NFL Week 2: Picks and Predictions

So far in the young 2021 NFL season, the Monday and Thursday night games have been awesome. Maybe it’s the matchmaking, maybe it’s karma for a slew of terrible games last season, but the New York Giants and Washington Football team put on a high-drama thriller Thursday with Washington pulling off an improbable last-second victory, 30-29.

Washington celebrates their improbable victory

It wasn’t the best game in terms of good football, but it was an exciting one that showed why both teams had losing records last season and started this season 0-1. I had picked Washington to win but the Giants to cover, so I got those but the under at 40.5-pts got smoked when things heated up in the second half. 

The vaunted Washington defense that finished #2 overall last year behind the Rams hasn’t looked so formidable to start the season, but they hung in there just long enough to give Taylor Heinicke a shot at redemption. After a fantastic go-ahead TD pass to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, the Washington defense forced a punt and got Heinicke the ball back with the lead and less than 3-minutes left in the game. The game was basically gift-wrapped for Washington at that point. After a solid 1st down run by Antonio Gibson, New York took a timeout to stop the clock. I know the new NFL is pass-happy, but with 2:22 left on 2nd & 7 with a dead clock, RUN THE BALL. It’s truly amazing to see teams continually put themselves at a disadvantage and instead of an easy run to force NY to burn another timeout, Heinicke threw an ill-advised pass into traffic, trying to force the ball to Scary Terry McLaurin (who’d had a fantastic game to that point), and James Bradberry jumped the route and picked it off. It was as catastrophic of a situation as you could have imagined and the Giants would take the lead on a field goal. Fortunately for Washington, they would get the ball back with some time and Heinicke would lead them down the field for the eventual game-winner. 

Taylor Heinicke had a roller-coaster of a 4th quarter

Giants fans have no shortage of reasons to be fuming after this one though. There was the holding call that brought back a Daniel Jones TD run, a TD pass that bounced off the hands of Darius Slayton, a number of catastrophic false starts down the stretch, and the offsides penalty that negated the missed field goal that would have won the game for New York. Daniel Jones was 4-0 against Washington heading into the game and he played pretty well overall in this one. He ran for what I think was a career-high 95-yards behind a handful of very effective read-option plays and never made the killer mistake throwing the ball. Danny Dimes was working the defense over pretty well but couldn’t really distribute the ball consistently to anyone besides Sterling Shephard and Saquon Barkley didn’t do much on the ground beside one big 41-yarder. There are a lot of positives to take away from a heartbreaker like that, but that’s a game you know they are going to want back when the division tightens up in the second half of the season. 

This dropped TD could have potentially won it for the Giants

Both teams gave the other ample opportunity to win the game and they’ll both be looking to clean up numerous mistakes in film study. Anyway, let’s get into all the rest of the games for Week 2.

(-180) New Orleans Saints @ (+155) Carolina Panthers (+3.5, o/u 44.5)

The Saints came out firing on all cylinders in their season opener, beating up on the Packers 38-3, but it’s still tough to gauge exactly where they’re at because the Packers looked completely disinterested. The Panthers went on the road and had their way with the Giants 27-13 and that win looks better since Thursday. I still have to favor New Orleans here but their injury report is giving me pause. Center Erik McCoy is out, the linebacker core is thin with Kwon Alexander, Pete Werner, and Chase Hansen all out and C.J. Gardner Johnson listed as questionable, so containing Christian McCaffrey is going to be bigger problem than usual. They are also shorthanded along the defensive line and banged up in the secondary. If there were ever a time to steal a game from a division rival that you’re not supposed to beat, this would be it for Carolina but beating the Jets by 5 isn’t the kind of performance that has me convinced.

Pick: Saints | Vs Spread: Saints -3.5 | Over: 44.5

(+120) Cincinnati Bengals at (-140) @ Chicago Bears (-2.5, 45)

Joe Burrow and the Bengals did a nice job getting out of their Week 1 matchup with the Vikings. It’s a game they probably would have lost last season and beating a veteran team is not easy to do. Chicago got one-sidedly handled by the Rams but they did manage to run the ball pretty well against last year’s top defense and even got Justin Fields into the game and into the endzone. This is a much more favorable matchup heading home and a chance for Andy Dalton to get a payback W against his former team. Cincy will be without Ricardo Allen and Trae Waynes in the secondary which bodes well for Bears’ WR Allen Robinson. Chicago isn’t exactly at 100% either with seven guys listed as questionable including notable names like OL Jason Peters, WRs Marquise Goodwin and WR Darnell Mooney, and edge rusher Robert Quinn. They still have a much better defensive front than Minnesota and will be happy to see not the Rams defense across the ball.

