The statistics speak for themselves: the passing in the first two weeks of the NFL season has been good. Very good.
After two games, the quarterbacks have combined for 23 300-yard passing games. This puts them on pace for 184 such games.
Compare that to last year, when quarterbacks combined for 95 300-yard passing games during the season.
Could this increase be explained by the fact that defenses had less time to get ready because of the lockout? Perhaps.
But compare the numbers to 1999: Kurt Warner was leading "The Greatest Show on Turf" to a Super Bowl, Peyton Manning was just beginning his run of remarkable years, Mark Brunell was leading a potent Jaguars offense, and Steve McNair was playing extremely well. And yet that year produced just 63 300-yard passing games.
The only explanation for such an increase is the rule changes the league has since implemented (or strictly enforced) that protect offensive players.
Don't get me wrong: player safety is paramount, and something clearly needed to be done.
But the enforcement of the rules has gotten way out of hand.
Defenders can expect a fine for any illegal hit, no matter how quick the play happens, and offensive players know it.
Look at the case of Dunta Robinson: (Let me preface this by saying that Robinson's hit on DeSean Jackson last year was gruesome and a textbook fine). Was Robinson's hit on Jeremy Maclin a 15-yard penalty? I mean, he caught him right on the facemask with his helmet, so yes.
But he was leading with his shoulder. (Any of these "experts" who say that because his head was down, he wasn't leading with his shoulder are being insane: show me one instance of a player leading with his shoulder and holding his head up)
From there, it's clear what happened: in the split second he had to prepare himself and go for it, Robinson missed the target he was aiming for (shoulder to shoulder) and got Maclin with his helmet. Sure, that's a penalty.
But why does he get a fine? How can any defender stop that play from happening (you know, besides getting a perfect hit every time)?
So next time, whether consciously or not, Dunta Robinson (and probably any other defender who saw that play) will probably be cautious with his hit; and receivers, knowing this fact, will take advantage.
(Maclin's oversell of the whole incident made it all the more atrocious. Quite the dive.)
So look at the effects of these rules: defenders have their livelihoods taken away on a weekly basis because they make hits that they cannot prevent; this causes numbers to be increased to such an extent that you have to wonder how you can compare those from previous seasons; and from Vick's concussion and Romo's punctured lung, it seems that players are still getting hurt.
The NFL needs to get the memo: football is a contact sport. Players are going to get hurt. Increase padding. Find a way to make the helmets protect the head better. Just stop changing the game before it turns into two-hand touch.
BENGALS (-2.5) over Niners
After two games, I trust Andy Dalton much more than I trust Alex Smith. And where is Frank Gore? Seriously, I have not heard this mentioned yet this season, but where did he go?
Patriots (-7.5) over BILLS
The Bills bandwagon is getting a little too crowded for me. Yes, I think they're vastly improved and a playoff contender. But are they ready to compete with the Patriots? Not with how Brady's playing.
SAINTS (-4.5) over Texans
Read everything I wrote above for the last game, just change Bills to Texans, Patriots to Saints, and Brady to Brees.
Giants (+9) over EAGLES
Too many question marks in this game: How is Vick going to play? Just how bad of a situation is the Giants' secondary in? Can the Eagles take advantage of this, even if Vick plays up to par? Just how angry will the Giants play after last year's game?
I'll take the points.
BROWNS (+1.5) over Dolphins
Neither of these two teams have played up to their potential yet. Browns have just been closer. But I wouldn't be surprised to see the Dolphins steal this one and be the enigma (play opposite of how you'd expect) of this season, just like last.
Broncos (+6.5) over TITANS
How did the Titans gain so many fans so quickly?
I mean, yes, they beat the Ravens. But don't we usually see the Ravens toss in a head-scratcher every year?
Meanwhile, the Broncos haven't looked good. At all.
Lions (-3.5) over VIKINGS
Look, I think the Lions are overvalued and the Vikings are undervalued. The Lions did look really good last week, but that was against the Chiefs. I expect the Vikings to have a breakout game one of these weeks. It may be this week, but I'll let them prove it to me.
Jaguars (+3.5) over PANTHERS
Prediction: Cam Newton becomes the first player with 3 400-yard passing days and 0 wins. This will lead to his public coronation as the greatest player never to win a game.
CHARGERS (-14.5) over Chiefs
Stay away from this pick. I don't trust it at all.
I mean, it's way too early to be certain that the Chiefs are bad enough to lay 14+ points against them.
But man have they looked that bad.
RAIDERS (+3) over Jets
I like this as an upset special. Raiders have looked good on offense, but maybe a little vulnerable on defense. Luckily, they're up against Mr. Sanchez.
Ravens (-4.5) over RAMS
Easy money pick of the week. Ravens will be mad at themselves for last week's no-show. Doesn't matter if Steven Jackson plays, expect a blowout.
Falcons (+2.5) over BUCS
How is this line where it is? The Falcons had two of the top playoff teams from last year and beat the Eagles in a shootout while the Bucs had a lackluster performance against the Lions and needed a comeback against the Vikings. Make this my "upset that shouldn't really be an upset" of the week.
Cardinals (-3) over SEAHAWKS
I do not trust the Cardinals with points on the road. The Seahawks have just looked that bad.
BEARS (+4) over Packers
They're not invincible, guys. The Packers have given up 800 yards through the air, and Nick Collins being out for the season may spell even more trouble for that secondary. And if there's one team that has been able to neutralize Rodgers (comparatively), it's the Bears. Expect a grinding game that is decided by a field goal.
Steelers (+10.5) over COLTS
Hey NBC: can you please consider making the flex schedule in effect earlier in the season?
COWBOYS (-5.5) over Redskins
I don't see anything but a Romo injury that will make this game not a win for the Cowboys. I mean, don't you see a Grossman stinker coming?
Last week: 9-6-1