It was a wild opening week in the NFL, as several underdogs pulled off upsets. What awaits in Week 2?
Here is my favorite bet for each game. Odds courtesy of DraftKings on Sept. 17.
49ers (-3) at Eagles
The pick: 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (+105) anytime scorer
The reason: 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has followed in his father’s footsteps, consistently turning no-name running backs into efficient producers. Raheem Mostert was lost for the year in the opener, but Mitchell, the rookie sixth-round pick, responded with 19 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown.
While JaMychal Hasty and Trey Sermon could complicate things, Mitchell was the No. 2 running back heading into the opener and should be the clear go-to guy against the Eagles. The bet here is that he finds the end zone.
Welcome the the league, @EliMitch15! 🙌
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 12, 2021
Rams (-3.5) at Colts
The pick: Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (-115) over 236.5 passing yards
The reason: This game could be a mirror image of Indy’s opener. The Colts fell behind the Seahawks and Wentz was forced to throw 38 times in the loss. He only averaged 6.6 yards per attempt, but there was enough volume to get him to 251 passing yards.
If Indy is behind in the fourth, Wentz should rack up the yardage and surpass the total.
Texans (+13) at Browns
The pick: Texans (-115) to cover as 13-point underdogs
The reason: Houston could still end up the worst team in the league, but didn’t look the part in the opener. The Texans smashed the Jaguars, and while Jacksonville is talent-deficient, a blowout win is still a blowout win.
The Browns’ offense looked dynamic against the Chiefs, but the defense and special teams faltered. With a spread this big, all three phases will need to contribute. The Texans should stick close enough to cover.
Raiders (+6.5) at Steelers
The pick: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (-115) under 271.5 passing yards
The reason: The Steelers came away with a nice win over the Bills on Sunday, but it was on the strength of the defense. Roethlisberger threw for a meager 188 yards on 32 attempts, continuing a disturbing trend that began last season.
Roethlisberger was Pro Football Focus’ lowest-graded passer in Week 1, and the Raiders’ pass-rush looked solid on Monday night. The Steelers are favored to win, which could limit Roethlisberger’s late-game volume. This is my favorite bet of the week.
Ben Roethlisberger had a 38.0 PFF grade in Week 1
Lowest among all QBs 😬
— Jarad Evans (@PFF_Jarad) September 15, 2021
Bills (-3.5) at Dolphins
The pick: Bills running back Devin Singletary (-115) over 36.5 rushing yards
The reason: Buffalo throws a lot, and quarterback Josh Allen takes away some of the rushing attempts from the backs. Furthermore, the Bills’ running back situation is muddled and Singletary fumbled twice in the opener.
Despite all that, he ran the ball 11 times for 72 yards against the Steelers, and this total is pretty low. As long as Zack Moss doesn’t re-enter the picture, Singletary should get enough carries to surpass the rushing yardage total, even against a stout Dolphins defense.
Saints (-3) at Panthers
The pick: Total score (-110) under 44.5 points
The reason: New Orleans’ defense looked dominant in the opening-week blowout of the Packers, stupefying Aaron Rodgers at every turn. The Saints are No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency after the performance, following a preseason ranking of No. 3.
Saints quarterback Jameis Winston and Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold both played well in their openers, but the track record of success is not there. Both should regress in this game, where points will be at a premium.
Matt Rhule called the Saints "an elite defense." They shut down Aaron Rodgers last week.
— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) September 15, 2021
Broncos (-6) at Jaguars
The pick: Broncos (-115) to cover the 6-point spread
The reason: If the Jaguars continue to play as badly as they did in the opener, they are going to be significant underdogs in every game. There isn’t enough of a sample size for that conclusion quite yet, which is good news for those who believe in Jacksonville’s ineptitude.
Teddy Bridgewater had the top ESPN Total QBR in Week 1 and should play well again in this matchup.
Patriots (-6) at Jets
The pick: Patriots (-110) to cover the 6-point spread
The reason: Zach Wilson, meet Bill Belichick. The Jets’ rookie quarterback is going to be tested heavily by the Patriots’ coach. While both teams sport rookie signal-callers, Mac Jones is in a much better situation. The New England defense should control this one and help the Patriots pull away for the win and the cover.
