The NFL BluePrint: Week Two

Thom Cunningham@ThomBhombCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Offical Super Bowl XLIII and NFL logo signage is seen prior tothe Arizona Cardinals playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers inSuper Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

At the beginning of pre-season, I went through the NFL schedule to determine how well I thought teams would do this season. I went through every game of every week picking the winners for each game and had a conclusion on how I thought the season would end up.

One week has now gone by in the league. The comparison between how teams played in week one and my view on teams before the season started has allowed me to see the hits and flaws of my perspective.

Consider this free-style writing, just thoughts that go through my mind when I see the matchup on paper. This is my view on the league in week two.

Week One: (12-4)

Carolina Panthers (0-1) @ Atlanta Falcons (1-0) - 1:00/FOX

Atlanta usually comes out on top when Carolina visits the ATL. What impressed me about Atlanta last week was their front seven. Atlanta's defensive line penetrated a pretty good Miami offensive line last week.

Carolina usually has success rushing the ball when playing inside the Dome, so look for the Panthers to rely on the rushing game early. Delhomme has the skill to torch the Falcons secondary, but the Falcons' defensive gameplan will be to pressure Delhomme constantly. 

Ultimately the Carolina offensive line will determine their fate in week two. If the offensive line has success on the ground and gives Delhomme time, then Carolina should keep up with Atlanta's offense. That's the best case scenario I see for Carolina though.

I would be surprised to see Carolina hold a lead for a majority of the game. They are more than capable of keeping this game close, but Atlanta is just as capable as running away with it.

Pick: ATL


Minnesota Vikings (1-0) @ Detroit Lions (0-1) - 1:00/FOX

Who is not expecting a big day from Peterson? If you saw what this guy did to the Cleveland Browns defense, wait until you see what he is going to do against one of the league's worst defenses.

Even if Detroit somehow holds Peterson to minimum gains, the receivers Minnesota have are more than capable of torching the entire Lion secondary.

The only player worth paying in the Lions secondary is Louis Delmas (and maybe McCauley), but Minnesota's offense is just too complete for Detroit to handle.

Let's not forget how good Minnesota's defense is. If Stafford and Smith struggled against the Saints' defense, there is no way they will be ready to handle what Minnesota has.

Don't be surprised to see another thrashing received by the Lions because they are too young, get burnt in the secondary, and can't block up front. 

Pick: MIN


Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) @ Green Bay Packers (1-0) - 1:00/CBS

Green Bay's defense is one of the best when it comes to putting points on the board. The Packer defense is not what worries me, in fact, nothing about Green Bay really worries me in this game.

Green Bay's biggest weakness is their offensive line, and Sunday night did not convince me otherwise.

Will their offensive line cost them this game? Probably not, but it will be the factor of whether or not Cincinnati will be able to keep this game close. Cincinnati is going to have to rely on their defense in order to keep the offense in realistic range to win this game.

If the Bengals find a way to control Rodgers with pressure and bad decision making, then maybe they will keep this game interesting. I would be surprised to see Cincinnati win this game, but don't be surprised if it is closer than the 10-point spread.

Offensively... Palmer, Ocho and Henry will have to play at full potential to keep this game close, which I don't see the Packer defense allowing (especially at home).

Green Bay is finally healthy on both sides of the ball, so really the only thing that can beat the Packers on Sunday is themselves.

Pick: GNB


Houston Texans (0-1) @ Tennessee Titans (1-0) - 1:00/CBS

I have not found one thing I don't like about the Tennessee Titans. They are tough, physical, fundamental, executionists, mentally focused, and ready to fight any day of the week.

All of those characteristics go on both sides of the football, which is why I still believe the Titans are a top-three team in the AFC.

I wish I could say the same for Houston, though. I never expected a big season from Slaton, and this week I expect no different.

The loss of Albert Haynesworth WILL NOT effect the Titans defense at all. Jason Jones is more than capable of filling into the tackle spot without the other 10 players missing a beat in their assignments.

Tennessee is an assignment team with a tough mindset. Experience and determination will win this game for Tennessee.

From an X's and O's standpoint, Houston will have to contain the attack of Johnson and White, because Tennessee will try to establish the run so Collins can pick apart the Texans secondary.

Houston's defense is good at best (secondary problems) and the offense seems to be in the Twilight Zone, confused and almost at a dead end. It is only week two and I have expectations for Houston to turn around their attitude and rhythm (mainly on offense).

Just don't expect to see a complete turnaround from Houston in just one week going on the road against arguably one of the league's best.

