Last week was a crash course in quick reversals of expectations: For example, the Cleveland Browns failed to deliver on their hype, and Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens proved far better at passing than some had expected.
But it’s far too early to assume we know much about these teams. Week 2 should be approached with an open mind — even in Miami, where the Dolphins are underdogs with one of the widest spreads in recent N.F.L. history.
This week already has been filled with news. Antonio Brown of the Patriots is facing a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault, Sam Darnold of the Jets is out indefinitely with mononucleosis, a Bills rookie was suspended after he was charged in a domestic violence incident and the Buccaneers survived in an ugly Thursday night game against the Panthers.
Here is a look at N.F.L. Week 2, with all picks made against the point spread.
Last week’s record: 12-4
Sunday’s Best Games
Saints at Rams, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Rams -2.5 | Total: 52
Instead of talking about a matchup of two of the N.F.L.’s best teams — a rubber match, after each beat the other last season — most people are just going to talk about the play. It’s the one where Nickell Robey-Coleman, a defensive back for the Rams, clearly interfered with Tommylee Lewis, a wide receiver for the Saints, near the end of the N.F.C. championship game last season, and no call was made.
But if we move beyond a noncall that cost New Orleans a trip to the Super Bowl — and focus on this game — it’s easy to be excited about a matchup of teams that could end up in a second consecutive conference championship this year.
Both teams have terrific quarterbacks, exciting running backs and talented wide receivers. Both teams have defenses that are a strange mix of porous and opportunistic. Both teams have coaches who have had a turn as the N.F.L.’s hottest new thing.
A concern for Los Angeles is how Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers exploited its defense last week (209 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns). Alvin Kamara of the Saints is a very different running back than McCaffrey, but he presents a similar challenge as a runner and receiver. New Orleans, meanwhile, gave up 180 yards on the ground last week to a group of Houston running backs that is not nearly as talented as the Los Angeles duo of Todd Gurley II and Malcolm Brown.
Does that mean this game will be decided by running backs? Probably not. In what will almost assuredly be a close game, an interception, a fumble or even a missed call late in the game could decide things. Pick: Rams -2.5
Patriots at Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Patriots -18.5 | Total: 48
From a football standpoint, there is little to speak of. The N.F.L.’s reigning champion (New England) is coming off a thrashing of a quality team (Pittsburgh) and a team that has been accused of openly tanking (Miami) is coming off a game in which it allowed the most points in an N.F.L. game since 2012.
The Patriots (1-0) are better at everything than the Dolphins (0-1), and everyone knows it. So how do oddsmakers come up with a reason for anyone to care about what should be a blowout? A comically large point spread will do.
No favored N.F.L. team has covered a spread of more than 16 points on the road, and the Patriots are being asked to cover 18.5 (a number that rose from an opening spread of 15, and one that could rise even more based on plausible scenarios like the Dolphins’ few decent remaining players quitting to become long-haul truck drivers). But there’s a reason gigantic point spreads on the road are not typically covered, and it has to do with things like motivation, garbage-time touchdowns, injuries and other factors. Will New England win? Almost certainly, yes. Could New England cover? Yes. Will they? Probably not. Pick: Dolphins +18.5
Cardinals at Ravens, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Ravens -13.5 | Total: 46
There are two games this week in which both quarterbacks are Heisman Trophy winners: this one and Tampa Bay vs. Carolina. After Lamar Jackson’s explosion against Miami last week, and Kyler Murray’s electric fourth quarter against Detroit, this one figures to be the more exciting matchup.