Bengals (+2.5) at Bears
The pick: Bears (-105) to cover as 2.5-point favorites
The reason: This is a bit of an overreaction to the Week 1 results. Cincinnati had a nice overtime victory over the Vikings, but the roster still lacks talent. The Bears had a tough matchup against the Rams and could not hang.
Chicago does not look like a very good team, and the Andy Dalton questions will persist until Justin Fields takes over, but the Bears should be able to score enough in this one to cover.
What's the message the Bears coaches are sending to the team's players when they switch between Justin Fields and Andy Dalton?@bykevinclark and @Foxworth24 break it all down here: pic.twitter.com/qEHAcTLXTK
— The Ringer (@ringer) September 16, 2021
Vikings (+4) at Cardinals
The pick: Cardinals (-120) under 27.5 points
The reason: Quarterback Kyler Murray and the offense looked phenomenal in the opener, but that came against a porous Tennessee defense. The Vikings will be without Anthony Barr and Everson Griffen, but there is still a considerable amount of talent on that side of the ball.
Coach Mike Zimmer does a nice job of mixing man and zone coverages, and Murray will have a lot to dissect pre-snap. The Cardinals’ passing game likely won’t be as high-flying, and with the way the team’s defense looks, the contest shouldn’t turn into a shootout.
Falcons (+12.5) at Buccaneers
The pick: Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (-115) over 48.5 receiving yards
The reason: It was a forgetful debut for the Falcons and Pitts in the opener. The team lost to the Eagles, 32-6, and Pitts had only four catches for 31 yards. However, he was targeted eight times, and that type of volume should repeat itself in a game where Atlanta is a heavy underdog.
Vita Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul and Co. are going to make life tough on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, but if he can manage to get the ball out, Pitts will benefit and put up some nice numbers.
Cowboys (+3.5) at Chargers
The pick: Cowboys (-115) to cover as 3.5-point underdogs
The reason: Dallas had a rough week. Tackle La’el Collins was suspended for five games, DeMarcus Lawrence broke his foot, and Randy Gregory (COVID-19) and Michael Gallup (calf) also suffered ailments.
So why the pick? Quarterback Dak Prescott was great against a terrific Buccaneers defense, and he will still have CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper at his disposal. These two teams are evenly-matched, and the extra half-point on the spread is a big boost, as Dallas could lose by a field goal and cover.
Only 1 game into the season and the Cowboys are having to deal with missing multiple key players.
• DE DeMarcus Lawrence: Out 6-8 weeks
• WR Michael Gallup: On IR
• OL Zack Martin: COVID-19 Reserve
• DE Randy Gregory: COVID-19 Reserve
• OL La’el Collins: Suspended 5 games pic.twitter.com/omqkxJnzkE
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 16, 2021
Titans (+6.5) at Seahawks
The pick: Titans running back Derrick Henry (-115) over 84.5 rushing yards
The reason: The 2,000-yard rusher from a season ago was stonewalled by the Cardinals’ defensive front in the opener, as he rushed for only 58 yards on 17 attempts. Henry’s over/under was more than 100 in that one, and the oddsmakers have brought it way down in Week 2.
Tennessee will likely be intent on getting Henry going, as the offense revolves around play-action. Henry could see 20 carries or more against Seattle, which means he could have moderate success and still go over the total.
Chiefs (-3.5) at Ravens
The pick: Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (-115) under 90.5 receiving yards
The reason: Hill has the highest projected receiving total in the NFL in Week 2 after his 11-catch, 197-yard performance against the Browns. The Ravens have undoubtedly watched that tape and will want the others in Kansas City’s receiving corps to beat them.
It would not be a surprise if Baltimore’s star cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, matches up against Hill for much of this game. With Marcus Peters done for the year with a torn ACL, Patrick Mahomes could attack elsewhere in the Ravens’ secondary.
Baltimore is dealing with myriad injuries on offense, which could make this game lower-scoring than it’s been in the past.
Lions (+12) at Packers
The pick: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (-270) to throw under 0.5 interceptions
The reason: Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions in the season opener against the Saints, which matched his total from all of 2018. Last year, Rodgers threw five picks all season and in 2019 it was four. He is extremely careful with the ball and should get back to that in this game.
The Lions’ defense is among the worst in the NFL, and if Green Bay pulls away as expected, Rodgers won’t need to force throws down the stretch. This side of the wager is a significant favorite, but that’s because it should cash.