Observer Roundtable Week 2: Cats-Tigers, Cowboys-Seahawks headline CFB, NFL
We’ll start this week’s roundtable out with a shoutout to last week’s top performers in our weekly predictions. Leading the way was Dominic Gibson, who was simply on fire. He came away with 20 points out of a possible 24 points, nailing all six game predictions and four of six spreads. He rallied into the leaderboard via his upset pick, which was Navy over Tulane. As the Midshipmen furiously rallied in the second half, Dom punched out a 7-0 record in week 1. Following in close pursuit was Patrick Gallagher, whose 18 points were achieved via a 6-1 overall record in game picks, including his upset call in Liberty over Western Kentucky. Aidan Thomas went 6-0 in his regular game picks and nailed all six spreads, but he unfortunately did not see his upset call (Jags over Bucs) come through, leaving him in third place for the week.
The leaderboard after week 1:
Dominic Gibson — 20 points
Patrick Gallagher — 18 points
Aidan Thomas — 12 points
Liam Coolican — 7 points
Nate Moller — 6 points
And without further ado, here are this week’s top games and predictions:
No. 23 Kentucky @ No. 8 Auburn (-7.5)
No. 24 Louisville @ No. 21 Pitt (-3.0)
No. 22 Army @ No. 14 Cincinnati (-13.5)
Dallas Cowboys @ Seattle Seahawks (-5.5)
Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints (-3.0)
Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens (-3.0)
Kentucky-Auburn is the best game of the week, but College Gameday stayed away, probably hoping to return in a week for Auburn at Georgia. They’ll make that trip if both teams are undefeated, which I fully anticipate. I’m not super high on Auburn’s chances in the SEC this season, but I’m even lower on Kentucky, who I believe is criminally overrated at No. 23. I’m not a believer in their offense, and I think their defense is good, but Bo Nix should handle business at home. Give me Auburn by 10 in the opener.
Louisville struggled last week defensively, but they put up 34 points on offense, and that was with three turnovers. I think they’ll clean up the mistakes and force Pitt to score a lot of points to win, which I’m not sure the Panthers are capable of. I’m going Louisville outright in this one.
It’s been 16 years since Army and Cincinnati met on the gridiron, so there’s not a lot of recent history in this clash. Cincinnati is trying to stake their claim as the best Group of 5 team, and they could make a statement with a win over a ranked Army squad that has looked dominant. I think Army’s defense will make it a slog for the Bearcats to score, and their offense will chew clock and notch 30 points against a Cincy defense that gave up 20 to FCS opponent Austin Peay. Black Knights outright in this one.
Heading to the NFL, where we’ve got an intriguing Dallas-Seattle clash in week 3, I’m really excited by the slate of games this weekend. Russell Wilson is an early MVP candidate with nine touchdowns in his first two games, leading the Seahawks to a 2-0 start. Dallas avoided an 0-2 start with a miraculous comeback against Atlanta that figures to give the ‘Boys some momentum. I don’t think it’s enough to beat Seattle at home, but I like Dallas to cover, while the Seahawks snare the victory.
The Saints looked absolutely horrible in the second half last week, as the Raiders simply dominated after falling behind 10-0. That didn’t inspire much confidence in what New Orleans can do without Michael Thomas, and the Green Bay Packers have looked absolutely monstrous on offense in a pair of easy victories to start their year. After the Saints looked like a mess, I’m not picking against the red-hot Packers here. Green Bay outright on Sunday Night Football.
I was leaning Chiefs for this much-anticipated Monday Night clash, but Mahomes and co. did not give me confidence when they needed overtime to take down the Chargers. The Ravens have looked to be on another level than both their opponents so far, holding the Texans and Browns to a combined 22 points, while notching 71. The Ravens have just been too impressive to bet against, so give me Baltimore winning and covering the spread.
I came just short on my upset pick last week, as Gardner Minshew was intercepted on a potential game-tying drive for the Jaguars. So, with that being said, I’m going to go bolder. Ole Miss hosts a top-10 Florida team to open the season, and they are being absolutely disrespected as 14.5 point underdogs. John Rhys Plumlee is a good quarterback, Lane Kiffin will have his guys ready to go and Florida quarterback Kyle Trask will struggle to gel with new playmakers in a delayed season opener. Ole Miss opens in style with a stunner over the Gators.
