After a long lockout and delayed off-season, NFL fans were itching for the season to start. Two weeks into the season, they have not been disappointed.
One of the shockers so far is the fact that after only two games, just seven teams remain undefeated. According to Foxsports.com, this is the lowest number since 2005. Also, of these seven teams, several are huge surprises.
What's most amazing of all is the incredible number of people band wagon jumping in the first two weeks. If any more people climb on the Detroit Lions bandwagon, it'll knock Matthew Stafford off and separate his shoulder. And I'm as happy for the "feel good story" Bills as the next guy, but Ryan Fitzpatrick should not be called a franchise quarterback after defeating the worst team currently in the NFL, and leading a come-from-behind victory over a team still recovering from losing their top defensive player in the off-season. Don't people realize leading a "come-from-behind" victory means you first had to lead your team in losing?
It's time for some cold doses of reality. The consistent powerhouses will rumble on, and these fast horses that stormed out of the gate will find they tire out as the season winds on.
The only question that remains is: What week?
Drew Brees is the game-changing player who will lead the Saints to victory.
Week 3: New Orleans Saints
Why they'll lose:
Surprised to see the Texans first?
As impressive as they've been (especially without last year's top rusher Arian Foster), the Texans undefeated streak will end, lit up by the laser passes of Drew Brees at home. The Houston Texans are a very talented team, but also very young team. As the year continues I believe they will grow in their ability to compete with top-flight teams. Come playoff time, I believe we will see a completely different Texans team (fresh off their AFC South Championship).
However, they are still learning a new defensive system. Their 3-4 defense, though powerful against the run, and more balanced team will be ripped apart by Drew Brees' wide range of receivers and excellent ball distribution. Don't be deceived by the Texans number one pass defense. They've played the Manning-less Colts and the Quarterback-less Dolphins.
In a fairly easy game, I see the Houston Texans falling to 2-1 in Week 3 at the hands of the New Orleans Saints.
Tom Brady is the game-changing player who will lead the Patriots to victory.
Week 3: New England Patriots
Why they'll lose:
It's hard to find a team more misunderstood than the Buffalo Bills.
On one hand, they're the most underrated team in the NFL. Picking third overall last year, the Buffalo Bills seemed years from any sort of success. However, although lacking in depth, their talent level is significantly greater than people realize.
On the offensive side of the ball, they feature an above average, talented and extremely intelligent quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, a 1-2 punch of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, and a very talented receiver in Steve Johnson.
Defensively, they have star Jarius Byrd (a season away from leading the league in interceptions), first round picks Leodis McKelvin and Marcell Dareus, and veterans Nick Barnett and Shawn Merriman. The talent pool is not quite so barren in Buffalo.
However, on the other hand they are extremely overrated. Buffalo's talent pool builds up to a 5-11 to 7-9 season and promise for the future. People seem to have forgotten this in their glee over Buffalo seeming signifcant again. There are no playoff hopes and no undefeated streak to watch in the coming weeks. The New England Patriots have won 22 of 23 against the Buffalo, and 15 in a row. In Week 3, they make that 16 in a relatively easy victory in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bills Bandwagon comes to a crashing halt as they fall to 2-1 in Week 3.
DeMarcus Ware is the game-changing player who will lead the Cowboys to victory.
Week 3: Dallas Cowboys
Why they'll lose:
I'm beginning to look like an underdog hater, but I like to just consider myself a realist and student of history. Have people forgotten so soon that we are talking about the Washington Redskins? The team that every year seems to pull off some dramatic victory that gets people hoping, but always seems to turn out as a fluke.
I saw a great article title talking about the Redskins' success. The article was entitled "Mike Shannan was not crazy?"
Similar to the Buffalo Bills, people are getting too excited. The Redskins surprised an extremely unprepared and injured New York Giants team, then came from behind to defeat the defenseless Cardinals. However, this is due, in large part, to the Redskins' element of surprise. Nobody actually excpted them to show up and play!
However, the Cowboys, led by Tony Romo (or the very capable Jon Kitna), fresh off a comeback victory themselves will not underestimate them. NFL sack leader Demarcus Ware will cause Rex Grossman nightmares coming off the edge, and the Cowboys highflying offense will prove too strong for the Redskins defense.
In a close game, I predict the Redskins to fall to 2-1 against the (at home) Dallas Cowboys in Week 3.
Ray Rice is the game-changing player who will lead the Ravens to victory.
Week 4: Oakland Raiders
Week 5: Baltimore Ravens
Why They'll Lose:
If you were to pick a team most like the New York Jets, it would be the Baltimore Ravens. Both feature attitude-driven top-five defenses, excellent coaching, but only average offenses.
However, the Ravens offense is just slightly better, and that will be the difference. Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco are both talented but inconsistent quarterbacks who are both trying to break out.
The Jets wide receivers are probably slightly better, led by Santonio Holmes. However, Ray Rice destroys the huge disappointment that is Shonn Greene in a contest of running backs. Rice's ability to run and catch would allow the Ravens to be a two-dimensional offense, while the Jets would be forced only pass, playing into the hands of the Ravens defense.
