Week One went pretty well for you if you followed my advice. I was 13-3. I never thought Denver could pull an upset in the last minute of regulation. Who knew the San Francisco defense would be so well made in Mike Singletary’s image? And as for Houston, shame, shame on Houston for not beating up a fresh, young quarterback from USC. It was too hard to pick just one “Game of the Week.” It ended up as a tie between the Packers/Bears matchup and the Patriots/Bills nail-biter. Hopefully, this week will go just as well for all of us mere mortals, or perhaps even better. Matchups to watch out for include the Raiders in Kansas City, the Pats at the Jets, and especially the Saints visiting the Eagles. The laugher of the week should be the Steelers in Chicago.
Sunday, September 20, 2009, 1:00 PM EST
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
The Panthers (Jake Delhomme in particular) looked pathetic last week. It was a repeat of their disastrous playoff game. The only way the Panthers could stop the Eagles was by breaking Donovan McNabb’s ribs. The Falcons, with the Matt-Ryan-to-Tony-Gonzalez connection, were unstoppable against a helpless Miami. Their defense held the Dolphins to one touchdown, even with their “amazing” Wildcat offense. Look for Ryan to exploit the terrible Carolina defense for another big game with Tony Gonzalez, and for Michel Turner to have even more yards and carries than last week. Hey, if McNabb can run it in for a touchdown, then someone who can actually run should be able to get at least three against the Panthers. Delhomme has this one chance to make himself look good again. I doubt he’ll have anywhere near the bad day he had last week, but don’t look for him to be too good either, especially when Steve Smith doesn’t even try for the jump ball.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
With his debut in the purple and gold last week, Brett Favre looked, well, like a 39 year-old quarterback clinging to the last bits of fame he can reach. Adrian Peterson, however, looked amazing, as always. The Lions, though terrible, actually held their own against the high-flying Saints offense for the first half, showing vast improvement over last year. Fix a couple of problems with your passing game and secondary and Detroit might have itself a winning football team…well, comparatively. There’s just no way the Lions can stop the Peterson rush (not many can), or the Favre pass (okay, anyone with a half-decent DB corps can stop that, but look who we’re talking about here). The Lions will win at least two games this year; this just won’t be one of them. They’ll defeat the Bears…and…the Bears again.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Green Bay Packers
Who knew Cincinnati’s offense could do so poorly against a team in utter disarray? Or for that matter, how could their defense not stop a last-minute, game-winning, 87-yard pass as it sailed just inches over their heads after it was tipped by a defender? The answer: a curse. The Bengals are cursed to be this year’s Lions. They have a good quarterback, great wide receivers, and a half-decent running back. What else could be their problem? Green Bay had its share of problems last week, but, unlike Cincinnati, overcame them to win in a thrilling home-opener against the much-hated Bears. The Green Bay secondary made Jay Cutler, the prodigal son, look silly, and once Aaron Rodgers calmed down, he made one of the most beautiful touchdown passes this writer has ever seen to win the game. The Packers should be able to run over the Bengals defense and their own defense should do nothing but harass Carson Palmer all day. If Cincinnati gets more than one touchdown, I will be very surprised…and disappointed.
Winner: Green Bay
Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars
I would say that I was disappointed in Kurt Warner’s performance against the 49ers last Sunday, but that would be an insult to people who are disappointing. He was terrible, not that he had any help from his front line whatsoever. I knew Mike Singletary would be able to restructure that defense, but who knew he would do such a good job? The Jaguars almost beat the Colts last week, but considering Indianapolis had receivers being injured magically, I wouldn’t say it was because of great play. This was a tough one to call, Arizona should be able to perform their usual high-wire act over the Jacksonville D, but they have a terrible record on the East Coast. Maybe that “Holy crap, the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl” feeling just hasn’t left my system yet. That and, well, Jacksonville sucks.