While Kentucky has looked more impressive than usual during the last couple of seasons, the Wildcats are still one of the weaker programs in the SEC. Their 3-5 conference record in 2019 really speaks for itself as they struggled against historically mediocre teams like Arkansas and South Carolina. This season, Auburn is just a class above the Wildcats in most positions. Bo Nix should have a strong sophomore campaign guided by new offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who helped create some of the most explosive offenses in recent memory during his time at Clemson. I expect the Tigers to look dominant in their home opener easily covering the spread.
Last week, Louisville’s defense was exposed by Miami. The Cardinals gave up 485 total yards while having no answer for D’Eriq King. Their offense looked above average, but, during key moments, Louisville’s stars failed to produce. The Cardinals only converted on four of their 14 third down attempts and gave up three costly turnovers. Pitt may not be one of the most talented teams in the country, but their offense has looked solid through two weeks. Quarterback Kenny Pickett has thrown for over 200 yards in every game this season and has delighted fans with creative touchdown celebrations. The Panthers’ offensive line will need to perform better this week, but I predict that Pittsburgh remains undefeated just covering the spread by a few points.
Army has collected two of the most dominant wins of the season thus far. Their quarterback play leaves much to be desired, but their balanced rushing attack has been beyond excellent and will cause problems for Cincinnati this weekend. While the Bearcats have a more complete roster, this game will be decided in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati’s deep receiving core will give them the edge with a late touchdown, but they will not cover the spread.
While they showed some real grit in their comeback victory against Atlanta, Dallas still has much to prove if they are going to make any noise this postseason. Dak Prescott is looking exceptional through two weeks, but Russell Wilson seems to be on another level. Wilson has already scored nine total touchdowns and dominated a Belichick led defense throwing for 322 yards in that matchup. As the Cowboys’ defense looked especially porous last week, I expect Wilson and the Seahawks to score often, comfortably covering the spread.
Even though the Saints have one of the best rosters in the NFL, I have not been overly impressed with their performance so far. At the center of this disappointment lies Drew Brees. The legendary quarterback has started the season off slowly by accumulating costly turnovers; however, his level of play is trending in the right direction as he threw for over 300 yards in the loss against the Raiders. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers is playing with a chip on his shoulder after the Packers drafted Jordan Love as his eventual successor. Rodgers is proving that he is far from past his prime and his competitive spirit will fuel Green Bay. Packers win outright.
In what should be one of the best games of the season, Baltimore will look to earn a statement win. Lamar Jackson’s astounding sophomore season is not looking like an aberration as the quarterback has thrown for 479 yards through two weeks. Jackson has infused the Ravens with a great amount of momentum, and, while the Chiefs’ defense has not been as bad as in the past, I fully expect Baltimore to perform well offensively. Kansas City will be a tough test, but the Ravens defense makes all the difference. They rank first in fewest points allowed and hold the third lowest opposing quarterback rating, so Mahomes might struggle more than most expect. I predict that Baltimore remains undefeated and will manage to cover the spread.
For my upset pick, I will be bold and predict that Mississippi State shocks the defending national champions. LSU is still a good team, but they have just lost too much talent over the offseason. With Ja’ Marr Chase opting out, the Tigers will have to soldier on without their top playmaker, and the Bulldogs’ defense is better than many think. I expect the Tigers to get off to a slow start, which will allow Mississippi State to keep the score to a manageable deficit. Once the fourth quarter begins, Mike Leach’s air raid offense will facilitate some long yardage passing plays and more red zone opportunities. Although Coach Leach has not officially decided the starting quarterback yet, Stanford transfer KJ Costello brings a veteran presence that could serve the Bulldogs well in crunch time.
I already picked Auburn to make the CFP, and nothing has changed in my assessment of the Tigers. They have a terrific all-around team, and at the very least, will challenge for the SEC championship. Kentucky is perennially underrated, but losing Lynn Bowden Jr. will hurt. The Wildcats will struggle to run against one of the best front sevens in the country, and Bo Nix will begin his surprise Heisman campaign this week and toss four touchdowns. Auburn wins and easily covers the spread.
