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Matt Starkey/Cleveland Browns

2022 NFL Game Picks: Week 2

Last week: 7-8-1


LAC (1-0) @ KC (1-0)

Thursday, September 15 | 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video


A crazy Week 1 could be followed by an even crazier slate of Week 2 games, especially with Chargers-Chiefs being unlikely to disappoint as an early first-place battle in the AFC West for Amazon’s first exclusive NFL game. Los Angeles will be without Keenan Allen (hamstring) and maybe top cornerback J.C. Jackson (ankle), but Justin Herbert at quarterback gives them a chance every week. For both sides, it’s interesting that they went with heavy spread-the-wealth attacks in the opener—Kansas City’s game plan was expected with Tyreek Hill gone, but the Chargers had all seven of their main pass-catchers targeted exactly four times. This week, I believe LA needs to have a more centralized attack by funneling targets to Mike Williams as he avoids L’Jarius Sneed on the outside, and I’d imagine Austin Ekeler will be unleashed after playing 49% of the offensive snaps against the Raiders. The matchups between these rivals have not disappointed, but winning three in a row at Arrowhead Stadium is a tall task for Herbert, and I’d like to see someone slow down the remade Kansas City offense before picking against Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.


Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


MIA (1-0) @ BAL (1-0)

Sunday, September 18 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The results for Lamar Jackson against Miami have been split to begin his career—throwing for five touchdowns in his first start of 2019 to beat them 59-10, but losing last year 22-10 for what was a major offensive struggle on a Thursday night. That said, Sunday will be the first time Jackson gets to take on the Dolphins in Baltimore, and even though their defense played great against New England, I think not having Brian Flores controlling the unit will be felt by Miami this weekend versus a quarterback that is determined to continue showing he can win as a passer. On the other side of the ball, Tua Tagovailoa could have some confidence after he played well off the bench to beat the Ravens last season (eight-of-13 for 158 yards), but starting offensive tackles Terron Armstead (toe) and Austin Jackson (ankle) missing practice to start the week is something to monitor; behind them, former second-rounder Greg Little has settled in as the swing tackle and would have a huge opportunity to prove himself if he draws the start. Overall, I’m expecting a close game, and the Dolphins not having Byron Jones (ankle) could be the difference if the pass rush is unable to get to Jackson.


Winner: Baltimore Ravens


NYJ (0-1) @ CLE (1-0)

Sunday, September 18 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


I’m not going to pile on the Jets after bringing up doubts about their outlook—particularly compared to the glowing reviews by the media—in last week’s game picks, but Sunday was not a good start with Joe Flacco throwing it 59 times and head coach Robert Saleh calling a 15-point loss a “moral victory.” Now, they’ll travel to Cleveland with the offensive line needing to quickly gel if they’re going to protect Flacco, and being more balanced with the running game is key to keep Myles Garrett and company honest. Also, I’d want to play extremely slow to drain the clock and make sure Nick Chubb is unable to wear down the defense, but they’ll need a better offensive game plan to stay ahead of the sticks (again, 59 pass attempts isn’t the winning formula). Being touchdown underdogs versus backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett explains the state of the Jets right now, and the schedule won’t get any easier after this week.


Winner: Cleveland Browns


WAS (1-0) @ DET (0-1)

Sunday, September 18 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


You have to love the fight shown by the Lions in the opener (unless you bet on the Eagles), and there is a difference between the aforementioned term “moral victory” and “grit”—the key word for Dan Campbell’s squad. I thought Jared Goff played very well while under constant duress against what should be one of the NFL’s best defenses, and the connection with D.J. Chark—on the other end of a 22-yard score to make it 38-35—staying hot is crucial to threaten the defense vertically. On Washington’s offense, Carson Wentz overcame a couple of interceptions last week to orchestrate a comeback win over the Jaguars, including four touchdowns to his exciting trio of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel. The shiftiness of the wideouts for the Commanders versus Detroit’s size on the outside with Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah will be fun to watch, and I’ll go with physicality on both sides of the ball giving the edge to the Lions.


