The NFL Week 2 Undercard

TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis previewed the four national games of Week 2, from Thursday night to late Sunday afternoon to the Sunday-Monday prime-time parlay. Now let’s wrap up our prep for the season’s second week with a rundown on the 12 undercard games. Each one is picked on the moneyline, with the odds for an outright win noted in parentheses…

Washington (+270)  Green Bay (-340): This partisan Redskins fan can’t think of a single objective reason to give a non-biased fan for  why a road upset should happen. Washington  has to be able to run the ball, and looked lousy doing so on Monday Night. Meanwhile, Green Bay stopped the run at physical San Francisco.

The Redskin secondary also left a lot to be desired, and now they’re staring into the face of Aaron Rodgers. Finally, RG3’s approach of throwing the ball exclusively off his back foot isn’t going to work. It might be time to go All In For Week 6 and get back in rehab. Sunday will tell a lot.

But I’m still holding out hope that the Redskin running game of 2012 can re-emerge, that Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan can pressure Rodgers from the edge and that RG3’s awkward throwing was more about mental adjustment than lack of physical readiness. It’s not enough to make me pick the ‘Skins, but reason enough not to sell my football soul and pick against them. I’ll just pass.

St. Louis (+230) Atlanta (-280): Atlanta’s pass protection had some problems against New Orleans last week, and the Rams have a front four that can bring some heat. And I liked the way Sam Bradford brought his team from behind in Week 1 against Arizona. But I think the Atlanta offense is good enough to still make this a wide-open affair, and asking Bradford to outgun Matt Ryan is too much to ask.

Cleveland (+250) Baltimore (-300): Where’s the respect for the Ravens? You’re telling me their bad showing at Denver in Week 1 makes them only a marginally bigger favorite over the Browns at home, than the Falcons are over the Rams? I’ll say this—if Baltimore can’t do a better job pressuring the passer and running the ball in this spot, it’s a sign of deeper problems. But I see a blowout win for the champs in their first home game.

Carolina (-145) Buffalo (+125): I know Buffalo played a nice game in nearly upsetting New England, but they didn’t run the ball at all, and Carolina’s defense shut down Marshawn Lynch and the potent Seattle rush game. It’s risky to take the Panthers on the road, but they did enough good things in Week 1 that I’ll  take them to win at Buffalo.

Minnesota (+225) Chicago (-270): What I’m most interested in for this game is whether the Viking defensive ends, Brian Robison and Jared Allen, can overwhelm Chicago’s pass protection. If the Bears handle the Vikes quality front one week after doing the same to the Bengals, I’ll be ready to buy into the theory that Chicago’s long-awful offensive front is making some strides.

In either case, you can’t pick the Vikings on the road. They’re home and road personalities are about as different as those of Fever Pitch character Ben Wrightman in winter and summer.

Tennessee (+360) Houston (-450): I’d really like to take a shot at an upset here, after the way Houston struggled at San Diego. But even if the Titans are for real, isn’t it asking too much for them to beat the Steelers and Texans on the road in succession? I think it is.

Miami (+125) Indianapolis (-145): Two teams that I think are overrated and neither was impressive in Week 1. The Colts barely escaped the Raiders at home, and the Fish won an ugly game in Cleveland. But Andrew Luck is establishing himself as a quarterback you want on your side in the closing minutes of a tight game. Ryan Tannehill has not. And the price on the favorite is pretty cheap.

Dallas (+140) Kansas City (-160): The Chiefs did a lot of good things in Week 1, even allowing that it was against Jacksonville. KC’s defense pressured the quarterback, something that will bear them in good stead against Dallas’ leaky offensive line. Kansas City can run the ball with Jamaal Charles and if they do both of those on Sunday they’re going to win. But I’m not at the point of being ready to pick this team as a favorite against a team that, for all its flaws, is still above average. I’ll take the Cowboys.

San Diego (+265) Philadelphia (-330): If Philadelphia can run the ball with LeSean McCoy like they did on Monday Night in Washington, they won’t lose at home to a San Diego team, where Philip Rivers seems to have to lost the ability to get the ball down the field. But the Chargers played well on Monday Night themselves before blowing a late lead to Houston. All things being equal, I’d take Philly, but the moneyline disparity is pretty big, and makes the Bolts worth a play.

Detroit (-135) Arizona (+115): Both teams are seen as turnaround candidates for 2013, but while Detroit’s offense played well in a home win over Minnesota, nothing happened to justify making them a road favorite. I also like the Cardinals’ play in a tough home loss to St. Louis and see the Arizona defense, keyed by Patrick Peterson in the secondary, forcing Matthew Stafford into some mistakes and getting a win.

New Orleans (-180) Tampa Bay (+155): The Buccaneers still can’t get any pressure on the quarterback and I’m going to take a wild guess that could prove problematic against Drew Brees. Tampa needs to get a good game from Doug Martin, something they did not get in Week 1 at the Jets, and the need to get some big plays from Josh Freeman. It’s a reasonable victory scenario, especially at home, but not enough to steer me off the Saints.

Jacksonville (+220) Oakland (-260): Jacksonville is still looking for their first offensive points of the season, but having Chad Henne under center rather than Blaine Gabbert will at least be a part. And Maurice-Jones Drew is a more reliable ballcarrier than Darren McFadden. Ultimately my pick of the Jags comes down to the fact that these are the two worst teams in football and at least picking Jax has some moneyline value to it.