NFL Best Bets: Experts Pick Week 2 Games Including Packers-Falcons, Ravens-Bengals and 49ers-Rams

A trio of sharps look at five of this week's games

September 15, 2023 6:44 am
NFL Best Bets: Experts Pick Week 2 Games Including Packers-Falcons, Ravens-Bengals and 49ers-Rams
Blocking Aaron Donald of the Rams is never easy.
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This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which football experts and handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season.

In this Week 2 edition of NFL Best Bets, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Mike Golic Jr. of DraftKings share their opinions on five games this weekend, including a critical AFC North battle between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

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

Packers (+1.5, O/U 40.5) at Falcons

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line has been all over the place. It opened with the Falcons listed as a short 1-point home favorite. Then it flipped to Packers -1 before flipping back to Falcons -1.5. What hasn’t changed, however, is that the public is pounding Green Bay, with 74% of bets taking the Packers regardless of the price. The Falcons are only getting 26% of bets, giving them great contrarian value, while also taking in 40% of the money, indicating a sharp “low bets, higher dollars” bet split. Green Bay dominated Chicago in Week 1. However, late movement is going back to Atlanta. From a Packers’ perspective, it looks too good to be true. It usually is. This line is way too fishy. Give me the Falcons on the moneyline -115.

Gable’s Guess: People are expecting decent things from the Falcons. I think they have a lot of good skill-position players around the quarterback position. After Aaron Rodgers was gone, a lot of people wrote the Packers off. Respected bettors did not and were taking them to go over their season win total and backed them in Week 1 against the Bears. Green Bay has a lot of good pieces as well, and we’ll see how Jordan Love performs now as the starter. He wasn’t great in Week 1, but he was serviceable — and really that was all he needed to be. Defensively, the Packers were able to control the line of scrimmage and generate a lot of pressure on Justin Fields. They pressured him 36 times, more than 50% of his dropbacks, which is really impressive. I don’t believe we saw much of anything from Atlanta QB Desmond Ridder last week, and I’m not someone who was high on him coming into this season.  I see Green Bay’s defense getting to him. I’ll take the Packers and force Ridder to take my money.

Golic’s Gamble: While injuries are definitely a concern for the Packers in the backfield (Aaron Jones) and wide receiver room (Christian Watson), this team showed remarkable consistency up front protecting Jordan Love and creating holes for running backs in Week 1. The Falcons gave up more than five yards per carry to a Panthers team that wasn’t much of a passing threat last week. I think Green Bay keeps it close and gets a win while their skill players heal up. Give me the Pack and the points.

IH Best Bet: Think the Packers win outright, so going with Green Bay.

Raiders (+8.5, O/U 46.5) at Bills

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with Buffalo listed as a 9.5-point home favorite. The public is split down the middle and doesn’t know whether to take the points or lay them. However, despite this even split, we’ve seen the Bills fall from -9.5 to -8.5. In a vacuum, a line shouldn’t move at all if the tickets are even. So we know this dip was caused by smart money taking the dog plus the points. Dogs are 10-6 against the spread (ATS) this season. Road dogs are 8-2 ATS this season and 433-343 ATS (56%) since 2018. Jimmy G is 18-5 ATS (78%) as a dog in his career. Lead referee Craig Wrolstad has historically favored road teams (56% ATS). I also don’t trust Josh Allen laying big points right now. I’ll take Las Vegas +8.5.

Gable’s Guess: Jimmy Garoppolo showed some veteran leadership in spearheading the Raiders’ fourth-quarter comeback on Sunday. He seems to have won over his new teammates. Hopefully for Las Vegas, there’s something there and they can exceed expectations, which were pretty low coming into this season. The Raiders were picked to finish last in their division. It’s a very tough matchup here with the Bills. They are coming off a disappointing Monday night loss. When Aaron Rodgers went out, everybody thought it was going to be a walk in the park. Josh Allen had a terrible performance with four turnovers. This is a very big number to cover, even at home. I expect Allen to get things right here, but I think this is too big of a number. I’ll take the points with the Raiders.

Golic’s Gamble: The Raiders looked solid but unremarkable against a Broncos team in transition. I think Buffalo is going to have some people worried because of the primetime effect, but I’m not one of them. This is who Josh Allen has been. I think his aggressiveness pays off this week, he keeps a clean turnover sheet and the Bills win big. I’ll still take the points with Vegas.

IH Best Bet: The Bills are playing on a short week and Josh Allen is struggling. Raiders with the points.

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Ravens (+3.5, O/U 46) at Bengals

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Bengals listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. The Ravens +3.5 is juiced to -115, signaling a possible fall down to the key number of 3. Short road dogs +6 or less are 6-1 ATS this season and 180-114 ATS (61%) since 2019. Divisional dogs are 165-127 ATS (57%) since 2020. John Harbaugh is 44-30 ATS (59%) as a dog as head coach of Baltimore. Lamar Jackson is 10-1 ATS (91%) as a dog in his career. I’ll grab the hook before it falls and sweat Ravens +3.5.