Pick: TEN


Oakland Raiders (0-1) @ Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) - 1:00/CBS

This is the most underrated game of the week. Both teams are heading into this week with something to prove. Oakland feels they should've won a hard-fought and impressive battle against the AFC West favorite Chargers.

They actually have a legitimate case of winning that game after Louis Murphy's touchdown was reversed.

Kansas City surprised many by competing in a very close game against a tough Ravens team. The Chiefs offense played well; but as week one showed, they just don't have the players to come up clutch in tight games against good squads.

The Chiefs are going to have to play well against the run (Bush and McFadden AKA: Run DMC) in order to force Russell to make plays. They gave up over 100 yards to Ray Rice last week and allowed the Ravens offense to use a balanced attack of run and pass to put up 30-plus points.

This might sound crazy, but I love what Tom Cable has established in Oakland. He has some of the league's best athletes playing good, smart, and fundamental football.

Everyone already knows what Asomugha and Seymour are capable of, but the role players around the superstars filled into their responsibilities very well in week one.

Kansas City's offense will have to execute on big play downs in order to stay in this game. This game should come down to the final few possessions, and I believe it will come down to what each team's quarterback can contribute in the final quarter of a tight game.

Pick: OAK


New England Patriots (1-0) @ New York Jets (1-0) - 1:00/CBS

New England seemed to find their groove in the final minutes of their Monday night game against Buffalo. The New England offense should be capable of putting up 30-plus points from here on in for the rest of the season.

Early in the MNF game, New England played away from their style of offense. That is opposite of Brady in the gun with a no-huddle attack.

Offensively speaking, the Patriots struggle to accumulate points in a fast-time manner should not blind the fact that this offense is capable of scorching any defense if taken lightly.

The Jets defense has not missed a beat from last season; and if anything, got better. Holding an overall explosive Houston offense to seven points is impressive, but the offense for New England doesn't compare to Houston's.

I don't see the Jets defense winning this game for them, mainly because I would take the Pats offense in a one-on-one battle with the Jets defense in a close divisional game.

My main concern for this game is how well New England's defense truly is. Seymour has left and Mayo is gone for now, but the corners for New England will give up as many plays as make them.

Sanchez will have to be confident in himself, his teammates and his offensive line in order to control this game.

The Jets should run their offense through Thomas Jones, but you cannot be one-dimensional against New England (especially a divisional game) and expect to win.

Expect a close game, but I don't see New England losing unless Brady has a career high in turnovers and Sanchez can play mistake-free when his number is called.

Pick: NWE


New Orleans Saints (1-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) - 1:00/CBS

This is actually a very simple breakdown. If McNabb doesn't play, New Orleans needs to mix up coverages and blitz in order to disrupt Kevin Kolb. 

What I learned about Philly last week was that they have the ability to score on all three phases of the game (offense, defense, and special teams).

Drew Brees is good, but people seem to forget that he is capable of making mistakes. He doesn't play at his best when pressure is on him, and Philly's defense is more than capable of that.  

Brees did have six touchdowns, but it was at home against the Lions. Not taking credit away from Brees, but he will have to fight through incredibly tough adversity in order to pull off a win in Philly; despite who's quarterbacking for Philly.

Pick: PHI


St. Louis Rams (0-1) @ Washington Redskins (0-1) - 1:00/FOX

St. Louis, in my mind, is the worst team in the NFL. Washington has way too many weapons on both sides of the football. Washington will more than likely work Portis on the ground opening up an easy passing game for Campbell.

The only time St. Louis seems to find success is when Jackson touches the ball a majority of the time with productive results. Washington's defense is more than capable of dominating a one-dimensional offense.

Pick: WAS


Arizona Cardinals (0-1) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) - 1:00/FOX

MJD might have a big day, but Garrard will feel pressure from an aggressive and athletic defensive line. I stil believe Arizona is a top-three team in the NFC.

Boldin will see more playing time this week and I don't think his hamstring will be a concern. I don't see any reason either rushing game should struggle, but I am taking Arizona's passing game over Jacksonville.

Both defenses will need to play full and focused defense for 60 minutes, so I think the edge goes to the team who makes more big plays on defense.

Pick: ARI


Seattle Seahawks (1-0) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-0) - 4:05/FOX

This is another under-rated game in week two. I am still not sold on the Seattle rushing attack, mainly because of who they played in week one. However, I am a huge believer in the passing attack Seattle is capable of perfecting.

