A bright start to the NFL season is about to get brighter for some of the league's hottest teams.
Little can match the excitement created early in the season, where squads can let their imaginations run wild and envision fantasies of a Super Bowl run. Nothing quite does the trick like starting the season on a winning streak.
Whether the early success foreshadows a title run or exists as an aberration, rattling off the season with consecutive victories forces the league to take notice. Remember when the 4-0 Arizona Cardinals were treated as a championship contender last year? Fun times.
While the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have strong paths to a 2-0 start, those picks felt too obvious. The following squads are all coming off dreadful 2012 campaigns, yet look poised to engineer a radical turnaround. Starting the season with two straight victories would put their names on the map as legitimate playoff contenders.
After kicking off the 2013 season on a high note, look for these teams to keep rolling with another victory.
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Dallas Cowboys)
The hipster sleeper pick quickly turned mainstream, but that shouldn't detract Kansas City Chiefs supporters from staying on the bandwagon.
Much like a college squad planting a pipsqueak opponent to trounce in its first bout, Andy Reid got to make his team debut against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. While Jacksonville avoided a shutout by scoring a safety, finishing with two points somehow seems a lot worse than getting none at all.
In his first game as Kansas City's quarterback, Alex Smith did Alex Smith things, completing 21 of 34 attempts for a modest 173 passing yards and two touchdowns. Nothing spectacular, but Smith got the job done, which is more than than anybody could say about Matt Cassel last season.
The Dallas Cowboys also kicked off the season with the victory, but they earned theirs over a divisional foe with playoff aspirations. Dallas defeated the New York Giants, 36-31, by forcing six turnovers on Sunday night.
While those takeaways earned Dallas a victory, it's also an unsustainable method of winning football games. Despite prevailing, the team should be concerned about surrendering 450 passing yards to Eli Manning while a battered Tony Romo managed only 263 yards on 49 attempts against a questionable secondary.
Facing Blaine Gabbert can make anyone look like world-beaters, but Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali and Eric Berry are all the real deal. With Romo and Bryant both banged up, Kansas City's defense should derail Dallas while Smith does just enough against a shaky secondary.
Prediction: Chiefs 23, Cowboys 16
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. San Diego Chargers)
Chip Kelly's offense is a cheap gimmick that won't last. Chip Kelly's offense will revolutionize the NFL, forever changing the sport we love.
Yes, opinions are polarizing and needlessly drastic as to how the former Oregon coach's up-tempo schemes will translate to the pros. One game is far too early to draw concrete conclusions, but so far so good.
The Philadelphia Eagles ran 77 plays on Monday night, compiling 443 total yards in their 33-27 win over the Washington Redskins. Kelly afforded Washington's defense no time to rest, running plays at lightning speed. Running the ball frequently and ferociously worked as the team, led by a huge evening from LeSean McCoy, recorded 263 rushing yards on 49 carries.
Will the Eagles grow fatigued during the season? Can McCoy and Michael Vick stay intact through such a heavy workload? That remains to be seen, but for now, the Eagles look good and that should continue this weekend.
That same night, the Chargers opened up a surprising 28-7 advantage over the Houston Texans, only to squander it away. After looking like the old Philip Rivers early, he reverted back to the newer, rusty model, completing less than half his passes and tossing a crucial interception.
The Eagles defense also showed some renewed tenacity in Week 1, sacking Robert Griffin III three times while constantly flustering the speedy quarterback. That same attack will force a slower Rivers into making mistakes in the pocket, and Kelly's offense should have enough steam left in the season's first month to capitalize.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Chargers 21
Detroit Lions (at Arizona Cardinals)
Although they allowed Adrian Peterson to reach the end zone three times, the Detroit Lions stomped the Minnesota Vikings to put the two teams on diverging paths from 2012.
One of the league's leaders in yards amassed last season, the Lions nonetheless struggled to match that success on the scoreboard. That was not a problem last week, as they mounted 34 points on 469 total yards.
New acquisition Reggie Bush quickly paid dividends, gaining 191 all-purpose yards, including a 77-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass. He and Joique Bell gave Minnesota fits in both the rushing and passing game.
The defense was not too shabby either. After breaking free for a 78-yard score, Peterson managed just 15 yards on 17 carries through the remainder of the contest.
Detroit also collected three interceptions off Christian Ponder. Yes, much of that stems from him being Christian Ponder, but Carson Palmer—who has averaged 16 picks in the last three seasons—is prone to mistakes as well.
Arizona's offense looked sharp in Palmer's debut, but the defense surrendered 299 passing yards to Sam Bradford to suffer a 27-24 loss. That bodes well for Matthew Stafford in what should be another impressive victory for Detroit.
Prediction: Lions 35, Cardinals 23
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