NFL Game-by-Game Predictions: Week 2
Welcome to week two, or as I like to refer to it: “The week we find out who is for real and who isn’t.” Are the Bills, Dolphins, Falcons, Titans, and Panthers contenders or pretenders? This week could give us a good idea. Brandin Cooks is a top five receiver in the NFL, Jamaal Charles os an average halfback, Matt Ryan is the MVP, and other overreactions are what make up the beauty of week one. Hope galore. Now let’s head to week two and begin to squash some more of that hope. Here are the picks (All lines according to Bovada):
Record against the spread this year: 8-7-1
Dolphins at Bills – Sunday 1:00pm
Pick: Dolphins (-1)
In the battle of first place in the AFC East and to send a shockwave down Bill Belichick’s spine, we should get a good idea of who’s for real on Sunday. This winner of this game will only spearhead an already confident group. Knowshon Moreno seems to be validating his contract thus far; he and Lamar Miller combined for 193 yards on the ground in week one. A sustainable, improved running attack could be a strong sign that the Dolphins are a team to be reckoned with in the AFC, as it should open up alleys for Tannehill and Mike Wallace to exploit in play-action. The Bills, too, collected an impressive win on Sunday, and will also hang their hats on a two-headed backfield going forward. Ultimately, I’ll take Tannehill over EJ Manuel and tend to believe Miami is a more complete football team at this time.
Miami: 31 Buffalo: 17
Jaguars at Washington Football Team – Sunday 1:00pm
Pick: Jaguars (+6)
Picture it now: Chad Henne throws a couple of scores and Toby Gerhart busts throw a porous defense while RG3 and company continue to struggle to move the ball with a chorus of “boos” raining down from the crowd at FedEx Field. How much longer can Jay Gruden keep the better quarterback on the bench? I said it. Kirk Cousins will not be starting this week or next week, but you cannot rule it out at some point this year. Not to overreact too harshly from week-to-week, but there is an argument to be made that the three of the four worst teams (with the fourth being St. Louis) in the NFC are in the same division. This Jacksonville defense is no slouch and without Jordan Reed, Washington is going to struggle on Sunday. The Jaguars win an ugly one, but that ugliness hardly compares to the media scrutiny the next week.
Jaguars: 19 Washington Football Team: 17
Speaking of ugly…
Cowboys at Titans Sunday 1:00pm
Pick: Titans (-3.5)
It would have been really fun if Jerry Jones had gotten Manziel, huh? Had those reports that Jerry had to have the card with Johnny’s name on it snatched out of his hand on draft day actually come to fruition, Dallas fans would be clamoring for him right about now. I have been a Tony Romo supporter time in and time out, but his performance last week was damaging. He never gained a rhythm with any of the pass catchers (except those wearing maroon uniforms) and four turnovers later; the game was over after a quarter and a half. Funny part is: the worst defense in the league actually held up, only to have Romo tear it down. Meanwhile, I continue to stand firmly on the Jake Locker bandwagon. His Titans got another win, and locker took care of the ball, boasted a completion percentage above 65% and had a passer rating of 111.4. If he stays healthy, with a receiving tandem of Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, he could be in for huge number this week and beyond. Hunter torches Morris Claiborne for two scores and the most underrated team in the NFL churns on with another victory…
Titans: 34 Cowboys: 24
Cardinals at Giants – Sunday 1:00pm
Pick: Cardinals (+0)
Can the fans vote to hand the NFC East over to Philly and forfeit the rest of these games? Watching Eli Manning spray incompletions and interceptions on Monday Night Football made me question how he ever won two super bowls. He is a bottom ten starting QB in the league, and it’s difficult to argue otherwise. Arizona hardly looked much better, but they did somehow eek out a win and their defense has a significant edge on that of New York. Michael Floyd is going to take the throne as the Cardinals’ top receiving option this season, and showed only a glimpse of his potential on Monday night. I’ll take the Cardinals in a pick-em game that the Giants need.
