2021 Week 2 NFL Picks

Pick of the Week

NE -6 @ NYJ

High Confidence Picks

GB -11.5 vs. DET

Medium Confidence Picks

ARZ -3.5 vs. MIN

IND +3.5 vs. LAR

TB -12.5 vs. ATL

CIN +2.5 @ CHI

Low Confidence Picks

NYG +3.5 @ WAS

LV +6.5 @ PIT

JAX +6 vs. DEN

DAL +3.5 @ LAC

CAR +3.5 vs. NO

BAL +4 vs. KC

CLE -12.5 vs. HOU

SEA -6.5 vs. TEN

No Confidence Picks

BUF -3.5 @ MIA

PHI +3 vs. SF

Upset Pick

CIN @ CHI +120

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (0-1) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)

The Packers had the most disappointing week one performance in the league, losing 38-3 as 3.5-point favorites against the Saints. The Packers aren’t as good as a year ago, especially with key players like David Bakhtiari and Za’Darius Smith out of the lineup, but the Saints were also banged up, missing key players like Michael Thomas, David Onyemata, and Will Lutz, after an off-season where they lost other key players, and they were playing a home game on a neutral field and not being home for an extended period of time because of Hurricane Ida.

I’m not sure what to make of the Packers’ huge loss last week, but I don’t expect them to be anywhere near that bad the rest of the season, even if they aren’t as good as they were a year ago, and they’ve also typically bounced back well after a loss, as they are 39-21 ATS after a loss with Aaron Rodgers under center. Memorably, the Packers lost in blowout fashion in Tampa Bay last year, before bouncing back in a big way against a significantly interior Texans team the following week.

The Packers should be able to do a similar thing this time, especially since they’ll be at home, where they are 44-22 ATS in games Aaron Rodgers starts and finishes with fans in attendance, and facing an even worse team in the Detroit Lions. The Lions somehow came back from down 28 to almost win against the 49ers last week, but they needed a pair of two point conversions, an onside kick recovery, a takeaway, and for the banged up 49ers to more or less take their foot off the gas on defense with a big lead. 

The Lions are still one of the worst teams in the league and I don’t expect the Packers to take their foot off the gas, needing to make a statement after an embarrassing loss. My calculated line is Green Bay -14, even before taking into account their incredible homefield advantage and how well they typically bounce back from a loss, so I’m pretty confident even giving 11.5 points with the Packers. This one is unlikely to be close.

Green Bay Packers 34 Detroit Lions 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -11.5

Confidence: High

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (0-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-0)

It was tough to know what to make of the Bills/Steelers game, but my takeaway was more than the Bills were worse than expected more than the Steelers were better than expected. Everything went perfectly for the Bills’ offense last season and even an elite defense like the Steelers would not have been a huge challenge for them, but that was not the case in the opener and that could continue for most of the season. That’s not to say they won’t have a good offense, but it’s hard to see them seriously challenging in the AFC if they don’t get consistently high level play from their offensive unit.

If they can bounce back from week one and perform even close to last year’s level of play, they should be able to win relatively easily in Miami, against a Dolphins team that remains a little overrated, winning week one in New England in a game they easily could have lost if not for fumbles, which are the least predictive metric in the league week-to-week. When looking at more predictive metrics, the Dolphins fared worse in both first down rate (33.33% vs. 30.77%) and yards per play (5.61 vs. 4.98).

The Dolphins won 10 games a year ago, but they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%) and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). They added Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller to improve their receiving corps this off-season, but they will likely get worse quarterback play from a full season of Tua Tagovailoa than last year when Ryan Fitzpatrick played well when given the opportunity to play and Tagovailoa did not fare well as a passer week one without Will Fuller, who now looks out indefinitely. It’s hard to be confident in the Bills at all, but I could see them bouncing back in a big way this week and don’t mind giving the 3.5 for pick ‘em purposes.

Buffalo Bills 24 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -3.5

Confidence: None

Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

This line moved significantly from favoring the Broncos by 3 on the early line last week to now by 6 this week, as a result of the Jaguars losing convincingly in Houston and the Broncos winning convincingly in New York against the Giants. I wasn’t that surprised by either result, as I thought the Broncos could be playoff contenders if they could get capable quarterback play from Teddy Bridgewater, which they seem likely to get, while the Jaguars didn’t do enough to upgrade their supporting cast around rookie Trevor Lawrence. 

However, now with this line shooting up to 6, we’ve lost all line value with the Broncos and are now actually getting line value with the hosts, who I have calculated as 4-point underdogs. This seems like a runaway line that the odds makers can boost higher than it should be because they know the public will still bet on the road favorite, which they have, as the Broncos are one of the most bet sides in the league this week. I am not confident in the Jaguars, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, as a close game wouldn’t surprise me.

