A Look at 49ers' Throttling of the Packers and Other Week 1 Observations

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A Look at 49ers' Throttling of the Packers and Other Week 1 Observations
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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Offensively, I think the Niners surprised the Packers somewhat by looking so aggressively to throw to their receivers.

Maybe Dom Capers, Green Bay's defensive coordinator, thought it would be more of a conservative, ball-control attack focused on running the ball, working the tight ends and keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field, but Jim Harbaugh, offensive guru Greg Roman and Alex Smith had no qualms about getting Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham involved early, even if the plays and routes weren't too daring or risky. 

The Packers had, statistically, the worst pass defense in NFL history last season and sure don't look improved in 2012. I was surprised they didn't go after Smith more with the blitz, and I don't know if the presence of Moss on the field scared them off from that. 

Clay Matthews was their only pass-rush threat (we'll get to that in a minute), and safety Charles Woodson was pretty much the only guy they ever mixed in a blitz with, and he only rushed from the right side. 

I didn't see anything imaginative or exotic in Green Bay's defensive game plan at all. No stunts, no twists, hardly any zone blitz looks. It was as though they simply thought their talent would prevail or that their offense would bail them out. 

The 49ers repeatedly picked on nickel corner Jarrett Bush, with Smith going after him again and again, regardless of whether he was on Crabtree, Moss, Manningham or Vernon Davis. They exploited the Packers with little pick plays (Delanie Walker was particularly effective here) or by flooding zones. 

 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Scoreboard, Mr. 24th pick of the '05 draft.

Both Bush and Woodson even got caught holding by the refs to keep drives moving along. 

I thought the most interesting thing about the game was Smith's body language, especially as the game went along. He's such a different player than he was in 2010, it's like night and day, like a whole different guy wearing his jersey.

You can tell how the success he experienced last year, really the first sustained stretch of his career, has emboldened him. Or maybe he's picked up some of Harbaugh's brashness and bravado. 

Smith was chirping at Matthews after the Packers star got called for a roughing the passer penalty and later whooped it up demonstrably, going so far as to signal "first down" excitedly when Woodson's penalty got called. 

It seems apparent to me that Smith isn't paying attention to the national media's tired and dated narrative of him as the "game manager" or the player the team wins in spite of him, not because of him. He's carrying himself like a franchise quarterback, a star, and that's important for his teammates to see. 

As far as the blocking went, left tackle Joe Staley had a nightmarish game against Matthews, a guy who'd lined up as a left outside 'backer the majority of his career prior to 2012.

Incidentally, the last time these teams played, during Anthony Davis' rookie year when he was pretty dreadful overall, Davis completely shut down Matthews in a game the Packers narrowly won. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
It was an ugly day for Staley, in more ways than one.

Staley was beaten for 2.5 (really three) sacks by Matthews, got called for a holding penalty on what would've been another sack otherwise, and also had a clear false start that the refs missed. 

Usually when Staley gets beaten for sacks it's with a bull rush, where guys taking advantage of his outside kick to burst through the gap Staley had just vacated. Matthews, however, used his speed to zoom past Staley each time. 

Davis, however, was outstanding. It was without a doubt the best game I've ever seen him play start to finish, which is saying something because he's had plenty of good ones in home games.

I charted the whole game and I couldn't find one negative play running or passing in Davis' performance; eight positive blocks, no missed assignments. The coaching staff could not be more encouraged by his start to the year, I imagine.

Speaking of encouraging, Alex Boone also had a fine debut as the team's starting right guard. Working alongside Davis, Boone had seven positive plays and only one bad one from what I saw. 

Mike Iupati had the most positive plays overall, 12, with a couple of pancakes in there, and as you can probably guess the team ran behind him the most whether it was on straight up-the-gut runs or traps and pulls right with Iupati leading the convoy. 

Iupati did have a couple of whiffs in the pass game, though, and three bad plays overall, but he still led all the linemen with a +9 by my book. 

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Aaron Rodgers was looking #20's way a lot on Sunday, as will others.