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
Both of these teams actually put up decent fights on their way to losses last week. The Chiefs used their Special Teams play to put the Ravens on edge, and the Raiders made JaMarcus Russel look good (wow, now that’s hard) in their very-near upset of the Chargers. The thing is…the Ravens always nearly lose to teams they should easily beat, usually because they don’t prepare hard enough. They have a sense of “well, we’ll beat them easy, so we don’t need to practice.” Then, on game day, it looks like they didn’t practice. For Oakland, they played a team I’ve been saying for years is overrated. The Chargers are coached by Norv Turner. Have you seen that man’s record? Not good. This game will come down to defenses. The Chiefs have little-to-no defense, and the Raiders have Richard Seymour…Richard Seymour.
New England Patriots @ New York Jets
I wish I knew what to write to back up my prediction here. The Patriots almost lost to the Bills, the team that is supposed to be last in their division this year. The Jets ran over the Texans, the team that is supposed to be first in their division this year. Despite all odds, the Jets looked good, and the Pats looked bad. But I still can’t pick the Jets. Rex Ryan’s loose lips will get New England all scrappy, and then we’re in for an old-fashioned gun fight. So for me it came down to which team has the better quarterback, most likely to pull one out at the end of a close game. I think you know who that is.
Winner: New England
New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles
Another really, really close call. Hours were spent debating the answer to this riddle. The Saints had a record day last week. Drew Brees threw six touchdown passes, the most in any season opener. His defense, however, allowed a pathetic Lions offense to score 27 points. This should mean that the Eagles will run up and down the field, but it still appears that there will be no McNabb this Sunday. If Jeff Garcia were allowed to start, the Eagles would win. However, Andy Reid has put his offense under the direction of the “amazing” Kevin Kolb. Yes, Kevin Kolb, the guy the Ravens defense laughed at and scored two defensive touchdowns against in last year’s meeting. With Kolb at the helm, one can only assume that the Eagles offense will be as good as the Lions. Unless of course, Donovan plays…
Winner: New Orleans
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans
The Titans are out for blood this week after last Thursday’s overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their defense looked sufficient, even without big Albert Haynesworth on the line. Their offense looked weak, but what team’s offense looks good against the Steelers? Look for Kerry Collins to beef up his stats this week against a less-than-mediocre Texans secondary. Rookie QB Mark Sanchez threw far too well against these guys for me to believe their defense can stop the Titans. Houston, according to Sports Illustrated, is the team to beat in this division (AFC South). Apparently, they meant that literally, as they look to get beat again this Sunday.
St. Louis Rams @ Washington Redskins
Washington looked sad last week against a reborn Osi Umenyiora. They are the worst team in the NFC East, and one of the more pathetic teams in the whole NFL, but not as sad as their opponents this week. The St. Louis Rams have, consistently, been one of the worst teams in the league since Kurt Warner left, second only to the Lions (incidentally, ESPN.com, just this week, placed the Lions at #31 in their power rankings and the Rams at #32, making them worse than the Lions…now that’s sad). Washington might need help at the quarterback position, but St. Louis just needs help…period.
Sunday, September 20, 2009, 4:05 PM EST
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Buffalo Bills
Tampa still hasn’t received enough payback for firing John Gruden. Sure, they lost bad to the Cowboys last week, but that’s not enough. You let Jeff Garcia go and you are still in existence as a team? I saw how the defense did last week. Terrible. Dallas didn’t even have a star receiver and they have one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the whole NFL. And now the Bucs are traveling into hostile territory, against a team that is really, really angry they lost to the Pats in the last two minutes of regulation. That, and last week, the Bills looked good, really good. Edwards came into his own as a QB and their screen attacks were near unstoppable. This one was an easy pick.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
This game should be interesting. Two teams vying for the “most improved” award battle head-to-head. The thing is, I’m still not buying into the new 49ers. They didn’t pick up a good QB in the draft (or replace the one they had for that matter), and Frank Gore is getting up there. I can’t imagine that just changing the coach, though I love Mike Singletary, is enough to turn these guys around. Seattle got rid of Shaun Alexander (last year), got Matt Hasselbeck healthy, and picked up a few wideouts for him to throw to. That’s a team that rebuilt properly and is on the up-and-up. San Francisco could surprise everyone, but that’ll be one hell of a surprise.
