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2023 NFL Game Picks: Week 2

Last week: 10-6


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

Thursday, September 14 | 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video


The NFC Championship Game beatdown by Philadelphia in January of 2018 and Minnesota getting Justin Jefferson (after the Eagles passed on him) has made this a heated matchup in recent years—but the Vikings have surprisingly won two of the three meetings since their 38-7 playoff loss. That said, Jalen Hurts only started last season’s game with Philly easily winning behind a three-touchdown performance by the MVP runner-up and a shutdown outing for Darius Slay in coverage against Jefferson, so Minnesota has a tall task to avoid 0-2 for a primetime showdown in the Eagles’ home opener. Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell surely has different ways to scheme the ball to Jefferson, and the all-world wideout will have a chip on his shoulder for how last season played out with Slay coming away with two interceptions; but even with three defensive starters out for Philadelphia, Hurts and the offense might prove to be too much after a sub-par showing for them in Week 1.


Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


GB (1-0) @ ATL (1-0)

Sunday, September 17 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Jordan Love had a very promising 2023 debut in Green Bay’s win over Chicago, but it will be the underrated defense that is key in getting them back to the postseason, and I loved what I saw from Jaire Alexander and company in the opener. Aside from obvious talent for the group, Alexander being the rare tone-setter at cornerback based on his willingness to come up and hit is something we highlighted about him coming out of Louisville, and the rest of the defense really has no choice but to be physical if a sub-six-foot cornerback plays with maximum intensity. Atlanta will be a definite challenge this week as a run-first offense under Arthur Smith, especially if they can get Kyle Pitts going with more targets after he was open quite a bit with the ball not going his way last week. Still, the Packers have high confidence both offensively and defensively, and the connection between Love and Romeo Doubs started hot to complement Aaron Jones (hamstring) and AJ Dillon in the backfield.


Winner: Green Bay Packers


LV (1-0) @ BUF (0-1)

Sunday, September 17 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


He did not play well at all on Monday night, but the narrative about Josh Allen suddenly being anything less than a top-tier quarterback after one bad game versus an elite defense is predictable coming from a media that couldn’t wait for him to slip up in order to feel better about their negative views on him as a prospect. While the addition of Dalton Kincaid should eventually give Buffalo another big-time playmaker alongside Stefon Diggs, everything still felt extremely tough on Allen in the opener—which has been the norm in big games. The Raiders having an advantage with Maxx Crosby against right tackle Spencer Brown could force Allen to again make things happen on his own, and I wouldn’t rule out the Bills making a move for another weapon if things don’t improve over the next few weeks. At the very least, more balance would take the pressure off the passing attack, and Sean McDermott’s defense needs to be better against the run to avoid coming up short in January… and this week versus Josh Jacobs.


Winner: Buffalo Bills


BAL (1-0) @ CIN (0-1)

Sunday, September 17 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The new spread attack for Baltimore wasn’t really unleashed in Week 1, but rookie Zay Flowers looked like a future star with 11 touches on a day where Lamar Jackson threw just 22 passes, and having Mark Andrews (quad) returning would be huge—particularly with Ronnie Stanley (knee) and Tyler Linderbaum (ankle) both out of the lineup. Because of the injuries up front, Jackson might need to run a bit more versus a defense he’s been able to sting on the ground in previous matchups, and the former NFL MVP has gone 6-1 against the Bengals throughout his career. On the other side of the ball, Roquan Smith remains a menace with 16 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack in the opener, but Joe Burrow is too good to not bounce back from 82 passing yards on 31 attempts last week, so I like Cincinnati to win a close game at home as Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd don’t need to deal with Marlon Humphrey (foot) or Marcus Williams (pectoral) in the secondary.


Winner: Cincinnati Bengals


SEA (0-1) @ DET (1-0)

Sunday, September 17 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


There is no case to be made for putting an “asterisk” on a win against the defending Super Bowl champions on the road to open the season, and anyone that doubted Detroit should be rethinking their position. Overall, the Lions have a top-ten quarterback, an excellent two-headed backfield, a star wide receiver, one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and an improving defense—not to mention an awesome coaching staff. Even if they didn’t always finish, the pass rush was relentless against Kansas City’s upgraded offensive line last week, and Seattle being without starting offensive tackles Charles Cross (toe) and Abraham Lucas (knee) could result in a takeover game for Aidan Hutchinson with the crowd set to be crazy for the home opener. Unless we see a monster performance by DK Metcalf (149 yards in last season’s matchup) with Seattle first committing more to the running game, Detroit should have the advantage at home.


Winner: Detroit Lions


IND (0-1) @ HOU (0-1)

Sunday, September 17 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Anthony Richardson showed his immediate potential both as a passer and runner in his debut—completing 64.9% of his passes (on 37 attempts) and rushing for 40 yards with a score to have Jacksonville on the ropes deep into the fourth quarter. The outing was all the more impressive considering how much Indianapolis struggled to run the ball with their backs, and the rookie could very well be 1-0 right now if not for a couple of lost fumbled by Deon Jackson. As for C.J. Stroud, he was quickly welcomed to the league by being sacked to end his first drive, and the No. 2 overall pick was taken down five times despite his best efforts to avoid the Baltimore rush. Houston also needs to get the running backs going after Dameon Pierce had just 11 carries in a game that was 7-6 at the half, but Will Anderson Jr. already looks like an impact player on defense; if the Texans can find a way to play from ahead, I like their chances this week.