Winner: Detroit Lions


IND (0-0-1) @ JAX (0-1)

Sunday, September 18 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


As pointed out by fans on social media, the AFC South picked up zero wins last week despite two of the teams facing each other—which could be an indication of how the season will play out for the division. Still, I’m not going to suddenly doubt Matt Ryan being able to turn Indy into a winner after one game, and he’ll be a steady hand at quarterback as the Colts try to get vengeance for how Week 18 went in Jacksonville last year. Indy must protect him, though, as both Josh Allen (2.0 sacks in last year’s finale; forced fumble last week) and No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker (1.0 sack and an interception in his debut) can be absolute terrors off the edge. To keep those two from wrecking the game against both the run and pass, the Colts need to get Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines involved as pass-catchers after Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic combined to catch ten-of-11 targets for 92 yards last week. I don’t feel great about the pick, but Indianapolis should be focused coming off a tie.


Winner: Indianapolis Colts


TB (1-0) @ NO (1-0)

Sunday, September 18 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


As of this writing on Thursday morning, a lot of people are panicking over the health of Tampa Bay with all of Chris Godwin (hamstring), Mike Evans (calf), Julio Jones (knee), and Russell Gage (hamstring) being listed on the injury report. Fortunately, head coach Todd Bowles said there are no concerns at wide receiver aside from Godwin, so Tom Brady will have plenty of weapons to as he attempts to finally breakthrough versus New Orleans in the regular season (0-4 since joining the Bucs). Godwin is undoubtedly a big loss, but Julio looked like the prime version of himself last Sunday night, and he could go off as the No. 2 wideout this week with Evans set to draw coverage from Marshon Lattimore—especially if Paulson Adebo (ankle) is out again for New Orleans. Plus, the Saints not having instigator Chauncey Gardner-Johnson takes away some of that intimidation factor they used to have on the backend (in my opinion), while Tampa Bay seems to have gotten their dominance back at full health on defense. Watch out for Chris Olave getting deep, but I like the Bucs.


Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


CAR (0-1) @ NYG (1-0)

Sunday, September 18 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


A determined, angry Saquon Barkley was expected based on some of his comments in the summer, and he essentially put the Giants on his back to beat the Titans—with the highlight being the game-winning two-point conversion where he avoided two defenders and lowered his shoulder into the end zone. The Giants can avoid limbo through a roster retooling over the next couple of years by featuring Barkley and having a head coach in Brian Daboll that won’t be afraid to take calculated risks to win games, which not only brings excitement to the city, but also hope. Carolina surprisingly did not feed their best player with Christian McCaffrey handling 14 touches in the opener, and I don’t know why they’d give him anything less than the usual 20-25+ touches in what might be a make-or-break season for Matt Rhule. The Panthers taking a late lead in the opener was encouraging for Baker Mayfield and the offense as a whole, but the confidence built by the Giants can carry over to MetLife Stadium and push them to a 2-0 start.


Winner: New York Giants


NE (0-1) @ PIT (1-0)

Sunday, September 18 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Compared to their usual standards, the Patriots have been notoriously slow starters as the team molds their identity early in the season, while the Steelers—after heavy action for the first-team units in August—are already in midseason form by forcing five turnovers versus Joe Burrow in Week 1. The defense losing T.J. Watt (pectoral) for six weeks hurts, but the Pittsburgh crowd will be a factor on Sunday as Tomlin gets to play up being home underdogs as motivation, and Mitchell Trubisky could have some ideas about how to attack the New England defense after learning from Josh Allen in Buffalo last year. Furthermore, it sounds like Trubisky has a good idea about what he needs to improve on heading into Week 2, and the size of Chase Claypool and George Pickens can be a mismatch for the smaller cornerback group of the Patriots. I very rarely pick against Bill Belichick (who has won six of the past seven meetings versus Tomlin), but the Steelers are in a better spot right now.


