It feels good to be back.
Week 1 of the NFL season is behind us, and it finally feels like we’re getting back into to the swing of things as we feel out the league. The more things change, however, the more they stay the same.
The New England Patriots are very good, while the Miami Dolphins are, well, not. Perhaps it’s an overreaction, but we’re looking at a historic point spread when those two teams meet this week in South Florida. Can the woeful Dolphins hang within the astronomical number?
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian tried to tackle that and much more in this week’s NFL picks.
Here’s how they did last week.
Mike Cole: 9-6-1
Ricky Doyle: 8-7-1
Andrew Khatchaturian: 9-6-1
And here are their Week 2 picks.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 12
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-6.5) Carolina Panthers, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Panthers. Gonna try and not overthink this one. It’s a Thursday night game, obviously favoring the home team, and the Panthers have Christian McCaffrey, the best player on the field.
Ricky: Panthers. A co-worker and I tossed around this question Wednesday: How many starting quarterbacks would you take Jameis Winston over right now? It’s a very small list, right? Something tells me the Bucs will find a way to bury themselves in this game.
Andre: Panthers. The Panthers held the Rams to just 4.9 yards per play and gained 5.7 yards per play on them thanks in large part to McCaffrey. Cam Newton is turnover prone, but the Bucs aren’t exactly known for forcing turnovers and their own quarterback is easily the most interception-prone quarterback in the NFL.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 15
Indianapolis Colts at (-3) Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. I don’t think the Titans are as good as they showed last week, and the Colts proved — as long as Adam Vinatieri gets himself figured out — that they can still hang with AFC contenders even without Andrew Luck. They’ll also protect the QB better than Cleveland did last week against Tennessee.
Ricky: Colts. The Titans sure benefited from the Browns being undisciplined (18 penalties for 182 yards) in Week 1. They won’t have that luxury in Week 2 against the Colts, who committed just three penalties for 10 yards in their season-opening loss to the Chargers.
Andre: Colts. Jacoby Brissett struggled in 2017 because of inexperience and a weak offensive line in front of him. He’s now two years older, and we saw what he can do when he gets protection. He completed 78 percent of his passes, threw two touchdowns and no picks against a really good Chargers team. Tennessee looked great in Week 1, but Marcus Mariota struggled with accuracy and got great field position thanks to three turnovers forced by his defense in the fourth quarter.
(-2.5) Los Angeles Chargers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions. At a certain point, you just can’t ignore the injuries for the Chargers. Derwin James and Russell Okung remain out, and now it looks like Hunter Henry will miss some time, while Mike Williams is dinged up. That’s a lot of talent.
Ricky: Lions. The Chargers graded 28th in run defense last season, per Pro Football Focus, and they didn’t fare much better to open this season, with the Colts rushing for 203 yards in Week 1, the second-highest mark across the NFL. The Lions have their flaws, no doubt, but the running back tandem of Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson is positioned to succeed in Week 2. Take the home ‘dog against a banged-up Chargers club.
Andre: Chargers. Let’s not complicate this too much. The Chargers are a Super Bowl contender, while the Lions are easily the worst team in their division. The Chargers finished 8-1 in games outside of Los Angeles last season, with their only loss coming against the Patriots. L.A. also continues to dominate in the yards per play differential department, having the fourth-best mark last week.
(-2) Buffalo Bills at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Can the Bills bottle up Saquon Barkley? Maybe. Regardless, you could make a case the Jets offense they faced last week is better than this Giants unit as a whole.
Ricky: Bills. Buffalo’s defense is the real deal. New York’s defense is not, having allowed touchdown drives of 75, 93, 83, 75 and 89 yards on five consecutive possessions from the first through third quarters against Dallas in Week 1.
Andre: Bills. The Bills allowed just 3.4 yards per play in Week 1 and they might have a field day against Eli Manning. As great as Barkley is, he ran the ball only 11 times in Week 1 because the Giants fell behind early. If the Bills can force some turnovers, get good field positioning and get on top early, the Giants might be pressured to throw the ball a ton again.
Arizona Cardinals at (-13.5) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. It’s a ton of points, but there’s a lot going against Arizona here. Early road game across the country with a quarterback making his first career road start against a team making its home debut. But how about this one? Teams coming off ties are 4-12 ATS the following week since 2003.
Ricky: Cardinals. The Ravens are being overvalued after blowing out the lowly Dolphins. They’ll win, but this game has backdoor cover written all over it.
Andre: Cardinals. Way too many points against a Cardinals team that has some solid names on defense. The Ravens are 3-11 ATS in their last 14 games when favored by 10 or more points. Arizona is 7-2 ATS in their last nine when they’re underdogs by 13 points or more. You have to think Baltimore is getting a little too much love here because of their Week 1 beat down of Miami.
(-19) New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. I know the Dolphins are putrid, but they can’t be this bad, right? Like, at least have some professional pride. And maybe this is just a coincidence, but two of the last three Bill Belichick assistants who left to become head coaches beat the Patriots in their first matchup. Brian Flores’ team almost certainly won’t win, but perhaps there’s enough institutional knowledge to keep it close.
