The NFL Handbook – Week 2

You ever shoot craps? Remember all that probability, and other mathematical nonsense we were forced to learn in school that we thought we’d never use again?

Well, combine the two, and you have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to predict Week 1 in the NFL. Sure, the good teams tend be good year after year. It’s the average to bad teams that create the variability.

Ever notice how the teams who contend annually have great ownership, the same GM, same coaching staff, and little turnover? Meanwhile, the average/bad teams have new faces across the board seemingly every other year?

There lies the biggest issue with projecting how teams will perform early in the season. We just don’t know how the pieces will fit, and what the teams will look like, until we actually see it.

However, now that we have a week in the books, we have a slightly better understanding of how the teams will look moving forward. It’s just one week, though, don’t go betting the Bills to win the AFC East.

In any case, I’ve analyzed the data for each of the 16 NFL games on tap in Week 2, and have compiled this handbook to help you identify which match-ups to target in your fantasy leagues, and the best plays should you find yourself in Vegas this weekend.

For the fantasy portion, I’ve broken each team’s fantasy relevant players into four categories:

  1. Ballers –  Either the guys you drafted early, and aren’t benching. Or, the ones with favorable match-ups.
  2. Under the Radar – Guys who may not be hyped, or well-known, but have a good opportunity to produce. *Good for dfs (DraftKings, Fanduel, etc.) as they should have low ownership.
  3. Temper Expectations – Proceed with caution. May be players you’d normally start, or the overly hyped “breakouts”, but might not put up the numbers needed to justify a start this week.
  4. Bums – It’s a good idea to avoid these guys in your lineups.

You can find my full Week 2 Rankings here.

For the betting side, I used the opening spread and over/under totals from sportsinsights.com. A lot of the lines have moved in reaction to the money, injuries, etc., but picking and choosing which current odds to use felt a bit too arbitrary. If you have any questions regarding the updated odds, feel free to comment or shoot me an email: leonard@maximizeyourodds.com.

Houston Texans @ Cincinnati Bengals

Spread: CIN -5.5

O/U: 38

These two teams combined to put up 424 yards of total offense in Week 1. As a point of reference, the Vikings and Chiefs single-handedly put up 470 and 537, respectively. In addition to their affluent offenses, they combined for 9 turnovers, 15 sacks, and 7 whopping points in Week 1.

Talk about a barn burner.

While both teams figure to be better than what we saw on Sunday, I’m just not really sure on how much.

The Bengals potential offensive line issues I mentioned in the preseason were brought to reality, as Dalton was sacked 5 times, and was running for his life seemingly all afternoon. Per Football Outsiders, Dalton’s 54.8% DVOA with no pressure ranked 7th best last season, while his -77.7% DVOA with pressure ranked 25th – A difference of -132.6%, the 5th highest among qualifying QBs.

A.k.a. he’s not very good under pressure.

The saving grace? He saw pressure just 23.8% of the time. However, if Sunday was any indication, the loss of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler will push that number into the 30-40% range this season, and that’s not good for Dalton’s prospects moving forward.

On the Texans side, I feel like their front 7 is overly gassed, especially when it comes to sacks (finished outside the top-10 in 2 of the last 3 seasons, and got to Bortles a total of zero times), but I’d bet Dalton will be quite familiar with them by the end of the game.

Now I do have to admit, I was wrong with my estimation on the Texans secondary being average at best. Not really, though. Allen Robinson lasted all of 4 plays, and tore his ACL on his lone target – a 17 yard reception. Allen Hurns has been battling injuries since last season, and there was a point not too long ago when Head Coach Doug Marrone was strongly considering starting Chad Henne at QB.

It really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Jaguars passing game struggled, and while Andy Dalton may have looked like a red-headed Blake Bortles a few days ago, A.J. Green isn’t Allen Hurns… The poor play of this secondary might have been delayed a week, but these Dalton/Green should be able to exploit it.

I also expect Lamar Miller to have a big game. The Ravens rushed for 155 yards and 1 TD on 41 carries against this Bengals defense in Week 1, and after seeing his QBs struggle last week, Bill O’Brien would be very wise to lean on his run game early and often. Especially with Watson starting.

