Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

The defending NFC Champion Falcons almost lost their first game of the season in Chicago against a mediocre Bears team, with the Bears having four chances to win it on the goal line at the end of the game. However, that’s to be expected considering the history of Super Bowl losers in week 1. Just 2 Super Bowl losers have covered the spread since 2000, in 18 games. The Falcons are still one of the best teams in the league, returning basically their entire Super Bowl core, and have a good chance to bounce back this week.

This line at 3 suggests these two teams are about even. I didn’t think that was true last year in the NFC Championship when I picked the Falcons as 4 point home favorites in an eventual 44-21 blowout victory and I don’t think that’s true now. The Falcons have a better offensive line, a more well-rounded offense, and arguably a better defense as well. I wish I had locked this in earlier this week at -2.5, but the Falcons are still worth a bet at 3. I would hold off in case 2.5 comes back tomorrow morning though. The Packers are still probably seen as the sexier team by the public because of the Falcons lackluster week 1 performance, so the line could move back. In many places, -3 has reduced or no vig and -2.5 is available for -125 or -130.

Atlanta Falcons 34 Green Bay Packers 28

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3

Confidence: Medium

Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)

Going into the season, the Bears were on my underrated list. They went 3-13 last season, but the framework of the team was much better than their record suggested, as they finished 13th in first down rate. Their record was largely the result of a 1-6 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and a league worst -20 turnover margin, two things that tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis. The Bears were able to do that despite having the most adjusted games lost to injury of any team in the league, something that’s also pretty inconsistent on a year-to-year basis.

The Bears opened their season by nearly knocking off the defending NFC Champion Falcons, coming up short on 4 straight goal line plays to end the game. However, they continue to have injury issues. They get top cornerback Prince Amukamara back from a one game absence, which should help this defense, but they lost top receiver Kevin White and talented middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman for the season last week. Meanwhile, talented guard Kyle Long is likely to sit out again as he’s still not all the way back from off-season ankle surgery, while talented edge defender Pernell McPhee played just 2 snaps in the opener as he deals with knee problems. They still have a solid running game and defense, but their outlook does not look as good as it did a week ago.

The Bears are also in a tough spot here as they have to turn around and host the Steelers, who are one of the best teams in the league. The Bears are projected to be 6 point home underdogs on the early line and teams are 45-98 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4.5+ or more, as big upcoming home games like that tend to be a distraction for teams. On top of that, underdogs of 6+ like the Bears are 50-83 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ again. The Buccaneers are coming off of a week 1 Hurricane Irma bye week and are in a much better spot with Minnesota on deck. The Bears still have a good chance to make this another close game, but I can’t take them with any sort of confidence. I’ve flipped flopped on this one all week, so this is probably my lowest confidence pick of the week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Chicago Bears 21

Pick against the spread: Chicago +6.5

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)

This is a tough one. The Steelers had an underwhelming start to the season, winning by just 3 in Cleveland in a game in which they returned a punt for a touchdown. They actually lost the first down rate battle, as the Browns had 20 first downs to Pittsburgh’s 16 and had a +2.15% first down rate differential. However, they are still one of the most talented teams in the league and are prone to disappointing performances like that on the road. Back at home, they have a great chance to rebound and they’re in a great spot with only a trip to Chicago on deck.

The Steelers are projected 6 point road favorites in that one on the early line and teams tend to take care of business before games like that because they don’t have any upcoming distractions.  Teams are 92-70 ATS since 2012 before being 4+ point road favorites. The Steelers do have to face a tough Minnesota team this week though, a team that is arguably one of the top-10 in the entire league now that they’ve upgraded their offensive line and running game. As 6 point favorites, it’s hard to be confident in the Steelers covering, but they are my pick in pick ‘em leagues.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Minnesota Vikings 20

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -6

Confidence: None

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (0-1) at Seattle Seahawks (0-1)

The Seahawks’ season opened with a tough trip to Lambeau Field, where they lost by score of 17-9 and fell to 0-1 for the first time since 2012. Their offense struggled all game, gaining just 12 first downs to Green Bay’s 26, as their offensive line looked as bad as it had all last season. That’s concerning because the Seattle have the skill position talent to be a strong offense if they can get even adequate play from their offensive line and they also have arguably the strongest defense in the league. This team has the talent to compete for another trip to the Super Bowl, but they need to play better upfront.

Fortunately, they get a much easier matchup this week with San Francisco coming to town for their home opener. The 49ers are coming off of a 20-point loss in their home opener and are arguably the least talented team in the league. They likely get safety Jimmie Ward back from injury this week, but will be without rookie linebacker Reuben Foster. Even though he’s a rookie, Foster is one of the 49ers’ best defensive players given how weak they are on that side of the ball and it made a noticeable impact when he wasn’t on the field last week.

