Matt's Can't-Miss Picks for Week 2: Vikes go Down 0-2, Rodgers improves to 2-0
I thought I would try to make this a weekly effort. I'm terrible at remembering things, but this would give me something to do.
Anyway, Week Two will be upon us shortly. Week One provided us with no shortage of drama. Division winners Seattle and Indianapolis got shattered by Buffalo and Chicago, respectively. San Diego was shocked by a last-minute score from Carolina. And two of my Pro Bowl picks were invalidated as Marques Colston and that guy who plays QB for the Patriots both went down. Also, Vince Young is apparently depressed.
Early Game Picks
Chicago @ Carolina
The Story: These two teams both pulled off major upsets in Week One. Chicago basically stunned one of the best teams in the AFC, and Carolina pulled off a last-minute upset. Chicago has the chance to start 2-0, and no one in their right mind would have predicted that.
The Breakdown:On paper, these are two relatively evenly-matched teams. Chicago gets the slight edge in defense, while Carolina has the superior offense. However, I think the difference maker will be Carolina's D—it's too superior to the Bears' offense. In other words, from both sides, we're going to see a lot of incompletes and a lot of short runs.
The Prediction: Carolina wins in a low-scoring game.
Who to Watch: Jake Delhomme. He threw for about 250 yards in the season opener; he could well match those numbers again. He's not going to be scoring, but he is going to be getting yards.
Tennessee @ Cincinnati
The Story: Vince Young went down hard last week, and now there's a bunch of stories surfacing about how depressed he is. Despite his poor play, however, Tennessee currently stands atop the AFC South, as all three other teams lost their Week One games. As for Cincinnati, despite having Carson Palmer, Chad, and TJ Houshmandzadeh in the lineup, their offense never really quite got going.
The Breakdown: You gotta kinda figure the Bengals' offensive troubles will continue this week. Tennessee sacked David Garrard seven times, and he's playing behind a much better line than Carson Palmer is. Besides, Tennessee basically won 10 games last year on their defense— not their QB's arm.
On the Titans' side, Vince Young is gone, so this already lackluster offense lost another weapon. In other words, it's a solid offense versus a solid defense; with a porous defense taking on an anemic offense. This one's going to be a joy to watch.
The Prediction: I'm taking Tennessee, but it's going to be low-scoring. Rob Bironas will get their points.
Who to Watch: Rob Bironas. He's going to be...well, I just said it.
Green Bay @ Detroit
The Story:Favre, Favre...sorry, my first instinct as a sports blogger is just to type "Favre" a million times. Anyway, despite not having No. 4 in the lineup, Green Bay meted out a win against this year's media darling, the Minnesota Vikings. Ha! Detroit, on the other hand, played a team who no one expected to do anything at all...and still found a way to lose. What hath Matt Millen wrought?
The Breakdown: They might not have Michael Turner on their roster, but the backs for the Pack are plenty skilled. They'll follow the Burner's example and run all over this team. Sure, Green Bay's QB is only making his second career start, but...well, as last week showed, that doesn't mean anything when you're playing Detroit, now does it?
The Prediction: Green Bay wins by a solid margin.
Who to Watch: Whoever starts at running back for the Packers. Expect over 100 yards.
Buffalo @ Jacksonville
The Story: Who would have predicted Buffalo beating Seattle? And in a blowout, no less? Is this team poised to take control of the AFC East now that Brady's gone? On the other hand, the Jacksonville Jaguars seem to be the diametric opposite. Whereas their opponent very handily took it to a team that should have outplayed them, the Jags lost to a team they had no business losing to. Garrard...well, I've already said it.
The Breakdown: Really, this one is kinda tough to call. Both teams seem solid on all fronts; it could go either way. If Buffalo can keep the Jags' running game in check like the Titans did, then they'll dance off with this one. You've also gotta keep in mind that the Buffalos are playing in the heat this time, too.
The Prediction: It goes down to the wire, but Buffalo barely wins.
Who to Watch: Roscoe Parrish. He returned a punt for a TD in Week One, and it'll be interesting to see how the Jags handle him.
Oakland @ Kansas City
The Story: While everyone was reading Tom Brady news, the Chiefs were wondering how they'd handle the loss of their own Brodie Croyle. Would Huard step up like he did in '06, or would this season already be a lost cause? Meanwhile, Oakland just got manhandled by Denver— rookie Eddie Royal had 146 yards and a TD. Both are certainly looking for a win.
The Breakdown: Kansas City doesn't quite have the offensive presence that Denver does, but it'd be hard to imagine Oakland stopping anybody after the performance they turned in against the Broncos. On the flip side, Javon Walker looks like he won't be earning his massive contract— look for KC to shut him down.
The Prediction: I take Kansas City. It won't be a huge win, but it'll be a win.
Who to Watch: Bernard Pollard. If you're watching this game, please let me know how many times the announcers refer to him as "the guy who injured Tom Brady".
Indianapolis @ Minnesota
The Story: Minnesota, predicted by just about everyone to run away with the NFC North, dropped a very winnable game against Green Bay. Indianapolis, predicted by just about everyone to run away with the AFC South, dropped an incredibly winnable game against Chicago. Both teams are looking for revenge. Will they find it?
The Breakdown: Minnesota has a very, very good run defense. They always have. That would be a good thing, if, say, you were playing a team like the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, they're playing Peyton Manning here, and you can imagine that he's going to have a field day with this team. Add to this the fact that he's already frustrated by starting 0-1, and you've got yourself a blowout. Oh, and fun fact: highly paid defensive lineman Jared Allen didn't get to the QB last week. Fun, right?
