Mike Ivcic’s Week 2 NFL Preview and Free Picks [2014]

By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer

As always happens after the first round of games in any sport in any season, I have learned a few things that may cause a slight adjustment in my thinking going forward. First, the NFC East may not be as solid as we thought – and along those same lines, the AFC South may not be as bad as we thought. Finally, there were a lot of popular “sleeper” picks – Tampa Bay, St. Louis, San Diego, among others – but after what is admittedly a small sample size, it turns out I may have made the best pick going with the Falcons, who pulled out a big overtime win over the Saints. What I still can’t pick, though, is road dog covers, as San Diego, Cleveland, and Indianapolis all combined to take a solid 9-7 straight up week and wrinkle it into an ugly 6-10 mark against the spread. With that in mind, on we go to week two!

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Thu, 8:25pm, CBS/NFL
Line: Ravens by 2.5
The real downside of this game is that the announcers won’t have a single thing to talk about outside of football. These two teams have absolutely no off-field incidents or distractions whatsoever, especially not from the running back position…

For the record, I think the entire Ray Rice scenario galvanizes the Ravens for a week and they pick up a win here – especially since losing this game would leave them with two home losses to division opponents in just five days.
Pick: Baltimore 21, Pittsburgh 20

Arizona Cardinals @ New York Giants
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Cardinals by 2.5
The juxtaposition on Monday night was perfect – Arizona came back against a solid opponent and picked up a crucial opening week win, while the Giants saw each of their problems magnified by a rising-but-still-not-yet-there Lions team. Sure, the Giants are at home, but Eli Manning has to prove that he can carry this sub-par offense without throwing more than one interception per game before I can even start thinking about taking New York seriously.
Pick: Arizona 24, New York 17

Atlanta Falcons @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Bengals by 5.5
I almost took the Falcons here – really I did. Trust me when I say this is a good football team that will be in the playoff hunt until at least week 16. But Cincinnati impressed me enough by going into Baltimore and win, and the whole “Stills Jersey” thing is a good karma story – and you just don’t bet against good karma.
Pick: Cincinnati 28, Atlanta 20

Dallas Cowboys @ Tennessee Titans
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Titans by 3.5
There were some bad performances in week one, but the Dallas offense is my run-away winner for “worst unit” after their dreadful first half against San Francisco. The frustrating thing for Cowboys fans is that the defense actually performed slightly better than expected, and had Tony Romo simply taken better care of the football – and Jason Garrett called significantly better plays – they may have been able to steal that one late in the fourth quarter. Now they head to Nashville to face a Titans team that manhandled the Chiefs – in Arrowhead no less. This one could get ugly quickly – again – for Jerry Jones and company.
Pick: Tennessee 24, Dallas 14

Detroit Lions @ Carolina Panthers
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Panthers by 3
These two teams have “wild card contender” written all over them, so while every game is important in a 16-game season, this one may wind up taking on an even bigger profile come mid-December. If Cam Newton can play and be 90% or better, the Panthers defense could carry the rest of the load, and Carolina is at home, but the Lions looked – dare I say it – impressive on Monday night, so I’ll put my faith in Megatron for at least another week.
Pick: Detroit 31, Carolina 27

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Washington Redskins
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Redskins by 6
The Jags would love to erase the second half of Sunday’s game in Philadelphia, but at least they have something positive upon which to build. That’s a much more difficult find for Jay Gruden and the Redskins, who couldn’t even execute an extra point. RGIII looked shaky, and even though the defense played well, they still gave up one too many big plays for a team looking to get back to the playoffs. I’ll take them to win, but 6 points is far too high.
Pick: Washington 23, Jacksonville 21

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Dolphins by 1
I predicted in the preseason that these two teams would have the exact same record when this game kicked off, and I was right. We’ll just ignore that I also said they’d both be 0-1. Instead the winner here will be guaranteed to take the division lead, as the Jets don’t play a divisional opponent, and that’s a decent victory for whichever team emerges victorious. I, for one, was quite impressed with the fortitude of the Bills in knocking off Chicago on the road, and while I think Miami’s up tempo offense might present some matchup difficulties for Buffalo, there’s something to be said for the Terry Pegula karma that might be coming to this oft-cursed franchise.
Pick: Buffalo 24, Miami 23

