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

 nytimes.com  09/17/2020 04:01:09   Benjamin Hoffman

After several major upsets last week in N.F.L., the bar for Week 2 to compete is set awfully high. Were Jacksonville and Washington one-week wonders? Can Chicago replicate its wild fourth quarter for an entire game? Exactly how worried should San Francisco be about the teams injuries and a home loss to Arizona? If we are lucky, chaos will reign and we will still be searching for answers heading into Week 3.

Here is a look at N.F.L. Week 2, with all picks made against the point spread.

Last weeks record: 8-8

Chiefs at Chargers, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Chiefs -9 | Total: 47.5

Patrick Mahomes has gotten a lot of credit for a lot of things  and deserved all of it  but one overlooked element has been his success despite the team having a distinct deficiency at running back, where Damien Williams was sufficient in 2019, but was nowhere near as good as Kareem Hunt had been for the Chiefs in the two previous seasons. This year, in steps the rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was the only running back taken in the first round of the draft. He justified that pick by leading all N.F.L. players with 138 yards rushing in Week 1 against the Texans.

Kansas City takes its newly balanced offense on the road to face the Chargers (1-0), who held off the Bengals last week, and now face a significantly stiffer test. Los Angeles, though, is hardly a pushover. The team has a great deal of talent on defense and are one of the few teams that can be expected to put significant pressure on Mahomes. And while the Chargers offense isnt explosive, it should be quietly reliable as long as quarterback Tyrod Taylor is managing things.

Kansas City is a huge favorite, and the Chiefs have earned that distinction even in a road game, but a 9-point spread is a step too far.

Pick: Chargers +9

Ravens at Texans, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Ravens -7 | Total: 51.5

If anything notable was absent during Baltimores demolishing of Cleveland last week, it was the high-volume running game that people came to expect from the Ravens (1-0) each and every week last season. To say the team ran for just 107 yards feels unfair, but that is fewer than they had in any game last season, including their shocking home loss to Tennessee in the divisional round.

Should the Ravens be concerned? Hardly. Lamar Jackson was toying with Clevelands secondary all game, and when Baltimore needed the running game it was there, with the rookie J.K. Dobbins punching in two touchdowns. Because the Ravens are three-deep in quality running backs (Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Dobbins), the points will come each and every week, no matter what style the team chooses to employ.

The Texans (0-1) have an absolute force of nature in quarterback Deshaun Watson, but Houstons defense was torched last week by a rookie running back. Making Houston a 7-point underdog at home seems unfair, but the Ravens, at least in the regular season, are kind of unfair. Pick: Ravens -7

ImageDepending on who Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, with ball, decides to cover, it will be a bad day for either Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett.
Depending on who Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, with ball, decides to cover, it will be a bad day for either Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett.Credit...Stew Milne/Associated Press

Patriots at Seahawks, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Seahawks -3.5 | Total: 45

The Patriots (1-0) and Seahawks (1-0) had plenty of reasons to be happy in Week 1, but if youre looking to nitpick: while New Englands multipronged running game looked great, the team showed very little ability to air the ball out against Miamis solid secondary. And Seattle seemed to take the doughnut off the bat in terms of letting quarterback Russell Wilson create his own momentum on offense, but Coach Pete Carroll likely would have preferred for running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde to combine for more than 44 yards rushing (and for either to average more than 3.5 yards per carry).

Both teams may look to correct those deficiencies this week. Seattle is rightfully the favorite at home, but Cam Newton bought his team some credibility last week and New Englands secondary is a tough nut for anyone to crack. A close game, or even an upset, wouldnt be entirely shocking. Pick: Patriots +3.5

Rams at Eagles, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Off | Total: Off

The Rams (1-0) may not have looked spectacular in Week 1 against the Cowboys, but it was the type of game they would have found a way to lose last season. Now Los Angeles goes on the road against the Eagles (0-1) who are fresh off a game against Washington in which they ran up a 17-point lead only to somehow lose by 10. Philadelphias injury-depleted offensive line could not have been worse against Washington, and expecting that unit to reverse course and find a way to block Aaron Donald this week seems almost laughable. Quarterback Carson Wentz may want to look into wearing some extra pads. Pick: Rams

The Browns were crushed by the Ravens last week, but Nick Chubb found room to run in limited action. He could have a much more productive day against Cincinnati.Credit...Nick Wass/Associated Press

Bengals at Browns, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network

Line: Browns -5.5 | Total: 43.5

The Bengals (0-1) were surprisingly competitive against the Chargers in Week 1 and the Browns (0-1) got humiliated by the Ravens, but neither game gave us much indication of how this one will go. That Clevelands defense couldnt handle Lamar Jackson is fairly forgivable, but if it struggles against Joe Burrow  Cincinnatis highly regarded rookie quarterback  it might already be time to panic.

