NFL picks and predictions for Week 2
A week ago, the Steelers were a hot commodity in the betting market. Pittsburgh was the NFL’s most impressive team in the preseason, and coach Mike Tomlin’s track record as an underdog had several sharp handicappers smelling an upset.
When the score was 20-0 midway through the second quarter, it became obvious the preseason meant nothing. The Steelers were terrible and throwing in the towel on the way to a 30-7 loss to the 49ers. At the same time in Cleveland, the Browns were busy beating up Joe Burrow and the Bengals in a 24-3 win.
Suddenly, the Browns are the trendy team, and the Steelers are getting trashed by critics, setting the stage for the AFC North rivals’ meeting Monday night in Pittsburgh.
There’s no sense in pretending anything positive came out of the season opener for the Steelers, who were dominated in every aspect while allowing 5.9 yards per play and getting outgained by 152 yards. Kenny Pickett, a near-perfect passer in the preseason, threw two interceptions and the running attack was essentially nonexistent. To make matters worse, defensive tackle Cam Heyward was lost to a groin injury.
It was all positive for the Browns, who allowed only six first downs and held Burrow to a career-low 82 passing yards. Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson was not great yet resembled a Hall of Famer when compared to Burrow.
Overreactions to Week 1 often set up betting opportunities in Week 2, so I’ll stick with Tomlin, who’s 15-5-3 ATS as a home ‘dog, and bank on a few historical trends favoring the Steelers:
1) The Browns are stuck with a 19-game regular-season losing streak at Pittsburgh.
2) The Browns have not finished ahead of the Steelers in the division since 1989, a streak of 34 years.
3) The Steelers have won 20 consecutive home games on “Monday Night Football.”
Pittsburgh getting a full field goal is an offer too good to refuse.
Pick: Steelers +3.
My Teaser of the Week play is 1-0 after the Browns +7.5/Jets +8.5 cashed in Week 1. This week, I’ll pair the Titans +8.5 with the Bills -2.
Here are four more sides for Week 2 (home team in CAPS):
BENGALS (-3) over Ravens — This is not an automatic bounce-back spot for Burrow, who missed the preseason with a calf injury and looked lost in the rain in Cleveland. Burrow might need more time to get right. However, injury issues are putting Baltimore in a tough spot. The Ravens will be without four starters — offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum and defensive backs Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Williams.
Jets (+9) over COWBOYS — With a healthy Aaron Rodgers, the Jets would be 3-point ‘dogs at Dallas. The six-point line inflation is probably warranted with Zach Wilson replacing Rodgers. If Wilson can manage the offense and avoid mistakes, a New York defense that forced four turnovers by the Bills is capable of keeping this game close. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was not that sharp in the 40-0 embarrassment of the Giants, who did everything wrong on offense, defense and special teams.
BRONCOS (-3.5) over Commanders — It’s not easy to lay a significant number with Denver, which finished last season with the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense at 16.9 points per game and opened the Sean Payton era with a 17-16 loss to the Raiders. The return of wide receiver Jerry Jeudy from a hamstring injury should boost the offense. This line is probably 3.5 for a reason, and the main reason is Washington is weak. In an ugly victory over Arizona, Commanders quarterback Sam Howell was sacked six times, threw an interception and coughed up a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Payton gets his first win with the Broncos.
PATRIOTS (+3) over Dolphins — For two decades, Bill Belichick has been money in these types of spots. While times change and this is a New England team with much lower expectations, I’m going to be stubborn and stick with the belief the Patriots are not that bad. The Patriots outgained the Eagles 382-251 in Week 1 and blew several chances in a game they should have won. Belichick’s defense will not surrender anything close to the 536 yards the Miami offense rolled up on the Chargers last week. It’s a challenging spot for the Dolphins, who open the season with back-to-back road games on opposite coasts.