Friday, September 16, 2011

NFL Picks - Week 2

Well, that was predictably a disaster.

What looked to be one of the most difficult weeks to predict in a long time turned out to of the most difficult weeks to predict in a long time. The Buffalo Bills scored 41 points. Cam Newton threw for 422 yards, a rookie record. Both of these things happened on the road. The Pittsburgh Steelers turned the ball over 7 times. The Indianapolis Colts trailed the Houston Texans 34-0 at the half. Tony Romo choked away a game in the clutch.

Alright, fine, that last one was predictable.

You get the point though. I didn't even mention the Bengals, the least popular correct Suicide pick on Yahoo, shocking the Browns, the second most popular incorrect (other than that Kansas City team, who put me to the sword in week 1 for the millionth year in a row) or Chad Henne (a) throwing for 416 yards in a legally sanctioned NFL game and (b) having that be the second most passing yards in the a hundred and one yards. In related news, Tom Brady is God.

So where does that leave us? Well from the perspective of a Ravens fan, it was nice having the feeling that the AFC goes through Baltimore for all of 24 hours before Brady and co. did their thing. As for the NFC, the Packers and Saints obviously looked like offensive juggernauts and perhaps one of the prime candidates for a week 1 flop considering all the preseason hype, the Eagles, looked like the "dream team" they've been dubbed as by Vince Young and the national media.

New England the class of the AFC. Philly, Green Bay and New Orleans the powers in the NFC (maybe Chicago as well, but lest we forget that the Falcons are the Hawai'i of the NFL - just a night-and-day different team away from home.)

Maybe things weren't all that surprising after all.

Anyway, here are the week 2 picks. On the bright side for me, it's hard to do worse than I did last week. With that silver lining in mind, let's go.

Last Week - 9-7
Season - 9-7

Oakland at Buffalo
This is dumb and I know this is dumb. But the Bills are just due for a letdown. Kind of like with Ravens/Steelers last week, I'll believe the Buffalo Bills are a well-oiled machine of a football team when I see it for more than just one game. On a more logical level, I believe in Oakland's two-headed running game of McFadden and Michael Bush, and their defense still looks solid even without Nnamdi Asomugha. Yeah, Denver looks like one of the frontrunners in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes but that was still an impressive performance. I'm a firm believer in the "don't take the team that's playing on the opposite coast" rule and it's excabarated in this case because the Raiders played a 10:15 PM Monday night game...but I can't shake this gut feeling that they're rolling in to Buffalo and giving the Bills a dose of reality.

Kansas City at Detroit
On the bright side, my sleeper Lions pick is looking damn good. That was an impressive win in Tampa. I briefly considered the Chiefs for the same "the Lions might just be ready for a dose of reality" logic (or "logic") but there are two problems here: (1) the Lions seem to actually be a damn good football team and (2) the Chiefs seem to actually be a damn bad one. When I saw that stat that the Chiefs have lost their last three home games by an aggregate score of 102-24, I knew that I should've seen this coming. They were always a fraud last season - the beneficiaries of San Diego's bizarre, "1st in offense, 1st in defense, bad enough on special teams to miss the playoffs" season and Oakland's unbeaten record against divisional foes and putrid record against everyone else. Both of those teams should've been better than they were, the Chiefs should've been worse and in the early goings in 2011, that's proving true. With Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki done for the year, the Chiefs may have just thrown their hat in to the Andrew Luck ring.

Baltimore at Tennessee
As a Ravens fan, I'm a little worried about this. Here are our last 5 meetings with the Titans: 13-10 playoff upset in Tennessee in 2008 (with the help of a referee ignoring a playclock); a 13-10 loss at home earlier in 08, a 27-26 escape at Tennessee in 2006 on a blocked field goal against a far inferior Titans team, a 25-10 shock week 2 loss in Tennessee (hmm) and the 10-7 playoff loss at home in 03 when Gary Andersen kicked the game winning field goal with under 30 seconds to play. No, I'm not finding all of those hyperlinks because many of those aren't the fondest of memories. The point is that the Ravens and Titans have had a nasty rivalry going back to the McNair/George days and while those two are long gone, this could be closer than the experts think. But if we were finally able to blow out the Steelers, Matt Hasselbeck doesn't seem to have much hope (even though Kenny Britt terrifies me.)