Cardinals: 21 Giants: 10
Patriots at Vikings – Sunday 1:00pm
Pick: Patriots (-3)
Tom Brady has never lost the first two games of a season as a starting quarterback. Ever. Brady and Belichick have fielded far worse teams than this one and I find the panic to be undeserved and reactionary. The lack of depth on the defensive line might become alarming given an injury, but winning in Miami is always difficult, especially for an offensive line that lost a leader just a week prior. The concerns about Brady could be valid, but I’m not going to buy into them after just a week. The Vikes got a huge win over St Louis in week one and Cordarelle Patterson looks like the real deal. This game will be a huge measuring stick for Matt Cassel and co., but I cannot imagine Brady and Belichick losing this game. It’s that simple.
Patriots: 33 Vikings: 17
Saints at Browns – Sunday 1:00pm
Pick: Saints (-7)
A trendy preseason super bowl pick, the Saints disappointingly fell to 0-1 in Atlanta in week one despite a strong offensive performance. Rob Ryan’s defense, on the other hand, could use some tweaks – starting with the pass rush. Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan need to get to the quarterback. When Jake Matthews left the game, Galette and Jordan really struggled to beat average tackles Gabe Carimi and Lamar Holmes. If the pass rush isn’t flowing, the shiny, new secondary cannot cover top-flight receivers. With or without Josh Gordon, this Cleveland offense can move the ball. Despite appearing incompetent in the first half, with the desire for Johnny only increasing, Hoyer and the Browns offense responded with a furious rally, only to lose by three. If they’re going to allow 30 points to Pittsburgh, it’s hard to envision a scenario where they slow Thomas, Graham and Cooks. Saints win in a Brees.
Saints: 42 Browns: 14
Falcons at Bengals – Sunday 1:00pm
Pick: (Falcons +5)
No wonder this team had won 56 games in the five seasons prior to last year. Devin Hester has become a secondary option that can make people miss in space; an element the offense has desperately needed since the arrival of Julio Jones. But the turnovers are still the single key to victory. They won the turnover battle and won the game; Atlanta must do the same to win this one. Stopping AJ Green will be among the most difficult assignments young Desmond Trufant has ever been tasked with, and a better pass rush is an absolute necessity. The Bengals defense will be up to the task of shutting down this high-powered offense. The borderline Seahawks-level talent on the defensive side of the ball will be tested to the extreme. However, in the end an offense hitting on all cylinders is nearly impossible to stop. Falcons win a close one on the road and send a clear message that they are for real.
Falcons: 27 Bengals: 24
Lions at Panthers – Sunday 1:00pm
Pick: Detroit (+2.5)
Carolina needed that week one victory as much or more than just about anyone. Playing a division foe with the world doubting the validity of their successful season and simultaneously bashing their offseason (for good reason), the Panthers came out and reminded everyone why they’re so good: their defense. Luke Keuchly is phenomenal and their dangerous pass rush has gone nowhere despite a tumultuous summer. But I have my doubts on the other side of the ball. Yes, Cam Newton will be back, but Carolina is relying on a rookie and a journeyman tight end to carry the receiving load (Benjamin and Olsen combined for 14 out of the Panthers’ 24 receiving targets on Sunday). Meanwhile, the offensive line is not going to make up for the lack of firepower. Against teams that will put up points (the Lions, for example) I find it hard to believe that Newton and Kelvin Benjamin can respond to Matt Stafford and Megatron. Carolina’s path to victory in this game and beyond is on the ground, but I like Suh and Fairley to swallow that up and further their lead in the NFC North.