Winner: Houston Texans


KC (0-1) @ JAX (1-0)

Sunday, September 17 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


A playoff rematch from the AFC Divisional Round, Chiefs-Jaguars will feature more firepower for Jacksonville in the form of Calvin Ridley, while Kansas City could have both Travis Kelce (knee) and Chris Jones (coming off a holdout) not quite being themselves. Also, the Jags will feature Travis Etienne Jr. (23 touches for 104 yards and a touchdown last week) unlike the playoff loss when he inexplicably played 43% of the team’s offensive snaps, and Jahmyr Gibbs being close to a couple of huge runs may bode well for the former Clemson standout this weekend. But will the Chiefs really drop to 0-2? Andy Reid gets a few extra days to prepare, the mere presence of Kelce will take the pressure off the wide receivers, and Patrick Mahomes doing damage with his legs (45 rushing yards last week) is something else Jacksonville will need to account for. Coming off a three-sack performance, Josh Allen finding a way to consistently win versus Jawaan Taylor—who will have the full attention of the officials—is the best shot at getting a major win that could have homefield advantage implications for the postseason.


Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


CHI (0-1) @ TB (1-0)

Sunday, September 17 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Chicago received plenty of hype leading up to the season, but Week 1 was a huge letdown by losing handily to the rival Packers—at Soldier Field—in the first game of the post-Aaron Rodgers era. Frankly, the personnel decisions made over the past two years have been questionable for the Bears, and Tampa Bay is the perfect example to show of a team drafting well that can lure a top talent (in their case, Tom Brady) to become a contender and then quickly reload to remain competitive. With new team president and CEO Kevin Warren in place, it’s fair to wonder what another three-win season might mean for the current regime in Chicago. Next week, the Bears will head to Kansas City to take on a Chiefs team that could very well be 0-2, so I’d like to see the offense completely unleash Justin Fields as a runner as their best chance to beat the Bucs—a defense which forced five turnovers against Fields in a 38-3 victory a couple of years ago.


Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


LAC (0-1) @ TEN (0-1)

Sunday, September 17 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Last season’s matchup between the Chargers and Titans was a complete slugfest that Los Angeles won, 17-14, on a late field goal thanks to a couple of clutch grabs by Mike Williams on the final drive—and the touchdowns coming from one, one, three, and four yards showed the kind of battle it was. A bunch of AFC teams fell in Week 1, but dropping to 0-2 could still be a massive hole to climb out of in a loaded conference, so there should be no messing around for Tennessee when it comes to feeding Derrick Henry (15 carries last week), and the same should be true of the aforementioned Williams being featured before the final minute for LA. Looking back to last week’s loss, I don’t quite understand the decision to not put Asante Samuel Jr. on Tyreek Hill, as the star cornerback was only targeted once while the rest of the defense was torched by Tua Tagovailoa. So, Sunday could be a spot where picking against Mike Vrabel proves to be unwise, but this is more of a bet on the talent of the Chargers than anything else.


Winner: Los Angeles Chargers


NYG (0-1) @ ARI (0-1)

Sunday, September 17 | 4:05 PM ET | FOX


Although they didn’t get the win, Arizona sure didn’t play like a team that is “tanking” last week, and the chaos on defense that I talked about for them ahead of the opener came to fruition with six sacks and three takeaways on the road. New York entering the weekend wounded from a 40-0 loss on Sunday night could allow the Cardinals to pull off an upset, but playing through Saquon Barkley should be the cure, and Dallas being a dominant defense might be the more accurate takeaway than any concerns about Daniel Jones and the offense of the Giants taking a step back. The health of Darren Waller (hamstring) and Andrew Thomas (hamstring) needs to be monitored, but New York will be focused under Brian Daboll, and jumping out to an early lead can help them dictate the flow of the game to make Joshua Dobbs beat the pressure thrown at him by Wink Martindale.


Winner: New York Giants


SF (1-0) @ LAR (1-0)

Sunday, September 17 | 4:05 PM ET | FOX


The Rams being a contender if Matthew Stafford can play at a high level and the “no-name” defense plays like they did in the opener would be exciting for the NFC, but Sunday will be a big test with San Francisco winning eight of the past nine meetings in the rivalry. Over the past two seasons in particular, Kyle Shanahan has found ways to keep Aaron Donald (zero sacks in four matchups) from wrecking the game, and the mobility (to get on the move) and instincts (to escape pressure) of Brock Purdy should certainly help. As stated last week, right tackle does appear to be an issue for the Niners, but they don’t have to worry about T.J. Watt again barring a rematch in the Super Bowl, and Purdy will get the ball out of his hands even quicker if necessary. I’m expecting a headlining performance for Deebo Samuel against a Rams squad he’s shredded with 113.5 total yards per game and six touchdowns over the past six meetings (including playoffs)


