Thursday Night: New York Jets (-1) at Buffalo Bills
An unfortunate start to the week. Now I’m 9-8
Pick: Jets 20 Bills 23 incorrect
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (-13.5)
Oh my lord Ron Rivera would you quit complaining?
Obviously, that late Monday night game was more about how terrible the Rams are. The 49er defense will actually have to worry about defending the pass in this game, and I expect Greg Olsen and the Panther receivers to easily get open. NaVorro Bowman looked great in run support and in getting to Case Keenum, but he will struggle in coverage, just like he did last year. The Panthers’ running game will also be a little more creative than Todd Gurley up the middle or off tackle.
Blaine Gabbert was able to nickel and dime the Rams down the field, but with no real deep threat, Gabbert will have a much harder time doing that against Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. The Panthers will focus on stopping Carlos Hyde and will keep a spy on Gabbert in order to make him throw. Gabbert was not very accurate against the Rams and I’m sure the Panthers noticed that. This is the easiest game to pick this week.
Pick: 49ers 10 Panthers 35
Baltimore Ravens (-6) at Cleveland Browns
In all honesty, I don’t think RGIII gets his job back. Josh McCown doesn’t have the arm strength RGIII does, but he will do a better job of moving the chains and keeping possession. The Browns lost the time of possession battle by 20 minutes (20:40 to 39:20 to be exact) against the Eagles last week. McCown will actually use TE Gary Barnidge (at least I hope for fantasy purposes) and has some playmakers at receiver in Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor. When the Browns did run the ball last week, they had success. The Ravens played good defense last week, but how much of that was on the Bills losing their left tackle?
Joe Flacco played very well last week and really spread the ball around. The Browns have very little talent in their secondary, so I don’t expect Flacco to have any difficulty in finding open receivers. Baltimore’s running game left much to be desired last week, and the Browns had some success in stopping the run themselves. If the Browns can force Flacco into some timely incompletions, they’ll keep this game close.
I know the Browns are one of the worst teams, but even the 0-16 Lions went 7-9 against the spread. This isn’t a knock against the Ravens…I just think the Browns stay competitive this week.
Pick: Ravens 24 Browns 20
Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions (-6)
Marcus Mariota should have an easier time the rest of the year now because the Vikings have arguably the best defense in the NFL. The Lions didn’t get much pressure on Andrew Luck last week, so that may be an issue for them all year. Against the Vikings, the Titans were limited to 2.5 yards per carry. The Titans need to focus on establishing the run, as the Lions have a strong secondary. Sure, they couldn’t handle Andrew Luck, but not many teams can. The Titans don’t have nearly as many weapons on the outside as the Colts do, so a dependable running game is very important for Mariota.
Matthew Stafford is tearing it up. He actually has thrown only 2 interceptions since week 10 of last season. So with the Titans holding Adrian Peterson to just 31 yards rushing, the Lions will be throwing early and often to take advantage of the Titans’ deficiencies in their secondary. The Titans didn’t record a sack in week 1 either. They had a good pass rush last season, so that will need to get going so that they can keep this game close.
The Lions play the Packers next week. Will they come out flat? This spread also leaves a lot of room for a back door cover. I hate making a pick due to that, but I do believe that Mariota will keep this game close.
Pick: Titans 27 Lions 31
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans (-2.5)
The Chiefs were lucky to win last week, as they got to take advantage of Keenan Allen’s injury. Kansas City was easily able to stop the Chargers’ offense once that happened, so their offense was able to wear down the Charger defense and make the comeback. This week, they’ll be facing some scary edge rushers in Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, while dealing with JJ Watt on the interior. Alex Smith will have pressure in his face all game. The Texans limited the Bears to only 73 yards on the ground last week, so they should be able to have some success limiting Spencer Ware.
The Chiefs don’t have the same defense they possessed in 2015. That much is clear, as they would’ve surrendered 30-plus points to the Chargers had Allen not been knocked out with a torn ACL. Justin Houston being out of the lineup is a huge factor, as the pass rush is mostly non-existent. It also hurts that Eric Berry is clearly not 100 percent, and I was also surprised by how slow Derrick Johnson looked after a solid preseason.
The Texans have way more weapons on this side of the ball than the Chargers, so they won’t have to rely on one dynamic receiver. Of course, they do possess one in DeAndre Hopkins, but Will Fuller also stepped up last week, putting together a very impressive debut. If Berry continues to struggle, it could be a long day for Kansas City’s defensive backfield.