**********

Defensively, as predicted, the Niners used fourth corner Perrish Cox a ton against the Packers' four-receiver sets, preferring him to third safety C.J. Spillman. 

I'd love to tell you that Cox rewarded the coaching staff for their faith, but it simply wasn't the case. He was beaten for five completions, including a two-point conversion, got called for a pass interference penalty, and had a missed tackle. 

The Packers targeted Cox almost as much as the 49ers targeted Bush, and Rodgers particularly was fond of the Cox-Randall Cobb match-up. 

Really, I thought the Packers offensive game plan was even more simplistic than their defensive one. They were basically running a college offense out there, spreading the 49ers out and using simple hitches and swing passes against either Cox or the 49ers middle linebacker.

Aaron Rodgers' reads and progressions were incredibly simple. If Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman were matched up on a receiver in man or zone, he was going to them, period. If the Niners were in dime with the lone middle linebacker hanging out in the box, then Rodgers looked Cox's way. If Cox was pressing tight, then maybe it was an outside hitch, if either Tarell Brown or Chris Culliver were backed off.

Rodgers hardly ever challenged Brown or Culliver deep, because the Niners' safeties were in a two deep zone as they typically are. There were a couple of times that Dashon Goldson got sucked in, but Rodgers couldn't make him pay. 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The sound you hear is Benson being dropped on fantasy rosters everywhere for Alfred Morris.

It was embarrassing that the Packers couldn't take more advantage of the Niners defense with their running game. They only had nine runs by their backs, all by Cedric Benson, and all nine came on first-down plays. Talk about predictable. 

The Niners pretty much alternated between the nickel and dime, using their base defense on only four plays the entire game.

Their nickel lineup you know about, they used it plenty all last year. 

The dime though was interesting, because they had a couple of different variations of it.

There was the straight dime, with the same four pass rushers as the nickel: outside 'backers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith as the ends and defensive ends Ray McDonald and Justin Smith as the tackles. 

The Niners used this the majority of the time, first with Patrick Willis as their only inside 'backer, and later, once they came to their senses, with NaVarro Bowman as the guy with Willis on the bench. 

Patrick Willis might be a future Hall of Famer, but there's no denying that he's not as gifted of a cover man as Bowman. He's just not as fluid in his hips. 

Sometimes, though, the Niners mixed in a 3-2-6 look, with Aldon Smith shuffling to left end, McDonald as a the nose man and both Willis and Bowman on the field and Brooks to the bench.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Smith, now a threat from either side.

Oddly enough, the coverage seemed to be better when they did this and even with a three-man rush, they were eventually able to pressure Rodgers into throw-aways just because he couldn't find an open man down the field. 

I haven't seen the All-22 tape yet, but my guess is that Rodgers got too greedy whenever he saw a three man rush, thinking he'd have more time to look deep. He wasn't as willing to take the short gains that he robotically executed over and over when the Niners rushed four. 

It won't be a popular statement, but I think Willis had the worst game, aside from Cox, of any Niners defender. He was beat for four completions in limited playing time and had two missed tackles as well. 

Bowman was actually beat six times, but he had tight coverage on half of those and always wrapped up his man immediately after for short gains.

The guy who suffered the most in my eyes upon re-watching the game was Tarell Brown. Watching the game live, I thought Brown had a good game, but that impression was based almost entirely on a couple of good plays he made in succession in the second quarter.

Overall, Brown had eight negative plays that I saw, and he was pretty poor in the second half. 

Conversely, I thought Carlos Rogers was pretty strong and Rodgers barely looked his way at all the whole game. Rogers also had a big sack in the first series of the game, which prevented the Packers from jumping out to an early lead. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Brock gets to gloat as long as he isn't playing from scrimmage.

********

From a special-teams standpoint, as I wrote on Sunday, it was obvious that the refs blew it in not calling the Packers for an illegal block on Anthony Dixon on Cobb's punt-return touchdown, but I still think Andy Lee was guilty, as he occasionally is, of out-kicking his coverage on that one. At times Lee's leg is too strong for his own good. 

