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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Sunday, 17 September 2017

NFL Week 2 Picks 2017 (September 14-18)

Arizona Cardinals @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: Week 1 could not have gone any worse for these two teams who may have seen their Super Bowl window close over the last couple of years. The Arizona Cardinals came into 2017 hoping Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald can give them one more solid year, but Palmer's decline from last season looks like one that he won't be able to reverse.

Losing David Johnson to injury really hurt the Arizona Cardinals with the Running Back being a huge part of the Offensive game plan that Bruce Arians had. The Head Coach was already disappointed by the lack of effort from the Receivers before the season began and now the Cardinals may be forced to throw the ball a lot more than they would wish.

That won't bode well for them after seeing the Offensive Line fall apart under the immense pressure the Detroit Lions were able to put on them. While I think Palmer has declined as a Quarter Back, it won't help matters when he is given as little time as he was in Week 1 which in turn led to some really poor Interceptions throw.

At least this week Palmer may feel he can get a little more time in the pocket as the Indianapolis Colts have not really generated a huge pass rush for some time. That lack of pressure and missing a key player in Vontae Davis in the Secondary allowed Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams have the kind of statistical day that that franchise may not have seen since they used to send out the 'Greatest Show on Turf' in the early part of the century.

Giving Palmer time should see the Quarter Back still able to make some plays and this may be one game where the absence of David Johnson is not felt as much as it will in the weeks ahead.

The Offensive problems have been clear to anyone who has watched the Arizona Cardinals over the last twelve months, but the Defensive unit continue to play at a decent level. They could have a really good day if Indianapolis continue to start Scott Tolzien at Quarter Back after he threw two pick-sixes last week in the blow out loss to the Rams.

Tolzien is playing because Andrew Luck is still out with an injury and he has looked as bad as most expected he may be. There is a feeling that Chuck Pagano is going to start Jacoby Brissett who has been signed from the New England Patriots in a trade earlier this month and Brissett may be a huge upgrade even if he does not know the Offensive game plan as well as he would want.

No matter who begins at Quarter Back, the banged up Offensive Line is going to do well to keep them well protected and offer them the time to throw the ball downfield. Chandler Jones could have a big game getting pressure on the Offensive Line and the Cardinals will feel they have the Secondary to cover the Indianapolis Receiving weapons especially if Tolzien/Brissett are throwing under duress.

Arizona played the run effectively in Week 1 and they do look capable of preventing the Colts building too much from there. That means it will be down to the Quarter Back to keep them in this one and that looks a tall order.

Neither team is a good one so backing one as a road favourite of this number looks a terrible decision on the face of things. However I do think the Cardinals have enough Offensive power to give them every chance of winning this one by double digits against an Indianapolis team who stunk in Week 1 and look pretty terrible across the board. At least the Cardinals have some positives about them and I think they can cover the absence of David Johnson this week as I look for them to be stronger on both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage to win and cover on the road.

Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars Pick: The last time the Tennessee Titans visited the Jacksonville Jaguars they lost Marcus Mariota to a severe injury and they were blown out here by their Divisional rival. Mariota has returned in time for the 2017 season and him and the Titans will be looking to get some revenge over the Jaguars, while also getting back to 1-1 after dropping their home opener to the much fancied Oakland Raiders.

It will be a confident Jacksonville who take to the field having knocked off the AFC South Champions Houston Texans on the road last week as the Jaguars took them to Sack City. The Jaguars were able to dominate the line of scrimmage with new signing Calais Campbell showing why he was paid as much as he was to hold the centre of the Defensive Line.

The Titans are not intimidated by what the Jaguars did last week as they will feel their Offensive Line is superior to the one that the Houston Texans have. They have also spoken about the mobility of Mariota which means he can get away from the pass rush better than Tom Savage and the Quarter Back has shown he can make plays on the run which is a problem for a Secondary who may be missing Jalen Ramsay.

Another factor that could be key is the way the Titans are able to run the ball with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the backfield. Running the ball effectively is another way of slowing down the pass rush and Tennessee do think they can pick up chunks of yards on the ground against any team they play which is another way they can move the chains in this one.

