It's Week 2 of the NFL season, and handicappers Warren Sharp and Preston Johnson have you covered with comprehensive betting previews for all of Sunday's games (except the late game).
Note: All odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of Thursday evening.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-6)
PickCenter public consensus pick: 55 percent Carolina
Sharp: The 2017 Falcons defense ranked No. 30 in my EDSR (early down success rate) metric and No. 22 in Football Outsiders' DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). They just lost their best defender, Deion Jones, as well as starting safety Keanu Neal. Jones is the heart and soul of the Falcons' defense, and this is the worst possible week to be without him because Christian McCaffrey is coming to town. Atlanta's pass defense against running backs had long been its weak point. The past three seasons, from an opponent's 20 to the end zone 80 yards away, RB targets against the Falcons produced a 50 percent success rate, No. 26 in the NFL. And now without the key players that would cover running backs out of the backfield, it's just a juicy matchup for McCaffrey to exploit.
The problem for Carolina is it must exploit that matchup because the Panthers lost tight end Greg Olsen, and they are weaker up front with an offensive line decimated by injuries. That means Cam Newton likely will take fewer deep drops so he can get the ball out underneath. The Eagles have one of the NFL's best offensive lines, and the Falcons still were only able to record two sacks on 34 dropbacks by Nick Foles in Week 1. The Panthers don't have nearly that stout of an offensive line and absorbed three sacks on just 29 Newton dropbacks against the Cowboys' defense at home.
Johnson: The Falcons' red zone woes continued in 2018, opening the season in Philadelphia and losing despite limiting the Eagles' offense to just 3.6 yards per play (the only team that did worse in Week 1 was Buffalo). How on earth did Atlanta lose that game? Three trips inside the Philly 15-yard line resulting in a grant total of zero points explains a good portion of it. The Falcons are still projected to be one of the most efficient teams in the NFL this season, so if the six-point spread seemed high, I think it's ultimately pretty close to a fair number with my line coming in at 5.1. The injuries to Neal and Jones on the defensive side of the football aren't going to impact the point spread too much. I won't be making a play in this one.
Indianapolis Colts at Washington Redskins (-6)
PickCenter public consensus pick: 61 percent Washington
Sharp: The Redskins dominated the Cardinals' run defense with 5.2 yards per carry and a 58 percent success rate through the first three quarters in Week 1. That's a problem because the Colts just gave up 5.1 yards per carry and a 65 percent success rate on the ground to the Bengals at home last week -- but the key is where those yards came from.
Last week, Washington couldn't run up the middle on Arizona's run defense, which ranked No. 2 in 2017. Adrian Peterson ran the ball up behind the center or either guard 10 times and gained just 1.8 yards per carry on those runs. But the Colts' run defense gave up a 57 percent success rate up the middle to the Bengals last week. The fact that the Redskins' run game should be balanced will really cause problems for the weak Indianapolis defense that ranked 31st in overall defensive success, allowing 60 percent success on all Bengals plays.
The Colts offensively were actually much better than I expected them to be last week. Andrew Luck, who threw his first in-game passes in nearly two years, attempted a massive 55 dropbacks and delivered a 56 percent success rate. The Bengals have a good pass rush, and the Colts' offensive line held up well overall. Luck attempted only five of 53 passes traveling 15-plus yards downfield, and only one pass gained at least 20 yards, so the Redskins should be able to squat on more of those throws and look to force Luck to throw deep.
Pick: Lean over 46.5
Johnson: I'm still under the impression that Redskins fans will grow to recognize how much they underappreciated Kirk Cousins at some point this season, but Washington's Week 1 performance at Arizona was definitely impressive.
Final scores can often be deceiving, and I don't think most of us realize how poorly the Colts played Sunday because they had a lead early in the fourth quarter. The Bengals actually gained 6.6 yards per play on offense (just as much as the Chiefs, for example, tied for the fourth-best output of the week). I make this game Redskins -5.05, but there is a chance the Colts are even worse defensively than my current projections call for, so I won't be getting involved with the -6 or the total despite a slight edge showing on Indianapolis and the under.
Houston Texans (-1.5) at Tennessee Titans
PickCenter public consensus pick: 81 percent Houston
Sharp: The Texans offense was underwhelming in New England last weekend, delivering a mere 4.6 yards per play and producing just a 38 percent success rate. While those numbers are bleak, the team still made five trips into the red zone (more than the Patriots made), and committed two turnovers. However, this offensive line is still a problem and it looks like it will be a few more weeks until we see the Deshaun Watson from last season.
