Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books and the results were a reminder that parity is thriving in professional football.
Opening weekend favorites went 7-7-1 against the spread (Tennessee at Miami closed at PK). One of those losses was the upset of the week when the Buccaneers, with a backup quarterback, won 48-40 in New Orleans as 10-point underdogs.
It takes many weeks for an NFL team to establish an identity, and we might not truly know who teams really are until Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean we’re staying away from the betting windows until then. The key to Week 2 is recognizing which Week 1 results were flukes, and which were signs of something more significant.
With that in mind, here are five Week 2 plays to consider:
1. Carolina at Atlanta (-6)
Week 1 was costly for the Falcons. Not only did they lose the game, but they lost two defensive starters – safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones – to injury. The Panthers won, but lost one of the most valuable players on their roster in tight end Greg Olsen.
Despite looking sluggish in Week 1, the Falcons are still 6-point favorites against a quality divisional opponent. Carolina feels like a trap in this spot getting almost a touchdown.
Atlanta will avoid an 0-2 start with a strong performance at home.
Take the Falcons to cover.
2. Philadelphia (-3.5) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers looked sexy in Week 1 and the Eagles did not. This is another line that looks fishy.
After their impressive Week 1 shootout victory behind Ryan Fitzpatrick’s five total touchdowns, the Buccaneers are still 3.5-point underdogs at home. That’s because they’re playing the defending champions who, even without starting quarterback Carson Wentz, boast an experienced and well-coached roster.
The Buccaneers will be a popular pick for public bettors this weekend, who will see their 48-point outburst last week and tell you that Nick Foles can’t go toe-to-toe with Fitzpatrick.
Do yourself a favor and fade those people.
Take the Eagles to win by more than a field goal.
3. New England (PK) at Jacksonville
Last year the Jacksonville’s defense established a lot of goodwill in the eyes of bettors and oddsmakers. That goodwill appears to have carried over into this season as the Jaguars are a pick ‘em at home against perennial AFC powerhouse New England this week.
True: Jacksonville will be looking to exact revenge at home after letting last year’s AFC Championship game slip away in Foxboro. It’s also true that the team’s defense is still the most talented in the NFL.
However, it’s yet to be seen if that defense will gel like the 2017 unit did, and the Jaguars might be without starting running back Leonard Fournette.
It’s still a little too early in the season for this game to be a pick ‘em. The Jaguars need to show more before you pick them to beat New England.
Take the Patriots to win outright on the road.
4. Kansas City (+4.5) at Pittsburgh
The Chiefs looked the part of contender behind first-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Week 1, beating the Chargers 38-28. The game wasn’t as close as the score suggests. Kansas City outscored Los Angeles 31-12 through three quarters until the Chargers threw their way back with a few 4th quarter scores.
The Steelers didn’t look like the AFC powerhouse many people projected them as last Sunday. They squandered a 14-point 4th quarter lead to the Browns and Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions.
Playing in Pittsburgh is a tough ask, but take the more talented Chiefs getting 4.5 points.
5. Houston (-1.5) at Tennessee
This game presents one of the better values of the weekend. Both teams are coming off Week 1 losses, but the Texans have the advantage in almost every single category and they’re only giving 1.5 points.
If the Titans were a good team they wouldn’t be home underdogs in this spot. It’s going to take rookie head coach Mike Vrabel several weeks’ worth of growing pains before his team establishes an identity.
The one thing the Titans do adequately – running the football – shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Texans defensive front. If the Texans eliminate the run and make Marcus Mariota (or Blaine Gabbert) beat them in the air, it could get ugly for the Titans.
One of these AFC South teams will start the season 0-2. Bet that it won’t be the better and more talented one.
Lay the 1.5 points and take the Texans.