Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 2 NFL Picks
NFL Week 2 features a host of awesome matchups, so our expert panel will be tested as much, if not more, than it was in Week 1.
Harbaugh/Schwartz 2.0 is arguably the best game and marks the second tough test for the San Francisco 49ers. The Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons on Monday night is an equally tantalizing pairing that had our panel as split as it's ever been.
Week 2 is also a season-defining week for many teams. 0-2 is a terrible way to start a season in the parity-driven NFL. Teams like the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers will look to get back on their respective playoff tracks and keep fingers off the panic button for one more week.
Our B/R Panel of Experts
On to the picks!
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight-up.
Expert Picks Scoreboard
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
B/R Consensus: Green Bay Packers (9-2)
Vegas: Packers -5
The Packers ran into a defensive (and offensive?) buzzsaw in Week 1 and shouldn't be counted out just yet. Don't care what the over is in this one, take it.
Lovie Smith and the Bears’ defense have always given Mike McCarthy and the Packers problems on offense, but the Packers moved the ball well against them last year and should do so again. The Bears have more playmakers on offense and should be able to put up points against a reeling Packers defense. Desperation gets the Packers a close victory.
The Bears won't be able to slow down the Packers' passing game the way the 49ers did, but Green Bay will struggle with Chicago's passing attack too. Aaron Rodgers' and Co. get back on track with a momentum-building win in a very tough game.
The Packers will not drop two in a row at home to start the season. They were able to sack Alex Smith four times and they will definitely get at Cutler as well. Expect a closely-contested bounce-back win from Green Bay on Thursday night.
Other Votes: Frenz: Packers; Hangst: Bears; Hansen: Packers; Dunlevy: Bears; Gagnon: Packers; Langland: Packers; Bardeen: Packers.
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills
B/R Consensus: Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Vegas: Buffalo -3.5
This game should be close as both teams look to put Week 1 behind them quickly. I'm not particularly impressed with either QB in this matchup, but Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis should be able to play keep away for the Chiefs. Pay special attention to Dexter McCluster, who is starting to play a serious role in the Chiefs' offense.
Two teams coming off disappointing showings in Week 1. The Bills are dealing with big-time injuries on offense (Fred Jackson will miss at least a month and David Nelson is done for the year) and poor play on defense, while the Chiefs are getting Tamba Hali back from suspension. The Chiefs are the better team and will send the Bills to 0-2.
Neither team looked good in Week 1, but getting back Brandon Flowers and Tamba Hali will be a difference-maker for the Chiefs. No Fred Jackson means an all-too-familiar season for the Bills.
The wheels came off for the Bills in Week 1 against the Jets, but while Buffalo was winless in road games last year, it performed much better in front of their home crowd (6-2). The Chiefs' offensive line gave up three sacks against the Falcons, and the Bills' defensive line is as talented as Atlanta's unit.
In the 2011 season-opener, Kansas City was blown out at home by Buffalo and lost Eric Berry for the season in the process. The Chiefs will also have Tamba Hali back from suspension and will be looking for bounce-back game after a Week 1 trouncing by the Atlanta Falcons. The Chiefs should be healthier and will definitely be hungrier in Week 2. I expect a close game with Kansas City pulling out the win.
Other Picks: Hangst: Bills; Dunlevy: Bills; Gagnon: Chiefs; Garda: Chiefs; Langland: Bills; Bardeen: Chiefs.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
B/R Consensus: Cincinnati Bengals (Unanimous)
Vegas: Bengals -7
Until Brandon Weeden proves me wrong, I can't think of any reason in the world I would pick him to win an NFL game. Based on Monday night's game, the Bengals may not be ready to play with the "grown ups" in the AFC North, but they should dominate this matchup at the kids table.
The Browns have a defense that will keep them in games, but not one that can win games. You have to wonder how long the Browns can stick with Brandon Weeden if his play continues to be as pathetic as it was in Week 1. The Bengals have a decent defense of their own and a true playmaker on the offensive side of the ball in A.J. Green, along with a good young quarterback in Andy Dalton.