We’ll just have to wait and see if Deshaun can do enough to prevent them from putting 11 men in the box, and by wait and see, I mean check the highlights/box score because this game will be brutal to watch.

Just do yourself a favor tomorrow night and read a book, do some gardening, spend some time with your family, go to one of those little classes where you drink and paint at the same time… I don’t care what you do, just don’t watch this game.

But, if you feel so inclined and also would like to bet, the Texans cover the 5.5 and it stays under the total.

Texans 13 – Bengals 10

Ballers: Lamar Miller, Texans DST, A.J. Green, Bengals DST

Under the Radar: Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard

Temper Expectations: Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Jeremy Hill, Joe Mixon

Bums: Tyler Eifert

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

Spread: BAL -7

O/U: 41

DeShone Kizer balled out in his NFL debut, finishing Week 1 with the 8th most fantasy points at the QB position. The Ravens defense balled out in their 2017 debut, finishing Week 1 as the 3rd best fantasy DST.

Something has to give, and I think it’s the former.

For starters, Kizer will be making his 1st road start Sunday, and while I’ve never played in the NFL, I’d guess playing on the road is a slightly more daunting task than playing at home. Just my thoughts. Now, I don’t think his numbers will drop completely off the map, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he wasn’t quite as sharp.

Secondly, Kizer was sacked 7 times Sunday and intercepted once. Remember all that stuff about the Texans and Bengals affluent offenses? Well, the Bengals contributed 5 sacks, 5 turnovers, and 0 points to those totals… They played the Ravens.

Combine these two factors, and it’s hard to imagine a repeat from Kizer.

Then, there’s the Browns defense; which was largely deceiving in Week 1. Sure, it may seem that the Cleveland “held” Pittsburgh to 21 points, and Le’Veon Bell was “held” to 32 yards rushing, but in reality, the Steelers beat themselves by committing 13 penalties. The only real positive to be had defensively was the fact that they somehow held Antonio Brown without a TD despite 11 catches for 182 yards.

So, while this unit is up and coming, it’s more coming than up at this point. But, luckily for the Browns, the Ravens offense looked a bit off out of the gates.

Joe Flacco completed just 9 of 17 passes for 121 yards with a TD and an interception, but I think we all expected it’d take a few weeks for him to knock off the rust after missing training camp and the preseason. In addition to getting back into form, Jeremy Maclin is a new face which he has to develop chemistry with, and Danny Woodhead is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a hamstring injury.

Even so, there’s no upset to be had in this one. The Ravens cover the 7, and it stays under the total of 41.

Browns 10 – Ravens 27

Ballers: Corey Coleman, Joe Flacco, Terrance West, Jeremy Maclin, Nick Boyle, Justin Tucker, Ravens DST

Under the Radar (PPR): Javorius Allen, Duke Johnson Jr.

Temper Expectations: DeShone Kizer, Isaiah Crowell, Kenny Britt

Bums: Browns DST

Buffalo Bills @ Carolina Panthers

Spread: CAR -7

O/U: 42

Cam Newton attempted just 25 passes Sunday, fewer than all but 4 starting QBs in Week 1. Tyrod Taylor attempted just 28 passes Sunday, fewer than all but 6 starting QBs in Week 1. Both Jonathan Stewart, and LeSean McCoy finished in the top-10 in terms of rushing attempts, and neither team had a WR catch more than 2 passes…

If you’ve ever played Madden, this game will be the exact opposite.

Problem is, the Panthers played the 49ers in Week 1, while the Bills played the lowly Jets. So, there really isn’t much sense in putting a ton of weight in these team’s Week 1 stats… Hell, anyone’s for that matter.

However, Cam Newton is coming off the worst passing season of his career, and off-season shoulder surgery. And, on the Bills side, well… They’re just a run first (and second, and third) team.

I think we have a pretty good idea of what these two offenses will look like in 2017 based on Week 1.

While the Bills held Bilal Powell and Matt Forte to 38 yards on 13 carries, the Jets passing offense is about as intimidating as an overly riled up chihuahua. So, yeah, the 2.92 yards per carry allowed by Buffalo looks good on paper, but it’s not necessarily a bad omen for this Panthers run game.

No offense to the Jets players, but Cam Newton throwing to Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess, and new addition Russell Shepard requires a bit more attention than Josh McCown to Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson.

