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Every wise man knows that there is nothing wrong with admitting you were wrong about something.
Well, I have some explaining to do, because I have been wrong about a lot of things, as proven by the slate of games that transpired this past Wednesday, Sunday, and Monday.
I went 10-6 in my picks last week. In some seasons, that won’t even get you in the playoffs!
So how’s about we give it another go, eh? Here are my initial thoughts on what week two of the 2012 NFL season will have to offer:
Bears @ Packers
Although I erred in picking Green Bay to win their home opener last week against the 49ers, I was correct in that I foretold a thrilling showdown. Once the Packers got a jolt from Randall Cobb on special teams (who has now scored on a kick/punt return in the season opener of both of his NFL seasons), it looked like they might have a comeback in them. Then Frank Gore happened.
The Packers, by the looks of things, have returned in 2012 with the same suspect defense that got them in trouble last season, and against the Niners, their potent, high-scoring offense could not bail them out. This does not bode well for the Pack as they have the Bears coming to town.
In years past, the Bears passing game has been a laughing matter. The Packers have had little trouble with Devin Hester or Earl Bennett, and in one game of their convincing sweep of Chicago last season, they held Matt Forte to two yards. Jay Cutler has frankly not had the weapons at his disposal to beat Green Bay. Enter Brandon Marshall. At 6’4”, 230 lbs, he’ll be a nightmare for the house-of-cards Green Bay secondary.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense will still put up a fair amount of points against the Bears’ stingy defense, but for the first time in who-knows-how-long, the Bears might be able to match them offensively.
I know it’s early in the season, and home-field advantages haven’t really developed into the late-season reliability factors that they become in November, but the Packers will not drop two home games in a row, especially to begin a season that is not supposed to end until February by many counts.
Raiders @ Dolphins
Oh boy, this will be a thriller, now won’t it? Two of the NFL’s most exciting offenses in a bout of magnificent proportions!
…Yeah, not really. I don’t think even Billy Mays could sell that one.
The truth is that these offenses both looked pitiful in their regular season debuts. Yes, they both played good teams, but I’m not ready to give San Diego and Houston that much credit.
This game will be decided by running games: Darren McFadden versus the Dolphins defense, and Reggie Bush/Daniel Thomas (the latter of whom may be out with a concussion) versus the Oakland defense—so the logical question to ask here is: who has the better run-defense? Well, it’s difficult to say definitively at this point, but I’ve got to go with Oakland, who held the Ryan Mathews-less Chargers to 32 rushing yards on 20 carries (1.6 yard-per-carry average). Though they have lost defensive end Kamerion Wimbley through free agency (he was more of a pass rusher anyway), they still have Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly on the interior line, who, despite a few offsides penalties, had pretty good games on Monday night against San Diego.
The sad issue for the Phins is that they simply lack weapons on both sides of the ball. I expect a huge game from Darren McFadden, who will get plenty of touches, compliments of a Miami offense that cannot move or protect the ball. If jet lag doesn’t get to them, I like Oakland to take it to Miami on the ground in this one.
Texans @ Jaguars
Despite a loss, Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert played one of the best games of his young professional career in a loss against Minnesota on Sunday. He even made tight end Marcedes Lewis look like his old self again, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Jags have bolstered their receiving unit with Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson, though both were relatively quiet in Minnesota, statistically speaking.
The Texans were anything but quiet in Miami last week, wreaking havoc on the woeful, helpless Dolphins. The Houston defense was a fantasy favorite, coming away with three sacks, three interceptions and a fumble; and Arian Foster lived up to the hype, rushing for 79 yards and two touchdowns—on a bum knee at that!
Continuing their conquest of the state of Florida, The Texans should have it easy again this week against division rivals Jacksonville, who, I will admit, played better than I expected in week one, but are no match for one of the AFC’s premier squads. Houston has all the answers for Maurice Jones-Drew, while Jacksonville has none of the answers for Arian Foster or Andre Johnson. This could easily be another decisive win, if not a blowout, for the Texans.
