It’s always hard to predict how the first week turns out with who wins and loses let alone giving advice on the spreads and over/unders. I’d like to say that I faired ok in the spreads given some of the upsets and closer than should’ve been performances of some teams and faired better on the over/unders but not by much. The first week is the first full game action for everyone and for most teams, not all of the bugs are worked out. Some of my surprises included the Jags first half, Saints/Pats/Bears/Chiefs losing, the Cowboys’ turnovers and the Packers not staying with the Seahawks.
A lot of other things happened this week that will affect the week 2 games. Ray Rice is now unemployed and suspended from the league indefinitely, Adrian Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges and is deactivated for this week, the drug policy has changed which would mean the likes of Wes Welker would be activated for this week but might not play given his lack of practice this week, and Josh Gordon may have his year long suspension reduced to 8 games. There was a lot of sloppy play over the first week as we saw the usually poised players crumble. You can only imagine that this past week of practice sured up some of the holes in last play. So I was 7-9 against the spread, I was 9-7 for my Over/Under calls, that counts for something right? I’m only taking 3 dogs this week and I feel pretty good about them. Here are the picks:
Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills,
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: -1 O/U: 42.5:
Both teams surprisingly came out strong last week pulling off upset wins, Bills over the Bears and the Dolphins over the Pats. EJ looked good completing over 70% of his passes and even had a rushing TD while his running backs ran for over 170 yards against a usually stout Bears defense. He did it twice last year during his rookie season and they both resulted in wins as well. The only time he was able to follow up at 70% completion percentage he threw for under 50%. EJ is still young and hasn’t been able to hit a stride while overcoming injuries in his rookie year. This may be his turn around if he can stay healthy. The Dolphins last week ran the ball well, racking up 191 yards on the ground and averaging 5 yards per carry. Not so well throwing the ball as Tannehill is still trying to prove that he is the Fins’ franchise QB. EJ will take advantage of how well he throws the ball short and intermediately which will keep the Dolphins on their toes then hit them with the run game. Take the Bills at home -1 in the over as both teams have a good run game which will open up the pass for both teams. Bills 24-20.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Washington Redskins,
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Redskins -6.5. O/U: 43.5:
The Jags came out like they were shot out of a cannon last week in the first half with a 17-0 lead. They caused turnovers and Chad Henne put the ball into the hands of a rookie wide receiver named Allen Hurns (3 receptions in the 1st quarter for 101 yards). The turning point was the opening drive in the second half when faced with a 4th and 1, the Eagles snapped the ball before the Jags defense was set and went 49 yards for the score and didn’t look back. The Jags now have a great first half to work off of and fix that horrendous second half. The Redskins have deeper issues. They only had 2 completions over 20 yards even though RGIII had a completion percentage over 70%, he couldn’t get the ball in the end zone and fumbled twice losing one of them. The Redksins had 46 yards on 4 drives in the first quarter all resulting in punts and had their 2 longest drives (78 & 79 yards, back to back drives in the 3rd quarter) end as a result of a lost fumble. The Redskins allowed 3 long drives of 68, 83. and 89 yards with a quarterback that isn’t known for driving the ball down the field. Fitzpatrick had just over 200 yards for the game and the Texans only had 115 yards on the ground. Expect the Jags to keep it close even if they lose since Henne looked really good to open off the game and to have Toby Gerhart get more carries. I’m always one for giving a guy the benefit of the doubt when the system around him constantly changes (like Alex Smith), so don’t be surprised if Henne has a breakout year (you heard it here first). The Jags won’t wait until their 9th game this year for their first win so take them +6.5 in the Over. Jags 24-21.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Tennessee Titans,
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Titans –3.5. O/U: 49.5:
The Cowboys surprised us in a good way but mostly in a bad way last week. With tons of injuries to their defense, we expected the defense to struggle but they didn’t and held the 49ers to just 28 points. The offense however fluttered and Romo disintegrated in the first half with 3 interceptions which 2 converted into touchdowns for the 49er also returning an opening drive fumble by DeMarco Murray for a score. 21-3 after the first, 7-14 the rest of the game. Take away the turnovers and Romo’s terrible field vision on those 3 drives, that game was winnable. The Cowboys will have a difficult time duplicating their performance given the effort needed to hold an offense like the 49ers. Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt is like a quarterback whisperer. He has taken Big Ben and Kurt Warner to the Super Bowl, winning with Big Ben and revived Phillip Rivers’s career last year, bringing him a successful winning season. Look for the Whis to make some magic with Jake Locker who had a pretty good game last week. Take the Titans to win but the Cowboys for the points if it stays at 3 or higher in the Over. Titans 28-27.
Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Giants,
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Giants -2.5. O/U: 43:
Who knows where to start with the Giants. Eli Completed under 55% of his passes and only averaged 4.9 yards per pass, and oh yeah, the run game wasn’t there either. The Giants as well only carried the ball on average 2 yards per carry and Eli only threw for 163 yards and 2 picks to 1 TD. Out of 10 drives, the Giants scored on 2 (drives of 79 and 80 yards). The other 8 drives sucked up just 61 yards of offense only averaging 7.6 yards per drive outside of the 2 they scored on. That’s not just bad, that is a significant offensive meltdown. That’s not the outcome anyone would expect having all summer and preseason to get ready to go for the season. The Cardinals looked good against a tough, gritty Chargers however came out of the game with a banged up Andre Ellington and Carson Palmer, but both are expected to play Sunday. All but 1 Cardinals receiver had less than 30 yards receiving which only meant that Palmer who had over 300 yards, had a really good day with one receiver and spread the ball around to others. Michael Floyd had 5 catches for 119 yards while 10 other guys caught the other 19 passes for 185 yards. Larry Fitzgerald had 4 targets and only 1 catch for 22 yards. Expect him to have a bigger roll against the Giants. Take the Cardinals getting +2.5 points to win in the Over. Cards 27-20.
New England Patriots vs. Minnesota Vikings,
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -6. O/U: 48:
For the first time since Christmas Eve 2000, the New England Patriots are in sole possession of last place in the AFC East. It is rare for Tom Brady to have back to back weeks and this is the Bills we are talking about here. Gronk didn’t get a whole lot of game time but expect that to change this week. Tom is only 8-6 when throwing the ball more than 50 times in a game during the regular season. He is now also only 1-3 when he throws more than 50 times and completes less than 60% of his passes. He only averaged 4.4 yards per pass but also was sacked 4 times (all in the second half) as well and that is most likely due to trading away their starting center Logan Mankins. The Vikings however will be without Adrian Peterson this week as I mentioned above due to being indicted for child abuse. The Vikings don’t have Toby Gerhart to lean on in AP’s absence so the running game will struggle. The Patriots don’t often lose 2 games in a row so look for the Patriots to bounce back. The line for the game opened at +3 for the Vikings and have only changed to +6 with the AP news. I’m surprised it didn’t move more given what AP can do with the rock. With this in mind, you have to take the Patriots with the points to win in the Under. Pats 27-14.
New Orleans Saints vs. Cleveland Browns,
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Saints -6 O/U: 47.5:
The Saints are typically average on the road which proved to be the point for the defense as the Falcons slammed the Saints D for 568 yards. Drew Brees looked in mid season form with his 333 yard performance almost getting to 70% completion percent but only found the end zone once. The run game for the Saints averaged 4 yards per carry which is above par from last year (3.8 per carry for the whole season). The Browns surprisingly kept up with the Steelers last year losing by a last second field goal. Credit the Browns running game for keeping them in the game with the Steelers (30 carries for 183 yards, 6 yds avg. per carry). Hoyer was good enough (completing 61% of his passes for 230 yards, 1 TD) but the inexperience with having to share time with Manziel in the pre season has set the air game a bit back. Expect the Saints to continue their air offense dominance with Brees and new weapon, rookie Brandon Cooks (7 catches for 77 yards and 1 TD). Take the Saints -6 in the Over. Saints 34-14.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Cincinnati Bengals,
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Bengals –5. O/U: 48.5:
The Bengals have covered the spread in all homes games last year and in the last handful of seasons, teams that played the Saints the week before only have won 38% of their next weeks games. When you play the Saints, there area lot of things you have to cover to stop them defensively and they are one of the quickest paced teams causing more fatigue than normal. Andy Daulton and AJ Green looked like they hadn’t stopped playing pitch and catch since the 2013 season ended. Daulton had a 301 yard game but with just 1 TD to AJ who caught 6 passes for 131 yards. They had to make up for a lackluster run game which only racked up 79 yards against the Ravens in Baltimore. The Falcons brought it against the Saints and Matt Ryan blew up for 448 yards and 3 scores in the season opener at home. He didn’t look affected by the absence of Tony Gonzalez. Follow the stats in this one. Bengals undefeated at home last year while covering in all of those games and the week after playing the Saints, NFL teams usually lose. Take the Bengals to win -5 in the Over. Bengals 30-24.
Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers,
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Panthers -2.5. O/U: 43.5:
Cam is back in action this week and we got a taste of what this new receiving core can do last week. Fill in Derek Anderson completed 71% of his throws for 230 yards and a pair of scores, doing his best to fill in for Cam being out rehabbing his ribs. Rookie Kelvin Benjamin showed flashes of what he can provide Cam this year with his 6 catches for 92 yards and a TD. DeAngelo Williams showed flashes of a younger self carrying the ball 14 times for 72 yards but is questionable Sunday with a thigh injury. Stafford to Megatron was the show and accounted for 2 early TD’s on back to back drives. Rushing the ball for the Lions, on the other hand, was not as plentiful as the air game with just 76 yards on 30 carries! Just 2 yards on average per run! Reggie was kept quiet on the ground but made some noise through the air. Expect much of the same from the Lions but be weary, the Lions are known for their inconsistency from week to week. Hopefully that changes with their new coach. Still, I would take the Lions getting +2.5 points on the road and to win in the Over largely because of Stafford’s 2nd weapon Golden Tate who had 6 catches for 93 yards (44 yards his longest catch). Lions 31-27.
St. Louis Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers,
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Buccaneers -2.5 O/U: 38:
Both teams walked out of week 1 with key injuries and some will miss this Sunday’s matchup. Rams DE Chris Long will be out until mid November with ankle surgery, QB Shaun Hill quad strain. The Buccs DE Gholston has a shoulder issue, DE Bowers has an abdominal tear, DE Johnson will be out with an ankle injury, DE Clayborn was placed on the I-R with a torn Bicep, DB Melvin out with an ankle injury, CB Mike Jenkins was placed on the I-R tearing his pectoral muscle, TE Seferian-Jenkins is out with an ankle injury and G/C Logan Mankins with a left knee issue as well as RB Doug Martin. Did you get all of that? Neither teams offense had much success in the first week and struggled to get anything going on the ground. Doug Martin had 9 carries for 9 yards before leaving the game injured. He hasn’t been the same since his rookie year. The Buccs need veteran McCown to help lead the younger offense through this season to get into a rhythm like he had with the Bears last year. That might start this game since the Rams are struggling to find their identity on offense (and struggling to find a reliable starting QB) let alone losing a huge leader for their D. It will be sloppy, it will be boring. Take the Buccs at home with the points -2.5 and in the Under. Buccs 24-13.
Seattle Seahawks vs. San Diego Chargers,
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Seahawks –6 O/U: 44.5:
Long rest versus short rest. The Seahawks played a week and a half ago in the 2014 NFL opener at home against the Packers while the Chargers were in Arizona on Monday night. The Seahawks dominated the Packers from the get-go and won handidly against a great Aaron Rodgers but head to San Diego who faced no push over on Monday night, the Arizona Cardinals. The Chargers had a hard time getting the ball moving on the ground with just 52 totals team rushing yards and the game was a bit of a snoozer in the first half but losing by 1 on the road will have Rivers fired up for Sunday. He’s already mentioned to the media that he will not be scared to throw it Richard Sherman’s way, unlike Rodgers who didn’t test the corner all game long in the 2014 NFL season opener. The Seahawks are unreal/dominating at home and good enough on the road. Most of their road wins are close games even against mediocre teams, this may be the same case given how well the Chargers improved last year. The points have changed drastically since the opening of the line at +3.5. However, now it’s up to +6 for the Bolts which makes this a juicy action game. I like the Seahawks still wining this game however take the Chargers +6 at home in the Over. Seahawks 24-21.
Houston Texans vs. Oakland Raiders,
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Texans -2.5. O/U: 39.5:
Houston is coming out of a week where they lost their #1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney at least until mid October to microscopic knee surgery and who saw their average starting QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, played, well, average. Arian Foster sort of got back to his old form, rushing 27 times for 103 yards for only 3.8 yards per carry. Oakland decided to go against starting the former Texans starting star QB Matt Schaub and instead went with the highly touted rookie Derek Carr. Carr didn’t disappoint, completing 63% of his passes for only 151 yards but for 2 TD’s and 0 picks. Their rushing game however, probably the worst in the league at this point, rushing for only 25 yards on 15 carries, with 3 different backs and Carr with a run for -1 yard. Word is Maurice Jones-Drew is out for Sunday so it’s Darren McFadden’s show if he can stay healthy. He performed the best, 4 rushes for 15 yards averaging 3.8 yards per carry. With Carr showing what he can do and if the running game doesn’t get going again, look for the Raiders to give him a ton of work. I don’t see Fitzpatrick being the Texans solution at QB since Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins need a QB that has the arm strength to drive the ball down the field, which Fitz can’t do. Look for the Texans to have a heavy dose of rushing in their offensive gameplay with the Raiders giving up over 200 yards on the ground to 4 different rushers. That will give them control of most of the game’s time of possession. Expect a low scoring game but the Texans to hold on to get a win. Take the Texans with the points -2.5 in the Over. Texans 24-20.
