Week 1 didn’t go as planned.
After months of looking at lines and researching, my top five picks went 1-4 — 1-6 if you include the two bonus picks I added on Saturday morning.
The good news is it’s only one week and everyone is due for an off week at some point during the NFL season.
My picks will be separated into five categories. Keep in mind that some game theory could factor into my selections because of the large-field NFL “picks” contest I’m in. For example, I might avoid a game in an attempt to be contrarian if I think a large amount of the field will be on a certain side.
It’s time to bounce back in Week 2.
Note: My picks could change based on information and any injury news that is not factored into the contest line. I will tweet from @natejacobson1 when I have a change in opinion on a game. I will also discuss and finalize these picks on a Periscope show I host called Weekend Warriors. The show starts an hour before college football games kickoff on Saturday at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on the Stadium Periscope channel or the Stadium Twitter account.
Sides I’ll use unless there’s an injury
Steelers (-4) over Seahawks: This is the perfect storm — we’ve got a team I was looking to bet on early in the season playing against a roster that I’m looking to fade. I’m not going to change my opinion on the Steelers after one very poor performance against the NFL’s best. Pittsburgh is traditionally a better team at home, especially on offense, and I trust they will come into this game with a better gameplan than they had in New England. The Seahawks edged the Bengals last week in a game they probably should’ve lost if you look at the box score. There’s line value based on last week’s results and I don’t want to overreact to one bad showing by the Steelers.
Sides I’ll likely use
Bengals (-2) over 49ers: The Bengals were unlucky not to win in Seattle last week. Cincinnati had the edge in first downs (22-12), total yards (429-232) and yards per play (6.1-4.7). So how did they lose? Fumbling three times was the main reason, and without those turnovers the Bengals would’ve won comfortably. The betting market has recognized the strong performance by Cincinnati and they are now two-point favorites after opening as an underdog for Week 2. Remember that the 49ers benefitted from two flukey pick-sixes in a win at Tampa Bay. I agree with the line move on Cincinnati, and they will likely make my contest card.
Falcons (+1.5) over Eagles: In Atlanta, I’m looking to bet on another team that I liked before the season. The Falcons also lost last week after falling behind early and falling victim to the Vikings’ run-heavy offensive scheme. I like the Falcons to bounce back at home in the underdog role in a primetime game. The Eagles started slow last week, trailing 17-0 against the Redskins before turning things around and almost covering as a double-digit favorite. I don’t really buy that revenge should be factored into professional sports handicapping, but this could be an example where it means something. The Eagles eliminated the Falcons with a goal-line stand in the 2017-18 Divisional Round and then beat Atlanta again in a very similar fashion last season in Week 1. I think the Falcons come in hungry and get the win.
Picks I’m considering
Colts (+3) over Titans: In an overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 1, the Colts proved that they are still a very competitive team. Jacoby Brissett is a league-average quarterback who’s surrounded by a strong offensive line and solid weapons. The Titans nearly played a perfect game in a 30-point win at Cleveland, but I’m not sure if they will win by over a field goal against their division rival.
Redskins (+5) over Cowboys: I would’ve preferred if this game was Redskins +6 or higher, but I still want to keep them in consideration for this week. New Cowboys OC Kellen Moore impressed in his debut, as Dak Prescott threw all over the Giants in a 35-17 win. It was a perfect matchup for the Cowboys offense in a home game against a weak defense. Because Prescott is much better at home than on the road, I can see him not playing well in Washington. The Redskins showed some life with Case Keenum under center, and they can keep this within the number.
Broncos (+2.5) over Bears: The Bears looked terrible on offense in the NFL’s season opener on Thursday, which is why the line for their Week 2 game in Denver opened Broncos -1. But because of poor play from the Broncos in their Monday Night Football loss, they are no longer the favorites. I’m not sure the line move is justified based off 60 minutes of bad football from the Broncos. I want you to keep this historical trend in mind: the Broncos are 32-3-1 in their last 36 home games during the first two weeks of the season. A big reason for this is because opponents are not in their best physical shape early in the season and the higher elevation in Denver greatly benefits the Broncos.
Browns (-2.5) over Jets: I originally wrote that I was going to pick the Jets in this one due to Jets DC Gregg Williams facing the team that he served as the interim head coach for last season — the Browns passed on hiring Williams and instead promoted OC Freddie Kitchens. However, news broke Thursday morning that Jets starting quarterback Sam Darnold has mono and is ruled out for Week 2. Trevor Siemian will start for New York, and the new line is Browns -6. I was lucky to get the Browns at -2.5 because I’m not sure if I like Cleveland covering the new number.
Games I’ll likely avoid
Buccaneers at Panthers (-6.5): As I said last week, I’ll almost always avoid Thursday Night Football in a contest, and this is no exception. The line value is probably on Tampa Bay, but I’ll pass because I don’t want to back a road team with a short week of preparation.
Chargers (-2.5) at Lions: The Lions are coming off a disappointing tie against the Cardinals where Detroit squandered an 18-point fourth quarter lead. Playing 70 minutes against a high-paced offense in Arizona is a reason to look to fade the Lions this week. However, the injuries for the Chargers are concerning, and I can see them struggling early after an overtime win last week.
Cardinals at Ravens (-13): Everyone saw what the Ravens did to the Dolphins and are now in love with Lamar Jackson. Baltimore gets another soft matchup against Arizona, but I’d only look towards the Cardinals here at a huge number.
Vikings at Packers (-3): Another NFC North game where the line has the home team favored by a field goal. This line seems right to me, but I’d slightly lean towards the Vikings in a low-scoring game. There are more appealing sides this week, so I’m not really considering this in a contest.
Games I’ll definitely avoid unless there’s a major injury
Bills (-1.5) at Giants: I want to take the Giants here, but have promised myself never to back Eli Manning, so I likely won’t get involved with the Giants until Daniel Jones becomes the starter.
Patriots (-18.5) at Dolphins: This is not a misprint. The Patriots are really an 18.5-point road favorite, which is a 7.5-point adjustment from the look-ahead line released before Week 1. I’m not going to bet on Miami, but I’d suggest not to bet on the Pats. Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores was a Patriots assistant coach from 2004-18, and as a sign of respect, I don’t expect Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to run up the score.
Jaguars at Texans (-9): I’m not taking a rookie quarterback in his first start on the road — sorry, Gardner Minshew. I also don’t want any part of the Texans at a big point spread after their heartbreaking Monday night loss to the Saints.
Chiefs (-7) at Raiders: The Raiders impressed me with their play on Monday night. While they rallied without having Antonio Brown on the field, I’m not sure they can have a repeat performance. I’m also not looking to bet on the Chiefs as a big road favorite. Their defense is still a concern after giving up 8.6 yards per play to a Jacksonville offense that was led by rookie Gardner Minshew.
Saints at Rams (-2.5): The playoff revenge narrative is certainly in play, but it’s already built into this line. The Rams opened as a full field goal favorite, which was bet down to 2.5, so it’s a pass for me.