The 49ers don’t have the talent to take advantage of the Seahawks’ issues upfront, so Seattle should be able to dominate this one. Seattle has a great track record off of a loss in the Russell Wilson era, going 15-7-1 ATS. This line is huge at two touchdowns, but the Seahawks also have a great track record as big home favorites in the Russell Wilson era, going 9-3 ATS as home favorites of 12 or more. There isn’t enough here for me to put money on the Seahawks, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Seattle Seahawks 27 San Francisco 49ers 9

Pick against the spread: Seattle -14

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)

The Panthers entered the season high on my underrated list. I don’t expect them to be as good as they were in their 15-1 season in 2015, when Cam Newton had a career year, they won a lot of close games, and their defense was more talented, but they should be noticeably improved from last season 6-10 finish. They were better than their record last season, but went 2-6 in games decided by less than a field goal. They were a few plays away from being a 8-8 or 9-7 team in contention for a playoff spot. That was despite injuries on the offensive line and defense, most notably former Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly, who missed 6 games.

Kuechly is back now and this defense looked noticeably improved last week in San Francisco, as did their offensive line. Their competition wasn’t tough, but winning by 20 on the road is always impressive, as just 7% of home teams lose by 20 points or more. The Panthers had 20 first downs to 13 for the 49ers, and finished with a +10.85% first down rate differential, 5th highest in the NFL last week. Cam Newton looked a little rusty after not playing much this preseason after off-season shoulder surgery, but that should improve going forward. This is one of those lines where we’re going to look back and wonder why it wasn’t 10, so I love getting Carolina at -7.

Carolina Panthers 27 Buffalo Bills 16

Pick against the spread: Carolina -7

Confidence: Medium

New York Jets and Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-1) at Oakland Raiders (1-0)

The Jets lost their season opener in Buffalo by the final score of 21-12 last week and now again head on the road to Oakland. Fortunately for them, teams tend to do better in their 2nd of two road games, especially as underdogs off of a loss. Teams are 114-76 ATS in that spot since 2008. That is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 241-258 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 1.03 points per game, as opposed to 347-483 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game.

The Jets are in a tough spot though because they are projected to be 6 point home underdogs next week against the Dolphins and teams tend to not cover before being big home underdogs, going 45-98 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4.5+ or more, including 17-38 ATS before being divisional home underdogs of 4.5 or more. That’s because teams in that situation either have a very tough upcoming home game that could be a major distraction or they just aren’t a good team.

In this case, it’s more the latter than the former, as the Jets are as untalented as any team in recent memory. They only lost by 9 last week in Buffalo, but had the worst first down rate differential of any team in the league (-14.29%) and only managed 11 first downs to Buffalo’s 23. Thirteen and a half points is a lot to lay with the Raiders, as just 1 of their last 16 wins has come by 14+ points (last year’s 38-24 win over the Bills), but they’re still the smarter option in pick ‘em. The Raiders haven’t faced a team as bad as the Jets in at least a decade. They are also the smart survivor pick (last week’s was Pittsburgh).

Oakland Raiders 31 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland -13.5

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at New York Giants: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)

Going into the season, I had the Lions as a 6-win team and high on my overrated list. They went 9-7 and made the postseason last year, but won just one game by more than a touchdown, finished 28th in first down rate, and didn’t defeat a single playoff team all season. Many of their games featured 4th quarter comebacks and they could have easily been 7-9 or 6-10 if a few plays had gone differently. In addition, they entered the season without talented left tackle Taylor Decker and starting defensive end Kerry Hyder, leaving them even thinner on both lines.

They opened the season with a 12-point victory at home over the Cardinals, but that was largely because the Cardinals suffered two significant injuries in the game and couldn’t adapt, losing left tackle DJ Humphries and stud feature back David Johnson. The Cardinals jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and led 17-9 in the 3rd quarter before the Lions went on a 26-6 run and even still Arizona won the first down battle 24-19. That game seems to have changed a lot of opinions on them as the line has shifted from 6 in favor of the hometown Giants on the early line last week to 3 this week. That’s the second biggest line movement of the week and it makes the Lions even more overrated.

I don’t love the Giants either, but they are the more talented of these two teams and we’re getting good line value with them after the 3-point line shift. This line suggests these two teams are even, which is not accurate. The Giants had a poor week 1 performance, but that was on the road against a tough Dallas team without top receiver Odell Beckham, who is expected to return against the Lions after getting in limited practices throughout the week. Beckham may not be 100% and the Giants have other offensive problems, but they have a stingy defense and should be able to take care of business against an inferior team at home.

New York Giants 23 Detroit Lions 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -3

Confidence: Medium

Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Denver Broncos (1-0)

The Cowboys have had arguably the worst homefield advantage in the league in recent years. Since 2010, they are 30-29 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.80 points per game, as opposed to 30-26 on the road, where are outscored by an average of 0.25 points per game, meaning their homefield advantage is only worth about a point. That makes sense, considering the Cowboys have a strong fanbase throughout the country. Last season, in the first year of the Dak Prescott/Ezekiel Elliott era, the Cowboys went 5-2 ATS in meaningful road games.

