It's only Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season, but already we've seen some teams separate from the pack, others drift back towards it with disappointing outings and surprises and injuries galore.
As is usually the case in the National Football League, expect the unexpected.
So, as we gear up for another exciting week of NFL action let's take a look at some of Week 2's premier matchups and what each game might have in store for the teams involved and their fans.
Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles—1:00 P.M. Eastern
Sunday's tilt between the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles features two teams with Super Bowl aspirations that were at opposite ends of the NFL spectrum in Week 1.
The Baltimore Ravens looked very sharp in destroying the Cincinnati Bengals 44-13, while the Philadelphia Eagles were anything but in a sloppy 17-16 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was roundly criticized in the media this week for his dreadful four-interception performance against Cleveland, but as the 32-year-old recently told USA Today—while he's aware that he needs to play better against the Ravens—he isn't going to let others' opinions affect him:
"I've always dealt with the things surrounding being a quarterback in the NFL and all the scrutiny...It's a part of it. And if it don't drive you and motivate you, I don't know what else could. It's all about the next game, getting out there and doing it right."
The southpaw didn't do a whole lot right against the Browns, and—with wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson both banged up, and the Ravens' new no-huddle offense looking ruthlessly efficient—another mistake-filled performance would probably get the Eagles blown out at home.
That may not be the case Sunday, but if last Monday night's game was any indication the Ravens are the class of the AFC, and they're going to send that message again with a win on the road.
The Pick: Baltimore 27, Philadelphia 14
Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers—8:20 P.M. Eastern
The weekly Sunday night showdown has become the NFL's "showcase" game of the week.
This week's entry features quite possibly the most impressive squad from Week 1 in the San Francisco 49ers, who defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-22 at Lambeau Field in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions, who advanced to the postseason for the first time since 1999 a season ago, needed a late touchdown drive to escape with a 27-23 home win over the St. Louis Rams in a game in which Detroit signal-caller Matthew Stafford tossed three interceptions.
The game is a rematch of a contest won by the 49ers in Detroit last year that's become better known for the dustup between the two head coaches after the game than what happened during it.
But as Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz recently told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that now-infamous handshake is a distant memory for him.
“The NFL’s a very scrutinized thing...It comes with it, but that’s long in the past. That seems so long ago that that occurred. When two teams take the field, that’s not going to be on one players’ mind and that’s the only thing that’s important.”
What will no doubt be on Schwartz's mind is San Francisco's smothering defense and the fact that 49ers quarterback Alex Smith hasn't been intercepted in his last 185 pass attempts.
Add those two facts together and you get the recipe for a win by the home club.
The Pick: San Francisco 21, Detroit 17
Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons—8:30 P.M. Eastern (Monday)
The last game of Week 2 should be a very entertaining one, as two of the National Football League's top quarterbacks do battle under the roof of the Georgia Dome in a contest that has the makings of a shootout.
The Atlanta Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan made short work of the Kansas City Chiefs last week, rolling up 40 points with their new high-octane offense. Meanwhile, for the first time since January of 2011 Payton Manning played in an NFL game that counted, leading the Denver Broncos to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers
It was a performance that made father Archie proud, according to David Weiner of NFL.com:
"We've all been saying it for 50 years, but you can tell about a quarterback on a deep sideline throw...And he made one late in the game to No. 12. I believe that's (Matt) Willis. See, I don't even know all the players yet. But that was a good measurement (of arm strength)."
Peyton will need every bit of that arm strength in a game that should feature plenty of offense, and given that four-time NFL MVP has quite the history of big games in prime time (including last week) the Broncos will emerge with a mini-upset.
The Pick: Denver 34, Atlanta 31