NFL Week 2: Take Browns To Get Out Of Their Own Way15 min read
Lindy’s Sports, America’s leading Football authority, looks ahead to some of the big Week 2 NFL action, which includes an NFC Championship rematch and a huge NFC North clash between two unbeaten teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
The Buccaneers (0-1) take on their NFC South division rival Panthers (0-1) at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Thursday night, a venue where have won just once in their last six visits.
It appears that little has changed from last season. Jameis Winston’s vow to take care of the ball lasted slightly longer than a Britney Spears marriage, Christian McCaffrey is still a one-man Panthers’ wrecking crew, and both teams are already playing catch-up to the New Orleans Saints.
Bruce Arians has already emphasized more offensive balance, with Ronald Jones rushing for 75 yards on 13 carries in a two-score home defeat by San Francisco on Sunday, while Peyton Barber chipped in with 33 yards. The Bucs need their lumbering running game to be effective, as Tampa cannot afford to get into too many shoot-outs. The secondary is young, inexperienced and may struggle early.
Of course, this game will interest UK viewers, as the teams square off again in London on October 13. That will be Tampa’s ‘home’ game, but after next week’s tilt against the New York Giants, they do not have a game at Raymond James Stadium until November 10.
The road team has covered the handicap in seven of the last 10 meetings, yet Tampa has gone 1-7 on the road in each of the last two seasons, so it is little wonder that they are in receipt of 6.5 points on the handicap at odds of 10/11.
No fewer than 13 of the last 19 meetings in Charlotte saw the points total go under the line, which is currently set at 49.5 points. With both teams giving up over 30 points last week, the emphasis will be on shoring up the defences, and while that is tough on a short week, the trends point to a relatively low-scoring affair.
Tip: Under 49.5 points
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Minnesota’s run-heavy attack was too much for Atlanta to handle last Sunday. They ran the ball 38 times, racking up 178 yards, with Dalvin Cook gaining 111 of them, which included two touchdowns in the 28-12 home win.
The Vikings executed well, utilising a fullback and two tight-end sets, but the Packers’ defensive front did an excellent job against Chicago’s ground attack, limiting them to 46 rushing yards in their largely forgettable 10-3 opening night road victory.
The Packers caught something of a break, as the Bears did not commit to the run with any authority and coordinator Mike Pettine was able to employ a sixth defensive back to stymie the intermediate passing game.
Minnesota’s pulling linemen and lead fullback disrupted the Atlanta linebacking lanes and allowed Cook to get plenty of freedom to get upfield against a team that was a pedestrian 25th against the run last year. Whether the Packers can successfully defend the run will be one of the sub-plots to a fascinating NFC North clash.
Green Bay’s pass rush could be fun to watch against an offensive line that needed help, but the same can be said for Minnesota’s withering pass rush, which set up three Falcons’ turnovers.
The Vikings’ success on the ground allowed its defense to remain fresh and that allowed this ageing unit to hold the high-octane Falcons attack scoreless for three quarters. Whether the offensive line will be able to control the line of scrimmage this time is open to question and we can expect QB Kirk Cousins to throw way more than the 10 passes he attempted against the Falcons.
The BetVictor NFL odds have the Packers as 3-point favourites at 10/11 and with both defences dominating last week, the points-total line has been driven down and currently stands at 44 points. That total was eclipsed at Lambeau on four of the last six meetings, and while defences usually hold sway early in the season, it often pays to go against the grain.
Tip: Over 44 points
New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams
In January’s NFC Championship played at the Superdome, the LA Rams needed a Greg Zuerlein 57-yard field goal to beat the Saints 26-23 in overtime, a game that will be remembered more for a pass interference infraction that was not called on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.
It prompted a rule-change, which now allows coaches to challenge non-calls on pass interference.
The Rams have won their last three home meetings with the Saints and are 2.5-point favourites with BetVictor at odds of 17/20, following their opening 30-27 road victory against the Carolina Panthers.
New Orleans enters this contest having defeated the Texans 30-28 on a last-second field goal, the first time they had gained a Week 1 victory since 2013.
The over/under is set at 53 and with Christian McCaffrey carving the Rams up on the ground last week, you can expect the Saints to hand Alvin Kamara the ball with regularity. It is therefore possible the scoreboard may not tick over with regularity that the layers are anticipating.
