Each week Zac Hirschbeck will look at the betting odds for each NFL game and then share his pick for each matchup. While hopefully it goes without saying, please don’t hold him accountable if you gamble away your retirement savings or child’s college fund based on his picks.
After going 9-6-1 in Week 1, and following his incorrect pick of the Bills on Thursday night, here are his thoughts on the rest of the Week 2 games.
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (-14)
After seeing Graham Gano’s 50-yard field goal sail wide in the closing seconds of Week 1 in Denver, Carolina returns home with extra time to rest and prepare for a far easier matchup in Week 2. As odd as it may sound, the 49ers’ 28-0 drubbing of the Los Angeles Rams was largely uninspiring. Although you have to give San Francisco credit for holding serve throughout their Week 1 victory, it seemed that Los Angeles’ pathetic effort was far more responsible for what had to be one of the worst season-opening installments of Monday Night Football in history. While the double-digit early-season line gives me a little pause (Seattle stumbled as a heavy home favorite in Week 1), I think Cam Newton and company put a hurting on a San Francisco team that still possesses one of the least talented rosters in the league.
Pick: Carolina (-14)
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants (-4.5)
Following a disheartening Week 1 home loss to the Raiders, the Saints look poised to drop to 0-2 on the road in Week 2. With top cornerback Delvin Breaux sidelined with a fractured fibula, the already poor New Orleans defense will be hard-pressed to slow down a New York passing game that is among the game’s best. Defensively, the Giants also appear to be greatly improved after their offseason acquisitions. In particular, the addition of Damon “Snacks” Harrison paid immediate dividends as the Giants went toe-to-toe with the league’s best offensive line and held the Cowboys to 3.4 yards per carry in Week 1. While Drew Brees’ opening-week performance (423 yards and 4 TD’s) would seem to indicate he’s in for yet another big year statistically, he won’t do enough this week to compensate for the shortcomings of his supporting cast.
Pick: New York (-4.5)
Dallas Cowboys (+3) at Washington Redskins
Despite a poor showing in their 38-16 home defeat to a banged-up Pittsburgh team in Week 1, Washington are favored against a Dallas team that lost by a single point at home to the Giants. That doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Between Kirk Cousins’ lackluster showing, and the defense’s complete inability to slow down Pittsburgh both through the air and on the ground, Washington didn’t look like a team that was set to repeat as NFC East division champions. While Dak Prescott failed to produce any big plays in his first career start, he also didn’t look out of place as a starting quarterback in the NFL. I think Prescott, fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliot, and Dez Bryant help Dallas grab an upset win to even their record at 1-1.
Pick: Dallas (+3)
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-6.5)
Though I’ll forever scoff at the notion that Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, it’s hard not to appreciate New England’s head coach for the way his team performed against Arizona in Week 1. Without the greatest quarterback in league history, the best tight end in football, the team’s best running back, and the team’s best defensive player from a season ago, the Patriots still went on the road to beat a Cardinals team that is regarded by many to be a Super Bowl favorite. Although the misplaced hype surrounding Arizona may also have something to do with New England’s win, the Patriots have already displaced concerns that the team would struggle early in the season with so many key pieces absent. Although Miami hung tough in Seattle in Week 1, the Ryan Tannehill-led Dolphins won’t keep the score as tight at Gillette Stadium.
Pick: New England (-6.5)
Cincinnati Bengals (+3) at Pittsburgh Steelers
In what is arguably the game of the week, a pair of divisional rivals will battle for early-season positioning in the AFC North. The matchup pits two of the most lethal QB-WR combinations in football. After setting Revis Island ablaze with a 12-180-1 line in Week 1, A.J. Green and Andy Dalton will look to take advantage of a Steelers defense that failed to record a single sack against Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. Likewise, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger come off of a similarly dominant showing (8-126-2) in their first action of the season. With both teams missing key pieces, whether it is due to injury or suspension, I like Cincinnati’s defense to fare better than their counterparts. If the Bengals can keep their emotions in check following last year’s mental breakdown against Pittsburgh in their AFC Wildcard matchup, I like them to find a little redemption early in the new season.