Denver Broncos 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +6

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (0-1)

The Eagles are a tough team to project right now. Their supporting cast isn’t bad, as their offensive line is much healthier than a year ago, their receiving corps are better, and their secondary has added key players like Anthony Harris and Steven Nelson, but quarterback Jalen Hurts is still a big question mark. Hurts struggled mightily as a passer in his limited action as a starter as a rookie last season, but was one of the best passers in the league in week one, albeit against a Falcons defense that could be the worst in the league. If he can be a capable starting quarterback, with a combination of his rushing ability and improved passing ability, the Eagles could be a decent team this season, in which case they probably shouldn’t be 3-point underdogs this week.

The 49ers were one of my top teams in the league going into week one and looked dominant against a bad Lions team before taking their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter and somehow nearly blowly a 28-point lead. I still think they are one of the better teams in the league, but a big reason I expected them to improve was they would likely have significantly better health than a year ago, which hasn’t quite gone as planned.

They were significantly better than their 6-10 record suggested last season even with all their injuries and they are nowhere near as banged up now as they were a year ago, but they lost starting running back Raheem Mostert for the season and their defense will be without at least four expected starters, cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, linebacker Dre Greenlaw, and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, while fellow starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw barely practiced this week and could be in line to miss his second straight game, after being labelled questionable. It could be a tough ask for them to come to Philadelphia and win by more than a touchdown. I’m going to take the Eagles this week, but it’s hard to be confident because Jalen Hurts’ week one performance could be mostly the result of an awful Falcons defense.

San Francisco 49ers 19 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: None

Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)

Both of these teams pulled upset wins in week one, the Steelers winning as 6.5-point underdogs in Buffalo and the Raiders winning as 4-point home underdogs against the Ravens. The Raiders’ upset was less surprising, as they had the clear emotional edge at night, against an east coast team that travelled cross country, in their first game with fans in the building since moving to Las Vegas, and that emotional edge could swing the other way this week, leading to the Raiders being much flatter for this trip cross country to Pittsburgh.

That being said, this line still overrates the Steelers, favoring them by 6.5 points. I get the feeling that their win over the Bills was more about the Bills being worse than expected than it was about the Steelers being better than expected. Their defense remains dominant, but it was a concerning performance for their offense, which looks likely to be held back by inconsistent offensive line and quarterback play all season and defensive play tends to be less consistent week-to-week than offensive play. It’s hard to back a team like that against a capable opponent when favored by this many points. The Steelers should win, but I would pick the Raiders for pick ‘em purposes, even if they are not likely to be as emotionally charged as a week ago.

Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Las Vegas Raiders 13

Pick against the spread: Las Vegas +6.5

Confidence: Low

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (0-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-0)

I was expecting the Cowboys to be a lot better this season because of improved health, namely the return of quarterback Dak Prescott and his top-3 offensive linemen from injuries that cost them significant portions of last season, but the Cowboys have once again been affected by significant absences. Dominant right guard Zack Martin missed the opener with COVID and, while he will be back for week two, the Cowboys will be without talented right tackle La’El Collins, starting wide receiver Michael Gallup, and their top-2 edge rushers DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory this week, all key absences for this team. 

This line has adjusted though, moving off of an even field goal up to 3.5 this week. That might not seem like a big deal, but about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal and +3.5 covers more often than any spread as a result. The Chargers are a bit of an overrated team, as three of their last eight wins have come by four points or fewer, with the exceptions coming against the 1-15 Jaguars, the 2-14 Jets, and the Chiefs’ backups, and the Chargers are dealing with their own injury issues, without top cornerback Chris Harris, starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga, and starting defensive tackle Justin Jones this week, so this line seems about right, favoring the Chargers at home by 3.5. 

The Chargers have limited homefield advantage and this crowd will likely mostly be Cowboys fans, but the Chargers do have a clear talent edge right now, so this is exactly where my calculated line is. With that in mind, I am going to take the Cowboys, only because they are in a better spot, with the Chargers set to face the Chiefs next week, making this an obvious look ahead spot. There isn’t enough here to bet on it, but a field goal game either way seems most likely and taking the +3.5 covers in both instances.

Los Angeles Chargers 30 Dallas Cowboys 27

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)

Probably the most surprising week one result was the Saints not only upsetting the Packers as 3.5-point underdogs, but blowing them out by a final score of 38-3, the most lopsided result of the week. Unsurprisingly, that led to the biggest line movement shift of the week, with this line going from even on the early line last week to now favoring the Saints by 3.5 points on the road in Carolina, a big deal considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less.