Louisville’s offense was better than I expected last week, but their defense was terrible. It doesn’t get any easier for the Cardinals when they travel to Pitt, who I think is one of the best teams in the ACC. Their defense is fantastic, so they should be able to slow down Louisville’s offense. Their offense might not be quite as prolific as Miami’s, but they’ll get the job done. The fact that Pitt is only favored by three in this game is shocking, given the difference in quality between these two teams. Panthers cover easily.
This might be the most interesting game of the week. Both these teams, after easily winning their games against inferior opponents, get their first real challenge of the season. Cincinnati’s offense was outstanding in their opener, as was Army’s in the first two games. Army has a knack for close games against highly ranked opponents, and I think we’ll see another one here, but Cincinnati has superior talent. It’ll be a close one; Bearcats win but don’t cover the spread.
The Seahawks offense has looked incredible to start the season, with Russell Wilson playing like an MVP candidate. However, they lost some defensive key players to injury, including Bruce Irvin, which could be a problem for a team with an already weak pass rush. They struggled to get pressure on Cam Newton last week, and it’ll be difficult again with the Cowboys great offensive line. These two teams are evenly matched on paper, but I trust the Seahawks offense far more. The Cowboys comeback win against a mediocre Falcons team did little to inspire me. The Seahawks win, but don’t cover.
Two of the best quarterbacks in the league going at it. This will be a fun matchup. Aaron Rodgers seems to have heard the doubters this season and has been playing some of the best football of his career through two weeks. Drew Brees has also looked very good, but losing his most reliable target in Michael Thomas showed last week. While the Packers have played two bad teams in a row, their defense has looked solid, while the Saints let Derek Carr carve them up for nearly 300 yards. If they can’t stop him, I don’t have confidence they’ll be able to slow down the Rodgers-Davante Adams duo. Packers win outright in a shootout.
The NFL really is treating their fans well this week. In a matchup of the last two MVPs, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes should put on a show. It’s difficult to evaluate the Ravens thus far, because they’ve only faced the Browns and Texans, but they’ve looked very good thus far. The Chiefs, on the other hand, needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Chargers. This will be a very close game, and while both quarterbacks are undoubtedly clutch, I trust Mahomes more with a game on the line. Mahomes leads a game-winning drive and the Chiefs win outright.
Georgia Tech has, simply put, not looked good through two weeks. They barely beat Florida State in a game which they did not deserve to win, and then were dismantled by UCF. Syracuse, on the other hand, is much better than their 0-2 record indicates. They kept it relatively close against two teams who I think are among the best in the ACC in UNC and Pittsburgh. Their defense is outstanding, and while their offense is not great, they shouldn’t need many points to beat Georgia Tech, whose offense is equally abysmal. Syracuse wins this one is a low-scoring affair.
The SEC is back, and there is a solid opening matchup between Kentucky and Auburn. This Auburn team last year showed flashes of greatness by beating Alabama, and their only SEC losses last year were to quality opponents in Florida, Georgia and LSU. I think Kentucky keeps this one interesting throughout, but I like Bo Nix to lead the Tigers to victory in the fourth quarter. Auburn wins but doesn’t cover.
Pittsburgh has looked pretty impressive in their first two games of the year with a blowout win over Austin Peay and a 21-10 victory over Syracuse last week. Senior Kenny Pickett appears to be a reliable quarterback for the Panthers, and their defense has played well so far as well. I was really high on Louisville going into the season, but last week against Miami, the Cardinals defense struggled mightily and gave up 47 points. I like the Panthers to win by 10.
This is definitely the matchup of the week. While this game is important for both teams, this is a must win for Army if they want to have a chance at a New Year’s Six bowl. The Black Knights’ triple option attack worked well in their first two games, as they put up over 300 yards on the ground each game, but they will face a different test from a tough Cincinnati team. I think this one is back and forth at first, but Cincy is the more talented team and that will be the difference. The Bearcats win but do not cover the spread.