Ricky: Dolphins. Winning in Miami never has come easy for the Patriots, let alone winning by 20 (!) points. While it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins pulling off an upset, especially with multiple players reportedly trying to maneuver their way out of town, this spread is just way too big given the trends and, as Mike noted, Brian Flores’ familiarity with the Patriots.
Andre: Dolphins. The Patriots have been 17-point or more favorites eight times in the Brady-Belichick era and are 3-5. Miami has been a house of horrors for the Pats. They’re 1-5 in their last six in South Florida. Also, Ryan Fitzpatrick can easily throw a couple of bombs and keep this within 19.
(-5) Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. Don’t like laying points on the road in divisional games, but these trends are hard to ignore: Dallas is 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven as road favorites, and the road team is 7-3 ATS in the last 10 games of this NFC East series.
Ricky: Redskins. The Cowboys looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders in Week 1, but the Redskins proved feisty against the Eagles. This divisional matchup will wind up closer than most folks are anticipating based on the overall discrepancy in talent and public perception. As of Thursday morning, 85 percent of the money was coming in on Dallas. I’m inclined to fade the public here.
Andre: Cowboys. The Cowboys and Redskins had the second- and third-worst rush defense grades in Week 1, according to PFF. The difference? Dallas went up against Saquon Barkley and now they go up against a Redskins team that only rushed for 28 yards in Week 1. Dallas is 16-3 when Elliott rushes for more than 100 yards.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-8.5) Houston Texans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. It’s a short week, but getting home should help the Texans alleviate some offensive line issues, especially as Laremy Tunsil gets another week in the system. It’s not a great spot for Jags rookie QB Gardner Minshew, making his first career start on the road in a divisional game with almost an entire game of tape on him now.
Ricky: Texans. Andre probably will talk up Minshew, the rookie sixth-rounder who replaced Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles in Week 1. And that’s fine, because my pick has little to do with him and a lot to do with Jacksonville’s defense, which, for all of its talent, looked lost against Kansas City. Sure, the Jaguars’ poor performance came against the Chiefs, who boast the NFL’s most explosive offense, but Jacksonville was just plain sloppy, particularly in pass coverage. DeShaun Watson will have a field day for the Texans.
Andre: Jaguars. I sang the praises of Minshew on “The Spread,” this week only to receive harsh criticism by Mike and Ricky. I praised Minshew’s accuracy (88 percent) and Mike said, “Yeah — a lot of short passes.” So I did research. Minshew averaged six air yards per pass attempt in Week 1 — the third-highest mark among all quarterbacks in Week 1, according to Pro Football Reference. He also only had one “bad throw,” according to the PFR. I’m on Team Minshew and I’m also not a fan of the Texans’ offensive line, which gave up six sacks last week.
Seattle Seahawks at (-4) Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. Pittsburgh looked awful last week, but they always look bad in Foxboro. A correction seems in store this week against a Seattle team that can’t pass block and can’t cover receivers. Pittsburgh can expose both of those flows.
Ricky: Steelers. The Seahawks are 1-8 SU and 0-8-1 ATS in their last nine September road games, while the Steelers have started 0-2 only once since 2007. A bounce-back seems in order for Pittsburgh at home.
Andre: Steelers. John Ross had a field day in Week 1 against the Seahawks’ secondary. This is the week JuJu Smith-Schuster breaks out.
San Francisco 49ers at (-1.5) Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. San Francisco is playing back-to-back road games — an early one in the Eastern Time Zone — and if you take away two defensive scores last week, that’s a much different game in Tampa Bay. Also looks like Zac Taylor will be able to cook up some innovative offense every week for Cincy.
Ricky: 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo looked like garbage in Week 1. This is a perfect opportunity for him to break through, though, because even though the Bengals hung tough with the Seahawks in their season-opening loss, Cincinnati still lacks talent on defense, particularly at the second level.
Andre: 49ers. The 49ers had two defensive interceptions all of last year. They surpassed that total with three in Week 1. Richard Sherman continues to be a beast. According to PFF, opposing QBs threw at him once every 12.6 targets last season — the best mark among corners. Last week, when Jameis Winston did throw at him, he got himself a pick six. Good luck, Andy Dalton.
Minnesota Vikings at (-3) Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Much tougher test for Minnesota this week after the Falcons gifted them a couple of short drives. Packers punter J.K. Scott will be able to pin the Vikings deep, and Minnesota should find it far more difficult to move the ball against an apparently stout Packers defense. One more (long) week in Matt LaFleur’s system should lead to improvement for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense.
Ricky: Vikings. The Bears did the Packers a solid in Week 1 by not playing to their offensive strengths (52 pass plays to 13 run plays). The Vikings, meanwhile, have found an offensive formula that works, relying much more on their rushing attack since firing offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and replacing him with Kevin Stefanski toward the end of last season. Expect Minnesota’s excellent defense to shut down Aaron Rodgers and Co. enough to squeak out a road win.