The big questions are whether the connection between Jackson and Marquise (Hollywood) Brown of the Ravens (1-0) is really that strong and whether Arizona’s Murray can figure out how to replicate last week’s fourth quarter while hoping everyone forgets just how bad he and the Cardinals (0-0-1) looked for the first 45 minutes of their opener. Baltimore, a playoff team a year ago, is rightly favored, but Arizona’s secondary will be much more active than Miami’s in making life hard for Jackson. Pick: Cardinals +13.5
Eagles at Falcons, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Eagles -1.5 | Total: 52.5
The Falcons (0-1) need a pick-me-up on offense after managing just 12 points in a loss to Minnesota last week. A home game against the Eagles (1-0), who looked vulnerable on defense last week, could be just what the doctor ordered. In truth, both of these teams have been fairly frustrating going back to last year. That is unlikely to change, but Matt Ryan has a 57-29 career record at home, so Atlanta shouldn’t be an underdog. Pick: Falcons +1.5
Sunday’s Other Games
Cowboys at Redskins, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Cowboys -5 | Total: 46
How are things going in Washington? Much to the surprise of many of his players, Coach Jay Gruden made running back Adrian Peterson a healthy scratch for the Redskins (0-1) last week despite the team’s starter, Derrius Guice, not appearing to be fully recovered from a knee injury last year, and Peterson, likely a future Hall of Famer, having been brilliant at times in 2018. Guice proceeded to injure his other knee and is now expected to miss a few weeks, and Peterson is suddenly Gruden’s starter. So … not great!
The Cowboys (1-0) have a far rosier outlook. Ezekiel Elliott is locked up for the foreseeable future, as are several other key components of the team, and Dak Prescott looked sensational in his first game with Kellen Moore, Dallas’s new offensive coordinator, calling plays. Pick: Cowboys -5
Chiefs at Raiders, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Line: Chiefs -7.5 | Total: 50
There have been relatively few hiccups in the still-young career of Patrick Mahomes. He can’t quite manage a road win in New England — some other quarterbacks have also struggled to do that — but he has found success virtually everywhere else. So with the Chiefs (1-0) traveling to Oakland to face a fierce A.F.C. West rival in the Raiders (1-0), it’s with a reasonable amount of certainty that you can predict a Kansas City victory. But any anticipation of a blowout ignores the Raiders looking improved from last season and the fact that Mahomes has typically saved his laughers for home games. Pick: Raiders +7.5
Vikings at Packers, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Packers -4 | Total: 44.5
Coach Matt LaFleur was supposed to bring the N.F.L.’s offensive revolution to Green Bay, but in a season-opening road win in Chicago, the Packers (1-0) showed a lot more aptitude on defense. Having a healthy Aaron Rodgers starting at home against the Vikings (1-0), a division rival he loves to beat up at Lambeau (7-2-1 for his career), will most likely wake things up on that side of the ball. Just as vital, though, is the open question of whether Green Bay’s defense is actually that good. If it is, the rest of the N.F.C. North is in trouble. Pick: Packers -2.5
Jaguars at Texans, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Texans -9.5 | Total 43
Here’s what you need to know about Gardner Minshew, the sixth-round draft pick of the Jaguars (0-1) who stepped in for the injured Nick Foles and completed 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards in last week’s loss to Kansas City:
There are plenty of reasons the Texans (0-1) are huge favorites in this game, and Houston will almost assuredly win, but Minshew did not appear tentative at all last week, and he just might keep this game somewhat competitive. Pick: Jaguars +9.5
Colts at Titans, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Titans -3 | Total: 45
They had opposite results in terms of wins and losses, but the Colts (0-1) and Titans (1-0) had a lot of reason for optimism after Week 1. The Indianapolis offense looked decidedly competent with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback rather than Andrew Luck, and running back Marlon Mack showed that his breakout last season was no fluke. Tennessee, meanwhile, went on the road and obliterated a Browns team that had been talked about as a dark horse Super Bowl contender. The Colts’ defense is probably a little better than it showed in a loss to the Chargers, and the Titans’ 43 points owed a great deal of favors to Baker Mayfield’s mistakes. But even once you adjust for some regression to the mean, Tennessee is a solid home favorite. Pick: Titans -3
Chargers at Lions, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Chargers -2.5 | Total: 48
Both of these teams are coming off overtime games, but the Chargers (1-0) have much better memories of last week than the Lions (0-0-1), who had to settle for a tie in a game that they’d led by as much as 17-0 in the first half. There is no question that both teams can muster some offense — and their respective quarterbacks are as durable as they come — but Los Angeles should be concerned about its defensive showing in Week 1. Pick: Lions +2.5
Bears at Broncos, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Bears -2.5 | Total: 40.5
You would think that after a hard-to-watch season opener for the Bears (0-1), Coach Matt Nagy would realize that his rookie running back, David Montgomery, had been dramatically underused. But Nagy, citing things beyond just success running the ball — like pass protection and running routes — said Chicago would continue to ease in the much-hyped third-round pick.
