Week 1 is always a tough one to pick games because you don’t know what to expect from teams coming out of the gate when many stars don’t play much during the preseason. Given that, I did respectably last week with a 9-7 record against the spread. This week has a couple of big games on tap, including the Vikings visiting the Packers — and a potentially-not-100% Aaron Rodgers — in a battle of teams that should compete for the NFC North title and an AFC Championship rematch with the Patriots heading to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, who will be likely without star RB Leonard Fournette. The Sunday night game features an NFC East rivalry as Odell Beckham and the Giants visit Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red
Thursday Night Football
Ravens at Bengals (+0.5) – The Ravens looked impressive in Week 1 with a 47-3 victory over the Bills, but QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals will pose a greater challenge, especially with home-field advantage in Cincinnati. Bengals RB Joe Mixon last week looked like he’s poised for a breakout season and if he can have a similar performance this week, it’ll make it that much harder for the Ravens to go 2-0. I’m still not necessarily buying into the Ravens. I’m going to take the Bengals at home on a short week.
Sunday 1PM games
Panthers at Falcons (-5.5) – The Falcons didn’t look good last week, losing to QB Nick Foles and the Eagles in the season opener. Falcons QB Matt Ryan couldn’t get the ball to star WR Julio Jones in the end zone, which was also an issue for the pair last season. The Panthers beat the Cowboys in Week 1 but struggled offensively, scoring just 16 points behind QB Cam Newton. The Panthers are without TE Greg Olsen, who suffered a foot injury in Week 1 that will keep him out of action for several weeks. I think this will be a close game, so I’ll take the Panthers and the points but the Falcons could win the game.
Chargers at Bills (+7.5) – That’s a big number for a West Coast team to give on a cross-country trip to the northeast, but the Bills really didn’t look good last week. The Bills have announced that after one start from QB Nathan Peterman they have decided to go with rookie QB Josh Allen for his first NFL start in Week 2 as the Bills have decided to go in another direction under center. The Chargers are coming off a loss to the Chiefs, but the Bills appear to be one of the worst teams in the league and I don’t trust either of their quarterbacks, so I’ll give the 7.5 points.
Browns at Saints (-8.5) – The Browns may not have won last week, but they didn’t lose either, so their tie with the Steelers ended their losing streak but extended their winless streak. They’re still looking for their first win since 2016, but I don’t think they’ll get it this week. The Saints’ defense looked bad against the Buccaneers last week, but they still have a good offense led by QB Drew Brees and RB Alvin Kamara, which should be able to outscore the Browns to pick up New Orleans’ first win of the season. This is another big number that’s giving me pause, but i think the Saints will barely cover it, so I’ll go with the Saints at home.
Vikings at Packers (-0.5) – Rodgers is unlikely to be at full strength for this game after dealing with an injury in Week 1 against the Bears. That will hurt the Packers against a good Vikings defense. If I knew Rodgers was fully healthy, I’d probably go with the Packers, but I don’t think he is so I’m going to go with the road team at Lambeau.
Texans at Titans (+2.5) – The Titans were dealt a couple of injuries in Week 1, with TE Delanie Walker suffering a season-ending ankle injury and QB Marcus Mariota dealing with an elbow injury. Mariota’s status for this week’s game is unknown, which opens up uncertainty about how the Titans will perform if backup QB Blaine Gabbert draws the start. The Texans didn’t look great in their Week 1 loss to the Patriots, but QB Deshaun Watson is coming back from an injury of his own that caused him to miss the second half of the 2017 season. I think the Texans will win the game whether Mariota or Gabbert plays, but the chances of a Texans win goes up if Gabbert starts.
Colts at Redskins (-5.5) – The Redskins looked better than expected last week in beating the Cardinals 24-6. RB Adrian Peterson surprised by gaining nearly 100 yards on the ground, and QB Alex Smith had a good start in his team debut. The Colts had an early lead against the Bengals but ended up losing after being outscored 17-0 in the fourth quarter. It’s that subpar defense that gives the Redskins an advantage and leads me to think the Redskins will win the game and cover the 5.5 points.
Chiefs at Steelers (-5.5) – The Steelers were without RB Le’Veon Bell last week as he continues his holdout, but RB James Conner had a good showing in Bell’s absence. It wasn’t enough to beat the Browns, though, as the teams ended up tying. The Chiefs present a much bigger challenge for Pittsburgh, and I think the Chiefs could win the game outright so I’ll take them with the points.
Dolphins at Jets (-2.5) – The Jets put up 48 points against the Lions in Week 1, so they may be better than people gave them credit for entering the season, but they’re not that good. After throwing a pick-six with his first career pass, Jets QB Sam Darnold ended up throwing a couple touchdown passes to his teammates and RB Isaiah Crowell had a good showing on the ground, running for more than 100 yards and a couple touchdowns. After that showing last week, I think the Jets can beat Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins, covering the spread in the process.
Eagles at Buccaneers (+3.5) – Like the Jets the Buccaneers overperformed last week, but i’m buying it even less with the Bucs than I did the Jets because of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been a fairly pedestrian quarterback throughout his NFL career. While Foles, who also isn’t great, is expected to get another start for the Eagles I think the defending Super Bowl champions are the better overall team than the Bucs, so I’ll go with them to cover on the road.
Sunday 4PM games
Lions at 49ers (-5.5) – After giving up more than 40 points to the Jets at home in Week 1, the Lions are hitting the road to take on QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. Last week’s results notwithstanding, the 49ers have a better offense than the Jets and should provide another tough challenge for the Lions defense. Lions QB Matthew Stafford needs to play better than he did last week to keep his team in it. I’ll give the points with the home team.
Cardinals at Rams (-12.5) – I’m all-in on the Rams this season — I even picked them to win Super Bowl LIII — and I fully expect them to win this game against a Cardinals team that struggled last week in their first game with QB Sam Bradford. But I always have a hard time giving a lot of points, like the 12.5-point spread in this game. So I’m going to go with the Cardinals and hope Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the rest of the Rams offense don’t go off too much in a blowout.
Raiders at Broncos (-5.5) – Neither team looked very impressive last week and I don’t have high hopes for either team this season, so I think it’ll be a pretty close game. I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but I’ll take the points since I think it’ll be close.
Patriots at Jaguars (+2.5) – This AFC Championship rematch likely won’t be as competitive as it otherwise might have been if Fournette can’t play, which I don’t think he will. That means RB T.J. Yeldon will get the bulk of the work on the ground, which should be a big workload considering the team usually likes to limit the amount of passing plays for QB Blake Bortles. On the other side of the field, the Patriots defense looked good in Week 1, and combine that with QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the offense, and I don’t think this game is going to be particularly competitive. I’ll give the points on the road.
Sunday Night Football
Giants at Cowboys (-2.5) – Neither offense looked good last week, so this could be a low-scoring game. While I don’t think Eli Manning is a good quarterback anymore, I think the Cowboys have two of the best offensive players in this game with Beckham and rookie RB Saquon Barkley. The Cowboys don’t have any good receivers after losing TE Jason Witten and WR Dez Bryant in the offseason. They’ll have to rely on Elliott if they want to have much success. I think the Giants will win the game outright, so I’ll take the points.
Monday Night Football
Seahawks at Bears (-3.5) – This is a matchup of teams that fell just short of winning last week, with the Bears losing a 20-0 lead in the second half of their game with the Packers. Since I don’t have much faith in either team, I’ll take the home team and hope QB Mitch Trubisky can get something going for the Bears.