Week 2 Edition
*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
**Note – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider
***Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
****Note – My prediction records date back to the 2016 season.
Records Entering Week 2
Straight Up: 10-5 (.667) Total: 174-106-2 (.621)
Spread: 8-6-1 (.567) Total: 157-115-10 (.574)
Over/Under: 11-3-1 Total: 153-128-1 (.544)
Locks: 1-1 (.500) Total: 33-7 (.825)
Best Bets: 5-1 (.833) Total: 134-101-1 (.570)
*Prediction for TNF: Cincinnati 19, Houston 17 (+6) (no best bets were placed)
Tennessee Titans (0-1) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
Spread: TEN -1.5 Over/Under: 42
DVOA: TEN (15) > JAC (21)
Public Betting: TEN 71%
Last week, the Jaguars were able to feast on Houston’s horrendous offensive line, compiling ten sacks on the day. They won’t have that kind of success against the Titans. Tennessee’s line, led by Pro Bowl tackles Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan, is one of the best in football. Although the unit is better at paving the way for DeMarco Murray, it should provide ample time for Marcus Mariota to find holes in a Jacksonville secondary that could be without emerging star Jalen Ramsey (he’s currently listed as questionable). I’ll take Mariota and the Titans over Blake Bortles and the ‘Jags.
Tennessee 24, Jacksonville 20
Cleveland Browns (0-1) vs Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
Spread: BAL -8 Over/Under: 39
DVOA: CLE (31) < BAL (7)
Public Betting: BAL 55%
Good luck DeShone Kizer. As evidenced by its shutout performance last week, Baltimore’s defense is terrific. But as I wrote on Monday, we’ve known since last season that this latest incarnation of the Ravens defense has a case to be the AFC’s best. Simply put, this is a bad spot for Cleveland’s rookie quarterback.
*Baltimore 24, Cleveland 7
Buffalo Bills (1-0) vs Carolina Panthers (1-0)
Spread: CAR -7 Over/Under: 43
DVOA: BUF (19) < CAR (8)
Public Betting: CAR 63%
Buffalo’s strength is its running game. Carolina’s strength, however, is its run defense. Which side will have the edge in this strength v strength matchup? Tough to determine. What I do think, however, is that Buffalo’s average passing attack won’t take advantage of Carolina’s suspect secondary. Cam Newton and the Carolina offense will do enough to beat a Buffalo team that will have trouble topping 20 points.
Carolina 23, Buffalo 17
New England Patriots (0-1) vs New Orleans Saints (0-1)
Spread: NE -6.5 Over/Under: 56
DVOA: NE (2) > NO (27)
Public Betting: NE 80%
Rest assured that a ticked-off Tom Brady will rebound against a below-average New Orleans defense. The question is whether New England’s defense can do its job and contain Drew Brees and company. The Patriots easily had the worst defensive performance in Week One (8.3 yards per play allowed, 32nd in NFL), and now they’ll play a Saints offense that’s even better than Kansas City’s. It won’t help that injured linebacker Dont’a Hightower, arguably New England’s most valuable defensive player, has already been ruled out for this contest, too.
However, a few extra days of preparation–New England last played on September 7th, while New Orleans played on Monday night–should benefit the Pats. And even without his full allotment of weapons (Danny Amendola will also miss this game), I trust Brady to pilot a more successful offensive effort against such a weak defensive opponent. Hopefully that will be enough to nip past the explosive Saints.
New England 33, New Orleans 30
Arizona Cardinals (0-1) vs Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
Spread: ARZ -7 Over/Under: 44
DVOA: ARZ (26) > IND (29)
Public Betting: ARZ 71%
New addition Jacoby Brissett, who two weeks ago was backing up Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, should provide more hope than the dreadful Scott Tolzien. Or, in other words, Brissett probably can’t be any worse. However, this is a tough spot for Brissett, who almost assuredly doesn’t have a handle on Indy’s offense having only been with the team since early September. He’ll face an Arizona pass-defense that ranked third in the NFL last season. The Cardinals’ offense has a favorable matchup, as well. The Colts easily have one of the worst defenses in the league–I mean, they allowed Jared Goff to look like an All-Pro last week. Even without star running back David Johnson, Arizona should have little trouble beating an Indianapolis team in turmoil.
Arizona 27, Indianapolis 13
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) vs Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
Spread: KC -5.5 Over/Under: 47.5
DVOA: PHI (12) < KC (10)
Public Betting: KC 68%
The Chiefs won’t gain over 500 yards like they did against New England, but they can still have another strong offensive performance against Philadelphia. The Eagles’ front-seven is terrific, but their defense has holes in the secondary, especially after recent acquisition Ronald Darby, arguably their best cornerback, went down with a significant ankle injury in Week One. And let’s not forget this: Kansas City’s offense is predicated around short, efficient passes to the likes of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. This means that Alex Smith should be able to get the ball out quick and avoid Philadelphia’s fearsome pass-rush.
Kansas City 24, Philadelphia 17
Minnesota Vikings (1-0) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
Spread: PIT -5.5 Over/Under: 45.5
DVOA: MIN (16) < PIT (1)
Public Betting: MIN 66%
Ben Roethlisberger’s home-road splits are something to pay attention to. Last year, for instance, he posted a 116.7 quarterback rating at Heinz Field and a lowly 78.4 mark on the road. And if we go back to 2010, Roethlisberger’s TD/INT ratio at home is a sensational 110/32; on the road it’s just 53/39. The better Roethlisberger plays, the better Pittsburgh’s offense performs. Also, let’s not overreact based on what we saw from the Vikings on Monday Night. Minnesota looked great against a bottom-five defense. Big deal. Pittsburgh will take care of business at home.