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


ATL (0-1) @ LAR (0-1) 

Sunday, September 18 | 4:05 PM ET | FOX


Sean McVay reportedly “screaming” at the Rams following a 31-10 loss to Buffalo in the opener at least shows there will be no complacency from him coming off a Super Bowl win—though that’s not a major surprise considering the big-money options he had to step away from coaching. I’d expect a few extra days to prepare (and reflect) will have Los Angeles coming out fired up this weekend, but the offensive line needs to be prepared for a creative Atlanta defense that got to Jameis Winston four times in Week 1. If not, Matthew Stafford will continue locking onto Cooper Kupp, but I’d bet McVay will make it a point to involve Allen Robinson following a two-target opener. Defensively, Jalen Ramsey hasn’t played at an elite, shutdown level dating back to last season, so maybe the primetime showing versus Josh Allen will be what gets him back to being one of the game’s top cornerbacks, and he’ll get a chance to erase Drake London on Sunday. The Falcons again featuring Marcus Mariota as a runner after 12 carries for 72 yards and a score in his team debut is their best chance of pulling off an upset.


Winner: Los Angeles Rams


SEA (1-0) @ SF (0-1)

Sunday, September 18 | 4:05 PM ET | FOX


The Seahawks have absolutely owned the 49ers since they drafted Russell Wilson in 2012—going 17-4 (including 1-0 in the playoffs) and winning seven of the past eight in San Francisco. However, a lot of the games were extremely close, and Kyle Shanahan is almost forced to pull out all the stops this week to make sure Trey Lance is able to have success to avoid an 0-2 start that would inevitably lead to more calls for Jimmy Garoppolo to be the starter. Last week, Lance rushed 13 times for just 54 scoreless yards, and he’ll likely handle a similar number of carries this week without the weather causing issues both on the ground and through the air. Also, it’s notable that Lance totaled 198 yards and two touchdowns in the second half of the first Seattle game last year when Jimmy Garoppolo went down (Week 4), so perhaps this will be a comfortable matchup for him. I like the Seahawks to exceed expectations this season with Geno Smith playing well, but the rookie tackle duo will really be tested versus Nick Bosa and the San Francisco front this weekend.


Winner: San Francisco 49ers


CIN (0-1) @ DAL (0-1)

Sunday, September 18 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


No matter where you fall on your opinion of the Cowboys as a franchise, the league is better with Dak Prescott (hand) on the field, so hopefully it’s a quick recovery for one of the NFL’s best all-around people (just listen to his perspective on the injury). Cooper Rush will now be tasked with doing what he did in 2021 when Dallas upset the Vikings in his lone start, but the pass protection and weaponry both need to improve if the offense is going to have success. The Bengals have some problems of their own on the offensive line with Joe Burrow being sacked seven times last week, and it will be a long day again for him if Micah Parsons—after getting 2.0 sacks on Tom Brady—is able to get to Cincinnati’s young quarterback. Considering their offensive firepower, avoiding turnovers should be enough for the Bengals to avoid an upset with Prescott out of the lineup for the Cowboys.


Winner: Cincinnati Bengals


HOU (0-0-1) @ DEN (0-1)

Sunday, September 18 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Playing it safe cost the Broncos on Monday night, and I think that could lead to increased aggressiveness for the team both from a decision-making perspective and in terms of offensive game plan. Because of the late-game clock management, costly fumbles by Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon at the goal-line didn’t get much attention as plays that could have completely flipped the outcome of the opener, and Denver being 9.5-point favorites against the Texans shows that oddsmakers are still very high on them. KJ Hamler is a guy that I’d like to see have more opportunities after he wasn’t targeted in Week 1, but playing 61% of the offensive snaps is reason to believe that his time will come behind Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. For the Denver defense, they’ll probably see more of rookie runner Dameon Pierce than the Colts did, and they better be ready to wrap up after Rashaad Penny averaged 5.0 yards per carry and had a couple of long runs called back due to a penalty.