In other words, stacking the box won’t be as simple. Even in limited attempts.

Buffalo ranked 21st in passing DVOA in 2016; they just happened to also face the fewest pass attempts of any team, and then opened 2017 with the McCown led Jets. We’ll get a much better read of this defense Sunday.

The Panthers defense looked solid as well, but again, they played San Francisco who has an entirely new offense: from the players to the coaches. It’ll probably take a few weeks before they click.

If they ever do.

Nonetheless, Carlos Hyde averaged 5 yards per carry on Sunday. Unlucky for him, the 49ers abandoned the run in the 2nd half, resulting in just 2 carries for Hyde. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bills faced a similar scenario in Charlotte Sunday – being down on the scoreboard – but I highly doubt there will ever be a situation where a healthy LeSean McCoy sees just 2 carries in a half.

Putting all of this into something useful, I think both teams find success offensively – both on the ground, and through the air. However, the Panthers have the edge being that they’re at home, and frankly just have more talent on both sides of the ball.

I think the Panthers win this one by 7. So, if the line shifts to 7.5, I’ll take the Bills. If it shifts in the other direction to 6.5, give me the Panthers. In either case, it’s probably best to just stay away from this one. Although, I believe it’ll stay under the total.

Bills 17  – Panthers 24

Ballers: Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, Jordan Matthews, Charles Clay, Cam Newton, Jonathan Steward, Christian McCaffrey (PPR), Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen

Under the Radar: Russell Shepard

Temper Expectations: Zay Jones, Panthers DST

Bums: Bills DST

Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts

Spread: ARI -7

O/U: 44.5

Scott Tolzien is now 0-3-1 in 4 career starts with 2 TDs and 9 INTs, and last I heard, Andrew Luck won’t be ready to go until October. Not good for you Colts fans. But, Cardinals fans might need to be concerned as well.

Comp Att Comp % Pass Yds Yds/Comp Pass TD Int Fantasy Pts
27 48 56.3% 269 9.96 1 3 8.96
9 18 50.0% 128 14.22 2 1.32

Those are Carson Palmer‘s Week 1 stats up top, with Tolzien’s on bottom. Sure, Palmer was clearly better, but one guy went undrafted, while the other is a former Heisman Trophy winner that was drafted 1st overall.

Now obviously, there are a lot more variables needed to accurately make this comparison, but the point here is, Palmer wasn’t very good in the opener.

But, if there was ever a match-up to boost a QB’s confidence and get him back on track, it’d be these abysmal Colts who just allowed Jared Goff to go 21-29 for 306 yards and a TD.

If Palmer doesn’t ball out Sunday it’s time to panic.

The Cards defense also allowed the Lions to hang 35 on the scoreboard, and while they held Detroit’s backs to 2.43 yards per carry, Matthew Stafford dissected them. It’s highly unlikely that Tolzien dices them up as well, but it might just be time to change how I view this Cardinals team.

Maybe last season wasn’t a fluke?

Regardless, the loss of David Johnson won’t hurt in this one, and the Cards cover the 7. Frank Gore shouldn’t find much room to run, and I just don’t see where the Colts points come from, so give me the under as well.

Cardinals 24 – Colts 6

Ballers: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Cardinals DST

Under the Radar: Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington (PPR)

Temper Expectations: T.Y. Hilton

Bums: Scott Tolzien, Frank Gore, Marlon Mack, Jack Doyle, Colts DST

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Spread: pk

O/U: 43.5

Shout out to the Jags for making me look a lot smarter than I am last week.

I appreciate that.

The Jags held the Texans backs to 3.67 yards per carry, put up 10 sacks, forced (and recovered) 3 fumbles, had an interception, and allowed just 7 points. Now, we can look at that Week 1 performance and say one of two things:

  1. Good defense
  2. Bad offense

While the Texans might as well have not had an offensive line Sunday – they probably could’ve had the same results by just having a Center out there for snapping purposes – I think it’s a combination of the two.

They’ll face a much stiffer challenge Sunday when Mariota and the Titans come to town.

