Intro by Doug Kezirian
After the sportsbooks cleaned up on the NFL's opening weekend with underdogs covering 12 of 16 games, including nine of them winning outright, the second weekend might come down to just one game. The Kansas City Chiefs are 3.5-point road favorites in Baltimore on "Sunday Night Football" and could present huge liability for the house.
"Whatever happens during the day, that game will make or break the books because [parlays] could be tied into it," DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello told ESPN. "The public is going to bet the Chiefs, and the sharps will probably wait to see how high this line will go."
Despite constant support of Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City, the Chiefs have actually let backers down. They're only 2-10 against the spread in their past 12 games dating to last year, including the playoffs. However, the star quarterback shined in last week's comeback win against Cleveland, while Baltimore showed plenty of vulnerability in its Monday Night Football loss to the Raiders in Las Vegas.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is 6-1 ATS as an underdog but is winless in three career starts against Kansas City.
Every Friday during the season, betting analysts Doug Kezirian (2-0-2), Tyler Fulghum (0-2), Joe Fortenbaugh (5-1-1) and Anita Marks (26-17), Stats & Information's Seth Walder (4-4) and Mackenzie Kraemer, sports betting Deputy Editor David Bearman (3-2) and Football Outsiders Aaron Schatz (5-2) will provide their top plays across the NFL landscape.
Here are their best bets for Week 2 of the NFL season.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook as of Thursday (unless otherwise indicated).
8:20 p.m. ET game
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5, 55) at Baltimore Ravens
Kezirian: I will side with the public and grab the Chiefs, even though they are only 2-10 ATS in their past 12 games, dating to last year (including the playoffs). Kansas City has too much firepower for Baltimore to maintain pace, given the Ravens' running back injuries and inferior offensive line. Plus, more importantly, the Ravens no longer have the stellar defense from recent seasons, and Las Vegas exposed the secondary on Monday. What do you think Patrick Mahomes will do? Baltimore's championship window feels like it has closed, and I think the Chiefs are on a mission this season.
Pick: Chiefs -3.5
Marks: Baltimore is coming off a disappointing overtime loss to the Raiders on Monday and now must travel across the country to face a Chiefs team that will have an extra day of rest after playing Sunday (Andy Reid wins 70% of the time with a rest advantage). The Ravens love to blitz Mahomes (45% of his dropbacks), but maybe they should reconsider. The Chiefs QB has completed 76% of his passes with six TDs and no INTs against the Ravens when they blitz. Tight end Travis Kelce also should have a big game. Darren Waller put up 10 catches for 105 yards and a score last week against Baltimore, and the Ravens will be without defensive back Chris Westry (knee), so expect Kelce to feast. With the disappointing OT loss on other side of country, expect the Ravens to come out flat, so rolling with the Chiefs in the first half.
Pick: Chiefs first half -2.5, Chiefs team total over 29.5 (-110), Kelce scores TD (-135)
4 p.m. ET games
Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals (-3.5, 51)
Bearman: Unlike most Week 2 lines that tend to be overreactions to Week 1, this one is lower than it should be. Maybe I am jaded because this is a matchup of a team I loved before season (over eight wins, +600 to win NFC West) vs. a team I faded before the season, but I have this closer to six points than 3.5. The Cardinals looked even better than I could have imagined last week in blasting Tennessee and now return home vs. a struggling Vikings team. The Vikings trailed most of the second half against a young Bengals team last week and needed a 53-yard field goal just to force OT. Even when it looked like they might pull it out, they fumbled it away, picking up where they left off last season.
Minnesota is 6-11 against the number since last season, and I don't see them stopping the Kyler Murray-DeAndre Hopkins express. Could there be a Week 2 letdown for Arizona? Sure. But the Cardinals have the weapons to score early and often and get the perfect opponent to stop that letdown from happening.
Pick: Cardinals -3.5
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-12.5, 52)
Marks: Mike Davis was the featured back for the Falcons in Week 1 with 15 carries for 49 yards, but Cordarrelle Patterson was the more productive runner, gaining 54 yards on just seven carries. The game script suggests the Falcons will be playing from behind and will be throwing the ball. For Tampa Bay, expect another big game for Rob Gronkowski coming off his 90-yard, two-TD performance last week.
Pick: Davis under 39.5 rushing yards (-115), Gronkowski scores TD (+175)
Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks (-5.5, 54)
Fortenbaugh: Welcome to the Pacific Northwest, new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron! The Sean McVay disciple made a splash with Russell Wilson & Co. in Week 1, averaging a robust 7.2 yards per play on the road against an Indianapolis defense that ranked in the top 10 last season. To put that in perspective, averaging 7.2 yards per play last year would have ranked first in the NFL. For more perspective, take note that the Seahawks have cracked the top 10 in yards per play just once in the past five years, when the club ranked 10th in 2019. Tennessee has problems on the offensive line (six sacks allowed) and defense (38 points, 416 yards allowed), not to mention a banged-up receiving unit. A road game in Seattle isn't where a team goes to find itself.
Pick: Seahawks -5.5
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5, 55)
Schatz: Hidden in QB Justin Herbert's impressive Week 1 performance is an interesting split: The Chargers' passing game was successful on 45% of plays on first and second downs but 71% of plays on third downs. We can marvel all we want at the strong throws Herbert made in third-and-long situations, but that kind of split in success rate is not really sustainable. The Chargers ranked 20th in offensive DVOA for Week 1 because of those early-down struggles, while the Cowboys ranked eighth. Furthermore, the Week 1 loss for the Cowboys was partly due to poor special teams, and that's something that's likely to get better for them. Football Outsiders was already on a bit of an island with our mediocre projection for the Chargers, and I'm going to ride with that instead of overreacting to Week 1.
Pick: Cowboys +3.5
Marks: Herbert picked up right where he left off last season, throwing for 337 yards and a score against a tough Washington defense in Week 1. Now he gets to face a suspect Dallas secondary and a defense that will also be without DeMarcus Lawrence (broken foot).
Pick: Herbert over 300.5 passing yards (-190)
Walder: WR CeeDee Lamb is going to have a great season, and with Michael Gallup out, the opportunity is tremendous. But the upper limit for longest reception lines, from what I've seen, is 27.5 yards and maybe 28.5. So this line really isn't far off, and yet I don't think Lamb fits the profile the way a Calvin Ridley does. The volume is there, yes. But Lamb's 9 yards of depth three seconds into his routes -- per NFL Next Gen Stats -- ranked just 64th out of 95 wide receivers who had at least 15 routes in Week 1. And he was at 9.3 last season. Ridley last year, for comparison, was 11.3 yards downfield after three secondsc, and his prop this week is just a yard higher.
Pick: Lamb longest reception under 26.5 yards (-115)
1 p.m. ET games
New England Patriots (-5.5, 43) at New York Jets
Bearman: QB Mac Jones is getting a lot of attention after his debut last week. While I will admit that he outplayed Tua Tagovailoa, unless offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels trusts Jones more and opens the offense up, the Patriots are not going to be scoring a lot of points. I watched every play of that game vs. Miami and it was a lot of dump-offs, short passes to tight ends and screens. Honestly, it looked a lot like Miami under Tua last year, with a rookie QB with limited weapons and OCs who didn't trust him yet.
The Jets' offense is a whole different mess. Under rookie QB Zach Wilson and a backfield by committee, Gang Green had 82 totaled yards halfway through the third quarter last week. None of their first nine drives (10 of their first 11 possessions) went for over 40 yards. They finished strong with two TD drives (including a 98-yarder at the end of the game), but the game was mostly out of reach by then. Twenty-seven of the past 40 Patriots road games (32 of those with Tom Brady) went under the total. That's a large five-year sample size hitting at 67.5% under coach Bill Belichick, no matter who the QB is.