New York Jets rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill had a sterling debut, but the going will get a bit tougher in Pittsburgh.
Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season is officially in the books after a pair of Monday Night Football games closed out the opening schedule. Now it’s time to start making picks for Week 2 and to predict which teams will come crashing down to Earth after impressive debut performances.
The New York Jets, for example, put their miserable preseason to rest with a record-setting 48-28 Week 1 victory over the Buffalo Bills. But their high-flying act will likely be grounded when they travel to Heinz field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
The Jets are just one of many teams that will have a hard time duplicating their Week 1 efforts. Here’s a look at the eight NFL Week 2 matchups that will bring quite a few fans back to reality.
Jay Cutler led a prolific Bears offense that put up 41 points against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Bears were 7-3 after a Week 11 victory over the San Diego Chargers. But they lost five of their last six games once Cutler went down with a fractured thumb.
Forte was lost for the year two weeks later after suffering an MCL sprain in a Week 13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The returns of Cutler and Forte, along with the additions of running back Michael Bush (free agency) and wide receiver Brandon Marshall (trade), were expected to give Chicago’s offense a boost.
The early returns were exceptional, as the Bears amassed 428 total yards in a 41-21 victory over the visiting Indianapolis Colts.
Chicago won’t have much time to celebrate before they travel to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.
The Packers had the NFL’s worst defense in 2011, and they didn’t look any better during a 30-22 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. But none of that will matter when the Bears come to town for an NFC North division battle between bitter rivals.
Chicago will be able to move the ball against the Packers defense. But reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers will provide a much stiffer test for the Bears defense than rookie quarterback Andrew Luck—who was making his first NFL start at Chicago last week.
Green Bay will be pulling out all the stops to avoid starting the season with back-to-back home losses following a 15-1 season. The Bears will keep it close, but expect the Packers to come away with a hard-fought victory, proving that they are still the class of the division.
Prediction: 27-20 Packers
Adrian Petersen appears to be in midseason form a mere eight months after an ACL tear cut his 2011 season short.
The Minnesota Vikings earned a 26-23 overtime victory over the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars in the season’s opening week. But Vikings fans were more excited to see running back Adrian Peterson running at full speed during a 17-carry, 84-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Peterson’s explosiveness just eight months after an ACL tear ended his 2011 season was nothing short of a medical miracle. But Minnesota will have a new set of concerns when they leave Indianapolis on Sunday with a loss to the Colts.
The Colts may have had the worst record in the NFL last year at 2-14, but the Vikings were only one game better at 3-13. That additional win cost Minnesota a shot at winning the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
Indianapolis was blown out in their Week 1 loss to the Bears. But Luck looked good enough for observers to believe that he will not suffer through a 1-15 season like Peyton Manning did as a rookie in 1998.
Peterson will have another big day against a shaky Indianapolis run defense. But the Vikings will end up on the losing end of Luck’s first NFL victory.
Prediction: 23-17 Colts
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden better learn to protect the football if Cleveland is going to have any chance of winning football games this season.
The Cleveland Browns didn’t earn a victory in Week 1. But they came close to pulling off the most stunning upset of the young NFL season in a 17-16 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Browns defense forced five Eagles turnovers, including an interception that linebacker D’Qwell Jackson returned 27 yards for a touchdown—one of four INTs on the day for Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
Unfortunately, the Browns offense looked worse than advertised. They mustered only 210 total yards against the Philadelphia defense, and rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden matched Vick’s effort with four interceptions of his own.
The near victory almost made up for Cleveland’s offensive ineptitude. But the scoreboard will more accurately reflect how bad this team is when they travel to Cincinnati to face the hated Bengals this weekend.
Cincinnati is also coming off a performance in which the final score did not accurately reflect their effort. The bad news for the Browns is that the Bengals played better than their 44-13 Monday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens would indicate.
The Bengals have their sights set on a return trip to the playoffs—if not the AFC North division title—following a surprising 9-7 2011 season. They’ll prove that last season was no fluke with a dominant home performance against the Browns.
Prediction: 23-6 Bengals
Tampa Bays mascot may not be wielding that sword so confidently when the Buccaneers travel to New York to face the defending Super Bowl champions on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shocked most NFL pundits by opening the season with a 16-10 home win over Cam Newton and the upstart Carolina Panthers.
Tampa Bay's disappointing 2011 campaign ended with 10 straight losses following a 4-2 start. Many expected the Buccaneers to spend another year in the NFC South basement under first-year head coach Greg Schiano. But Sunday’s effort—in which they held last season’s third-best rushing attack to 10 yards on 13 carries—proved that they may be closer to 2010’s 10-6 playoff team.
Not so fast.
Tampa may indeed be better than last year’s 4-12 bunch. But win No. 2 will not come this Sunday when they face the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the Meadowlands.
The Giants are coming off a tough home loss to the hated Dallas Cowboys in prime time on the opening night of the 2012 NFL season. New York is a prideful bunch, and they’ll be looking to take out their frustrations on Tampa Bay.
