Youmans: My five best bets for NFL Week 2

September 18, 2022 05:41 AM
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As Justin Jefferson continues to show he belongs in the NFL’s elite class of wide receivers, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has the Eagles to thank for their draft-day gift -- and gaffe -- two years ago.

Jefferson was the fifth receiver called in the 2020 draft. The former LSU star went 22nd overall to Minnesota, immediately after Philadelphia picked TCU receiver Jalen Reagor. Several mock-draft experts (including this writer) had pegged Jefferson to the Eagles at No. 21 because it made a lot of sense, and it was surprising when he got snubbed.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman blew it, to put it politely, and he paid for the mistake. Two weeks ago, Roseman traded Reagor to the Vikings for two draft picks -- a seventh-rounder in 2023 and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2024 -- and publicly admitted his blunder.

Jefferson is a two-time Pro Bowler who ranked second in the NFL with 1,616 receiving yards last year. He leads the league in receiving yards after one week, with 184 on nine catches in the Vikings’ 23-7 victory over Green Bay. Cousins connected with Jefferson on two touchdown passes.

Roseman did make a shrewd move in the same draft when he picked Jalen Hurts, a quarterback from Oklahoma, late in the second round. Hurts was considered a project at the time, but his time to start arrived last year and his time to shine is now. Hurts accounted for 333 total yards (243 passing, 90 rushing) as the Eagles opened with a 38-35 win at Detroit.

Hurts’ favorite target is A.J. Brown, who was acquired by Philadelphia in a trade during this year’s draft. Brown had 10 receptions for 155 yards in his debut with the Eagles.

All of that recent history is relevant because the Vikings and Eagles hook up Monday night, when the star of the game most likely will be Hurts or Jefferson. I’m always leery of home favorites laying fewer than three points -- oddsmakers are saying Minnesota is the stronger team -- but I’m betting on Philadelphia.

The Eagles have been my pick to win the NFC East since May. Philadelphia is a complete team with one major question: Is Hurts the answer? I believe so, and it surely helps that he’s working behind an outstanding line and surrounded by playmakers in an explosive offense. Pro Football Focus graded Hurts as the league’s most accurate quarterback on throws past the sticks in Week 1.

It’s not a significant handicapping angle, but it’s worth noting Cousins is 2-9 on “Monday Night Football,” the worst record in history for any quarterback with at least 10 starts. He did win his last two Monday games, both against the Bears in Chicago.

After a big win against the Packers, this is not an ideal spot for the Vikings and their rookie coach, Kevin O’Connell, on the road.

Pick: Eagles -2

Here are four more plays for Week 2:

JAGUARS (+ 3.5) over Colts: The highlight of Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s rookie season was beating Indianapolis as a 14-point underdog in Week 18. I bet against the Colts last week and will do so again, mostly because they have not won at Jacksonville since 2014. The Jaguars should be hungry after coughing up a 22-14 fourth-quarter lead in the opener at Washington.

SAINTS (+ 2.5) over Buccaneers: Tom Brady is 0-4 against New Orleans in the regular season since moving to Tampa Bay. To complicate matters for Brady, the Bucs’ banged-up offense will be without wideout Chris Godwin and might also miss left tackle Donovan Smith. The Saints, who pitched a shutout against Brady in one meeting last season, have been taking money since briefly opening as 4-point dogs. The defenses should dictate a low-scoring game, so take the points. 

RAIDERS (-5.5) over Cardinals: Few teams looked worse than Arizona in Week 1, and its pass defense was as bad as it gets. The Raiders’ Derek Carr has something to prove after throwing three interceptions and taking five sacks in a loss to the Chargers. Carr and Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels are more trustworthy in a bounce-back spot than Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury, who seems to be captaining a loose ship. Circa Sports opened the Raiders -3, the number was soon bet up and it’s the right move.

Titans (+ 10) over BILLS: Most handicappers look at Week 2 with an eye on overreactions. Three days after Josh Allen and the Bills appeared unstoppable in a rout of the Rams, Tennessee blew a lead in a 21-20 loss to the Giants. Derrick Henry will be able to run on the Buffalo defense, and the Titans fit the profile of disrespected, underrated dogs on Monday night.

Last week: 3-2 against the spread

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