Expert NFL Picks for Week 2, Including Ravens-Texans and Patriots-Seahawks
Chris Altruda of Pennbets.com, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Chris Altruda, a national betting industry analyst for Pennbets.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN shared their opinions on five Week 2 games, including the surprising Washington Football Team going to Arizona to take on the upstart Cardinals and the new-look Patriots going to Seattle to play the Seahawks.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Giants (0-1) (+200, +5.5, O/U 42) at Bears (1-0)
A compelling matchup because … this is the kind of game both of these teams need to win if they are going to prove they are better than last season. Though no one is expecting the Giants to be world-beaters in 2020, New York needs to win games on the road against mediocre opponents. And if the Bears are going to return to the playoffs after falling short last season, playing a weak Giants team at home should be a layup. Last year, it wasn’t.
Altruda’s Angle: Two metropoleis, yearning for improved play from their respective quarterbacks, square off in an early-season showdown. Mitch Trubisky narrowly avoided being the derogatory talk of Chicago sports media this week with a stellar fourth-quarter rally aided by the Lions playing like, well, the Lions. Meanwhile, Daniel Jones failed to impress for the Giants in head coach Joe Judge’s debut, and there are additional concerns about the offense after noted non-mobile Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger outrushed Saquon Barkley by a 9-6 count Monday night. The Bears defense has proven it can pick up Trubisky if needed. The Giants doing likewise for Jones, not so much. Bears laying the points and take the UNDER.
Gable’s Guess: The Bears should’ve lost against Detroit and Trubisky didn’t look sharp. He did just enough to win the game and keep his starting job for another week. We’ll see how long it lasts until they move over to Nick Foles. On the defensive side, which is their strength at this point, they weren’t able to generate much of a pass rush. The Giants looked okay early on but then the Steelers turned up the defensive pressure and started forcing turnovers. New York’s offensive line proved to be a problem for them again. I guess the good news for the Giants in this game is they’re not facing Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, they’re facing Trubisky. The key for the Giants is cutting back on the turnovers and to see if they can somehow get Barkley going.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: NFL Week 2 is considered “overreaction week.” The public only has one game to go off of, so they fall in love with teams who looked good in Week 1 and can’t wait to fade teams who played poorly. This creates buy-low, sell-high opportunities for value-driven bettors. This game is a perfect example. The Bears are coming off a big 27-23 come-from-behind win over the Lions as 2.5-point underdogs. Meanwhile, the Giants looked inept on national TV on Monday Night Football, falling to the Steelers at home 26-16 as 6-point dogs. This line opened Chicago -6 at home and we’ve seen it dip to 5.5. This tells me smart money is grabbing New York and the points.
Our Pick: There should be little confidence in either offense. Go under.
Jaguars (1-0) (+310, +9, O/U 42.5) at Titans (1-0)
A compelling matchup because … the Jaguars looked surprisingly good on Sunday against a Colts team that some projected to win the AFC South, while the Titans survived on Monday Night Football to eke out a two-point win in Denver. It isn’t the most star-studded matchup, but it is a divisional game between two Week 1 winners.
Altruda’s Angle: One would think Minshew Mania would not take hold in divisional matchups for a second straight season given quarterback Gardner Minshew is now a known quantity, yet he and the Jaguars made just enough plays to take down trendy AFC South pick Indianapolis in their season opener. The Titans, or more specifically Stephen Gostkowski, tried everything in their power to hand the Denver Broncos a win Monday night, but the Broncos were too gracious as hosts and allowed Gostkowski late redemption with a last-minute field goal from so close he couldn’t screw it up. Tennessee has won six straight at home over Jacksonville, including a blowout win last year in which Minshew did not play, but it is hard to feel confident taking the Titans and laying more than one score given Gostkowski’s struggles. Take the Jags and the points.
