Today's Free Picks for
Posted Friday at 2:15 PM EST.
Week 2 Preview:
In this weekly space, we'll cover every NFL game that we're not wagering on. Remember, these are not official plays and if we do decide to make any of these official plays, we'll move them into that category.
The Rest of the Games
1:00 PM EST. Cam Newton can take over games with his arm and legs but he struggled against the 49ers. Newton only completed 14-of-25 passes for 171 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His accuracy was off against the 49ers and Newton wasn't able to do much on the ground. He finished Sunday's game with three yards on six rushing attempts. The Bills' run defense will need to be just as impressive in Week 2 to slow down the Panthers, as Jonathan Stewart and rookie Christian McCaffrey give Carolina two quality options out of the backfield. The duo combined to run for 112 yards on 31 carries against the 49ers. Both backs can also be dangerous in the receiving game. They added seven receptions for 55 yards and one touchdown on Sunday. We cannot put much emphasis on Carolina’s victory simply because they’re coming off a game against such an underwhelming opponent. We can’t put too much emphasis on a pedestrian game for Newton either because the Panthers won easily while some QB’s need a game to shake off the rust. He could certainly have a monster game at home against Buffalo.
At the same time, the Bills are coming off a not so easy victory against an underwhelming opponent and they, too, might be underwhelming also. That said, the score was misleading in that the Bills outgained the Jets, 408-214. That’s significant and so is the time of possession numbers that heavily favored the Bills. One victory is such a good way to start for a young team that is trying to get established and with seven points to work with, our lean, although slight, is on the Bills. Play: Buffalo +7 -109 (no bets).
1:00 PM EST. The Steelers barely won in Cleveland last week, let alone cover but it's hard to put much stock in what sounded like a glorified preseason game if you talk to the Pittsburgh defense. Sure, Pittsburgh had seven sacks and an interception but cornerback Mike Hilton was far more excited about facing the Vikings this week. Said Hilton, “No disrespect to Cleveland, but they’re (the Vikes) more explosive. They have a lot more weapons.” You know when somebody starts a sentence with “No disrespect” someone is about to be disrespected. The Steelers have a history of playing down to their competition, especially on the road, but they’re a much different team at home in Heinz Field. The Steelers got practically nothing from Le'Veon Bell and even if the Vikings focus on the star runner like the Brownies did, Big Ben can still beat you with his vast passing arsenal.
When targeting overreactions, a big winner on Monday Night Football is usually a good place to start. The Vikings looked dominant in a 29-19 victory over the Saints with that double digit beat down actually flattering New Orleans. Vikes' quarterback Sam Bradford was named NFC player of the week after putting up 346 yards through the air and posting a QB rating of 143.0. He was good for 2nd in both stat categories after Week 1 but to say Bradford played above his usual standard would be an understatement. The Saints have had one of the worst defenses in the league for years and it didn't look like much changed on Monday night. The value of a team that performs well in a high profile prime time game is often inflated going into the next week and that's what we have here with the Vikings. In summarizing, the Vikes were very impressive last week in the eyes of the market in a prime-time game while the Steelers were not impressive at all and this short price is a reaction to both those results combined. We’re anticipating some Vikes money here so if you like Pittsburgh wait until Sunday and if you like Minnesota, bet it now. We’ll sit it out, as other games this week are preferred. Play: Pittsburgh -5½ -105 (No bets).
It was hard not to be impressed with the Jaguars revamped defense after a huge road victory in Houston last week. Jacksonville had 10 sacks, which is great until you consider they came against a Texans offensive line missing its best player. Tom Savage might have been the worst quarterback to start a game in 10-years. What you saw yourself or read afterwards about that Jags win was that the Jaguars dictated the tempo of the game and built a lead on the strength of a running game (Leonard Fournette 26 carries, 100 yards) and a defensive touchdown (Dante Fowler 53-yard fumble return) and then they put the hammer down by blitzing Deshaun Watson throughout the second half. Yes indeed, it was an impressive win but let’s not get carried away here.
Despite the big game from the defense, there are still some major questions on the offense, especially at the quarterback position. Blake Bortles was just 11 of 21 passing for 125 yards and a touchdown. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette was the Jags biggest offensive threat but now teams’ are going to try and shut him down and make the disappointing Bortles beat them. A big story out of J-Ville this off season was the relationship between star receiver Allen Robinson and Bortles. Robinson was vocal about his QB's ability to get him the ball but that won't matter now, as Robinson is likely done for the season with an ACL injury. If over and under-reactions are on the menu in Week 2, then this game must be included.
