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

Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)

The Rams had an impressive week 1 performance, dismantling the Indianapolis Colts in a 46-9 victory. They had a first down rate differential of +13.97%, 2nd best in the NFL last week, and scored 16 points just with their defense (two pick sixes and a safety). Now they get defensive tackle Aaron Donald back from his holdout, which should be a big boost to this defense, even if he’s rusty and on a pitch count in his first game back. As a result, some people are talking about the Rams as a surprise team this season and this line has moved to compensate, going from a pick ‘em on the early line last week to now -3 in favor of the Rams, the 2nd biggest line movement of the week.

I typically like to fade big line movements because they tend to be overreactions to a single game and this is no exception. As good as the Rams looked last week, they were facing an Indianapolis team that is arguably the worst in the NFL without all of the players they are missing, including quarterback Andrew Luck. On paper, they Rams still have one of the least talented teams in the league. That could change if Jared Goff continues to develop, Sammy Watkins continues to stay healthy, and this defense continues to significantly outperform their talented level under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. That’s certainly a possibility, but I am not sold on this team yet.

Even if I didn’t think the line movement was an overreaction, I would still disagree with this line, which suggests that these two teams are more or less even. When I looked at week 2’s early lines last week, Washington PK in Los Angeles was one that stood out to me even then. Now we’re getting a full field goal with the visitors. That doesn’t just give us line value with the Redskins, but it also puts the Rams in a tough spot, as favorites are 58-86 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. Coming off of a huge win, with another game in 4 games, the Rams could get caught by surprise a little here, which would really hurt them against a superior opponent.

Not only are the Rams a little overrated right now, but I think the Redskins are underrated too. The common assessment of the Redskins seems to be that they’re not as good as last season because they lost a pair of 1000+ yard receivers in free agency (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon), but they also added a 1000+ yard receiver (Terrelle Pryor), they have Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson healthy for now, and they could get a breakout year from slot receiver Jamison Crowder, so I don’t think this receiving corps is much worse than it was last season.

On the defensive side of the ball, they’re arguably better, with DJ Swearinger, Zach Brown, and Jonathan Allen added this off-season. They might not make the playoffs, but I don’t think they’re much worse than last season and they should be right in the mix for a playoff spot again. They lost week 1 by double digits at home, but they were playing an underrated Philadelphia team that could end up being one of the better teams in the league, so I don’t hold that against them as much as the general public might. The Redskins are a smart bet both against the spread and on the money line.

Washington Redskins 23 Los Angeles Rams 20 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Washington +3

Confidence: High

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (0-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)

The Titans and Jaguars were both high on my underrated list coming into the season. The Jaguars got their season off on the right foot with a 29-7 victory in Houston, while the Titans lost at home 26-16 to the Raiders, but I think the Titans are the significantly better of these two teams. They finished last season 6th in first down rate differential and significantly improved their two biggest needs this off-season with the additions of wide receivers Eric Decker and Corey Davis and cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson. Their week 1 loss came against a tough opponent in a game they were in throughout, so I’m not too worried about them.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, beat an overrated Houston team in a game in which they won the turnover battle by 4 and returned a fumble for a touchdown, something that they’re not going to be able to count on every week. Turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis because they are the result of such a small percentage of snaps. The Jaguars are a perfect example of that, as they had a -16 turnover margin last season (3rd worst in the NFL) and now lead the league in that figure. Even though the Jaguars beat the Texans by 22, they only won the first down rate battle by 0.22% and surrendered 4 more first downs than they gained (23-19).

Even worse, they lost #1 receiver Allen Robinson for the season with a torn ACL, which is a huge blow to an already weak passing game. They’ll still be a competitive opponent going forward because of their defense and they could compete for a playoff spot in the weak AFC if they can continue running the ball well, but the Titans are a significantly better and more well-rounded team. That’s especially true if talented Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey does not play. He did not practice all week with an ankle injury and is considered highly questionable for this one. Even if he does play, he could easily be less than 100%, which would hurt this defense.

This line is low enough at 1.5 that the Titans really only have to win straight up (only about 4% of games are decided by 1 point). It also helps the Titans that the Jaguars have to travel to London to face the Ravens next week. Teams are 10-20 ATS all-time before having to fly over to London for the week, which makes sense considering how taxing London trips can be for team’s schedules (hence why teams usually go on bye afterwards). The Titans are a smart bet here.

