Sports | September 17, 2021 8:26 am

Expert NFL Picks for Week 2, Including 49ers-Eagles, Cowboys-Chargers and Chiefs-Ravens

Kevin Rogers of VegasInsider, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson avoids a tackle against the Kansas City Chiefs
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson avoids a tackle against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty

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, Kevin Rogers, a veteran handicapper for VegasInsider.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 share their opinions on five Week 2 games, including the 49ers going across the country to take on the Eagles in Philly and the Ravens hosting the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football.

You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.

San Francisco 49ers (-3, O/U 49.5) at Philadelphia Eagles


A compelling matchup because … in Week 1, the 49ers scored the most points in the league (41), while the Eagles surrendered the second fewest (6). An injury-depleted Philadelphia team got a surprise win in San Fran last season against an equally banged-up Niners squad and this year’s version of the 49ers, while already dinged up at a few positions, will be looking to repay the 2021 Eagles with a loss at home.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: Both of these NFC opponents are coming off Week 1 victories. The 49ers (1-0 straight-up, 0-1 against the spread) beat the Lions 41-33, although they failed to cover as 9.5-point road favorites. Meanwhile, the Eagles (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) dominated the Falcons 32-6, winning outright as 3.5-point road dogs. The public is happy to lay the points with the high-flying 49ers. However, this line has actually fallen from 49ers -3.5 to -3. This signals some sharp reverse line movement on the Eagles, with wiseguys pouncing on Philadelphia plus the hook (+3.5) at home. San Francisco has to overcome the challenge of being a West Coast team traveling east for a 1 p.m. ET game, which oftentimes screws up the body clocks of players. San Francisco is also playing their second straight road game, which can be a difficult schedule spot. Brad Allen, the lead referee, has historically favored home teams (58-47 ATS, 55.2%). Give me the contrarian home dog Eagles plus the points. I’m also looking at the over, which has been steamed up from 48 to 49.5. 

Gable’s Guess: The 49ers had an injury-plagued 2020 and they are already dealing with injuries after Week 1. It was a little concerning to see how they let Detroit back into the game in the fourth quarter there and allowed the Lions to get a backdoor cover. Jimmy Garoppolo was very efficient on Sunday and he moved well. That’s going to be key against a very solid Eagles pass rush. The strength of this Eagles team is really the offensive and defensive lines. They’re very experienced and they have a lot of skill to carry them at times. But are they durable? They haven’t been in years past and always seem to be at risk of injury. They’re also getting up there in age on both sides of the ball. But if they stay healthy, that’s the strength of this Eagles team. I don’t believe the Eagles win over the Falcons proved very much about them. Jalen Hurts looked good both passing and running the ball. The Eagles will have to go after that Niners secondary, but San Francisco does have a very good pass rush. It’ll give Hurts some issues. I’m going to look to lay the points here with San Fran on the road.

Rogers’ Recommendation: Both these teams are coming off road wins last week and San Francisco is back on the highway again this week out east. The 49ers jumped out to a huge lead at Detroit before failing to cover, while Philadelphia crushed a mediocre Atlanta team on the road. The Niners are 13-4 since 2019 on the road and this is a major upgrade in opponent for Philadelphia. Best Bet: San Francisco -3.

Our Pick: Both of the teams lit it up on offense in Week 1. Don’t have a good feel on a winner. Go over.

Las Vegas Raiders (+6, O/U 47) at Pittsburgh Steelers


A compelling matchup because … coming off an overtime win at home against the Ravens to start the season on Monday, the Raiders head Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers on a short week. Both teams played close games in Week 1 and both teams emerged as winners, thanks in large part to key turnovers they were able to create on defense leading to points.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This non-division AFC clash features a pair of teams riding high off Week 1 upset victories. The Raiders (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) took down the Ravens 33-27 on Monday Night Football, winning outright as 3-point home dogs. Similarly, the Steelers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) shocked the Bills 23-16, winning outright as 6.5-point road dogs. This line opened with Pittsburgh listed as 6-point home favorites. The public is all over Pittsburgh after their impressive win against the Bills. However, we’ve seen this line remain frozen at 6 or even dip to 5.5 at some shops. This indicates some respected money backing Las Vegas plus the points, ideally at the key number of 6. Short road dogs +6 or less went 5-1 ATS in Week 1 after finishing 51-33 ATS (60.7%) last season. I’ll bank on the Raiders’ offense putting up enough points to cover this dog number. Some sneaky sharp money on the under has also shown up, dropping the total.

