How to Bet Week 2’s Best NFL Games, According to Pro Handicappers
Paul Bovi of Bet-NJ.com and Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable offer their informed opinions
This is NFL Best Bets, a new 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, Paul Bovi, a sports betting expert from Bet-NJ.com who’s been handicapping games for three decades, and Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, shared their opinions on five games on the NFL’s slate of Week 2 matchups, including Sunday’s NFC Championship game rematch between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Cardinals (+13.5, +550, O/U 47) at Ravens
In a matchup of two of the most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks in the league, the 0-0-1 Cardinals take on the 1-0 Ravens. Baltimore’s defense shut down Miami last week but should have a tougher challenge with Kyler Murray and Arizona’s “Air Raid” offense. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals struggled to defend Matt Stafford and the Lions so they should have the hands full containing Lamar Jackson.
Bovi’s take: “The Cardinals had an impressive comeback in gaining a tie with the Lions as they trailed 24-6 late in the fourth and scored 18 straight points to tie the game. I would call it a Detroit meltdown more than an Arizona spectacular performance. And that’s the way I look at it. I don’t think Kyler Murray is great. I think he was good under the circumstances, but I think this was more a Detroit meltdown. Their defense had its share of weak moments, notably in defending the tight end and the secondary will continue to struggle with cornerback Patrick Peterson out due to suspension. The Ravens ravaged the Dolphins. 59 to 10 with quarterback Lamar Jackson putting up passing numbers that made for a perfect 158.3 passing rating. The offense totaled 643 yards on 72 plays with nearly 200 of those coming on three snaps. We’ll look for the Ravens to regress to normalcy in the form of a run-oriented and somewhat pedestrian offense while Arizona will probably more resemble the team that totaled six points in three quarters of football. I’m looking for these teams to play to the under.
Gable’s take: “Lamar Jackson looked phenomenal and looked like a completely different quarterback than he did last year. But, against Miami, so who knows. The spread is pretty high. We opened this at 13.5. I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets to at least 14 or higher. And the total, we’ve actually already moved on this game, as well. We opened it at 45.5 and it’s already moved to 47. So certainly, again, the Cardinals, I’m not completely sold on. Murray, obviously, staged a great comeback in the fourth quarter. We’ll see how that offense goes and if they can pull together an entire game. It’s going to be an interesting game and to see if the Cardinals can pull their offense together and see if it will work, other than just a quick fourth-quarter comeback. Even if the Ravens come out and happen to cover this spread, I don’t know if that really truly tells us anything about them until they get into the meat of their schedule.”
Our Pick: Take the Cardinals with the points
Vikings (+3, +135, O/U 44) at Packers
Minnesota (1-0) dominated the Falcons last week with their run game and their defense also came to play. In Chicago during the season opener, 1-0 Green Bay’s defense was the star of the game as they held the Bears without a touchdown. Things for Aaron Rodgers in the offense didn’t look quite as good as Chicago’s strong defense and there’s a chance they could struggle again this week at home against Kirk Cousins and Co.
Bovi’s take: “While Minnesota came away with a 28-13 win over the Falcons, it was more Atlanta’s futility and difficulty protecting Matt Ryan than the Vikings’ proficiency. Kirk Cousins took to the air only 10 times and the Vikings enjoyed a 3-0 turnover advantage, with several of them leading to points. The Packers were dominant on defense in their season-opening win over Chicago as their off-season acquisitions made an immediate impact, notably to their past rush. The Vikings could not run the ball last year, although Dalvin Cook did enjoy a productive performance in their win. I’m not sold on the Vikings. I have to see more because I think they were one of the most under-performing teams last year. The Packers to me are a better team.”
Gable’s take: “Last week, the Packers were playing a good defense. The Vikings looked very good defensively as well. And it was a good thing to see. Cousins really did not throw the ball much at all in that game. I think they ended up running the ball for something ridiculous like 38 of their 49 plays, which in today’s NFL is unheard of. And they were successful doing it. I think Cousins will probably have to throw the ball a little bit more this week, but they did look really, really strong against the Falcons on Sunday. We opened it at Packers favored 2.5. I could see this possibly move to a nice round 3. That’s like a pick’em on a neutral field. Lambeau in September isn’t as bad as playing in December when it’s minus 15 degrees. But this game essentially is almost a pick’em.”
Our Pick: Take the Packers and lay the three points
Saints (+3, +120, O/U 52.5) at Rams
In a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game, two of the best offenses in the league last year will meet again. Both winners last week in close games, the (1-0) Rams and (1-0) Saints can still put up points but neither one of their defenses looked as strong as they did at the end of last season. Regardless, this has all the makings of one of the year’s best games despite it only being Week 2.
Bovi’s take: “The Rams were fortunate to escape with a win in Carolina as they had only 352 yards on 61 plays. I watched that game in detail. Cam Newton struggled getting the ball down the field, while his two turnovers proved to be the difference in a three-point loss. The Rams could not contain Christian McCaffrey. He piled up 209 all-purpose yards and they will not be able to put the clamps on Alvin Kamara [of the Saints]. The Rams, if you look at last year’s schedule, won a host of games by the skin of their teeth. I happen to think they’re one of the luckiest teams in the league and they’re overrated. If you look at [quarterback] Jared Goff’s numbers last year at away games, he barely took you 200 yards. I think he was very fortunate. His resume was basically built on four games. The rest of them, they were very average to sub-average numbers. So I don’t think the Rams are that good. You can beat the Saints deep, but in the end, they have the better team and are on a mission. New Orleans gets this one.