This does feel like a game in which Tennessee will have success moving the chains, but the Jaguars may be confident in their own Offensive unit even if Allan Robinson has been ruled out for the season. Losing Robinson is big for Blake Bortles who may be in the last chance saloon to prove he is the Quarter Back of the franchise, but he will have been overjoyed to see Leonard Fournette running the ball as well as he did in his NFL debut.

However he many not find the same running lanes in this one with the Titans strong up front and looking to show their dominance at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Secondary may not be as strong, but Tennessee will be looking to contain Fournette and then send pressure to get after Bortles at Quarter Back and look for the mistakes that have usually blighted the Quarter Back's career in the NFL.

Any time you feel a team is going to win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball you have to think that team is going to win the game. The Tennessee Titans look the team to do that in this Divisional game, although they have lost on their last three visits here which does temper some of the enthusiasm.

On the other hand Tennessee have to motivated for revenge after losing their Play Off bid here and Marcus Mariota is surely keen to exorcise memories of the injury suffered here. The Jaguars are also heading to London for the first NFL International Series game and you can't ignored the 10-20-2 record teams have against the spread prior to travelling across the Atlantic Ocean.

Jacksonville are also 2-6 against the spread when coming off a blow out win of 14 points or more and I am going to look for the Titans to earn the win and cover on the road this week.

Minnesota Vikings @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick:The one thing you don't want to do after Week 1 of the NFL is having a massive overreaction to the set of results that come back. If this game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings was played last week without any results, I am not sure the spread would not be a little bit bigger than the one we have seen.

In saying that, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still pretty big favourites to win this game and I do think they can get the better of the Vikings in this battle of two 1-0 teams. The stronger performance in Week 1 did come from the Vikings, but they are on a short week and there are still some questions to be answered about their team in general.

The biggest one may be the status of Sam Bradford who had some soreness in the knees after the Monday Night Football win over the New Orleans Saints. It does look like Bradford will play this week, but he has to expect a much tougher test from the Steelers compared with the one he saw against the Saints Defensive unit last week.

Bradford had a huge game against New Orleans, but he was given plenty of time up front and that may not be the case when he goes up against the Steelers. Last week Pittsburgh managed to get into the backfield against the Cleveland Browns who have a decent enough Offensive Line or at least one that compares with the Vikings one and so it may be a lot more difficult for Bradford to make plays, especially if his knees means the mobility is limited too.

Usually Bradford may decide to lean on his running game, but this is going to be a much tougher day for Dalvin Cook than it was on Monday in his first NFL game. The Steel Curtain may not be as strong as it once was, but Pittsburgh managed to shut down Isaiah Crowell last week and they can at least limit Cook which may just slow down the entire Minnesota Offensive unit.

However to cover this kind of number it will need Pittsburgh to be much more on the same page Offensively than they were in the win over Cleveland. Le'Veon Bell was particularly quiet as he only just returned to the team after holding out, and Bell may have some real problems in this one with the way Minnesota's Defensive Line played last week. Instead Bell could be a threat as a Receiver here as the Steelers lean on Ben Roethlisberger to make the plays at Quarter Back after a pretty average week of his own.

Roethlisberger does play much better at home than on the road and he will likely be encouraged by the way the New Orleans Offensive unit were able to make plays through the air in Week 1. With Antonio Brown, Bell and Martavis Bryant in the line up, the Steelers should be able to make some big plays through the air against a decent Minnesota Defense.

It looks like the Steelers are not a public backed team this week against the spread and I very much prefer backing them when that is the case. While I have to respect the points this solid Minnesota team are getting, Pittsburgh are much stronger at home and I think they can make the plays on both sides of the ball to win this game by around a Touchdown which will be enough to cover this number.

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick: There is a lot of excitement in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers camp for the kind of season they can have in 2017, but the players will go into Week 2 thinking about all the people who have been affected by Hurricane Irma. Irma meant the Tampa Bay opener at the Miami Dolphins was cancelled and so the players might be a little undercooked for this one.