The Titans were more disappointing given the offseason moves to address the offense. This team still recorded just 5.0 yards per play and a 40 percent success rate. Marcus Mariota looked bad, completing just 56 percent of his passes and tossing two interceptions in 16 attempts. The run game was likewise unproductive, especially as far as Derrick Henry was concerned, as he turned 10 rushes into just 26 total yards and a 30 percent success rate.
Pick: Lean under 44.5
Johnson: I already have bet the Titans +2 in this game. I make them the favorite, so getting the +2 is going to offer us value long-term from a mathematical standpoint, and that's typically what we are looking for initially to place a bet. There were questions about Mariota's status, however, after he missed some of Tennessee's Week 1 game against the Dolphins.
The most recent report is that the Titans are optimistic Mariota will be playing Sunday after news Wednesday emerged that he is "cleared and good to go." This matchup also falls into a nice Week 2 spot that is worth following each season. There are three teams this week that will be playing their second road game of the season: Houston, Kansas City and Seattle. Playing against teams in this same spot the past three years is 12-0 against the spread. I'm not someone who is going to blindly bet trends, but when it lines up with an expected edge in the numbers we are betting, too, then it's certainly a nice bonus to have on our side.
It makes some logical sense, too, with these teams having to start the new season with back-to-back weeks of travel when they are just getting into the NFL week-to-week swing of things. This may be something that just isn't accounted for efficiently in the market yet.
Pick: Titans +1.5
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5)
PickCenter public consensus pick: 79 percent Kansas City
The Chiefs' pass defense played surprisingly well in the first half of their game against the Chargers and held Phillip Rivers to only 6.2 yards per attempt and a 37 percent success rate. Keenan Allen delivered, but in the first half, Rivers had no luck targeting either Travis Benjamin (1 yard on three targets) or Tyrell Williams (4 yards on three targets). While the Kansas City defense showed up early against the pass, it was horrendous against a Chargers run offense that was extremely inefficient in 2017 and ranked sixth worst in the league. The Chiefs allowed Melvin Gordon & Co. to rush for 5.9 yards per carry and post a 63 percent success rate on 16 first-half runs.
This Chiefs' defense is one of the worst in the NFL, and the Steelers' offense should be vastly more productive at home. Roethlisberger needs to target James Conner more, as running back targets are a distinct weakness for the Chiefs' pass defense.
Pick: Lean Steelers -4.5
Johnson: The Steelers choked away a 21-7 fourth-quarter lead in Cleveland on Sunday that began with a Conner fumble with seven minutes left in the game that the Browns were able to scoop and return to the Pittsburgh 1-yard line. Cleveland scored on the next play. Two plays later, with just under seven minutes left, Roethlisberger was sacked and fumbled the ball to the Browns, who eventually tied the game and forced an overtime period that resulted in zero points.
In fact, the Steelers turned it over six times in this game and still didn't lose. How? One sufficient response would certainly be "the Browns." The other, however, is that Pittsburgh actually outgained the Browns 5.9 yards per play to 3.8. Cleveland had the third-worst offensive output in Week 1 ahead of only Philadelphia and Buffalo.
I think it is safe to assume the Steelers will bounce back in their home opener and not turn the ball over six times, but the number is short at -4.5 anyway and worth a bet. I grabbed -4 on Wednesday myself, and so at -4.5, while it still is worth betting, I'm recommending a smaller-sized wager if you're unable to get a -4. If your typical 1-unit or 1x bet is $100, then at -4.5 for the Steelers, I would decrease your bet sizing to 0.5x or $50. This game is going to land on 4 roughly 3 percent of the time, which means our edge decreases and thus our bet sizing should decrease as well.
This game also falls into that Week 2 road team back-to-back spot I mentioned earlier, so we have that going for us.
Pick: Steelers -4.5
Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
PickCenter public consensus pick: 72 percent Philadelphia
Sharp: Count the Buccaneers' upset over the Saints as one of the biggest Week 1 stunners in recent memory, especially considering they did it with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. But there are a number of reasons to believe that productivity won't carry over to Week 2.
For one, if you take away Fitzpatrick's 12 rushing attempts, Buccaneers lead back Peyton Barber gained just 3.6 yards per carry on 19 rushing attempts and posted a 47 percent success rate against the Saints, whose run defense ranked No. 23 last year. The Eagles, with the No. 3 run defense from 2017, just bottled up Atlanta's starting running backs and limited them to just 3.7 yards per carry and a 40 percent success rate. This will make the Buccaneers even more pass-heavy offensively. The Eagles' defense also benefits from the return of linebacker Nigel Bradham from his one-game suspension.