Browns @ Bengals
Last week, I said prematurely about the Browns/Eagles game: “Philly’s got this one in the bag.” As it turned out, however, it was Cleveland who had the game “in the bag,” only they managed to let things slip away late in the fourth quarter, despite forcing five turnovers out of the vaunted Philadelphia offense—four from the hands of Michael Vick.
The problem, as you might have guessed, or seen for yourself on Sunday, was that Cleveland could not score on offense. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden looked even worse than rookie compadre Ryan Tannehill, throwing four interceptions, completing only 12 passes out of 35 attempts, and leading the Browns’ offense to a touchdownless game. (Yes, “touchdownless” is a word as far as I’m concerned.)
The defense, as I expected, was far more promising, more than holding their own against the Eagles’ extensive weaponry, and that is why the Browns have a shot against Cincinnati this weekend.
Unfortunately, Cleveland’s offense still won’t look much better against Cincinnati’s defense, which just didn’t look like itself against Baltimore on Monday night, giving up 37 points (excluding Ed Reed’s pick-six). Cincinnati’s defense, I maintain, in spite of their spanking at the hands of the Ravens, is good. Avoid the penalty (particularly pass interferences in the end zone on 4th and 1) and they should easily dispose of Cleveland’s lightweight offense and even their division record at 1-1.
Chiefs @ Bills
Here are two clubs who need redemptive wins—particularly the Bills, who did nothing but embarrass themselves against the Jets on Sunday. The Chiefs, I can forgive; they played and were thoroughly beaten by Atlanta, who looked very good.
I expected more out of Buffalo—their defense, on paper, looked poise to knock the Jets right out the sky (especially considering how atrocious the Jets offense looked in preseason); instead they got rolled for almost 50 points. I don’t know how I can expect them to bounce back against Kansas City when they simply played some of the worst football I saw over the weekend.
The Bills might have been the worst team in the league on Sunday, but they aren’t the worst team in the league. They will beat Miami. (I’m sorry to any Dolphins fans still reading this; I don’t mean to keep picking on your team.) But I have a harder time seeing them pulling it together against Kansas City, especially without their best offensive weapon, Fred Jackson, who will miss a few weeks with a knee injury he sustained Sunday.
Kansas City has avoided the injury bug so far, which is more than they could say at this point last season after losing Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeaki right off the bat, so I am picking them to get their first win on the road in Buffalo.
Ravens @ Eagles
And here, we have a preview of Chris Berman’s Super Bowl prediction. Half of it looks good to me.
We saw on Monday which half. The Ravens demolished a powerful division rival by more than thirty points. The Eagles were a different story; they had fits trying to shuck the lowly Browns for crying out loud!
If these teams play like they did last week, this game will end with a Baltimore win somewhere in the vicinity of a 40-point deficit if not more. Hey, there’s no reason it couldn’t end in such a way. The Ravens are in every way a better team than the Browns, and even if Philly’s performance on Sunday was the result of an “off” day (which I believe it was), Baltimore could still mercilessly pound them on both sides of the ball. I know one thing is for certain: if Philadelphia turns the ball over five times against the Ravens, they’re in for it big-time. And Philly better get prepared on defense too; Joe Flacco is hot, coming off of maybe the best game of his career.
I agree with Boomer, Baltimore, along with New England and Houston, is a bona fide AFC Super Bowl contender. Philly, however, has some work to do. I like the Ravens in this one decisively, but maybe not by forty points.
Vikings @ Colts
I won’t even bother with the sarcasm this time, this one is another yawner in that neither of these teams has much of a shot at a playoff appearance (this is generally the part where Colts fans defer to Jim Mora: “Playoffs?!”).
Well, I, like Jim Mora, just hope the Colts can win a game; it would at least put them half-even with 2011’s forgettable 2-14 result. This could be their first legitimate chance. They’ll try their Luck against a mediocre Vikings team with a “gimpy” Adrian Peterson.
