Does that mean this game will be decided by running backs? Probably not. In what will almost assuredly be a close game, an interception, a fumble or even a missed call late in the game could decide things. Pick: Rams -2.5
Patriots at Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Patriots -18.5 | Total: 48
From a football standpoint, there is little to speak of. The N.F.L.’s reigning champion (New England) is coming off a thrashing of a quality team (Pittsburgh) and a team that has been accused of openly tanking (Miami) is coming off a game in which it allowed the most points in an N.F.L. game since 2012.
The Patriots (1-0) are better at everything than the Dolphins (0-1), and everyone knows it. So how do oddsmakers come up with a reason for anyone to care about what should be a blowout? A comically large point spread will do.
No favored N.F.L. team has covered a spread of more than 16 points on the road, and the Patriots are being asked to cover 18.5 (a number that rose from an opening spread of 15, and one that could rise even more based on plausible scenarios like the Dolphins’ few decent remaining players quitting to become long-haul truck drivers). But there’s a reason gigantic point spreads on the road are not typically covered, and it has to do with things like motivation, garbage-time touchdowns, injuries and other factors. Will New England win? Almost certainly, yes. Could New England cover? Yes. Will they? Probably not. Pick: Dolphins +18.5
Cardinals at Ravens, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Ravens -13.5 | Total: 46
There are two games this week in which both quarterbacks are Heisman Trophy winners: this one and Tampa Bay vs. Carolina. After Lamar Jackson’s explosion against Miami last week, and Kyler Murray’s electric fourth quarter against Detroit, this one figures to be the more exciting matchup.
The big questions are whether the connection between Jackson and Marquise (Hollywood) Brown of the Ravens (1-0) is really that strong and whether Arizona’s Murray can figure out how to replicate last week’s fourth quarter while hoping everyone forgets just how bad he and the Cardinals (0-0-1) looked for the first 45 minutes of their opener. Baltimore, a playoff team a year ago, is rightly favored, but Arizona’s secondary will be much more active than Miami’s in making life hard for Jackson. Pick: Cardinals +13.5
Eagles at Falcons, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Eagles -1.5 | Total: 52.5
The Falcons (0-1) need a pick-me-up on offense after managing just 12 points in a loss to Minnesota last week. A home game against the Eagles (1-0), who looked vulnerable on defense last week, could be just what the doctor ordered. In truth, both of these teams have been fairly frustrating going back to last year. That is unlikely to change, but Matt Ryan has a 57-29 career record at home, so Atlanta shouldn’t be an underdog. Pick: Falcons +1.5