What a wild first week of the National Football League season! There were definitely some stunners out there (the Patriots barely eking out the win over the Bills, the Broncos crushing of the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens) and, with the first week in the books, there are questions aplenty as the NFL settles in for their Week 2 battles beginning on Thursday night.
While the first week always throws off prognosticators picks, now we at least have something to go on. Let’s take a look at the matchups and some of the questions that have arisen (home teams are in CAPS, lines from the Mirage in Las Vegas and the choice for the game in BOLD).
New York Jets (+12.5) vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Is the Patriots’ offense that abysmal that they barely beat a Bills team with a rookie starting QB? Pats’ QB Tom Brady tried to go to the well and found nothing there most of the time. Now, with WR Danny Amendola out for Thursday night’s game and the loss of RB Stephen Ridley for the next eight weeks with a broken wrist, there will be some trying times for the Patriots in this game, not to mention over the first half of the season.
St. Louis Rams vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (-7)
While the Rams looked good against the Cardinals at home last week, can they take that on the road against one of the true powers of the NFC? The Falcons, coming off a tough loss to division rival New Orleans, will be looking to right the ship with the Rams coming to town and there is no reason why they won’t. The offense, with QB Matt Ryan, former Rams RB Stephen Jackson and WR Julio Jones, will have their way with the Rams and the Falcon D will step it up after their lackluster performance against the Saints.
Carolina Panthers vs. BUFFALO BILLS (+3)
Are both teams their “true” selves that we saw in Week 1? Carolina gave Seattle all they could handle before bowing out. The Bills pushed the Patriots right to the brink before bowing out. I have to go with the Bills on this one because of the dismal performance of the Carolina offense against the Seahawks (only seven points in losing the game). The Bills have a strong offense, even though QB EJ Manual is still learning the ropes, and they should be able to cover the spread if not win this game outright in their second consecutive home game.
Minnesota Vikings (+6) vs. CHICAGO BEARS
Has the change in their head coach brought a new Chicago Bears team to the forefront? Head coach Marc Trestman definitely had the Bears running on all cylinders in their battle with Cincinnati last week but, with that said, they defeated the Bengals by only three points. In their second home game in as many weeks, they’re going to have a tougher time against RB Adrian Peterson and a staunch Vikings D.
Washington Redskins vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (-7.5)
Which version of the Redskins will show up for this game? Will it be the team that was blasted out of the gate in the first half of their showdown with the Eagles, or will it be the team that almost came back against Philadelphia in the second half? QB Robert Griffin III is still obviously bothered by his reconstructed knee and the last thing he needs is to run all day away from Packers LB Clay Matthews. The Packers played well in their loss to the San Francisco 49ers and, with their first home game of the year, should give the Lambeau faithful something to cheer about.
Miami Dolphins vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-3)
What will the Dolphins do when they play a real team? The Dolphins were impressive over the Cleveland Browns, but this Colts squad actually will bring a test for them. While the Oakland Raiders put a little pressure on the Colts (most notably due to Raiders QB Terrell Pryor’s feet), there isn’t that same pressure in facing ‘Fins QB Ryan Tannehill. The line is definitely low for this game, so take the Colts comfortably.
Dallas Cowboys (+2.5) vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The same question as above looms over the Chiefs…what will they do when they play a real team? The Chiefs pounded on the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars but the ‘Pokes aren’t going to be that easy of a test. The Dallas offense looked outstanding against the New York Giants (before letting them back in the game) and I am surprised that the Chiefs are the ones coming in as the favorite. Take the Cowboys and the points here.
Cleveland Browns vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS (-6.5)
Is it already time to hit the “panic button” in Crabcake City? The Ravens were drubbed about as badly as you’ll see a team beaten when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos dismantled them in Week 1. Cleveland QB Brandon Weeden isn’t Manning, however. With ten days to prepare for this game, however, I expect that the Ravens will rebound well (especially as they raise the Super Bowl championship banner) and take this game.
