Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 2 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0-1)

Going into the season, I considered the Steelers pretty overrated. Casual fans look at the Steelers’ offensive skill position talent and their 13-3 record from a year ago, but they went 8-2 in games decided by 7 points or fewer last season and could have easily been a 10-win team. They especially struggled down the stretch, winning just 2 games by more than 4 points in the final 8 games of the season and then losing in their first playoff game at home to Jacksonville. That was in large part due to the loss of linebacker Ryan Shazier with injury and they did not adequately replace him this off-season. They will also likely feel the absence of Le’Veon Bell at some point, though backup James Conner is coming off an excellent first start.

Even getting a great game from Conner, the Steelers tied the Browns in Cleveland week 1, an underwhelming start to their season. The Steelers also enter this game missing some key players, with right guard David DeCastro, cornerback Joe Haden, and possibly their other cornerback Artie Burns out with injury. Despite that, they are still favored by 5.5 over the Chiefs, who are coming off of a week 1 win in Los Angeles against the Chargers in Pat Mahomes’ first real start. The Chiefs are missing safety Eric Berry, who has yet to return from a torn achilles, but I still have these two teams about even in my rankings. There’s not quite enough line value with the Chiefs at 5.5 for this to be worth betting, but I might reconsider if the line moves up to 6.

Pittsburgh Steelers 34 Kansas City Chiefs 31

Pick against the spread: Kansas City +5.5

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 2 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)

Last week, I said I was not that eager to bet on the Patriots early in the season because of all the new players and because they are without Julian Edelman for the first 4 games of the season. I still took the Patriots because I thought there was value with them as just 6 point home favorites against the Texans. There must not be as much public action early in the year on the Patriots as normal because of all the negatively surrounding their off-season because once again we are getting a good line with the Patriots, who are just 1 point favorites here in Jacksonville.

The Patriots have been pretty close to automatic as underdogs or favorites of fewer than 3 with Tom Brady under center, going 49-21 ATS in Brady’s career. This game is on the road, but the Patriots have been the best road team in the league in the past few years, going 24-7 straight up in regular season road games since 2014, including 14-1 SU (and 11-4 ATS) since 2016. A lot has been made of what the Patriots have lost on offense since the last time these two teams met in the AFC Championship, but their offensive line exceeded expectations in a tough matchup last week against the Texans and their defense is much improved from a year ago.

The Jaguars, who have lost #1 receiver Marqise Lee with injury and now could be without top running back Leonard Fournette after he didn’t practice all week with a hamstring injury, should have a tough time moving the ball in this one, which should allow the Patriots to pull out the victory even if it isn’t pretty. Any time Brady just needs to win a game to cover, he’s close to an autobet. As long as this line is under 3, the Patriots can be bet confidently this week.

New England Patriots 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: New England -1

Confidence: High

Los Angeles Chargers at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 2 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-1)

The Chargers lost last week at home to the Chiefs, but the Chiefs have always had their number in recent years and the Chargers didn’t really get much benefit from being at home because the crowd was mostly Chiefs fans. This week the Chargers go on the road to a hostile crowd in Buffalo, but they are used to that and they get a much easier opponent on the field. Coming into the season, the Bills were my worst ranked team and they did nothing to change my mind in their week 1 47-3 loss in Baltimore. That loss looks even worse now that the Ravens, who were proclaimed to be one of the top teams in the AFC by some after that win, followed that game up by losing in Cincinnati on Thursday Night Football.

The Bills will make a change under center, benching Nathan Peterman, who completed just 5 of 18 passes last week, for Josh Allen, who came in when the game was well out of hand in the second half last week and also struggled to complete passes (6 of 15). Allen definitely has more upside than Peterman and, given how badly Peterman has looked in his career, it’s hard to see how Allen could have more downside than Peterman, but there’s a reason they started Peterman week 1, as Allen is still incredibly raw. He’ll be an upgrade by default, but he’s unlikely to be this team’s savior right away.

