After the fireworks that defined Week 1 of the 2013 NFL regular season, it'll be difficult for any week to match what we've already seen. Fortunately, the stakes are high in Week 2, and countless teams will impact their respective long-term futures.
The question is, which teams will win the most significant season-defining games of Week 2?
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Date: Sunday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Bears (-6) via Bovada
Prediction: 17-14, Bears
The NFC North has become a consistent division with capable challengers. The Green Bay Packers are routinely in the Super Bowl hunt, the Minnesota Vikings reached the playoffs in 2012, and both the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions have been strong in recent seasons.
The Bears and Vikings will meet this Sunday in a game that could go a long way toward shaping both the NFC North division and wild-card races.
With the Detroit Lions starting 1-0 after defeating Minnesota, both the Bears and Vikings are under pressure to pick up a win to keep pace. The fact that the Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers and now face a tough test with the Washington Redskins also means that either the Bears or Lions could take a commanding divisional lead.
It's on Minnesota to prevent Chicago from doing so, thus keeping itself out of a two-game deficit.
The Vikings have Adrian Peterson, who opened up the season with 111 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns, and that makes them a danger to any opponent. With that being said, Minnesota's passing game is still a question mark and its defense is inconsistent.
That sounds like the perfect recipe for Chicago to steal a road win and Minnesota to fall to 0-2.
The Bears have the lethal passing combination of quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall to exploit Minnesota's defense. Chicago also has one of the NFL's premier cornerback tandems with Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, who combined for 15 tackles and three forced turnovers in Week 1.
Expect Chicago to win an ugly one, going after Christian Ponder early and crowding the box to disrupt Peterson's rhythm.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Date: Sunday, Sept. 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Seahawks (-3) via Bovada
Prediction: 21-20, Seahawks
Both the 49ers and Seahawks opened up the season with gritty victories. Both teams also have rising stars at quarterback, top-five defenses and injured stars set to return from injury in the near future.
Whichever team wins this game should have a hold on the NFC West until they meet again in Week 14.
The 49ers opened the season with a 34-28 win over Green Bay, using 412 passing yards from Colin Kaepernick to seal the victory. The defense wasn't at its best, but when you're going up against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers, the lofty numbers are to be expected.
Unfortunately, the Niners won't be playing against just 11 men at a time on Sunday.
The Seahawks have one of the most infamously powerful home crowds in the NFL, so much so that their fans have earned the nickname "The 12th Man." While the Seahawks may be coming off an uninspiring 12-7 win over the Carolina Panthers, there's only one statistic you need to know: Seattle hasn't lost a home game since Dec. 24, 2011, when the Niners won. The Seahawks will avenge that loss in Week 2 and take an important lead on what will prove to be a tight race in the NFC West.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Date: Monday, Sept. 16 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Bengals (-7) via Bovada
Prediction: 26-20, Bengals
The AFC North has evolved into one of strongest and closest divisions in the NFL, but during Week 1, it went 0-4. The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers all lost, and not a single one looked very impressive.
When the Steelers travel to play the Bengals on Monday Night Football, one team will emerge as a 1-1 divisional favorite and the other as an 0-2 disappointment.
Pittsburgh enters this game fresh off a 16-9 loss at the Tennessee Titans in which the Steelers' only points came on a safety after 58:37 had come off the clock. In the end, Pittsburgh ran for 32 yards on 15 attempts, went 4-of-13 on third down and had just two red-zone appearances.
Going up against a significantly more talented team in Week 2, the 0-1 Bengals, things aren't looking good for Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati played better than any other AFC North team during its 24-21 loss at the Bears but neutralized a very strong passing performance by Andy Dalton with eight costly penalties. That lack of discipline is what keeps Cincinnati from living up to its billing as a Super Bowl dark horse.
Expect Cincinnati to win for one reason: The Bengals' weaknesses can be cured by avoiding mental mishaps, while Pittsburgh flat-out lacks the necessary personnel to win.
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