Tramaine Brock was the Niners' best special teams performer (well, besides David Akers, of course) and he his effort on both punts and kickoffs was commendable. There's a clear reason Brock made the team, and it wasn't his coverage skills.

Thoughts about the other games...

 

Cowboys 24, Giants 17

A home loss to a division opponent is never good, but if there's ever a game not to make a big deal about, it's this one. Schematically and talent-wise, there's nothing wrong with the Giants. They were just a hair off on both sides of the ball all game long. 

Victor Cruz dropped three passes, which was big. Rookie David Wilson had an early fumble, and I thought the coaching staff erred in not giving him another opportunity after that. Something like that could mess with a kid's confidence.

I also thought the coaching staff denied Eli Manning some opportunities by being too reliant on Ahmad Bradshaw, who was all right but nothing more. 

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
They're not saying "Cruuuuuuuuuz" after Thursday's stinker.

Defensively, Jason Pierre-Paul came close to Tony Romo a handful of times but never close enough and Justin Tuck was quiet. The Giants had injuries in their secondary, which Romo exploited, picking on nickel corner Michael Coe repeatedly.

As for Dallas, they have to be pleased with the play of their offensive line, and obviously it was a quality win, but they benefited from a number of breaks, from all of the Giants' dropped passes to a clear holding in the end zone the refs missed that could've put down a touchdown early. 

The Cowboys look like a quality team after one game, but lets see how they do up at Seattle. Also, I don't see a whole lot of quality depth on that club. They're going to have to get really lucky with injuries across the board to maintain this level, I think.

 

Chicago 41, Indianapolis 21

Speaking of drops, Andrew Luck must be thinking watching this game film, "I played with better guys at Stanford." 

Luck was the victim of quite a few things going against him last Sunday. Donald Brown dropped two passes, his outside guys weren't very competitive in their routes or on some 50/50 balls, and that offensive line was an embarrassment. 

It's going to be difficult for the Colts to win too many games when they're as untalented as they are along both front lines, but at least they'll face weaker competition than the Bears most weeks. 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Luck had a bad day at the office.

It also didn't help Luck that Chicago's defenders had better hands than his receivers. Tim Jennings, in particular, made a fabulous over-the-shoulder leaping grab for a pick and the Bears came away with the interception on all three balls Luck put in the vicinity of a defender.

Jay Cutler had an early pass fit for the blooper reel, a "pick six" to a linebacker from his own 4-yard-line, but he figured out the Colts pretty early on after that, and he already seems to have reacquainted himself with Brandon Marshall quite well. 

If I'm a Bears fan, the guy I'd be excited about though would be Alshon Jeffery. That 44-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Jeffery was the prettiest I saw in Week 1 and it's astonishing to think that Chicago's No. 2 receiver this season is better than anyone they had last year. 

 

Philadelphia 17, Cleveland 16

Perhaps the worst-quarterbacked game I've seen in the last five years that didn't involve the words "NFC West." 

Michael Vick was getting legitimately pressured for the first two series of the game, but after that he was playing in a prison of his own making, just holding onto the ball forever if his first read was covered.

The old Vick would just run in that spot, but the 32-year-old version is still looking to pass. He just had no idea what the Browns were doing in coverage. When he finally did throw, he was getting hurried and flinging it to guys who were doubled. 

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Pretty much the only way Vick could avoid getting picked off vs. the Browns.

It's easy to say that the Eagles should've run more with Shady McCoy, but they couldn't call two stretch plays in a row without one of their smallish linemen committing an obvious holding penalty.

So yeah, it's fair to say the Eagles offense has some issues at the moment. But remember, Vick missed practically the entire preseason, so it was to be expected he'd be rusty.

At least he has something to build off with that game-winning 91-yard drive at the end, even though it took a dropped would-be-fifth-interception for him to get it. 

Defensively, it's hard to gauge how good the Eagles are. On one hand, it's exciting to see how good their back seven played after last season's struggles.

