It’s NFL Week 2 meaning it’s overreaction week, baby! We have a sample size of one and in the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins, zero. The preseason doesn’t count. And while it’s overreaction week, it’s also desperation week for teams that dropped their opener: Since 2006, only 10 teams to start the season 0-2 have made the playoffs while 77 have failed to get there. That’s a rate of just 11% and clearly a fate to avoid at all costs.
There’s Great Options in NFL Survivor Pools, Some Projected Blowouts and Tasty Totals in Week 2
As always, or at least until survivor pools get whittled down to about 20% remaining, we’ll begin with a breakdown of the most popular options and which ones you ought to lock onto.
But first: the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals. “Why do the Thursday night games always suck?” my wife asked me early in the second quarter. I told her “Nobody knows.” I certainly don’t. A quick recap if you didn’t watch: The punters were extremely busy, both offensive lines stunk, Andy Dalton is in danger of getting benched for A.J. McCarron, Deshaun Watson broke a 49-yard run for a touchdown that provided the only TD in a 13-9 Texans win, and the game ended thusly after a few other laterals:
J.J. Watt with the game-ending two-legged takedown!! Bengals center Russell Bodine will never have another (lateral) reception in his career and sure as heck won’t want one after that. It provided some much-needed excitement after a snoozefest, although a welcome one for under bettors like myself. Let’s get on to the survivor breakdown.
Best and Most Popular NFL Week 2 Survivor Pool Picks
Oakland Raiders (-13.5) vs. New York Jets
Short version: You should pick the Raiders this week. Don’t get cute.
Long version: The Jets are an absolute trainwreck lacking at every positional group and 38-year-old starting quarterback Josh McCown is a career backup. They don’t have the means to cover Raiders wideouts Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and/or stop Marshawn Lynch behind Oakland’s powerful offensive line. The Raiders are going to score 28-plus and the Jets won’t be able to keep pace. The only question is whether the Raiders cover a robust spread. For those of you in humongous pools with mega payouts, I can understand why you may want to pocket the Raiders, who certainly have future value later in the season. But personally I wouldn’t take a chance here. For anyone in a pool that started with 100 or fewer, Oakland is the pick and only Seattle is the other rational choice. In Yahoo! pools a whopping 52% are on Oakland and 45% in ESPN pools agree.
Seattle Seahawks (-14) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Long version: The Seahawks have some weird home-road offensive splits. As RotoWorld’s Evan Silva notes, they’ve averaged over 30 points in their last eight games at CenturyLink Field, versus a full two touchdowns fewer (16 points) in their last 10 games on the road. That’s the reason I rate Oakland a better pick this week. Yes, I realize the Seahawks are at home but behind Seattle’s leaky offensive line you just never know if they’re going to lay an egg. But after getting bushwhacked by the Green Bay Packers, a game in which Seattle’s defense consistently pressured Aaron Rodgers and allowed only 17 points, I expect they’re going unleash some fury against the Niners and not let up. The Niners got stymied at home last week against a solid but lesser Panthers defense and need more seasoning in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Short version: Here’s a dramatization of the Seahawks defense against the 49ers offense:
Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Choose your adjective for Scott Tolzien and the Colts last week: dreadful, nightmarish, abysmal, incompetent, atrocious. Let’s go with atrocious. And we’re not even sure on Friday who’s starting for the Colts this Sunday. It could be Tolzien again or Jacoby Brissett, who’s only been with the team for two weeks, or free agent baseball player Tim Tebow in a Wildcat offense.
Nevertheless… there’s no good reason to go with the Cards on the road after losing one of the league’s best offensive players in David Johnson — to be replaced by a committee of much lesser talent — against a squad that got absolutely humiliated and return home to try and restore some of their dignity. Carson Palmer could definitely sail a pass that goes for a pick-6 and maybe the Colts break a big gainer or two in busted coverage. If you’re in a very large pool and don’t see another good opportunity to take Arizona, fine. But you — along with roughly 10% of both Yahoo! And ESPN poolsters — are unnecessarily inviting disaster.
