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NFL Lines 2014, Week 2

September 13, 2014

Thursday Night Recap

Well, the outcome of Thursday’s game (with Baltimore winning – and covering – by a score of 26-6 vs. Pittsburgh) was a disappointment. But as the saying goes, when you lose, don’t lose the lesson. Bill Barnwell from Grantland and I are thinking along the same, uh, lines this week. Bill’s latest column addressed teams that will be desperate to avoid going 0-2 to start the season. (All teams are desperate to avoid this, but some have greater expectations for the season than others.)

This was effectively the situation in Baltimore on Thursday night. The Ravens had lost to Cincinnati in week 1; a second loss to an AFC North team could very well have doomed their season. This is something to consider when evaluating the lines this week. Some teams will be desperate to win and be able to do something about it, others are likely doomed to lose.

Barnwell identifies four teams in particular who need to avoid starting the season 0-2:

  • Chicago
  • Kansas City
  • Indianapolis, and
  • San Diego.

Can they win this week? Will they even be able to cover the line? Let’s get to the picks for week 2!

Detroit at Carolina -2.5

Some factors to consider in this matchup:

  • As with the Baltimore game on Thursday, in Carolina you have a home team giving less than a field goal. That’s tough to pass up, even though Carolina won (at Tampa Bay) in week 1 and don’t find themselves in as desperate a situation as the Ravens.
  • Cam Newton is back for the Panthers.
  • The Panthers defense should execute much better than the Giants did against the Lions in week 1.

Miami +1 at Buffalo

At this point, you might be confused: if Baltimore and Carolina are good bets because they are home teams giving less than a field goal, why not take Buffalo here? Three reasons:

  • Miami is traditionally a good road team, so I’m comfortable taking them here. If they were playing in Buffalo in late December, it might be a different story.
  • While Buffalo’s defense was pretty good against the Bears in week 1, the Bears were hampered offensively by some injuries, and Miami comes in healthy (albeit with Ryan Tannehill).
  • At the end of the pre-season, Buffalo was the team I was most excited to go against this year. It’s possible they’ve righted the ship, but I’m not going to buy in too much based on a single win against a team with a bad defense and special teams.

Jacksonville +6 at Washington

This line is as simple as this: Washington isn’t good enough to be giving six points to anyone. Jacksonville blew the cover late against Philadelphia in week 1, and Washington was simply walloped in Houston. The Texans have a much better defense than the Jaguars, but I still expect Washington to struggle. This could be one of those early season lines where Vegas is still working on adjusting to the reality of each team.

Dallas at Tennessee -3

This is also a pretty straightforward line: Dallas is terrible, and the Titans looked pretty good against an underachieving Chiefs team in week 1.

Arizona -2 at NY Giants

I think the Cardinals were a little surprised by how hard they had to work to win at home against San Diego in week 1, but a lot of NFL experts were touting San Diego as a sleeper team this year. No one is picking the Giants as a sleeper team this year. It’s very likely they will be every bit as bad as they were in their 35-14 loss in week 1.

New England -6 at Minnesota

I hate this pick. The game started out New England -3, as if Vegas were just daring Boston fans to give points on the road two weeks in a row after getting blown out in Miami in week 1. Then the Adrian Peterson news broke, and the line jumped to Patriots -6. The Vikings still have a number of factors going for them, including:

  • Playing in their home opener.
  • Revenge game for Matt Cassel against his old team
  • Cordarrelle Patterson is a potent offensive weapon.
  • Their defense was outstanding last week.

Why go with the Patriots, then?

  • The Pats had a 10-point lead at halftime last week before wilting in the Miami heat. That won’t be an issue in Minnesota.
  • The Vikings looked great against Shaun Hill, but Tom Brady is a little bit better of a QB than Hill.
  • Belichick hasn’t lost back-to-back season openers since 2001.

An old gambling adage is, if you don’t think the underdog can win the game outright, don’t take the points.

New Orleans – 6.5 at Cleveland

The Saints probably should’ve been on Barnwell’s list of teams desperate not to go 0-2 to start the season. He figured the team will be fine even with a loss to the Browns, but if you’re losing to Cleveland this year, the wheels have come off the bus. The Browns have a couple of offensive X factors in rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, but the Saints really only struggled against the pass last week vs. the Falcons, and the Browns don’t have a receiving corps that comes close to what Atlanta does.

Atlanta at Cincinnati – 5.5

This was the most surprising line of the week. After the Falcons’ performance against the Saints, I’d have thought this would have been a three-point game. So why would Vegas make the Bengals such a big favorite? Certainly, their defense looked great for the majority of the game against the Ravens last week. And the Falcons don’t have much of a running game, either. In this case, I think Vegas tipped their hand a bit. I think they could’ve gotten just as much money from Atlanta supporters if they made the line -3.5, but they’re a bit desperate to have Falcons’ money because they expect Cincinnati to win big.

St. Louis at Tampa Bay -6

It’s tough to give six points with as bad as Tampa Bay looked at home last week against Carolina, but the Panthers had one of the top defenses last year, and their performance in week 1 would indicate they haven’t fallen off by much. I simply can’t see Shaun Hill leading the team to a victory on the road.

Seattle at San Diego +5.5

This will be an interesting game if for no other reason than to see how well Seattle plays after being off for 10 days. Can San Diego win this game? I think they can. Seattle is better at home than they are on the road. The Chargers showed last week that they are an improved team from last year. The Chargers defense at home will prove a much greater challenge for the Seahawks than Green Bay’s did on the road against them in week 1. Yes, Seattle drubbed San Diego in the preseason this year, but that was in Seattle, and it was the preseason. If anything, San Diego probably learned more about Seattle from that game than vice versa.

Houston -3 at Oakland

This line is the gift of the week. The Raiders are a bad team again this year. The Texans will likely miss Jadeveon Clowney on defense, but this is J.J. Watt’s defense, not Clowney’s (yet).

NY Jets at Green Bay – 7.5

This is a tough one – 7.5 is a lot of points. I’m taking the Packers because I’m not sold on Geno Smith and Chris Johnson on the road, and the Packers have had 10 days to prepare for their home opener.

Kansas City at Denver -11.5

Are the Chiefs as bad as they looked in week 1 vs. Tennessee? Will Denver let another big lead slip away and blow the cover? I’m guessing Yes, and No. The Broncos defense will dominate throughout this matchup.

Chicago at San Francisco -7

I think this is another game where Vegas tipped its hand. I think they know exactly how bad the Bears are on defense, and the Bears have key injuries on offense this week as well. The 49ers might not be world beaters this year, but coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t afraid to run up the score on any opponent.

Philadelphia +3 at Indianapolis

I’m not sure Vegas knows what to expect in this game. Indy looked good in rallying against Denver last week (after the game was out of hand), but their defense just isn’t good. Philly almost blew their home opener against Jacksonville of all teams, but they showed just how dominant their offense can be, as well. Which team’s “good” version of itself will show up? I’m betting on the Eagles, since they will seize the opportunity to put even more distance between themselves and their hapless division rivals.

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