Pick: Bears | Vs Spread: Bears -2.5 | Under: 45

(+475) Houston Texans @ (-700) Cleveland Browns (-13, o/u 48)

Houston surprised a lot of people with their dominant 37-21 win over the Jaguars in Week 1, but that was one of the games I got right. However, the Browns are a significant step up in competition from the Jags and they’ll be looking to take out some aggression after letting a win over the Chiefs slip through their fingers. Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t back yet but some of the injuries along the offensive line that could spell trouble and that 13-point spread is gigantic. I’ll be pulling for Tyrod Taylor and he’s not trying to get Houston into a trackmeet, but the Browns are built to win these kind of games.

Pick: Browns | Vs Spread: Texans +13 | Under: 48

(-200) LA Rams @ (+170) Indianapolis Colts (+3.5, o/u 48)

Matthew Stafford looked great in his debut for the Rams, but I can’t say the same for Carson Wentz in his first game as a Colt and things don’t get any easier for him taking on the Rams’ defense. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes and starting right tackle Braden Smith are out for Indy while two starting receivers, both starting safeties, and three others are questionable. I’m hoping Jonathan Taylor can find some fantasy success against the Rams’ defense but I see no reason to think Indy is a threat.

Pick: Rams | Vs Spread: Rams -3.5 | Over: 48

(-270) Denver Broncos @ (+220) Jacksonville Jaguars (+6, o/u 45)

The Teddy Bridgewater era in Denver got off to a good start with a dominant road victory over the Giants and they head to Jacksonville with a repeat performance in mind. Jags’ rookie QB Trevor Lawrence didn’t look like the #1 overall pick as they got handled by the Texans, but he started to play better once the game was out of reach. The problems in Jacksonville go much deeper than the QB position and it’s been a “shit show” with new head coach Urban Meyer who’s rumored to be looking for the door already. In addition to that, CB Tre Herndon is out and CB Tyson Campbell is questionable in the Jags’ secondary. Even with Jerry Jeudy on the IR for Denver, they still have plenty of weapons on offense and Von Miller back on defense.

Pick: Broncos | Vs Spread: Broncos -6 | Over: 45

(-180) Buffalo Bills @ (+155) Miami Dolphins (+3.5, o/u 44.5)

The Bills came into the season with a tremendous amount of hype and Super Bowl aspirations. Those aren’t necessarily derailed, but completely lost control of a game they were in control vs Pittsburgh in Week 1. Miami heads into this divisional clash with the AFC East lead after surviving the Patriots 17-16 and an opportunity to gain some cushion and get some revenge for having last season ended in blowout fashion. The Bills have a couple questionable heading into the game including DT Star Lotulelei and WR Gabriel Davis, but they are still plenty well-equipped. BUF needs this one and Josh Allen has a great track record against Miami.

Pick: Bills | Vs Spread: Bills -3.5 | Over: 44.5

(-260) New England Patriots @ (+210) New York Jets (+6, o/u 43)

Patriots’ rookie QB Mac Jones almost came away with a victory in his debut but if there’s one thing that’ll get you on track in the NFL, it’s playing the Jets. New York has their own rookie QB they believe will be the future in Zach Wilson and both guys played well in their debut losses. New York still has offensive line issues but the defense played decent against Carolina. I expect a fairly close game here, but the New Enland defense always gives rookie QBs trouble. Trent Brown ad Kyle Van Noy are out for NE, but I’m still taking the Pats in a close one.

Pick: Patriots | Vs Spread: Jets +6 | Under: 43

(-160) San Francisco 49ers at (+140) Philadelphia Eagles (+3, o/u 49.5)

This game is going to be a good one as the 49ers look to reclaim the form that got them to the Super Bowl a couple of years ago and the Eagles are looking to establish that they are for real in the Jalen Hurts era. San Francisco just lost RB Raheem Mostert and CB Jason Verrett for the season and their other CB Emmanuel Moseley is doubtful, so the Niners’ defense is going to have their work cut out for them covering the dynamic playmakers of the Eagles. Plus, SF is coming off a game where they gave up 33-points to the Lions so maybe their defense isn’t what it was a couple of years ago. Philly’s win against an embarrassingly bad Atlanta squad doesn’t exactly make them elite in the NFC either, but they are a little bit of an unknown, Hurts is the X-factor, and their defensive front is pretty solid. The Niners should win this game but they’ve gotta execute.