Gable’s take: “Did the Rams look as strong as they did last year? No, but they were good enough to beat the Panthers. And they still have a great front four on defense. Again, we have the Rams have minus 3. I don’t see this moving too much, either. The total’s going to be rather high. It’s going to be in the fifties. Obviously, with the two quarterbacks you have in this game with Goff and Brees, there probably won’t be too many turnovers. Both teams are capable of putting up a lot of points. So this is definitely going to be an entertaining game to watch. The Saints’ game was extremely entertaining and went right down to the end. And they got off to a very slow start. Last season they got off to a slow start the first couple of games. It’ll be interesting to see how they come out on the road against the Rams and if they start any quicker this week. Maybe they built some momentum. This is going to be the game of the week to watch.”
Our Pick: Take the Saints with the points
Seahawks (+4, +170, O/U 46.5) at Steelers
Hosting a Bengals team which was not expected to be very good at all, the 1-0 Seahawks barely eked out a win to start the season. The 0-1 Steelers were even worse as they were decimated on Sunday Night Football in a game that wasn’t even competitive. Now playing at home, Ben Roethlisberger (who traditionally plays much better in Pittsburgh) will look to get an offense that only scored 3 points last week back on track.
Bovi’s take: “The Steelers looked anything but potent in their 33-3 loss to the Patriots as they could manage only 75 yards of offense in the first half. James Conner ran the ball for 21 yards on 10 tries while Ben Roethlisberger could get nothing going through the air until garbage time. They get a Seahawks team which escaped with a 21-20 win at home as Andy Dalton threw for over 400 yards with wide receiver John Ross hauling in seven for 158. Seattle’s offense was for the most part stagnant as the protection for Russell Wilson broke down repeatedly. If that was Tom Brady in the backfield, he would’ve gotten sacked seven times or eight times because Russell Wilson can do things that most quarterbacks can’t. They prevailed due to a 3-1 turnover edge. Have to feel Roethlisberger gets it going at home and scores north of 24 while the Seahawks simply will not be able to keep up. I’m calling this one for the Steelers.
Gable’s take: “I don’t think anyone’s panicking yet in Pittsburgh. The Seahawks, I mean they faced Cincinnati and didn’t look fantastic against a team that’s really probably one of the bottom three teams in the league and they just squeaked out a victory there. So they didn’t put up a whole lot of offense. Russell Wilson had less than 200 yards passing and didn’t gain a whole lot on the ground either, but just did enough to win that game. I think Pittsburgh should definitely roll here. But again, people are maybe tentative after that performance that they had against New England. Right now, the Steelers are favored by 3.5, and I think some of that’s a reaction to how they looked against the Patriots. But I think the Steelers should roll in this game.”
Our Pick: Take the Steelers and lay the four points
Eagles (-1.5, -125, O/U 52.5) at Falcons
In Week 1, the 0-1 Falcons basically didn’t show up against the Vikings on either side of the ball. The same could be said of the 1-0 Eagles in the first half of their game against the Redskins, but that changed as Philly stormed back from a 17-point deficit and ended up winning going away against Washington. After they righted the ship, the Eagles looked good but they’ll be taking on an Atlanta team that’ll be desperate not to start the year 0-2.
Bovi’s take: “The Falcons showed glaring weaknesses during a 28-13 loss to the Vikings. Matt Ryan was pressured to route behind that retooled offensive line, which consisted of two rookies, one of whom was placed on the IR this week. Now, in his 12th year, Ryan was sacked four times. The defense was unable to contain the Minnesota running game as Viking backs ran for 168 yards on 32 carries while Kirk Cousins threw only 10 passes. They will need a quick fix against an Eagles team which features an array of weapons. Philly’s defense looked shaky in allowing 27 points to the Redskins with quarterback Case Keenum boasting a 117 quarterback rating. I just don’t see great things with that offensive line on the Falcons. To me, that’s the most important part of the offense. You can get away with lousy receivers if you have a good offensive line. But with a bad offensive line, you just can’t get anything done. I got to see something out of the line.”
Gable’s take: “I think the Falcons maybe go into this with something to prove. They didn’t look great, but you know, the Vikings pretty much ran over them. And Matt Ryan, while I think he did throw for over 300 yards, a lot of that was when they were down by a lot and probably the Vikings were laying off a little bit there in garbage time. But Julio Jones really wasn’t himself either during that game. He didn’t have a lot of yardage. This is still a good Falcons team. They didn’t look it in Week 1. I expect them to certainly look much better here in Week Two against the Eagles. Again, this game is pretty much a pick’em. We opened it up as a pick’em and the Eagles moved to minus one. But again, I think you’re going to see that number creep up through the week. The Eagles woke up in the second half last week and looked really good. And I think the Falcons will wake up this week. I really do. Matt Ryan’s a good quarterback and Julio Jones isn’t going to stay down for two weeks in a row.
Our Pick: Take the Falcons with the points
Last Week’s Picks: 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.