Pick: Cincinnati (+3)
Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions (-6)
The Titans found a way to lose in Week 1. While Tennessee’s defense held Minnesota’s offense off the scoreboard and limited Adrian Peterson to 31 yards on 19 carries, the Titans offense gifted the Vikings with two defensive touchdowns to kick off the season in disappointing fashion. Detroit on the other hand began 2016 with a victory. On the strength of a great performance from Matt Stafford (31-for-39 for 340 yards and three touchdowns), the Lions offense showed zero ill effects following the retirement of Calvin Johnson. However, Detroit’s defense surrendered a big day through the air from Andrew Luck that almost culminated in a comeback victory for the Colts. While I’m not sure Tennessee will win, I think the Titans will keep things close with another strong performance from their defense and improved ball security on offense.
Pick: Tennessee (+6)
Kansas City Chiefs (+2) at Houston Texans
Although Kansas City’s 30-0 decimation of Houston in last year’s Wild Card round still looms over this matchup, the Texans offense looks far different than it did last season. With the additions of Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller, and rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller, Houston has improved a unit that ultimately doomed them a season ago. Meanwhile, the Chiefs continue to churn out results despite missing top talent on both sides of the ball. With both Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston sidelined, the Chiefs rallied for a thrilling, come-from-behind overtime victory over the Chargers. This week, with Charles set to miss out again, Kansas City’s injury woes will catch up to them a bit. With Kansas City set to be without two starting offensive linemen, the Texans’ talented defensive front (J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, Vince Wilfork) will be the difference and help Houston move to 2-0 on the season.
Pick: Houston (-2)
Baltimore Ravens (-6) at Cleveland Browns
With Robert Griffin III now sidelined indefinitely with a fractured shoulder, the Browns will turn back to Josh McCown who started eight games for Cleveland in 2015. It will not matter. The Browns are destined to pick at, or very near the top of the 2017 draft, and while Baltimore wasn’t exactly impressive in their opening-week win over the Bills, they should win easily in Cleveland. If Carson Wentz can have a big day against the Browns defense in his NFL debut, Joe Flacco should find comparable levels of success as well.
Pick: Baltimore (-6)
Seattle Seahawks (-6.5) at Los Angeles Rams
There are certainly a few reasons to think that Los Angeles may be the smart pick on Sunday afternoon. First, Los Angeles has historically fared well against their divisional foes as the Rams have covered in six of the last eight matchups between the two sides. Second, the Seahawks struggled in their opening-week win over Miami. Third, Russell Wilson is nursing an ankle injury that may limit him. However, despite those reasons, I’ll take Seattle to win comfortably against the Rams. Los Angeles looked really bad in Week 1, and aside from Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley, the Rams don’t have a roster that can match up with the Seahawks from a talent perspective. With another poor outing from Case Keenum looking very likely, the Rams will inch closer to handing the keys over to No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff.
Pick: Seattle (-6.5)
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-6)
I preemptively feel bad for Andrew Luck, and I’ll likely feel that way throughout the season. Luck is among the game’s best at his position, but due to poor management and poor coaching, the Indianapolis quarterback’s efforts will most certainly be wasted in 2016. This week will be no different. While Luck has managed to lead his team to victory in three of the last four meetings with Denver, the Broncos defense is rested and ready to beat up (hopefully by legal means) the Colts signal caller. With questions continuing to exist regarding Indianapolis’ offensive line, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware look poised to disrupt Luck’s ability to distribute the ball to his talented receivers. Although a Trevor Siemian-led offense gave me reason to think that Denver would fail to gain significant separation from the Colts, Indianapolis is dealing with a number of injuries to important contributors on the defensive side of the ball. If Siemian can avoid turnovers and get out of C.J. Anderson’s way on offense, Denver should win comfortably.
