Great Week 1 of the NFL for us! 4-1! Of course the one game I completely whiffed on was my beloved 49ers where I picked them to lose to the Steelers on the road. I should have known better! Well if there is ever a time to be happy to be wrong, last Sunday was that time!
I will have to keep my Week 2 picks short and sweet since it's late on a Friday night and I am taking my son on his first Boy Scouts event all day on Saturday. Like last week, I like the chalk. I took the favors against all rookie QBs and eating the chalk clearly paid off. Two of those rookie QBs play each other so I am not touching that game (Indianapolis at Houston) and Carolina hosts a Monday night game against a divisional opponent so that is a stay away game for me.
To me, there are three favors that represent excellent value: Cincinnati, Detroit, and Tampa Bay. None of them are favored by more than a touchdown and in fact the line has swung heavily in favor for two of these teams. Detroit opened as a 3 point favorite and is now favored by 4.5 points. Tampa Bay opened as a 1.5 point underdog and now see themselves favored by 2.5 points. As for the Bengals, I just think Burrow's kryptonite is Cleveland. He is 1-5 lifetime against Cleveland and his last three losses against the Browns were ugly: a combined deficit of 65 points. Burrow's game last week was arguably the worst of his career. I expect a big bounce back game for Burrow this Sunday at home against Baltimore. Keep in mind that Burrow is a Pro Bowl level QB. You can count on him to finish the season with 4,500 yards and 30+ TDs while keeping the interceptions under 15 for the season.
Another favor I like is San Francisco. I know, I know, I was against them last week. I learned my lesson. This 49ers team has a chip on its shoulder and they know their window to win a Super Bowl is now. I expect them to keep blowing the barn doors wide open for the first half of this season. The Rams looked good last week but they are no match for the 49ers. I feel comfortable giving up 7 points. 49ers should easily win by double digits.
There is one underdog I will select and that will be Jacksonville. Getting 3.5 points is a steal, especially for team that is at home and won last week by double digits whereas its opponent lost last week at home. Yes, the betting public is biased towards Patrick Mahomes and company and you can't blame them. Since 2018, Mahomes has a 64-17 record in the regular season and a 11-3 record in the postseason. He has won two Super Bowls, 3 AFC titles, and been to the AFC Championship game in each of the last 5 seasons. If anyone has supplanted Tom Brady as the golden boy of the NFL, it's Mahomes.
However, things are not looking so hot for the KC offense. The run game lacks punch, Kelce may not play, and the receiving corps is completely unreliable. The fact that Mahomes targeted 12 receivers last week with not one of them exceeding four targets is very telling of how poor the Chiefs passing game is right now. What's more telling is that the one player with 4 targets was Isiah Pacheco, their power running back! It's also going to be very, very hot in Jacksonville on Sunday. The heat index should reach 100 degrees with a high chance of rain. This is your typical Florida humidity which is to be expected since it's still summer. I just don't see the Chiefs doing much with the passing game in those conditions and the Jaguars should not be a 3.5 point underdog at home when they are a legitimate AFC playoff contender.
Well, now you know where I stand on my five picks! Still, I must provide score predictions and bit more analysis. Here we go!
- Cincinnati -3
Cleveland might own Burrow but Burrow owns Baltimore. In 2021, Burrow threw for nearly 1,000 yards in just two games against them. Each time he beat the Ravens by at least 20 points. Last year, Burrow went 2-1 against Baltimore with one of those wins coming in the playoffs. The Ravens are a solid team but they should have destroyed Houston last week. Now they are missing their top RB who tore his Achilles tendon last week and it out for the season. Burrow still has his full complement of weapons in Joe Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Burrow will have a much better game and perhaps he will figure out Cleveland later in the year. Cincinnati 28 - Baltimore 20.