Lions: 28 Panthers: 24
Rams at Bucs
Pick: Bucs (-5.5)
And the early frontrunner for the top pick is…
Yeah, St, Louis was that bad on Sunday. They needed to pound the rock with Zac Stacy behind a strong line and rush the passer on defense, and struggled to do both this past week. Shaun Hill was not good and Austin Davis was worse. Tavon Austin is still talented, but is being grossly misused in this offense and needs the ball in space in order to succeed. And to top it off, Chris Long will now miss 8-10 weeks with an injury. They might just be the worst team in the league right now. For Tampa, I’m still confused how the media was duped into believing in 35-year-old Josh McCown as the savior of the franchise. While his QB Rating (71.3) was average, he is not the answer going forward; Mike Glennon could be the guy there sooner rather than later. But the defense led by Gerald McCoy is bound for a bounceback, and the receiving corps should have its way against Janoris Jenkins and co. The Bucs win, by default.
Buccanneers: 21 Rams: 13
Seahawks at Chargers
Pick: Seahawks (-6)
If we learned anything in week one, Seattle is still the cream of the NFL crop, and it isn’t close. The Seahawks were as dominant as anyone in week one and, for all the talk about Rodgers not throwing at Sherman once, the ‘Hawks’ defensive line isn’t getting enough attention. Michael Bennett is damn good at football – his sack and forced fumble only validated that. Russell Wilson still makes every single play and the whispers of Marshawn Lynch’s downfall are greatly exaggerated – just ask those Packers defenders who are still bruised up. I’m sure they will lose at some point this season, but I can’t figure out when that will be. San Diego, you’re the next victim up.
Seahawks: 32 Chargers: 10
Texans at Raiders
Pick: Texans (-3)
Jadeveon Clowney going down for 4-6 is a major blow for a team that needs to win with defensive pressure. One thing’s for sure in Houston: JJ Watt is not resting on his newly earned laurels. He was his typically dominant self on Sunday and should continue to be so moving forward. David Carr played about as well as reasonably expected, but how is this offense supposed to score points?! Sorry, Rod Streater and an approaching-30 Maurice Jones-Drew simply don’t do it for me. Texans win ugly.
Texans: 13 Raiders: 7
Jets at Packers
Pick: Packers (-8)
Green Bay losing by 20 in Seattle was for more a statement about Seattle’s dominance than a sign of regression for the Pack. That isn’t to say, however, that Green Bay has nothing to worry about. That defense is porous and it doesn’t look great for Julius Peppers as a standing linebacker, and the running game was non-existent. Both of those factors need to change for the Packers to regain playoff hopes. The Jets did what they had to do and nothing more in week one. If they were to steal one here that would catapult them, but the chances are not great given the Packers’ long week and desperation. Packers take this one handily.
Packers: 37 Jets: 17
Chiefs at Broncos
And the beat goes on for the greatest offense in years. The Broncos remain unbeaten and lower the hammer down onto the Chiefs, coming off of a awful week one loss to the Titans. Manning will carve up the new and less-improved Chiefs secondary and their defense will hold Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith to a lowly 250 offensive yards. Expect a snoozer for this one.
Broncos: 27 Chiefs: 6
Bears vs 49ers
Pick: 49ers (-7)
The Niners put on a real show last week against the abhorrent Dallas Cowboys, and they will look to build on that success. The solid play of Colin Kaepernick and the amazing performance by the defense have the coaching staff and the fans feeling pretty confident. The Bears are coming off a reeling loss to the surprising Buffalo Bills. Despite a heartbreaker in OT, they are still a solid football team and could be up for an upset, but I just don’t see it working out. Tough loss again for the Bears.
49ers: 24 Bears: 17
Colts vs. Eagles
Pick: Eagles (-3)
The Eagles came storming back from a huge deficit last week to the surprising Jaguars and will look to keep their offensive monster rolling. The Colts come off a defeat from public enemy Peyton Manning and co., and will look to get back to their winning ways. There is no way that this game doesn’t end in a shootout with these two offensive beasts. Expect Foles and Luck to both throw for over 350 and 3 scores, and this one ends with a field goal as time expires. Yeah Mondays!
Eagles: 45 Colts 42
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