They are facing the Chicago Bears who came so close to upsetting NFC Champions the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 and will hope that is a sign of how they can exceed expectations in 2017. The Bears may have some insight in this one from their new Quarter Back Mike Glennon who came to Chicago after beginning his NFL career with the Buccaneers.

Glennon didn't have to do a lot last week with the Chicago running game working wonders against the Falcons. The Bears will be hoping Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen can continue where they left off last week, but that might not be so easy against the Buccaneers who have a Defensive Line that should be capable of stopping the run.

Gerald McCoy and Chris Baker are capable of slowing down the Bears and then being able to get a real push through the interior which should open up the Buccaneers pass rush. The Chicago Offensive Line didn't mind opening running lanes, but they did not have a lot of success blocking the pass rush last week and that could be a real problem for them against Tampa Bay.

It will be a problem if the new look Tampa Bay Offensive unit is as good as people expect them to be. Jameis Winston is showing why he was picked Number 1 overall in the Draft as the face of the franchise, but he now has been given new weapons in OJ Howard and DeSean Jackson to join Mike Evans and I would expect Winston to have some nice numbers this season.

Winston will be throwing against a banged up Secondary who gave up over 300 passing yards to Matt Ryan last week and Winston has to feel he can pick up from that. There are a lot of Offensive weapons to cover and the Offensive Line looks like one that could be better than what they showed in 2016. The Bears pass rush has to be respected, but I think Winston will find enough time to make some big plays downfield.

Running the ball will be more difficult as Tampa Bay make do without Doug Martin and against a Bears Defensive unit whose strength may be stopping the run. Jerrell Freeman was injured last week and that is a blow for Chicago, one that may take some replacing.

Tampa Bay blew out Chicago at home last season and I am not going to overly concern myself at their lack of playing time due to the cancellation last week. The Buccaneers look like they could be one of the best teams in the NFC this season and I think they can take advantage of a Bears team who put in a huge effort last weekend and will face three established teams in Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Minnesota after this.

I will look for Chicago to perhaps overlook this game and Tampa Bay to show enough Defensively to force Mike Glennon to make a mistake or two. They will know what Glennon is capable of and I will look for Jameis Winston to show why he was given the starter job at Tampa Bay with another big performance employing some of his new toys on the Offense for a win and a cover here.

New York Jets @ Oakland Raiders Pick: This is one of the two really big mismatches as far as the oddsmakers are concerned in Week 2 and I am going to back the favourites to cover a big spread. That is a square way of thinking with the sharps already backing the New York Jets, but the Jets may be as bad as any team that has ever played in the NFL.

They are also facing a team in the Oakland Raiders who may be one of the favourites to win the Super Bowl and who have underlined their potential with a win at the Tennessee Titans last week. Derek Carr is back from a serious injury and looked like he had never been away, while the arrival of Marshawn Lynch has given the whole Offensive unit a boost.

There is a real feeling to say that the Raiders have the best Offensive Line in the NFL and now they are able to pave the way for Beast Mode which has to encourage them and motivate them to play hard. It makes it all the better for Lynch that he should have room to rumble simply because of the other Offensive weapons Oakland have around him which means the concentration can't be fully focused on slowing down Lynch.

Carr has two huge Receiving threats in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, while Jared Cook has come in from the Green Bay Packers at Tight End and this is going to be a huge challenge for a Jets team who are lacking talent. Even the Defensive Line was not up to the standard that would have been expected of New York and barring mistakes from the Oakland Raiders, this looks a team who can move the ball up and down the field.

The Defensive talent isn't up to scratch for the Jets, but there isn't much hope on the Offensive side of the ball until they get to the NFL Draft next April and pick the future franchise Quarter Back. Josh McCown has veteran experience, but there isn't a lot of places he can throw the ball and that is going to be a big problem for the Jets through the course of the season.

For all the Offensive power Oakland have, there are some questions about them Defensively that will need to be answered, although I don't anticipate them being asked here. The Jets struggled to run the ball in Buffalo last week and this is a long trip for them to make in Week 2 before facing a Divisional rival at home next week.