If Adrian Peterson was gimpy on Sunday, I’m an Olympic sprinter. He looked as good as ever, rushing for 84 yards and two touchdowns on limited carries. Head coach Leslie Frazier is indicating that Peterson, again, will be limited, but if limited entails the kind of game he had against Jacksonville, I’m not worried if I’m a Vikings fan.
Andrew Luck, meanwhile, has received mixed reviews on his week-one performance and first NFL start; fitting, because his performance was a mixed bag of errors, and sporadically sharp quarterbacking. Minnesota will not have the same sort of defensive willpower that rebuffed Luck in Chicago. The most harrowing task on his agenda against the Vikes is avoiding the relentless pass rush of defensive end Jared Allen. Allen will match up against Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who did a respectably solid job against Julius Peppers this past Sunday.
I like Luck to get his first professional “W” this weekend.
Cardinals @ Patriots
Looking back to last Sunday, the Titans/Patriots game was a rough one, literally. The Titans lost Nate Washington and Jake Locker to injury on the same play, and Tom Brady took a hard one right on the schnoz. All in all though, the Patriots came out with an impressive win. They still look like the team to beat in their conference.
The Cardinals overcame a potentially perilous botched call late in their contest with the Seahawks to come out with a division win in their opener. They did, however, lose quarterback John Skelton in the process, meaning Kevin Kolb is the starter—again. Let’s be honest though—it probably would have happened eventually anyway.
Despite coming away with a victory, the Cardinals offense still looked less than promising. Larry Fitzgerald led the way with 63 receiving yards on 4 receptions and could not find the end zone, while the running game mustered only a meager 43 yards. They were lucky that Seattle’s offense was as poor as their own. New England’s spotty defense has little beyond Fitzgerald to worry about.
There are no questions about New England’s offensive efficiency. As expected, Brady and the Gronkowski/Hernandez tight end tag team came out firing on all cylinders. Adrian Wilson and the Arizona secondary will have worlds of trouble trying to slow them down.
The Pats will make 2-0 look very easy.
Saints @ Panthers
The Panthers might have been the weekend’s biggest disappointment. Cam Newton looked bad. He eclipsed 300 yards (barely, with 303), but threw two interceptions and rushed for only four yards on five attempts (though he had one long one called back by a questionable holding penalty on tight end Greg Olsen). I was dumbfounded to see Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski run the ball only 13 times against Tampa Bay’s weak front seven. With Jonathan Stewart inactive, the ground duties fell upon Newton and DeAngelo Williams primarily, who combined for four measly yards—one less than Carolina’s leading rusher, Kealoha Pilares with five.
I can’t explain the peculiar play-calling. But perhaps the peculiar play-calling explains the pathetic 10 points that Carolina managed. This is a particularly disheartening game for Carolina because it’s one they should have had; there’s no excuse for a loss to a team so clearly inferior like Tampa. The Panthers will wish they had this one back come playoff time, especially since potential for another division defeat lies in Sunday’s opponent, the Saints, who are coming off a bit of a surprising loss themselves to Robert Griffin, III and the Redskins.
The Saints defense looked terrible against Washington, and things shouldn’t get any easier against another athletic quarterback and potentially lethal offense in Carolina. If Carolina gets their motivation and play-calling in order, this one could turn into a shootout, because both defenses are horrid. I’m going with a Panthers upset because inside linebacker Jon Beason has returned from injury and could make just enough of a defensive impact to tip the scale in favor of Carolina.
Buccaneers @ Giants
Neither of these teams looked all that impressive in week one. The difference is that one is the defending Super Bowl champion and one is coming off a 4-12 season. Neither played a 2012 playoff team, and neither really proved itself—though, the Bucs at least won their game.
The Giants were soundly defeated by Dallas in the season opener, but Dallas looked pretty sharp. The Giants aren’t so bad off as to lose to Tampa Bay, are they?