Baltimore Ravens (-8) vs. Cleveland Browns
“Browns opponent” looks a little less enticing this season and this week, aye? Like the Seahawks, the Steelers have a pretty pronounced home-road dichotomy and the Browns managed to cover the spread last week despite Pittsburgh’s early blocked punt return TD. But here the Ravens have a tremendous defense and this is not a good spot for rookie QB DeShone Kizer, who will be making his first road start. The Ravens are going to force a turnover or three and pad their sack totals in what should be a fairly low scoring game. The total is a Sunday-low 38.5 because the Ravens are still a bit limited on offense while Joe Flacco recovers from back surgery. In the meantime the Ravens will dodge, dink, dunk, dive and dink with their running backs and see if Jeremy Maclin can break a long one on a short pass.
The Ravens are definitely a better option than the Cardinals but a decided notch below the Raiders and Seahawks.
Carolina Panthers (-7) vs. Buffalo Bills
To have this volume of 7-plus point spreads in a single week in the NFL is pretty rare (and we didn’t even get to the Buccaneers -7 vs. Chicago yet). If we could afford a research intern, s/he would probably tell you it only happens in about 3.5% of weeks. As for Carolina-Buffalo, the Bills are one-dimensional and will pound the rock with LeSean McCoy until his body turns into one large bruise and he asks his agent to get him to New England where he can join a 5-man committee and win a ring.
Buffalo’s defense is susceptible on the ground and through the air and although Cam Newton is still not 100%, he’s well enough to pepper Christian McCaffrey with screen passes, hit Greg Olsen for 8 catches and 90 yards, let Kelvin Benjamin grab a couple jump balls and hand off to Jonathan Stewart 23 times to kill the clock. I rank Carolina as T-3 with Baltimore. This is probably the best range of options all season so don’t do something stupid like take the Patriots at Saints or the Bengals vs. Texans. Oh no, you didn’t do that, did you? Did you?!
This helps dull the pain a lil bit.. ? (via @Deadspin)
— Cincinnati Problems (@CincyProblems) September 15, 2017
We’re going to need to work that in at least one more time today. That’s a rare and beautiful scene.
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Projections for the Full NFL Slate
Tennessee Titans (-1.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is a desperation game for the Titans. They cannot afford to go down two games to the Jags in the AFC South and behind the Texans (1-1) as well. The Jags defense is pretty well stocked but not as good as we saw last week in their 10-sack (10!!!) performance of Houston. The key here is the Titans shutting down the Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette-led rushing attack. In 2016 Tennessee ranked 10th in DVOA (Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value of Average) against the run and ought to hold Fournette in check, although the loss of SS Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) isn’t ideal. Titans 21, Jaguars 19
Philadelphia Eagles (+6) at Kansas City Chiefs
This lined opened at Chiefs -4.5 before moving out to what is probably the more accurate number. This one pits Andy Reid against his former offensive coordinator in Doug Pederson and it’s advantage Reid. Reid also has the advantage from an offensive personnel standpoint thanks to rookie sensation Kareem Hunt, TE Travis Kelce and speed demon Tyreek Hill who has scored a touchdown of 60-plus yards in five straight games (not counting playoffs), which is an NFL record. He’s a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. The Chiefs main weakness is run defense and they suffered a major loss with safety Eric Berry (ruptured Achilles tendon) at New England last week. Still, the Eagles haven’t shown much in the run game and if they end up trailing, there’s high sack or turnover potential for Carson Wentz and the game getting out of hand. Chiefs 27, Eagles 20
Chicago Bears (+7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I loved the Bears last week at home against the Falcons and they came awfully close to pulling off the upset. On the road against QB Mike Glennon’s former team, despite a dearth of talent at wide receiver, I think Bears and its dynamic backfield tandem of Jordan Howard and pass-catching scatback Tarik Cohen can frustrate the Bucs D if they can hold off the Tampa’s defensive line. Setting aside badly broken coverage that allowed Falcons TE Austin Hooper to lurch 88 yards to the house, the D was pretty good. Mike Evans still ought to have a nice fantasy day and possibly TE Cameron Brate too, but I think the Bears make this a game. Bucs 24, Bears 20
New England Patriots (-6) at New Orleans Saints