Sunday, September 20, 2009, 4:15 PM EST
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Chicago Bears
This will be the laugher of Week Two. The Bears looked god-awful last week against the Green Bay Packers (not that the Pack looked that much better), with Jay “Boo-Hoo” Cutler throwing four interceptions. Four interceptions against the team that didn’t have a defense ranked #1 in every way possible? What do you think the Steelers defense is going to do? I predict at least that many interceptions, plus a few fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Now, being from Baltimore, I’m no Steelers fan, but I will pull for them this week, just to see Cutler give a hilarious press conference that get’s him booed out of town. When you pin all your hopes on one prima donna, you get what you paid for.
Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos
Denver won by pure luck last week. Though this writer picked Cincinnati to win, he doesn’t mind a thrilling finish; he can only hope that that will not be the case this week. Eric Mangini is still, perhaps, the worst coach in all of football, behind only Norv Turner (whose losing habits have made more than one team “rebuild” for years after he left). If there is a man who can screw up what should be an easy win, it is Eric Mangini. He couldn’t get to the playoffs with Brett Favre and the Jets last year, and he couldn’t beat the Viking last week after sacking Brett Favre multiple times. You took away their passing game and still couldn’t win. I know Adrian Peterson is good, but that one run was too ridiculous for words. Denver was terrible last week too, but something about the magic of playing at home, a mile above sea level makes me give them the benefit of the doubt.
Baltimore Ravens @ San Diego Chargers
There they go again, the Ravens looking mediocre in the 2nd and 3rd quarters against an ailing Kansas City team. Special teams that had a punt blocked for a touchdown and an interception of Joe Flacco that was nearly a pick-six (because, apparently, no one on the offense can tackle except Flacco himself) almost led the team to opening-day disaster. But the offense pulled a Patriots-like 4th quarter pull-away to win by two touchdowns as the defense held Larry Johnson to just 20 rushing yards. But while Baltimore looked sad in the middle of the game, the Chargers looked sad for their whole game. They almost lost to Oakland…Oakland, and now they don’t have LaDainian Tomlinson. The Ravens worst nightmare is planning for two running backs. Now, thanks to the Raiders, they don’t have to.
Sunday, September 20, 2009, 8:20 PM EST
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
While Dallas looked great without T.O. last week, the Giants defense looked even better against the helpless Redskins. Will Romo be able to throw all day with a healthy Osi in his face, especially when he doesn’t have a stand-out wide receiver to trust? Probably not, which means Dallas will have to rely on their not so great running game to get the job done, and that’s quite a job against the G-Men. Eli Manning looked shaky last week, but he loves a good rivalry to heat things up. He proved he didn’t need the recently convicted Plaxico Burress to throw effectively, and their three-headed rushing attack wasn’t bad either. Look for Jerry Jones to be crying at his own home-opener in his brand new, deficiently made stadium, as his QB is sacked multiple times and the run is shut down.
Winner: New York Giants
P.S. Good job, NFL. Another good pick for Sunday Night Football.
Monday, September 21, 2009, 8:30 PM EST
Indianapolis Colts @ Miami Dolphins
Both these teams looked bad last week. The Colts only had two touchdowns against the very bad Jags, and Miami only had one with the crazy Wildcat on their side. Peyton wants to have a better day, and Anthony Gonzalez won’t be bothering him for throws anymore, so expect Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne to have big days. Also, Miami cannot stop the run, so have fun, Joseph Addai. If Miami stops using the Wildcat and actually protects Chad Pennington they might have a chance, but since Tony Sparano, most likely, doesn’t read my articles, you can probably expect the same-old same-old from the Dolphins.
Please, please, please remember to watch the Saints/Eagles game (if you can). It took me an hour just to decide who would win that one, and it promises to be an exciting contest. Hopefully, Week Two will be as exciting as Week One, but it usually isn’t. As teams all over are getting settled into their groove, others are realizing that they won’t make it to .500 this year. Such is life in the NFL. As always, I leave you with my Super Bowl XLIV prediction…
Super Bowl Winner: New England Patriots over New Orleans Saints
Do not ask me how I came up with this one. The Saints look awesome and I think New England’s tough Week One performance was more opening night jitters than it was a sign of things to come. Happy picking, and until next week.
Stephen Bands writes this for fun…that’s right, fun. How awesome is that?