Motivation becomes a question for a dressing room that has tried to be see a better set of characters come together, but this feels a long season for them. With a spread like this it only takes a couple of things to go wrong, a turnover or two, which can see the underdog stay with the favourite, but I am struggling to see how the Jets score enough points here.

I do think Oakland should have their way with the Jets Defensive unit and I am looking for the Raiders to produce a big win here.

Dallas Cowboys @ Denver Broncos Pick: Whenever you look at the games upcoming on a Monday, you may have an idea of the kind of spreads you are expecting to see. I think most would have tabbed Denver Broncos as likely going into this Week 2 contest as the favourite with the game being played at Mile High, but it is the Dallas Cowboys who have been set as the team laying the points.

That is something of a surprise even if the Cowboys looked very good in beating the New York Giants last week. The strength of that win depends on how much you like the Giants as a football team in 2017, especially without Odell Beckham Jr.

Ezekiel Elliot looks set to play the full season for the Cowboys which is a huge bonus for Dallas, but they weren't all on the same page Offensively against a solid Giants Defensive unit. Now they face another strong Defensive team who will be looking to use that side of the ball to give them the chance to win games knowing the Offense is not going to be putting up a lot of points like they did in the first couple of years with Peyton Manning at Quarter Back.

The Broncos did shut down the Los Angeles Chargers' Running Backs last week, but they also held a big lead which meant the Chargers had to abandon that side of their game. This is a bigger test against the Dallas Offensive Line, even if it is one that is perhaps not as good as it was in 2016. Denver didn't get the pressure up front they would have liked in Week 1, but there is a very strong Secondary behind them which is capable of having success against Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams.

Dallas should still have their successes Offensively which means it will be up to Denver to show they can keep up on a short week having played the second of the Monday Night Football games in Week 1.

Over the last twelve months there have been big questions about the Denver Offensive unit which is being led by Trevor Siemian. The Quarter Back position should really have been taken over by Paxton Lynch in 2017, but Siemian was able to beat him out in preseason and he didn't play badly last week.

There were times he was guilty of holding the ball for too long as Siemian took too many Sacks last week which could be a problem in this one with the way the Cowboys generated a pass rush in Week 1. However that came against an Offensive Line that is not considered as strong as the one the Broncos will trot out onto the field and that is going to be a key battle in this one.

Dallas played well up front last week which is going to be a challenge for the Denver Broncos who will be looking to set up the run before the pass. Siemian himself showed he had some wheels last week and Denver also have CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles capable of running the ball.

The injury to Orlando Scandrick may also open up more holes in the Secondary for Siemian to exploit and I think there is every chance for Denver to earn the upset in this one.

Taking the points with the home underdog looks prudent when you think Denver are 19-9 against the spread as the home underdog. It would have been great if you could have got the Broncos with the full Field Goal worth of points, but they can win this one outright and I will take the Denver Broncos with the points.

Washington Redskins @ Los Angeles Rams Pick: This is already a big game in the NFC when one team is coming in off a blow out and the other was a home loser in Week 1. The Los Angeles Rams really impressed when beating Indianapolis Colts, but that was a much weaker team than the one they will face when the Washington Redskins come to town.

The Redskins were beaten at home by the Philadelphia Eagles and that already puts them in a weak position in the tough NFC East. There are questions about the Washington team this year which looks weaker across the board, but they still have some Offensive firepower which has to be respected.

Kirk Cousins is playing behind an Offensive Line which struggled in protection last week and now face another big test in the Los Angeles Rams Defensive Line which has Aaron Donald back in the heart of the line. The Rams managed to rattle Scott Tolzien into some big mistakes last week, and they should be able to at least rush Cousins with the way his protection broke down in the loss to the Eagles.

It should be noted that Philadelphia have one of the better Defensive Lines out there, but the Rams might be right up alongside them and so there should be plenty of penetration getting into the Washington backfield.

Most teams may look to run the ball to slow down any pass rush pressure, but that is not likely to be the case for Washington. While they will try to get the ball moving on the ground, the Offensive Line struggled to make holes in Week 1 and they won't find a lot more room to move the ball on the ground against the Rams.

