We took a small step back in Week 2, hovering right around .500 after a very nice first week. Too many favorites for me last week — all but two of the faves won outright last week, but a ton of ‘dogs covered against the spread. I think we could see something similar this week, so let’s dive in starting with Thursday night’s Battle for Florida.
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Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Jaguars -3
During Bengals-Browns last week, I jokingly tweeted whoever did the promo for this game must have spent the entire time recording it trying to stifle laughter. “MINSHEW! FITZPATRICK! It’s Thursday Night Football … only on NFL Network.” You know what? That was wrong. I didn’t realize we were going to get The Beard vs. The Mustache in an epic battle for the soul of Florida.
Representing South Florida, Ryan Fitzpatrick and his epic Dad Pandemic Beard, with the assertion that Minshew can’t grow hair on his cheeks. And in the other corner, repping North Florida/South Georgia, Gardner Minshew, who was definitely not going to let some geezer blast him over facial hair.
Let’s get ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuuumble. The reality of this game on Thursday night is it looks like trash on the surface, but it actually is a fantastic matchup. The Dolphins were supposed to improve on defense; they did not. Through two weeks, the Dolphins are dead last in DVOA and are giving up over 10 yards per passing attempt and five yards per rush on the number. You can absolutely gash them on the ground and through the air, and they’re likely without Byron Jones this week.
Jacksonville has a bunch of young talent on defense but it’s going to be a hot minute before they’re just locking teams down. Mix in Fitzpatrick — the pendulum is all over the place for him — and Minshew, who’s willing to play swashbuckler and take some chances, and we could have a similar shootout to what we got with Cincy and Cleveland last week.
The pick: Jaguars 31, Dolphins 28
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Eagles -6.5
Life comes at you fast, Philadelphia. The Eagles are 0-2 and in a spot so bad we have Doug Pederson snapping at reporters on conference calls while making questionable cross-sports analogies.
There are some excuses here: Wentz dealt with a ton of injuries to skill-position guys and maybe even more to his offensive line before Week 1, and it carried over into Week 2 against the Rams, who are a legitimately good football team again this year. But Wentz has been bad this year. He’s dead last in the NFL DYAR through two weeks and ahead of only Dwayne Haskins and Tyrod Taylor in QBR. Wentz has a league-leading four interceptions two games in after throwing just 21 interceptions (exactly seven per season) over the last three years combined. He’s been sacked eight times and generally looks out of sorts. Wentz’ 6.0 yards per attempt is the lowest of his career, worse than his rookie season. PFF has him throwing 40.7 percent catchable passes right now, the worst in the NFL. He has produced a turnover worthy play on 9.2 percent of his throws. Yikes.
A Wentz mistake dealt the Eagles a death knell on Sunday when the team was marching back to try and take the lead. Down 21-16 to the Rams, the Eagles used an RPO/play action look that offered Wentz this look at JJ Arcega-Whiteside:
Whiteside had cornerback Darius Williams beat and there’s definitely a window there, but by the time Wentz is deciding to pull the trigger, Jordan Fuller is already turning back towards the play, knowing where Wentz is going. Credit Williams for making a great play on the ball but as Wentz admitted after the game, he got too aggressive trying to force a throw into that tight window.
“They made a great play,” Wentz said after the game. “I got out on the naked there to the left, and they had us covered pretty well. I got pretty aggressive, tried to force one in there. Guy made a great play, so I gotta be smarter than that in that situation.”
Maybe he’s pressing or maybe he just doesn’t have enough working around him? The coaching hasn’t been great in Philly yet either. I think we see a bounce back from the Eagles (or just a bounce?) but I’m not betting against “Backdoor” Joe Burrow catching this many points against a defense that couldn’t slow down Washington in Week 1.
The pick: Eagles 24, Bengals 21
L.A. Rams (2-0) at Buffalo (2-0)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Bills -2.5
Wrote about it in my Week 2 Sorting the Sunday Pile recap, so I’m not going to spend too much more time praising Josh Allen here. He’s been great this season. He improved on his biggest issue — accuracy — through what looks like some mechanics changes and a ton of footwork improvements. Adding Stefon Diggs this offseason looks like a masterstroke from Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott. The Vikings badly need an additional weapon in the passing game and Buffalo is thriving. Allen is bombing the ball down the field at a much more accurate rate than ever before in his career. This feels like a legitimate leap forward. (And I owe Bills fans an apology for talking about their cuisine in this space last week. My bad.)