Tennessee Titans vs. HOUSTON TEXANS (-9)
Have the Houston Texans awaken after their scare against the Chargers? After escaping San Diego with a win in the last second on Monday night, the Texans will be ready for their meeting with the Titans. Although the Titans stunned a favored Pittsburgh Steeler team in Week 1, their offense wasn’t exactly threatening. Expect that the Texans will wow their home crowd, QB Matt Schaub and RB Arian Foster will be in synch and the Texans’ D will return to form in pushing their record to 2-0 and cover the spread.
San Diego Chargers vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-7.5)
Can the Eagles keep up the pace that has been set by new head coach Chip Kelly? The Eagles blitzed the Redskins on Monday night, running 53 plays in the first half to run out to a huge lead. It was obvious by the second half, however, that the players weren’t able to keep up that pace as they tired (its different running Kelly’s hypersonic offense when you’re a 20-year old than a 30-year old). The Chargers will not be able to slow down Eagles QB Michael Vick or RB LeSean McCoy this week, so look for the Eagles to take the game and cover the spread without the same drama they had against Washington.
Detroit Lions vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (+1)
Can the Lions repeat the offensive success they had against the Minnesota Vikings on the road? This is one of the most difficult games to handicap on the Week 2 schedule, with some other touts having the game as a “pick ‘em”; normally when you see this, you stay away from any significant action on the game. I can’t lean heavily on my selection of the Cardinals in this matchup, but I believe that the Lions’ success at home won’t translate to the road and the ‘Birds to take the game in front of their home crowd.
New Orleans Saints (-3.5) vs. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Will the Saints continue to “march in” after their big win against the Atlanta Falcons at home last week? From all appearances, the Saints are back in form with the return of head coach Sean Payton. QB Drew Brees looks like he’s on his way to another 4500-yard plus passing season, the offense is running smoothly and the defense was powerful against the Falcons. After coming off a tough loss against the New York Jets and their rookie QB Geno Smith, don’t believe that the Bucs will be able to put up much of a fight against a division rival.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (-6)
Is this the game that will be a determining factor in who gets the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft? Although Oakland pushed Indianapolis hard, there are still numerous questions on both sides of the ball. Things could be worse, however; they could be Jacksonville, who only mustered two points off of a safety against Kansas City AT HOME. The denizens of “The Black Hole” will be out in force and there will be plenty for them to cheer as the Raiders push the Jags closer to signing Tim Tebow to a contract.
Denver Broncos (-4.5) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
Has the window closed for the New York Giants? The Super Bowl champion back in 2007 has steadily fallen down the hierarchy of their own division since then and there aren’t many players to replenish the team. QB Eli Manning looks around and doesn’t find many options, although the return of RB Brandon Jacobs might be of assistance. Going against big brother Peyton and the prolific Broncos offense, however, the Giants will fall to 0-2 after this game and it might be time for the Giants to be retooled with a new head coach for 2014.
San Francisco 49ers (+3) vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Who will reign supreme in the NFC West? Arguably one of the marquee games this weekend, the game will be the first look at the two teams expected to battle for that honor and both are coming off wins in Week 1. Even though they are at home (where they were a perfect 8-0 in 2012), the Seahawks didn’t exactly inspire confidence in barely getting by the Panthers last week. The ‘Niners, however, looked as good as last year in beating the Pack at home. This game will be close and picking a winner outright is close to impossible, but that means the 49ers will cover the spread.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS (-7)
As with the Giants previously, has the window closed for the Steelers as well? The Steelers looked little like the powerful team of the past few seasons in meekly losing at home against the Tennessee Titans. QB Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have the horses to run with anymore and, heading into a division rival’s opening home game, I don’t see how the Steelers will amass anything resembling an offense against the Bengals. While it once looked like a pretty good game, it should probably be a Bengal blowout.
Last Week: Amid the chaos of the stunning games and related upsets, the W-L record took a beating in the first week. We’ll try to improve on that in Week 2.
Last Week: 4-11-1
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