Do the Patriots win this game and avoid an 0-2 hole? Probably. Do they cover? I’m not so sure and will be avoiding this game. The Patriots defense wasn’t exactly stellar last year, certainly not last week, and it’s looking like they’ll be without star linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee) this week. They’ll also have to make adjustments with offensive personnel as WRs Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell will be on the shelf. The Saints, as we’ve seen over the Drew Brees era, score a shitload of points at home and will be able to move the ball with Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas, Coby Fleener, and maybe Tedd Ginn breaks a big gainer. This ought to be a shootout and there’s high backdoor cover potential for the Saints. The total is a pretty robust 56 and I may have just talked myself into it. Patriots 33, Saints 30
Minnesota Vikings (+5.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
This line has settled in the twilight zone as people are pretty impressed with the way the Vikings pulled the Saints’ pants down on Monday Night Football. The Vikings are a legit NFC contender. The reformed (and competent) offensive line can give Sam Bradford time and he’s got some good wideouts in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, plus TE Kyle Rudolph, who can make plays. And rookie Dalvin Cook gives Minny a capable running game again. The Steelers always play better at home but the Vikings defense is strong and we may see Xavier Rhodes shadowing Antonio Brown, which means that Brown will catch 8 passes for 90 yards instead of 12 for 150+. Minnesota keeps it close. Steelers 24, Vikings 20
Washington Redskins (+3) at Los Angeles Rams
This line has moved onto a key number of 3 after opening at 2.5 or 2. That’s pretty tempting. The Redskins are another team that absolutely has to win because if they fall to 0-2 in the NFC East they’re toast. On the other side we have a Rams team feeling awfully good after giving the Colts a football version of a colonoscopy without using anesthesia. The Rams have no home field advantage right now so throw that out the window but they do have stud DT Aaron Donald coming back. Good sense says to take the Redskins and the points here but something tells me the Rams will ride the momentum under new head coach Sean McVay against his former team. I won’t be betting this game. Rams 24, Redskins 23
Miami Dolphins (+3.5) at California Chargers
The Fins have been waiting a while to play their opener and draw a tough matchup against the Chargers, who have no home field advantage like the Rams. The Chargers’ Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram-led defense are going to get after Jay Cutler who’s good for one boneheaded interception per game against and faces a tough secondary. On offense, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn is counting on Melvin Gordon to pound the ball against a front seven that doesn’t offer a ton of opposition against the run. Gordon should find better success this week. Chargers 27, Dolphins 20
Dallas Cowboys (-1.5) at Denver Broncos
The Broncos aren’t getting much respect with this line but do they deserve it yet? This is a good litmus test. The Cowboys might run the ball 40 times with Ezekiel Elliott against a rush-susceptible defense that erases wide receivers. The Broncos likewise will need to do damage on the ground here with C.J. Anderson if they’re going win. This will be a close one either way and I think pretty low scoring, so I would be looking at that under at 42 and not either side. Broncos 21, Cowboys 20
Green Bay Packers (+3) at Atlanta Falcons (Sunday Night)
An NFC Championship rematch that ought to be a shootout with a total of 54. Bold prediction: Falcons will not take a 31-0 third quarter lead in Atlanta again. The Falcons are still finding their footing under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian although he shouldn’t have to strain too hard with a bevy of offensive playmakers. The Packers should enjoy playing a much less challenging defense this week than Seattle’s as Aaron Rodgers has a healthy complement of weapons and even a running game this year as Ty Montgomery has been fully converted into the role. I’m taking the points. Packers 28, Falcons 27
Detroit Lions +3 at New York Giants (Monday Night)
I’m a Giants fan. Maybe you know that by now. General manager Jerry Reese failed this team by failing to address the terrible offensive line (LT, RG, RT) in the draft or in free agency. Shame! We still don’t know if Odell Beckham Jr. is playing as of Friday and it’s not looking good. The Giants don’t have anyone else who can take a slant pass and slice through a defense for 70 yards and a score. I’d take the points if the total of 43.5 wasn’t a better opportunity. The Giants haven’t scored 20 or more points in seven weeks now. Good grief. If there’s a prop for zero touchdowns scored in this game I’m going to plop down a few bucks there. It’s a real possibility. Screw it, that’s the prediction: Giants 9, Lions 6
Projections for games discussed in Survivor section:
New York Jets (+13.5) at Oakland Raiders: Raiders 31, Jets 13
Cleveland Browns +8 at Baltimore Ravens: Ravens 20, Browns 10
Buffalo Bills (+7) at Carolina Panthers: Panthers 28, Bills 17
Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Indianapolis Colts: Cardinals 24, Colts 17
San Francisco 49ers (+14) at Seattle Seahawks: Seahawks 27, 49ers 9
Happy Week 2, everybody! You can hit me me up on Twitter with any thoughts, comments, questions or well-crafted insults. Hope your weekend goes better than this: