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Last Week: 8-8
Season Record: 8-8
St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons
Prediction: One thing that must concern Atlanta from week one is their lack of protection for Matt Ryan. That Saints got after him and the Rams are better equipped than they are. Robert Quinn had three sacks last week, so the Falcons are going to have to account for him. Picking the Rams is tempting, but the Georgia Dome is one of the last remaining home-field advantages.
Falcons 28 Rams 20
Lock of the Week
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Prediction: The Browns are doing themselves and Brandon Weeden no favors by having the second-year quarterback attempt 53 passes. Their best offensive player is Trent Richardson. Even if they fall behind early, this must get him at least 20 touches per game. That’s their best path to victory. Richardson will get his touches, but the Ravens are coming off a humiliating defeat in Denver. They’re also feeling disrespected as the NFL scheduled their home opener as a week two day game. Now is not the right time to play Baltimore.
Ravens 27 Browns 10
Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills
Prediction: Inside of six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Carolina was working on a potential game-winning drive. Then DeAngelo Williams fumbled, costing the Panthers an opportunity of upsetting Seattle. The Panthers played Seattle very well and Buffalo’s basically a poor man’s version of the Seahawks. They want to run the ball well, get efficient quarterback play, and dominate with their front seven. The problem is they’re still a year -- or two -- away from replicating anything Seattle does.
Panthers 23 Bills 13
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Prediction: Forget Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning, no quarterback had a better week than Jay Cutler did. Okay, but consider the circumstances. Against a very good Cincinnati defense, Cutler didn’t turn the ball over and wasn‘t sacked once. It’s just one game, but Chicago is buzzing about their offensive line’s progress. They’ll trounce Minnesota if Cutler protects the ball and the offensive line keeps his jersey clean.
Bears 31 Vikings 14
Washington at Green Bay Packers
Prediction: It’s been 44 consecutive regular-season games since Green Bay had a 100-yard rusher. That streak ends on Sunday. Eddie Lacy will rush for 100 yards against Washington. I’m calling my shot right now. With the exception of the secondary, the Packers played well in defeat. Their defensive front won the battle against a stout San Francisco offensive line, the offensive line pass protected well, and Aaron Rodgers looked in mid-season form. Unfortunately, so did Kaepernick. Washington doesn’t have the same kind of firepower as San Francisco, and the Packers are getting Morgan Burnett back, so I suspect the secondary will fare better. From Green Bay’s perspective, they treated week one as a playoff game, so a letdown is possible. In fact, it might be Washington’s best hope because Green Bay will win big, if they play them as well as they did San Francisco.
Packers 38 Washington 21
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Prediction: Whoever made the schedule didn’t do Houston any favors. They play a late, late Monday night game on the west coast and six days later, they’re kicking off in the early game. As a result, they could start slow, but they’re vastly superior to Tennessee. They should have no problems pulling away, as Arian Foster gets back on track.
Texans 27 Titans 17
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts
Prediction: Winning in the NFL is tough. You hear ex players say this all the time, so Miami isn’t going to apologize for their victory over Cleveland. However, the Browns’ play calling was a huge reason why Miami won that game. I’m sure the Dolphins would argue their defense forced Cleveland into that situation. Fair enough, but they won’t have as much success with Andrew Luck as they did with Weeden.
Colts 27 Dolphins 17
Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs
Prediction: While it might not be the best matchup, this could be the toughest game to pick on the schedule. Everybody is excited bout Dallas and Kansas City, but allow me to poor rain on those parades. The Cowboys forced five turnovers and still needed one more to guarantee victory over the Giants. The Chiefs, meanwhile, beat the Jaguars. How legitimate is that? It’ll take at least a month to get a read on these two teams. Since I have to make a guess, though, I’ll take Dallas in a shootout.
Cowboys 35 Chiefs 31
Upset of the Week
San Diego Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles
Prediction: Another team receiving a ton of hype is Philadelphia. Much of their first half success, however, had to with Washington’s own undoing. In Washington’s first six plays, they had a fumble, an interception, and a safety. This is a huge moment for San Diego head coach Mike McCoy. He can’t let his team dwell on its second half collapse. I don’t think he will. San Diego’s defense will play better, pressuring Michael Vick into making poor decisions. The Chargers’ offense will also show up for the entire game this week.
Chargers 28 Eagles 24
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
Prediction: Subtract Adrian Peterson’s 78-yard touchdown run, and Detroit dominated Minnesota last Sunday. It wasn’t even close. The Lions offense was rolling, despite Calvin Johnson catching only four passes. A year ago, you could image a scenario where Patrick Peterson keeps Johnson in check, forcing Stafford into poor decisions. This year, however, Detroit can beat you with Reggie Bush and their front four. The latter will make the difference against Arizona’s lackluster offensive line.
Lions 24 Cardinals 17
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Prediction: Facing a fourth-and-2 inside Atlanta’s five-yard line, Sean Payton made one of the best coaching moves of the week. He kicked a field goal, giving a vote of confidence to his defense. That decision will set the tempo for the reminder of the year. With that said, I remain unsold on Rob Ryan’s defense. I like the aggressive approach, but the Superdome’s a great home-field advantage for them. Let’s see how they do on the road against one of the game’s best running backs.
Buccaneers 30 Saints 28
Denver Broncos at N.Y. Giants
Prediction: Benching David Wilson after his second fumble could be a good teaching moment for Tom Coughlin and New York’s coaching staff. However, not featuring him against Denver would be going too far. The Giants owe it to the other 52 players to play their best guys, and Wilson is their best running back. This is a dangerous game for Denver. All they’ve heard this week is how great they are. People are even talking Super Bowl. The Giants are coming off one of their worst performances in recent memory, so they’ll have more focus this week. The pass rush that disrupts the opposing quarterback’s timing will be the difference in the game. I’m giving the edge to the Giants in yet another upset pick.
Giants 34 Broncos 28
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders
Prediction: Everybody’s picking Oakland. That’s probably something Raider fans never thought they’d hear. It’s a byproduct of playing Jacksonville and genuine excitement regarding Terrelle Pryor. Nonetheless, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Maurice Jones-Drew runs for 125 yards and leads the Jaguars to victory. After all, the Raiders tend to lose whenever they‘re expected to win. I’m going against my better judgment, though, and sticking with Oakland.
Raiders 24 Jaguars 13
Game of the Week
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Prediction: Having football’s best home-field advantage gives Seattle an advantage over any opponent that enters Qwest Field. This is also a tough spot for San Francisco. They go from playing a hungry Packer team to playing their biggest rival. Moreover, I thought Kaepernick’s week one performance overshadowed a couple of weaknesses in San Francisco’s arsenal. They did not run the ball particularly well and their defense uncharacteristically missed tackles. Kaepernick’s also going to have to spread the ball around against Seattle. Richard Sherman is a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate and capable of rendering Anquan Boldin a non-factor. It’s only week two, but this could be the first of three meetings this season, as both teams have Super Bowl aspirations. Seattle needs this one, if they’re going to dethrone San Francisco in the NFC West.
Seahawks 23 49ers 17
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Prediction: Neither team was impressive in loses. The Bengals blew an 11-point lead en route to losing against Chicago. And the Steelers played about as bad a game as they’ve ever played under Mike Tomlin. Pittsburgh is really reeling right now. They have no running game and they have a bunch of No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers. They need a legitimate No. 1. I’m very high on rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, but it says a lot about your team when a rookie’s absence makes this kind of impact.
Bengals 21 Steelers 13