Welcome back for another set of picks in the turbulent NFL as we try to figure things out after only two weeks when it’s still hard to know anything. Last week in our first go at it, while we wait for our YPP metric to be reliable, we went 2-and-2. More precisely we went 2-and-0 with our EW picks and 0-and-2 with our newly refined ER picks.
ER’s a great metric for season totals but doesn’t seem to be the best suited on a week to week basis, though we’ll still glance at it here. We’ve also got our first YPP numbers which are again not fully to be trusted only two weeks into the season, though we are offering a pick below.
Before we start rolling with YPP we need a greater sample size, and it’s worth noting that this season we already have two teams in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins who only have a single game under their belt.
From the bookmakers perspective, be careful with the Buccaneers game at the Minnesota Vikings as Sam Bradford's injury status is still uncertain and it's hard to even find a spread for the game most places.
What we’re doing this week is giving you two EW picks - which actually are consensus picks with ER - and our one YPP pick of the week, which is a controversial one. We’re also showing you our predictive lines below for EW and YPP. So enjoy and get ready for next week once we start diving into using 2017 stats to predict the metrics and the introduction of YPP.
Here we go.
EW picks of the week
New Orleans Saints +5.5 at the Carolina Panthers
It’s do or die time for the winless Saints who just got beatdown a week ago by the New England Patriots. The Saints offense has shown flashes in the first two weeks while their defense has looked leaky aside from rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore who’s played very well. However, New Orleans had two tough early season games against an inspired Vikings team and the Pats on a bounce-back week. The Saints certainly aren’t good but it’s unclear how bad they really are.
The Panthers instead have been able to squeak by with two wins against questionable competition, beating the San Francisco 49ers and then barely mustering a ‘W’ at home to the Buffalo Bills in a 9-to-3 slugfest. More importantly, Carolina’s offense hasn’t looked good and they just lost Greg Olsen who’s essential to their attack. While their defense seems better than a year ago it’s hard to say how good the unit truly is given the offenses they’ve faced so far.
A season ago, the Saints blew the Panthers out at home and barely lost on the road by three points. Even if Carolina wins this one it’ll be a close affair and with the Saints facing an early must-win game to a division rival, I expect Drew Brees and Sean Payton to throw the kitchen sink at Carolina.
The beauty of EW is it’s still going off of 2016 numbers which allow us to see how the public perception is already skewed after only a couple weeks, stand strong and believe in the Saints, at least to cover.
Seattle Seahawks +3 at the Tennessee Titans
This game might be even trickier as there’s no denying the Seahawks early struggles and these Titans are no easy test. At the same time lets not overreact here, the Hawks have a great defense that’s still coming along with some late additions and have won double-digit wins since 2012 so let’s not write them off quite yet.
They’re also a nice matchup for the Titans who live off of their physicality at the line of scrimmage and their ground game. The Seahawks beefed up defensive front should prove to be a tough test and Marcus Mariota will have to play superbly to overcome the run game struggles if things play out that way.
Which means it really should come down to Russell Wilson against Mariota as Wilson has everything riding on his shoulders with Seattle’s offensive line struggles. On the road in what could be a statement win, give us the Hawks who we like a lot more as underdogs than favorites. Some way, somehow Wilson and the defense will find enough plays to pull this off. In a neutral field, EW has this as -4 in favor of Seattle for a 4 point differential from the actual line. Don’t lose hope just yet in the Seahawks who've been one of the NFL’s best teams for half a decade now.
YPP pick of the week
Cleveland Browns -1 at the Indianapolis Colts
There’s never a dull moment with the return of YPP which as you can see is bullish on the Browns who are -5 point favorites at Indy per the metric.
An easy way to explain this matchup of terrible winless teams is this; the Browns are the 20th ranked NFL offense per yards per play and the 18th defense, while Indianapolis is the 31st offense and 27th defense. Sure, the Browns are bad but the Colts are pretty terrible.
Cleveland won’t get you excited and given the youth on the team there’s always some concern with them playing away. Ultimately though, you gotta believe in the Browns who lost to two division rivals and played respectably against the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 1. This’ll likely come down to the running games with both quarterbacks in this contest being liabilities, the Browns have the better stable of backs and a much better offensive line, giving them the edge.
In what’s sure to be the only road game that they’re favored in all season, give us the Browns to win the NFL’s ultimate battle of 0-and-2 teams.