Winner: Denver Broncos


ARI (0-1) @ LV (0-1)

Sunday, September 18 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Something feels off with the current setup in Arizona, and the duo of general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury getting extensions earlier this year—following a late-season collapse in 2021—was a curious move to say the least. While one loss to Patrick Mahomes isn’t suddenly reason to push the panic button, the Cardinals host the Rams next week and cannot afford to drop to 0-2 with a defeat in Las Vegas. The pressure is also on for the Raiders after they made the playoffs last season, but losing 24-19 with a chance to march down the field with a game-winning drive against the Chargers (on a day where Derek Carr tossed three interceptions) isn’t exactly a soul-crushing outcome. I don’t think Arizona will have much of an answer for Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller this weekend, and Carr having another multi-interception performance would be shocking.


Winner: Las Vegas Raiders


CHI (1-0) @ GB (0-1)

Sunday, September 18 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


Aaron Rodgers has faced the Bears six times at Lambeau Field on Sunday Night Football in his career. Here are the results (with zero interceptions):


GB wins 21-15; Rodgers: 184 yards and one touchdown (2009)

GB wins 35-21; Rodgers: 283 yards and five touchdowns (2011)

GB wins 55-14; Rodgers: 315 yards and six touchdowns (2014)

GB wins 24-23; Rodgers: 286 yards and three touchdowns (2018)

GB wins 41-25; Rodgers: 211 yards and four touchdowns (2020)

GB wins 45-30; Rodgers: 341 yards and four touchdowns (2021)


Bears general manager Ryan Poles said they’re going to “take the North and never give it back” when introduced earlier this year, but the reign may only last a week if history is any indication.


Winner: Green Bay Packers


TEN (0-1) @ BUF (1-0)

Monday, September 19 | 7:15 PM ET | ESPN


Josh Allen enjoyed both team and statistical dominance in the season opener, and any casual football fan watching could see that he is arguably the best player in the league and can do things that other quarterbacks simply can’t—from throwing frozen ropes on the run to “dunking” on All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner for a touchdown. Of course, the Titans have a superhuman-type weapon of their own with Derrick Henry, and last year’s matchup was won by Tennessee, 34-31, behind a 143-yard, three-touchdown outburst for the monster runner. On Monday night, I’m assuming the Bills will routinely be putting extra men in run support to slow down King Henry, but it’s always easier said than done, so the team can’t come out flat following last Thursday night’s blowout victory. The Titans can definitely make it a game as significant underdogs (9.5 points), and look for impressive rookie cornerback Roger McCreary to be the x-factor trying to prevent chunk plays when Allen rolls out to his right; McCreary has the feistiness and intelligence to create a game-changing play by getting his hands on a ball in a key moment.


Winner: Buffalo Bills


MIN (1-0) @ PHI (1-0)

Monday, September 19 | 8:30 PM ET | ABC


The Eagles need to fix the defensive issues that allowed Detroit to make it a game last week, but on both sides of the ball, the talent is clearly there to be one of the NFL’s best teams. The easiest remedy for Philadelphia would be playing Jordan Davis more, as the Lions averaged just 2.9 yards per carry when he was on the field (while ripping off routine chunk gains when Davis was off the field). I’m sure Minnesota will use a heavy dose of Dalvin Cook when Davis is on the sideline, though, and then will try to tire the rookie out with more passes—and maybe some no-huddle stuff—when he’s out there. Aside from the playing time for Philly’s first-round pick, I’m most intrigued by how they will try to defend Justin Jefferson; knowing the history of him being passed on by general manager Howie Roseman, it would be not at all surprising to see Jefferson straight-up double-teamed on almost every play—which the defense can afford to do based on how rarely they blitz opponents. The Vikings can make another statement by knocking off two top NFC teams in back-to-back weeks, but Lincoln Financial Field will be rocking for a primetime matchup, and a huge game could be coming for DeVonta Smith.


Winner: Philadelphia Eagles