Having said all that: I’m going to hit the pause button on the hype train for this week. The Rams are also in the middle of a nice little breakout/bounceback season after “only” winning nine games last year. Brandon Staley had the task of replacing Wade Phillips and he’s somehow living up to it in his first year calling plays anywhere. Having Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald helps, but this defense looks like it’s going to be stout this season. Additionally, Sean McVay is peppering opposing defenses with tons of pre-snap motion and the running game is back in Los Angeles, easing the burden on Jared Goff.
The biggest difference for me? Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds potentially missing this game after sitting out in Week 2. Without a key pair of linebackers, Sean McVay should be able to stack both in the pass and the run in the short-yardage area. Both these offenses have been cooking this year, but I see a more methodical game happening.
The pick: Rams 21, Bills 17
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Falcons -3.5
This one feels pretty easy. There’s a 2-0 team on the road against an 0-2 team and the 2-0 team is a 3.5-point dog. Who do you think Vegas would prefer the majority of the public taking when they look at this matchup? Bears fans are yelling at me for calling them “fraudulent” during our Wednesday episode of the Pick Six Podcast VIDEO SHOW — airing daily at 4 p.m. ET on CBS Sports HQ (free to watch!) unless it’s superseded by a Champions League situation — but how can they think this is a good football team? I could see Mitchell Trubisky and Allen Robinson finally connecting for a pair of touchdowns, but I don’t think the Bears defense is good enough to just lock down a high-powered Falcons offense. They certainly won’t come back if Atlanta stakes a big lead.
The pick: Falcons 35, Bears 14
Washington (1-1) at Browns (1-1)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Browns -7
Back-to-back weeks early in the 2020 season where Baker Mayfield will have his entire career under a microscope. The Browns took care of business against the Bengals last week before Joe “Backdoor” Burrow stormed onto the porch and ruined the day for anyone who had Cleveland. The difference in Washington? The Football Team is a lot less likely to do it. Against Arizona, which is a fairly comparable team to Cleveland in my opinion, they couldn’t get going in the second half and muster a comeback. I could see a couple of Odell Beckham touchdown receptions early followed by Cleveland leaning on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt down the stretch. No one wants to lay seven points with the Browns, so I’ll do it.
The pick: Browns 28, WFT 17
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: 49ers -4
What are you supposed to do with this game? The 49ers were right to protest the turf, honestly. They lost Nick Bosa for the year and Raheem Mostert, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tevin Coleman and an assortment of important guys to lower body injuries. Why on earth would you play anyone in this game? Sit George Kittle, sit everyone. Get out of here with a close win or a loss if you have to. Run the clock down on every single play.
The pick: 49ers 17, Giants 14
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Steelers -4
This stinks out loud. Why aren’t the Steelers bigger favorites? Everyone agrees their defense is great and the Texans offense is awful. Except the Steelers have played the Giants and Broncos and won by 15 points total; that’s not great. Give Houston credit for getting blown out by two really good teams in KC and Baltimore. I’m not standing here defending Bill O’Brien and the DeAndre Hopkins trade, because you have a better chance of falling face first into a pot of gold than you do finding someone to defend that trade (Pete Prisco and Brady Quinn may have tried on the Pick Six Podcast, but you’ll have to listen to confirm that). This is just a prime spot to back the talented underdog desperate for a win.
The pick: Texans 21, Steelers 17
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Patriots -6.5
Smash the Pats here. Please. They’re winning and they’re winning big. You have two situations. One is Bill Belichick at home, after a loss, against a team that doesn’t challenge vertically. And on the other hand, you have a team with no defense who wants to run the ball, coming off a win on Monday night in prime-time. Belichick is laying less than a touchdown in this situation? K.
The pick: Patriots 28, Raiders 17
Titans (2-0) at Vikings (0-2)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Titans -2.5
This is a tough one. Mike Zimmer is excellent against the spread as a coach. The Vikings at home are excellent against the spread as a team. They’re 0-2 and desperate. The Titans have given up 14 points to the Broncos and 30 points to the Jaguars. The Titans feel obvious as a bet. But I can’t go against what I’m seeing, and what I’m seeing is that the Vikings are a bottom five team in the NFL right now. They’re not stopping anyone, they’re not protecting their quarterback, and they have no interest in trying to crank up the tempo. This is begging for multiple Derrick Henry jailbreaks that puts it out play.