The Browns might want to find a way to run the ball more, almost regardless of the score. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt found consistent yardage against Baltimores front seven and the Bengals gave no indication last week that their run defense is something to be feared.

For now, the on-paper talent advantage tips the scales toward a probable Browns victory and their desire to shake off last weeks failure could very well lead to a lopsided score. Pick: Browns -5.5

After a great deal of preseason hype, the Colts Jonathan Taylor was not particularly impressive in Week 1. Regardless, a serious injury to Marlon Mack led to him being named the starting running back.Credit...Douglas Defelice/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Vikings at Colts, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Colts -3 | Total: 48.5

What did Taylor Swift say about shaking things off? The Vikings (0-1) looked positively inept on defense against the Packers in Week 1, while the Colts (0-1) shot themselves in the foot resulting in the weeks biggest upset. A win in Week 2 for either team will make last week a blip, and a loss will mean an 0-2 start and a lot of hard questions about not living up to expectations. An enormous issue for Minnesota is the absence of Danielle Hunter, the teams best player on its defensive line, which could create opportunities out of the backfield for Indianapolis running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. It also might give Philip Rivers enough time to not repeat the brutal mistakes of last week, which all but handed the game to Jacksonville. Pick: Colts -3

Falcons at Cowboys, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Cowboys -4 | Total: 52.5

Oddsmakers are expecting this to be the highest scoring game of the week, and theres no wonder why as the Falcons (0-1) and Cowboys (0-1) combined for 886 yards of offense last week, while combining to allow 805 yards. This should be an aerial slugfest, with quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott using their wealth of receiving options to carve up the field. But the game might be decided by which team can get something going with the run game, a competition that dramatically favors Dallas Ezekiel Elliott. Pick: Cowboys -4

Bills at Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bills -5.5 | Total: 41

It feels like the N.F.L.s schedule makers were invested in getting the rookie Tua Tagovailoa the starting quarterback job for the Dolphins (0-1) as quickly as possible. Last week, No. 1 quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick faced the stellar New England secondary, and this week he has to step up to the Bills (1-0), who batted around the Jets like a cat toy last week. Fitzpatrick could easily have another three-interception game, and if that happens, the Tagovailoa chatter should reach a fever pitch. It wont help that Miami will likely be playing from behind, as Josh Allen of the Bills seemed extremely comfortable slinging the ball around to his group of receivers, led by new addition Stefon Diggs. Pick: Bills -5.5

If a 288-pound defensive tackle like Cameron Heyward is going to make leaping interceptions near the end zone, it is going to be a long season for Pittsburghs opponents.Credit...Al Bello/Getty Images

Broncos at Steelers, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Steelers -7.5 | Total: 41.5

This game will likely be a selection in plenty of survivor pools, as the thought of a young quarterback trying to win on the road against Pittsburghs top-tier defense inspires mostly a wrinkled nose of sympathy. If theres a flicker of hope for the Broncos (0-1) it is that the Steelers (1-0) gave up an uncharacteristically high number of passing yards to the Giants last week. Before they follow that thread too far, they should account for that game having been on the road, and Pittsburgh having balanced the big yardage by intercepting two passes.

Will Steelers running back James Conner be healthy enough to play? Is Pittsburgh significantly weakened on offense by injuries to right tackle Zach Banner and right guard Stefen Wisniewski? Those are big questions, but ones that will be more relevant when the Steelers are playing a better team. Pick: Broncos +7.5

49ers at Jets, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: 49ers -7 | Total: 42

The 49ers (0-1) have to be fairly devastated at an opening-week loss in a game they led in the fourth quarter, but Arizona has usually given them fits and the result was only a mild surprise. Losing to the Jets (0-1), however, would be jaw-dropping, even with wide receiver Deebo Samuel and cornerback Richard Sherman on this seasons mini version of injured reserve and tight end George Kittle working his way back from a knee sprain. The margin for error in the N.F.C. West is razor thin, and San Francisco needs a win when there is a solid chance that the other three teams in the division will all start 2-0. Kittles uncertain status, and San Francisco having multiple injuries in its secondary, makes a full touchdown point spread seem too generous, but San Francisco should be expected to win. Pick: Jets +7