We backed the Titans in Week 1 and while they lost 26-16 to Oakland, there was still a lot to like. The Titans played mistake free football on the offensive side, as they did not give up a turnover in the opener. QB Marcus Mariota threw for 256 yards and added a rushing touchdown. Although the Raiders fumbled three times, Oakland recovered all of them. At the end of the day, Tennessee had chances to win. Aside from that, losing to Derek Carr and the Raiders is nothing to hang your head over. Remember, the Titans were a -2-point choice over Oakland last week while Jacksonville was a 6-point dog, thus, this line has been heavily influenced by one result from each team. The Titans have every advantage here. They have the superior QB by a wide margin. The defense had to deal with Derek Carr while Jacksonville’s defense was dealing with Tom Savage. Blake Bortles didn’t have to do a damn thing last week except hand the ball off to Fournette. This week, he’ll have to make some plays, which means bad decisions and a turnover or two. Win, lose or draw here, we’re confident we are absolutely on the right side of a market overreaction here. Tennessee came in here last year and won 36-22. A similar result this year would not surprise us in the least. This one is very tempting and just missed our board. Play Tennessee -1 (No bets).
We don't buy the narrative that Baltimore scored a "decisive" victory over the Bengals, as ESPN put it on Sunday night. The Bengals were absolutely putrid and there is no other way to put it. The Ravens only managed two touchdowns and had a lousy 111 yards in the air. Cincinnati had more passing yards and turned the ball over five times. Joe Flacco had almost as many completions as the Bengals had turnovers.
The Ravens were not sharp, despite the final score but this market reacts to the final score more than anything else. This weak or unprepared Bengals’ team lost the showdown against Baltimore more because of intangibles than on-field potency but Baltimore will be the big winner in this week's rankings. Style points in matchups with league bottom-feeders still count in this market but it was the Brownies who gave the Steelers more than they bargained for. Had it not been for the worst challenge of a call in NFL history, we still might be talking about the biggest upset of the week. Cleveland lost by just three, they look greatly improved but all this market sees is another Cleveland lost among many others. Baltimore’s offense is not good enough to be priced in this range against a much improved Cleveland team with a more positive approach. This game was going to make our slate but after Cinci looked so horrible on Thursday against Houston, Baltimore’s victory over Cinci suddenly looked much less impressive and the market reacted. This number came down overnight after the Thursday night contest and we expect it to drop some more, therefore, we’re going to sit this one. Play: Cleveland +8½ -110 (No bets).
1:00 PM EST. For the last couple of seasons the Buccaneers have been a sexy sleeper in the NFC South but preseason expectations haven't been this high in the Bay Area for some time. However, football became an afterthought last weekend in the state of Florida as it braced for the impact of Hurricane Irma. The Bucs game with the Dolphins was postponed until Week 11 so Tampa Bay will play its first game here in Week 2. By the time Irma hit the Bay, she had fizzed to a category one storm so this game will be played in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs have done their best to surround quarterback Jameis Winston with more offensive weapons including speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson. It’s a signing that’s been met with plenty of fan excitement for a franchise that doesn’t usually make a splash in the free agent market but it’s an addition that has way more sizzle than steak. After nearly a decade in the league, DJax’s best days are behind him. Expectations are also through the roof for rookie tight end O.J. Howard, who the Bucs took in the first round. He’s being compared to some of the league’s best pass catching tight ends. While Howard was a popular fantasy sleeper, it would be wise to proceed with caution, as the last rookie tight end to top the 1000 yard mark was Mike Ditka in 1961. Heading into Week 2, the suspension of running back Doug Martin looms large. More than their uncertainty in the backfield, the Bucs' biggest weakness might be on the offensive line where they've decided to rearrange the players they already have including Ali Marpet moving to center. Only time will tell if those moves are the right ones, but it’s unlikely this mediocre unit will get better just by shuffling deck chairs. We’re not interested in backing a team with this much hype surrounded by so many questions.
It was hard not to like what the Bears did in a 23-17 home loss to the NFC Champion Falcons. Chicago had the ball with time on the clock with a shot to win the game with a converted touchdown but literally came up just a fraction short. Runner Tarik Cohen was the surprise fantasy play of the day, as he was heavily involved in the Bears passing game by leading the team with eight receptions for 47 yards and adding another 66 yards on the ground in a time share with Jordan Howard. Although it's just one game, the Bears can boast a top-10 DVOA (a relevant metric that measures defense adjusted value over average) offense. Quarterback Mike Glennon, who last played for the Buccaneers before signing with the Bears in the offseason, tried to dismiss that this was a “revenge” game for him but added that “it's just human nature to be looking forward to this a little bit more.” The Bears were getting +6½ points last weekend at home to the Falcons and went toe to toe with Atlanta in that game. This line opened up with Chicago getting +5½ points but that number has now been bet up to +7. That’s our prompt to lean Chicago. Tampa may indeed live up to expectations but the more likely scenario is that they disappoint or come up short as a significant favorite. Tampa is better in the underdog role but they’re not established enough to be priced in this range. When expected to win, they rarely do. Play: Tampa Bay +7 -108 (no bets).