The Packers were probably not going to be as good as last year and this roster has only gotten worse since the start of the season, with stud left tackle David Bahktiari beginning the year on the physically unable to perform list and dominant edge rusher Za’Darius Smith going on injured reserve after playing just 18 snaps in the opener, but the Saints didn’t look to be in good shape to start the season either, with top wide receiver Michael Thomas, top interior defender David Onyemata, and talented kicker Will Lutz all out for the start of the season, so it was a very surprising result, especially for a Saints team that normally gets off to a slow start anyway, going just 4-17-1 ATS in weeks 1 and 2 from 2010-2020, as opposed to 94-58-7 ATS in other weeks. 

The Saints won the turnover battle by 3 against the Packers, which is a very inconsistent metric week-to-week, but that win wasn’t just because of the turnover margin, as they won the first down rate battle by 10.62% and likely would have won by multiple scores even if they played turnover neutral football. However, it still worries me that the result of that game was more because of the Packers not showing up than the Saints actually still being a high level team despite key absences and off-season losses. 

We’re also getting significantly more line value with the Panthers as 3.5-point home underdogs than we were a week ago on the early line and the Saints’ injury absence situation has only gotten worse, with talented center Erik McCoy, defensive starters Marcus Davenport and Kwon Alexander, and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore all expected to be out this week as well. The Saints could also be flat after last week’s win, as teams are just 15-25 ATS over the past thirty years after a win by 21 or more as home underdogs of 3 or more, including 5-10 ATS as favorites and 2-6 ATS as road favorites.

Add in the Saints’ habitually slow starts (even last season when they beat the Buccaneers by 11 week 1, they turned around and lost week two in upset fashion against the Raiders by 10) and there is a strong case for taking the Panthers this week. I think the Panthers are a bit of an overrated team too and we’re not getting quite enough line value with them to bet them confidently, but they should be the right side and could easily catch the Saints off guard and pull the outright upset.

New Orleans Saints 19 Carolina Panthers 17

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3.5

Confidence: Low

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-1)

The Chiefs won last week, but they had a significantly lower first down rate (42.11% vs. 34.43%) and yards per play (8.16 vs. 6.51) than their opponent, winning primarily because of the turnover margin, which is a significantly less predictive metric. However, the Chiefs were facing a Browns team that could be one of the best in the league and they were doing it without a pair of key defenders, Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu, who are expected back this week. 

This week, the Chiefs get a Ravens team that is as banged up as any team in the league. They lost their top-3 running backs for the season before the year began, as well as starting cornerback Marcus Peters, while key offensive players Nick Boyle and Rashod Bateman are missing the start of the season on injured reserve and starting defensive lineman Derek Wolfe is week-to-week and once again out for this game. The Ravens lost week one in Las Vegas and now will also be without key left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is also hurt.

However, I still think we are getting a little line value with the Ravens, who I have calculated as 3-point home underdogs. Even as banged up as they are, they still shouldn’t be home underdogs of more than a field goal against anyone, as there is still a lot of talent on this team. I think there are two reasons they are being underrated this week. One is their loss to the Raiders last week, which was predictable given that the Ravens were travelling cross country for a night game in the first game against in the new Las Vegas stadium with Ravens.

The other reason the Ravens are being underrated is the history between Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, with Mahomes taking all three matchups previously. I’m not sure how much that matters though, given the small sample size and the fact that two of the matchups were one-score games. Prior to the Ravens beating the Titans in the post-season last year, it was believed that the Ravens couldn’t beat the Titans because they had struggled in previous matchups against them, but that proved to not be true. The Titans aren’t the Chiefs, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Ravens were at least very competitive in this game.

If anything, their recent history with the Chiefs could just provide more motivation for the Ravens, who will also be hungry to avenge last week’s embarrassing loss. There isn’t quite enough here to confidently bet this banged up Ravens team as 4-point underdogs, but I expect a better showing than a week ago and for the Ravens to at least keep it close against a Chiefs team that has played a lot of close games dating back to last season.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 Baltimore Ravens 27

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +4

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (1-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-1)

The Browns lost week one, but they were probably the most impressive team to lose a game, as they went on the road and outperformed the Chiefs in more predictive metrics like first down rate (42.11% vs. 34.43%) and yards per play (8.16 vs. 6.51), primarily losing the game because they lost the turnover margin, which is much less predictive. The Browns had the potential to be one of the most complete teams in the league this year, with a much improved defense, so even with a week one loss, I liked what I saw from them to open the season.

The Texans, meanwhile, were the worst team to win a game week one, winning at home against a Jaguars team that still looks like one of the worst in the league. I had the Texans winning just two games in my season preview, but I thought there was a decent chance one of those would be their week one game and, much like the Jaguars last year when they went 1-15 after starting 1-0, we could easily see the Texans now go on a long losing streak. This line should be higher, even with it already being 12.5. There isn’t quite enough here for the Browns to be worth betting on and they didn’t win many games in blowout fashion last season, but this is a better team than a year ago and they seem likely to win by a couple touchdowns.

Cleveland Browns 31 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -12.5

Confidence: Low