I don’t see Tampa Bay having the defensive tools necessary to stop Eli Manning through the air. They were lucky that Carolina ran the ball against them only 13 times. I have a feeling they will see a heavier dose of Ahmad Bradshaw than they saw of DeAngelo Williams.
For the Giants’ defense, Prince Amukamara returns to his starting role at cornerback where he will attempt to keep Vincent Jackson in check. It’s a tall order, but he has a good group of pass rushers working in his favor; it is imperative that they put Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman under pressure. Freeman is nowhere near as good outside of the pocket as Tony Romo is. He will make bad decisions when he becomes uncomfortable.
The champs should rebound with a win this week.
Cowboys @ Seahawks
Have you picked up Kevin Ogletree for your fantasy team yet? The guy was a beast in week one with his 114 yards and two touchdowns—not to mention the third-down conversion that sealed the game for the Cowboys. Ogletree, I think it can safely be said now, has won the slot position in the Dallas offense, which means he will go toe-to-toe with veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant on Sunday in Seattle. This should be a mismatch in favor of the Boys. Keep an eye on it if you managed to snatch Ogletree in fantasy.
Already, Marshawn Lynch is having injury issues. He was decent against Arizona last week, finishing with 85 yards on the ground despite a back injury, but one has to be concerned with his durability at this point. Rookie Robert Turbin got only two carries against the Cardinals showing that Pete Carroll is not ready to turn Seattle’s backfield into a committee quite yet.
Furthermore, week one found Russell Wilson far less spectacular than he was in the preseason. He was 18 for 34, for 153 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. Things will only get more difficult against Dallas when DeMarcus Ware comes rolling into town. It will be tough for the Seattle receivers to get open in time to help Wilson hamstring Ware’s pass rush with quick decisions.
Dallas ought to make it two in a row to start their 2012 campaign.
Redskins @ Rams
I am not sure if I am ready to call Robert Griffin, III “the real deal.” He was going up against a very weak and slightly beat-up Saints defense in week one. That is not to say that his performance was not impressive, however; it was, and I expect him to be every bit as good against the Rams.
Then again, the Rams gave a potent Lions offense all they could handle last week. Could Jeff Fisher’s defensive strategy be making that large of a difference for this team already? Or is it Cortland Finnegan, who turned a Matthew Stafford pick into six points last Sunday? One way or another, I was pleasantly surprised by the Rams—their defense in particular. They may win themselves out of the top five picks in the draft this year. That would be momentous.
The Redskins will bring an excellent pass rush into the Edward Jones Dome. Brian Orakpo, and especially Ryan Kerrigan were all over Drew Brees last week, and the Rams have lost their best pass protector Rodger Saffold for a while. Saffold suffered a scary neck injury against Detroit that required him to spend the night in a hospital.
Although I believe the Rams have improved, the team I watched demolish the mighty Saints last Sunday should still prove superior.
Titans @ Chargers
The Chargers did not look bad on Monday night, but for some reason, they sputtered in opponent territory. This should not be a critical issue against the inconsistent Titans, but against high-octane offenses down the line (like Denver perhaps), this could become a problem; better to correct it now than find themselves in a shootout answering touchdowns with field goals.
The Titans, as mentioned before, lost Nate Washington and Jake Locker on the same play of Sunday’s loss to New England, but both are expected to return to action in San Diego. Additional good news for Tennessee is that Kenny Britt will make his season debut from suspension this week. He is unquestionably a mismatch for the San Diego secondary. It all depends on Locker’s ability to get him the ball.
On the other sideline, Philip Rivers, for now, looks like his old self. He threw zero interceptions against Oakland and re-established his rapport with the ageless wonder, tight end Antonio Gates, who, yes, got injured again but not seriously.
Ryan Mathews is also expected to return from a broken clavicle, giving the Chargers a needed upgrade from Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley in the backfield.
