- After the Falcons and Giants suffered tight season-opening losses, both teams have value heading into Week 2. Who else do our experts like to cover this week?
If you were fortunate enough to get down on a four-team parlay with the picks that were delivered last week, you undoubtedly had a far more profitable NFL Week 1 than most. Not only did our quartet of Best Bets deliver a perfect 4-0 ATS record, but the picks beat the spread by an average of 14 points per game. Here are who our experts like against the spread as Week 2 rolls around.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-5)
Sun. 9/16, 1:00 p.m. EST
Pick: Atlanta -5
The Panthers defense was certainly impressive while holding the Cowboys to one score, yet the result was due in large part to the one-dimensional nature of a Dallas offense that lacks playmakers in its passing game. Carolina won't have the same luxury this week, as Atlanta’s Julio Jones is arguably the NFL’s best pure playmaker at the position, averaging 137.3 receiving yards per game in six meetings with Carolina since the start of 2015. The Falcons are coming off three more days of rest than the Panthers after having played in Philadelphia last Thursday, a game Atlanta lost to the defending Super Bowl champions by six points after failing to score on four consecutive passes inside the red zone before time expired. The Falcons are 8-2 both straight up and against the spread at home against Carolina since the start of the 2008 season—seven of those eight victories have been by seven or more points, which include victories by 15 and 12 in 2016 and ’17, respectively. The ultimate difference in this game will be the fact that, unlike Dallas, Atlanta possesses the playmakers in the passing game to take advantage of the Panthers’ biggest weakness, which is the team’s secondary. –Scott Gramling
Indianapolis Colts at Washington Redskins (-5.5)
Sun. 9/16, 1:00 p.m. EST
Pick: Washington -5.5
Whether or not you thought highly of Arizona heading into the season, Washington’s 24-6 win in Glendale was impressive. The Redskins didn’t skip a beat with Alex Smith replacing Kirk Cousins under center, and running backs Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson provided an interesting 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Head coach Jay Gruden knows how to get the most out of his talent, and I expect his team to show up in the home opener this week.
The Colts are coming off of a disappointing home loss to the Bengals in Week 1, and their defense looked nearly as bad as it did throughout last season. Andy Dalton faced little resistance from the Indianapolis secondary, completing 21 of 28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Joe Mixon rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on only 17 carries. As a whole, the Redskins should be able to replicate that performance. But Washington also happens to be a lot better defensively than Cincinnati, and the Redskins secondary—especially cornerback Josh Norman—should make things difficult on Andrew Luck’s favorite target, T.Y. Hilton. –Zachary Cohen
Sun. 9/16, 4:25 p.m. EST
Pick: New England -2
Even before Nick Foles lit them up in the Super Bowl, defense was an Achilles' heel for the Patriots all last season. They finished 29th in the NFL in total defense, and it nearly cost them the AFC Championship Game against Jacksonville. The Jaguars controlled the ball for 35 minutes of the game, put up 374 yards of total offense, and received 293 yards through the air from Blake Bortles. Even in the Jags' 45-point outburst against Pittsburgh a week earlier, Bortles had thrown for only 214 yards.
The Pats revamped their D over the offseason, paying special attention to addressing the pass rush. It looked to pay off in Week 1, when New England largely shut down Deshaun Watson in a 27-20 victory a year after the Texans quarterback had picked them apart. With star Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette likely to be limited—if not out entirely—as he recovers from a hamstring injury suffered in Week 1, the Patriots should have an easier time stopping this Jacksonville offense than they did in January.
The Jaguars played two regular season games at home against playoff teams in 2017, losing to the Titans and Rams by an average of 15.5 points. The Patriots are 4-0 both straight up and against the spread over the last two regular seasons when favored by a field goal or less, and they covered the spread by an average of 12.5 points in those four contests. Getting New England favored by less than a field goal is a no-brainer here. –Sam Chase
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-3)
Sun. 9/16, 8:20 p.m. EST
Pick: New York +3
Cowboys skeptics were vindicated by an opening-week performance that exposed the lack of playmaking skill in Dallas. Cole Beasley and a middling crew of receivers couldn’t open up the defense enough for Ezekiel Elliott to run wild—Beasley had 73 receiving yards; no other Cowboy had more than 27—putting even more pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott.
While the Giants offense was similarly bottled up against Jacksonville, it came against a Super Bowl-caliber defense—yet Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. still managed 100-plus-yard days in a five-point loss. Eli Manning spread the ball around nicely with 224 passing yards. When he faces Dallas, look for his playmakers to do even more damage on the ground and through the air.
This NFC East rivalry often sees the road team come through—9-7 outright since 2010 despite the fact that the home team has been favored in 11 of those 16 games—and the Giants are a fine moneyline bet. Their Week 1 errors were largely self-inflicted, and despite the loss, there’s a tangible sense of potential with this team. Dallas’ ceiling is much lower, and its status as a field-goal favorite is a reach at best. –Ed McGrogan