The Browns' defense was impressive against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Bengals' offensive attack will be more balanced, and the Browns showed a weakness against the run. Cincy will shut down Brandon Weeden en route to a big win.
After seeing what Brandon Weeden did (and didn't do) in Week 1, it's hard to pick the Browns here, despite their strong defense. I expect an improvement from Weeden, but the specter of the Eagles loss will loom. It's youth vs. youth, but I like Cincinnati's youth more in this matchup.
Other Picks: Bengals (Unanimous)
Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts
B/R Consensus: Minnesota Vikings (7-4)
Vegas: Minnesota -1.5
Adrian Peterson is back, baby! That's the headline of this game, as the Colts don't have anyone on their defense that can stop someone the caliber of Peterson. Like most Vikings games as of late, I expect this one to come down to the wire, but the Vikings showed they can win close games last week, and that should continue in Week 2.
The Vikings pulled out an overtime win against the Jaguars, but they showed their limitations on both sides of the ball. Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder will keep the Vikings in this one, but Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and Reggie Wayne will surprise the Vikes and, most likely, the majority of the NFL viewing world by getting their first win of the 2012 season.
The Vikings' defense will be a tough test for Andrew Luck, especially their pass rush. If Luck can find time to throw, he'll be able to get completions against the sub-par cornerbacks in Minnesota's secondary.
Luck looked every bit the rookie in Week 1 because he was constantly under pressure. The Vikings were able to pressure Blaine Gabbert often in their season-opener, so this looks like an awful combo for Indy. Add in a ready-to-go Adrian Peterson and this one is a no-brainer.
This is a must-win game for a Colts team seeking to avoid comparisons with last year's disaster. Andrew Luck will bounce back at home against a softer Vikings defense. Indianapolis wins a close game.
Other Votes: Frenz: Vikings; Hangst: Vikings; Hansen: Vikings; Gagnon: Colts; Langland: Vikings; Bardeen: Vikings.
Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins
B/R Consensus: Oakland Raiders (10-1)
Vegas: Raiders -3
No one is as surprised as I am that Carson Palmer looked as good as he did in Week 1, managing to work the ball down the field and not throw interceptions. While I'm not sure how long that will keep up, a healthy McFadden is more than enough to beat the Dolphins, who will struggle to put up points.
This could get out of hand quickly if the Dolphins don’t figure out a way to get Ryan Tannehill to throw over the defensive linemen. Seriously though, the Dolphins have so little playmaking ability on offense, it’s hard to see them keeping up with most teams on their schedule. The Raiders will run early and often, then take to the air off play action.
Ryan Tannehill couldn't get the offense going in Week 1. That'll be the story again against Oakland. The Raiders' pass rush will keep the rookie quarterback under wraps as they cruise to a win on the road.
Miami played 50 good minutes and 10 bad ones that resulted in a 30-10 blowout against Houston, which looked a lot worse on paper than it was on the turf. In what's sure to be an offensive shootout, expect Miami's underrated defense to step up big in front of its home crowd and for the the entire team to put together its first 60-minute performance since the debut of Hard Knocks.
Oakland went to Miami in first place in the AFC West last season and got blown out by the Dolphins. It was a loss that would send the Raiders into a tailspin as the team finished 1-4 and out of the playoffs. In fact, the Raiders' only win after losing to Miami was a miracle 16-13 win against Kansas City in overtime which featured two blocked kicks. Revenge against the lowly Dolphins is likely even playing in the early game, on a short week, 3,000 miles from home.
Other Picks: Hangst: Raiders; Dunlevy: Raiders; Gagnon: Raiders; Garda: Raiders; Langland: Raiders; Bardeen: Raiders.
Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots
B/R Consensus: New England Patriots (Unanimous)
Vegas: Patriots -13.5
Whatever the line is when you bet this game, take the Patriots and the points to win. Then take the over, because the Patriots might clear it all by themselves. The Cardinals are a complete mess right now, with zero happening offensively and a defense that still looks lost most of the time. It's a bad week to be playing the Patriots, who should put a 40-spot up on the Cardinals in no time.
Tom Brady and company hit the ground running (and passing) on offense, as they do every year. Defenses will certainly have to pick their poison when it comes to focusing their attention on Gronkowski or Hernandez. The Cardinals will start Kevin Kolb—I probably should have started there, because that tells you all you need to know.
There is no stopping the Patriots' offense. The Titans couldn't do it, and while Arizona's pass rush is very good, their back secondary and linebackers in coverage won't be able to keep up with the Patriots' many targets. Who covers Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez here? Someone will be open.
It doesn't really matter if it's Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, the Cardinals really only have one offensive threat to worry about: wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona's defense is an underrated unit, but the Patriots' offense is an elite one.
One touchdown drive against the Seahawks doesn't validate success for me. Kevin Kolb's lousy play will sneak back into his game. Arizona's defense will keep it relatively close, but it won't be able to blitz Tom Brady like it did rookie Russell Wilson.
Other Picks: Patriots (Unanimous)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants
B/R Consensus: New York Giants (10-1)
Vegas: Giants -7.5
On paper, this game is more evenly matched than people might think, but New York is the more experienced team and is at home. Eli should have a much easier time picking apart the Tampa Bay secondary than Cam Newton had. Hopefully, Coughlin will remember what got the Giants a Lombardi Trophy and let him throw the ball.
The Giants will have waited 10 days to get the bad taste out of their mouth after losing to the Cowboys on opening night. Eli Manning should have opportunities downfield, but so should Josh Freeman against a badly undermanned Giants secondary. Throw in Doug Martin, and the Bucs pull off the upset.
The Giants need to get back on track, and the pedestrian Tampa Bay passing game will help with that. As long as New York can bottle up Doug Martin, it'll secure a home win and get back to .500 entering Week 3.
The Giants are too mentally tough to start 0-2, especially at home. Plus, I don't think Josh Freeman and the Bucs can do enough to capitalize on a shorthanded secondary.
The Buccaneers pulled off a big win over Carolina, but the New York Giants bring a new kind of pass rush to town. This will be a huge test for Josh Freeman, and I don't think the Bucs can score enough points to hold off the Giants.
Other Picks: Frenz: Giants; Hangst: Giants; Hansen: Giants; Dunlevy: Giants; Garda: Giants; Langland: Giants.
Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles
B/R Consensus: Baltimore Ravens (Unanimous)
Vegas: Philadelphia Eagles -3.5
The Browns have an OK defense, but if the Eagles found it hard to score against Cleveland, it will be near-impossible to put up points on Ed Reed and company. This will also be a great test for both the Ravens' new-look offense and the Eagles supposedly improved defense. The Ravens should win that battle easily.
Michael Vick threw another interception while you were reading this sentence. Unless Vick can start making better decisions with the football, Baltimore's defense will eat him up. On offense, The Ravens are not the team we’ve grown accustomed to over the years—they will air it out, though perhaps not as much as you think. They still have Ray Rice, after all.
How bad was Michael Vick in Week 1? If he tosses up four interceptions against the Ravens, the city of Philadelphia may revolt. If the Eagles establish the run, they can keep this one close. In the end, Baltimore's defense is simply too much for Vick's offense.
There's the good Michael Vick, the bad one and the ugly one, and the Ravens' defense seems well-equipped to bring out the ugly one for the second-straight week. Baltimore is quickly becoming a well-balanced team and one of the AFC's true superpowers on both sides of the ball.
I think Michael Vick will be better and the Eagles will work LeSean McCoy in more, but the defense could have a little more trouble against an actual NFL-caliber offense this time. This one could easily go either way, but I don't trust the Eagles enough right now to pick them against Baltimore.