Lost in the mix of Fitzpatrick's incredible win was the efficiency of Drew Brees, who knifed through this Tampa Bay pass defense and posted an astonishing 72 percent success rate. He was sacked just one time in 46 dropbacks. Tight end Benjamin Watson destroyed the Buccaneers' defense and caught all four of his targets while delivering 11 yards per attempt and a 100 percent success rate. That should be welcome news for the tight end-oriented passing attack of the Eagles.
This version of the Saints lacked the thumping run game, which is not the case for Philadelphia. Jay Ajayi produced a healthy 4.1 yards per carry and a 60 percent success rate on 15 rushes against the Falcons and should find opportunities easier to come by because the passing attack captained by Nick Foles should be more successful. The Bucs' defense is without starting DB Vernon Hargreaves and possibly fellow starter Brent Grimes, meaning multiple rookies would start, and they also might be without Jason Pierre-Paul. I think that's too much to overcome.
Pick: Eagles -3.5
Johnson: With the multitude of injuries facing the Eagles, my number for this game comes in at Philly -3.1. If the team was fully healthy, however, then my raw number would be Eagles -6.5. This would typically be a spot I'd be looking to play against a Tampa Bay team that dropped 48 points on the Saints in Week 1 and looked like Super Bowl contenders. While they're likely not, this market number is close to fair, and I don't see an advantage in playing either the side or the total.
Philadelphia was so poor offensively in last week's Thursday night opener that I was hoping we would get a number like 42 or 42.5 to make an over bet on, but Tampa Bay squashed any dream of that with its offensive outburst Sunday.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-2.5)
PickCenter public consensus pick: 51 percent New York
The Jets' defense studied the formations and hand signals from Matthew Stafford and were able to make the Lions' offense look silly on Monday. But they are on a short week, and the Dolphins now know that they need to wipe "tells" and predictability from their game plan. Miami's offense was a true 50-50 split between pass and run and gained a healthy 7.8 yards per play on first downs, but they were too run-heavy for my liking (66 percent run).
Pick: Lean Dolphins +3
Johnson: I was hoping for a bigger overreaction to the Jets' 48-17 win in Detroit on Monday night. At +3.5 this would certainly be a bet for me on the Dolphins with my true line at Jets -1.85. I don't anticipate we will get there, but it is worth keeping an eye on throughout the week. Stafford and the Lions tried their best Big Ben impression but fell short and turned the ball over only five times against New York. We need to give the Jets credit, however, for capitalizing on their chances despite going down 0-7 to start the game when Darnold threw a pick-six on his first career attempt.
No team is as good -- or bad -- as it showed in Week 1, and for now the market line is fair, so I won't be getting involved.
Los Angeles Chargers (-7.5) at Buffalo Bills
PickCenter public consensus pick: 83 percent Los Angeles
In the first half of the game, the Bills tried to run the ball seven times but gained just 2.9 yards per carry and produced a zero percent success rate on the ground. They cannot afford to be made that one-dimensional with Allen under center. Unfortunately, while the Chargers' run defense surrendered a 59 percent success rate to the Chiefs last week, don't expect that to be the case for the Bills in this game. The Chiefs have a much better offensive line and are far more dynamic through the air, which prevented the Chargers from adding too many men in the box to slow down the run.
As this line sits at a juiced 7 or 7.5, it's too rich for me considering I laid Chargers -1 in May when the lines were available in Las Vegas. I see the Chargers winning, and there is a good chance they cover, but there isn't enough value.
Johnson: Out of respect to Bills fans, I'm going to leave the final score from last week out of this. We all know how bad it was. The good news is Peterman should never have to start another game again for this franchise.
Allen was announced the starter for the Week 2 home opener against the Chargers, and things can only go up from here -- I think. It's important to remember not to overreact to any single-game sample size when we're analyzing and breaking down games from week to week. While I needed to downgrade my projections on Buffalo some after that Baltimore game, it wasn't as drastic as one would expect. There is some value on the Bills at +7.5 compared to my +6.65 number, but I'm also a realist. The reality is that the Bills could be unfathomably bad this season.
Do I think +7.5 is a technically profitable edge worth betting in most cases like this? Yes. Do I want to put actual money on this Bills team starting a rookie quarterback in Week 2 before we get more data points to base projections off of? No thanks.
It's also worth noting that the Chargers quietly outplayed the Chiefs everywhere in that game outside of the final score (outgained Kansas City 541 yards to 362, 33 first downs to 19, etc.). If some positive variance goes the Chargers' way here in Week 2, then this could absolutely turn ugly again for Buffalo, and it wouldn't surprise a soul.
Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints (-9)
PickCenter public consensus pick: 64 percent New Orleans
Sharp: In one of the more shocking results of Week 1, the Saints lost at home to Ryan Fitzpatrick despite Drew Brees going 37-of-45 for 9.8 yards per attempt and a 72 percent successful pass rate to go with three touchdowns. If you had forecast that stat line ahead of the game, there wouldn't be anyone who would think the Saints could possibly lose to Fitzpatrick. But thanks to a ridiculous rate of deep passes on early downs, the Buccaneers took the Saints' secondary by surprise.
No quarterback completed more deep passes on first down than Fitzpatrick, who was 5-for-5 for 166 yards (33.2 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns on first downs. Unfortunately, Tyrod Taylor and this Browns offense represent the antithesis of that strategy. Taylor attempted six passes of 15-plus yards in the air downfield on first down and completed just one. He also threw an interception, and he finished with a passer rating of 13.9 on his six first-down deep attempts. On all downs, Taylor was 3-for-12 throwing 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
The Browns' defense was fortunate to tie against the Steelers, as Cleveland was plus-five in turnovers and somehow still trailed 21-7 in the fourth quarter. Cleveland's defense allowed the Steelers, in bad weather, to average 7.0 yards per attempt through the air. Big Ben always struggles on the road but still saw 38 percent of his passes gain a first down. It's going to be difficult for the Browns' defense, which is playing a boom-or-bust scheme, to limit the efficiency from Brees and the Saints' passing offense.
Johnson: I made a bet on the Saints -8.5. This is one where we are getting an overreaction to the Saints' performance Sunday against Tampa Bay. The defense was a disaster, but remember no team is as bad as it looked in Week 1. Even after making a slight downgrade to New Orleans this week, my projection for this game is Saints -11.8. This is an edge worth betting when we are getting -8.5 or -9 in the current market. This is also your friendly reminder that the Browns needed six Steelers turnovers just to tie the game and avoid the loss ... and that they are still the Browns.
Pick: Saints -9
Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers (-6)
PickCenter public consensus pick: 69 percent San Francisco
Sharp: Detroit was as bad as it gets, on both sides of the ball, to start the season. The Lions committed five turnovers, and before the game got out of reach in the fourth quarter, averaged just 2.6 yards per rush and a 38 percent success rate on the ground. This provided the Lions no balance, and they were forced to attempt 37 passes to only 13 rushes (74 percent pass). While being more pass-heavy is preferable, a team like the Lions can't get zero production on the ground (Week 1 marked their 69th straight game without a 100-yard rusher) and be so predictable, but that is exactly what unfolded. Apparently, it was so predictable that the Lions were tipping plays before the snap, which is quite embarrassing for offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
Meanwhile, San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo struggled mightily against the very stout Vikings defense and posted just a 39 percent success rate while completing only 45 percent of his attempts to go with three interceptions. But this Lions defense is far from that Vikings squad, and there is a strong chance the 49ers will see a lot more success against a unit that surrendered a 76 percent completion rate and 9.4 yards per attempt to a rookie QB on Monday, and is on a short week.
Pick: Lean over 48
Johnson: Despite all of the injuries that have plagued the 49ers already this season, coach Kyle Shanahan's playcalling offensively gives San Francisco a legitimate shot in every game. If it weren't for a fumble at the Vikings 1-yard line and multiple wide receiver drops in the open field, they may have won their Week 1 matchup in Minnesota. In fact, the 49ers managed 5.4 yards per play offensively to the Vikings' 4.8 without No. 1 WR Marquise Goodwin and losing multiple pieces on the offensive line throughout the game.
The "contrarian bet" will be taking the Lions after their embarrassing showing at home against the Jets on Monday night, but I think people are overlooking just how well Shanahan had the 49ers prepared on the road against my favorite value pick to win the Super Bowl this season. No bet in this game for me.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-13)
PickCenter public consensus pick: 68 percent Los Angeles
A big problem for the Cardinals will be defending Todd Gurley's reception ability out of the backfield. Last week, Redskins RB Chris Thompson was their leading receiver. He averaged 9.0 yards per attempt and recorded a 71 percent success rate on seven targets. Targeting Gurley could provide huge upside for the Rams, as he saw five targets in their game against the Raiders last week. This line has gotten too high, but I am looking to a player prop for this one.
