The first week of the season is almost always the most difficult one to predict because we only see the vanilla packages in pre-season games. As a result, I went 10-6….not too bad at all, considering the uncertainty of that first game.
For the record this week, yes, I had the Pats beating the Jets as did everyone else, so I’m starting 1-0 for week two.
Panthers @ Bills:
The Carolina Panthers defense looks to be every bit as dominant as any in the NFL after a single game. If you can hold Russell Wilson, The Beast, and that crew to 12 points, you’re doing a LOT of things right. This Week, the D faces rookie E.J. Manuel and C.J. Spiller of abbreviated backfield fame. The results should be even better for the stout D. The Bills’ top two defensive backs, safety Jarius Byrd and CB Stephon Gilmore, are both out (Byrd is listed as doubtful).
Panthers 17, Bills 6
Dolphins @ Colts:
Interesting match-up here in a rematch of a very close “battle of rookie QBs” last season. This season, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill has a bushel-basket full of new toys, even though TE Dustin Keller was lost for the season a few weeks ago. WR Brandon Gibson could be their best offseason pick-up for Tannehill after all is said and done. Meanwhile, the Colts are trying to get the ball to another 2nd-yr player, WR T.Y. Hilton, as their backfield struggles to find an identity. Same with the Dolphins as their 2nd-yr back Lamar Miller struggled mightily last week. Look for close to 100 passes thrown when the dust settles, with the Colts once again claiming victory.
Colts 23, Dolphins 20
Rams @ Falcons:
Here’s an interesting match-up with a very good Rams defense coming in to the Georgia Dome facing an already-depleted WR corps. Roddy White and Julio Jones are both listed as “questionable” but should play with their injuries meaning WR Harry Douglass could see a lot of targets along with Gonzo for the Falcons. The Rams have a young and talented offense, but QB Sam Bradford has yet to show he’s the answer after having a stellar rookie campaign. Tavon Austin helps, but he can’t do everything. The Falcons rarely lose at home, but the injuries will make this one close. Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein could really be a weapon as “Legatron” will be kicking in perfect conditions.
Falcons 26, Rams 23
Vikings @ Bears:
I didn’t give either team any love last week, but the Bears proved me wrong in winning a close game at home against the rising Cincinnati Bengals. This time around, a team with the NFL’s best player rolls into town. Adrian Peterson will get his yards (120 and a TD), but that Bears defense will give Christian Ponder a lot of problems. Meanwhile, the Bears face a very good, if aging, defensive line but the back end still needs a lot of help. I’m looking for the Cutler-to-Marshall connection to remain strong while RB Matt Forte mixes things up and helps move the chains. The Bears have the better roster from top to bottom and should win this one without a huge amount of trouble.
Bears 30, Vikings 20
Redskins @ Packers:
The Packers played a closer ball game at San Fran last week than I thought they would, indicating some growing on their part. The Pack gave up over 400 yards passing to Colin K., but held Frank Gore to about 2.0 ypc. That could be trouble for Redskins RB Alfred Morris, forcing RGIII to the air more than Shanahan would like. With his injury late last year, RGIII didn’t play in the preseason and showed his rust in week one, and I think the Packers just have too much firepower for Washington at Lambeau Field as rookie Eddie Lacy should have an easier time running and giving the Packers’ offense more balance.
Packers 28, Redskins 21
Cowboys @ Chiefs:
The Cowboys travel to one of very few stadiums that isn’t a sellout – no corporate names, it’s STILL ARROWHEAD STADIUM! – and take on a resurgent Kansas City team. The Chiefs had a talented squad last year and now have a proven Head Coach in Andy Reid along with a built-from-the-ground-up QB for the West Coast Offense in Alex Smith. Dez Bryant plays today but goes up against one of the NFL’s better corners in Brandon Flowers. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles caused fantasy owners a scare last week when he injured his leg, but looks to be 100% for today’s contest. In what will likely be a fairly close game, I think the Chiefs new-found stability will help them eek out a victory at Arrowhead this week.
Chiefs 24, Cowboys 20
Chargers @ Eagles:
San Diego’s offense showed some unusual efficiency last week, scoring 28 points while not gaining a ton of yards. The Eagles under new Head Coach Chip Kelly showed they can score in bunches but their defense is a bit suspect, as was thought heading into the season. It’s always difficult for west coast teams to win on the east coast due to the time difference and the earlier game start. It’s 10 in the morning on the west coast when the game kicks off, which should be enough of an edge for the home team in this one. Watch out for fireworks!
