My gut still tells me Week 2 is arguably the hardest to predict in a season since you’re trying to weigh your preseason expectations with that 1/16th of reality from a week ago. What’s real and what’s opponent-based fluff? Some injuries are already real this year, and that can change things for teams, but I want to see if Lamar Jackson is the new sophomore demigod QB, if the Browns are actually still disappointing, and if the Bears just had another one of their one-year wonder seasons in 2018.
Frankly, there’s a lot of stuff I want to see pan out, so let’s just go over a few select Week 2 games.
Vikings at Packers (-3)
Is the Green Bay defense really that improved, or was Mitchell Trubisky just god-awful bad in Week 1? Can the Packers even prepare much for the Minnesota passing offense after Kirk Cousins threw just 10 passes last week? This was a fantastic game in Lambeau last year that ended in a tie. The Vikings had horrible special teams that day and I felt like Cousins outplayed Rodgers and should have got the win. I’m going with this improved Minnesota team to put the clamps on Rodgers again and for the Vikings to get the upset road win.
Patriots at Dolphins (+19)
A-Fucking-C East I tell ya. What a legacy this division has behind the Patriots. Last year it was Buffalo as a 16.5-point underdog in Week 3 to Minnesota, but the Bills actually won that game. Now the Patriots are a 19-point favorite in Miami, the biggest spread in September since the Seahawks were a 20-point favorite against the 2013 Jaguars (Seattle won 45-17).
Teams favored by more than 14 points in September are 6-14-2 ATS and 18-4 SU since 1978.
As for the Patriots specifically (all months), they are 0-5 ATS when favored by more than 17 points. All but one of those games came in the 2007 season. It’s still worth mentioning that the Patriots are 10-1 ATS when favored by 15.5 to 17 points since 2001. That’s an excellent record as the only game they didn’t cover was the 2008 opener when Tom Brady tore his ACL against the Chiefs.
So the Patriots usually don’t cover spreads this large, and I think -19 should piss every person off in Miami. Of course, that’s assuming anyone there still gives a damn after a housecleaning offseason and a 59-10 destruction last week when they made the Baltimore passing offense look all world and even were destroyed on the ground as well in one of the worst openers ever for a team.
The 2019 Dolphins might be looking to set a record for least effort in a season in NFL history.
Now Belichick’s former assistants have had some success against him, including wins by Eric Mangini (2006 Jets), Josh McDaniels (2009 Broncos) and Matt Patricia (2018 Lions) in the past. Mike Vrabel (2018 Titans) also got a big win over his former head coach last year. The problem with Brian Flores is I just don’t think he’s cut out for this job and his team seems to be quitting on him in record time. I originally thought in my season preview that this would be Miami’s lone highlight of the season as Ryan Fitzpatrick would throw for 350 and the Patriots would drop another shocker in Miami. However, after the way these teams played last week I just can’t see that happening, and we haven’t even mentioned the destructive force named Antonio Brown, who still has some hours to cause another ruckus and not actually make his team debut.
With or without Brown, the Patriots are going to win this game with ease, though I think I’d be all over the “Patriots win by 19-24” bet in this one as I can see it being very close to the Vegas mark.
Seattle at Pittsburgh (-3.5)
I think it’s an advantage for Pittsburgh to get the Seahawks at 10:00 A.M. PST, because I remember the 2007 and 2011 meetings where the Steelers caught them sleepwalking early, winning 21-0 and 24-0 in seasons that still resulted in the postseason for Seattle.
However, those teams didn’t have Russell Wilson at QB. The good news for Pittsburgh is that the Seahawks still insist on running the ball so much on early downs, leading to Wilson having to be a magician on 3rd down and in the 4th quarter. We know he can be, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this game comes down to the final play, but I think the Pittsburgh defense will play much better at home this week against a more old-school offense. We know the Pittsburgh offense also plays better at home generally, and it’s hard to not do better than the 3-point output last week. I think people selling this offense after one game in NE are premature. The Steelers had four drives in a row where they just needed a yard to continue and failed every time by calling really stupid plays or not holding onto the ball. Donte Moncrief had a horrific debut and the Steelers have to get Vance McDonald and James Washington more involved. I think JuJu Smith-Schuster will be fine and Ben Roethlisberger should like what he saw with Andy Dalton throwing for over 400 yards against the new Seattle secondary (in Seattle even) last week.
I had the Steelers winning in Week 2 last year, but Patrick Mahomes carved them up with 6 TD passes. I don’t think Wilson will be allowed to be that great in this spot, but I still think the Steelers are in a dangerous spot to fall to 0-2 here if they aren’t sharp early. I can see this coming down to a last-second field goal win or a straight up loss. Also, Wilson has only lost 4 games out of 126 by more than 9 points. That’s why I love the teaser with Seattle +9.5.
Chiefs at Raiders (+7)
I would put the Chiefs on upset alert this week as they go on the road for the second game in a row. Tyreek Hill is out and Patrick Mahomes was limited a bit after an injury scare in Jacksonville. He didn’t attack deep and may not do much without Hill active as well. I still think he’ll keep his points streak (26+ in every game) alive, but Derek Carr can score on this defense too. He has the last couple of years at home and looked good last week as well. I won’t pick the Raiders to win, but I like them to cover.
Bears at Broncos (+2)
In my season preview I thought this was a lock for Denver at home, but now I’m not so sure after how these teams played last week. Sure, Trubisky and the offense sucked, but the defense still looked 2018 caliber. That’s bad news since Joe Flacco still looked 2013-2018 caliber, and the vaunted Denver pass rush did absolutely nothing against Oakland. Now the game does switch to Mile High where the Broncos are amazing in September, and Vic Fangio should know the Bears very well after being there for four seasons. So I still like some of those matchups, and I will admit that while Flacco was no fun to watch, he finished with a fair stat line and even had an easy TD dropped.
So I think I’m still leaning towards Denver at home, but it’s nowhere near the lock I felt it was going to be. I guess it basically comes down to which struggling QB do you expect to fold more against an elite pass rusher (Mack or Von).
Browns at Jets (+7)
This was a fun game last year as it turned out to be Baker Mayfield’s NFL debut (off the bench). It could have been even better this year if these two teams were looking to turn the tide an AFC where New England and Pittsburgh have reigned for so long. Of course, it’s only Week 2 and this looks like a shitshow already. The Browns were embarrassed at home by Tennessee last week and the Jets blew a 16-0 lead to Buffalo and lost Sam Darnold to mono.
Good luck, Adam Gase. You’re starting Trevor Siemian, though it’s hard to think he can be any worse than Darnold’s dink-and-dunk performance a week ago. The Jets also lost Quincy Enunwa for the whole year again, and there are other notable injuries with C.J. Mosley and Le’Veon Bell banged up.
The spread still looks a little high here as I’m not sure we can trust the Browns just yet, especially on the road where they almost never win this decade. Sure, it’s the Baker era and things are different, but as last week showed, they haven’t earned our trust just yet.
NFL Week 2 Predictions
I tend to believe in regression to the mean almost to a fault. So when I start a season 12-4 ATS, I expect a bloodbath in Week 2 to even things out. As I went over in the above games, not a lot of confidence flowing here, but these are my picks:
I loved Panthers by 1-6 on TNF, and it likely would have worked if they called a QB sneak with Cam instead of the atrocity they used on 4th-and-inches.