Leave it to me to find the one negative among the countless positives, but Jacksonville’s secondary looked kinda exploitable. Had it not been for the at least 3 (off the top of my head) pass interference penalties, both DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson’s numbers would look significantly better. And, making matters worse, both Jalen Ramsey (ankle) and A.J. Bouye (illness) have missed practice this week.

The Titans passing game was solid against Oakland, and they’ll need that to carry over as the DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined to average 3.83 yards per carry in Week 1 – you have to figure they won’t have much room to run in this one either.

Leonard Fournette should… Not.

Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard averaged a combined 4.26 yards per carry against this Titans d, which would be good news for Fournette owners had Allen Robinson not torn his ACL. After showing out in Week 1, Fournette is likely to see stacked boxes all day, and unfortunately for the Jaguars, their defense won’t be enough in this one.

Titans win, and it stays under the total.

Titans 20 – Jaguars 10

Ballers: Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, Corey Davis, Delanie Walker

Under the Radar: Titans DST

Temper Expectations: Derrick Henry, Eric Decker, Rishard Matthews, Leonard Fournette, Jaguars DST

Bums: Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns

Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs

Spread: KC -4.5

O/U: 47.5

Two of the biggest Week 1 surprises had to be the Chiefs going into Foxborough and beating the Patriots like they stole something, and the Eagles heading into Landover and issuing a similar fate on the Redskins.

It’s only right that the two match up in Week 2.

Now, I try to not be one of those guys who overreacts off of one game, so with that in mind, the Eagles defense nor is the Chiefs offense, is as good as we saw a few days ago.

It’s just not logical.

Kirk “Kurt” Cousins lost Sean McVay, Pierre Garcon, and DeSean Jackson. Not only will this offense will take a minute to gel, but Jamison Crowder wasn’t 100%, so that worked in the favor of Philly’s defense.

With regard to the Chiefs offensive explosion, the Patriots lost Dont’a Hightower, and while Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt are both video game created players, they had a 75 and 78 yard TD respectively. Yes, that takes talent. It also takes blown assignments.

Leave it to me to throw shade.

Regardless, this one will be fun to watch as both teams impressed on both sides of the ball in Week 1.

Outside of Mike Gillislee‘s 3 TD runs (all of which came from 2 yards or less), both teams defended the run pretty well. In fact, the Eagles held Washington’s running backs to 2.62 yards per carry, while the Patriots were limited to 3.57 by the Chiefs.

Pretty well might just be an understatement.

And in the passing game? Here’s a look at how the two QBs they faced in Week 1 fared:

Cmp Att Comp % Yds Yds/Comp TD Int Sack Fumble Fantasy Pts
Kirk Cousins 23 40 57.5% 240 10.43 1 1 4 2 10.6
Tom Brady 16 36 44.4% 267 16.69  0 0 3 0 10.68

Not too bad given both Cousins’, and Brady’s resume.

The loss of Eric Berry, and Steven Nelson will hurt this Chiefs secondary, but they’re still the more talented team, and are tough to beat at Arrowhead. Kansas City wins, but Philadelphia finds a way to cover, and it stays under the total.

Eagles 17 – Chiefs 20

Ballers: Kareem Hunt (PPR), Chiefs DST

Under the Radar: Albert Wilson, Nelson Agholor

Temper Expectations: Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, Eagles DST, Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce

Bums: Torrey Smith, Zach Ertz

New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints

Spread: NE -6.5

O/U: 54.5

Angry Tom Brady, Brandin Cooks returning to New Orleans, Zach Strief/Stephone Anthony/Terron Armstead all either out or questionable for the Saints… There’s not not much working in New Orleans favor for this one.

Except the Patriots.

Danny Amendola is questionable, Malcolm Mitchell is out, and we all know Julian Edelman is done for the season. Defensively, they might miss Rob Ninkovich more than estimated, Dont’a Hightower is doubtful, and Devin McCourty has been limited in practice.

Sure, Bill Belichick seems to have the ability to turn water to wine, but even with a prime Tom Brady, that’s a lot to overcome.

The Saints found little room to run Monday night against the Vikings, but we could see their fortune’s improve as the Pats allowed the Chiefs RBs to average 9.39 yards per carry. Again, I don’t want to get too gassed off of one game, and I’m sure they’ll improve. But, with the loss of Dont’a Hightower, you have to like Ingram, Peterson, and Kamara’s prospects.