Panthers at Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Buccaneers -9 | Total: 47.5

In the aftermath of Tampa Bays loss to New Orleans in Week 1, there was chatter that Bradys decline was being exposed with the Buccaneers (0-1) because he no longer had New Englands system to hide his deficiencies. Its not entirely clear what games those pundits were watching last season, as the physical decline of Brady was readily apparent with the Patriots, and last week seemed to be an extension of that rather than a departure from it. The Panthers (0-1) made a reckless decision to give the ball to a fullback, rather than Christian McCaffrey, with the game on the line last week, but nothing about either team indicated that a 9-point spread for this game is warranted. That number becomes especially extreme with Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin expected to be out. Pick: Panthers +9

Arizona got a huge upset against San Francisco in Week 1, with DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald finding plenty of room to work against an overmatched 49ers secondary led by Richard Sherman.Credit...Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Washington Football Team at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Cardinals -6.5 | Total: 47

The Footballers (1-0) pulled off a fairly shocking upset of the Eagles in Week 1 thanks to an all-around effort. Going on the road to face the Cardinals (1-0), who have to be incredibly amped after toppling San Francisco on the road, is the kind of thing that should splash a great deal of cold water on Washingtons collective face. Pick: Cardinals -6.5

Lions at Packers, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Packers -6 | Total: 49

For three quarters last week, it looked like a new era could be dawning for the Lions (0-1). Then Detroit spent 15 minutes making Mitchell Trubisky look like Aaron Rodgers, restoring balance to the universe. So the big question heading into Sunday: If Trubisky looked like Rodgers against the Lions, what will Rodgers look like? Pick: Packers -6

Jaguars at Titans, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Titans -9 | Total: 43

Only three quarterbacks had ever completed 95 percent of their passing attempts in a game (min. 20 attempts) going into last week. If you expected Jacksonvilles Gardner Minshew to join that list, then you should be picking stocks rather than reading a football matchups column. But to pull off a shocking upset, the Jaguars (1-0) needed perfection from Minshew and an enormous gift in the form of two interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers, which led to 14 of the Jaguars 27 points. The Titans (1-0) do teams no such favors. Their offense last week was right back to last seasons style of having running back Derrick Henry bruise his way to big yardage while quarterback Ryan Tannehill efficiently picked spots to put points on the board. Tennessee isnt set up for blowouts, even at home, so the line is likely too aggressive. But make no mistake, the Titans should win. Pick: Jaguars +9

Giants at Bears, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bears -5.5 | Total: 42

Saying Saquon Barkley of the Giants (0-1) rushed 15 times for 6 yards last week is a little misleading, since he had a 7-yard run mixed in. So to put it another way: Other than one carry in which he barely surpassed mediocrity, Barkley ran 14 times for minus-1 yard. In fairness, the Giants were facing a stellar Pittsburgh defense and chose to utilize Barkley more as a receiver, where he picked up 60 yards on six catches. But after so much talk about the teams offense being rebuilt to focus on its best player, warning bells should be going off everywhere.

The Bears (1-0) were awful for three quarters last week, and terrific for one. If they could improve that to two decent quarters against the Giants, they should get a win at home. Pick: Bears -5.5

Yoink! Janoris Jenkins of the Saints intercepted a ball intended for Tampa Bays Justin Watson in Week 1, returning it 36 yards for a pick-six. Credit...Butch Dill/Associated Press

Saints at Raiders, 8:15 p.m., ESPN and ABC

Line: Saints -6 | Total: 50

The Saints (1-0) looked a little rusty on offense in Week 1, regardless of the 34 points they scored. But they rolled to an easy win thanks to three turnovers recovered by the teams defense. In a continuation of a trend that goes back a few years, New Orleans is slowly but surely becoming a team that can rely a bit less on its offense and a great deal more on its defense from week to week.

On the road in Las Vegas, New Orleans should be a little concerned. The Raiders (1-0) looked extremely capable on offense in an opening-week win, and while their defense is nothing to write home about, it managed to stand Carolina up on the game-deciding drive. The Saints should be expected to win this game, but oddsmakers assuming they will win by six or more points seems to ignore the current realities of how the team plays, and that wide receiver Michael Thomas is expected to be out with an ankle injury. Pick: Raiders +6

A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Bills -5.5, for example, means that Buffalo must beat Miami by at least six points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.

All times are Eastern.

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