The young safety tandem of Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman communicated well and made plays.

Nnamdi Asomugha was playing his preferred press coverage and not giving his guy any room.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made good use of his height and had two impressive picks.

New middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans shot the gap repeatedly to blow up Trent Richardson's runs and newcomer Mychal Kendricks looks like a real player on the outside.  

On the other hand, they played the Browns, a club with sub-par talent on the outside and an abomination of a quarterback. I thought Colt McCoy was the MVP of the game for them for never being caught on camera openly laughing. That's a good teammate right there. 

Jason Miller/Getty Images
I'm not used to Eagles linebackers being in the same frame as a ball carrier.

Browns coach Pat Shurmur botched the decision not to go for two up 15-10 after a fourth quarter "pick six," and he definitely should've brought in McCoy in the second half when it was clear his rookie wasn't ready. 

Yeah, maybe it would've sent a bad message to bench Weeden in his first game, but it's a disservice to the rest of your team to not play the guy who gives you your best chance to win in a game that was definitely there for the taking. 

It's gonna be a long season for the Browns. But at least Weeden is a young guy that has years and years to mature, right?

 

Detroit 27, St. Louis 23

The temptation is to call this a moral victory for the Rams, but to me it's disappointing in the sense that they played as well as they possibly could at Detroit and still came up short. The Lions, meanwhile, played like a D- game for them.

The Rams used a lot of max protect to give Sam Bradford time, but he just doesn't have much talent on the outside, a point driven home by the fact that the Jaguars out-maneuvered them for Justin Blackmon in the draft last April. 

Also, it sure looks like Steven Jackson is nearing the end. I don't see much juice there with him. 

Dave Reginek/Getty Images
"Good job, good effort."

At least the Rams addressed their woeful secondary. Cortland Finnegan is one of the best corners in the league and battled Calvin Johnson to a draw, scoring on a pick six. Janoris Jenkins on the other side is a kid who has a bad reputation, but his talent is undeniable. 

Matthew Stafford played an awful game for the Lions. He telegraphed his throws time and again and it was stunning to see the Lions not adjust against the over-aggressive Rams corners with double moves and pump fakes. 

Overall, the Lions look relatively unchanged to me and I expect them to regress to nine wins or so this season.

 

Houston 30, Miami 10

A lackluster 3-0 game with Miami leading midway through the second quarter turned into a 24-3 Texans rout at half after four successive Dolphins turnovers boom-boom-boom-boom. Rookie Ryan Tannehill was responsible for the first three with interceptions, and Daniel Thomas added a fumble to turn bad to worse.

As was the case with Philly, it's tough to make any declarative statements on the quality of their corners and their overall defense because the receivers and quarterback on the other team were so poor. With the Jaguars as their next opponent, I'm not so sure answers will be forthcoming in that regard anytime soon. 

Bob Levey/Getty Images
It could be worse, you could be Brandon Weeden.

The good news for Houston is that both Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels looked healthy, and their offensive line (two sacks allowed) didn't allow too much pressure on Matt Schaub despite losing two starters in the off-season. 

I'm not sure why there was so much imbalance in the carries between Arian Foster and Ben Tate. You'd think Tate would've gotten more work, especially in a blowout. 

The Dolphins hung around for a while with their defense, as expected, but they were put behind the eight ball defending short fields so many times late in the first half that eventually they wilted. The Raiders at home should be more to their speed.

 

Falcons 40, Chiefs 24

It's not often when a game turns on a missed field goal on the first series of the third quarter, but that's precisely what happened in this one.

Atlanta and Kansas City traded haymakers the entire first half, with each team scoring on each of its possessions. The Falcons kept finding receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones (and it's not like Matt Ryan was fitting the ball into tight windows or anything; Jones especially was WIDE open), while the Chiefs effectively mixed the run and pass, with Jamaal Charles looking healthy and Dexter McCluster finding room from the slot. 