Pick: Denver (-6)
Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders (-5)
Barring sloppy execution on offense from both teams, this game has the feel of a shootout. Oakland comes off a thrilling, 35-34 road win over the Saints in Week 1, and the Falcons fell 31-24 at home to Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. While the Raiders’ balanced attack on offense justified the hype surrounding the team heading into the season, the Oakland defense did little to slow down New Orleans’ passing attack. Likewise, while Matt Ryan had a productive day through the air against Tampa (27-for-39 for 334 yards and two touchdowns), his defense dug him a hole that he couldn’t get out of. In Week 2, I think Oakland’s defense has the better opportunity to rebound. Although the Falcons may adopt a similar approach to New Orleans when it comes to slowing down Khalil Mack, I think the UB product leads his teammates to a bounce-back effort. I also believe the Raiders will continue to move the ball with ease against an Atlanta defense that surrendered four passing touchdowns to the Bucs in Week 1.
Pick: Oakland (-5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals (-7)
Following a disappointing home loss to a New England team that was playing without many of its top players, the Cardinals will look to rebound at home against the upstart Buccaneers. In my mind, these teams are gradually headed in opposite directions. With quarterback Carson Palmer coming off a career year at the age of 36, I think he’s in for some regression this season. On the other hand, after dedicating this offseason to getting in better shape, Winston has the skill set to become one of the NFL’s better quarterbacks early in his career. At this time though, Arizona has the better supporting cast around Palmer. While I see Arizona winning to even their record at 1-1, I think Winston helps Tampa keep it close until the end.
Pick: Tampa Bay (+7)
Jacksonville Jaguars (+3) at San Diego Chargers
This line doesn’t appear to make a whole lot of sense. The Chargers had a rough first week of the new season. After jumping out to a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter, San Diego imploded and wound up losing 33-27 in overtime to the Chiefs. To make matters far worse, San Diego also lost its best receiver (Keenan Allen) for the season due to an ACL injury. While the Chargers still have enough talent on offense to remain a productive unit, it will likely take time to adjust to playing without their top target on the outside. Meanwhile, the Jags come off an opening-week loss that saw them hang tough with the Packers. The defense held Green Bay under 300 yards of offense, and held Aaron Rodgers under 200 yards passing. Considering that defensive performance, and the fact that San Diego surrendered 363 passing yards to checkdown enthusiast Alex Smith in Week 1, I believe Jacksonville evens their record on the road in Week 2.
Pick: Jacksonville (+3)
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (+3)
Despite failing to score an offensive touchdown against Tennessee, Minnesota’s defense buoyed their struggling offense in a Week 1 victory. With Sam Bradford taking over for Minnesota behind center, the Vikings will need a better performance from Peterson and the Vikings offensive line moving forward. That looks unlikely to happen against the visiting Packers. Against Jacksonville in Week 1, Green Bay was extremely stout against the run as they gave up just 48 yards on 26 carries. While the Packers offense wasn’t dominant against the Jaguars, Green Bay is still adjusting to the return of their top receiver after Jordy Nelson missed all of 2015 through injury. Minnesota’s defense is a strong unit, but I don’t think they’ll benefit from turnovers in the same way they did against Tennessee. With that in mind, I think Green Bay wins easily as Minnesota is dealt a glimpse into how harsh life might be like without Teddy Bridgewater.
Pick: Green Bay (-3)
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears (-3)
In another early-season MNF matchup that is far from intriguing, I like the Bears to even their record against the visiting Eagles. Carson Wentz had an encouraging debut, but it’s difficult to fully evaluate his performance considering it came against Cleveland. Although Chicago doesn’t boast an incredible defense, an improved front seven that features free agent additions Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, and promising second-year nose tackle Eddie Goldman could cause problems for Philadelphia’s rookie quarterback. On the flip side, Jay Cutler should take advantage of a banged up Eagles secondary. With former Bill Leodis McKelvin set to miss out with a hamstring injury, Philadelphia will turn to Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, and rookie seventh-round pick Jalen Mills at cornerback on Monday Night. If Chicago’s offensive line can hold up better than it did against Houston, Cutler could have a big home opener at Soldier Field.
Pick: Chicago (-3)