Even if he exceeds expectations, he really lacks talent around him. The Bills made the playoffs last season, but that was despite finishing 31st in first down rate last season, as they went 8-2 in games decided by less than 10 points and had a +9 turnover margin, two stats that are not consistent year-to-year. The Bills also got worse this off-season, particularly on offense, where they lost 3 starters on the offensive line and capable starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor was the only reason the Bills were passable offensively last season. Allen would be exceeding expectations by playing as well as him and he would have to do it with a much worse offensive line in front of him.

The Bills are also in a tough spot because they have another tough game on deck, a trip to Minnesota where they are 15.5 point underdogs on the early line. Underdogs of 6+ are 43-62 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again and teams are just 33-53 ATS overall over that same time period before being double digit underdogs. It’s tough for an inferior team to keep up with a superior team when they have another tough game on deck. Unfortunately, we did lose line value with the Chargers when this line shifted from -6 to -7.5 following the Bills’ blowout loss last week. Between that, the uncertainty of how well Josh Allen will actually play in his first start, and the absence of Joey Bosa for the Chargers, I’m not that confident in the Chargers this week, but they should be the right pick.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -7.5

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos: 2018 Week 2 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)

Two years ago, the Raiders, after a decade plus of being terrible, finally broke through and made the post-season with a record of 12-4, but they lost Derek Carr late in the season with a broken leg and were quickly eliminated in the post-season. In 2017, the things that went in Oakland’s favor like record in close games and turnover margin flipped the other direction, as they went from 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less to 4-3 and from a +16 turnover margin to a -14 turnover margin.

The Raiders could have been poised for a bounce back season in 2018, but they did not have a good off-season and then decided to trade their best player a week before the season started, sending Khalil Mack to the Bears for a pair of first round picks (among other picks). If the Raiders can hit on those draft picks and get a couple young talented players on rookie deals, it might be better for them in the long-run than paying Mack a top of the market contract, but there’s a lot of uncertainty in there and without Mack the Raiders have one of the least talented defenses in the league.

The offense didn’t look much better in the opener, a 33-13 home loss to the Rams on Monday Night Football. They looked alright in the first half, but that’s because the Rams didn’t have any tape of them to watch. In the second half, they struggled mightily. Since his strong 2016 season, Derek Carr has been incredibly average at best and is coming off arguably the worst game of his career against the Rams. Part of the reason why the Raiders didn’t want to pay Mack at the top of the market is because they already gave a huge contract to Derek Carr, but in hindsight the Raiders might be better off with Mack signed long-term and a different cheaper quarterback under center.

This week, the Raiders go on the road on a short week to Denver, where the Broncos are coming off of solid win over the Seahawks. While the Raiders had the 5th worst first down rate differential week 1 at -8.85%, the Broncos had the 4th best at +9.80%. With improved quarterback play, the Broncos are a potential playoff team in the AFC and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them win the AFC West. I liked this line better earlier in the week when it was 5.5, but the Broncos are still worth a bet as long as this line is under a touchdown, because the Broncos have a good chance to win by double digits.

Denver Broncos 24 Oakland Raiders 12

Pick against the spread: Denver -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons: 2018 Week 2 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

Both of these teams suffered significant injury losses week 1. The Falcons lost safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones, two talented young defensive players, and will also be without running back Devonta Freeman for at least one game. Meanwhile, the Panthers, already without left tackle Matt Kalil with a knee injury, lost tight end Greg Olsen and right tackle Daryl Williams for an extended period of time and will also be without right guard Trai Turner this week because of a concussion.

Including the off-season loss of Andrew Norwell, the Panthers have lost 4 of 5 starters on the offensive line since the end of the last season, including a trio of Norwell, Turner, and Williams who were among the best in the league at their respective positions. Coming into the season, I had the Falcons ranked significantly higher than the Panthers and that remains the case after all these injuries on both sides. I liked this line better when it was -5.5 earlier in the week and I may increase the confidence on this bet if it drops back under 6, but the Falcons should be able to win this game at home by at least a touchdown.

