Week 2 NFL Picks: Predicting Sunday's Must-Win Games
The turning point of the 2012 season is already evident for some teams.
Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets are one of those teams.
After slicing the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, Sanchez and Gang Green face a familiar opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers for Week 2. Pittsburgh, who lost to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night, also needs a win because a loss would drop the Steelers to 0-2.
Now yes, every game in pro football is imperative and each regular season matchup has its own postseason implications. However, along with the Jets and Steelers there are other must-win games this week that are pivotal to momentum for October.
Whether it's a young team, one with experience or another still needing to prove consistency, getting back to .500 or remaining undefeated is vital to the following teams. So instead of the most popular games, let's check out the most important games of Week 2.
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills
Both teams are 0-1 and this is a key AFC cross-divisional matchup.
Last season the Kansas City Chiefs got blasted by the Buffalo Bills, so the intensity will pick up for 2012.
Buffalo's offense was immediately exposed by the New York Jets as Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed three interceptions, so expect the Chiefs to blitz early. Doing so will force more ill-advised throws against man coverage and K.C. presents the secondary to capitalize on creating turnovers.
To counter that, though, C.J. Spiller will be fed quite often as Fred Jackson is expected to miss a bit of time. Per ESPN.com:
Coach Chan Gailey gave the injury updates at his weekly news conference Monday, confirming an earlier report by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
As for K.C.'s offense, a heavy dose of Jamal Charles to set up the pass will suffice. Buffalo allowed Mark Sanchez to hit 266 yards, so pressing the Bills' pass defense will prevent a stacked box up front.
Chiefs over Bills
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Another battle of 0-1 teams, the New Orleans Saints go on the road against the Carolina Panthers.
This is an even greater must-win game, because the teams are division rivals and trying to keep pace with the Atlanta Falcons.
Last week the Panthers lost a tough defensive battle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so avoiding 0-2 in the NFC South would be a massive relief. The Saints on the flip side, still don't have a defense as the Washington Redskins compiled 464 total yards behind rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Because of that, we can fully anticipate the Cats coming out of the gates hard. Cam Newton will be darting the rock downfield from the get-go and put immense pressure on Drew Brees to respond back.
Also to Carolina's advantage, it does field a better defense than 2011 with rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly and a healthy Jon Beason. NOLA's running game will be held to a minimum, so once again the Saints' outcome rests with Brees.
After an early onslaught, though, the Cats need to take to the ground game and control the clock. Mike Tolbert knows how to get yards after contact and Newton's designed scrambles will also move the chains.
Summed up, the Panthers keep Brees off the field by winning the time of possession in the second half.
Panthers over Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants is an interesting Week 2 matchup.
Big Blue was upset at home to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, whereas the Bucs fended off Carolina at home.
This could be the turning point of each team's immediate future, because Tampa is quite young by comparison and the Giants are the experienced veterans (although not exactly aged just yet).
Here, the Buccaneers must simply get to Eli Manning. Dallas got enough consistent pressure to limit New York's passing game, and if Tampa disrupts anything its offense can control the tempo throughout with additional possessions.
Doug Martin proved to be the reliable Brahma Bull against the Panthers and his contributions will be imperative against a sound Giants' front seven. New York can bring a constant pass rush and a non-effective running game will cost Tampa this game.
The Giants also have the talent to lockdown in man coverage, because other than Vincent Jackson the Bucs aren't explosive at receiver. So, Martin will be called upon often and play-action will be Josh Freeman's best friend.
One thing to also keep in mind, however, is that the Giants usually play well on the road and Tampa is normally tough at home. As for the winner, it's the offense producing more first downs on the ground.
Buccaneers over Giants
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
For not being a featured primetime game, the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers have a big matchup this week.
The Jets got a shocking offensive performance over the Buffalo Bills and the Steelers were diced up as if Peyton Manning never missed a game in 2011.
Still, each team has much to prove for 2012 and the winner here can really change their fortunes before October. To win, Gang Green needs to rely on its best offensive player, Mark Sanchez.
Yes, Sanchez is the man in the Big Apple because he has led the Jets to two AFC title games and totally whipped the Bills by going 19-of-27 and three scores. The guy has significantly improved at spreading the field and the Steelers won't be able to blanket tight end Dustin Keller in single coverage.
Include the impact of Tim Tebow's contributions and Pittsburgh's already at a disadvantage.
Offensively for Pittsburgh it's about keeping Ben Roethlisberger protected. This area failed, as expected, against the Denver Broncos and the Jets will be aggressive as usual. So, the Steelers must have success on the ground and utilize quick-hitting plays to set up Mike Wallace downfield.
The more Pittsburgh can stretch the Jets, the less pressure Big Ben will feel from Gang Green. In turn, this game will be determined by the defense that forces more ill-advised throws, not necessarily recording the most sacks.
Jets over Steelers
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