Pick: 49ers | Vs Spread: 49ers -3 | Over: 49.5

(+230) Las Vegas Raiders at (-280) Pittsburgh Steelers (-6, o/u 47)

The Raiders’ emotional last-second, overtime victory over the Ravens was a big moment for the franchise’s Vegas era and they showed a lot of heart in that game, but the Steelers aren’t the Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger showed that he’s not hanging around for a participation trophy as he led his team to a road win over the heavily favored Bills in Week 1. Vegas heads into this game with five players out, including starting RB Josh Jacobs. Kenyan Drake is a nice fantasy play in this spot, but the Steelers’ defense looked very good last week and they are mostly healthy. I think the Raiders comes back to Earth in this one.

Pick: Steelers | Vs Spread: Steelers -6 | Over: 47

(+170) Minnesota Vikings at (-200) Arizona Cardinals (-3.5, o/u 50.5)

Minnesota might be the most spastic team in the league. With the talent they have, they are definitely underachievers. Arizona, on the other hand, came out and looked incredible against the Titans. They also looked great in Week 1 against the Niners last season before finishing 8-8. So this is a game where there is going to be a lot of talent on the field but the fairly small spread suggests that the oddsmakers recognize this too. Four players are out for the Vikes including two of their biggest pieces on defense, LB Anthony Barr and DE Emerson Griffin. Their secondary is good on paper, but Cincy QB Joe Burrow and rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase gave them big problems. I have to imagine Kyler Murray and the Cards’ receivers will be at least equally problematic, so I’ve gotta back the Birds in what should be high-scoring.

Pick: Cardinals | Vs Spread: Cardinals -3.5 | Over: 50.5

(+550) Atlanta Falcons at (-800) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-12.5, 52)

The defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers and Tom Brady welcome the worst team in the league to town. Need I say more? I know 12.5-points is a big spread in a pro football game, but if there was a game where it was appropriate, this is it.

Pick: Bucs | Vs Spread: Bucs -12.5| Under: 52

(+230) Tennessee Titans at (-280) Seattle Seahawks (-6.5, o/u 54)

Even with the offseason addition of Julio Jones, the Titans didn’t put up much of a fight against the Cardinals last week. It was mostly the porous defense but the run game wasn’t there for Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill didn’t look great either. Seattle went on the road to Indy and Russell Wilson staked his claim as an early-season MVP candidate with a masterful performance. Even so, I don’t think the disparity between the teams is that drastic if the Titans play well. The Seahawks’ defense showed improvement from last season and have always been tough on the run, so it’ll be up to their new-look secondary and pass rush to take care of business.

Pick: Hawks | Vs Spread: Titans +6.5 | Over: 54

(+155) Dallas Cowboys at (-180) Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5, o/u 55)

This one has all the makings of game-of-the-week. Both offenses are loaded with weaponry to stretch opposing defenses and with CB Chris Harris Jr. out for the Bolts and S Donovan Wilson out for the Boys, both secondaries will have their work cut out for them. Dallas should have a lot of confidence coming off a close loss to the Bucs. The Chargers’ win over Washington doesn’t look as valuable now and I had Bolts fans telling me that Herbert was the best QB in football after Week 1, but I’m curious where those opinions are at after what Daniel Jones just did to Washington. These teams are very similar and I expect a shootout. It’s as close to a coin toss as you can get.

Pick: Cowboys | Vs Spread: Cowboys +3.5 | Over: 55

(-200) Kansas City Chiefs at (+200) Baltimore Ravens (+3.5, o/u 54.5)

This one was probably supposed to be a bigger deal for Sunday Night Football but, after Baltimore blundered the game away vs the Raiders, the air has been taken out of the sails. The Chiefs are coming off a big win over the Browns who run the ball and play defense better than the Ravens, so I don’t see Baltimore as much of a threat. Lamar Jackson is, of course, always going to be hard to contain but if he couldn’t put away the Raiders, he’s not going to do it to the Chiefs just yet and I’m surprised the spread is so small.

Pick: Chiefs | Vs Spread: Chiefs -3.5 | Under: 54.5

(+425) Detroit Lions at (-600) Green Bay Packers (-11.5, o/u 48)

The Packers need a get-back game after the ass whipping they took at the hands of the Saints in week one, and the Lions are the ones who get the privilege of heading to Lambeau Field in primetime on Monday. Green bay will be without their best defensive player as Za’Darius Smith got sent to IR and S Vernon Scott is out. Detroit will be without their best receiver as Tyrell Williams is in concussion protocol, but both teams are mostly healthy. The Packers need to make a statement and I expect them to win comfortably, but the spread is pretty big for a defense that got toasted last week.

Pick: Packers| Vs Spread: Lions +11.5 | Over: 48

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