Expect the Giants to give the former Rutgers head coach a rude greeting in his return to the state of New Jersey. Schiano should use the loss as a teachable moment for his young Buccaneers team as they learn what championship-caliber football in the NFL is all about.
Prediction: 24-13 Giants
The skies won't be nearly as friendly when the Jets travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.
After scoring just one offensive touchdown in four preseason games, the New York Jets exploded for 48 points in their season-opening victory over the Buffalo Bills.
The 48 points were the most for a Week 1 game in franchise history. It was also the highest Week 1 total in the NFL since the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Bears 49-7 to start the 2003 season.
Jets fans can now take a deep breath and rest assured that the sky is not falling—at least not yet.
Facing the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road provides a much stiffer challenge than hosting the Bills. The task will be even tougher as the Steelers try to rebound from their season-opening loss to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Of the seven teams on this list, the Jets have the best chance of emerging from Week 2 with a 2-0 record.
The Steelers have an injury-depleted offensive line that contributes to an inconsistent running game and shaky protection for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh’s wide receiver tandem of Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown will find it tough to consistently get open against Jets corners Darrel Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
But Pittsburgh’s defense is still elite, so New York will find it harder to convert the type of big plays that broke the Buffalo game wide open.
The Jets lack the elite pass rushers (like Denver’s Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller) that allowed the Broncos to continually pressure Roethlisberger on passing downs.
Cromartie is also prone to giving up big plays in the passing game, a habit that can be exploited by speedsters Wallace and Brown.
This game will feature two of the NFL’s best defenses. It would be surprising if the Jets and Steelers combine to match the 48 points that New York scored in Week 1.
It’s difficult to bet against the Steelers in the closest thing to a must-win game in Week 2 of the NFL season. The Jets will keep it close, but they’ll leave Pittsburgh realizing that the offense still has a lot of work to do.
Prediction: 17-13 Steelers
Football fans can only hope that "Handshakegate" won't overshadow a matchup of two 2011 playoff teams.
The coverage leading up to Sunday’s game between the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers will undoubtedly focus on last season’s postgame handshake between head coaches Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh.
That’ll make for great television, but the Week 1 performances of Detroit and San Francisco tell you all you need to know about the rematch.
The Lions needed some late-game heroics from quarterback Matthew Stafford to pull out a 27-23 home victory over the St. Louis Rams. But it was Stafford’s three interceptions earlier in the game that made the comeback necessary.
The 49ers, on the other hand, marched into Green Bay and punched the Packers in the mouth. San Francisco used an improved offense and the NFL’s most physical defense to escape Lambeau Field with a 30-22 win.
The decisive victory put the rest of the league on notice that the 49ers are the team to beat in the NFC and a favorite to reach Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
Detroit travels to San Francisco looking to avenge last year’s 25-19 home loss. I guess anything is possible, but I’d expect the 49ers to comfortably cover the 6.5-point opening line.
“Handshakegate” aside, the 49ers are smarting from last season’s overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game. The memory of that heartbreaking defeat provides San Francisco with all the motivation it needs to run roughshod over the rest of the NFL.
Detroit’s running game is limited by injuries, leaving injury-prone Kevin Smith as the only proven backfield option. Facing San Francisco’s defense on the road with a one-dimensional offense is a recipe for disaster and an opposing quarterback’s worst nightmare.
Prediction: 31-10 49ers
Peyton Manning may get a feeling of deja vu when he heads into Atlanta to face Matt Ryan and the high flying Falcons.
When Peyton Manning leads the Denver Broncos into Atlanta next Monday night, he may get a bit nostalgic as he watches from the sideline. That’s because Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan leads an offense loaded with weapons similar to those used by Manning during his days in Indianapolis.
Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones combine with future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to form arguably the NFL’s best pass-catching trio.
The group is reminiscent of the corps of Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark that Manning targeted while building his own Canton-worthy resume as a member of the Colts.
After a year away from the game, Manning is back running an NFL offense. If his Week 1 performance against the Steelers was any indication, he’s not close to finished establishing his Hall of Fame credentials.
Denver’s 31-19 win over Pittsburgh was impressive. But the Falcons pose an entirely different challenge for the Broncos.
Atlanta is finally moving away from the run-oriented system that’s been their staple since running back Michael Turner joined the team in 2008. With Ryan beginning his fifth NFL season, it’s time for him to justify the No. 1 overall pick the Falcons used on him that year.
The new focus on the aerial attack worked wonders in last week’s 40-24 road win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Ryan threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns in an explosive yet efficient performance that could just be scratching the surface of Atlanta’s offensive potential.
Both quarterbacks will show why they are two of the NFL’s best, and the game may come down to which team gets the ball last. Give the edge to the Falcons due to the home-field advantage and greater continuity in their offensive personnel.
Prediction: 34-30 Falcons