Gable’s Guess: The Steelers pulled off the biggest upset of Week 1 in terms of the point spread. The defense and special teams were huge for them. Questions still remain about this Pittsburgh offense. Ben Roethlisberger only passed for 188 yards and one touchdown. Najee Harris only rushed for 45 yards on 16 carries. Certainly, you would expect some improvement there. For the Raiders, Derek Carr threw 56 times for over 400 yards against a pretty depleted Baltimore team. I don’t believe the Raiders are going to get away with playing the way they did in the first half against Baltimore against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has a really good defense. For the Raiders, they showed some positives, particularly on the defensive side, which I think was where a lot of the question marks were for them. But I like Pittsburgh laying the points in this home spot.

Rogers’ Recommendation: Pittsburgh looked like two different teams last week at Buffalo as the Steelers overcame a 10-0 halftime deficit to outscore the Bills, 23-6 in the second half. Now the Steelers are flipped to a home favorite on Sunday against a Raiders team that is riding the high of their crazy Monday night win over Baltimore. The Steelers went 7-1 at Heinz Field last season, while the Raiders covered in two of three opportunities as a road underdog. This is a tough spot to take the points with the Raiders off the huge victory. Best Bet: Pittsburgh -6.

Our Pick: A short week after an emotional win may lead to a flat Raiders team. Lay the points with Pittsburgh.

Dallas Cowboys (+3.5, O/U 55.5) at Los Angeles Chargers


A compelling matchup because … forced to open the season in Tampa Bay against the champs, the Cowboys hung in there with Brady and the Bucs and likely should have left with a win on Thursday Night Football last week. Meanwhile, reigning offensive rookie of the year Justin Herbert picked up right where he left off last year and delivered a game-sealing drive as the Chargers held off a pesky Washington team.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: These non-conference opponents both covered in Week 1, although only one posted a victory. The Cowboys (0-1 SU, 1-0 ATS) fell to the Bucs 31-29, although they nearly pulled on an upset and covered as 9-point road dogs. Meanwhile, the Chargers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) upset Washington 20-16, winning outright as 2-point road dogs. This line opened with Los Angeles listed as a 3-point home favorite. The public is torn on this one, yet we’ve seen some slight movement from the Chargers -3 to -3.5. The next move is critical. If we see this line fall back to the key number of 3 that will indicate some meaningful Cowboys buyback. I’ll grab the hook with Dallas +3.5. They have a big rest and game-plan advantage. We could also see some fireworks here. The total has been steamed up from 52 to 55.5. 

Gable’s Guess: The Cowboys, particularly Dak Prescott, looked impressive on opening night in Tampa Bay. The Chargers won what was essentially a pick-em game against Washington. What was most impressive for the Chargers was that they were able to handle Washington’s defensive front in a way few teams do. Herbert was able to pass for over 300 yards and was barely touched. I thought Dallas game-planned for the Buccaneers very well. They knew they would have a tough time running the ball because that Tampa defense doesn’t give up a lot of yards on the ground. They knew the way to exploit the Tampa defense was to pass over in the middle, which they did time and time again. I just really like this Dallas offense, so I’ll take the points with the Cowboys.

Rogers’ Recommendation: Dallas is back on the road for a second straight week after the close loss at Tampa Bay in the season opener. The Chargers face a significantly better offense this week after facing Washington last week, as LA had another close-shave result. The Cowboys have covered in five of their last six opportunities in the underdog role since 2020 and, although LA dominated the stats category last week, it’s tough to lay points with them here. Best Bet: Dallas +3.5.

Our Pick: We’d take the Cowboys to win this straight-up, so Dallas and the points is an easy call.

Tennessee Titans (+6, O/U 54) at Seattle Seahawks


A compelling matchup because … two perennial teams meet up in a game that already feels like a “must-win” for the visitors (even though it really isn’t). Following a COVID-19-riddled preseason, the Titans no-showed at home against Arizona in Week 1 in an embarrassing loss. New addition Julio Jones didn’t do much. Meanwhile, the Seahawks dominated the Colts and saw Russell Wilson, almost casually, toss four TDs.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: Week 2 in the NFL is commonly referred to as “Overreaction Week,” where pros look to buy low on teams that looked bad in Week 1 and sell high on teams that looked good. This game fits that model perfectly. The Titans (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) got crushed by the Cardinals 38-13, losing outright as 2.5-point home favorites. On the flipside, the Seahawks (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) took care of business against the Colts, winning 28-16 and covering as 3-point road favorites. This line opened with Seattle listed as a 6-point home favorite. This public is riding the hot hand and laying the points with Wilson at home. Despite the lopsided betting, the line hasn’t budged off of Seattle -6. In fact, it’s even dipped to 5.5 at times throughout the week. This signals some sharp line freeze action on the Titans getting the key number of +6. It may seem gross, but teams coming off a loss of 10-points or more in Week 1 have gone 21-10 ATS (67.7%) in Week 2 over the past decade. I’ll buy low on the Titans to keep this thing close and cover. 