Other Picks: Ravens (Unanimous)
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
B/R Consensus: New Orleans Saints (7-4)
Vegas: Saints -3
I have no idea what happened to Drew Brees in Week 1, but it shouldn't happen two weeks in a row. This game has "collateral damage" written all over it, as the Saints will look to take out their aggressions from Week 1 on the Panthers who, defensively, aren't there yet.
The Saints start 0-2? That’s what it says here when you look at how RGIII took apart their secondary in their own house. Now here comes Cam Newton off a stinker of a game. Expect Newton and the Panthers offense to get back on track by featuring Greg Olsen a bunch. The Saints and Drew Brees will keep it close, but Cam and friends pull it out in the end.
The Saints shouldn't have to pass 50 times against a Panthers defense that can't stop the run. Expect a big day from Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles as the Saints pick up their first win
Both Carolina and New Orleans were upset last Sunday, but only one team here is a Super Bowl contender on paper. The Saints will bounce back in a big way and push the Panthers to 0-2.
Other Votes: Frenz: Panthers; Hangst: Saints; Hansen: Saints; Dunlevy: Panthers; Gagnon: Panthers; Garda: Saints; Gagnon: Saints.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
B/R Consensus: Houston Texans (Unanimous)
Vegas: Texans -7
Blaine Gabbert looked half-way decent in Week 1, but the Texans defense should keep him awake this week after what it did to Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. The Jaguars also have serious injury issues along their offensive line, and Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt will spend all day in Gabbert's grill. On the other side of the ball, expect Arian Foster to gain chunk of yards early and often in a game that should get out of hand quickly.
It took a while for the Texans to get going against the Dolphins, but don’t expect a repeat against the Jaguars. Arian Foster and the ground game will keep up what Adrian Peterson and the Vikings started, while Matt Schaub will make the throws Christian Ponder couldn’t. The Jaguars have to be encouraged by what they saw from Blaine Gabbert, but life is going to be rough against that Texans' front seven.
The new and improved Blaine Gabbert was very good against the Vikings, but chances of repeating that against the Houston Texans' defense are slim. Houston's run game will gouge the Jaguars defense all day. With the Houston defense rolling, a big win is in order.
Jacksonville is better than people realize, and the Texans can be vulnerable on offense, but the Jags are still too banged up to beat a good team. Houston wins and goes to 2-0.
Other Picks: Texans (Unanimous)
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
B/R Consensus: Dallas Cowboys (10-1)
Vegas: Cowboys -3
Russell Wilson struggled to put up 100 yards against the Cardinals, and this Dallas defense will be a truer test of his abilities. Rob Ryan will look to confuse Wilson with a number of blitz packages and disguised coverages that Wilson has never seen before. Offensively, the Cowboys have enough talent to put up points against Seattle's young and improving D.
Russell Wilson struggled some against the Cardinals, but he should look much better at home with the crowd noise in his favor. That being said, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will be tough to work against and the Cowboys look legit against the run. Dez Bryant will have a much tougher test this week, but look for him to keep making big plays.
Seattle is one of the toughest places to play for any team, but Dallas has the hot hand right now. If the offensive line plays like it did in Week 1, the Cowboys will leave Seattle with a 2-0 record.
The Seahawks are strong at home, but the Cowboys have had so much extra time to get healthy and prepare for this game. Russell Wilson might run into serious problems with this much-improved Dallas defense.
Rob Ryan's defense got after Eli Manning Week 1, and this game will be no different. Expect to see the same pressure schemes Arizona used in victory against Seattle. The Seahawks' offensive line will continue to struggle against DeMarcus Ware and the 'Boys.
Other Picks: Frenz: Cowboys; Hangst: Cowboys; Hansen: Seahawks: Dunlevy: Cowboys; Garda: Cowboys; Bardeen: Cowboys.
Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams
B/R Consensus: Washington Redskins (7-4)
If the Redskins' defense can do what it did to Drew Brees, Sam Bradford is in serious trouble. Griffin won't look quite as good as he did in Week 1 as the Rams' pass rush will aim to put him on his back and their opportunistic secondary will take advantage of any minor rookie mistakes. The Redskins' running game will be the difference here.
The Redskins unleashed RGIII on the NFL and now you can expect defensive coordinators to start reacting to what they’ve seen on tape—namely, that they have to get after this kid and beat up his receivers off the line…a job perfectly suited for Cortland Finnegan. Sam Bradford and a healthy dose of Steven Jackson help the Rams pull out a close one.
Robert Griffin III has proven in one game that he's going to be a nightmare for NFL defenses. The Rams have a very good defense and the overall speed to corral RG3 when he gets outside. I'm taking Jeff Fisher over Mike Shanahan in this one.
This will be closer than many predict. The Rams put up a fight in Detroit and have more defensive playmakers than the Saints do, so they could give Robert Griffin III some trouble in the comfortable confines of the Edward Jones Dome. I'm giving Washington a field-goal victory, but I'm not confident.
The Rams were close last week as they picked off Matthew Stafford three times. This is the week they get over the hump as they head back home to the Edward Jones Dome. The defensive line will ramp up the pressure and force RG3 into making bad decisions.
Other Picks: Frenz: Redskins; Hangst: Redskins; Hansen: Redskins; Dunlevy: Rams; Garda: Redskins; Bardeen: Redskins.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
B/R Consensus: Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)
Vegas: Steelers -6.5
Like many others, I was wrong about the Jets in Week 1, but it's difficult to discern whether the Jets are that good or if the Bills are just that bad. In reality, it's probably a little bit of both, and the Steelers matchup should give us a much clearer picture of the Jets' 2012 possibilities. Still, whether the Jets are legit or not, Big Ben at home is just too good to pass up.
The Jets got to laugh at their many detractors after destroying the Bills. Mark Sanchez looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback. However, history suggests that Sanchez will revert to form against a Steelers defense reeling from its showdown with Peyton Manning. Getting safety Ryan Clark back will make a big difference for Pittsburgh, and Big Ben will avoid the big mistake that cost his team the game against Denver.
Two hard-hitting defenses face off, but it's New York who comes in with the hot-handed quarterback. Mark Sanchez quieted doubters in one game, and it's the New York offense that's being talked up as the reason for a 1-0 start. A banged up Pittsburgh roster is looking worse by the day.
The Jets' defensive line should feast after a famine against the Bills last week. The offensive line dominated a talented Bills unit for four quarters, being held to just one pressure. If Mark Sanchez can get into a rhythm against a suspect Steelers secondary, this could get ugly.
Week 1 was a bit of a fluke for both the Jets and the Steelers. This will be a bounce-back home game for the Steelers as they finally get their collective act together, and the Jets will take a step back.
Other Votes: Hansen: Steelers; Gagnon: Steelers; Garda: Steelers; Dunlevy: Steelers; Langland: Steelers; Bardeen: Steelers.
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers
B/R Consensus: San Diego Chargers (9-2)
Vegas: Chargers -6
The Titans have to head west, and "jet lag" doesn't even begin to describe what they'll go through in this one. The Chargers were able to bottle up Darren McFadden on Monday night, and it should be tough sledding for Chris Johnson here as well.
The Titans are in the dreaded position of being a better team than they were last year that will probably end up with a worse record. Philip Rivers and the Chargers' offense will be able to move the ball against the Titans and have enough on defense to add to Chris Johnson’s frustrations.
The availability of Jake Locker will make the difference in this one. Kenny Britt is back, which helps the Tennessee offense, but the Titans will need more than four yards rushing from Chris Johnson to win this one. San Diego is talented, but the offensive line woes will have Tennessee dominating the line of scrimmage.