Chicago will, almost by default, be better on offense this week, especially against the Broncos (0-1), whose defense looked terrible in a loss to the Raiders on Monday night. Road games in Denver can be tough, but the Bears have the added motivation of proving last year’s success was not a fluke. Pick: Bears -2.5
49ers at Bengals, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Bengals -2 | Total: 45
In last week’s convincing win over Tampa Bay, the 49ers (1-0) with Jimmy Garoppolo back under center were not particularly effective on offense. But the team’s defense, thanks in part to a strong push from its rebuilt front seven, managed three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Bengals (0-1) were aggressive and productive in Coach Zac Taylor’s first game, but San Francisco looks like a better team. Pick: 49ers +2
Seahawks at Steelers, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Steelers -4 | Total: 45.5
The injury report for the Steelers (0-1) is a bit daunting, but running back James Conner is just working his way through what is believed to be a mild illness, and Pittsburgh is optimistic that JuJu Smith-Schuster, the team’s star wide receiver, should be fine to play despite being listed as questionable with a toe injury. If Smith-Schuster is anywhere near 100 percent, Seattle’s rebuilt secondary — Legion of Whom? — could be in big trouble. Pick: Steelers -4
Bills at Giants, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Bills -1.5 | Total 44
The Bills (1-0), who pulled off a remarkable comeback against the Jets last week, have the unusual distinction of playing consecutive road games in the same stadium against different teams. If all goes well this week, they could be 2-0 at MetLife before the Giants or Jets have a win there. That’s about as interesting of a tidbit that you’ll come across with this game. Pick: Bills -1.5
Browns at Jets, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Browns -2.5 | Total: 46
Picking one thing to complain about in a game that was an absolute failure on every level seems petty, but the Browns (0-1) need to find a way to protect Baker Mayfield. Not having the team’s starting left tackle (Greg Robinson) get ejected for kicking an opponent in the face could certainly help.
There’s a reason people were so high on the Browns in the preseason — even if it’s suddenly hard to remember it — and a road game in prime time against the Jets (0-1) — who will be without their starting quarterback, Sam Darnold — will give Mayfield a giant spotlight to prove his doubters wrong. And Mayfield does love to prove his doubters wrong. Pick: Browns -2.5
Buccaneers at Panthers, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network
Line: Panthers -7 | Total: 48.5
There is a distinct possibility that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will turn himself into a one-man wrecking crew when the Panthers (0-1) host his former team, the Buccaneers (0-1). McCoy’s nine-year tenure in Tampa Bay ended when the Bucs’ new head coach, Bruce Arians, declared him not as disruptive as he once was and proceeded to release him. Things only went south from there, with one of the team’s most prominent former players, Warren Sapp, openly questioning if McCoy had a legacy that could justify his complaints.
But even if McCoy can get to quarterback Jameis Winston early and often, will that be enough to balance out the rest of a Panthers defense that was exposed last week in a loss to the Rams? A more likely outcome is a narrow Panthers victory followed by some questioning of whether the pairing of Arians and Winston is working out.
Pick: Buccaneers +7; Result: Buccaneers 20, Panthers 14
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Patriots -18.5, for example, means that New England must beat the Dolphins by at least 19 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.
All times are Eastern.