Down 20-17 at half, the Chiefs drove for the would-be-tying field goal, which Ryan Succop doinked off the right upright. The Falcons scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive and like that the air went out of Kansas City's balloon. Three turnovers in succession from Matt Cassel (two interceptions and a fumble) and the Falcons turned each into points.

Peter Aiken/Getty Images
The ol' "tackle the guy five yards deep in the end zone" defense.

In retrospect, I obviously underestimated what Tamba Hali's suspension would mean to the Chiefs. They didn't pressure Ryan much at all without him. What I didn't know at the time I made the pick was that KC's best corner, Brandon Flowers, was out injured, and his loss was badly felt. 

The Falcons looked like the most explosive offense in the league, scoring on each of their first seven possessions before taking their foot off the gas, but their offensive line will be more challenged in the coming weeks than they were by the Chiefs.

 

Vikings 26, Jaguars 23 (OT)

The one game in the opening week I didn't watch. I haven't even seen the highlights. 

Obviously for both teams the big story is how effective their star running backs were after long layoffs. Adrian Peterson came back from a late-season ACL and MCL tear, without too much of a drop-off; while Maurice Jones-Drew was his usual self from the Jags despite holding out the whole preseason.

The bigger news for the respective franchises though is that both maligned second-year quarterbacks, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert, had strong debuts, particularly Gabbert, who engineered what looked like a game-winning drive late. 

The question we'll have to find out the answer to was whether their performances were due to legitimate improvement from these guys or more the result of facing weak opposing defenses.

Andy King/Getty Images
Not...terrible? ::Mind blown::

The winner of this game, Ponder, gets another patsy at home with the Colts coming in, while Gabbert's road gets far more daunting with the Texans on the docket.

 

Washington 40, Saints 32

I know this is going to sound like a weird comparison, but Griffin kind of reminds me Tim Tebow, in that, I can't quite put my finger on it, but he just looks unconventional out there. We're so used to all the QBs having these cookie-cutter five-step drops and pocket mechanics, but Griffin, just the way he sets up in the shotgun with his bent knees, it just looks odd to me.

Obviously, Griffin is far more talented than Tebow in every respect, from arm strength, to accuracy, to speed, etc. I love him as a player and don't think much of the Jets backup at all. I'm just wondering if his different style had anything to do with the Saints defense being so poor in this game, like they were completely unprepared to play him. 

I'm also curious if his mechanics/set up/pocket movements are still a work in progress or if this is the finished product for RG3, with the only improvements we'll see down the road coming from his mastering of the playbook and being able to read defenses better. 

Griffin will get most of the praise, of course, but what shouldn't go unnoticed is the crew of receivers he's got. Santana Moss is still around and then you've got Pierre Garcon, Joshua Morgan, Leonard Hankerson and some kid I never heard of before named Aldrick Robinson. 

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
And that was after a successful play.

What plaudits aren't going to Griffin are being tossed at RB Alfred Morris, but while his stats were good and he busted out of a couple of tackles, I have to say that watching the game I wasn't too impressed. He looked like just another back to me and I wouldn't be surprised if Roy Helu or Evan Royster were in the rotation again soon. 

As well as the Skins played, the Saints are the more interesting story to me. This was a dominant home team last year, to the degree where if they had home field in the playoffs they probably would've won the Super Bowl.

To see how off-kilter they were on Sunday, how poorly their offensive line played, how ineffective their running game was, was shocking. You expected not having Sean Payton (or even Joe Witt) would have some effect on the offense, but the Saints were so out of rhythm, it was like the whole team hadn't practiced together since last January. 

Darren Sproles had no rushing attempts at all. There was no screen game to speak of to him or the other backs. No bubble screens to the receivers. The Skins defense never looked confused at all or had to worry about covering the entire width of the field. It was as though the Saints thought it was still preseason and were worried about not showing their plays for the next opponent. 

Defensively, the Saints look to be in a world of trouble. They have no pass rush and their safeties still stink. I can't believe Roman Harper is still starting for them. And the organization can't seem to accept that Malcolm Jenkins, their first-round pick from 2009, is a bust. He's much worse than Kurt Coleman, his fellow Buckeye safety, whom the Eagles drafted in the seventh round a year later.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
And you are?