Tennessee Titans 19 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -1.5

Confidence: Medium

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-0)

Coming into the season, I had the Ravens winning just 6 games. They pulled the week 1 upset in Cincinnati last week, shutting out the Bengals in a 20-0 victory, but the Bengals are having major offensive problems after losing their top-2 offensive linemen in free agency, not scoring a single touchdown so far through 2 games (including this week’s Thursday night game). The Ravens have a strong secondary, but are very inexperienced in the front 7, with first-time starters at 4 of 7 spots, so I don’t expect them to be that dominant defensively all season.

That will expose their offense, which has been weak over the past couple seasons and is arguably as weak as it’s ever been right now, thanks to free agent departures and injuries. They’ve lost 3 starting offensive linemen (Alex Lewis, Jeremy Zuttah, Ricky Wagner), 2 of their top-3 receivers (Steve Smith, Dennis Pitta), and their most promising running back (Kenneth Dixon) from last season. They added veterans like Jeremy Maclin, Austin Howard, and Danny Woodhead to plug holes in free agency, but none of those players are spectacular and Woodhead is already out for an extended period of time with injury. Injuries have seriously thinned depth on both sides of the ball for the Ravens, as they now have a league-high 12 players on injured reserve.

Despite that, they’re favored by more than a touchdown (7.5) here at home against the Browns. That’s not just because the Ravens are an overrated team, but also because the general public still thinks the Browns are as bad as they were last season. They’re far from a playoff team, but I think they’re noticeably improved on both sides of the ball from a year ago and aren’t that much less talented than the Ravens. They’ve drastically improved their offensive line and have taken a big step forward defensively, even if they still have issues on that side of the ball. We’re getting great value with the visitors here.

The Ravens don’t really blow teams out anyway because they tend to play low scoring games. They have just 3 wins by more than a touchdown over the past 2+ seasons. One of those wins came last season in Baltimore against the Browns, but these two teams are not the same as the last time they met. The Ravens are also in a tough spot having to travel to London to play the Jaguars next week. Teams are 10-20 ATS all-time before having to fly over to London for the week, which makes sense considering how taxing London trips can be for team’s schedules (hence why teams usually go on bye afterwards). The Browns have a very good chance to keep this one close throughout and have an outside shot at winning outright. This is one of my favorite plays of the week.

Baltimore Ravens 16 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7.5

Confidence: High

Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

The Chiefs are one of the teams I underestimated going into the season. I knew they got significantly better down the stretch last season when Justin Houston returned from injury and talented rookies Chris Jones and Tyreek Hill started seeing more playing time, but their victory over the Patriots showed just how much better, especially when you add impressive 3rd round rookie Kareem Hunt into the mix. However, while the Chiefs got the win, they lost something more important when safety Eric Berry tore his achilles in the 4th quarter, ending his season.

Berry is one of the top safeties in the league and was having the game of his life covering Rob Gronkowski before the injury, so that’s a crushing blow for this defense. Getting the upset win was nice, but Berry’s absence is likely to cost them more than a win the rest of the way and puts a damper on the outlook on this whole team. However, if you ask the casual betting public, the only thing that was important was the win, as they are still on the Chiefs despite the fact that this line has actually shifted from -4 in favor of the Chiefs over the Eagles on the early line last week to -5 this week. The line has even moved up to 5.5 and 6 in some places.

That line shift occurred not only in spite of the Berry injury, but also in spite of the Eagles having an impressive week 1 as well, winning by double digits on the road against a capable Redskins team. The Eagles were near the top of my underrated teams list coming into the season, with Carson Wentz going into his 2nd year in the league, stud right tackle Lane Johnson no longer suspended (they went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season), and the Eagles’ record in close games likely to regress to the mean (1-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less last season). They look good so far and should compete for the NFC East with the Cowboys. They lost cornerback Ronald Darby for 4-6 weeks with a dislocated ankle, which hurts because the recently acquired ex-Bill was their top cornerback, but that’s not nearly as big of a loss as Berry.

Even if the Chiefs still had Berry, I’d say these two teams were about even and this line should be around 3 in favor of the hometown Chiefs. Without Berry, this should be closer to 1 or a pick ‘em, so we’re getting a lot of line value with the Eagles. I locked this in at 5 earlier in the week, but you can get it at 6 now in some places. Either way, we’re getting a ton of value with the visiting team here and the Eagles are my Pick of the Week. There is great value with the money line too, as the Eagles are a 2:1 underdog.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Kansas City Chiefs 23 Upset Pick +200

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +5

Confidence: Pick of the Week