First impression of the Joe Judge Giants? Promising.
They showed up ready to play on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers and kept the effort up all night. (That might not sound like much, but there are quite a few teams across the NFL who couldn’t say the same in Week 1.) They looked as if they knew what they were doing and didn’t commit stupid penalties (just four for 25 yards). Their defense gave Ben Roethlisberger a difficult time before the veteran shook off his rust and figured out how to shred it. The running game was nonexistent, with Steelers tacklers crushing Saquon Barkley just as he was receiving the handoff. And please, someone, teach Barkley how to pick up a blitz.
Daniel Jones and Darius Slayton (as good a fifth-round pick as you’re going to find) were encouraging, though two damaging interceptions cost the Giants their shot at the upset.
Sunday’s matchup with the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field is an interesting one. Chicago has some havoc-wreakers in the front seven (check on Khalil Mack’s status on game day), and a quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky who is hit-or-miss, often within the same game. The Bears are the No. 1 home cover team in the NFL over the past four years (66 percent) while the Giants are fifth-best in covering spreads on the road (59 percent).
The feeling here is the Giants will be ready and able to improve a little, while the Bears might be a little self-satisfied to be 1-0 after a comeback from 17 points down in the fourth quarter in Detroit.
The pick: Giants, +5.5.
NFL picks for Week 1
(home teams in CAPS)
San Francisco 49ers (-7) over NEW YORK JETS
The 49ers come cross country for a 10 a.m. body-clock game with a team that will be minus Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel and possibly George Kittle. There’s an opportunity for the Jets to change the narrative here, a shot to beat a Super Bowl team. But the Jets have injuries of their own at the skill positions, and the “0-1” in the standings should have the 49ers in a foul mood.
DALLAS COWBOYS (-4) over Atlanta Falcons
Cowboys had a chance to win in L.A. despite injuries to Leighton Vander Esch and Blake Jarwin. Dak Prescott’s offense looks diverse and dangerous, and now faces a Falcons team that gave up 434 yards passing and 38 points at home to the Seahawks.
Detroit Lions (+6) over GREEN BAY PACKERS
You have to wonder why this line is under a touchdown after the Packers’ romp and Lions’ collapse in Week 1. Perhaps the books have sharp liability on the underdog. Last year’s meetings were close, with the Pack winning 23-22 and 23-20.
TENNESSEE TITANS (-8) over Jacksonville Jaguars
The Titans squandered 10 points on missed kicks, and averaged just 3.8 yards rushing on Monday night. A lot of people like the Jaguars and the points here, but they lost the stats badly in their win over the Colts. Their best hope is that the Titans will be tired off a quick turnaround.
Minnesota Vikings (+3) over INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
You say to yourself that Philip Rivers isn’t going to lose a game in which his team outgains the other 445-241. But that’s pretty much been the story of his career. Vikings’ D was disastrous vs. Green Bay. Hard to back either, really.
Buffalo Bills (-5.5) over MIAMI DOLPHINS
Looking at time of possession in Week 1. Bills had the ball over 41 minutes vs. the Jets, Dolphins had it 26 minutes at New England. Normally the early-season heat helps the Dolphins, but it will hurt them this time if those numbers repeat.
Los Angeles Rams (-1) over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Eagles have been good underdogs in the Doug Pederson era (15-13 ATS), but seeing how their offensive line was completely manhandled by the Washington defense, wondering how it will be different against Aaron Donald and friends.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-7) over Denver Broncos
Both teams played Monday night, but Denver travels a good distance after playing a physical 10 p.m. game vs. the Titans. Big Ben got it going against the Giants after a while, and the Steelers’ defensive front can make it hard for Denver’s Drew Lock.
Carolina Panthers (+8.5) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Saw enough good things from Teddy Bridgewater, Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson and the Panthers offense in a 34-30 loss to the Raiders to think the score will be similar in Tom Brady’s home debut.
Washington Football Team (+6.5) over ARIZONA CARDINALS
That was quite a show by the “WFT” defense against the Eagles. Don’t know how long they can sustain this, but am willing to take nearly a TD against the Cardinals, who are 7-13 (35 percent) as favorites the past four seasons.
Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5) LOS ANGELES over CHARGERS
Chiefs have covered 19 of their past 24 games against their division (79 percent), come in off extra rest and will be playing on the turf at SoFi Stadium that looked lightning fast in the Rams-Cowboys game.
Baltimore Ravens (-7) over HOUSTON TEXANS
What a way to start for the Texans, with games against the Chiefs and Ravens. They have a few extra days to prepare after a representative showing in K.C., but the Ravens are 11-4 ATS on the road since Lamar Jackson arrived.
New England Patriots (+4) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Happy to take more than a field goal with Stephon Gilmore and this good Patriots defense. New England also rushed for 217 yards vs. Miami in Week 1 and is 8-2 ATS in their past 10 as an underdog.
Monday Night Football
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (+5.5) over New Orleans Saints
Just the Raiders’ luck — they finally get beautiful, new stadium and the first visitor is a team that’s 24-8 ATS on the road over the past four years. Josh Jacobs’ 93 yards and three TDs in Carolina in Week 1 give hope the Raiders can keep the ball and hang close.
Best bets: Patriots, Panthers, Bills.
Lock of the wee: Patriots (Locks 0-0-1 in 2020).
Last week: 7-7-2 overall, 0-1-2 Best Bets.
Thursday: Bengals (W).