Gable’s Guess: The Titans go on the road to one of the toughest places to play in the league after a horrible performance in Week 1. It’s a tough spot. Their defense looked putrid and now they have Wilson and company to contend with. I don’t know how Tennessee manages to stop Seattle on offense, so that leaves them with having to try and keep up with them on the offensive end. Last year, their offense was one of the best in the league. This year they have a new offensive coordinator who had a less-than-impressive debut. Tennessee’s calling card has always been play-action passes, and that’s where Ryan Tannehill is most effective. Last week only 7.3% of his drawbacks were on play-action. They really got away from Tannehill’s bread and butter and what makes that offense run. I think the Titans adjust here offensively. This is a high total, but with that weak Tennessee defense, I am counting on a bounce-back spot for the offense. I’m going to go with the over. Just a note, Pete Carroll is undefeated, 11-0, in home openers with the Seahawks.

Rogers’ Recommendation: Seattle returns to a full house at home for the first time in two seasons as the Seahawks dominated the Colts on the road last week. The Seahawks face another AFC South foe this week, last year’s division winner, Tennessee. The Titans were blown out at home by the Cardinals in Week 1 as Arizona jumped on top early and never looked back. This is a crucial spot for the Titans as they have three very winnable games the next three weeks and a victory in Seattle can get them back on track. The Titans have covered four of their last six as a road underdog as they should rebound here. Best Bet: Tennessee +6.
Our Pick: The Seahawks won big and covered last week. We’re betting on a repeat at home. Lay the points.

Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5, O/U 55) at Baltimore Ravens


A compelling matchup because … trailing the Browns for much of the day in Week 1, the Chiefs turned it on when they had to and secured a win. It was somewhat of the opposite for the Ravens, as Baltimore led Vegas for much of their game before the Raiders were able to tie things up late and win in overtime. The backfield for the Ravens is a mess, while the Chiefs come into this operating like a well-oiled machine on offense. Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes qualifies as must-see TV, hence this game being on Sunday Night Football.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This will be the most-watched and most heavily bet game of the week. The Chiefs (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) rallied for a 33-29 win over the Browns, although they failed to cover as 5.5-point home favorites. On the other hand, the Ravens (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) lost to the Raiders 33-27 in overtime, losing outright as 3-point road favorites. This line opened with Kansas City listed as a 2.5-point road favorite. The public absolutely pounded the Chiefs laying the short spread, and the lopsided betting pushed Kansas City to -3.5. Baltimore has excellent buy-low value as a super-contrarian home dog in a primetime game getting an inflated line. Primetime dogs went 28-19 ATS (59.6%) last season. If you’re betting Kansas City at -3.5, you’re getting the worst of the number and you’ll be with the public in an extremely heavily bet game, which is oftentimes a recipe for disaster. Give me the Ravens plus the hook (+3.5). This feels like a field goal game to me. 

Gable’s Guess: Mahomes is unbeaten in September now, at 11-0 in his career. Equally as impressive is Mahomes has 35 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his career in September. Mahomes has played Baltimore three times in September since Jackson became the starter. The Chiefs have scored quickly in three of them. In Kansas City’s come-from-behind win against the Browns, they gained 397 yards of total offense. Tyreek Hill had 11 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce had six catches for 76 yards and two TDs. The key for KC was converting on third down. They were 9-for-13 on third-down conversions, which is fantastic. The offensive line seemed to get stronger as that game went on against a very good Cleveland pass rush. The Ravens have a short week to prepare after a tough overtime loss. Despite not having played together before, Jackson found Sammy Watkins four times for 96 yards. Unfortunately for Jackson, it was his fumbles that proved to be costly. You never like to lay points on the road, but I’m going to do that with the Chiefs here. I’m not going to go against the streak Mahomes has in September and how the Chiefs have played the Ravens. They certainly seem to have their number.

Rogers’ Recommendation: Kansas City has defeated Baltimore in each of the last three seasons and the Chiefs are a short favorite on Sunday night. The Ravens are 8-2 ATS since 2018 as an underdog and are 2-0 ATS at home during that stretch. Jackson and the Ravens blew a 14-0 lead at Las Vegas on Monday and a late seven-point lead before falling in overtime, but this is a big spot for the former MVP to finally beat the Chiefs. Kansas City has been nearly unbeatable on the road the last two seasons (15-1), but I’ll grab the points with Baltimore in a rare home underdog spot. Best Bet: Baltimore +3.5.

Our Pick: The Chiefs are going to score and we don’t think the Ravens can keep up. Lay the points with KC.

Last Week: 2-3 Season: 2-3

Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.