N.F.L. Week 2 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread
If a 9-7 were a good enough record to take the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2012, it’s a good enough record for this column to brag about in Week 1. It’s particularly decent given what a wild and unpredictable week of football it was: five upsets, 14 missed field goals, five games that came down to the final minute, both Super Bowl teams losing, a penalty for using a towel to dry the field and, strangest of all, a tie.
This week will see two A.F.C. West rivals, the Chargers and Kansas City, go head-to-head in prime time, as well as a Monday night doubleheader. The Saints will try to keep their regular-season shutout streak against Tom Brady alive, and the way less interesting Colts vs. Jaguars matchup provides some betting intrigue.
Betting-market data is taken from Action Network’s Public Betting data, and lines are taken from Unabated’s real-time-odds tracker.
All times Eastern.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Thursday’s Game
- Sunday’s Best Games
- Sunday’s Other Games
- Monday’s Games
- How Betting Lines Work
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City, 8:15 p.m., Amazon Prime
Line: Chiefs -4 | Total: 54.5
These teams had two memorable games last season, the first of which resulted in a Chargers (1-0) upset win, the second a high-scoring overtime win for Kansas City. Last week, Patrick Mahomes completed 30 of 39 passes for 360 yards and five touchdowns against the Cardinals, a jaw-dropping stat line, even for him.
The Chargers also won their opener but allowed the Raiders to hang a lot closer through the finish. That failure to pull away doesn’t bode well heading into a matchup with Kansas City’s (1-0) showstopping offense. One pivotal question mark is the health of Harrison Butker, Kansas City’s kicker who is dealing with an ankle injury. The team can always turn to their safety Justin Reid, who kicked an extra point in Week 1, but that may be a reason for Coach Andy Reid to be more aggressive in his play-calling. Pick: Kansas City -4
Sunday’s Best Games
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Buccaneers -2.5 | Total: 44.5
Tom Brady has been shut out only three times in his career, the last time coming against the Saints last season in a 9-0 loss. In fact, the Saints have beaten the Buccaneers in their last seven regular season contests, a fact that might have figured into Brady’s reconsidering his retirement.
The Saints (1-0) are coming off a dramatic win in Atlanta, in which they gave up over 200 rushing yards to the Falcons and Jameis Winston was sacked four times. The Buccaneers, who were the N.F.L.’s top passing team last season, showed they can run the ball, too, in Week 1, when Leonard Fournette got 127 yards on 21 carries. The Buccaneers (1-0) always attract a lot of public money, and this week is no different, with 68 percent of the bets so far on the visiting favorites. Pick: Buccaneers -2.5
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Ravens -3.5 | Total: 45
Lamar Jackson is undefeated in all three home-openers he has started. Jackson, the Ravens (1-0) quarterback, may be bolstering his case for an elite quarterback contract by proving to the team that he’s more than just a rushing quarterback: He ran for just 17 of Baltimore’s 63 rushing yards in Week 1, (the lowest team total of his career as a starter), and threw for three touchdowns in a 24-9 rout of the Jets last week.
The Dolphins (1-0) didn’t need to show the full extent of their passing offense last week to beat the Patriots, but they could look to get Tyreek Hill his first touchdown of the season against a Ravens secondary that may struggle without cornerback Kyle Fuller, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament. Pick: Ravens -3.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Bengals -8.5 | Total: 43
Dak Prescott fractured his thumb in last week’s loss to the Buccaneers, forcing the Cowboys (0-1) to turn to the inexperienced backup Cooper Rush for a tough schedule stretch — unless Jerry Jones picks up Jimmy Garoppolo or Cam Newton to fill in. In Rush’s only other N.F.L. start, in 2021, he led the Cowboys to a thrilling comeback win against Minnesota, with 325 passing yards and two touchdowns, including six completions to CeeDee Lamb for 112 yards.
He’ll need a similar game to beat the Bengals (0-1) this week as 8.5-point home underdogs. Joe Burrow is coming off a dreadful performance — four interceptions, seven sacks and a lost fumble — in an overtime loss to the Steelers and will be looking to get Cincinnati back on track. Pick: Cowboys +8.5
Sunday’s Other Games
Carolina Panthers at Giants, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Giants -2.5 | Total: 43
The Giants’ first-year head coach Brian Daboll’s gamble to go for 2 at the end of last week’s upset over the Titans paid off with a win and buy-in from players. The Giants (1-0) are favorites this week against the Panthers (0-1), who also come off a close game.