On the strength of Rivers, Gates, and possibly Mathews, the Chargers should out-duel the Titans on an emotional day on which the Chargers will commemorate the late Bolts legend Junior Seau.
Jets @ Steelers
Do not expect the Jets to put up 48 points against the Steelers like they did against Buffalo. The Steelers might not be the Steel Curtain defense of ole, but they’ll have more success with the shaky Jets offense than they did with Peyton Manning this past Sunday night.
I still cannot decide if the Jets were good, or if their opponent was just bad last week. I’m leaning more towards the latter, honestly, because, really, the Jets’ offensive weapons are unintimidating aside from maybe Santonio Holmes. They may have something in their young receivers Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill, but I am not fully convinced yet.
The offensive line of New York played particularly well against Buffalo, but they will be tested again against James Harrison and the voracious Pittsburgh front seven—not to mention the occasional safety and corner blitzes that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is so good at dialing up.
Pittsburgh will be out for blood this weekend, looking to rebound from their primetime loss at the hands of the same team who crushed their playoff hopes last year. Additionally, running back Rashard Mendenhall may make his return to the active roster to test the Jets superb defense, which might be without a concussed Darrelle Revis come Sunday. If this is the case, it would play to the advantage of Mike Wallace who would then be matched with Antonio Cromartie or Kyle Wilson.
I think the Steelers will rebound at home, and that the Jets may show their true ugly colors on offense.
Lions @ 49ers
The Sunday night game will be an interesting one, considering the chaotic conclusion of the game between these teams last season. I refer, of course, to the handshake heard ‘round the world, which almost led to a John Harbaugh/Jim Schwartz rumble right there on Ford Field. I hate how much speculation the post-game handshake is getting; I think we should end it right now by getting Harbaugh and Schwartz to agree right now to a post-game arm-wrestling duel instead of a handshake.
In all seriousness, this should be one of the more exciting games of the week. Like last Sunday, the 49ers will test their seemingly impenetrable defense against an electrifying passing game. It will be fascinating to see if Carlos Rogers has as much success with Calvin Johnson as he did last week versus Greg Jennings.
The Lions will have their hands full on defense too. Alex Smith played an excellent game against the sloppy Green Bay defense last week, despite minimal contributions from receivers not named Moss or Davis. Frank Gore will be the first priority for the Detroit defense. If they can force Alex Smith to be the one to beat them, they may be able to beat San Francisco by outscoring them.
The chances of Detroit being able to do this are slim, however. I’m taking the 49ers.
At this point, I am willing to call San Francisco the best team in the league.
Broncos @ Falcons
Another one of week two’s more exciting contests features two teams that looked excellent in week one in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIII.
Atlanta comes off an offensive explosion at the expense of an outmatched Chiefs team. Julio Jones could vault himself into the class of “elite” receivers by the end of the season if he continues to play like he did in week one. Tony Gonzalez continues to perform well, and Matt Ryan was nearly perfect, leading his team to a 40-24 win.
The Broncos, meanwhile, showed off their new passing attack under Peyton manning against a good defense in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Manning carved them up like a meat slicer (“Cut that meat! Cut that meat!”).
I give the edge to Denver in this one because I think their defense is more trustworthy. They got off to a bit of a slow start against the Steelers last week, but gained steam as the game progressed, eventually coming away with four sacks and an all-important pick-six.
I will leave you with a “thought of the week”:
Most of the record-breaking number of calls for pass interference this past week by the replacement officials looked to be accurate calls—the ones I saw at least. Now that 70 percent of the game is occurring through the air, however, I think it’s time to revise pass interference rules. Can we please change the call from a spot-of-the-foul penalization to a ten-yard, automatic first-down? I think fouls that occur in the end zone should still result in ball placement on the one-yard line, but all others should be ten-yarders. It’s becoming too common of a call—with offenses shifting to primarily passing schemes—to carry such a severe penalization.