The Jets should get past the Raiders, but in a close game. I see them losing to the Ravens in Baltimore, falling to 4-1.
Roddy White is the game-changing player who will lead the Falcons to victory.
Week 3: Minnesota
Week 4: Dallas
Week 5: Chicago
Week 6: San Francisco
Week 7: Atlanta
Why They'll Lose:
I admit, I'm a huge Lions fan, but I still think I'm right. Minnesota and San Francisco should be easy wins. Dallas is a concern, but considering Tony Romo's situation, he would probably have gotten hurt even if he didn't already have a cracked rip and punctured lung. The Lions pass rush should be able to take care of them.
Next they have Chicago, and I'll admit, they could very easily lose that game. Jay Cutler would be the first real quarterback the Lions have faced, and he should reveal how weak their secondary really is. However, I'm picking the Lions. If Stafford stays healthy, even in a shootout, I'd take Stafford, Best and Johnson over Cutler, Forte and Knox.
Against Atlanta, however, the streak will collapse. The two dimensional attack of Michael Turner and the aerial threat of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Julio Jones will shred the Lions. Roddy White will dominate whoever guards him. The Falcons offensive line is good enough to give Ryan time, and he won't need much to beat that secondary. Look for the Falcons to get a fair amount of pressure with John Abraham and Ray Edwards. I think the Lions lose this one.
In Week 7, the Lions will lose to the Atlanta Falcons falling to 6-1.
James Harrison is the game-changing player who will lead the Steelers to victory.
Week 3: Buffalo Bills
Week 4: Oakland Raiders
Week 5: New York Jets
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: Pittsburgh Steelers
Why They'll Lose:
Because the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the few teams that have game-changing offensive player makers, in addition to a defense that can apply pressure.
The Patriots are playing incredible right now, and over the next couple weeks, they won't be playing anybody who can compete with them. The New York Jets got worse in the offseason with the departures of Shaun Ellis and Braylon Edwards, and the Patriots only got better. And the Cowboys don't have the defense (behind DeMarcus Ware) to stop Brady.
The greatest strength for the Pittsburgh Steelers is their playmakers, such as Rashard Mendenhall. Power run games have been a weakness for the Patriots for years. Hanyesworth has been unimpressive and they don't have the linebacker strength behind Mayo to stop Mendenhall. Have you ever even heard of Rob Ninkovich? And good luck to safeties Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown defending Mike Wallace over the top.
Defensively, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the pass rush to force Tom Brady into mistakes. The Patriots have only an average run game, and the Steelers led by Defensive Players of the Year James Harrison (2008), and Troy Polamalu (2010) should be able to make them a one dimensional offense. With Tom Brady forced to throw on long third downs, the Steelers will have time to get to the quarterback.
The Steelers have certainly underperformed thus far and the Ravens game was an embarrassment, but I think they've learned their lesson and will pull it together for the remainder of the season.
That's why in Week 8, I pick the New England Patriots to lose in Pittsburgh to the Steelers, falling to 6-1.
Phillip Rivers is the game-changing player who will lead the Chargers to victory.
Week 3: Chicago Bears
Week 4: Denver Broncos
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
Week 6: Saint Louis Rams
Week 7: Minnesota Vikings
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: San Diego Chargers
Why They'll Lose:
Led by Philip Rivers, the Chargers become the first team of the 2011 season to hang with the Packers in a shootout, and I think in the end they take it.
It's no surprise that the Green Bay Packers, as the defending champions, are the last team to lose. With the way that Aaron Rodgers is playing, he should compete with Tom Brady for his first MVP award. The defense has been incredibly unimpressive so far, but Dom Capers has led the Packers to being a top-five defense in total yards the last two years. The streak may not continue, but look for their defense to be vastly improved in the coming weeks.
Offensively, nobody seems to be able to compete with them. So, regardless of how well the defense plays, (as evidenced in week 1) in a shootout they still win. An argument could be made that the New England Patriots could out score them, but I take the Packers because of their vastly superior wide receivers. The New Orleans Saints are the high-flying team, heavy passing team of the league, and the Packers clearly outplayed them.
So how can the Chargers win? The Chargers offense can stay with the Packers. Philip Rivers is a clear top five quarterback, coming off of a 4,700 yard, 30+ touchdown season, without star receiver Vincent Jackson. The defense has suffered some injuries, but last year it was number one in yards defense, and they added new veterans Takeo Spikes and Bob Sanders (former Defensive Player of the Year). Talent-wise the Packers are stronger.
But I think the pressure against the Packers will lead to them causing some mistakes (as was seen against the Panthers in Week 2). The San Diego Chargers have a strange history of starting slow, but then playing incredibly the last half of every season (7-2 in 2010, 9-0, in 2009). And finally, the game is in San Diego, where the Chargers have been 12-4 over the last two years.
It is for these reasons that I believe the Green Bay Packers will lose in San Diego in Week 9, falling to 7-1.