When a team loses a big playoff game in overtime, that’s what they think about for months. Revenge fuels the offseason.
The New Orleans Saints’ situation is a little different. They lost a heartbreaker to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game, but their scorn has been mostly toward the officials rather than the Rams. The Saints felt they were robbed by a non-call on a blatant pass interference. The NFL changed its replay rules in the offseason after that play.
The Saints get the Rams again in Los Angeles on Sunday, and while a win wouldn’t make up for that NFC title game loss, it would be a nice quality win early in the season.
The Rams are hard to figure out. They got a nice road win at the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 (though that win doesn’t look quite as good after Thursday night). But Todd Gurley still isn’t the superstar we came to know. The passing game isn’t nearly what it was, a carryover from late last season. Jared Goff had just 186 yards on 39 attempts last week. Perhaps teams have figured out the Rams’ play-action heavy approach.
The Saints weren’t perfect in Week 1, but Drew Brees’ clutch drive and Wil Lutz’s great kick pulled out a thrilling win over the Houston Texans. The defense had its issues but most teams will struggle to slow down Deshaun Watson. There’s a lot of talent on the roster, the offense put up more than 500 yards and they’ll be motivated this week.
The line is telling. The Rams are favored, but by less than a field goal. The line is 2.5. You’d expect the Rams to be getting the full field goal, but shading it down shows some respect to the Saints. I’ll take the Saints to cover and win outright. There are a few questions about the Rams. Whoever wins will have a big edge later for home-field advantage in the playoffs, if we get a rematch.
Here are the rest of the picks for Week 2:
Vikings (+3) over Packers: We all overreact to Week 1. We wait seven months for NFL football to return, and we’ll pick apart the one-game sample size. But some overreactions are justified and a look at things to come. Patrick Mahomes’ great game against the Chargers in last season’s opener is a prime example. The Vikings looked amazing last week. They destroyed the Falcons; the 28-12 final didn’t indicate how dominant they were. The Packers defense looked good but the offense didn’t. It’s hard to tell if the Packers are still grasping a new scheme or if we can excuse that performance due to the Bears defense. Either way, I’m buying the Vikings and am happy to grab a field goal.
Steelers (-4) over Seahawks: When you watch games, sometimes you realize the wrong team won. Seattle did not deserve to beat Cincinnati last week. They were out-gained 429-232 at home. It was a bit alarming, though the concern isn’t heightened because they won. Meanwhile there’s panic in Pittsburgh after the Steelers got blown out. I think they bounce back at home.
Cardinals (+13) over Ravens: Did the Cardinals figure some things out in the fourth quarter and overtime of that crazy comeback against the Lions? It was odd to hear that Kliff Kingsbury said he wouldn’t go with heavy four-receiver personnel that got the Cardinals going last week — why would you go with the strategy that was awful in the first three quarters over the approach that worked? — but we’ll see. Lamar Jackson looked great last week but this is too many points. (The line is Cardinals plus-13.5 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Jaguars (+9) over Texans: The line on this game was minus-3 last week before the Nick Foles injury. Maybe there should be a 6-point adjustment for Gardner Minshew, but it seems like a lot. And teams generally rally around a backup quarterback in his first start. Minshew did look solid against the Chiefs. I’ll hope for the Jaguars defense to bounce back and keep it close.
Browns (-2.5) over Jets: The line for this game was set in the SuperContest and on the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em before news that Sam Darnold was out with mono. The line moved to 6.5 in Las Vegas. It’s not often you get 4 free points on an NFL game. It’s OK to take the free square on the bingo card.
And the rest of the picks ...
Panthers (-6.5) over Buccaneers (Thursday): Forgot to put this pick on Twitter but I had Carolina. We have to recalibrate the Panthers after seeing that Cam Newton might not be the same player.
49ers (+1.5) over Bengals: This line has moved a lot. The look-ahead line at the Westgate, set before Week 1, had the 49ers favored by 2.5. After Week 1, the line opened with the 49ers as a 2-point favorite. It has moved 3.5 points since then. You don’t see that too often in the NFL unless there’s an injury. But why? The Bengals looked a lot better than expected in Week 1 and the 49ers needed a parade of Jameis Winston interceptions to win. But this seems like a prime Week 1 overreaction.
Lions (+2.5) over Chargers: The Chargers will be without Melvin Gordon, Russell Okung, Hunter Henry, Derwin James and probably Mike Williams. That’s a heavy injury (and holdout) list, and they travel east for an early game. The Lions blew last week’s win, but they’re catching a beat-up Chargers team.
Colts (+3) over Titans: I thought the Colts battled hard against the Chargers. The Titans obviously looked very good too, in blowing out the Browns. I need to see the Titans do it again, and will cautiously take the underdog Colts to cover.
Dolphins (+19) over Patriots: Just a reminder: You don’t need to play every game (though we pick every game here). I hate taking any NFL team laying 19 points on the road, but don’t love the Dolphins either. I’ll take Miami and hope that Bill Belichick eases up on Brian Flores, his old defensive coordinator.
Bills (-1.5) over Giants: The Bills defense might be really good. They throttled the Jets last week. New York has a lot of injuries at receiver, which isn’t ideal. The Giants defense also looked pretty bad at Dallas.
Redskins (+4.5) over Cowboys: The Cowboys looked great, and perhaps they roll here. But I generally will take more than a field goal for a home team in an NFC East rivalry game.
Chiefs (-7.5) over Raiders: Are the Raiders that much better, or are the Broncos really bad? It’s tough to tell after one week. I do know the Chiefs’ offense is still great, even without Tyreek Hill.
Bears (-2.5) over Broncos: I’m well aware of the trend that Denver is great at home in September. They’re 75-20-2 at home in September since 1970, according to OddsShark, and have won 13 in a row. That’s hard to go against. But the Broncos looked terrible at Oakland and I don’t know how they move the ball on the Bears. Also, the Broncos played the latest possible game on Monday night, and the Bears got extra rest after playing last Thursday. That’s a big edge.
Falcons (+1.5) over Eagles: It’s tough to pick the Falcons after they looked so bad at Minnesota. But when you fade Week 1 overreaction, you end up taking some teams that might have been letting us know in the opener that they’re going to be bad all season. We’ll see what the Falcons are.
Last week: 9-7
Season to date: 9-8
SuperContest: 2-3 last week
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