Last week’s forecast: 7-9
Week 2 is famously, or infamously, overreaction week. What did we see in Week 1 that was legit, and what was a mirage? Trying to figure those sides out is not easy, but here’s the best guess as to what happens in the NFL’s second week of 2021.
All lines are from BetOnline and were current as of 9/15 at 10 p.m. ET
- New York Giants at Washington Football Team (-3.5): It’s the Taylor Heinicke show for Washington. Heinicke replaces the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but the Football Team is still favored to beat their NFC East rivals. The matchup between the strength of Washington, the defensive front, and the weakness of the Giants, their travesty of an offensive line, is reflected in the odds.
Football Team 22, Giants 17
- New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (+3.5): Divisional road games are never easy, and matchups against the Panthers have proven especially difficult for Saints QB Jameis Winston in his career. Winston has a record of 4-5 as a starter against the Panthers (all with Tampa Bay), but he’s been unreliable. He has thrown nine TDs against 14 INTs and also lost eight fumbles in those nine games. His team lost every game when the defense allowed more than 17 points. Alas, I don’t think this Carolina team can top 17 against this Saints defense.
Saints 20, Panthers 17
- Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns (-13): The Browns were the better team for the majority of the game against the defending AFC champion Chiefs in Week 1 before falling when punter Jamie Gillan dropped a clean snap. The Texans are about to learn the difference between Urban Meyer and Kevin Stefanski as coaching entities. Stefanski is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year while Meyer is already deflecting rumors that he’s throwing in the towel in Jacksonville after just one miserable week. No Odell Beckham Jr. for Cleveland doesn’t hurt the Browns in their home opener.
Browns 37, Texans 16
- Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears (-1): Will we see Justin Fields take the field more for Chicago? Will the Bengals improve to 2-0 against the NFC North? Will Ja’Marr Chase catch everything in sight against a much worse secondary in Chicago than he faced against the Vikings in Week 1?
Answers: Yes but not enough. Yes. Load up Chase in daily fantasy.
Bengals 30, Bears 21
- Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6): I came away very impressed with the Raiders' pass rush in the team's Monday night won over the Ravens. The Steelers offensive line played better than anticipated in Pittsburgh’s win over the Bills too, but I give the edge to the better (on paper) unit. I expect a defensive struggle. Frequent readers know that likely means “hammer the over,” but the forecast calls for not many points raining down in Pittsburgh.
Raiders 20, Steelers 18
- Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (+3): I’m taking the Bills here if for no other reason than it’s very difficult to see a team with that much talent and recent winning experience going 0-2 in games it was (rightly) favored and expected to win. Nothing against the Dolphins, which found themselves a defense in Week 1, but Buffalo going 0-2 is almost unfathomable to many, including me.
Bills 23, Dolphins 21
- Los Angeles Rams at Indianapolis Colts (+3.5): The Colts offensive line sputtered in Week 1, and that cannot happen in Week 2 against the Rams and Aaron Donald. Even more concerning for the Colts is their shoddy play in the secondary. That’s not an issue that looks to get any better facing NFC Offensive Player of the Week Matthew Stafford, who was darn near perfect in his Rams debut. The Rams are a savvy survivor fantasy pick this week.
Rams 33, Colts 14
- San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5): San Francisco gets its second game in the Eastern time zone, not an easy way to start the season. I worry about the Niners secondary minus Jason Verrett; when the veteran corner went down in Week 1 the floodgates opened against San Francisco, and the Niners were helpless to stop drowning in a furious Lions comeback. I don’t expect the Eagles to fall as far behind, but I also don’t expect Kyle Shanahan’s offense to pack up the tents after halftime once again. Don’t sleep on this one, as it might be the most entertaining game of the weekend.
49ers 32, Eagles 30
- Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars (+6): Denver losing WR Jerry Jeudy hurts, but the Broncos should still have plenty in the aerial arsenal to outscore the Jaguars. Trevor Lawrence showed enough in Week 1 to not overlook the home team, but it’s tough to trust the Jags against a good Broncos defense.
Broncos 24, Jaguars 17
- New England Patriots at New York Jets (+6): There's something about Bill Belichick facing rookie QBs...especially one with as inauspicious of a receiving corps as Zach Wilson has in New York.
Patriots 23, Jets 12
- Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals (-3.5): It slid somewhat under the radar, but the Vikings signed right tackle Brian O’Neill to a $92.5 million contract just before the season. O’Neill is a solid, perfectly fine starter. I don’t begrudge the man getting paid whatsoever, but the Vikings are about to learn a hard lesson in paying premium contracts to slightly above-average talents. Chandler Jones is supremely above-average with his five sacks in Week 1. He won’t get five here, but he’ll get at least 1.5 off O’Neill.
Cardinals 34, Vikings 20
- Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-12.5): Can the Falcons make this enough of a game that FOX doesn’t switch away from the coverage to a fairer fight, like a hockey match between Canada and Azerbaijan?
Buccaneers 40, Falcons 12
- Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks: The way Russell Wilson played in Week 1, he's right back where he was at the end of last September: an MVP front-runner. The Titans defense we watched bumble and stumble all over the field in Week 1 isn't slowing him down in Seattle.
Seahawks 30, Titans 24
- Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5): The Cowboys are holding open auditions for defensive linemen this week with the injuries already hitting critical mass. Meanwhile, Chargers rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater pitched a perfect game in pass protection in his NFL debut. The Chargers are my survivor fantasy game pick. (I hit with the Panthers last week.)
Chargers 30, Cowboys 25
- Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens (+3.5): If the Ravens offensive line isn’t significantly better than it was Monday night, this game is over before it starts. The Chiefs offense is way too potent to try and match points with for a team like the Ravens, and if the line isn’t up to snuff they can’t even come close. I expect better from Baltimore, but I also don’t believe it will be enough, not even at home.
Chiefs 27, Ravens 20
- Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-11.5): Aaron Rodgers just had one of the worst games of his illustrious career. Don’t expect a repeat performance. From Tim Twentyman of the Lions:
Aaron Rodgers’ 36.8 rating last week 4th worst of his career since becoming starter. I looked at his stats in the games following his previous 5 worst performances. He’s 4-1 in those next games with a combined 117.7 passer rating, 13 TD, 1 INT & averaged 316.8 yds per game.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) September 15, 2021
The Packers figure to light up the Lambeau sky against the precocious Lions secondary. The thing is the Lions can probably keep up to a reasonable degree. The holes that Jameis Winston exploited in New Orleans’ Week 1 romp over the Packers are still going to be readily available in coordinator Joe Berry’s defense. Lions fans know Berry from his days as the coordinator for Rod Marinelli en route to a winless 2008. He’s running the same defense in Green Bay. D’oh…
Packers 36, Lions 28