Only one problem, they cancel each other out. Here’s what their usage looked like in Week 1:

Car Yds Yds/Car TD Long Rec Yds Yds/Rec Tar Fantasy Pts
Adrian Peterson 6 18 3.0 9 1 1.8
Mark Ingram 6 17 2.8 7 5 54 10.8 5 7.1
Alvin Kamara 7 18 2.6 5 4 20 5 6 3.8

Good luck with that.

Defensively, the Saints defense looks to be improved, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the box score. That just tells you how bad they’ve been in recent years.

The Vikings bought them a couple of drinks, and the Saints allowed them to have their way with them. Bradford completed 84.4% of his passes for 346 yards, and 3 TDs. Thielen and Diggs combined to catch 16 of those passes for 250 yards, and 2 TDs. Dalvin Cook rushed for 127 yards…

It felt like the Saints defensive guys had all of the Vikings in their fantasy leagues.

This should be an entertaining contest if you like offense, and the Saints could surprise some people. I don’t think they win, but they’ll definitely put up a fight. Saints cover the 6.5 and it’ll go over the total.

Patriots 31 – Saints 28

Ballers: Tom Brady, James White, Brandin Cooks, Rob Gronkowski, Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn

Under the Radar: Chris Hogan, Alvin Kamara (PPR)

Temper Expectations: Mike Gillislee, Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson

Bums: Patriots DST, Saints DST

Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers

Spread: PIT -6.5

O/U: 45.5

If I could only catch one game this week, I’d make it a point to see this one. With the Patriots looking mortal, and the NFC being wide open, this has potential to be a Super Bowl preview.

If it happens, you heard it here first.

The Vikings looked incredible in their 19-29 win over the New Orleans Saints. They were balanced offensively, sound defensively, and played well on special teams. Meanwhile, the Steelers looked less than incredible in their 21-18 victory over the Browns, and if they’d like to reach their 1st SB since the 2010 season, they’ll need to be much more disciplined.

The Steelers committed 13 penalties in their opener – the 2nd most of any team in Week 1 – and that’s not one of the ingredients in the recipe for success.

This one figures to be a defensive struggle, but the Vikings appear to have a slight edge. Here are the total fantasy points allowed by position in Week 1 (team totals):

QB RB WR TE
MIN 15.64 12.9 16.8 11.4
PIT 18.58 10.2 15.8 6.2

It may seem like a wash, but the Steelers played the Browns while the Vikings played the Saints.

Edge Minnesota.

However, both teams allowed less than 3 yards per carry to the opposing backs in their openers, and neither allowed a receiver to reach the 55 yard mark. So, it might be best to temper our expectations on this one for fantasy purposes.

But, at the sports book? I’ll take the +6.5 with Minnesota, and the under.

Vikings 24 – Steelers 21

Ballers: Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Steelers DST, Kyle Rudolph, Vikings DST

Under the Radar: Jesse James

Temper Expectations: Sam Bradford, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Ben Roethlisberger, Martavis Bryant

Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Spread: TB -5.5

O/U: 43

Don’t say I never told you, but the Bears held their own against the Falcons. Problem is, they lost another wide receiver in Kevin White. The silver lining? We were introduced to Mr. Tarik Cohen.

Another problem, Matt Ryan completed 70% of his passes for 321 yards, and a TD against the Bears Sunday. The silver lining? Julio Jones finished with just 66 yards, and Devonta Freeman rushed for just 37.

Third problem, the Bears played a game last week while the Buccaneers had a psuedo-bye week. Silver lining? There really isn’t one.

The Bucs offense looked virtually unstoppable in the preseason, their defense should be improved, and they have more weapons offensively than the narcos. Start Jordan Howard, and everyone on the Bucs. Except the tight ends – I think they’ll eat into each other’s stats.

Bucs cover, and it goes over. No need for the prattle.

Bears 13 – Buccaneers 31

Ballers: Jordan Howard, Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, DeSean Watson, Buccaneers DST

Under the Radar: Josh Bellamy, Jacquizz Rodgers

Temper Expectations: Tarik Cohen, Zach Miller, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate (they’ll cancel each other out, but TD potential)

Bums: Kendall Wright, Bears DST

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers

Spread: LAC -5

O/U: 45.5

Finally! The long-awaited Dolphins debut of Jay Cutler!