Pick: Chiefs 17 Texans 24
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-6.5)
I made a typing error last week, saying “the Dolphins are this bad” when I meant to say the Dolphins are NOT this bad in reference to the 10 point spread against the Seahawks. The Dolphins almost won the game. In the beginning of the season, the Dolphins always play the Patriots well, and I actually like their chances in this game. The Cardinals are obviously overrated, and the Patriots still have a young QB who will make some mistakes as well as some liabilities along their offensive line. This will be a huge advantage for the Dolphins. Ndamukong Suh and company should be able to put pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo all day. They shouldn’t have any issues slowing down the Patriots’ running game either. Yes, the Patriot army of slot receivers will get open for short games, but the Dolphins will obviously be focusing on stopping this.
The poor Dolphins had a wide open 71-yard TD pass dropped by Kenny Stills last week. They’ll need to avoid mistakes like that this week if they are going to win. Ryan Tannehill’s numbers may not look good, but that dropped TD pass was not his fault, and considering he was playing on the road against one of the best defenses in the league, he could have played a lot worse. The Dolphins unsurprisingly had trouble establishing a running game against the Seahawks, but the Patriots might not be as stiff in this regard, considering they gave up 5.3 yards per carry to the Cardinals last week.
Even though the Patriots won last week, it’s highly unlikely they open the season 4-0. With a Thursday game against the Texans on their slate in week 3, this is a big time trap game for New England.
Pick: Dolphins 20 Patriots 19
Cincinnati Bengals at Notre Dame Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)
I think if you asked the Steelers and Ravens who they hated most, I think both would say the Bengals at this point. The Ravens have lost 5 straight to the Bengals, while Steelers-Bengals, well, I don’t have to remind you. Antonio Brown took a cheap shot in the last meeting between these two, so I’m sure he’s extra motivated to torch the Bengals. Cincinnati will be without the services of Vontaze Burfict, which means more running room for DeAngelo Williams. The Bengals will need to dial up the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, or they don’t stand a chance.
AJ Green is currently the league leader in receiving yardage, and you can be sure he doesn’t want to be shown up when paired against Antonio Brown. The Steelers don’t have a very good secondary (I’m being nice). The Redskins had very little trouble moving the ball down the field, and I don’t expect the Bengals to have any, either. Dalton will do a better job limiting turnovers than Kirk Cousins, and the Bengals will be much more disciplined than the Redskins when it comes to penalties.
The spread actually went down to Pittsburgh -3 for a few days, even though Steelers blew out the Redskins. Now, it’s back up to 3.5, so I think the Bengals are the right side in this tight game.
Pick: Bengals 27 Steelers 28
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-2.5)
There’s already dysfunction in Washington, as Josh Norman called out the coaching staff after their loss on Monday night. Maybe the coaches will learn from their mistakes and just have Norman shadow Dez Bryant this week. Even if he does, Bryant should be able to accumulate more than 8 receiving yards this week. Dak Prescott played pretty well last week considering all the drops he endured. Washington’s defense isn’t any better than New York’s so there’s no reason that should change. And after watching what DeAngelo Williams was able to do against the Redskins, Ezekiel Elliott has to be licking his chops.
The Dallas defense will continue to have issues against the run and pass. The front seven is still missing several key contributors, while the secondary just isn’t anything special. As long as Kirk Cousins doesn’t force the issue like he did Monday, the Redskins will be able to move the ball and score touchdowns.
I’m just not comfortable taking the Redskins. They committed too many penalties, and morale may be low, thanks to Josh Norman. Perhaps they prove me wrong come Sunday.
Pick: Cowboys 24 Redskins 20
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants (-5)
Much is being said of Drew Brees throwing for 7 TDs against the Giants last year, but this is a very different Giants defense. Brees did whatever he wanted against the Raiders last week, but he always performs worse outside of the Superdome. The Giants have an excellent defensive line that will give the Saints’ offensive line lots of trouble. They also have a very good secondary, so if Brees is constantly under pressure, the Giants’ secondary should force some turnovers.
The Giants also have a shaky offensive line that Nick Fairley and Cameron Jordan will look to dominate. The Giants will have to establish their running game to keep the pressure off of Eli Manning. The Saints, who gave 6.3 yards per rush last week, will most likely allow that to happen. Even with some pressure in his face, Manning should be able to find Odell Beckham and company for nice gains against a Saints secondary that is missing its top corner.
Like most every other game this week, this is a tough pick. The Giants will be able to slow down Brees some, but will their offensive line get exposed? I think it will, so the Saints keep it close here.