Eagles 33, Chargers 24
Browns @ Ravens:
Last week, the Browns lost to a strong, deep Miami front-seven while the Ravens gave up 7 passing TDs to Peyton Manning. Brandon Weeden is no Peyton Manning and he won’t have Josh Brown until next week when he comes off suspension. Meanwhile, I’d hate to have been a Raven this week as John Harbaugh couldn’t have been happy with the way his team played in Denver. That said, the Ravens at least had a few more days to prepare for this contest than did the Browns. The Browns’ defense might have things together a bit more at this point than do the Ravens simply due to off-season roster turnover, but the Ravens got hit with a very cold dose of reality last week. I think they pick up the urgency a few notches at home this week and take their frustrations out on an average offense.
Ravens 27, Browns 17
Titans @ Texans:
The Titans shockingly beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh on opening day, and the Steelers just don’t lose home openers. However, they’re going to need more explosiveness on offense than they’ve shown thus far if they think they can outscore the Texans. Houston should split carries more between Ben Tate and Arian Foster as Foster works his way back into football game shape. DeAndre Hopkins, a rookie WR out of Clemson, looks like he could be that WR2 the Texans have been seeking for years to put opposite All-Pro WR Andre Johnson, and once again the home team should pull out the victory.
Texans 28, Titans 17
Lions @ Cardinals:
The potent Lions offense takes on Arizona in the desert this week and this game features a TON of interesting match-ups: Detroit’s fearsome defensive line vs. probably the worst interior OL in the NFL; Arizona’s pass-rush vs. Detroit’s offensive line; Megatron vs. Patrick Peterson. The list goes on. It should be an entertaining game to watch if you have access, and the final score should reflect it.
Cardinals 24, Lions 23
Saints @ Buccaneers:
New Orleans pulled out a victory at home, unsurprisingly, against the Atlanta Falcons last week. The Saints simply play well at home against the Falcons. By the same token, the Saints won the 2012 matchup in Tampa Bay, and the Bucs don’t seem to have made the strides this offseason that were thought to have happened. Greg Schiano could be on the hot seat by the end of the season, and this game won’t help his cause. Sean Payton is at the helm and Rob Ryan’s 46 defense seems to be improved over last year’s record-worst effort. Josh Freeman better get his game in gear because Drew Brees isn’t going to loiter. Look for Saints’ rookie WR Kenny Stills to make some noise in this one.
Saints 34, Bucs 21
Jaguars @ Raiders:
This is pretty much the “Who Cares?” game of the week…except for the fact that Oakland starts QB Terrell Pryor while the Jaguars start QB Chad Henne for an injured Blaine Gabbert. Henne’s presence means the Jags actually might have a chance to win this one, but Pryor’s legs will make the difference at home.
Raiders 26, Jaguars 13
Denver @ New York Giants:
Ahhh the “Manning Bowl part Deux” or whatever you want to call it. Peyton vs. Eli is always a worthwhile game to watch but this year especially so with the elder brother’s record-tying effort last week and Eli’s horrible preseason being in stark contrast with each other. However, the Giants are equipped to shoot-out with the Broncos if Eli is hot, and David Wilson will be running angry and with something to prove. Denver might be the better team, but I think the Giants pull off the upset at MetLife Stadium on this day.
Giants 30, Broncos 28
Niners @ Seahawks:
This match-up is one of the top-3 to see this week as two probable playoff teams in the NFC West face off. The two teams each have a very dynamic quarterback and a punishing, physical ground game with defenses designed to play exactly that type of football. Seattle was 8-0 at home last season and I have been saying since before that that the ‘hawks’ home field advantage is the best in the NFL. They’re also actively trying to break a world record for noise level with the crowd screaming at over 130 decibels, and Colin Kaepernick will be lucky to hear HIMSELF barking signals, let alone his receivers – or even his tackles! I think this ball game lives up to the hype.
Seahawks 24, Niners 20
MONDAY NIGHT GAME
Steelers @ Bengals:
There has been a mistaken thought going around the NFL regarding the age of the Steel Curtain and their losing effectiveness. People forget that Dick LeBeau’s defense is as complex as Bill Belichick’s offense, which is why so few rookies ever come into Pittsburgh and dominate the defensive side of the ball. It takes time to learn the system but rookie OLB Jarvis Jones should make some noise as he works his way into the rotation. In Steel City, it’s the offense that needs help as they’ve lost their All-Pro center, Maurkice Pouncey, for the season in a “friendly fire” incident in last week’s game. That will cripple the team for the rest of the season, and the Bengals are on the rise with a nice group of young skill players on offense and a tough defense anchored by Geno Atkins.
Bengals 24, Steelers 16