4:25 PM EST. It’s human nature to overreact on Monday to what transpired in the NFL over the weekend. Like most of you, we’ve heard the same things, “The Saints are no good”, Chiefs are amazing, Giants suck, Texans’ no good and the list goes on. Last week, Jared Goff lit it up. We know he has talent, after all, he was a #1 overall pick. He’s even been compared to guys like Matt Ryan and when he has time to throw, he throws a beautiful ball. The Rams have upgraded at left tackle, center and wide receiver. Goff has nice targets now. Hell, Tavon Austin, the Rams #1 receiver last year can’t even get on the field. The Rams have massively upgraded at WR, TE and coaching staff. Look, every marriage is great on the honeymoon. Cocktails every night, no kids, aqua water and making out but it’s not reality. The Rams win against the Colts was a honeymoon. It was 80 degrees, there was no wind, no pass rush and they were facing the worst defensive roster (and probably worst team) in the NFL. The Rams led that game before the opening kickoff but again, it’s not reality. Reality is playing the Seahawks in Seattle in mid-December when it’s raining sideways and the Seahawks have seven in the box.
We’re not comparing the Redskins to the Seahawks but Washington has an offense that can trade punches. Furthermore, we still have no idea how good or bad the Rams defense is. While this game won’t make our slate of best bets, we know for sure that this number is an overreaction to what the Rams did last week. Washington’s was sloppy last week in a home loss to the Eagles but they had many chances to win that game and will now take a step down in class. Play: Washington +124 (No bets).
4:25 EST. The Jets lost a seemingly competitive game against the Bills last week but competitive it was not. Buffalo outgained, out-possessioned and out-classed the Jets in every way. Buffalo racked up well over 400 yards on the Jets defense and Derek Carr can do the same at half speed. The big problem with New York is that their offense can’t move five yards, thus the defense ends up playing far too many minutes every quarter. Those minutes pile up week by week too. The 21-12 final score made the Jets loss look respectable but it was not. Pretty much everything that was expected happened in Week 1. Turnovers, failed rushing attempts and not one receiver worthy of even a mention here and we haven’t even got to QB Josh McCown yet. Josh McCown was pitiful with just 187 yards passing and two interceptions. The Jets managed a measly 11 first downs.
The Raiders have high expectations as Super Bowl contenders and got off on the right foot with a 26-16 win at Tennessee. David Carr picked right up where he left off last season with 262 passing yards and two touchdowns. Oakland was impressive last week. They went into a hostile environment and played a strong game against what is supposed to be a much-improved Titans team. The Raiders grabbed an early lead and pretty much went gate to wire in the win. The Raiders had a good response every time the Titans did and that’s the sign of a maturing team ready to take that next step. This one is very tempting but spotting two TD’s in an NFL game is not so we’ll have to remain disciplined and pass. Play: Oakland -13 (no bets).
SEATTLE -14 -107 over San Francisco
4:25 PM EST. Seattle got a tough draw with a trip to Lambeau in Week 1, losing 17-9 to the Packers. It was a physical game that saw the 'Hawks on the wrong side of a number of calls but such is life playing in Wisconsin. A big interception that looked to be returned for a touchdown was called back after a ticky-tack foul was called on a block in the back against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. In the ensuing madness, cornerback Jeremy Lane was tossed for a throwing a punch. That “in-game variance” set the tone for the rest of the afternoon and cost the Seahawks big time. Seattle's defense did its best not to break in Week 1, but spent nearly 40 minutes on the field in that game. By the 4th quarter, that unit was totally spent. The Seahawks offense will add injured running back Thomas Rawls back into their lineup this week and he'll be a welcomed addition for an offense that couldn't get out of the gate last Sunday.
Not even a new front office, new head coach and a bunch of new players could keep the 49ers from looking like, well, the 49ers. Since the unceremonious firing of Jim Harbaugh in 2014, this franchise has been in total disarray. While rookie general manager Jon Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have a long leash, it looks like there will be no easy fixes after a 23-3 home loss to the Panthers. Carolina didn't even play a great game and still won by three touchdowns. The 49ers had just 166 yards through the air with quarterback Brian Hoyer taking four sacks for a loss of 27 yards. It looked like San Fran was going to be shutout but a 23-yard field goal from Robbie Gould in the dying seconds of the third quarter saved them that embarrassment.
These two teams played in Seattle at the end of last season with the 49ers as an 11½ point pooch. The 'Niners covered in a 25-23 loss but a lot has changed for both teams since then.'Frisco actually had a 14-3 lead at one point in that game but the man that was getting it done behind center, Colin Kaepernick is long gone. Kaeper might be a polarizing figure but he was pretty good at the end of last season after taking over for Blaine Gabbert. The 49ers have made their bed when it comes to their quarterbacks this season and they now must lie in it, as uncomfortable as that may be. Play: Seattle -14 (no bets)
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