Atlanta Falcons 27 Carolina Panthers 17

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -6

Confidence: Medium

Indianapolis Colts at Washington Redskins: 2018 Week 2 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (0-1) at Washington Redskins (1-0)

Coming into the season, I had the Colts as one of the worst teams in the league. They get Andrew Luck back from injury, but have arguably the worst supporting cast in the league around him, including arguably the worst defense in the league. Making matters worse, the Colts will be without two of their better players in this game, Anthony Castonzo, a long-time above average left tackle who will miss his 2nd straight game to open the season, and defensive tackle Denico Autry, a free agent acquisition who played great in the opener, but suffered an ankle injury in practice that will cause him to miss this game.

The Colts lost their opener at home to the Bengals, a game in which the Colts had a -10.23% first down rate differential (3rd worst of the week), and now they head to Washington where the Redskins are coming off of a dominant road victory in Arizona, where they had a +14.59% first down rate differential (2nd best of the week). After an injury plagued 7-9 season in 2017, the Redskins are healthy again in 2018 and are a talented team. They might not make the playoffs in the tough NFC, but they should be able to cover this 5.5 point line at home against a team that should finish near the bottom of the weaker AFC. This is my Pick of the Week.

Washington Redskins 27 Indianapolis Colts 16

Pick against the spread: Washington -5.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals: 2018 Week 2 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)

The Ravens went 9-7 last season, finished 10th in first down rate, and had the best point differential (+92) of any team that missed the post-season and they’ve gotten their 2018 season off to a strong start with a 47-3 victory over the Bills, but they’ve had a pretty easy schedule. Last season, they had the benefit of facing 6 backup quarterbacks (Jacoby Brissett, Brett Hundley, Matt Moore, Tom Savage, EJ Manuel, Case Keenum), all of whom except Keenum played terribly last season, and that doesn’t even count two games against the winless Browns. This season, they opened against a Bills team that is arguably the worst in the league and who was starting a backup caliber quarterback (if you can even call him that) in Nathan Peterman, who was benched in the second half for rookie Josh Allen.

Other than their games against backup quarterbacks and against the Browns, the Ravens went just 2-6 in 2018. One of those wins was against these Bengals, but the Ravens also lost to the Bengals later in the season. The Bengals are also significantly improved offensively from 2017 to 2018, thanks to an improved offensive line and healthier skill position players. They are missing top linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first 4 games of the season due to a suspension, but the Ravens are in the same boat, missing top cornerback Jimmy Smith until week 5.

I have these two teams about even in my rankings, suggesting this line should be -3 in favor of the hometown Bengals. I was hoping the Ravens’ big win over the Bills would shift this line and get us even more line value with Cincinnati, but the Bengals looked good in their road win over the Colts last week too, so the line stayed put at a pick ‘em. There’s still enough here for the Bengals to be worth a wager though.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 Baltimore Ravens 17

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati PK

Confidence: Medium

2018 Week 1 NFL Pick Results

Week 1

Total Against the Spread: 10-5-1

Pick of the Week: 1-0

High Confidence Picks: 1-1

Medium Confidence Picks: 1-2

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 3-3

Low Confidence Picks: 2-0

No Confidence Picks: 5-2-1

Upset Picks: 2-1-1

All-Time (Since 2013)

Total Against the Spread: 701-613-37 (53.26%)

Pick of the Week: 52-34-2 (60.23%)

High Confidence Picks: 81-60-6 (57.14%)

Medium Confidence Picks: 200-155-6 (56.23%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 333-249-14 (57.05%)

Low Confidence Picks: 191-183-13 (51.03%)

No Confidence Picks: 177-181-10 (49.46%)

Upset Picks: 109-137-1 (44.33%)