Andre: Packers. The Falcons turned the ball over three times in Week 1, giving the Vikings great field positioning throughout the game. You know what Rodgers doesn’t do? Turn the ball over. Also, Dalvin Cook has never had consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Green Bay held Chicago to just 3 yards per carry in Week 1, and if Cook struggles, there’s more pressure on Kirk Cousins to throw the ball more, which might not be the best thing.
(-8) Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Raiders. The Chiefs are without Tyreek Hill, which hurts, and Patrick Mahomes was banged up in Week 1. As good as the offense looked, there are still serious question marks about the K.C. defense, and a second straight road game — in the division, no less — is a tough spot.
Ricky: Chiefs. Kansas City is the far better football team. The Chiefs also are on a good run against the Raiders (6-3 ATS in the teams’ last nine head-to-head matchups) and the AFC West in general (16-8 ATS since 2015) in recent years. Don’t overreact to Oakland’s Week 1 showing against Denver.
Andre: Raiders. The Broncos recorded a total of ZERO QB hits against the Raiders in Week 1 and their pass rush is much better than Kansas City’s. The Chiefs also allowed the second-most yards per play in Week 1. Derek Carr will have time to throw and Josh Jacobs will feast on a Chiefs rush defense that hasn’t been good ever since the start of last year.
New Orleans Saints at (-3) Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Rams. The Saints continue to have issues covering the slot — Deshaun Watson had a 146.9 passer rating targeting slot corner PJ Williams last week — and the Rams will pick on that, too, with Cooper Kupp back in the mix.
Ricky: Rams. The Saints’ offseason departures could catch up with them this week: Defensive end Alex Okafor (signed with the Chiefs) certainly would’ve helped New Orleans’ run defense, which is feeling the injuries to Sheldon Rankins and Mario Edwards, and center Max Unger (retired) would’ve boosted the Saints’ chances of slowing down Aaron Donald’s elite interior pass rush.
Andre: Saints. The Rams allowed the fourth-fewest receiving yards to running backs last season, but it appears they struggle when the pass-catching running back happens to be elite. Christian McCaffrey feasted on the Rams last week with 10 catches and 81 yards and Alvin Kamara dominated the NFC Championship game last season with 11 catches and 96 yards. Drew Brees will get excellent protection like he usually does and utilize the short-pass game to gash the Rams.
(-3) Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Last week was a big-time letdown for the Denver defense, but a return home should help. So, too, should Vic Fangio’s familiarity with the Bears, and he should know as well as anyone the buttons to push in order to make Mitch Trubisky’s life miserable.
Ricky: Bears. The Bears are much more rested — Chicago played the first game of Week 1 (last Thursday night), whereas Denver played the final game (Monday night at 10:20 p.m. ET) — and points won’t come easy for the Broncos. The Vic Fangio effect also works both ways, as Chicago head coach Matt Nagy should have a good idea of how to attack his former defensive coordinator.
Andre: Broncos. Denver has won 14 consecutive September home games. Maybe it’s the elevation? Twelve of the last 18 Bears games have also been decided by one possession, so expect a close one.
(-1.5) Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. Atlanta opened as a favorite but an avalanche of bets came in on Philly to flip the line. But the Falcons’ offense is much better at home, and the Eagles won’t have Malik Jackson up front, which should hurt a pass rush that already has to try like hell to cover for a leaky Eagles secondary.
Ricky: Falcons. Philadelphia theoretically should be able to overcome the loss of Jackson, as Tim Jernigan is no slouch and the Eagles always could move one of their defensive ends inside like they did many times last season. But the injury still stings. And this seems like a good get-right spot for the Falcons, who are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games as home underdogs and 4-1 ATS in their last five home night games.
Andre: Falcons. Rasul Douglas allowed a reception per 7.5 coverage snaps last season — the third-worst mark in the NFL. His struggles continued in Week 1 when he allowed four receptions, 85 yards, two touchdowns and a perfect passer rating whenever he was targeted by Case Keenum. Strong chance Matt Ryan feasts on him with all of his weapons, especially at home.
MONDAY, SEPT. 16
(-6.5) Cleveland Browns at New York Jets, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Browns. Quarterbacks beware. Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were sacked a combined nine times last week. I think New York is more likely to protect Darnold, but Cleveland has the better pass rush. Quite a conundrum. If this one is going to be low-scoring, though, I’ll grab the points.
Ricky: Jets. Losing Darnold hurts, but Le’Veon Bell looked as elusive as ever in Week 1. If the Jets can pound the rock, control the clock and lean on their defense, then they’ll keep this game close regardless of who’s under center.
Andre: Jets. Since 2013, the Browns have been road favorites just three times and they’ve failed to cover each time. Cleveland allowed 81 yards to Titans running backs in Week 1, and that might mean big things for Bell. Finally, this Jets defense is for real. They forced four turnovers in Week 1 and could easily have similar success against Mayfield, who imploded in the second half last week with three picks.
Thumbnail photo via David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports Images