Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

The Buccaneers nearly lost at home to the Cowboys week one, but they also won that game despite losing the turnover margin by three, which only happens about 11.3% of the time. Turnover margin is one of the least predictable metrics week-to-week and, had the Buccaneers had an even turnover margin in week one, they likely would have won by multiple scores, against a decent Cowboys team. 

With that in mind, they should be able to easily win by multiple scores against a Falcons team that is one of the five worst in the league. This line isn’t high enough at 12.5, as the Falcons really have no strengths as a team with Julio Jones gone, Matt Ryan declining, and the rest of the roster no better than a year ago. This should be an easy blowout for the Buccaneers. I don’t want to make a huge play on this one because the line is so high and the Buccaneers could always take their foot off in the second half with a big lead, but the Buccaneers are still worth a bet at 12.5.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 Atlanta Falcons 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -12.5

Confidence: Medium

Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (0-1) at Seattle Seahawks (1-0)

This game has one of the biggest week-to-week line movements of any game this week, with the Seahawks moving from 3.5-point favorites on the early line last week to 6.5-point favorites this week. Normally, I like to fade significant line movements like that as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but I thought the Seahawks were underrated and the Titans were overrated coming into the season and I still think that is somewhat the case, as my calculated line is Seattle -7.5.

The Titans won 11 games a year ago, but they faced an easy schedule and went 7-2 in one score games, while leading the league with a +11 turnover margin, which are both unsustainable long-term. They were exposed with their week one loss, but I don’t expect them to be drastically better going forward, as their offense could have significant issues without offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are one of the most complete teams in the league and should be able to beat a middling Titans team by more than a touchdown. I wouldn’t bet on the Seahawks at -6.5, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Seattle Seahawks 31 Tennessee Titans 23

Pick against the spread: Seattle -6.5

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at Indianapolis Colts: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

The Colts weren’t much of a match for the Seahawks week one, but the Seahawks are one of the most complete teams in the league and the Colts were at far less than full health. I was hoping they would be healthier this week and both Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson will be another week removed from their injuries, which should be a boost, as will the return of left tackle Eric Fisher, but they will be without their top cornerback Xavier Rhodes once again, while stud right tackle Braden Smith will join him on the sideline. However, I still like the Colts for a small play this week, as underdogs of more than a field goal at home. 

I think the general public sees the Rams as better than the Seahawks, who just beat the Colts easily in Indianapolis as field goal favorites last week, which is why this line is where it is, but I don’t think that is the case. The Rams have gotten a lot of hype for improving their quarterback situation this off-season, but they are unlikely to be quite as good defensively as they were a year ago and their special teams remain a big concern, while the Seahawks are one of the top overall teams in the league. The Rams did win easily against the Bears week one, but the Bears are one of the worst teams in the league and that game could have been a lot closer if not for key mistakes by the Bears, including not touching a receiver down, a blown coverage, and a goal line interception.

The Colts are also in a good spot as teams tend to fare better in their straight game as home underdogs, especially after a double digit loss, covering at about a 57.3% rate historically, while the Rams could get caught looking forward to a matchup with the Buccaneers next week, against a Colts team that is better than they looked week one and that will desperately be trying to avoid 0-2. This won’t be a big play, but I like the Colts enough to bet on them this week.

Los Angeles Rams 24 Indianapolis Colts 23

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (0-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-0)

This is one of several games this week where I would have liked the early line a lot more, as the Cardinals were favored by a field goal a week ago and now have moved to 3.5-point favorites, a big deal given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. However, the Cardinals were one of my top underrated teams coming into the season and this line could have moved more, given that the Vikings lost to the Bengals, while the Cardinals blew out the Titans, who were pretty universally seen as better than the Bengals coming into the season.

I had the Vikings as an underrated team entering the season as well, but that largely relied on them being healthier than last season, which has not happened, as they began the year with tight end Irv Smith and left tackle Christian Darrisaw on injured reserve and have since lost linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Everson Griffen, while fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks might not be at 100% after getting hurt in practice this week. They’re still better overall than they were a year ago when they had one of the worst defenses in the league, but I have the Cardinals as 4-points better than them, so we’re getting line value with the hosts even with the line moving up to 3.5. This isn’t a big play, but the Cardinals are worth a bet.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Minnesota Vikings 20

Pick against the spread: Arizona -3.5

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)

The Patriots were my Pick of the Week last week and lost by 1 point as 3-point favorites, but the peripheral numbers show that the Patriots were the more efficient team, as they had the higher first down rate (33.33% vs. 30.77%) and yards per play (5.61 vs. 4.98), but lost the game because of two key lost fumbles, which happens to be one of the least predictive metrics, to the point where it’s essentially random week-to-week. I was hoping the general public would pay more attention to the result of that game and ignore that the Patriots likely would have won by a touchdown at least if they could hold onto the ball, which would have giving us even more value with the Patriots this week, but this line has shifted from favoring the Patriots by 3.5 on the early line last week to 6 this week, so that didn’t really happen. 

