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November 18, 2018

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Vegas pick’em: NFL Week 2 winners against the spread

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) warms up before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018.

Updated Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 | 8:01 a.m.

Week 2: Chiefs at Steelers

Which side would you take in Chiefs at Steelers? (Poll consensus year to date: 1-0)
Chiefs plus-4.5 — 59.1%
Steelers minus-4.5 — 40.9%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who racked up 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions in his last season as a starter, leads the NFL in passer rating after throwing for four touchdowns and no interceptions against the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints, therefore, rank dead-last in the NFL in giving up 8.5 yards per play a year after fielding the most improved defense in the league. The New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens, both in the bottom third of offensive efficiency by any metric last season, join the Buccaneers as the NFL’s highest-scoring teams.

Week 1 of the NFL season was full of surprises. It was a reminder of everything that makes the league so thrilling for bettors. It was also a reminder of how it can be so maddeningly unpredictable for bettors.

Or at least it was that way for Talking Points.

By all accounts, bettors enjoyed a decent start to the season as the casinos didn’t pile up a large profit margin. This blog wasn’t as fortunate. Talking Points had one of its worst weeks in history of the pick’em, going 4-11-1 against the spread picking every game.

The most common advice after Week 1 is to not overreact. It’s usually meant in reference to teams’ performances, but can just as easily apply to the handicapping process. The season is long and will offer plenty of opportunities; one poor week shouldn’t result in wholesale changes to the process.

Or at least it’s going to be that way for Talking Points.

Read below for picks of every Week 2 game, separated into three confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses — and listed in rough order of confidence. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas at the time of publication. Come back later for selections on Houston at Tennessee and Minnesota at Green Bay, as the games are currently off betting boards for injuries.

Plays (1-2)

Pittsburgh Steelers minus-4 vs. Kansas City Chiefs Steelers had an unimaginable six turnovers, and unluckily went 0-for-4 in fumble recoveries — and still eked out a tie against the Browns in Week 1. They also have one of the best defenses in the NFL, which is going to make it much tougher on Chiefs rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes than his first-week breeze.

Dallas Cowboys minus-3 vs. New York Giants No reason to panic yet with Dallas regardless of how anemic its offense looked at Carolina in Week 1. New York’s defense is far more forgiving. The Cowboys were a 6-point favorite at home against the Giants last year, winning 19-3, and even a 4-point favorite on the road ahead of a 30-10 victory. The teams’ personnel hasn’t changed enough to merit such an enormous swing on the betting line.

Jacksonville Jaguars plus-2.5 vs. New England Patriots Jaguars have the rare defense that’s a nightmare matchup for the Patriots — both athletically and schematically, as seen in their near-victory in last year’s AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars lost 24-20 as a 7.5-point road underdog, meaning this year’s line is shaded a point stronger toward the Patriots after adjusting for home-field advantage. That shouldn’t be the case given Jacksonville’s prior success and New England’s aging core currently bereft of weapons around Tom Brady.

Leans (0-4-1)

Atlanta Falcons minus-5.5 vs. Carolina Panthers Willing to buy low on the Falcons, which have too much talent on offense to labor as much as they did in gaining 4.6 yards per play in a 18-12 loss to the Eagles. The Panthers really weren’t any better offensively despite taking on a weaker defense, gaining 4.8 yards per play in a 16-8 win over the Cowboys, and may struggle to score points all year.

Tennessee Titans plus-2 vs. Houston Texans Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson looks like he needs a few weeks to rediscover the level he reached before tearing his ACL last year, which was already going to be difficult behind a new, unproven offensive line. Now that the line is reshuffled following injuries, the adjustment period may only increase.

Seattle Seahawks plus-3.5 at Chicago Bears Green Bay ended up outgaining Chicago by a whopping two yards per play on Sunday Night Football, which should deeply cut into the jumping-for-joy that took place during the Bears’ first-half defensive onslaught. The Seahawks have been a strong bet-on coming off a loss under Pete Carroll, who’s gone 33-13 straight-up and 26-18-2 against the spread in the situation with Seattle.

Detroit Lions plus-6 at San Francisco 49ers Taking a team off a blowout loss is typically a wise investment — prepare for a contradiction later as it pertains to the Bills — as the betting market tends to fluctuate too sharply. That could be happening here, as the Lions were only 3-point underdogs to the 49ers before their five-interception night against the Jets.

Miami Dolphins plus-3 at New York Jets Point spread adjusted toward New York as much as 4.5 points off of its 48-17 win in Detroit as 7-point underdogs on Monday Night Football. Only time will tell if Sam Darnold and New York deserve that much respect. Until then, ready to keep rolling with the under-valued Dolphins, a legitimate playoff contender in the AFC that isn’t priced as such.

Los Angeles Chargers minus-7 at Buffalo Bills It’s nearly unprecedented to see a West Coast team favored by this many points traveling East so early in the season. Then again, it might be nearly unprecedented just how inept the Bills are this season.

Guesses (3-5)

Philadelphia Eagles minus-3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Both quarterbacks in this Backup Bowl, Fitzpatrick and Nick Foles, have shown that their play is a lot like the late-summer South Florida weather — erratic, prone to change at a moment’s notice. Last week’s divergent performances, therefore, don’t hold much handicapping weight. Philadelphia’s defense provides the most consistent forecast — it’s never easy to rain points on it.

Cleveland Browns plus-9.5 at New Orleans Saints Hard to imagine the Saints losing this game, but harder to imagine how this many points are justified. Even though the Browns’ offense failed to make a Week 1 impression, gaining only 4.8 yards per play in the tie with the Steelers, their defense is young, loaded and bound to rank in the top half of the NFL.

Cincinnati Bengals plus-1 vs. Baltimore Ravens Feels like there’s no right side on this game. Taking Cincinnati means taking the team with a coaching disadvantage, a hindrance that’s usually more pronounced on a short week leading up to a Thursday Night Football game. But backing Baltimore means backing a short road favorite that hasn’t yet proven it deserves such respect in the betting market.

Oakland Raiders plus-6 at Denver Broncos The perceived gap between these two teams feels a lot larger than reality. Case in point: A few months ago, the Raiders were favored over the Broncos to win the AFC West. The Broncos’ offense looked better than expected in Week 1, but their defense was another story. Oakland should at least score enough points to keep this competitive.

Arizona Cardinals plus-12.5 at Los Angeles Rams Not ready to declare Rams hands-down the best team in the NFL, though they do look close and mostly without weakness. Only the best team in the NFL should be laying this many points this early in the season.

Green Bay Packers plus-2.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings Line went off the board early in the week with Minnesota favored by one, awaiting clarity on Aaron Rodgers' situation. Now that Rodgers is expected to play, it makes little sense that an extra 1.5 points are tacked on. If Rodgers, even a hobbled Rodgers, plays the whole game, then there's indisputable value on the home value.

Washington Redskins minus-5.5 vs. Indianapolis Colts With so much caution placed on not over-reacting to Week 1, sometimes bettors can succumb to under-reacting. The Redskins’ offensive line is intact, which has been the key to their success over the last couple years, and mauled the Cardinals in a tough travel spot. Indianapolis’ defense remains a major work in progress.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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