Have we learned anything? Doubtful: NFL Week 2 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.]

CAROLINA (-3) vs. Houston

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Derek: I (foolishly) thought Jacksonville would put up a fight last week. I thought the Panthers’ offense would struggle against Gus Bradley’s improving defense. And while the Jaguars defense did a good job, the offense was still very Jaguarian.

Enter the Texans, who have a better defense, but possibly an equally bad offense with the exception of DeAndre Hopkins. Ryan Mallett is starting this week, and he did look much better than Brian Hoyer. Luke Kuechly may miss the game as well. The Texans are coming of a loss, and I think Mallett will give them a spark. I’ll take Houston.

Will: Once again, I’m making all of these picks without anything resembling research or rational thought. Here goes: Brian Hoyer has already been benched by Houston. The last two years or so have been exceptionally tough on Brian Hoyer. He was run out of his hometown (or, depending on which rumblings you believe, he ran himself out because he’s secretly kind of a dick) and he’s been further humbled in Houston. Assuming that the entire universe is in the midst of a fiercely anti-Hoyer run, I’m picking Houston just so Ryan Mallett can get some shine.

NEW ORLEANS (-10) vs. Tampa Bay

Derek: I hate picking Saints games. They like to swerve right when you least expect it. They establish that they’re only good at home, then blow out a team better than them on the road. Or they’ll lose a game they should win at home. Trends are nonexistent with them.

Then there are the Bucs, who looked like the worst team in the league last week. I’d get 10 points with them, though, and they’re going against a team that loses when it’s supposed to win. Or do they?

Screw it, give me the Bucs. Just don’t expect me to put any real money on it.

Will: The Bucs might just be that bad? Is that a possibility? I’ve had people whose NFL opinions I respect tell me that Jameis Winston is the real deal as far as a QB prospect goes, but he and the Bucs were on the receiving end of a bare-bottom spanking from Marcus Mariota and Tennessee. I’m betting it gets worse before it gets better. Saints win big at home.

PITTSBURGH (-6) vs. San Francisco

Derek: I had hoped everyone would overreact to last week and this spread would be lower. My opinion on these two teams hasn’t changed. The Steelers have to rely on their offense to win, and the 49ers have to control the clock and make sure they never fall behind. The Steelers lost, but their defense was asleep and they were hurt by two missed field goals. The 49ers never trailed, and looked good because they could just give the ball to Carlos Hyde the whole game. Perhaps the Steelers’ defense isn’t aware that the season has started, but the offense is. Plus the 49ers are coming off a short week (while the Steelers had extra rest) and the game is at 10 a.m. PT. The Steelers get back on track at home.

Will: I assumed the Niners were a total trainwreck and that this season would be one from hell, then they battered the Vikings and generally looked competent. The Steelers offense is as explosive as Ahmed Mohamed’s homemade clock wasn’t, and I reckon the tempo of this game will determine the winner. I like the Niners to slow down the Pittsburgh offense better than New England could, and I think San Francisco keeps it close enough to cover.

MINNESOTA (-2.5) vs. Detroit

Derek: After that Vikings performance, I wouldn’t feel comfortable picking them against anyone. And I have to lay three points with them? Seems like a trap, but I can’t help myself. I’ll take Detroit.

Will: Yeah, Detroit. The Vikings are booty.

New England (-1) vs. BUFFALO

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Derek: This should be fun. I think we’ll learn a lot about the Patriots in this one. I was less impressed by their season-opening performance because a lot of their success came from the Steelers’ apparent disinterest in accounting for Rob Gronkowski(!) and some problems in the red zone and with special teams. The Steelers easily could have won that game, so I don’t really buy the talk that the Patriots whitewashed them and everyone should take notice.

But if they win this game, I will be impressed. The Bills are riding high, but not to the point of overconfidence. Their defense is miles better than Pittsburgh’s. Maybe they won’t be able to cover Gronk (who can?) but they should be less likely to allow him to run free. The game’s in Buffalo, the fans will be out in full force, and Rex will have them amped for one of Buffalo’s biggest games in years. All signs point to the Bills.

Will: This oughta be a slobberknocker. The Bills defense may well be one of the best in the league, and all bets are off if they can tousle Brady’s hair a bit. I cannot, however, get past the fact that Tyrod Taylor is their starting quarterback. Even with that defense, at home, with some momentum behind them, I’ve gotta back Brady and the Pats.

Arizona (-1.5) vs. CHICAGO

Derek: I think the Cardinals are going to be able to throw on the Bears. I think Jay Cutler is going to be able to throw to the Cardinals. That’s enough for me! The Cardinals are victorious.

Will: What you said. I don’t care about this game one bit. Arizona.

Tennessee (-1) vs. CLEVELAND

Derek: Looks like Johnny’s going to start. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Surely the Titans aren’t as good as they looked last week, and surely the Browns aren’t as bad. The Browns are at home, so I’m going with them.

Will: YOU BET YOUR ASS JOHNNY IS GONNA START. I’m so excited. The last time he started at home, the Browns lost to the Bengals 30-0 in what may have been the saddest game I have ever been to. And now he’s back.