The teams’ Week 1 performances were mirror images: The Giants out-rushed the Titans but were beaten in the air; the Panthers out-passed the Browns but were beaten on the ground. We may see those same strengths and weaknesses play out in another tight finish. Pick: Panthers +2.5
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Colts -4 | Total: 46.5
The Colts (0-0-1) were one of the biggest favorites last week and ended up playing the much-maligned Texans to a tie. Despite having lost seven straight games in Jacksonville, the Colts are the favorites. This is a quintessential “pros vs. Joes” game, with nearly half the public money on the Colts but the larger bets being made on the Jaguars (0-1), who are home underdogs. Pick: Jaguars +4
New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Patriots -1.5 | Total: 40
Pittsburgh is a home underdog, though the line opened at some books as a pick ’em. The total is the lowest of the week, which all points to this game ending up a battle between defenses. The Steelers (1-0) defense looked stellar against the A.F.C. champion Bengals in Week 1, but T.J. Watt tore his pectoral muscle in the fourth quarter of that win and will be out for this game against the Patriots (0-1). Pick: Steelers +1.5
Jets at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Browns -6 | Total: 40.5
The Jets (0-1) were handled by the Ravens last week but still managed to put up nearly 400 yards of offense. The Browns (1-0) pulled off a win in Charlotte, thanks to a big rushing game and a 58-yard last-minute field goal. Cleveland should win this one at home, but the Jets will put up a good fight. The market so far favors the Jets, with the line having moved a half point toward the Browns. Pick: Jets +6
Washington Commanders at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Lions -1.5 | Total: 49.5
This game’s line opened as Lions +1, and it has moved all the way to Lions -2.5 at some shops. It may keep moving: Over 90 percent of the money wagered so far is on the Lions (0-1) and not the Commanders (1-0). It’s not clear, however, what line most of those bets landed on, nor where the line will settle. (You can find 2.5, 2, 1.5 and 1 at various places.) One important consideration when line shopping: -2.5 at -110 and -1 at -126 are mathematically the same bet. Pick: Lions -1.5
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Rams -10.5 | Total: 47
Both teams will look to get past embarrassing Week 1 miscues: The Rams (0-1) are hoping to avenge their home loss in the season opener, and the Falcons (0-1) are still smarting after blowing a big lead in the fourth quarter to the Saints. The Rams have all the advantages in this matchup, and should win, but 10.5 seems like a half point too many. Pick: Falcons +10.5
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: 49ers -10 | Total: 42
After the Seahawks (1-0) beat the Broncos on Monday night, Geno Smith said “they wrote me off; I ain’t write back, though.” He may have convinced Seattle fans that he could fill Russell Wilson’s shoes, but he didn’t convince the bookmakers, who made the Seahawks big underdogs against the 49ers.
Trey Lance, with far fewer doubters, had a disappointing game against the Bears last week in a downpour. Most of the money has come in on the Seahawks, but the line moved from +8 to +10. Some interpret this type of counterintuitive move as the sportsbook believing they are exposed on the right side of the bet, in this case with the 49ers (0-1). Caveat emptor: I’ll take the points. Pick: Seahawks +10
Arizona Cardinals at Las Vegas Raiders, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Raiders -6 | Total: 51.5
This line was at -3 on Sunday, now it’s -6 thanks to the Raiders’ taking a lot of action. The Cardinals looked terrible on Sunday, but looks could be deceiving — they might have simply been outshined by an impressive Kansas City team. Kyler Murray threw for 193 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s a stat line that could have won against a lot of opponents. It might be enough to play within a touchdown of the Raiders. Pick: Cardinals +6
Houston Texans at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Broncos -10 | Total: 46
Broncos Coach Nathaniel Hackett has been raked over the coals this week for his decision to try for a record-setting 64-yard field goal rather than going for it on fourth down at the end of their loss to Seattle last week. But that was only the final mistake. The Broncos (0-1) went 0-4 in the red zone and fumbled on the 1-yard line TWICE. The Texans (0-0-1) fought valiantly to come away with a tie against the Colts in Week 1 and are now in first place in the A.F.C. South. Pick: Texans +10
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Packers -9.5 | Total: 42.5
The Bears (1-0) are coming off a big win. The Packers (0-1) are coming off a big loss. The Packers looked like one of the worst teams in the N.F.L. in their opener, with nothing going right. This week they should get back to form at home against a Bears team that was helped last week by some miserable weather at home that kept the score low and the game close. 9.5 is a lot of points to lay, but bettors aren’t deterred. Green Bay has 77 percent of the action so far. Pick: Packers -9.5
Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills, 7:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Bills -10 | Total: 50
The Bills (1-0) looked like a Super Bowl contender in their 31-10 drubbing of the reigning champions last week. Everyone knew the Bills had a powerful offense, but they showed off an improved defense, with the newcomer Von Miller getting two of the team’s seven sacks. The Titans lost a heartbreaker to the Giants after looking solid for three quarters. They should put up a better defensive effort against the Bills than the Rams did. It won’t be enough to win, but it might be enough to keep it interesting. Pick: Titans +10
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Line: Eagles -2.5 | Total: 51
Minnesota’s former coach, Mike Zimmer, had a style that was run-first, defensive-minded, smash-mouth football. Now, with Kevin O’Connell at the helm, we get to see what this team can do when they look to receiver Justin Jefferson as the offense’s first option. Last week, Kirk Cousins threw for 277 yards without an interception and connected with Jefferson nine times for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
The Eagles, on the other hand, barely survived against the Lions. Jalen Hurts doesn’t look bad, but can the Eagles (1-0) defense that allowed 35 points from Detroit handle this new Minnesota offense? Pick: Vikings +2.5
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Raiders -5.5, for example, means that Las Vegas must beat Chicago by at least 6 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.