Pick: Saints 31 Giants 34
Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders (-4.5)
Jack Del Rio has fooled the public into thinking he’s a good coach after doing what probably any coach would have done in going for 2, on the road, against a quarterback who was having a field day against your defense. However, I’m not at all convinced, as the Raiders played very poorly in that game. They were just able to take advantage of an injury to the Saints’ best corner and put up a flurry of points late in the game. The Saints have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, but Derek Carr was part of way too many stalled drives and 3 and outs. Luckily, the Falcons aren’t much better on defense. The Falcons weren’t able to record any sacks on Jameis Winston, which allowed him to do whatever he wanted through the air. I don’t think the Atlanta pass rush will fare much better this week. I also expect the Raiders to have success on the ground again this week. It’s on Carr to be more accurate to keep drives alive this week.
Oakland’s defense was a huge disappointment. Sure, they were playing an elite quarterback in Drew Brees, but receivers were open all over the field while the Raiders’ pass rush was virtually non-existent. Sean Smith is very tall, but isn’t very fast or agile, yet the Raiders insisted he cover the Saints’ quick receivers man to man. If the plan is the same against Julio Jones, Julio will accumulate at least 200 receiving yards. Tampa Bay was able to limit the Falcons on the ground last week while jumping to a 31-13 lead, but Atlanta will emphasize this in practice and will have more success with their running game this week. Still, I expect a better performance from the Raiders defense this week.
Pick: Falcons 20 Raiders 27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
Even with their pathetic showing Sunday night, the Cardinals are still favored by almost a touchdown. Their defense isn’t looking too good, with honey badger Tyrann Mathieu looking a little slow in his return from injury. The Cardinals are also starting a rookie corner in Brandon Williams, and it shows. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 264 yards against this defense in his first NFL start, so I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb by saying that Jameis Winston will throw for 300 yards. The Bucs have enough weapons to stay away from Patrick Peterson, and while the Cardinals held the Patriots to 3.4 yards per rush, the Bucs have much better runners in Charles Sims and Doug Martin.
Someone else on the Cardinals who didn’t look good is Carson Palmer. His arm strength is waning, and he could have thrown numerous interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald came to the rescue with some amazing catches at least, and the Tampa Bay secondary isn’t nearly as strong as New England’s, so perhaps Palmer will play better this week. He at least has David Johnson, a very good running back, to rely on as a runner and as a pass catcher out of the backfield. One thing to watch is an injury to Evan Mathis, one of the guards on Arizona’s line. If he’s inactive, Palmer better watch out for Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy.
I really like this Tampa Bay team and think they could challenge for a wild card spot. I definitely am picking them to cover so since I’m doing that, I’ll just pick them to win straight up as well.
Pick: Bucs 24 Cardinals 21
Seattle Seahawks (-7) at LA Rams
Apparently since Sunday, Russell Wilson is averaging 90 minutes of sleep per night. What’s he doing the rest of the day you ask? Icing is ankle so that he can play Sunday. Words can’t describe how pathetic the Rams looked on Monday night, but the Seahawks will still need Wilson for this game. The Seahawks have the absolute worst offensive line in the NFL. The Rams still have a five star defensive line (that will include Aaron Donald) that will dominate the trenches and make life unpleasant for gimpy Russell and his running backs.
As for the Rams “offense”, Case Keenum can’t possibly play any worse, so even though he is going against an elite defense, I expect him to engineer some scoring drives. If he doesn’t, he’ll be out of a job and the Rams may as well throw Jared Goff in there and see if he grows some during a wasted season. I also think Todd Gurley will get going, as he had success against good run defenses last year. After Keenum threw his first pick in the 2nd quarter and the Rams got down 14-0, they weren’t able to run the ball much obviously.
The Seahawks had trouble scoring, at home, even before Wilson suffered his ankle injury. I don’t see why things will change this week. The offensive line is a huge liability, while the Rams are going to be extra motivated after their Monday night embarrassment. Their defense should keep this a low-scoring affair, so I’ll take the points and (gulp) the Rams.
Pick: Seahawks 13 Rams 10
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-6)
With Andrew Luck, no lead is safe. Last week, the Lions were up 21-3, but still needed some late game heroics from Matthew Stafford in order to win the game. The Colts’ offensive line was expected to be an issue going into the season, but they held up pretty well against Detroit. Unfortunately for the Colts, that will most likely not be the case this week. The Denver pass rush looked as good as ever in their victory over the Panthers, so I expect some turnovers from Andrew in this contest. It doesn’t help that TY Hilton is dealing with an injury.