- Detroit -4.5
This is not your father's Lions nor your grandfather's Lions. This team finally has a solid defense and plenty of depth at key positions on offense. They also have a QB who can steer the ship and competent coaching. The stars are all lining up for the Lions to end their 7 year playoff drought and win its first division title in 30 years. Gone is Aaron Rodgers, the Vikings are 0-2, and the Bears stink. This is the Lions chance to take the reins of the NFC North and not since the Barry Sanders days of the 90s has there been so much optimism for Detroit. They beat the defending champions on their own turf last week on national television and now they get a home game against a team that struggled last week. Rarely does Seattle lose by nearly 20 points at home but that is what happened last Sunday when they hosted a mediocre Rams team that was missing its star WR. Two starters on the offensive line for Seattle are out so I can see this game getting out of hand quickly. Expect Motor City to be humming on Sunday. Detroit 35 - Seattle 13.
- Tampa Bay -2.5
I mentioned that the Bears stink. Yes they do. I think Justin Fields is the problem. You can't just rely on your rushing skills if you wish to succeed as an NFL QB in the NFL. It's not sustainable. There is a litany of mobile QBs who initially impressed us with their ability to slice and dice through NFL defenses using their legs only to find out a year or two later that defensive coordinators will devise schemes to keep you in the pocket and force you to beat them through the air, not on the ground. Here are a few names to share: Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick, and Kordell Stewart. We drooled over these QBs early in their careers but they quickly learned that if you cannot develop a strong presence in the pocket that you will not last long in the NFL. Of course Vick lost a couple of years due to going to prison for running a dog fighting ring and Kaepernick was essentially blacklisted by the NFL owners for exercising his right to protest. Still, they were not as dominant on the ground once NFL defenses figured them out. You can throw Lamar Jackson into that group of QBs who has seen major regression in Years 3 and 4. Rarely do these QBs surpass 4,000 yards and 30 TDs which is what is needed to thrive as an NFL QB. I don't see Fields ever becoming that type of QB and the Bucs have a strong pass rush to make life difficult for him on Sunday. Plus it will be very hot and humid so I expect the linemen on both sides of the ball for Chicago to be completely gassed. Bucs will dominate in the trenches. Tampa Bay 31 - Chicago 10.
- Jacksonville +3.5
I think making the Jaguars a home dog by more than 3 points it a total slap in the face to Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence. Yes, the Jaguars are hosting the defending champions but Pederson and Lawrence are champions too. Pederson coached Philadelphia to its only Super Bowl title in 2017 and did very well there except for one bad season that unfortunately led to his firing. Lawrence beat Alabama for the national title during his freshman year in 2018. The Jaguars made a big leap last season by winning the division title and pulling off a miraculous comeback in the wild card round of the playoffs. The best thing Jacksonville did since drafting Lawrence was showing Urban Meyer the door and bringing in a better mentor for Lawrence so that he can realize his fullest potential. We are now seeing why Lawrence was the top pick in the 2021 draft. Much like Detroit, the Jaguars are an upstart team that no one should sleep on. Meanwhile Kansas City might be without Kelce and they could swelter in the Florida heat. Jaguars just don't cover, they outright win. Jacksonville 28 - Kansas City 24.
- San Francisco -7
I saved the best for last! Seven points is a decent number of points to give up but the 49ers are a team on a mission. After two straight years of heartbreak in the NFC title game, they are ready to break the door down en route to the Super Bowl in Sin City next February. Christian McCaffrey was impressive last week as well as Brandon Aiyuk but it's really pick your poison for Kyle Shanahan's offense. Lurking is Deebo Samuel who has owned the Rams and George Kittle who can easily have a big game. In fact the 49ers as a whole team own the Rams going 8-0 against them in the regular season since 2019. The one blemish is a 3 point loss in the NFC title game in 2021. I think the 49ers just ran out of steam as that was their 4th road game in as many weeks. The Rams are a former shell of themselves after winning the Super Bowl two years ago. They don't have the same hunger as the 49ers do who realize that their time to win is now. With Nick Bosa getting a big contract, it is imperative the 49ers cash in this year since it will be hard to keep everyone after a couple of years. Kudos to the 49ers for being patient with QB Brock Purdy who could wind up being one of the best values at QB in NFL draft history. The 49ers should win in impressive manner again this week. San Francisco 34 - LA Rams 17.
Enjoy the games this weekend and let's get that elusive 5-0 week!