Seattle's defense seems back on track after the shut out against St. Louis; but again, it's St. Louis. This is a good test for both teams who seem to have something to prove this season.

I expect a hard-fought battle, but I have no idea which way this game can go (meaning a lot of points scored or a little).

Frank Gore will be the difference maker for San Francisco's offense, and if he doesn't produce well, the 49ers offense will have to rely on Hill.

I like Hill though; but asking him to throw the ball 35 times in this game might be too much.

If Gore produces and the defense plays like it has been, then San Francisco should be fine. Seattle will have to rely on Hasselbeck for a long part of this game in order to survive.

Pick: SF


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) @ Buffalo Bills (0-1) - 4:05/FOX

Tampa's offense surprised me, but then I saw Leftwich get knocked around and remembered why I thought Tampa was a bad team. They don't have a quarterback. Leftwich is good, but a backup at best.

Even on plays where Leftwich found success, he was on the turf all the time. We all know about Leftwich's release, and Buffalo's defense will be knocking him around all day because of it.

Trent Edwards always gets off to a hot start in the season, and week one proved it. It is only week two and Buffalo is hungry for a win after that MNF game. Now a less-than-average offense comes into town and a climate they are not used to.

There should be no reason Buffalo doesn't put up an efficient amount of points in the first half (around 20 or so). Tampa is not the offense to make a miracle comeback when down in the game either.

Quick shout-out to Aqib Talib, the best defensive back in Tampa's secondary.

Pick: BUF


Baltimore Ravens (1-0) @ San Diego Chargers (1-0) - 4:15/CBS

The only thing that impressed me about San Diego last week was the development of Vincent Jackson. Flacco continues to improve each week and has better velocity and mobility than Rivers.

This will be another hard-fought game. LT is not playing and the Raven defense won't give up anything to Sproles on the ground.

If Baltimore's offense doesn't put up the amount of points I feel they are capable of, then the game will rest on the shoulders of Rivers.

Pick: BAL


Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) @ Chicago Bears (0-1) - 4:15/CBS

Cutler is not a bad quarterback; he just had a bad game, there is a huge difference. The Chicago O-line is not all too great; and when your playing a defense like Pittsburgh, you might be in deeper than you think. 

Cutler might have a big play down the field every now and then with Polamalu out. Other than that rare shed of light, the Pittsburgh defense should have a field day with Chicago.

Chicago's defense might be able to keep them in a tight low-scoring game, especially if they can stop the run. Overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers are just straight up better than Chicago. Like always, the Steeler defense will win the game for them despite Polamalu's absence.

Pick: PIT


Cleveland Browns (0-1) @ Denver Broncos (1-0) - 4:15/CBS

These are two mysterious teams that have young talent everywhere. Something that didn't really stand out to me in the off-season that I feel dumb for overlooking is how good Denver's secondary actually is.

I considered Cleveland one of the league's worst, and still do. I do like Brady Quinn though. I believe in Mangini down the road, but overall Denver is a better team and playing at home.

Pick: DEN


New York Giants (1-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (1-0) - 8:20/NBC

If hear one more one about this Jumbotron or the stadium I am going to throw my TV through my window, then go buy another one.

With that said, this is the game of the week in my mind. Both teams are playing as expected and should make for a great game.

I am still not sold on the Cowboy defense. This is a team who gave up 44 points to Philadelphia in a must-win game last season.

I also don't want to hear how Dallas' offense is playing better without T.O. Their offense was still dominate with T.O., and you're basing that completely off one week against a weak opponent in Tampa.  

I expect both Jacobs and Bradshaw to see plenty of carries and pound Dallas up front. The Giants pass rush is notorious for getting to quarterbacks, so Barber is going to have to be consistent in rushing in order to help the Dallas offense succeed.

Pick: NYG


Indianapolis Colts (1-0) @ Miami Dolphins (0-1) - 8:30 Monday/ESPN

Miami's defense will show up and pressure Peyton all night long. Porter and Taylor will be everywhere all night looking to make big plays. These are primetime players who shine in the spotlight.

Peyton is another one though, but he has less weapons and a bigger risk factor (in my mind). Gonzalez is out; but it's hard to pick against a Manning, especially in the spotlight.

Miami's offense is going to have to produce better than they did in week one, but I think people are still overlooking Atlanta's defense.

Ronnie Brown needs to produce and Ricky showed signs of improvement. However, I think Miami's defense will play well enough for the Dolphins to make plays when they need to.

The only way I see Miami losing this game is if the offense completely tanks or Peyton leads a last-minute drive.

Pick: MIA


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