Gable’s Guess: The Bengals are not coming into this game with a full head of steam. They lost another opener. Joe Burrow, who didn’t play at all in the preseason, had the lowest passing total of his career with just 82 yards. His mobility definitely looked compromised, and he faced a ton of pressure from the Browns — he was pressured on 38.3% of his dropbacks. The Ravens need guys to step up and into roles where they lost guys because of injury. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will probably share the duties in the backfield. The Ravens are dealing with other injuries on their offensive line. Ultimately, I feel like the Bengals will be just fine and Burrow will get back to his old form, but it’s just too tempting not to take points with the Ravens. Give me the 3.5 with the Ravens.

Golic’s Gamble: There are too many injuries for the Ravens right now. While Zay Flowers looked incredible in his debut, the rest of this Raven offense lacked the explosiveness we expected under Todd Monken. I think they’ll get there, but in a game where the Ravens are missing multiple starters on the offensive line, I’m not sure it will be this week. I think the Bengals avoid the dreaded 0-2 start and we see a stronger Burrow performance without Myles Garrett on the other side of the ball. I’ll lay the points with Cincy.

IH Best Bet: A half-point here makes all the difference in a potential field-goal game. Ravens with the points.

Seahawks (+5, O/U 47.5) at Lions

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The early look-ahead line on this game was Lions -2.5 at home. After the Lions looked great upsetting the Chiefs and the Seahawks got blown out by the Rams, this line re-opened with Detroit as a 5.5-point home favorite. The public is laying the points with the Lions. However, despite receiving 65% of bets, we’ve seen Detroit fall from -5.5. to -5. This signals smart money grabbing the points with Seattle. Pete Carroll is 47-31 ATS (60%) as a dog. Conference dogs of +6 or less are 7-3 ATS this season and 283-198 ATS (59%) since 2019. I’ll buy low on Seattle and sell high on Detroit. Give me Seattle +5.

Gable’s Guess: I don’t know which of these teams had the more surprising performance. The Lions came away with a nice win on the road on Thursday in Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Seahawks couldn’t handle a Rams team playing without Cooper Kupp. The Seahawks have injuries to deal with on the offensive line to the point where they had to sign Jason Peters. This offense could stall out the way they did in the second half against the Rams. They just could not muster anything. Detroit’s defense looks much improved, especially in the secondary. Jared Goff continued to not turn the ball over, and their running attack is going to be tough to stop. With the injury questions around Seattle, I’m going to look to take the under.

Golic’s Gamble: Both starting tackles look like they’ll be doubtful heading into this weekend for Seattle. Their injuries made life incredibly tough on offense for Seattle last week versus the Rams. We saw Aidan Hutchinson get cooking in Week 1 against a strong Chiefs offensive line. Meanwhile, the Lions offense only managed to muster 14 points last week in Kansas City. I think they bounce back and get the win by exploiting the middle of the field like the Rams did, but I don’t think a shootout is in the cards. I’ll side with the under.

IH Best Bet: A fairly high total for teams that put up 34 points last week. Going with the under.

49ers (-7.5, O/U 45) at Rams

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the 49ers listed as a 6-point road favorite. The public is hammering the 49ers, expecting an easy blowout win and cover. This lopsided action pushed San Francisco up from -6 to -8. However, we’ve seen some sharp buyback on the Rams +8, dropping the line back down to 7.5. The Rams are only receiving 30% of bets but 45% of the money, a sharp contrarian bet split. Divisional dogs are 5-3 ATS this season and 167-127 ATS (57%) since 2020. Sean McVay is 15-11 ATS (58%) as a dog. I’ll hold my nose and take Los Angeles +7.5.

Gable’s Guess: The Rams surprisingly beat Seattle in Week 1, but are they really better than we were expecting? They didn’t have Cooper Kupp, but they did have two 100-yard receivers and they didn’t allow any sacks on Matthew Stafford. He was only pressured on 20.5% of his snaps. I think it’s going to be a different story on Sunday when they face one of the best defenses in football in San Francisco. The Niners had five sacks, nine quarterback hits and eight tackles for loss in their dominant win over Pittsburgh. I felt Brock Purdy answered a lot of questions with his performance against the Steelers. The bottom line is these two teams are just in different classes despite what we saw from the Rams. Stafford may keep them in some games, but this isn’t one of them. I don’t like laying this many points on the road, so I’m going to take the under. I expect the San Francisco defense to shut down the Rams.

Golic’s Gamble: The 49ers have covered their last seven games against the Rams, who looked great in Week 1 while providing strong protection for a healthy Matthew Stafford. But this 49ers team reminded everyone who the final boss still is in the NFC against the Steelers. The Rams have the second-youngest roster in the NFL, and young guys on both sides of the ball showed promise in Week 1. I think they fare better than the Steelers because of Stafford, but I think the 49ers are on a mission. I’ll lay the points with the Niners.

IH Best Bet: No consensus here, but points were at a premium last week, so going to take the under.

Last Week: 3-1-1; This Season: 3-1-1

Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Double-check the odds before betting.

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