In Fantasy Football, there’s the adage that says you can’t win your league at the draft, but you can lose it. Similarly in sports, a team can’t win their division or ensure making the playoffs after a couple of games, but a bad start can severely diminish a team’s odds of making a Super Bowl run.
It’s only Week 2 and there are already games with major implications. Here are the five most compelling games this week, which may have long-term playoff implications:
Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
After only one unexpected loss, the Chiefs find themselves in a very important game on the road, against a really solid opponent. Although the Chiefs can claw out of an 0-2 start, it will be much harder to win the AFC West if they leave Jacksonville with a second loss.
The good news for them is that only the Las Vegas Raiders won last week, and they have a tough matchup in Buffalo, so realistically no other AFC West team will be 2-0. The Chiefs appear to be getting back all-world TE Travis Kelce who missed Week 1 with a hyper-extended knee, which will absolutely help the sputtering offense.
A loss would have more psychological effects, putting some doubt in their heads….along with hope for the rest of the league. This would be a signature win for the Jaguars, making them 2-0. Their divisional rivals are all 0-1, with the Colts playing the Texans so at least one other team will be 1-1. But starting 2-0 could very well create a box to wire run to the division for the Jags. Vegas has them getting 3.5 points in this game, which is very enticing.
Baltimore Ravens (1-0) @ Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
This game is huge! The Bengals cannot play any worse than they did in Cleveland last week, nor can Joe Burrow. He didn’t even throw for 100 yards against the Browns, and the offense was completely inept.
The Ravens have a much tougher task this week than defeating the Texans at home. They go to Cincinnati for their home opener, and coming off of that dud, they have to expect a much better performance out of the Bengals this week. Vegas expects a bounceback from Cincy, making them a 3-point favorite.
Interestingly, even though they only put up three points last week, Vegas has the o/u set at 46.5. I doubt they expect the Ravens to win 43-3, so they have to expect Burrow and the offense to score some points on Sunday. For Baltimore, this would create some separation, giving them a two-game lead over the Bengals as well as the head-to-head win. It would give the Bengals a 0-2 record with two divisional losses.
Based on Week 1, the Ravens should win. But based on needing the win more, motivation, and embarrassment, the Bengals will bounce back and win this game.
New York Jets (1-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
The Cowboys shut out one New York team last week…they may shut out another New York team this week. It’s tough to find a scenario where Zach Wilson can score on this team.
The only hope they have is for Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook to run absolutely wild. Before the floodgates opened last week, Saquon Barkley actually ran the ball decently. If the Jets can keep drives going on the ground, they can eat clock and keep the Cowboys off the field. Although, the Jets’ defense is far better than their offense and they may prefer to have the defense on the field more. It is tougher to depend on the defense to score. The offense must produce in this game.
The Cowboys are at home and need the win to keep pace with the Eagles who won Thursday to go 2-0. Vegas has them as a 9.5 favorite. The more interesting line is the 38.5 o/u. I hate taking the under in games with less than a 40 o/u…but I can’t see the Jets scoring much. Although, the Cowboys scored over 38.5 by themselves in Week 1, so they could do it again.
Miami Dolphins (1-0) @ New England Patriots (0-1)
To start the season, the league’s schedule makers gave the Dolphins two road games. Worse than that, they had them going cross country to Los Angeles in Week 1, only to come back to Miami, to then go north to play the Patriots in Week 2. That is a ton of travel. The Dolphins had to be looking at a 1-1 split when the schedule first came out…mission already accomplished. They are now playing with house money, realizing a 2-0 start would be huge to begin the season.
Conversely, human nature says they may relax a bit. They are going into hostile territory against a team that desperately needs a win. If the Dolphins’ schedule to start the year is tough, the Pats’ schedule was easier, in that they have two home games. They cannot afford to start 0-2 when this week ends. But for the second week in a row, Vegas has them as home underdogs. They were getting 4.5 points last week against the Eagles and they are 3-point dogs this week.
This is similar to the Ravens/Bengals game, with the team who is 0-1 needing the game more. The difference is that the Bengals are a really good team that many projected to reach the Super Bowl…the Patriots are not. There is a reason Vegas set their o/u win total at 6.5. Lay the points and take the Dolphins. I can’t see a scenario where they don’t score at least 27 points, and I can’t see a scenario where the Pats can outscore them. The o/u is 46.5…this feels like a 27-20 type of game, with a very real chance that Miami gets over 30 points again.
Cleveland Browns (1-0) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
Here is another division game in Week 1. I love how the league has set this schedule. The Browns could leave Pittsburgh with a 2-0 record with two divisional wins under their belt. Similarly to the Patriots, the Steelers were granted two home games to begin their season, and they cannot begin the year 0-2.
They played a dominant San Fransisco team in Week 1 and Cleveland should be an easier foe, but the Steelers will need to play better regardless if they intend on being 1-1. Cleveland’s defense dominated a Cincinnati team with a far better offense on paper than the Steelers. And, the Steelers are without WR Diontae Johnson, who is out with a hamstring injury.
Vegas actually has the Browns as a road favorite on Monday Night Football. They are favored by 2.5 points. Much like the Patriots, the Steelers just don’t seem to be very good. Deshaun Watson keeps getting more and more comfortable each week, and I can’t believe I’m saying it, but the Browns will leave Pittsburgh 2-0.