Last-Minute Predictions for NFL Week 2
Week 1 of the NFL season proved to be wildly unpredictable.
Whether it was the brilliant debut of the Eagles offense under new coach Chip Kelly or the Raiders nearly pulling off an upset over the heavily favored Colts, few things went the way most thought they would.
Week 2 has already featured more of the same, with the Jets nearly shocking the Patriots in Foxborough on Thursday night. That game set the stage for what's sure to be another topsy-turvy weekend in the National Football League.
With the Sunday slate of games nearly at hand, what follows are my last-minute predictions.
St. Louis Will Upset Atlanta in the Georgia Dome
There's no need to rub your eyes. You read the headline correctly.
That's right. The St. Louis Rams will go into the Georgia Dome and defeat the Atlanta Falcons.
And it's going to happen because of their pass rush.
Last week, the Rams got after Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, sacking him four times, including three from end Robert Quinn, the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Meanwhile, in Atlanta's Week 1 loss at New Orleans, the team allowed three sacks of quarterback Matt Ryan, carrying over the poor pass protection that plagued the Falcons in the preseason.
Quinn and fellow defensive end Chris Long have dubbed themselves the "Thunder Storm," and Ryan will feel the electricity.
The Rams defense will get to Ryan early and often, and St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford will make enough plays in the passing attack for the Rams to pull off the upset.
Eagles RB LeSean McCoy Will Be Week 2's Leading Rusher
The San Diego Chargers possess an underrated front seven, and their defensive coordinator, John Pagano, is among the best in the league at his job.
On Sunday in Philadelphia, it won't matter. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is going to run roughshod over the Chargers defense, and he will lead the league in rushing for the week.
McCoy is coming off a Week 1 performance that was equal parts dazzling and dizzying, as he resembled a video game character with his ability to make defenders miss. He's currently the league's leading rusher with 184 yards.
Expect more of the same against the Chargers. Eagles coach Chip Kelly's high-octane, uptempo offense will wear down San Diego, and McCoy will be the primary beneficiary in a Philadelphia victory.
Ravens Defense Will Get Back on Track Against Cleveland
Last week, the Ravens defense was humbled, allowing Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning to tie an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a 49-27 loss.
At home against Cleveland, however, the defense will turn it around.
While Cleveland's offense could eventually mature into an above-average unit, it is not there yet, particularly without the services of wide receiver Josh Gordon. He will miss the contest due to his suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
There's simply no way that Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden will go into Baltimore and light up the scoreboard. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs will lead a dominant defensive effort that will give the Ravens their first victory of the season.
The win will also improve coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco to 11-0 over Cleveland since both men joined the Ravens organization in 2008. That sound you just heard was every Browns fan in America slamming a fist onto their keyboard.
Texans Will Throttle the Titans
The Tennessee Titans pulled off the biggest stunner of Week 1, suffocating the Steelers in Pittsburgh en route to a 16-9 victory. As a result, optimism is running rampant in the Music City.
On Sunday in Houston, the Titans' bubble will burst.
The Texans are a significantly better team than Pittsburgh, and there's simply no way that their offense will be shut down by Tennessee. Look for Houston running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate to slice and dice the Titans defense.
But the main reason why the Texans will dismantle Tennessee? The deficiencies of Titans quarterback Jake Locker.
Despite the win last week, Locker completed 11 of 20 passes for 125 yards. The Texans defense is stacked, led by lineman J.J. Watt and linebacker Brian Cushing. It's entirely possible that the Texans defense will score more touchdowns than the Titans offense.
All of that adds up to a big Houston victory.
QB Ryan Tannehill, DE Cameron Wake Lead Miami to Upset of Indianapolis
Last season when the Dolphins traveled to Indianapolis, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck led his team on a late scoring drive to secure victory.
When the two teams renew acquaintances at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will return the favor.