Cleveland at Indianapolis
Well, then. The Colts...well, they just look awful. Then again, the Browns didn't look too great either and let's remember that the Texans might very well be a solid team this season. I'm gonna play the stubborn card again - I'll believe the Colts are bad enough to lose to a team like the Browns at home when I see it. But do I feel good backing Kerry Collins? No. No I do not. So as Bill Simmons would say: "So there."

Tampa Bay at Minnesota
Interesting game. The Vikings got out well in San Diego before collapsing to the greatest game of Mike Tolbert's career (which of course sunk me in fantasy) and the Bucs got out poorly at home to Detroit before nearly staging a furious comeback. Tough pick, which means the smart money's on the home team. But this is very winnable for Tampa, particularly if Donovan McNabb throws for less than 40 yards again. Also worth noting that the pressure may be more on the Vikings in this game - in their division, Green Bay and Chicago look as good as they did last season if not better and the Lions look to be a contender as well. If they lose at home to a team that Detroit beat on the road last week then that's a really bad sign. Gut feeling though is that they win and that Adrian Peterson goes off. Hope I'm right - for the sake of these picks and fantasy.

Chicago at New Orleans
For me, this is an easy pick. The Bears can make a serious NFC statement with a win here...but this is on the indoor track in the Superdome, which clearly favors the Saints. Drew Brees probably won't be sacked five times, toss an interception and fumble like Matt Ryan did last week, particularly not on his home field. I have to admit though that Jay Cutler and co. looked better than I and I think most other people expected. Matt Forte looks like a guy who had one disappointing season (the one season I had him in fantasy, naturally) and is among the best all-around backs in the league. I think it's those two and not the defense who are the keys to the season. But in this game, I don't think they can keep up.

Jacksonville at New York Jets
Another easy one. There aren't many games in which Mark Sanchez is far and away the better quarterback. This is one of them. To his credit, Luke McCown didn't turn the ball over last week - which is a net win for the Jaguars - but that was at home against Tennessee. In the Meadowlands against Rex Ryan's defense? Different story. The Jets will stack the box against Maurice Jones-Drew and dare McCown to beat them and he won't. The Sanchez-led offense will need to play better than it did on Sunday night against the Cowboys, though - if not in this game than going forward.

Seattle at Pittsburgh
For the few people left in suicide (the ones who used up the Pats or Eagles in week 1 or took the Chargers, a risky-but-ultimately-savvy move), this is by far the most popular pick of the week. I see the logic but let's be careful people - the Steelers looked really, REALY bad against the Ravens. Whatever, they'll still almost assuredly win but combine the aging defense, the mileage on Big Ben's odometer (he's not old...but he's always banged up), the Super Bowl Loser's curse and the lack of improving in the offseason and maybe this is one of those rare down years for the Steelers like 2009, 2006 or 2003. AFC contenders can only hope. As for the Seahawks, has there ever been a division winner that was less respected the next season? I mean ever? Fine, they were probably the worst division winner in the history of North American sports but still. Almost everyone has these guys in the top 5 of next year's draft order, if not # 1. With performances like last Sunday's, it's easy to see why.

Arizona at Washington
Lost in all the Cam Newton slobbering is the fact that a guy who looked horrible in the preseason was able to throw at will on Arizona's secondary. Maybe getting Kevin Kolb, who was solid but not spectacular on Sunday, was the right move but was it worth shipping Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and forcing the green Patrick Peterson in to the lineup? To Peterson's credit though, he made up for any defensive foibles with the electrifying game-winning punt return. He could be the next Devin Hester. It's a stretch to label him that after one week but he was just that explosive in the return game in college and he wasted no time in showing that he can turn an NFL game on its head in one moment. As for the Redskins, their first round pick had a nice day of his own - Ryan Kerrigan hit the triple play of sacking Eli Manning, forcing the fumble and then returning it for a TD. It was an all-around good day for the Skins, who got a nice performance from Rex Grossman. Maybe it'll last, maybe it won't but I expect another one in a week 2 win. Nice cushy start to the season for them - two home games against a couple of porous NFC clubs.