They could easily push that to 6-2 this week. If we assume about 1 point for homefield advantage in this one, this line is saying the Cowboys are only about 3.5 points better than the Broncos, which think is a little low. The Cowboys have issues defensively with David Irving suspended and Orlando Scandrick injured, but they are still one of the more talented teams in the league and a few spots ahead of the Broncos in my rankings. They also match up well with the Broncos because of their strong running game. They won’t have to test the Broncos’ secondary as much as other teams. I would be worried about taking the Cowboys at -3 because about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, but, as long as this game is under a field goal and the Cowboys basically just have to win straight up on the road, the Cowboys should be the right pick here in pick ‘em leagues.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas -2.5

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)

This game is a first for both teams. For the Dolphins, it is their first game of the season, as their week 1 game was re-scheduled to week 11 because of Hurricane Irma. For the Chargers, it is their first game in their new city, as the previously San Diego Chargers are now in Los Angeles, playing in the Stubhub Center until they can move into their new stadium in a few years. Fan attendance was an issue in San Diego, which is part of why they moved. That shows up in the box score, as the Chargers are just 8-16 ATS at home over the past 3 seasons.

However, it’s very possible that they have even less support in their new city. They will not only have to share the city with the Rams, but also with 2 basketball teams, 2 hockey teams (within an hour drive), 2 baseball teams (within an hour drive), and countless other entertainment options. Stubhub Center is a stadium designed for soccer that holds 27,000 (less than half of all other NFL stadiums) and the Chargers are still having trouble selling out, even for a home opener. The fans that do come are not necessarily going to be interested in the home team, so I really don’t see the Chargers’ homefield advantage improving from their 2-hour move north.

Even if we assume a normal 3 point homefield advantage for the Chargers, we’re still getting some line value with the Dolphins here as 3.5 point underdogs, as I have these two teams about even in my rankings. Ordinarily I’d have the Chargers a few spots ahead of the Dolphins, but the Chargers will have to play without talented cornerback Jason Verrett, who concerningly will sit out with knee pain after just 1 game back from the torn ACL that ended his 2016 season. That’s a major injury that casual bettors aren’t likely paying attention to. Casual bettors likely also underestimate the difference between a line of 3 and a line of 3.5, as about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal.

The Dolphins are also in a better spot than the Chargers given that they play the Jets in New York next week. Teams tend to be very focused before an easy road game like that, with no real distraction on the horizon. Teams are 92-70 ATS since 2012 before being 4+ point road favorites (the Dolphins are -6 on the early line). The Chargers, meanwhile, host the Chiefs next week in a game in which they could be home underdogs. Favorites are just 64-97 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. Even if the Chargers are not underdogs next week, their upcoming game has a lot more potential to be a distraction than the Dolphins’ game does. This is a low confidence pick for now, but if this creeps up to 4 or 4.5 I may reconsider.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Miami Dolphins 23

Pick against the spread: Miami +3.5

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (0-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)

One of the big surprises of week 1 was the Patriots losing at home to the Chiefs by 15. The Patriots entered the season as the consensus top team in the league and hadn’t lost a meaningful conference home game with Tom Brady since the 2012 AFC Championship. The Patriots’ defensive front 7 had a lot of problems, especially after Dont’a Hightower went down with a knee injury, while their offense seemed to really miss Julian Edelman, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Hightower will miss this game, meaning the Patriots are now without 4 linebackers they had in July (Rob Ninkovich, Derek Rivers, Shea McClellin). The Patriots will also be without wide receiver Danny Amendola, who joins fellow wide receivers Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell on the sidelines.

All that being said, the Patriots still are one of the more talented teams in the league. Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski are a dangerous receiving duo who should have better weeks when not matched up with Marcus Peters and Eric Berry. They have a strong offensive line, a stable of running backs who can carry the ball and/or contribute in the passing game, a talented secondary and, of course, Tom Brady under center. Brady has been especially dangerous off of a loss in his career, going 35-17 ATS (Bill Belichick is 45-24 ATS as head coach of the Patriots).

That being said, this line didn’t really adjust for the loss, as it remains at 6.5, where it was on the early line. Part of that is probably because even casual bettors know how well the Patriots bounce back from losses at this point (New England is one of the most heavily bet teams on the week). Part of that is probably because the Saints had a disappointing week 1 performance in Minnesota, in a 29-19 loss. The Vikings are an underrated team, but there is reason for concern with the Saints, especially with cornerback Delvin Breaux, left tackle Terron Armstead, and wide receiver Willie Snead out. Right tackle Zach Strief will join them on the sideline this week, so the Saints are pretty short-handed as well. The Patriots should be the right side, but I would not recommend betting them at -6.5.

New England Patriots 34 New Orleans Saints 26

Pick against the spread: New England -6.5

Confidence: Low