New York Jets vs. Green Bay Packers,
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Packers -8 O/U: 46:
The Packer fans were optimistic coming into the season opener against the Super Bowl Champs. They left disappointed. The Packers were embarrassed, much like the Broncos were back in February, which also had snap issues like Peyton did early in the SB. The Packers only scored 8 more points than the high octane offense of Denver. Eddie Lacy was diagnosed with a concussion and is probable for Sunday but expected to play. The Packers T Bulaga suffered a torn MCL last week, and yes is still questionable for Sunday. The Packers struggled to get going on the ground rushing only for 80 yards which didn’t bode well for Rodgers who only passed for 189 yards with a TD and a INT but completing 70% of his throws however only averaging 5.7 per attempt. Geno Smith did exceptionally well for the Jets last week, completing 82% of his passes for 221 yards with a TD and INT but also set the rushing game up for a big day, over 200 yards on the ground! The Jets were only able to score 2 offensive TD’s due to a pair of turnovers on consecutive drives and 5 stalled drives resulting in a punt. They did have 3 long drives (81-Fumble, 80-TD, 71-TD). Geno is still learning but it’s 2nd year time now, there shouldn’t be much of a curve in his game so look for him to be more consistent especially now with new weapon, Eric Decker. Jordy Nelson saw 14 targets and came up with some huge catches out of his 9 receptions for 83 yards. The corners are not as good on the Jets so look for Rodgers to pick them apart with having both Cobbs and Nelson healthy. Don’t look too much into the Jets only allowing Oakland to have 25 rushing yards. Oakland has an aging MJD and an up and down back in DMC. Take the Packers to win with the points -8 in the Over. Packers 31-20.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos,
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Broncos -10.5 O/U: 52
Peyton wasn’t kidding when he said Wes Welker will be hard to replace. He relied heavily on his TE Julius Thomas, who had 3 TD’s all in the 2nd quarter, much to his fantasy owners delight. Even though Peyton didn’t have his typical 300/400/500 yards passing, he got the Broncos up big and early, leading 24-7 at the half. Their defense only allowed 54 yards (3.8 average yards per carry) on the ground but Indy had to turn to the air early and often to catch back up to the Broncos. The Chiefs were stunned last week by a very determined Titans group under their new coach Ken Whisenhunt. The usually stellar defense of the Chiefs we slashed for 162 yards on the ground while Jake Locker tallied 266 yards through the air. KC’s offense just down right fizzled. Alex Smith looked like he did from his first 6-7 years in the league, terrible completion percentage and TD/INT ratio (1/3). Don’t get me started on the running game. An abysmal 67 yards with Alex Smith leading the way with 36 of those. Jamaal Charles had 19 yards, and he didn’t leave early due to injury….maybe due to damage to his pride or ego which made him check out mentally. Clearly the only option they looked at in the air game was Donny Avery who had 7 catches for 84 yards. Dwayne Bowe is expected to be back in the lineup after serving his suspension last week, so look for the Chiefs to rebound with one more weapon on the field. But still, we are talking about the Broncos here, so take them to win with the points -10.5 in the Over. Broncos 34-21.
Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers,
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: 49ers -7. O/U: 48.5:
Last but not least on the docket for Sunday night, the Bears go on the road to avenge their home opener loss to the underdog Bills. This will be a tough one for them however, due to Brandon Marshall having ankle issues and Alshon Jeffrey having hamstring issues even sitting out of practice on Thursday. Both Cutler and Kaepernick completed 69% of their passes! Cutler with more yards but also 2 picks to Kaep’s 0. Matt Forte proved to be as solid as ever having 17 carries for 82 yards and 8 catches for 87 yards. Tons of questions followed the 49ers defense, wondering if they could stop Tony Romo and the high flying Cowboys offense, boy did they ever. They caused Tony to throw 3 picks in the first half. The Cowboys also fumbled 3 times recovering only 1 but scoring on the first caused fumble early in the first quarter. In the last few years they prove that they could win without Aldon Smith, well, they did it again and will continue to do so here against the Cowboys. At this point the 49ers are the obvious pick. They were more consistent last week but Kaep has to target more than 4 receivers to win. The Bears can keep it close if Marshall and Jeffrey are healthy. Take the Bears with the points +7 but the 49ers to win in the Over. 49ers 30-24.
Look for my Monday night preview between the Eagles and Colts, tomorrow.