After a 4-0 card last week, I’m hopefully not headed downhill from here. Below are my Week 2 NFL picks — centered around three underdogs I’m betting against the spread. As always, these are bets I have wagered my own money on as well and will never post a bet I haven’t also made.
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Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
Speaking of those alerts, I grabbed the Jaguars on Monday when the spread was as high as Jacksonville +4.5. Granted, the betting market doesn’t always work in your favor, as you see above.
For starters, both teams should see offensive regression in this contest. The Colts accrued a mere six points via seven drives that stretched to the Texans’ 39-yard line or beyond. On the flip side, the Jags converted on just two of their five red zone possessions.
But with this spread over the key number of a field goal, there’s still value in the home underdog. It’s also a product of Indy’s substandard defense, which surrendered the 12th-highest Dropback Success Rate (SR) in Week 1. For context, a play is considered successful if it delivers:
- 50 percent of the yards needed to move the chains on first down
- 70 percent of yards to gain on second down
- 100 percent of yards to gain on third or fourth down
This metric doesn’t appear to be a result of negative variance, either, as the secondary doesn’t showcase a defensive back who’s consistently sound in coverage — outside of veteran corner Stephon Gilmore.
As I referenced in my breakdown last week, Indianapolis is a bit overvalued in the market because of its defensive holes. Mind you, this unit manufactured the second-most forced turnovers a season ago despite struggling to limit opposing offenses overall. Moreover, they’re still transitioning into Gus Bradley’s Cover-3 scheme, which relies heavily on its pass rush to succeed.
To make matters worse, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (hip) didn’t practice on Wednesday. The 28-year-old represents one of the NFL’s better all-around pass rushers.
Hence, as long as Trevor Lawrence and his receiving core are more efficient with their trips inside the red zone, they should cover this spread. Against a similarly subpar Commanders secondary, the sophomore quarterback tallied an EPA per play that was above league average.
On top of that, Jacksonville was a single play away from covering in Week 1 — if not winning outright. We amassed some additional value because the Jags failed to do so.
Regarding the Colts’ offense, Matt Ryan slotted in at No. 21 in the aforementioned metric versus Houston’s lower-tier secondary. Even with a shot at redemption, it’s possible that the 15-year veteran doesn’t have as much left in the tank as the market suggests.
Update: Indy wideout Michael Pittman (quad, questionable) was ruled out on Saturday. His explosive playmaking is a massive loss, to say the least, as he tallied 26.7% of the target share in Week 1. Plus, the aforementioned Buckner is listed as questionable as well, and linebacker Shaquille Leonard (back) — the anchor of this defense — will miss his second straight game.
Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets
If you wanted to plug your nose with either of the previous wagers, wait until you see this selection for my NFL picks.
Let’s kick off with the ageless Joe Flacco, who racked up 59 pass attempts while notching the second-worst EPA per play at his position in the season opener. To top that off, the Jets mustered only nine points in the process.
They also failed to establish a consistent ground game, which is a key towards milking the clock as an underdog, as a result of the game script. That’s especially true if you’re up against a MVP candidate in Lamar Jackson. However, Flacco & Co. were up against a Ravens defense that should undergo its fair share of positive regression this season.
Not only did Cleveland receive too much credit in the market, but its defense is exploitable as well. Despite holding Carolina tailback Christian McCaffrey in check, Joe Woods’ unit still allowed the 10th-highest EPA per carry in Week 1, which is similar to its defensive output in 2021 — with much of the same personnel.
Neither tailback Michael Carter nor Breece Hall, who’s a contender in the 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds race, is as explosive as McCaffrey. But this bet is partially a play on New York finding itself in a favorable position for its running backs.
Couple that with the fact that Jacoby Brissett, who’s fine to back as a dog, has been a favorite of at least six points only once in his career. I’ll take my chances with one of the worst league’s worst teams in my Week 2 NFL picks.
Additional NFL Picks For Week 2
Dallas Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Nevertheless, Dallas’ front-seven is filled with talent pass rushers who should create havoc against Joe Burrow — albeit their potential issues in man-to-man coverage against a dangerous Cincinnati receiving corps. Mind you, Zac Taylor’s new-look offensive line produced the 13th-lowest Pass-Block Win Rate in Week 1. The cohesion factor went unnoticed for this unit throughout the offseason.
On the other side of the ball, Cowboys tailbacks Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are in primed to alleviate pressure off of signal caller Cooper Rush — similar to the Jets’ aforementioned game plan.
But don’t forget, Rush churned out an above-average Dropback EPA in a similar situation in Minnesota last season. This 9.5-point swing from the look-ahead line is just too much.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings
Among the Week 1 overreactions, the Vikings seem to be at the top of the sharper bettor’s list, dominating an injured Packers offense. But is it possible that we’re overvaluing the Eagles’ offense after they soared versus an abysmal Lions secondary?
Offensively, Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson & Co. will square off against Jonathan Gannon’s deep zone coverage looks — similar to Green Bay’s defensive scheme that they diced up last week. Although Minnesota’s interior offensive line does present some concerns against Philly’s stout defensive front, the Vikings’ passing attack is primed to have success.
I’ve yet to wager on Kevin O’Connell’s team, as I’m hoping for a +3 to pop (+2.5 as of Sunday), but it’s one of my contest plays. For what it’s worth, I have Minnesota rated higher than Philadelphia in my NFL power rankings.
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