Frankly, it could get ugly real fast for the Browns. If they open with a toothless three-and-out, there’s a strong chance the boo birds will come out in force. That Jets game last week really pissed people off. Now Marcus Mariota and the potentially upstart Titans are coming to town. And that is exactly why I like the Browns. It’s Johnny’s time to ball out. Fuck a Mariota. There’s only one real Heisman winner in this game. Browns by 50.

CINCINNATI (-3) vs. San Diego

Derek: The Bengals are usually a safe bet in home day games in the regular season. The Bengals cover against The Mysterious Chargers, who have earned their new nickname because I never seem to hear anything about them.

Will: I also don’t know anything about the Chargers except for a few players I have on fantasy teams. I know they have Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead in the backfield, for what that’s worth. My gut said to take the Bengals, because they need to rack up wins now before fading in December, but I like Phil Rivers over Andy Dalton. Gimme the Bolts.

St. Louis (-3.5) vs. WASHINGTON

Derek: This is another one that seems a little too easy. I like the Rams less on the road, but I don’t trust Kirk Cousins against the pressure the Rams will no doubt produce. We may hear Colt McCoy’s music before the end of this one. It might be a trap, but give me the Rams.

Will: I’m literally not picking Washington to win anything all year. Go Rams go.

Miami (-6) vs. JACKSONVILLE

Derek: It’ll be a while before I allow myself to pick Jacksonville again. I’ll take the other team.

Will: Woof, I do not care about this football game. Six is a lot of points. Maybe this is the week the Jags look borderline average. I’ll take Jacksonville!

NEW YORK GIANTS (-2.5) vs. Atlanta

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Derek: Both of these teams should be 1-0, but the Giants’ truly stunning clock management prevented that from happening. The Falcons took down the mighty Eagles after Julio Jones treated poor Byron Maxwell like a scrub. And I don’t know who on the Giants is going to stop him. Jones has an injury history and he’s already banged up, but he’s a game-changer when healthy.

Of course, Odell Beckham could be on a mission after he was largely held in check by the Cowboys. Maybe these two should just have whatever the wide receiver version of a dunk contest is. Nothing against the Giants and Falcons, but I think most neutral fans would rather see that.

Ah yes, the game. I’m not sure which team is better, but the Giants are at home and I think they’ll come out angry after last week. I’m going with the Giants.

Will: I arbitrarily think that Beckham is going to struggle this season, and last week was just the beginning. And is Tom Coughlin still coaching the Giants? Weren’t people sick of him like three years ago? They must hate him now. I’ve suddenly talked myself into the Giants-as-disaster.

The Falcons, meanwhile, are potent if top-heavy offensively. Matt Ryan is better than I’ll ever be comfortable giving him credit for, and Julio Jones is about as good as it gets. Atlanta oughta hang at least 25 on the G-Men, and I’m betting that will be enough to run away from Eli and the gang. I like the birds on the road.

Baltimore (-6.5) vs. OAKLAND

Derek: With the injuries in the Raider secondary, this might be the one time the Ravens have success throwing deep. After last week, I’m treating the Raiders like the Raiders until they give me a reason not to. Ravens cover.

Will: I was thinking about backing Oakland for a minute there, but you talked me out of it. Ravens on the road.

PHILADELPHIA (-5) vs. Dallas

Derek: Dez Bryant is out, but the Cowboys were one of the best road teams in the league last year. They were undefeated on the road and 7-1 against the spread. Losing Bryant no doubt hurts, but I like the line value here. I’ll take Dallas.

Will: You talked me out of this pick, too! I look forward to Twitter getting all pissed off at Tony Romo one way or another. Cowboys it is.

GREEN BAY (-3.5) vs. Seattle

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Derek: Probably look elsewhere for sensible commentary on this one.

The Packers are going down! The Seahawks are awesome in primetime games. Bryan Bulaga is out. Aaron Rodgers struggles more against the Seahawks than any other team. The Seahawks are coming off a loss and want to avoid going 0-2, especially in a game that could swing playoff seeding. The Seahawks have Tyler Lockett, and the Packers don’t. Seattle is the clear choice.

Will: Everything he just said is a lie, folks. That said, the extra half-point gives me pause. I like Seattle to cover in a close one.

INDIANAPOLIS (-7) vs. New York Jets

Derek: I’m a little hesitant to take the Colts because of T.Y. Hilton’s injury. The Jets could have Revis shut down Donte Moncrief and maybe reasonably cover Andre Johnson with a linebacker. But the Colts are better than what they showed last week, and I think they’ll find a way to score some points in their home opener. That said, seven points is more than I’m comfortable with. I like the Colts to win, but I’m going to take the points here.

Will: It may just be because I want to make myself feel better about the Browns getting blown out by these guys, but I think the Jets are going to show themselves to be better than people think. The whole Fitzpatrick/Smith quarterback combo doesn’t inspire much of anything good, but they seem solid everywhere else, especially in the front seven. I don’t expect them to be a playoff team or anything, but they could be a competitive 6-10. That’s enough for me to take them here. J-E-T-S.

Last week

Derek: 6-9-1

Will: 8-7-1


Derek: 6-9-1

Will: 8-7-1

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