No, seriously. I’m a fan of Cutler, and all of his smugness.

The Chargers defense is one of the more underrated units in the league, but they looked pretty average against the Broncos Monday night allowing 24 points, and 321 yards of total offense.

Siemian completed 60.7% of his passes for 219 yards, 2 TDs, and an interception so Cutler could be in for an overlooked streamer this week.

But, I’ve always been the type to dip a toe in the water before jumping straight in.

The Chargers also allowed C.J. Anderson to put up 81 yards on 20 carries; a good sign for Ajayi owners. Here are the total fantasy points the Chargers allowed by position in Week 1:

QB RB WR TE DST K
LAC 22.66 10.8 23.4 9.8 7 5

Since the Dolphins also received a psuedo-bye in Week 1, and I didn’t watch a single second of them in the preseason, all I can do is look at last season where they allowed an average of 23.8 points per game, a league-worst 4.8 yards per carry, and only 5 teams surrendered more passing TDs.

From the fantasy perspective, the Dolphins allowed the 4th most fantasy points per game to QBs, 16h most to RBs, 7th most to WRs, and 5th most to TEs.

Not very good.

However, the return of Koa Misi, and the addition of Lawrence Timmons should help shore up their dreadful run d, and a healthy Reshad Jones should improve this secondary.

Another thing of note offensively for the Chargers was the zero targets for Hunter Henry. No, don’t drop him yet, but it seems he may have been a product of circumstance last season – as the Bolts entire receiving corps was injured. Keep an eye on his usage this week, if he doesn’t see at least 3 targets, it’ll be time to start worrying .

After a rough 1st half, the Chargers fought back against Denver in the 2nd half, and if we see the latter team Sunday, they should get the W. The Chargers are just so damn inconsistent, though. And, 5 is too many points. Dolphins cover the 5, and it goes over the total.

Dolphins 27 – Chargers 31

Ballers: Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry (PPR), Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen

Under the Radar: Julius Thomas, Travis Benjamin

Temper Expectations: Jay Cutler, Kenny Stills, Devante Parker, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Tyrell Williams

Bums: Dolphins DST, Chargers DST

New York Jets at Oakland Raiders

Spread: OAK -13.5

O/U: 43.5

Do we really need to go into this one?

Really?

Ok, here are some stats from Week 1:

  1. 27 of the 33 QBs that played Sunday had more completions than the Jets had 1st downs (including Josh McCown)
  2. Josh McCown’s 7.19 yards per completion average was lower than all but 5 QBs
  3. The Jets allowed 408 yards Sunday; 3rd most
  4. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell combined for 7.5 fantasy points in Week 1; 14 kickers put up more single-handedly

Got it?

Good… Moving on.

Jets 10 – Raiders 31

Ballers: If you have Raiders, start them

Under the Radar: Will Tye

Temper Expectations: On the Jets scoring

Bums: The other New York Football team

Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos

Spread: DAL -1.5

O/U: 42.5

Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t play in Week 1. Yes, Eli Manning is in the twilight of his career. BUT, the Dallas Cowboys defense deserves some love.

Like Kanye loves himself love. Like I love tacos love. Kids and pizza love. Botanist and greens love…

They gave up just 3 points, and the 7th fewest yards. Got 3 sacks, and intercepted Eli Manning once. And most notably, they managed to completely erase Brandon Marshall. Literally. I forgot he was on the team until garbage time in the 4th.

That’s not bad offense, folks, that’s good defense.

The Broncos defense has been one of the best (if not the best) for years, but here’s how the two teams compared in fantasy points allowed by position in Week 1:

QB RB WR TE
DEN 17.68 16.7 25.2 1.7
DAL 6.7 8.9 11.4 5.3

Again, the Cowboys defense deserves some credit.

However, they’ll face a much stiffer test traveling to the Mile-High City.

Denver ended the week 5th in rushing yards, 9th in points, and have one of the best receiving duos in the game. There’s also the altitude factor.

