Week 2 offers plenty of dangerous matchups for some of the top teams in the NFL, including one particularly struggling squad looking to avoid an unfathomable 0-2 start.
The suspense is killing you, so here are three teams that should be on upset alert away from home in what will prove to be another wild week of professional football. Bold final score predictions are included.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
One of the most intriguing questions from the NFL's opening week: Is the Panthers defense improved, or is the once-promising Josh Freeman continuing to regress into oblivion?
Another tantalizing proposition: Is the Saints defense really that awful, or is RGIII really that good already?
The answers to the second parts of both questions do not pertain to this game, but the speculation surrounding both of these suspect defenses isn't likely to die this Sunday, either.
Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams will likely spark Carolina to run for more than 10 yards this week, and Drew Brees will do everything in his power to keep the Saints from digging themselves an 0-2 hole.
Maybe the Bountygate scandal is effecting the Saints more than they're letting on, because that defense got shredded in the Superdome. Meanwhile, the Panthers' unit showed signs of life, welcoming the return of Jonathan Beason to the linebacker corps, as well as the addition of first-round pick Luke Kuechly.
Both secondaries should yield 300-plus yard passing days to both Newton and Brees in this one, but last year's No. 1 overall pick has so much more at stake.
The pressure on Newton to succeed will heighten if his team gets pummeled by another top opponent, and his top receiver's window to win is closing rapidly by the day.
The Saints are a perennial playoff team, and with the parity that exists in the NFL, couldn't be blamed for a down year after such a tumultuous offseason.
Expect a desperate Panthers team to come out swinging, showing that they belong in the conversation for the NFC wild card by edging out New Orleans in Bank of America Stadium.
Final score prediction: Panthers 38, Saints 35
Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles
The Joe Flacco Bandwagon is overflowing more than usual.
Besides broadcasters such as Greg Gumbel calling him "tall, dark and handsome" (is he really handsome?) and the Monday Night Football crew gushing over him throwing a 10-yard pass rolling to his right, others are ready to label Flacco as an elite quarterback.
In an annihilation of an overrated Bengal secondary and as the beneficiary of having the front seven keying on Ray Rice, Flacco looked fantastic. He faces a much more difficult test on the road in Philadelphia.
The Eagles are coming off of a nightmare game against the Cleveland Browns, barely escaping with a one-point victory.
Until Flacco can string multiple great games together, he cannot be considered an elite quarterback, nor one who can take the Ravens to the promised land.
The Wide-9 Eagles scheme will reap havoc on the Baltimore offensive line, and the physical play of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at corner will give Flacco serious trouble.
It's hard to even say or spell the names of the Eagles' intimidating cornerback duo, much less throw on them with repeated success.
Beware of an explosive, complete performance from the Eagles after an off week last week. The Ravens and Flacco may have played their best game of the season in Week 1.
Final score prediction: Eagles 31, Ravens 20
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
I thought I was the only one who thought the Hawks had a puncher's chance at the Super Bowl this season, so much so that I never went public with it until now. Apparently world-renowned sportswriter Bill Simmons agreed with me.
After an ugly opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals that featured 13 penalties and multiple dropped touchdown passes that would have won the game, I was concerned. Simmons felt the wrath in emails from many of his readers, who questioned his sobriety when making his NFL picks, among other things.
With the biggest home-field advantage in the NFL and a young, terrifying defense, I will hold firm and not give up...yet.
Here come the Cowboys, who are being touted as a legitimate contender after a gutsy road win against the New York Giants and a phenomenal game from oft-criticized Tony Romo.
It's unfair how leveled Romo gets by the media, and it won't be helped with a trip to Seattle.
Cornerback Brandon Browner, free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor all went to the Pro Bowl in 2011, but Richard Sherman may be the best player in that secondary at the other corner spot.
Everyone is counting out the Seahawks this week, and everyone will be betting the house on a Dallas team that has "arrived."
I am severely outgunned on this very website by the B/R experts, and Rob Ryan's Dallas defense presents another steep challenge for rookie QB Russell Wilson.
I'm banking on this tweet from ESPN's Mike Sando:
Pete Carroll: blown away by Russell Wilson's ability to fix mistakes immediately. One bad day in camp. One bad pass in preseason.
— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@espn_nfcwest) August 27, 2012
Wilson will learn, his receivers will catch the ball better, the Seahawks won't commit so many penalties at home, and this will be a signature, so-called "inexplicable" outcome for the 'Boys.
Que the ridiculous, over-analytical Romo criticism—now!
Final score prediction: Seahawks 23, Cowboys 17
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