Johnson: The Cardinals are a team that I was passive adjusting this past week, but I wouldn't be surprised if they grade out quite a bit worse in a few weeks than I originally anticipated entering the season. Their offense couldn't do a thing for about three quarters, and Arizona's 4.2 yards per play (fifth worst in Week 1) was inflated by a couple of garbage-time drives late in the game. Unfortunately, betting on these teams on occasion is part of the gig. At +13 it is a pass for me, but +14 or better, and I'm going to be getting some money down on the Cardinals. It's worth recognizing that the Raiders actually outgained the Rams 6.2 yards per play to 6.1 on Monday night. It got away from Oakland late, but that game was much closer than the final score.
New England Patriots (-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars
PickCenter public consensus pick: 72 percent New England
Sharp: Working behind a weak offensive line, Deshaun Watson was hounded in Week 1 by Bill Belichick's defense most of the game. Watson completed only 50 percent of his passes for 5.2 yards per attempt. That same defense hopes to put the clamps on a Jaguars team that could be somewhat one-dimensional if Leonard Fournette is out. And in the second half, despite having a lead, the Jaguars felt compelled to still go 53 percent pass because backup T.J. Yeldon was able to gain only 2.6 yards per carry and produce a 27 percent success rate on the ground. The Jaguars' second-half offense produced a dismal 4.0 yards per play and a 27 percent success rate, but it was their defense that won the game by limiting the Giants to a mere 26 percent success rate on its second-half plays.
This rematch from the 2017 AFC Championship Game will allow Rob Gronkowski a shot to play the entire game. He was knocked out of the prior game before halftime, and the Patriots had to play much more 11 personnel as a result, which fed right into the strength of the Jaguars' defense. They still emerged victorious thanks to predictable Jacksonville playcalling in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots will still be short-handed in this contest, with far fewer receiving weapons than they had in 2017, and they could be thin at running back as well with Rex Burkhead being questionable. Last week against a weaker secondary, Brady was able to produce a ton of efficiency on passes to Gronkowski and Phillip Dorsett (14 of 15 between the two players) but terrible efficiency to all other receivers.
Pick: Lean Jaguars +1
Johnson: Both the Jaguars and Patriots played in games that went more or less as expected relative to the market numbers before kickoff. There weren't many numbers or anomalies to deduce from, and I didn't make an adjustment to my projections on any of the four teams involved. Week 2 lines up pretty close to where my numbers are at, and I just can't pull anything from either the side or total to try and argue for a play somewhere. This is a complete pass for me.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-6)
PickCenter public consensus pick: 61 percent Denver
Sharp: Denver's offense was far better than it appeared on Sunday against the Seahawks, because Seattle has the best punter in the NFL and pinned the Broncos back deep on six drives. The Broncos scored 21 points on the five drives they began off of kickoffs; the six drives the Broncos obtained following a punt, they scored only three points.
Denver's passing offense was solid under Case Keenum, as the team recorded a 58 percent success rate and 8.1 yards per attempt. Keenum's three interceptions kept the Seahawks in the game, but the diversity of the offense in terms of receiving options coupled with the ability to run the football make this offense much stronger than it was in 2017. Both running backs produced 15 rushes for 71 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and a 53 percent success rate against the Seahawks. The Raiders just surrendered 5.4 yards per carry to Todd Gurley and are now on a short week, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Broncos' offense find itself in the end zone frequently.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders' offense was cooking in the first quarter, as Jon Gruden's script led the Raiders to average 7.0 yards per play. The second quarter still produced 6.1 yards per play and a 55 percent success rate, and despite bad field position all half, the Raiders entered halftime tied with the Rams. But in the critical third quarter, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' adjustments held the Raiders' offense to only 2.1 yards per play and a 25 percent success rate, and the game started to slip away from Oakland.
The problem was that they could not work the ball to their receivers. The only two Raiders with more than four targets were tight end Jared Cook and running back Jalen Richard. Oakland's receivers are far better than what Seattle took to Denver last week, and Oakland's offense should do enough to send this game back and forth.
Pick: Oakland team total over 20
Johnson: In Week 1, the Rams/Raiders line closed Rams -6.5, which was a few points higher than my projected number. I made some adjustments accordingly, and I still have this Week 2 matchup between Denver and Oakland only at Broncos -3.75. I discussed the Raiders' performance some in the Rams write-up earlier, and there really isn't much to be overly concerned about. I haven't made a bet on the Raiders yet at Denver, but this is my strongest edge that I haven't put money on at this point. I ultimately don't love the idea of betting on teams in the altitude early in the season while they are still trying to get into perfect shape. If I wound up touching this game, it would likely be a smaller bet on Oakland in the first half at +3.5 or better.
Pick: Lean Raiders +6