The Cowboys looked less than impressive in their crazy comeback against the Falcons last week, but they were able to get the job done. If the Cowboys are going to beat the Seahawks, however, they are going to need to figure out their defense. Russell Wilson has gone off the first couple of weeks, and I expect him to ride that momentum into this game. I can see the Cowboys defense coming around by the end of the season, but they are not firing on all cylinders yet. Seahawks win and cover.
The Saints are greatly missing Michael Thomas, and it showed in their 10-point loss to the Raiders last Monday. They will have another big test this week against the Green Bay Packers who have absolutely shredded the opposing defenses they have faced so far. Aaron Rodgers has already thrown for 604 yards on the year, and running back Aaron Jones already has 234 yards on the ground. I think this one is close, but I’ll go with the Packers to win this one outright.
The Chiefs definitely did not play their best football in last week’s overtime win over the Chargers, and they will need to be at their best if they are going to beat the Ravens this week. Even if the Chiefs are at their best, I am not sure they can beat this solid Ravens team. The Ravens have one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and they also have an elite defense to go along with that. Overall, I think the Ravens are a more efficient, well-polished team than the Chiefs at the moment. I’ll pick the Ravens to win and cover the spread.
The Washington Football Team hasn’t looked too bad in either game so far this season. They shocked the Eagles in week 1, and although they lost to the Cardinals last week, it wasn’t too ugly. They face a very overconfident Baker Mayfield-led Browns team this week, and I like Washington to pull off the upset in this one. The Browns looked less than impressive in their 35-30 victory over the Bengals last week, and they won’t play much better this week. Mayfield makes some mistakes late and Washington picks up their second win of the season.
The Kentucky vs. Auburn game should be one of the better one’s this week and it is a perfect way to kick off the start of the SEC schedule. Auburn and Bo Nix will be building off of a strong season last year and with a very solid receiving corps to back him up, I think that they will have relatively little issue dispatching Kentucky. The Wildcats should keep it relatively interesting, but I’m going to take Auburn to cover.
Pitt has been one of the more solid teams at the start of the season, taking care of business to go up to a 2-0 record. They’ll look to bring their stout running game and defense into the picture this week against Louisville. While the Cardinals certainly can throw the ball around the yard, their defense leaves a lot of questions to be answered. I think that Pitt will be able to slow their tempo down enough and limit the damage to give their offense enough time to work. I’ll take Pitt to win and cover.
Cincinnati is going to need to work for this win. Army will always find ways to put up points and their defense has been dominant in their last two showings. I think that the Bearcats will find a way to limit the rush from the Black Knights and sustain enough offense to wear down the defensive front of Army. I’ll take Cincinnati to win but not cover.
The Cowboys were lucky to walk away with a win after the total collapse from the Falcons. Atlanta was able to put up 39 points against a less than impressive Dallas defense. With that in mind, I think they are in some serious trouble against Seattle. Wilson put on another show against New England, putting up 288 yards and five TDs. I think that Russ will continue his form and find a way to expose and carve up the Cowboys. The only thing of concern is that banged up Seattle defense. Linebacker Bruce Irvin and Corner Marquise Blair are both out of the picture forcing some of the younger guys to step in. Even with injuries, I think Seattle will hold off the Cowboys and easily win and cover.
The Saints struggled last week and the loss of Michael Thomas was a clear impact. Their next game against the Packers will not be any easier, especially against a red hot Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers looks like he hasn’t lost a step this year, throwing for just over 600 yards so far this season. The Saints will struggle to stop him and Aaron Jones. I’ll take the Packers outright.
While the Ravens have not been tested by a quality opponent yet this season, they’ve won their two games in convincing fashion. The Chiefs will need to step their game up a new level, especially after barely walking it off last week against the Chargers. Baltimore should win and cover.
For my upset pick, I’m going to head to the Big 12. Oklahoma State was supposed to win easy over Tulsa last week, especially with star running back Chuba Hubbard leading the way. That wasn’t the case however, as they were only able to put up 16 points total. Now, West Virginia is by no means a powerhouse squad, but anything and everything seems to happen in the Big 12. Coming off of a large win last week against Eastern Kentucky should give the Mountaineers a little confidence going into their matchup. I’ll take West Virginia over Oklahoma State.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.