However, I think we are still getting line value with the Patriots, who I had as a top-10 team coming into the season, something that could easily happen despite last week’s result, if they can take better care of the football going forward. The Jets, meanwhile, are one of the worst teams in the league and looked that way in losing the first down rate battle (28.57% vs. 25.81%) and the yards per play battle (6.05 vs. 4.20) by significant margins against a mediocre Panthers team week one. The Jets did make noticeable upgrades on offense this season, including at the quarterback position, but they are still starting a rookie quarterback, which is especially a problem against a Bill Belichick coached defense.

On top of that, the Jets’ defense is likely to be worse than a year ago, they are starting from a lower base point than last year’s 2-14 record suggests, as their two wins easily could have been losses, and left tackle Mekhi Becton being out for the foreseeable future only makes things worse. Even with this line shifting to 6, we are getting line value with the Patriots, who I have calculated as 11-point favorites. Without another obvious choice, this is my Pick of the Week again, as I was very encouraged by a lot of what the Patriots did week one, despite the result, and think they remain underrated.

New England Patriots 27 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: New England -6

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) at Chicago Bears (0-1)

I thought the Bengals could be a little bit of an underrated team this season if Joe Burrow could return to form after his ACL tear because the rest of this team is noticeably improved over the past two years. The Bengals got a win week one against the Vikings, which is not as impressive as it could be, given the Vikings’ injury issues, but it was a quality win and, more importantly, Burrow did not show any obvious signs of rust. I don’t know if the Bengals are going to be playoff qualifiers, but they are at least a middling team, with a solid quarterback, a strong group of skill position talent, and an improved offensive line and defense.

The Bears, meanwhile, look likely to be one of the worst teams in the league, at least until they make the move to Justin Fields, which would at least have the potential to energize this offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton isn’t really the main problem, but the Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, while their once dominant defense is middling at best thanks to several off-seasons of key departures and injuries to key players like Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman, who will once again be once this week. Having a quarterback like Dalton under center gives them a pretty low ceiling and it’s clear the Bengals are the better of these two teams.

This line has shifted from favoring the Bears by 3.5 points on the early line last week to 2.5 this week, a big shift given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, but I still think we’re getting line value, as the Bengals are several points higher in my roster rankings and should be favored by at least a couple points. This isn’t nearly as big of a play as it would have been if we were still getting more than a field goal, but I still like the Bengals enough to bet on them against the spread and as an upset pick on the money line.

Cincinnati Bengals 23 Chicago Bears 20 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +2.5

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Washington Football Team: 2021 Week 2 NFL Pick

New York Giants (0-1) at Washington Football Team (0-1)

Washington came into the season with some significant potential. They returned almost everyone from one of the best defenses in the league a year ago and made noticeable upgrades in free agency at their two biggest positions of weakness, signing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Curtis Samuel to give their offense some more firepower through the air. Unfortunately, just one game into the season, both Fitzpatrick and Samuel are out indefinitely, with Samuel getting hurt in training camp and Fitzpatrick leaving early in week one. 

Washington still has one of the best defenses in the league, but offensive play is much more predictive week-to-week than defensive play and this offense could arguably be worse than a year ago as their biggest strength last season was their offensive line and, with three new starters upfront, this remade group is not as good and did not play well in the opener, causing issues both on the ground and through the air. 

New starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke is getting some hype for how he played in relief of Alex Smith last season and in relief of Fitzpatrick week one, but he’s been capable at best in his limited action, which amounts to just 78 total pass attempts, and he was out of the league completely a year ago, so it’s hard to be confident that he can even continue being as capable as he’s been thus far. This offense figures to struggle significantly without Fitzpatrick and Samuel.

Fortunately for Washington, their opponents this week aren’t in great shape either. I am higher on Daniel Jones than most and he has a promising group of pass catchers, while being supported by a solid defense, but their offensive line is a real problem and running back Saquon Barkley does not look healthy in his return from a torn ACL. If they can’t run and pass protect, the Giants are going to have a tough time consistently moving the ball this season, even with an underrated quarterback and solid receiving weapons, and their defense isn’t good enough to compensate.

This line moved from 5.5 on the early line last week to 3.5 this week to compensate for Fitzpatrick’s absence, but that doesn’t cross any key numbers, so it’s not overly significant line movement (about 8% of games are decided by 4-5 points). That line suggests Washington is the noticeably better team, but I have them a lot closer in my rankings. The general public is very down on the Giants after their week one home loss to the Broncos, but the Broncos were an underrated team coming into the season and that loss might not look as bad in hindsight if the Broncos can go on to win 10-11 games, which I think they easily could. There isn’t enough here for the Giants to be worth betting, but this is likely to be a low scoring game and there is a good chance it is decided by a field goal, so I’m taking the points for pick ‘em purposes.

Washington Football Team 20 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3.5

Confidence: Low