NFL WEEK 2: The first week of the season always brings some surprises, and I doubt many people had Green Bay losing by five touchdowns, the Titans getting beat by 25 at home, or the Texans putting up 37 points. I’d be careful about drawing firm conclusions from any Week 1 game, and to be honest if you feel strongly about a team that didn’t perform as you expected I’d consider doubling down on your feelings in this Week 2, as overreactions after the first game are common and often unavoidable amongst both oddsmakers and bettors.
Sometimes getting back on that horse is easier said than done, however, especially if you were wrong in a big way. We split our four games last week, and though I view the Green Bay game as a fluky occurrence that shouldn’t be dwelt upon, it will take some time before I trust Atlanta enough to back them again.
We’ve got an interesting slate on tap this week, with the headliner being the Sunday nighter in Baltimore, where the Chiefs come to town to face the Ravens in a possible playoff preview. That line feels awfully suspicious to me– the banged-up Ravens are only a 3.5-point dog against the high-powered Chiefs– so I’ve decided to leave it alone. With so much red meat on the board, there’s no need to take chances on games just because you don’t like the way the line smells. With that being said, here’s what I’ve got for this week:
Cincinnati Bengals @ Chicago Bears (CHI -2.5, 44.5)
Recommendation: Cincinnati +2.5 at 1.91
The Andy Dalton Revenge Game might not have the sizzle of some of these other Week 2 matchups, but it does offer opportunity as one of those “wrong team favored” games that we all look for early in the season. Look, I understand the history in Cincinnati, I realize the defense was porous last year, and I know Joe Burrow is still looking for his first career NFL road win. But I’ll tell you now just like I told you last week: don’t sleep on these Bengals in 2021. In JaMarr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, Burrow has some explosive playmakers at his disposal, and Joe Mixon is one of the league’s most underrated backs. It’s going to be tough for any defense to slow down this Cincinnati offense this season, and the Bears looked awfully vulnerable in the secondary last week, getting torched by Matt Stafford to the tune of 321 yards and 3 TDs. Burrow will be slinging it around in this one, and I’m just not sure the Bears have the offensive firepower to keep up, especially with the Red Rifle doing his Checkdown Charlie routine. The Bengals will win this one outright and should be getting more respect in the betting marketplace in the weeks to come.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers (PIT -6, 47.5)
Recommendation: Pittsburgh -6 at 1.9
Both of these teams began the season with upset victories, and if the Raiders could pull this one off– winning in Pittsburgh six days after beating Baltimore– we may have to reevaluate our forecast for their season. This is a tough ask, however, going across the country on a short week (Vegas played on Monday night, if you recall) to face a team that looked awfully good in beating AFC East favorite Buffalo last week. I was particularly impressed with the Pittsburgh front seven in that game, as T.J. Watt, Cam Hayward & Co. consistently harassed Josh Allen, sacking him three times and registering eight QB hits. Derek Carr has a reputation for struggling when pressured, so you can be sure that Pittsburgh DC Keith Butler will be dialing up the heat. On the other side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger will challenge the Las Vegas secondary in a way that Lamar Jackson could not, and we know that last season anybody and everybody could throw on the Raiders. Look for the Steelers to light up the scoreboard and win by double-digits in their first home game of the season.
Denver Broncos @ Jacksonville Jaguars (DEN -5.5, 44.5)
Recommendation: Jacksonville +5.5 at 1.92
The sky is falling in Jacksonville… of course it’s been that way for most of the last decade, so what’s new? But seriously, the media kicked it into overdrive this week with the “Urban Meyer is failing” stories, even insinuating (and in some cases, outright reporting) that he was going to skip town any day now, quit the NFL and take the USC job. It’s all overblown, I think– your typical Week 1 overreaction. Fact is, though he did make some bad decisions, Trevor Lawrence threw for 330 yards and 3 TDs in his NFL debut, and the Jags can now challenge defenses downfield for the first time in years. But my bet here is really more about Denver– the Broncos are banged-up, missing a starting offensive lineman, a starting cornerback, their best receiver, and possibly star defensive end Bradley Chubb. Nothing about the Denver offense scares opposing defenses, particularly with Jerry Jeudy out, and this won’t be an easy atmosphere– early game, other side of the country, and it’s going to be about 95 degrees with 100% humidity on that field. This feels like your quintessential Buy Low/Sell High opportunity– everyone has totally written off Jacksonville while giving the Broncos more respect than they deserve. Gimme the home ‘dog.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (GB -11, 48.5)
Recommendation: Green Bay -11 at 1.91
There was no uglier performance last week than that of Green Bay, as the Packers put up absolutely no resistance in a 38-3 loss to New Orleans. They have a prime “get right” opportunity on deck, however, with division rival Detroit coming to Lambeau Field for Monday Night Football. The Lions are coming off a 41-33 loss to San Francisco, but the game really wasn’t as close as it sounds, as the Niners jumped out to a 31-10 halftime lead before taking their foot off the gas in the second half. Detroit has big problems in the secondary– Jimmy Garoppolo absolutely tore them to pieces last week, and to make matters worse, Lions starting cornerback Jeff Okudah ruptured his Achilles and will miss the remainder of the season. The Packers have been a great bounce-back team under Matt LaFleur, going 6-0 following a defeat over the past two seasons, with an average margin of victory of 14 ppg. I’ll be stunned if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t right the ship against the sieve-like Lions defense and lead the Pack to a resounding victory in front of the home fans.