Tannehill played well in Miami's Week 1 triumph at Cleveland, and he should have a big game on Sunday against the Colts' suspect defense. Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace will score his first touchdown in aqua and white, and running back Lamar Miller will flash the form that had so many prognosticators predicting a big season for the second-year back.
But the main reason why the Dolphins will pull the upset is because of defensive end Cameron Wake, a veritable one-man wrecking crew. Last week, Wake had two-and-a-half sacks, while the Colts allowed four sacks of Luck to a questionable Oakland defense. That formula will spell disaster for the Indianapolis offense.
Tannehill will make enough plays in the passing game, and Wake will terrorize Luck, leading to a Miami victory.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald Will Outperform Lions WR Calvin Johnson
Sunday's matchup in the desert features two of the best receivers in football: Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald.
While both men will get touches and make an impact, it will be Fitzgerald who has the bigger game, and he'll help the Cardinals to victory over the Lions.
Johnson is the better receiver, which is no slight against Fitzgerald; it's much more of a commentary on the greatness of the player known as "Megatron."
But the Cardinals have cornerback Patrick Peterson, and while he's not good enough to completely shut Johnson down (no one is), he will provide better coverage than anyone in the Lions secondary will against Fitzgerald.
The Manning Brothers Will Combine for over 700 Yards Passing
Sunday's game between the Broncos and Giants at MetLife Stadium is the third installment of the "Manning Bowl," with big brother Peyton having defeated Eli in the first two encounters.
This will be the most explosive contest of the three, as both Mannings are primed to put up ridiculous numbers through the air. Peyton tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in Week 1, while Eli threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns in Big Blue's loss at Dallas.
With the Giants possessing a suspect pass defense and the Broncos without top cornerback Champ Bailey, the scoreboard will be lighting up early and often.
Expect the Manning brothers to combine for over 700 yards passing in what's sure to be a highly entertaining affair.
Jaguars Will Beat Raiders in Battle of League's Worst Teams
The Jaguars put forth a pitiful Week 1 display, losing at home to the Chiefs 28-2. The Raiders and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, meanwhile, almost pulled off an upset on the road in Indianapolis, falling to the Colts 21-17.
When considering those factors, some might think that the Raiders would be able to take care of the Jaguars on their home field in Week 2.
Those people would be wrong. The Jaguars will go into Oakland and beat the Raiders.
Oakland couldn't stop the run against the Colts, allowing nearly five yards per carry, a fact that surely has Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew salivating. With backup quarterback Chad Henne set to start for Jacksonville in relief of an injured Blaine Gabbert, expect the Jags to feed Jones-Drew early and often.
That, along with Pryor coming back to earth, will add up to a Jacksonville victory.
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson Will Lead Game-Winning Drive vs. San Francisco
On Sunday Night Football, the league's hottest new rivalry will be renewed as the Seahawks host the 49ers in a battle of NFC West titans.
The last time these squads met in Seattle, Christmas weekend 2012, the Seahawks laid a 42-13 beatdown on the Niners. Expect a much closer game this time around.
Ultimately, it will be Wilson who leads the Seahawks on a late, game-winning drive to improve Seattle to 2-0.
Bengals Defense Will Suffocate the Steelers
Last year, for the first time in eons, the Bengals gained the upper hand over the Steelers in their rivalry. They won a Week 16 decision in Pittsburgh, clinching a playoff berth and eliminating their AFC North nemesis from postseason contention in the process.
When the two teams battle on Monday night in the Queen City, expect more of the same, as Cincinnati will take down the Steelers.
Pittsburgh's offense is a hot mess, having been shut down in Week 1 by a Titans defense that won't confuse anyone with the 2000 Ravens. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger couldn't get things going in the passing attack, and the run game was nothing short of a disaster, with starter Isaac Redman rushing seven times for eight yards and losing a fumble.
The Bengals defense is significantly better than Tennessee's, and that spells doom for Pittsburgh. Look for the Bengals to win this game by double digits and send a message: These aren't your father's Bengals anymore.