NFL Picks Week 2: Predicting Winners and Losers from the AFC East
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After the AFC Champion Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants in February of 2012, the AFC East fans' focus shifted to the Jets' offseason acquisition of former Denver QB Tim Tebow.
No other story rivaled Tebow's move to New York, where all stories are inevitably dramatized by the big stage. Despite insistence from the coaching staff all preseason that USC great Mark Sanchez was the guy, the split practice time and possibility of "Tebowmania, New York Edition" has lit up the news thus far.
Despite the media circus that follows Tim Tebow, the Jets are by no means the lone story in the AFC East.
The Patriots look set to make another run at the Super Bowl. New WR acquisition Brandon Lloyd further opens the field for the offense and two promising defensive first round draft picks—defenseman Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones—have already made an impact.
Miami, like four other teams in Week 1, featured a rookie starting quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. His debut was far from successful at Houston, but the Dolphins will look to turn the tables at home against Oakland this week.
Buffalo's opener had some intrigue as well, as former Clemson great C.J. Spiller had the most explosive game of his young NFL career. He carried the ball 14 times for 161 yards and a score against the Jets. The Bills failed to come away with the victory.
Heading into Week 2, there is no shortage of drama or talent in the AFC.
Who will emerge the victors this Sunday?
Matchup Winner #1: New England Patriots
Tom Brady will fight through last week's nose injury against the Cardinals
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The Patriots return home after a comfortable 34-13 win in Tennessee to open the season. This Sunday, they'll continue their upward trend.
Despite being swatted through the mask during the first half of Brady's 2012 NFL campaign, the quarterback showed poise and led his team to a dominant victory.
This week, he'll have an easier matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals snuck past the Seahawks to start the season, but lost QB John Skelton in the effort. They'll start former Eagles QB Kevin Kolb this week in Foxborough.
An early-season matchup like this presents the Patriots with another chance to establish the revamped nature of the defense with fresh new talent. Rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower made a big impact against the Titans, teaming up for a strip-sack and fumble returned for touchdown.
Look for Brady to incorporate WR Wes Welker a bit more this week in addition to relying on big targets Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Tom Brady and the high-flying Pats offense will be far too much for the Arizona Cardinals to handle, especially in Foxborough. The defense will look stronger this week than last, and New England will win big.
Final score: 45-21
Matchup Loser #1: Buffalo Bills
Young Bills RB C.J. Spiller was elusive in a Week 1 loss to the Jets
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The Buffalo Bills host Kansas City this week in what should be a very exciting matchup. Both teams feature explosive young runners in C.J. Spiller and Jamaal Charles, respectively.
Don't forget that each team also has a top-tier wide receiving threat—the Bills go-to-guy is Stevie Johnson and the Chiefs have Dwayne Bowe.
The Week 2 showdown is sure to produce some fireworks.
Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had some electrifying performances to open up the 2011-12 campaign, and will need to revert to form against Kansas City this weekend.
After suffering a 40-24 loss to the dominant-looking Falcons in Week 1, the Chiefs will look to sync up their offensive talent a bit more to keep Buffalo in the rearview mirror.
Similarly, the Bills are fresh off a 48-28 thrashing handed down by the Jets and are looking to turn their season back in the right direction. They didn't have too much going defensively against a subpar offensive team and turned the ball over to the Jets four times.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, Matt Cassel and the Chiefs will pull this one out on the road. The combination of Cassel, Bowe, Charles and utility man Dexter McCluster will be too much for the Bills to keep up with.
Final score: 35-17 in favor of the Chiefs.
Matchup Loser #2: Miami Dolphins
Will Reggie Bush provide enough magic for Miami to best the Raiders?
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The Miami Dolphins are not a good football team right now. The team's 30-10 Week 1 loss to Houston is a good example of why.
The Dolphins turned the ball over to the above-average Texans offense four times and were unable to dig out of a 21-point halftime deficit.
Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions without reaching the end zone through the air, and RB Reggie Bush had little to contribute. In fact, the only Dolphins touchdown of the opening game came on a punt return from Marcus Thigpen in the third quarter.
This week Miami will turn its eyes to an Oakland Raiders team on the cusp of being a legitimate playoff contender.
Despite being led by veteran QB Carson Palmer and stud RB Darren McFadden, the Raiders dropped their home opener to the San Diego Charges 22-14. McFadden will need to improve on his 32 yards rushing (on 15 attempts, no less) for Oakland to play up to expectations this year.
Heading toward lowly Miami, the Raiders will take advantage of the weak spot in their schedule and come away with the victory. McFadden will be explosive and gain over 100 yards rushing.
Final score: Raiders 24, Dolphins 13.
Matchup Loser #3: New York Jets
At least Mark Sanchez has confidence heading into Week 2. Still, he'll face Pittsburgh
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After what can only be described as a circus of a preseason (and an unsuccessful one at that), a big Week 1 win was just what the Jets needed.
They got it over Buffalo 48-28 at the Meadowlands.
Everything went great: Mark Sanchez threw three touchdowns, the defense had four takeaways and the game was never really close.
The only dark spot was that Bills RB C.J. Spiller gashed the defense for more than 161 yards.
This week will be different for the Jets. Although they exposed the Bills even after failing to produce much offense at all during the preseason, New York drew Pittsburgh for Week 2.
The Steelers were bested by the return effort of Peyton Manning and his new allegiance, the Denver Broncos. On the Sunday Night stage, Peyton and the Broncos scored 31 points against the Steelers vaunted defense.
It appears Manning hasn't missed a beat.
One has to believe that Pittsburgh is licking its chops for the Week 2 matchup against Mark Sanchez. The Steelers D must prove itself again to be the strongest in the AFC, and the pressure is on.
Division rival Baltimore rolled in Week 1 and I like them to beat the Eagles this week.
For both the Jets and Steelers, Week 2 is a bragging rights opportunity, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Pittsburgh's defense proves a bit tougher than that of Buffalo. Sanchez cannot repeat his stellar Week 1 performance and the Steelers win.
Final score: 21-13 in favor of Pittsburgh.