Jake Locker is ailing, and while it isn't his throwing shoulder, it's tough to ask him to pull off the upset against a Chargers squad that will hang at least 25 points on the board. San Diego wins it in a walk.
Kamerion Wimbley had four sacks the last time he faced the Chargers without Jared Gaither, and he will look for a repeat performance in 2012. The Titans will get Kenny Britt back from suspension, a player the Chargers will have trouble covering. It's also a short week after a divisional game, which makes it that much tougher for San Diego. If Ryan Mathews returns to action, it could tilt this game back into San Diego's favor, but he still hasn't been cleared for contact.
Other Votes: Frenz: Chargers; Hangst: Chargers; Gagnon: Chargers; Garda: Chargers; Langland: Chargers; Bardeen: Chargers.
Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers
B/R Consensus: San Francisco 49ers (Unanimous)
Vegas: 49ers -6.5
After growing up a Lions fan, I will gladly be proved wrong here, but it's hard to see the Lions beating such a talented (and disciplined) team as the 49ers. Alex Smith isn't the next coming of Tom Brady, but he finally has stability and offensive weapons. He's also got a fantastic matchup against that Lions secondary. If the Lions can't get to Smith early and often, they will get laughed out of Candlestick.
The 49ers looked like the best team in the league during their dismantling of the Packers. Their front seven is unblockable and the secondary likes to hit almost as much as the linebackers. Matthew Stafford had all sorts of problems at home against the Rams—things will be twice as tough out west.
The 49ers don't get a break after beating the Packers. The Lions were terrible in the first half as Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions and Titus Young was benched for a headbutt. To beat the 49ers at home, Detroit has to be much more composed. It's tough to see that happening.
This is a tough one, as Alex Smith could be sacked early and often, and the Lions have the weapons to run away with this one early. However, if the Lions start out slow as they did all preseason and in Week 1, they will have a hard time coming from behind against the 49ers defense.
In Harbaugh vs. Schwartz Round 2, I'm taking Harbaugh and the 49ers. I picked against them Week 1 and they made me pay. San Fran plays tough at home and will exploit Matthew Stafford just as St. Louis did.
Other Votes: 49ers (Unanimous)
Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons
B/R Consensus: Denver Broncos (6-5)
Vegas: Falcons -4
It's a coin-toss matchup in this one, as the Falcons will be tough to beat at home. However, with Michael Turner quickly declining and Brent Grimes done for the year, the Broncos have a glimmer of light through that Georgia Dome roof. If Denver can keep John Abraham and the Falcons' rush at bay, Peyton Manning should be able to continue his comeback tour.
The Broncos looked like a well-balanced team against the Steelers, but the Falcons looked like they could put up 40 on anyone during their beatdown of the Chiefs. Peyton Manning should be able to work things downfield, especially with Brent Grimes out for the Falcons. But Matt Ryan and his receivers will be too much at home for the Broncos.
Two of the best passing attacks from Week 1 face off in what should be a fun game. The Broncos beat a banged up Steeler team that may be overrated at this point. The Falcons' passing game, and what they can do with Michael Turner, will give them a slight edge in this one.
Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning, and the Denver offense should only get better as the receivers get more comfortable with him. The Broncos' defense is built to stop the pass, which is exactly what the Falcons want to do. Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter can limit Julio Jones and Roddy White, while Michael Turner doesn't have the speed to exploit the Broncos' run defense to the outside. Manning loves playing in a dome, so expect a high-scoring game.
The Falcons pasted 40 on Kansas City, and Monday night could be another track meet when Denver comes to town. Atlanta's offense looked terrific, but the defense still needed two quarters to get up to speed. Can Atlanta's new defense slow Peyton Manning enough?
Other Votes: Frenz: Broncos; Hangst: Falcons; Dunlevy: Broncos; Gagnon: Broncos; Garda: Falcons; Langland: Broncos.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."