Green Bay at Carolina
Not many NFL games have the potential to be truly epic. This is one of them. If Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton somehow got in to a shootout, that would be the sort of game we might remember for ages. On the other hand, it's possible Newton just bombed away against a revamped young secondary and his performance was just yet another of week 1 QB's going ballistic. Either way, the Panthers still managed to lose despite Newton's heroics, which tells you all you need to know about them. They're not beating the defending champs.

Dallas at San Francisco
I feel like a lot of people are missing the boat on this one. For all the shit that's been talked about Tony Romo this week, a lot of people are confident in him to get the win on the road against a pretty good defense that had a terrific game last week. Of course, the Cowboys did look terrific for three quarters in the Meadowlands and me and ten friends could stop Tarvaris Jackson and the Seahawks cold. Still, with all the Rams' injuries and the Cards and Seahawks looking bad and awful respectively, why not the Niners? On a side note, it's a shame to see Dallas/San Francisco reduced to this. It's like what Notre Dame/Michigan has become. Hopefully it can at least be as fun.

Cincinnati at Denver
For me, this is the toughest pick of the week even though their respective week 1 performances make this one look not-so-hard. Maybe the Bengals will pay them back with an insane A.J. Green TD to win it in the final minute. The thinking here is: (1) the Broncos are banged up with Brandon Lloyd and Knowshon Moreno, their two most productive offensive players, nursing injury (2) Cedric Benson had a terrific game in Cleveland and remains as the Bengals workhorse. He should have a dynamite game against a Denver run defense that let Darren McFadden do whatever he wanted and (3) the Broncos might very well get sucked in to the bad karma black hole that's being created by the brewing Orton/Tebow controversy. It's not easy for a offense to perform when it's booed after every incomplete pass, which may be the case on Sunday.

Houston at Miami
This REEKS of trap game. A dominant home performance by a questionable team now going on the road to face a sneaky underdog. And Houston's pass defense, still potentially shaky, is going up against a red hot Chad Henne (odd sequence of words.) But you have to love how good Ben Tate looked and now with Arian Foster set to play on Sunday, that's potentially the deadliest 1-2 rushing attack in football. Throw in Andre Johnson and the explosive Jacoby Jones, who took a punt back last week and will start opposite Andre 3000 because of Kevin Walter's injury and I have to back this offense going up against a defense that just allowed Tom Brady to pass for 150 more yards during the typing of this analysis.

San Diego at New England
Hopefully it's prettier than the last time these two met in Foxboro in week 2 (side note: this was the first game after Spygate broke.) Maybe it won't be. Maybe this Pats team IS that good, at least on offense. Out of all the great Tom Brady performances, that may have been his magnum opus on Monday night. Every throw was perfect. And it's not like he was just being Kyle Orton in the west coast offense and checking down, he was making a full array of NFL throws right on the money. It was stunning to watch. The Pats look to be so good that the Chargers are the most popular pick in my Loser Suicide pool (and they're my pick as well - I had St. Louis last week.) Still, what a fascinating matchup for week 2. Looking forward to this one...

Philadelphia at Atlanta
...but not as much as this one. Good lord. Michael Vick returns to Atlanta. Two high-powered offenses on an indoor track. The Falcons needing a big rebound performance. The Eagles looking to ring up their second road win of the season. Sunday Night Football. Ahhh...can you imagine if the lockout had actually happened? Thank god it didn't. Anyway, as much as I want to take the Falcons here...I can't pick against the juggernaut. Not many teams look good enough to beat Atlanta straight up in the Georgia Dome. Green Bay and New Orleans, who both did it last season, are two of them. The Pats are obviously another. The Ravens, who almost shockingly came back to do it before the refs forgot to call offensive pass interference on Roddy White, might be another as well. And so too are the Eagles.

St. Louis at New York Giants
This is a stinker of a Monday night game but after we got a record setting passing performance followed by a record setting field goal in our two Monday night games last week, it's hard to complain. These might be the two most banged-up teams in the league, which makes this a hard call, but the Rams have more vital pieces missing, are on the road and seem to be the inferior team in general. The Giants really need a home date with an energized crowd to get their season going after last week's dud and they'll get it here.

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