Luckily, for the Boys, they have this man named Ezekiel Elliott who rushed for 104 yards against last season’s 3rd best rushing defense (yards/game). And while Melvin Gordon struggled to find room to run Monday night, the Broncos ranked 28th in rushing yards allowed/per game in 2016, so you have to figure Zeke will make it two straight 100-yard games.

Dak Prescott also looked good completing 24 of 39 passes for 268 yards, a TD, and no interceptions against a secondary which allowed the 3rd lowest completion percentage, and had the 2nd most interceptions a season ago. So, while the Broncos are one of the league’s best passing defenses, well… So, are the Giants, and he handled them with ease.

Denver has won 5 straight against the Cowboys, but a lot has changed since they last played in 2013. Hell, we were on iPhone 5S at that time. Dallas allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in 2016, and the fewest in Week 1. Limiting C.J. Anderson will be key on Sunday, and I think they’ll succeed.

Cowboys cover, but it stays under the total.

Cowboys 20 – Broncos 16

Ballers: Ezekiel Elliott, Dan Bailey, Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos DST

Under the Radar: Trevor Siemian

Temper Expectations: Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cowboys DST, Demaryius Thomas

Bums: Jason Witten, C.J. Anderson

Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams

Spread: LAR -2

O/U: 46

The Redskins went from a Wild Card berth in 2015 to being an underdog against the Rams in 2017.

Life comes at you fast.

I can’t lie, when I first saw this line I thought Redskins all day. The Rams beat the Colts, but let’s not get all crazy. They’re still the Rams, and shouldn’t be favored against anyone… Then, I realized, maybe it’s not as crazy as it seems.

For starters, Washington’s offense just didn’t look right Sunday. As mentioned when going over Philly’s d, Cousins lost his OC Sean McVay… Wait, Sean McVay is the Rams coach. You think he knows a thing or two about Kirk and the Redskins, seeing how he spent the last 7 years with their staff and is partly responsible for Cousins’ NFL successes?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Not only does he know Kirk inside and out, but he knows the defensive schemes and weaknesses. A defense which allowed Carson Wentz to complete 66.7% of his passes for 307 yards, 2 TDs, and average 7.6 yards/attempt.

Now, I’m not going all in on Goff after one game against the Colts, but he did ball out, McVay seems to be a quarterback whisperer, there’s a reason the Rams drafted the guy 1st overall, and he’s been inundated with talent.

It’s not all rainbows, and gumdrops though, as the Redskins did hold the Eagles running backs to 2.6 yards per carry Sunday – Todd Gurley rushed for 40 yards on 19 carries against the Colts, 2.1 yards per.

Also, the Rams defense put up 2 TDs, and a safety – They were responsible for 69% of the team’s points Sunday. What are the odds?

So, considering the run game will likely be a non-factor, Josh Norman on Watkins, and 69% of their points not likely to be replicated, how do they score?

Yeah, on paper, computer screens, iPhone Xs wherever it is you look at stats, the Rams seem to have gone from 0-to-60 real quick. But, in reality, they just played the Andrew Luck-less Colts.

I’m not giving up on the ‘Skins just yet. I think their offense will begin to gel, and even with McVay and the slew of new talent, it’s just absurd for the Rams to be favored here. Give me the Redskins +2 (though I’ll probably regret it), and the under.

Redskins 24 – Rams 16

Ballers: Kirk Cousins, Terrelle Pryor, Jordan Reed

Under the Radar: Chris Thompson, Tyler Higbee

Temper Expectations: Robert Kelley, Jared Goff, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp

Bums: Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Spread: SEA -13

O/U: 43.5

Brian Hoyer wasn’t very good in Week 1, and that won’t change this week. Carlos Hyde is a beast, but he won’t do much. It’s the Seahawks home opener, and the Niners haven’t won in Seattle since 2011. Seahawks win, Niners cover, under.

The end.

49ers 16 – Seahawks 27

Ballers: Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, Doug Baldwin, Blair Walsh, Seahawks DST

Under the Radar: Paul Richardson

Temper Expectations: Jimmy Graham, Carlos Hyde

Bums: 49ers not named Carlos Hyde

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

Spread: ATL -3

O/U: 54

It feels like forever, but almost exactly 8 months ago the Packers went into the Georgia Dome, and got straight molly whopped by the Falcons in the NFC Championship game.

