NFL Teams on Upset Alert for Week 2
Starting a season strong in the NFL is just as important as finishing well.
In Week 2, 16 teams are looking to avoid going 0-2. For those teams that lose their second straight game, the playoffs are almost certainly out of the question. Historically, teams that start 2-0 make the playoffs, 0-2 teams do not.
So, Eli Manning and the New York Giants have a big weekend ahead of them. Coming off a Super Bowl win, they were overlooked for much of the offseason as Tim Tebow and the New York Jets stole all of the Big Apple (and ESPN) headlines. The Giants lost in a bit of a shocker to the Dallas Cowboys on opening night, and they face a young buzzsaw in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2.
The New Orleans Saints had a long offseason filled with negative storylines and epic drama. As the season started, much of that looked to be behind them as their talented roster actually improved despite "Bountygate." Then, RGIII came to town and made the Saints' Week 2 matchup against the Carolina Panthers a must-win.
Let's take a look at five teams on upset alert in Week 2.
New York Giants (-6.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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In Week 1, the Giants had a bit of an identity crisis.
Remember the 2011 Giants, the team that sneaked into the playoffs and then marched to the Super Bowl? Do you? Tom Coughlin apparently doesn't, because in Week 1 the Giants head coach seemed hell bent on establishing the run even though Ahmad Bradshaw is quickly proving how much of a scrub he is.
Last year, Eli Manning was fourth in the NFL in passing attempts. Through Week 1, he is tied for 17th—with Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Elite quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and others were giving 10 (or more) extra attempts, and if Manning is an elite QB, he should be getting around the same amount.
If the Giants look to continue their running ways (woes?) against the Buccaneers, they will lose. The Panthers, a much better running team than the Giants, were unable to get going against the Bucs' defensive front.
Defensively, the Giants still look to be a mess and need to play their best to stop Josh Freeman and company.
New Orleans Saints (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers
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Two teams are looking to avoid 0-2 in this matchup, but for Brees and the Saints, a second loss could be truly devastating.
Brees is supposed to be a coach on the field. This past weekend, Brees certainly didn't look like a coach—he barely looked like an NFL quarterback. His completion percentage against the Redskins—a paltry 46.2—represents his worst passing performance since 2006.
The Saints defense wasn't able to stop a mobile quarterback in Robert Griffin III, so how will they fare against Cam Newton, whose supporting cast is much stronger than the Redskins? Look for the Panthers to trot out a well-balanced attack, taking advantage of both the Saints secondary and their porous front.
The Saints should win this matchup, but the Panthers won't make it easy at home.
Houston Texans (-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars
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The Jaguars are terrible, right?
Well, yes...at least they were in 2011. The jury is still out for 2012.
Blaine Gabbert was worlds better in Week 1 than in 2011, but he still had moments where he didn't look like he could hit the broad side of a barn. His completion percentage (59) and his yards per attempt (6.67) were both in the bottom half of all starters against a Minnesota Vikings pass defense that was middle of the road in 2011.
So, how can the Jaguars possibly hope to beat the Texans?
Well, the Jaguars defense (led by Mel Tucker) is a legit unit, easily one of the most underrated in the NFL, and although the team has been beset with injuries, the Texans have some bumps and bruises of their own.
If Maurice Jones-Drew can get going early, they have a chance at home.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6) vs. New York Jets
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Last week, the Steelers were unable to spoil Peyton Manning's comeback performance. Meanwhile, the Jets put the kibosh on any ineffective offense talk with a 40-spot on the Buffalo Bills—a team that spent a lot of time improving defensively over the offseason.
Luckily, the Steelers get Ryan Clark back.
The safety has the sickle cell trait, which effectively means he could die exerting himself in high altitudes. So, whenever the Steelers go to Denver, he's out of commission. Sadly, as Troy Polamalu gets older and keeps freelancing, the Steelers need Clark all the more.
So, this matchup will tell us a lot in Week 2: Are the Broncos and Jets as good as they looked in Week 1? Are the Bills and Steelers as bad as they looked?
If the Steelers hope to reach the playoffs in an increasingly competitive AFC North, they need to put this one away quickly at home.
San Diego Chargers (-6) vs. Tennessee Titans
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The Oakland Raiders gave the Chargers all they could handle in Week 1, and the Titans are a similar team with very much the same strengths and weaknesses as the Raiders.
The big question mark in this game (honestly, for the Titans' entire season) is Chris Johnson. Though Darren McFadden was a huge factor in the passing game, he wasn't that effective as a rusher, posting 2.1 yards per carry and only 32 total yards. Johnson has been terrible as a runner, but if he is able to be more of a factor than DMC, the Titans have a shot.
Defensively, the Titans defense will be looking to create its first turnover against a team that didn't turn the ball over in Week 1. While that may seem like a tough task, Philip Rivers isn't exactly known for taking care of the ball.
This game has "coin flip" written all over it.
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."