The Colts defense looked horrible last week. Their linebackers looked old and slow, while their secondary and defensive line were dealing with injuries. Vontae Davis isn’t set to return yet, so the Colts will have issues defending Emmanuel Sanders and an injured Demaryius Thomas. Trevor Siemian looked like a capable NFL quarterback, so he will definitely be able to lead the Broncos to points. Of course, CJ Anderson ran extremely well against the Panthers, so the Broncos may not need Siemian to throw much at all.
Andrew Luck has always played well against the Broncos. Even if the Colts struggle early, Andrew is always a threat for a roaring comeback, or at least some garbage time points.
Pick: Colts 20 Broncos 24
Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers (-3)
Keenan Allen’s injury robbed the Chargers of a victory last week, but more importantly, this is probably another wasted season in San Diego. The Jaguars have some injuries of their own to Prince Amukamara and Jalen Ramsey. Because of this, Philip Rivers will have a good game throwing the ball. The Chargers still have some offensive playmakers in Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead, and Melvin Gordon.
The Jaguars have many offensive weapons of their own, and against a Chargers defense that completely wilted against the Chiefs, I expect the Jaguars to score lots of points. #3 pick Joey Bosa still isn’t playing, but the Jaguars don’t exactly have the best offensive line, so the Chargers should be able to pressure Bortles and get some sacks and/or interceptions with their corners Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers, and Casey Hayward. San Diego struggles in run defense, so the Jaguars will need to get TJ Yeldon going to make things easier for Blake Bortles.
Betting trends are strange for this game. About 70% of the bets are on Jacksonville, yet the line has risen from Chargers -2.5 to Chargers -3…Normally it’s not advisable to do this, but I’ll go with the public on this one. If the Chargers win, I don’t see it being by much.
Pick: Jaguars 30 Chargers 27
Green Bay Packers (-2.5) at Minnesota Vikings
Sam Bradford is practicing with the first team, and it’s a no brainer decision, as Shaun Hill really struggled to move the ball against the Titans last week. Having Bradford around may or may not open things up for Adrian Peterson. I say that because the Packers held the Jaguars to 1.9 yards per carry last week and seem to have a very strong run defense. There is one liability in the Packer secondary with Quinten Rollins, and as of Thursday, there is still no Sam Shields in practice. If that’s the case, and if the Minnesota offensive line hold up against the Packers’ pass rush (Matt Kalil is dealing with an injury), Bradford may have some success through the air.
The Vikings will need another big performance from their defense to have a chance in this game. The Jaguars were able to slow down Aaron Rodgers some last week, so if they can do it, the Vikings certainly can as well. Two issues, however, are that corner Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd aren’t practicing as of yet. The Vikings need all the help they can get against the Packers’ offense.
Seriously, I may as well have flipped a coin for all of these games this week. The Jaguars did a decent job against the Packer offense, and the Vikings have a much better defense. Will the Packers struggle offensively? How well will Bradford mesh with this new offense in his first game? There is heavy, heavy money on the Packers, and no one is betting on the Vikings. I’ll have to agree with the public, as I think Bradford will struggle some in his first start with a new team.
Pick: Packers 21 Vikings 17
Monday Night: Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears (-3)
The Eagles had a nice tune-up game against the Browns last week, but now the real season starts. Carson Wentz enjoyed a clean pocket against the Browns non-existent pass rush last week, but that won’t be the case this week, as the Bears have a pretty good front seven that will be able to generate some pressure. The Bears also held their opponent, the Texans, to 3.7 yards per carry last week. Wentz will also be without Zach Ertz, so he’ll be looking towards Jordan Matthews quite a bit, especially since the Bears are weak at corner.
Yes, Jay Cutler threw an untimely interception, and didn’t cross midfield after halftime, but perhaps that speaks volumes about the Houston defense. Obviously, Philadelphia’s defense isn’t at Houston’s level, but I do expect them to get some pressure in Cutler’s face, as the Bears have a very bad set of starting tackles. The interior of the Bears offensive line is much better, so Jeremy Langford may be able to find some running room. Like the Bears, the Eagles are also weak at corner, and the Bears have a lot of talent at receiver with Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White.
This should be a fun Monday night game, and I like the Bears, as I believe that Wentz will have his “Welcome to the NFL” moment in this game.
Pick: Eagles 24 Bears 28