This game has a couple parallels: 1. the NFC Championship was the Falcons final game at the Georgia Dome, this will be their 1st regular season game in shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. So, the crowd will be live, and 2. the Falcons are again a slight favorite, though the Packers are receiving the majority of public support.

I think this one has a completely different outcome, and there’s a few reasons why:

  1. The Packers are healthy
  2. The Packers run game
  3. The Packers defense

Now, you’ll never hear me wish for another man to lose the opportunity to provide for his family, but Eddie Lacy is not a starting RB in this league – his 5 carries for 3 yards were to be expected. Nonetheless, the Packers holding Seattle’s backs to 3.5 yards per carry (1.64 if we exclude Carson’s 30 yard run) is a good sign that the dominant Packers run d we saw during the 1st half of last season might be back.

Then, there’s the run game. Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams combined to average 3 yards per carry against the Seahawks #1 ranked rushing defense from a season ago (which got better). No, 3 yards per carry isn’t anything to write home about, but considering Ty Montgomery was converted from WR not even a year ago, and Jamaal Williams is a rookie, this offense has everything it needs to be scary good.

That’s not even factoring the 6.58 yards per carry the Falcons allowed to the Bears backs last week.

I like the Packers offense in this one.

On the flip, the Falcons moved the ball well Sunday, but struggled to finish drives – turning just 1 of 3 red zone trips into 6 points. They ranked 8th in red zone TD% a season ago, scoring TDs on 64.6% of their drives, so you have to figure the new offense plays a role in the poor performance Sunday – the Packers held the Seahawks to FGs on both of their red zone trips Sunday.

Although Russell Wilson was under duress pretty much all afternoon, Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson were able to create some separation against this Packers secondary. So, it’s not all bad for the Falcons offense, as the Falcons offensive line is better than Seattle’s so Ryan should have a bit more time, and we all know what Julio Jones is capable of.

This one should be fun to watch, but the Packers spoil the home opener.

Packers 28 – Falcons 24

Ballers: Aaron Rodgers, Ty Montgomery, Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Martellus Bennett, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones

Under the Radar: Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel

Temper Expectations: Randall Cobb, Austin Hooper

Bums: Packers DST, Falcons DST

Detroit Lions at New York Giants

Spread: NYG -3

O/U: 43

Odell Beckham Jr. made a pretty strong case for MVP from the sidelines Sunday night. Thing is, while Eli Manning might look 28, he’s actually 36, and in the twilight of his career. Then, there’s the offensive line, which has been absolutely dreadful over the past few seasons. And, while I like Paul Perkins, he’s not Barry Sanders – he can’t succeed despite the line.

Even with OBJ, this offense averaged 19.4 points per game a season ago – 7th fewest.

Yes, 19.4 is greater than the 3 the Giants put up in Dallas Sunday night, and Eli has a few shiny new toys in Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall. But, it really doesn’t mean much when he has no time to throw, and no run game to draw attention.

OBJ can’t fix that.

Detroit opened 2017 with a victory over the Cardinals – who are eerily similar to the Giants. Both teams are solid defensively, have QBs who receive more praise than their production justifies, a gang of talent at the skill positions, and subpar offensive lines.

The Lions intercepted Palmer thrice (returning one for a TD), and held the Cards to 23 points in route to the 6th best fantasy DST performance of Week 1. They’re a sneaky streamer in this match-up as well, as no QB has more interceptions than Eli since he came into the league in 2004. And, by a wide margin. Eli has thrown 216 over that time frame, next closest? Drew Brees at 189 despite attempting 1,023 more passes.

Yikes.

Now offensively, the Lions may struggle to move the ball against this Giants defense. Yeah, they gave up 392 yards of total offense to the Cowboys, but the offense did them no favors with only 4 of their 10 drives lasting longer than 2 minutes. In fact, they didn’t cross the 50 until the 3rd quarter. All told, they were on the field for over 34 minutes and damn near the entire 1st half.

Given the circumstances, the d held up well.

I expect this one to be very low scoring, as was the case last season, a 17-6 Giants victory.

Lions 13 – Giants 10

Ballers: Lions DST, Giants DST

Under the Radar: Roger Lewis (Sterling Shepard if OBJ plays)

Temper Expectations: Everyone

 

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