Carr — who targeted Waller 19 times Monday — to hold the ball longer while looking for the Raiders’ other receiving threats, Henry Ruggs III and Hunter Renfrow.

The Raiders’ rookie right tackle, Alex Leatherwood, struggled with pass protection in the opener and now must face T.J. Watt, a Defensive Player of the Year Award candidate. If the Raiders continue the pass-first approach while running back Josh Jacobs nurses a toe injury, Pittsburgh will end up 2-0 to start the season. Pick: Steelers -6.5

Sunday’s Other Games

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Buccaneers -13.5 | Total: 52

Don’t expect Tom Brady to need a comeback from a 28-3 deficit this time. Four seasons have passed since his Super Bowl LI win, but if the Falcons (0-1) couldn’t stop the Eagles’ second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts from throwing for three touchdown passes last week, then they will surely struggle with the Bucs (1-0) and Brady, whose cast of receivers is arguably the best of his 22-year career. Oddsmakers expect this to be the largest mismatch of the weekend, and rightly so. Pick: Buccaneers -13.5

Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Browns -12.5 | Total: 48

The Browns (0-1) spent all off-season preparing for last week’s rematch against the Chiefs — and a run at an A.F.C. championship — only to fail to keep pace because of self-inflicted mistakes. Whatever frustrations Cleveland has from letting that game slip through its fingers should find an outlet in the Texans (1-0). Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will again be out as he recovers from off-season knee surgery. But the Browns don’t need him to beat a Houston team with a roster considered one of the least talented in the league. Pick: Browns -12.5

Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Bears -3 | Total: 45

In Week 1, the Bengals rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who had a shaky preseason, reminded everyone that he can indeed fulfill his job description and catch a football. He collected five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. The Bears’ secondary is arguably their weakest unit, and it allowed Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford to throw for 321 yards last week. If the Bears defense allows a similar performance, neither Andy Dalton nor Justin Fields at quarterback would be enough to compensate. Pick: Bengals +3

New England Patriots at Jets, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Patriots -5.5 | Total: 43

Patriots running back Damien Harris’s fourth-quarter fumble in the red zone ended a final drive by the rookie quarterback Mac Jones, and New England (0-1) fell to Miami, 17-16, last week. The score should not be so close against the Jets (0-1), who allowed six sacks of their rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson, last week. Blocking for Wilson becomes harder this week without left tackle Mekhi Becton, who is recovering from a dislocated kneecap. One first-year passer will start his career 0-2, and even if the Jets adjust their protection, it will probably be Wilson. Pick: Patriots -5.5

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: 49ers -3.5 | Total: 50

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts diced up the Falcons’ meager defense, throwing for three touchdowns and 265 yards, while escaping with only one sack. News flash: The 49ers (1-0) are not the Falcons. In a Week 1 win over Detroit, the San Francisco defense again looked like the throttling unit of 2019, sacking Jared Goff three times and pressuring him into an interception that was returned for a touchdown. San Francisco’s starting running back, Raheem Mostert, had season-ending knee surgery, but his replacement, Elijah Mitchell, played well and should continue to do so. Hurts’s first true test of 2021 will be too tough to pass. Pick: 49ers -3.5

Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Broncos -6 | Total: 45

Urban Meyer started his tenure as an N.F.L. coach poorly, with a Jaguars loss against the ransacked Texans roster. His second outing will only be tougher, as he tries to advise the rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence on facing a strong Broncos defense led by linebacker Von Miller, who posted two sacks in his return from the ankle injury that sidelined him in 2020. Denver (1-0) will be without receiver Jerry Jeudy, who is expected to miss at least four weeks because of an ankle sprain. But the Broncos’ defense should be able to contribute some scoring of its own against a young passer. Pick: Broncos -6

Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Cardinals -4 | Total: 51

Kyler Murray’s video-game-like numbers last Sunday (he threw for 289 yards and delivered five total touchdowns, scoring one himself on a 2-yard rush) came against a developing Titans defense, and it’s doubtful that the Vikings (0-1) will allow a similar performance. Even a curtailed Cardinals offense should be enough to outgun the Vikings’ unbalanced attack. In Week 1, running back Dalvin Cook rushed for only 61 yards while Kirk Cousins threw 49 times and took three sacks. Against the Cardinals (1-0), who sacked Ryan Tannehill six times last week, the Vikings won’t be able to match Murray’s fireworks. Pick: Cardinals -4

Monday Night’s Matchup

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Packers -10.5 | Total: 48

R-E-L-A-X.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers famously spelled out that directive to fans in 2014 after the team started 1-2. Of course, Rodgers and company rebounded from that start to wind up … losing in the N.F.C. Championship Game. Same as they did to end the 2020 season. And the 2019 season. He essentially repeated the mantra after Sunday’s 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints when he told reporters, “It’s just one game.”

It won’t be time for hyperventilating unless something goes awry for Green Bay (0-1) this week against the Lions (0-1). It won’t. Rodgers is still one of the league’s best quarterbacks, in one of the league’s best offenses, and he’ll relish the chance to remind everyone of that. Pick: Packers -10.5

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