 

Jets 48, Bills 28

Well, I got this one wrong.

The biggest upset of the weekend, forget the score of the game, was how thoroughly the Jets offensive line, which looked miserable all preseason, completely whipped a Bills front seven that looked awesome on paper with free-agent acquisitions Mario Williams and Mark Anderson bookends to defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. 

The Bills front four never came close to sniffing Mark Sanchez, and consequently he looked like a Pro Bowler in the game, save for one horrific interception early in the game in which he tried to backhand a pass, Favre style, while rolling left. 

A big star for the Jets was Stephen Hill, who had five grabs for 89 yards and two scores. The scouts and evaluators I'd spoken to said Hill was very raw as a route runner and wouldn't be ready to contribute until 2013 at the earliest, but he didn't seem daunted by the pro game on Sunday. 

It's interesting that Hill, and Alshon Jeffery from the Bears, two guys who many draftniks linked with the Niners, both had strong debuts while the receiver the Niners picked above them, A.J. Jenkins from Illinois, never got off the bench. 

Speaking of horrific interceptions, Ryan Fitzpatrick had three of them against Buffalo, looking very much like the guy who turned back into a pumpkin the second he signed his huge contract extension last year. Fitzpatrick never has had much of an arm, so it's critical for him to be smart and accurate with the ball. If he's not, then it gets ugly for him. 

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
How ya liking me now, Holmes?

The Bills can only hope that Fitzpatrick can build on the way he ended the game strong (albeit in garbage time). At least Buffalo will face a Chiefs defense that got roasted by the Falcons last week.

 

Patriots 34, Titans 13

So the Patriots drafted a couple of guys in the front seven who can play and they have a running game now. Great, just great. It's gonna be totally awesome watching them win by three touchdowns every week, I'm psyched.

Truth be told, New England's pass rush didn't look any better or worse than last year's version to me, when they had Mark Anderson and Andre Carter most of the year. The difference to me was the run defense looked a heckuva lot better. 

Chris Johnson will get a lot of abuse for his stat line (11 carries for 4 yards) but I don't know how any back in the league would've done any better behind that line last week. I watched the game. Johnson had NO holes to speak of and more often than not he was getting met in the backfield. 

The relevant aspects of the game to me were A) The league isn't any closer to devising a way to scheme against Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez than they were a year ago, B) Stevan Ridley's emergence is proof that even Bill Belichick is convinced that you can't win a Super Bowl passing every down and C) Jake Locker isn't nearly as bad of a quarterback as I thought he'd be during the 2011 draft.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Just what the world needed, another offensive weapon for the Pats.

 

Cardinals 20, Seahawks 16

It was very hard to stay awake during this one, even with my energy-drink shots. 

You know how they say that "styles make fights?" I think that's the problem here, the two teams are just too similar and it produces lackluster football.

Both defenses are filled with young, up-and-coming players and are noticeably ahead in speed and talent than their counterparts on offense. I just don't see any dynamic playmakers for either team outside of Fitzgerald for the Cards, and even he needs a quarterback to get him the ball.

The longest play from scrimmage for either team was 27 yards. Seattle had 10 of their 16 points set up by two long returns from Leon Washington and another field goal off a short field after an interception. 

Arizona mustered a couple of more traditional drives, but still needed heroics from Kevin Kolb, in for an injured and ineffective John Skelton; and some drops from Seattle's receivers in the end zone. 

If I had to bet my life on one of these teams sneaking into the playoffs, I'd still go with Seattle, but the truth is that the NFC is so stacked that I can't see either team doing a whole lot without upgrading their offenses. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Seattle's Offensive MVP is named after a former President, but it wasn't Wilson.

 

Buccaneers 16, Panthers 10

Without a doubt the most physical, hardest-hitting game of the week. Both teams were just unleashing hellacious shots at one another, blowing guys up. I don't know if there's bad blood between the two teams or not, but man, these defenses were psyched for the game.