Winner: San Francisco 49ers


NYJ (1-0) @ DAL (1-0)

Sunday, September 17 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Aaron Rodgers was the biggest storyline of the summer, and he was unfortunately the biggest storyline of Week 1 with a torn Achilles suffered on the opening drive being a potential dagger to the Super Bowl hopes for New York this season. If there is any silver lining, it’s that Rodgers has already indicated he will return in 2024, and the soon-to-be 40-year-old recently focusing more on his general health/fitness should make it a smoother recovery over the next several months. Many have suggested the Jets look elsewhere for a quarterback, but if Zach Wilson beat the Bills on Monday night, why can’t he beat everyone else? To me, Philip Rivers might be the only realistic candidate to increase New York’s championship odds, but Wilson knows the playbook and has less pressure—and more experience—now than he did when he was first thrown into the fire without a veteran presence like Rodgers in the quarterback room. Plus, the entire team seems to have Wilson’s back as a group with a high togetherness factor under Robert Saleh, but I’m not sure they’ll move the ball enough this week against what appears to be a juggernaut Dallas defense.


Winner: Dallas Cowboys


WAS (1-0) @ DEN (0-1)

Sunday, September 17 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Washington fans are rightfully excited about starting the Josh Harris era with a victory, and the defensive line of the Commanders—without Chase Young (neck)—took over when needed in the Week 1 win with Montez Sweat recording 1.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles. On the other hand, Sam Howell needs to get rid of the ball quicker if Washington wants to keep the wins going over the next three weeks (@ DEN, v BUF, @ PHI), so we’ll see if he can speed up his clock and not absorb so many sacks with that notably being an issue for him in college as well. For the Broncos, the offense was efficient in the opener, but increased aggressiveness should come naturally as Russell Wilson continues to build confidence, and I think the cornerback group of the Commanders can be attacked with Jerry Jeudy (hamstring) hopefully ready to return alongside Courtland Sutton and rookie Marvin Mims Jr.


Winner: Denver Broncos


MIA (1-0) @ NE (0-1)

Sunday, September 17 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


The version of Mac Jones we saw to begin 2023 looked like the deadly distributor that helped lead New England to the postseason as a rookie, and getting rid of the ball with timing and anticipation was the best way to counter Philadelphia’s pass rush in Week 1. Miami will be another challenge despite Vic Fangio’s defense allowing 34 points last week, but Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott should find more running room than they did in the opener, and the Patriots will find their full identity as the weeks progress—as is typical of a Bill Belichick squad. On Sunday night, the priority needs to be finding a way to cover Tyreek Hill, but Jonathan Jones has shown he can do it as well as pretty much anyone, and rookie Christian Gonzalez passed his first test by not making things easy for A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith last week. Being physical with Hill to knock him off his track and disrupt Tua Tagovailoa’s timing is crucial to avoid being lit up, and I think the Pats will be up for the challenge.


Winner: New England Patriots


NO (1-0) @ CAR (0-1)

Monday, September 18 | 7:15 PM ET | ESPN


My worries about Carolina surfaced based on what they showed in the preseason, and their struggles carried over into September with Bryce Young throwing a couple of uncharacteristic interceptions. Basically, the offense doesn’t seem to have much of an identify, and that also being the case for Frank Reich’s team by the end of his tenure with the Colts is cause for serious concern—the last thing we need is for Young to be in a situation where the organization doesn’t have stability, which is possible looking at the big picture with Reich coming in under an established general manager (Scott Fitterer). The Saints won’t be an ideal opponent to get on track against with Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo being a playmaking cornerback duo that have both already recorded an interception, so DJ Chark Jr. (hamstring) making his debut to provide a vertical element is almost a necessity to turn things around for Young and the Carolina offense. In general, the “vibes” are much higher in New Orleans at this point—from stingy defense to hilarious Jameis Winston cameos.


Winner: New Orleans Saints


CLE (1-0) @ PIT (0-1)

Monday, September 18 | 8:15 PM ET | ABC


Dawand Jones was perhaps the player I talked about most in the preseason as a legitimate first-round talent that somehow dropped to the fourth round, and he’s stepping into a starting role for Cleveland with right tackle Jack Conklin (knee) done for the year. It’s the prototypical example of drafting based on best player available, and the Steelers—who I thought had a tremendous draft—passed on “Big Thanos” a few times after being connected to him, so Monday night will be an intriguing first start for the rookie as he tries to slow down T.J. Watt (3.0 sacks in the opener). As Brian Baldinger highlighted in one of his breakdowns, Cleveland hit their stride offensively when Jones entered the game to create running lanes for Nick Chubb, and the best way to make sure Watt can’t dominate is to keep the ball on the ground. That being said, Pittsburgh should come out angry after getting punched in the mouth by the 49ers in Week 1, and George Pickens might take his game to another level as the clear No. 1 target with Diontae Johnson (hamstring) out. I like them at home.


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers