NFL Week 2 best bets: Panthers are undervalued vs. rival Saints
We kicked off the NFL season with a 2-1 record on our best bets, which might have been 3-0 if not for Ryan Fitzpatrick's injury during the first half of Washington's loss to the Chargers. We'll chalk that up to bad luck as we shoot for perfection in Week 2.
The Bills' Super Bowl hype train suffered a serious blow in Week 1 with an ugly loss to the Steelers, whom oddsmakers are still pricing as an underdog to make the playoffs. Pittsburgh sacked Josh Allen three times and hurried him on 12.7% of his throws - second-most by any team in Week 1 - to produce one of Allen's worst games since before his star turn in 2020.
Now he'll face a Dolphins defense that ranked second in blitz rate (52.5%) in Week 1 and knocked down Patriots quarterback Mac Jones on 20.5% of his pass attempts, by far the most by any defense in the NFL last week. The Bills embarrassed Brian Flores' defense the last time they played. Expect an aggressive response Sunday, and don't be surprised by an outright win.
Pick: Dolphins +3.5
Yes, the Saints were thoroughly dominant in a Week 1 beatdown of the Packers, but let's not overreact too much to one impressive week. Jameis Winston turned heads with five touchdowns and zero turnovers, but it was also the first time since Week 2 of the 2019 season when he finished a game with zero interceptions or fumbles - and only because a questionable roughing the passer call erased what would have been a third-quarter interception.
The Panthers' burgeoning young defense passed its first test by stifling the Jets in Week 1 - which ranked as a top-four performance by DVOA and PFF - and will certainly tempt Winston to beat himself in his first true road test of the campaign. On the other side, Sam Darnold flashed his high-end arm talent in his Carolina debut and limited mistakes within Joe Brady's offense, which schemed open plenty of throws to this team's array of electric pass-catchers.
Pricing the Saints as a touchdown better than the Panthers on a neutral field felt like an overreaction when this line opened. It's even more of one given the injuries New Orleans sustained in Week 1 and the COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined several coaches ahead of Sunday. It all adds up to a value spot for Carolina, which has covered seven of its last nine as an underdog.
Pick: Panthers +3.5
I liked the Colts entering this season, and I still like their chances of competing for the division and a potential playoff spot down the line. But it's clear that short-term injuries have taken a toll on this offense, and Indy's defense isn't quite ready to stand toe-to-toe with the NFL's most prolific scoring attacks.
At a glance, Carson Wentz (251 yards, two TDs) impressed in his Colts debut, though his battered O-line meant settling for mostly quick throws and screen passes. That won't be enough to beat a Rams defense that will gladly give up empty yardage without surrendering big plays. Indianapolis had zero plays of 25 yards or more Sunday, allowing the Seahawks to key on the Colts' otherwise dangerous rushing attack.
Similarly, the Bears' longest pass completion last week was 19 yards and their offense never found a rhythm, while the Rams gleefully threw bomb after bomb against Chicago's overmatched secondary. Expect a similar game plan against the Colts, who were helpless against Russell Wilson's deep ball and face a similarly daunting challenge against Matthew Stafford and Co. in this one.
Pick: Rams -3.5
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