Gable’s Guess: Jacksonville pulled off one of the most surprising upsets of Week 1. It was a great result for sportsbooks everywhere, because everybody was betting the Colts in that game. Minshew played mistake-free basically, had three touchdowns and looked really good. James Robinson, their rookie running back, was impressive in his debut. They did give up a lot of passing yards and didn’t generate much of a pass rush. For Jacksonville to pull off two upsets in a row would really be something. For the Titans, it’s a big number for them to cover, but it’s already come down. It could drop even lower.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Jacksonville pulled off the biggest upset of Week 1, beating the Colts as 7-point underdogs. Meanwhile, the Titans barely edged the Broncos 16-14 on Monday night. This line opened with Tennessee listed as a 10-point favorite. Early sharp action hit the Jags as a road divisional dog on the key number of +10, which has dropped the line down to -9 or even -8.5. At this point, I would look to buy low on the Titans as a rare contrarian favorite with a deflated line. The public is all over the trendy dog Jags. I’m inclined to fade the trendy dog.
Our Pick: The Titans need a big bounce-back game. Lay the points.
Washington FT (1-0) (+240, +6.5, O/U 47.5) at Cardinals (1-0)
A compelling matchup because … both teams are coming off upset wins over playoff teams in Week 1, with the Washington Football Team knocking off the Eagles and the Cardinals taking out the 49ers. Washington looked decent and played with a pulse for new coach Ron Rivera, while Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray looked fantastic and displayed an instant connection with top wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona’s defense also looked fairly stout and now will take on an inferior offense in Week 2.
Altruda’s Angle: Raise your hand if you had both Washington and the Cardinals 1-0 entering this game. Now put your hand down and stop lying. The Cardinals are coming off an impressive win at reigning NFC champion San Francisco, and that Murray-to-Hopkins combination is going to cause plenty of headaches around the NFC West. The question is whether Arizona can deal with prosperity against Washington, which needed almost a full half to get going against Philadelphia. The Washington Football Team recorded eight sacks versus the Eagles, but the feeling is Murray will prove quite elusive to Chase Young and the Washington defense. Lay the points with the Cardinals and take the OVER (provided it stays under 49).
Gable’s Guess: Washington beat Philadelphia last week in the one place they really had the advantage: on the defensive line. Philadelphia jumped out to that 17-0 lead and they looked unstoppable, but Washington’s defense really stepped up and got after them and caused all sorts of problems for Carson Wentz. It’s a little telling they only averaged 3.4 yards per play on offense and still won by 10 points, pretty amazing. For Arizona, in that win over the 49ers, Murray showed why he’s so dangerous. When the pocket collapses, he can just scamper away for big gains. Washington has a good defensive line and we’ll see if they can do what the 49ers couldn’t — get to Murray. But I think Arizona should probably win this one easily.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: In Week 1, Washington upset Philadelphia 27-17 as a 5.5-point dog and Arizona took down San Francisco 24-20 as a 7-point dog. This line opened with the Cardinals listed as 7-point home favorites. The public is all over Murray and Hopkins. However, despite Arizona receiving two-thirds of bets, we’ve seen this line fall from -7 to -6.5. This tells me that pros are buying low on Washington and their ferocious defensive front at +7, triggering sharp reverse line movement in their favor. I’ll grab the points and bank on Washington keeping it within a touchdown.
Our Pick: Hope Washington can score some points. Grab the over.
Ravens (1-0) (-320 -7, O/U 51.5) at Texans (0-1)
A compelling matchup because … the Ravens, like they did for the majority of the regular season in 2019, looked like the best team in the NFL in Week 1. Quarterback Lamar Jackson tossed three touchdowns while completing 80 percent of his passes and Baltimore’s defense dominated a Cleveland Browns team that still looks like a mess. They’ll have a tougher opponent this week with the Texans, and Houston will have had plenty of time to prepare for this game after opening the season on TNF last week.
Altruda’s Angle: The Ravens looked exactly the same offensively as they did last year in their season opener, throttling Cleveland as Jackson had a near-flawless game both passing and running. The new wrinkle was rookie running back J.K. Dobbins being showcased as a red-zone threat with a pair of short rushing touchdowns, while the defense did its part by forcing three turnovers. The Texans look to have a competent offense with Will Fuller stepping into the No. 1 receiver role, but after seeing their defense overrun by Kansas City and now facing a similarly diverse offense in Baltimore, it is hard seeing them avoid an 0-2 start. The Ravens on the moneyline is the smart play given how the line has ticked up from opening, but the lean is still taking the Ravens and laying the points.