The Prediction: Indy wins in a blowout. This may well be the biggest point margin of the week.
Who to Watch: Peyton Manning, obviously.
New York Giants @ St. Louis
The Story: St. Louis was on the butt end of a butt-kicking last week. Steven Jackson got shut down, Marc Bulger didn't do anything, and Torry Holt...well, he's still solid and reliable. The Giants, on the other hand, opened their title defense with a win.
The Breakdown: Three. That's the number of Philadelphia wide receivers that had 100-yard days against St. Louis. Keep in mind that starters Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis were gone, and the already laughable Rams pass defense becomes just tragic. And since New York actually fields good wideouts, they have all their ducks in a row. Sorry, Rams.
The Prediction: New York wins in a blowout.
Who to Watch: Plaxico Burress. Hey, if the Philly wideouts had career days against St. Louis, you can only imagine what Plax will do.
New Orleans @ Washington
The Story: New Orleans opened with a win, with Reggie Bush finally showing some skills, and Drew Brees looking good. Washington, on the other hand, didn't show much of anything, and Jason Taylor is probably playing injured.
The Breakdown: New Orleans put on a show through the air—337 yards—but for somereason they always seem to struggle against the Redskins. Washington would be wise to capitalize on this fact. Honestly, though, there's not much interesting about this game...
The Prediction: New Orleans ekes out a win.
Who to Watch: Jeremy Shockey. This is his first game against an NFC East opponent since being traded to the Saints. The announcers are sure to bring that up at least three times.
Late Game Picks
San Francisco @ Seattle
The Story: Both teams are 0-1 after Week One. Seattle's wideouts won't come out to play this year...
The Breakdown: Seattle is the superior team in this one. For SF to win, they're going to have to play all Frank Gore all day. That means a lot of packages of eight men in the box. Sorry, San Francisco, but J.T. O'Sullivan isn't going to step it up this time.
The Prediction: Seattle wins by a solid margin.
Who to Watch: Sorry, haven't got anyone. Matt Hasselbeck, maybe?
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
The Story: Atlanta pulled out a good-looking win in Week one—admittedly, it came against Detroit— on the legs of Michael Turner. Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass on his very first NFL attempt as well. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, dropped a game to a good-looking New Orleans team. Who will win?
The Breakdown: As happy as I was for Matt Ryan, I say this is the "honeymoon is over" game. Tampa's defense is just too good for him to have the sort of day he had a week ago. Look for a game more typical of an NFL rookie— bad decisions, incompletes, and interceptions. That means the Falcons will start relying on Turner, which means...yup, you guessed it, eight men in the box.
The Prediction: Tampa Bay wins. Not by a lot, but they still win.
Who to Watch: Michael Turner. Every time he touches the ball, someone will bring up his 220-yard performance in Week One.
The Breakdown: The Cardinals remind me a lot of the Jets, actually: a strong-armed, veteran quarterback with two solid options at wide receiver. Miami couldn't stop that look last week, and they won't stop it this week.
The Prediction: Arizona goes up to 2-0. Miami barely does anything.
Who to Watch: There is no one. Since the Phins are one week removed from playing Brett Favre, that's all anyone will be able to talk about.
San Diego @ Denver
The Story: The other AFC West game for Sunday features a team that was upset and a team that walked all over...Oakland. Who will win?
The Breakdown: It's really tough to call a game like this. San Diego was upset, Denver destroyed a team that barely played at all. If Denver plays like they did last week, then they'll pull off the win. If not, San Diego wins.
The Prediction: San Diego by a nose.
Who to Watch: Eddie Royal. Nine receptions, 146 yards, and a score in Week One.
New England @ New York Jets
The Story: Between Tom Brady's injury and Brett Favre's...well, existence, the media saturation for this game is immense. I'll bet this game has gotten more press than the Super Bowl.
The Breakdown: Tom Brady is gone, but remember the situation that led to his emergence. Heavily favored QB gets injured...unknown QB takes over...team goes to the Super Bowl. As for the Jets, they're not going to win. New England is too talented a team.
The Prediction: New England wins by about seven points.
Who to Watch: Matt Cassel, obviously.
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland
The Story: Cleveland opened the '08 season by basically allowing Dallas to move the ball at will. Pittsburgh opened the '08 season by asking "Who's Alan Faneca? We don't need no stinkin' Alan Faneca."
The Breakdown: More of the same from Week One. The solid play of Pittsburgh's O-line continues. The poor play of Cleveland's defense continues.
The Prediction: Pittsburgh wins by about 15 points.
Who to Watch: Willie Parker. He scored three times in the season opener. He figures to look really good this week too.
Philadelphia @ Dallas
The Story: Both teams demolished their opponents in Week One; Dallas taking it to Cleveland and Philly ravaging St. Louis.
The Breakdown: Tough to call. Philly's backup wide receivers did a heck of a job in Week 1; but Dallas possesses a much better pass defense than St. Louis. This game goes down to the wire...
The Prediction: Dallas by a nose.
Who to Watch: Donovan McNabb. Here we'll see exactly how much he's recovered.
The Breakdown: Let's just say Baltimore's defense will win this game for them. The only offensive player of note in Houston is Andre Johnson, but Schaub will be too busy running for dear life to get the ball to him.
The Prediction: Baltimore by 7-10 points.
Who to Watch: The entire Ravens' D.
That's all. Check back next week to see how accurate my predictions are.
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