Pittsburgh 27, Minnesota 20
Chicago Bears (0-1) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)
Spread: TB -7 Over/Under: 43
DVOA: CHI (23) > TB (24)
Public Betting: TB 61%
Tampa has had a tumultuous past couple of weeks due to Hurricane Irma; but perhaps the fact that they haven’t played since September 1st means they will be rested and ready for their opener against the mediocre Bears. Additionally, Jameis Winston should have no trouble finding open receivers against a Chicago secondary ranked 30th entering the season according to Pro Football Focus. The Bears will hang around, thanks to their solid running game, but I’ll confidently take Tampa to win outright.
Tampa Bay 27, Chicago 21
Miami Dolphins (0-0) vs Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)
Spread: LA -3.5 Over/Under: 45.5
DVOA: MIA (20) < LAC (18)
Public Betting: LAC 50%
It’s unlikely that Jay Cutler will feel at ease quarterbacking the Miami offense just five weeks after he abruptly came out of retirement. Moreover, the Chargers offense should perform better this week against a Dolphins defense that is nowhere near as good as Denver’s, who LA played last week. Maybe home-field advantage will play a factor, too. This will be the Chargers’ opener at the StubHub Center (capacity roughly 27,000) in Carson, CA. Or…maybe Los Angelenos will be as aware of this event as they were for last Sunday’s Rams opener. Either way, go Chargers!
Los Angeles 28, Miami 20
New York Jets (0-1) vs Oakland Raiders (1-0)
Spread: OAK -13.5 Over/Under: 43.5
DVOA: NYJ (32) < OAK (9)
Public Betting: OAK 79%
Following an impressive win over the Titans, Derek Carr and the Raiders will look great again this week against a severely overmatched Jets team making one of those dreaded cross-country road trips. Chalk this one up as a LOCK.
*Oakland 34, New York 17
Washington Redskins (0-1) vs Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
Spread: LAR -3 Over/Under: 46
DVOA: WSH (17) < LAR (5)
Public Betting: LAR 56%
Clear recency bias with the Rams. They dominated in every facet against a woefully unprepared Indianapolis squad last week, but they’ll be in for a much tougher challenge against the Redskins. Ryan Kerrigan and the Washington pass-rush should make things difficult for Jared Goff; and I think Kirk Cousins has enough support around him to make plays against a tough LA defense that returns Aaron Donald. Should be a close game, but I love the Redskins +3, so I might as well take them to win outright.
Washington 24, Los Angeles 20
Dallas Cowboys (1-0) vs Denver Broncos (1-0)
Spread: DAL -2.5 Over/Under: 42
DVOA: DAL (3) > DEN (22)
Public Betting: DAL 69%
Traveling to Denver is always a difficult assignment, especially since the Broncos (1st in defensive DVOA in ’16) still have arguably the best defense in the NFL. But Dallas’ offense is well-equipped to handle Von Miller and company, right? Well, maybe not. Check out these stats, courtesy of the Washington Post: against top 10 defenses according to DVOA last season, Dak Prescott averaged just 5.8 yards per pass compared to 9.2 against all other defenses. Ezekiel Elliott’s numbers declined in these same situations too, as he saw his yards per touch numbers drop from 6.3 against non-top 10 defenses to 4.3 against elite units.
Denver’s defense will almost certainly keep them in the game. From there, I like Trevor Siemian (who, off-topic, I don’t think is nearly as pedestrian as people say) to have a nice day against a shaky Dallas defense coming off a deceptive performance against the Giants.
Denver 26, Dallas 20
San Francisco 49ers (0-1) vs Seattle Seahawks (0-1)
Spread: SEA -14 Over/Under: 42
DVOA: SF (30) < SEA (6)
Public Betting: SEA 76%
No sense over-analyzing this game. Seattle is exceptional defensively, so it will have no trouble holding San Francisco to a low-point total. However, the Seahawks’ offense is by no means a juggernaut, due to their poor offensive line. I also love betting on divisional underdogs when it comes to the spread (49-39-4 ATS in ’16). San Francisco will cover.
*Seattle 28, San Francisco 16
Green Bay Packers (1-0) vs Atlanta Falcons (1-0)
Spread: ATL -3 Over/Under: 55
DVOA: GB (4) > ATL (11)
Public Betting: GB 57%
I’m not buying stock in Green Bay’s defense despite their great performance against Seattle. This unit is little different from the one that got torched by Matt Ryan in two meetings with the Falcons last season (75.3 completion percentage; 7 touchdowns, 0 interceptions). And judging by Atlanta’s performance against the Bears in Week One, it appears its passing game (10.3 yards per pass, 3rd in NFL) will be just fine without former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. I’ll swallow the points and take Atlanta to once again out-score Green Bay.
Atlanta 31, Green Bay 27
And lastly, here are my best bets for Week 2…
- BALTIMORE (-330) over Cleveland
- NEW ORLEANS (+6.5) over New England
- TEASER: New Orleans vs New England OVER 50 & ARIZONA (-0.5) over Indianapolis
- Philadelphia vs Kansas City UNDER 47.5
- PITTSBURGH (-250) over Minnesota
- WASHINGTON (+3) over Los Angeles
- Dallas vs Denver OVER 42
- TEASER: OAKLAND (-7) over New York & SAN FRANCISCO (+20.5) over Seattle
*Prediction for Monday Night Football to come in tomorrow’s edition of The Sunday Recap