New England Patriots @ Minnesota Vikings
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 3
It’s the return of outdoor football in Minnesota, as the Vikings take to the Golden Gophers stadium for this year and next. It won’t be too terribly cold in early September, and even if it was it wouldn’t matter to the Patriots. I don’t know that New England will play as poorly for the rest of the year as they did in the second half against Miami, but maybe there’s also a few chinks in the armor finally starting to show. I love Mike Zimmer and think he’ll have this team playing competitive football all season, but I just can’t see Belichik allowing his troops to start 0-2.
Pick: New England 33, Minnesota 24

New Orleans Saints @ Cleveland Browns
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Saints by 6.5
The Saints didn’t play particularly well and coughed away a winnable game in Atlanta, while Cleveland played a very solid game and almost came away with a victory. I think these two teams revert back to more of what was expected of them coming into the season, which means the Saints should win this one going away.
Pick: Saints 34, Cleveland 16

St. Louis Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sun, 4:05pm, FOX
Line: Buccaneers by 5.5
Jeff Fisher and the Rams are in for a long season. Not only do they not have a quarterback, but their supposedly vaunted and improved defense didn’t look anywhere close to that against Minnesota. I think this is Tampa’s win to have, but I’ll at least cover my own nervousness about the Bucs with a late Rams field goal.
Pick: Tampa Bay 16, St. Louis 13

Seattle Seahawks @ San Diego Chargers
Sun, 4:05pm, FOX
Line: Seahawks by 6
Until someone can figure out how to move the ball consistently against the Seahawks defense, I’m taking them to win and cover every week. Remind me that I said this next week when I do something stupid… like pick a cover…
Pick: Seattle 27, San Diego 10

Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Texans by 3
It’s actually a little sad to see Oakland so pitiful, because when they’re good they have one of the best, most rabid fanbases in the game.

Ok, what am I saying? I’m a Jets fan – Oakland being brutal is wonderful.
Pick: Houston 24, Oakland 11

Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Broncos by 13
Last year these two teams were the class of the AFC heading into their first matchup in week 11. Denver promptly won both games, all but assuring the Chiefs of a Wild Card berth and locking up their own Super Bowl trip. Clearly there’s not as much on the line this time, but Kansas City also isn’t as good. I think they cover a 13-point spread, but winning in Mile High? That’s too much to ask a team that barely got across midfield at home against the Titans.
Pick: Denver 31, Kansas City 20

New York Jets @ Green Bay Packers
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Packers by 8.5
One team had shaky QB play from a guy who needs to play much better for his team to win and the other team was the Jets. The first can be fixed. The second can’t.
Pick: Green Bay 21, New York 16

Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49’ers
Sun, 8:30pm, NBC
Line: 49’ers by 6.5
Perhaps this game lost a little luster when the Bears let Buffalo walk all over them offensively last week. San Francisco should have a field day in this one, but there’s one point everyone is overlooking – without those terrible turnovers, Dallas actually outplayed the Niners last week. If Romo converts even just the one end zone INT into a touchdown, suddenly that’s a 21-17 game and everyone’s opinion changes. I’m not saying Chicago wins, but I am saying that if San Francisco barely squeaks it out, that might be indicative of who they really are this season – which is a team that might not be at the same level as they were the last three years.
Pick: San Francisco 34, Chicago 30

Philadelphia Eagles @ Indianapolis Colts
Mon, 8:30pm, ESPN
Line: Colts by 3
Ah, the stereotypical 3-point home favorite. My least-favorite line of all. It’s Vegas’ way of basically saying, “stay away from picking this game because even we really don’t know what’s going on.” So, when that happens, I figure out the team I think is better on paper, the team that’s looked better to this point, the home team, and the team for whom I want to root – and thankfully, in this case, it’s the same team for all four criteria.
Pick: Indianapolis 30, Philadelphia 24

Straight-Up: 9-7
Against Spread: 6-10