The Saints started slowly against the Texans, while the Rams coasted/tired in the latter stages in Carolina, yet flaws were hard to find. If we are picky, the Rams run defense does not appear to have improved from last year and the changes along the offensive line may provide a few teething problems as they bid to get back to the Super Bowl.
The Saints mitigated their biggest losses in free agency by signing former Patriots defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, former Vikings running back Latavius Murray and former Giants’ defensive end Mario Edwards Jr, and there appears to be no hangover from another heart-breaking season-ending defeat. This may go to the wire again and whichever team manages to make a defensive stop at the crucial time will likely prevail.
The Saints’ offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and with revenge on their minds, they may be worth taking with the points.
Tip: New Orleans Saints +2.5 points
Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons
Philadelphia started sluggishly last week before overcoming Washington 32-27, although a garbage-time Redskins touchdown left Eagles’ handicap bettors high and dry.
Atlanta similarly struggled early against Minnesota, with their run defense mauled and Matt Ryan sacked four times in a 28-12 road loss.
The Eagles won the 2018 season-opener against the Falcons 15-10 in Philadelphia, but have often struggled in Atlanta, losing on six of the last nine visits, including the last twice. Trend savants will note that the Eagles have never lost three consecutive trips, and they have had the Falcons’ number in recent years, winning seven of the last 10 meetings, including the last three.
Plenty of reasons to think the visitors can cover the 1.5-point handicap at odds of 10/11, then. Yet knee-jerk reactions to Week 1 results often catch bettors out.
The Falcons’ offensive line has still yet to gel, which caused timing issues and miscues from Ryan in Minnesota. Aside from pass protection issues, they could not get Devonta Freeman going on the ground, either. They also placed rookie first-round draft pick, guard Chris Lindstrom, on Injured Reserve with a foot injury this week, which is a major blow.
However, last week the Falcons came up against a top tier defense and hurt themselves with turnovers. Their defense improved after the half and you can’t expect to keep Ryan, Julio Jones. Calvin Ridley and Freeman quiet for long. This team is loaded with offensive talent.
Philadelphia still appears to have some issues that need addressing, namely their slow starts – they averaged just 2.6 points in the first quarter of games last year and they failed to score against the Redskins in the first quarter on Sunday – the pass rush was far from dominant against Washington, and the cornerbacks and secondary as a whole remain inconsistent at best.
We expect Ryan and his receivers to take advantage on their home turf as the Falcons get back on track.
Tip: Atlanta to win
Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets
Cleveland Browns have four prime-time games this season, the first of them coming on Monday night in New York against a Jets team who, in Week 1, contrived to throw away a 16-point second-half lead at home to the Buffalo Bills.
The star-studded Browns, featuring QB Baker Mayfield, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Myles Garrett, were 14/1 fifth favourites to win the Super Bowl before the thwack of boot on pigskin. But after Tennessee walked into Cleveland and came away with a 43-13 Week 1 victory, the Browns are out to 25/1. While we were never really sold on the hype, as our pre-season power rankings outlined, one game doth not a disaster make (unless you are Miami). While Browns fans may be swallowing hard, the squad has a wonderful opportunity to put matters right.
The Browns were flagged 18 times in the loss, for 182 yards – a coaching issue that can be put straight – and their offensive line struggled to protect Mayfield. Mayfield will have to do a better job of getting the ball out of his hands quicker and some schematic changes will help address that.
But things could be worse. Jets head coach Adam Gase’s eye must have been rolling again after his team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Jets, too, have offensive line issues. Too slow to pick up blitzes, Sam Darnold was sacked four times and hit on nine other occasions. The cornerbacks played way too soft and gave up big plays as a result, and they have still not resolved their kicking problem, with newly acquired Kaare Vedvik missing a field goal and an extra point.
Added to that, the pass-rush was non-existent after Buffalo made early adjustments, the linebackers looked bereft after C.J. Mosley departed with a groin injury and Gase’s conservative play-calling, a holdover from his stint in Miami, yielded just 3.4 yards per play.
Despite having lost five of the last six meetings, Cleveland are 2.5-point favourites on the handicap and this Cleveland team has far more talent than Buffalo. Providing they can get out of their own way, the visitors look tremendous value to get back to .500.
Tip: Cleveland Browns -2.5