You have to think things will be a lot more difficult for the Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff after a huge win last week over the Colts. Despite the Redskins having a Secondary that gave up some big numbers last week, it is difficult to know exactly where Goff is in his career having had a poor 2016 but looking a completely different player in the opening week of 2017.

Goff should be afforded time to make some big plays down field in this one and the confidence can't be asked to be any higher going into Week 2. It would be nice if the Offensive Line can get some holes opened for Todd Gurley who was more of a threat coming out of the backfield than when he was running the ball, but that might not be possible this week either.

That was the biggest concern for the Rams after Week 1 and they are facing a Washington Defensive Line who shut down Philadelphia on the ground last week too. Gurley may still be good enough to catch a few balls out of the backfield which he can turn into big gains and I do like the Rams to make it back to back wins.

Sean McVay is the Head Coach for Los Angeles and is facing his former team having been a Co-Ordinator in Washington last season and that has to be motivation for the Rams. Washington are 2-6 against the spread in the last eight against the Rams and they are 1-4 against the spread when they are coming off a blow out loss at home.

I do think the Los Angeles Rams are the team to back here despite the desperate nature that Washington may have after dropping the game last week. The Redskins have a long trip out to Los Angeles and I think McVay will set up a game plan that the Los Angeles Rams can execute to beat Washington and cover this number.

The Los Angeles Defensive unit can make the difference in the game and I will look for the home favourite to cover the number.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: The final pick from the Sunday NFL games in Week 2 sees me looking to back the other big favourite to win. The Seattle Seahawks are off a loss which means they should be focused against a Divisional rival San Francisco 49ers who were also beaten in Week 1.

The difference between the teams is the expectation levels with the Seahawks expected to make the Play Offs and the 49ers likely heading for a top five NFL Draft Pick in April. You have to expect San Francisco will come out for a big fight against a Divisional rival like Seattle, but the talent difference on both sides of the ball makes it difficult to see anything other than a fairly comfortable home win.

San Francisco struggled Offensively in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers and I still believe the Seahawks have one of the better Defensive units in the NFL. The 49ers couldn't get going on the ground last week against the Panthers and the feeling is they will be shut down by the Seattle Defensive Line which is stout against the run but also capable of getting to the Quarter Back with a limited pass rush.

That is an issue for Brian Hoyer who was hit and Sacked plenty of times last week and now faces a fearsome Defensive Line that likes to set the tone for the rest of the team. Jeremy Lane is back after being ejected last week to improve the Secondary and I am not sure Hoyer is going to have a lot of extended successes moving the chains in this one.

Points will thus be difficult to come by unless the Seattle Seahawks are turning the ball over in their own half of the field. It has been difficult in recent years for the San Francisco 49ers when coming to Seattle having failed to score more than 18 points in their last few visits here and that looks to be the case again in Week 2 of 2017.

Seattle will have some issues to resolve of their own after they struggled Offensively in Week 1 at the Green Bay Packers when the Offensive Line broke down. It might not be so obvious in this game as the 49ers have not really got a team with the kind of pass rush pressure that many other teams in the NFC can generate and even the limited pressure should be escaped by Russell Wilson who is strong outside of the pocket.

Overall the San Francisco Defensive unit didn't play badly in Week 1, but I think that has more to do with Carolina than their own play. Losing Rueben Foster at Linebacker is a blow and I do think the Seahawks can establish the run against them in Week 2 which will set them up to move the chains.

It won't always be easy for Seattle whose Offense is still a work in progress to say the least, The 49ers will play up to try and compete, but they are 0-5-1 against the spread in their last six games in Seattle and I think they will struggle again to put the points on the board to stay within this number. The last two games here in Seattle have ended in 16 and 19 point wins for the Seahawks and I think they can get to that kind of margin again in this one.

I like the fact Seattle are 20-8 against the spread in their last twenty-eight games following a loss. This is a big number but the Seahawks are good enough to cover it and I will back them to do that.

MY PICKS: Arizona Cardinals - 6.5 Points @ 1.86 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tennessee Titans - 1 Point @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Oakland Raiders - 13.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Denver Broncos + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Los Angeles Rams - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

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