Gable’s Guess: Off of a tough game with the Chiefs, the Texans run right into another buzzsaw here with the Ravens. I think it’s quite possible they could start their season off 0-4 and only have two wins by midseason. Watson’s really going to have to have a great game, but more importantly, the defense is going to have to play a lot better — starting with better tackling. Baltimore picked up right where they left off last season. They just were dominating opponents. They looked dominant again. Jackson still looks like the MVP. We opened this game with the Ravens giving 6.5 and it’s already up to 7. I wouldn’t be surprised if it moves a little bit higher, maybe to +7.5.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Ravens plastered the Browns 38-6 in Week 1, easily covering as 7-point favorites. Houston, on the other hand, fell to the Chiefs 34-20, failing to cover as 9.5-point dogs. This line opened with Baltimore listed as a 6.5-point favorite. This is one of the most lopsided plays of the week with the public hammering the Ravens, which has pushed the line up to -7. Betting against the high-flying Ravens is never enjoyable, but I’ll grab the super contrarian home dog Texans with an inflated line, especially if the line rises to +7.5 with the hook. Houston also enjoys a big rest advantage having last played on Thursday.
Our Pick: The Ravens looked too good. Take ’em and lay the points.
Patriots (1-0) (+170, +4, O/U 45) at Seahawks (1-0)
A compelling matchup because … the Patriots are coming off a season-opening win that saw them rack up more than 200 yards of offense on the ground, the majority of it coming from new quarterback Cam Newton. Seattle coach is well-versed in stopping running QBs dating back to his days coaching at USC, so it will be interesting to see how he handles Newton. Also, with Carroll on one sideline and Bill Belichick on the other, this is a matchup of the two oldest coaches in the NFL — and two of the league’s best.
Altruda’s Angle: Yes, Newton and the Patriots won their season opener, but it was also apparent this offense will need a few games to become a cohesive unit. As a passer, Newton did well with what offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel asked of him in New England’s short- and medium-range passing game. Newton also showed he still has enough zip in his legs to be an RPO threat, but the other takeaway is the Patriots currently lack a big-play threat. Compare that to the Seahawks, who had eight offensive plays of at least 15 yards in their win over Atlanta with Wilson looking magnificent. Obviously, some of that will not carry over to Sunday night given Belichick’s masterful scheming, but the Seahawks have enough firepower to keep New England at arm’s length – which makes them good value to cover a spread of less than one touchdown. Take the Seahawks and lay the points. Or if you’re feeling bold, a same-game teaser taking the Seahawks +2 and UNDER 51.5 points.
Gable’s Guess: Wilson completed passes to nine different receivers in Week 1. I think this group may be the best supporting cast he’s around him in his career. I think the Patriots defense will probably provide a little bit more of a tougher test than the Falcons did. But the Seahawks have been almost unbeatable at home in September under Carroll. I think they’ve gone 15-1 straight-up. Add in that it’s a primetime game, they’re 14-1 straight-up in those in the last 10 years. Almost every time you see Wilson, whether it’s a Monday, Sunday or Thursday night, he finds a way to win. It’s really tough to bet against the Seahawks in this one with all that history. Interestingly, this is only the second time since 2016 the Patriots will go into a game as an underdog.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Talk about a great Sunday Night Football matchup. We have a Super Bowl 49 rematch, except this time there’s no Tom Brady or Malcolm Butler for New England. Both teams are coming off impressive Week 1 wins, with New England beating Miami 21-11 as 7-point favorites and Seattle crushing Atlanta 38-25 as 1-point dogs. This line opened with Seattle listed as a 4-point favorite, with some books at 4.5. The public is all over Russell Wilson and the ‘Hawks at home. However, despite two-thirds of bets backing Seattle, we’ve seen this line either stay at 4 or drop to 3.5. This signals liability on the Patriots. I’ll take the points in a rare situation to grab Belichick and the Pats as a contrarian dog in a heavily bet game with some sharp reverse line movement.
Our Pick: For a primetime matchup, the over/under seems low. Go over.
Last Week: 5-0, Season: 5-0
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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