NFL WEEK 2: It’s great to be back in the swing of things, isn’t it? Week 1 delivered the goods, with all the drama, excitement, surprises, new faces, and head-scratching decisions that we’ve come to expect from the first football weekend of the season. The world has seemingly turned upside down in places like Dallas, Green Bay, and New England, while some fans may be daring to dream the dream for the first time in a long while in Miami, Minnesota, Cleveland, and elsewhere.
We’ve got a great slate of games on tap for Week 2 and the Thursday nighter certainly didn’t disappoint, as two of the game’s best young quarterbacks traded blows until a 4th-quarter pick-six lifted Patrick Mahomes’s Chiefs to a 27-24 victory over Justin Herbert’s Chargers. Those sure looked like two Super Bowl contenders to me, and with Russell Wilson now in Denver and the arrow firmly pointing up in Vegas, where the Derek Carr-led offense has a shiny new toy in All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, the AFC West may just be the NFL’s best division this season.
Seattle’s Monday night upset in Wilson’s homecoming ruined what would’ve been a profitable weekend for us, but no worries– I have a sneaky feeling that this will be a “pass the sugar” type of week… smiles all around. Here’s what I’ve got:
New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers (NE -2, 40.5)
Recommendation: New England -2 at 1.91; New England moneyline (to win) at 1.79
The Steelers raised some eyebrows last week with their upset of division rival Cincinnati, but when you look at the total picture of what’s going on in Pittsburgh right now, it still feels awfully shaky to me. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt tore his left pectoral last week and will be out for the foreseeable future; star running back Najee Harris has a foot injury that has forced him to miss practice and will limit his touches on Sunday if he’s even able to play; and quarterback Mitch Trubisky is still a liability as a dropback passer. The excellent New England defense should smother the Trubisky-led Pittsburgh attack, and though the Patriots have offensive questions of their own, Mac Jones will have opportunities against a Steelers secondary that can be exploited on the perimeter. Look for the Pats to get the job done in what should be an ugly, low-scoring game.
Miami Dolphins @ Baltimore Ravens (BAL -3.5, 44.5)
Recommendation: Miami +3.5 at 1.91; Miami moneyline (to win) at 2.56
Both of these teams are coming off easy Week 1 victories, but Baltimore’s performance wasn’t quite as impressive as the scoreboard would have you believe– not only did the Jets outgain the Ravens 380-274 in total yards, but the vaunted Baltimore rushing attack was held to just 63 yards on 21 carries. Things won’t get any easier for them against a stout Dolphins defense that totally shut down New England last week, holding the Pats scoreless in the first half and limiting them to just 271 total yards for the game. The Ravens may have the better QB in this matchup, but Miami’s collection of skill position talent is vastly superior to what Lamar Jackson is working with, and Tua Tagovailoa played a clean game against a good New England secondary last week. The Dolphins feel like a dangerous team right now and I like their chances of sneaking out of Baltimore with a win on Sunday.
Washington Commanders @ Detroit Lions (DET -1.5, 48.5)
Recommendation: Detroit moneyline (to win) at 1.89
Yes, you read that right– for the first time since November of 2020, a span of 24 games, the Detroit Lions are favored to win a football game. Last week’s 38-35 loss to Philadelphia featured nearly 400 total yards and 21 second-half points from the Lions, so it looks like the Jared Goff-led offense has some pop. And though the Commanders were able to take care of Jacksonville last week, that was largely because Jags QB Trevor Lawrence couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn– there were players running open through the Washington secondary all afternoon, and Lawrence missed at least three wide-open touchdowns… two that were absolutely egregious. Throw in some typical boneheaded mistakes from new QB Carson Wentz and the Commanders lived up (or down) to my expectations in every way, but were still able to get away with it due to the ineptitude of their opponent. I’m telling you right now: the Lions will not be so inept, particularly on offense. Goff and Co. are going to put up some points in this one, and I don’t think Washington has the firepower to keep pace.
Arizona Cardinals @ Las Vegas Raiders (LV -5.5, 51.5)
Recommendation: Las Vegas -5.5 at 1.91
Something hit me when watching the Arizona offense last week, a unit that has a reputation as a fast-paced, high-scoring group: without DeAndre Hopkins deforming defenses, they’re really more hype than substance. Sure, Kyler Murray is a playmaker, but he is flawed as a pocket passer, and he no longer has the type of weapons on the perimeter that make things easy for him. Last week the Cards could muster only 282 yards against the shaky Kansas City defense, and though this Raiders D will never be mistaken for the ’85 Bears, they did a decent job of holding up against a LA Chargers offense that is far superior to this current version of the Cardinals. Moreover, the Raiders now have the type of offense that should be able to go toe-to-toe with any unit in the NFL, as adding Davante Adams to the receiving corps has been an absolute game-changer. Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow will have more room to operate, and Derek Carr’s comfort with Adams, and within the offense, was evident in Week 1. Vegas is a team that’s on the way up– time to hop on the bandwagon before it gets too pricey.