The pick: Titans 28, Vikings 12
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Colts -10.5
This number is ridiculous, but how do you bet on the Jets? They’re what people thought the Dolphins might be last year and they even just drafted a franchise quarterback. We really need a deep dive and/or “30 for 30” on the Jets’ 2020 season. They have Sam Darnold — people like him! — and while Joe Douglas got him some offensive linemen, there’s not anything here for him to work with. Chris Herndon is being used in-line as a blocker and Darnold’s top receiver is … Braxton Berrios? There are 10-15 college quarterbacks with better weapons this weekend. Double digits is tough but really the only way the Jets stay in this is if the Colts try to pound Jonathan Taylor instead of letting Philip Rivers dump passes to Nyheim Hines and then take shots to T.Y. Hilton to exploit the porous defense the Jets trot out there.
The pick: Colts 35, Jets 17
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Panthers -7
This Tyrod Taylor thing is absurd. I would call it the “last straw” for the Chargers’ medical situation, but I don’t want anyone taking it the wrong way and replacing Tyrod’s Achilles with a couple of plastic bendy straws. The Chargers somehow hired both Dr. Nick and Dr. Spaceman at the same time and reportedly let them — *checks notes* — jab giant needles full of painkillers into the lungs of the team’s starting quarterback. Do realize how insane that is!? This team can’t stay healthy for 10-plus years, we’ve got doctors reportedly jamming giant needles into — again — the starting quarterback’s lungs a few minutes before the game and we’re not treating this like it’s a problem. Someone make some damn changes in this organization before more people get hurt. This is bad karma, give me the Panthers.
The pick: Panthers 31, Chargers 24
Buccaneers (1-1) at Broncos (0-2)
4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Buccaneers -6
Slam the Under here. Tom Brady is far from toast but he doesn’t have it yet with his new teammates. They won’t open it up against Denver, who has a decent defense too. You’re going to see like 38 points max in this game. The Bucs offense isn’t good. Everyone needs to realize that. It’s going to take time. Also not good? Jeff Driskel throwing to Jerry Jeudy. Not an indictment of anyone, but it’s just unlikely this equals an explosion. I think Tampa Bay escapes with a low-scoring win.
The pick: Buccaneers 24, Broncos 14
4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Cardinals -5.5
Need to see what happens with Kenny Golladay, because he really makes a massive difference in how Matthew Stafford performs. I wouldn’t count out the Lions winning this game, and I love the Cards. If Golladay is back, Stafford’s aDOT goes way, way up and the offense starts clicking. Am I wish-casting my preseason Lions prediction and hoping they don’t start 0-3, knowing that kind of hole is just too much to dig out of? Maybe. But I was in on the Cards before the season too, so I guess this is a win-win. Hearing Brady Quinn — who will be calling the game — talk about this makes me like Detroit a little more. It just feels like the Cardinals might not be ready to blow teams out in back-to-back games, although they’re certainly getting the respect from Vegas.
The pick: Lions 31, Cardinals 28
Dallas (1-1) at Seattle (2-0)
4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Seahawks -4.5
Shootout coming in this game. I’m not sure you can bet the Over at 55.5, just because it’s like buying Enron stock in the fall of 2001. It’s the top of the market, and while there won’t be a crash coming, you still need 60 points scored basically. I obviously think it gets there and still like the Over anyway, but it just stinks buying the worst of the number here. At any rate, this is going to be a thrilling game to watch. The Cowboys could be 0-2 right now. Frankly, they should be. Russell Wilson is playing better football than just about anyone in football. Neither of these secondaries have a whole lot cooking on the back end. Both teams are loaded at wide receiver, with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett basically serving as DFS fireworks this week. I can’t not imagine a shootout, and I don’t like betting against Russ, but with a shootout I’m going to take the points.
The pick: Cowboys 45, Seahawks 38
Green Bay (2-0) at New Orleans (1-1)
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Point spread: Saints -2.5
Slam-dunk pick here for me. The entire world is going to be on the Packers coming off a pair of dominant wins. The Saints just looked awful without Michael Thomas (unlikely to play here) in Las Vegas. Everyone thinks Drew Brees is washed up and can’t throw down the field. There might be some truth to that, but I’m still going to back the Saints in this spot — they’ve played two competent opponents so far this year, while the Packers have gotten to 2-0 on a soft schedule.
The pick: Saints 24, Packers 17
Kansas City (2-0) at Baltimore (2-0)
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Point spread: Ravens -3.5
I don’t love to simplify picks in this spot buuuuuuuuuuut I have updated my three simple rules in life to include “always bet on Patrick Mahomes if he’s getting points on a prime-time stage.” Yes, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are great, but Mahomes getting more than a field goal? It feels like a trap. Feed me the points.
The pick: Chiefs 31, Ravens 28