In the end, the Bucs D just had more talent, especially in the secondary. Not only were the Panthers completely unable to get anything going in the running game, but Cam Newton had a poor afternoon and made a number of bad decisions with the ball. 

I thought Josh Freeman played a really efficient first half, but he was unable to get much going in the second half, in part due to some drops from Vincent Jackson. 

I was pretty impressed by David Martin for Tampa Bay, and I have to admit that next week's game against the Giants looks far more compelling to me now than it did a week ago. I want to see if the Bucs can keep up their physicality. 

The Panthers, meanwhile, get the Saints at home, with the loser there in all kinds of trouble. The NFC South isn't very good, but it's going to be competitive 1 through 4.

 

Broncos 31, Steelers 19

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Needz moar Gatorade.

I'm rooting for Peyton Manning to have a miracle comeback season, but I have to say, the game against Pittsburgh made me more pessimistic, not less, despite the result.

Manning's arm is gone. I mean, completely gone. He was struggling to throw past 10 yards and the ball was seriously fluttering on him at 15. You could time how long it took for the ball to the guys outside the hashes with a sundial. 

Manning made good decisions because he always does, and he carved the Steelers geezer defense (that was missing James Harrison and Ryan Clark) up, but I think opposing defenses will figure out pretty quickly to crowd the box, play press coverage across the field and dare Manning to beat them deep. 

Hopefully Manning can regain some arm strength as the year goes on, but yes, I'm skeptical.

The Steelers, meanwhile, won't be a legit threat to the Ravens or anyone else of consequence in the AFC as long as their offensive line is in shambles and their defense keeps relying on the same graybeards year after year.

 

Ravens 44, Bengals 13

Not sure what else I can add beyond the obvious. The Ravens are one of the most complete teams in football and one of the three or four favorites to win it all, while the Bengals are just another team that has a few pieces but not nearly enough. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The ball just got caught three minutes ago.

I'm already dreading Philly's game (at home) vs. Baltimore this Sunday. To say I'd be surprised to see my guys leave it 2-0 would be a huge understatement.

 

Chargers 22, Raiders 14

Neither team could run it, Philip Rivers never got of second gear and the Raiders were hampered by injuries at receiver, penalties, and special teams miscues, not necessarily in that order.

I don't know why some people are high on the Raiders. They looked like far away the worst team in a bad division to me when I was making my predictions two weeks ago, and I don't see anything that's changed now. 

Who's supposed to make plays on that defense? Are we really supposed to buy Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden leading them to 30 points every week? 

Last season the Raiders won every game they allowed less than 27 points and lost every game they allowed more than 27. Well, they allowed 22 on Monday and still lost handily, so there you go. 

Week 2 Power Poll...

1) 49ers (1-0)

2) Ravens (1-0)

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Commitment to swing passes.

3) Patriots (1-0)

4) Texans (1-0)

5) Bears (1-0)

6) Packers (0-1)

7) Redskins (1-0)

8) Cowboys (1-0)

 

9) Giants (0-1)

10) Falcons (1-0)

11) Jets (1-0)

12) Broncos (1-0)

13) Lions (1-0)

14) Eagles (1-0)

15) Chargers (1-0)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
"I will sign an autograph for you after the game if you deserve one."

16) Saints (0-1)

17) Buccaneers (1-0)

18) Steelers (0-1)

19) Cardinals (1-0)

20) Seahawks (0-1)

21) Vikings (1-0)

22) Bills (0-1)

23) Bengals (0-1)

 

24) Chiefs (0-1)

25) Panthers (0-1)

26) Rams (0-1)

27) Titans (0-1)

28) Raiders (0-1)

Who Should Be Number One in the Power Poll?

Submit Vote vote to see results

29) Jaguars (0-1)

30) Colts (0-1)

31) Browns (0-1)

32)  Dolphins (0-1)

Thursday's Pick...

Green Bay 27 (-6, via Bovada), Chicago 20

Season W-L Record: 8-8

Season Record vs. Spread: 6-10

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