Buffalo Bills versus Oakland Raiders – both of these teams did a lot of good things last week. Both of these teams have the ability to start their season 2-0. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like a Pro Bowler last week throwing for four touchdowns. On the Raiders side of the ball, Darren McFadden ran for 150 yards in only 22 carries. Both offenses have the potential of playing well. In this game, though, which defense is going to show up? I think the Buffalo Bills have just a little bit more defense. I’m giving the edge to the Bills.
Green Bay Packers versus Carolina Panthers – welcome to the NFL, Cam Newton. Last week, he played better than he ever did in college. He made excellent decisions in the pocket (I wonder if he can teach Tony Romo how to do that). He threw the ball with touch and accuracy. He even ran for a touchdown. I think this week is going to be different against the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay has to prove that they are the team to beat. They cannot let a team like the Carolina Panthers hang around. Carolina is very soft in their secondary. I look for the Green Bay Packers to roll in this one. I think it’ll be very informative to see how Cam Newton pulls up to a very aggressive defense that should be in his face all day.
Kansas City Chiefs versus Detroit Lions – Kansas City simply embarrassed themselves last week. There is no excuse. Unless Matt Cassel is able to play a lot better than he did last week, I think the Kansas City Chiefs are in for a long afternoon. I think the way to beat the Detroit Lions is by throwing on them. I just don’t like Kansas City’s passing game. I don’t think Kansas City is going to be able to run over the Detroit Lions. Ndamukong Suh is simply a beast on the inside. I’m giving the Lions a slight edge in this game, but this is a do or die game, if there such a thing this early in the season, for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cleveland Browns versus Indianapolis Colts – I just don’t see how the Indianapolis Colts can play winning football without a ball control offense led by Peyton Manning. Kerry Collins has proven to be a capable quarterback but that was more than 10 years ago. He ain’t Peyton. The Cleveland Browns are still trying to figure out who they are and how they’re going to win games. I look for Cleveland’s offense to figure out a way to move the ball on the ground. Peyton Hillis is supposed to be all that and a bag of chips. Let him run (without fumbling). Look at the first couple of series in this game. If Cleveland can control the clock and score on their first couple of possessions, this game will be over.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus Minnesota Vikings – Donovan McNabb turned in one of the worst performances I’ve seen from an NFL quarterback of his stature in a very long time. The Vikings have to bounce back. They don’t necessarily have to win this game, but they have to play competitive football. Their offense must get going. They cannot depend on Adrian Peterson to run over everybody. On the other side of the field, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played a lackluster game last week. This is a team that has high expectations for the first time in many many years. They have to play better. I think this game is a toss-up.
Chicago Bears versus New Orleans Saints – I really think that this games can come down to turnovers, specifically Jay Cutler’s turnovers. If Jay Cutler can take care of the ball, I see no reason why the Chicago Bears cannot put this game in the win column. They played tremendous football last week. Their defense was suffocating and their offense was efficient. The problem with the New Orleans Saints is that their formula for victory requires their defense to create turnovers. They need ball hawking safeties and hard-hitting corners. I’m just not sure that their defense is up to the task like they were two years ago. This puts way too much pressure on their offense and Drew Brees. I just don’t think their offensive line is going to hold up against the Chicago Bears. I’m leaning towards the Bears.
Jacksonville Jaguars versus New York Jets – I’m sorry, but Jacksonville’s offense was mediocre at best last week. Mediocre is not going to do it. I look for the Jets to run the ball this weekend and not to pass as often as they did. I was surprised the Jets defense wasn’t as suffocating as I was expecting. Look for them to turn it up a notch so they can prove to the league that they’re still an elite defense. As long as Mark Sanchez can take care of the football, the New York Jets should roll in this game.
Seattle Seahawks versus the Pittsburgh Steelers – last year, the Seattle Seahawks won with enthusiasm and some excellent coaching. I just don’t think their talent level is as good as it was last year. I don’t think that enthusiasm is going to take them that far. The Pittsburgh Steelers have something to prove after being embarrassed last week. Look for Pittsburgh to play better on both sides of the ball. Unless the Steelers are in a charitable mood and start giving the ball away, again, I look for them to win this game handily.
Baltimore Ravens versus Tennessee Titans – this used to be one of the toughest games of the year. Both teams were hard-hitting. Tennessee has lost a lot of their toughness over the last couple of years. The Ravens are coming off of a magnificent victory against their arch rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens manhandled the Steelers. As long as the Ravens have not been reading their press clippings, I suspect that they will manhandle the Titans. I don’t think that Chris Johnson is in football shape quite yet. Remember, he held out for a very long time, waiting on and hoping for a new and lucrative contract. He got that contract. I think he deserves to be paid as one of the best running backs in the league. Unfortunately, I don’t think he has the offensive line that he had a couple years ago. I’m going with the Ravens by a touchdown or more.
Arizona Cardinals versus Washington Redskins – I’m not sure what to expect from either of these teams. The Arizona Cardinals played fairly well. Kevin Kolb played well. On the Redskins side of the ball, I’m sorry, but I just don’t like Rex Grossman. Rex had some brilliant plays and then he had some bonehead plays. I just don’t think we can trust him or dependent on him. The Redskins are playing at home, so many give them a slight edge, but Kevin Kolb has some time, he has Larry Fitzgerald and he has some speedy receivers to carve up that defense. I’m still giving the edge to the Washington Redskins.
Dallas Cowboys versus San Francisco 49ers – this is very simple. The Cowboys simply have to take care of the ball. No stupid mistakes. No blocked punts or fumbles on the three-yard line. The San Francisco 49ers simply do not have the weapons. Spread the ball. Smart passes. Run Felix Jones. Run a lot of four wide sets – isolate the fantastic middle linebacker Patrick Willis on Felix Jones. The Dallas Cowboys should win this game easily.
Cincinnati Bengals versus Denver Broncos – I think that this game is a toss-up. I don’t think that either team has really identified with their “inner selves.” Who are they? Are they a passing team? Are they a running team? Mistakes will decide this game.
Houston Texans versus Miami Dolphins – this is a unique opportunity in football where one team has an opportunity to really make a statement to the rest of the league. The Houston Texans want to be thought of as an elite team. They have to be able to take care of the Miami Dolphins. There is no excuse. They need to run the ball and throw the ball efficiently. Their defense under Wade Phillips, their defensive coordinator, must step up and crush the Miami Dolphin offense. Look for the Texans to win this one by a touchdown or more.
San Diego Chargers versus New England Patriots – this is clearly the game of the day. What is San Diego going to do? For the last three or four years, the San Diego Chargers have been one of the best teams in the NFL. They have great personnel. Yet, for some reason, they aren’t able to put it together. Now is the time. You have to play well in all phases in order to beat Tom Brady. I think it is critically important for them to make a statement early. They have to get the lead. They need to pressure the New England Patriots by scoring on their first two drives. On the other side of the ball, look for the New England Patriots to play a ball control type of football. Short passing, long drives. This is going to be a great game. I really would like Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers to take the next step. I’m just not sure it’s going to happen. I’m leaning towards the San Diego Chargers.
Philadelphia Eagles versus Atlanta Falcons – the Atlanta Falcons laid a huge goose egg last week. They have to play better. The Philadelphia Eagles managed to get a win last week. I think all the pressure in the world is on the Atlanta Falcons. The big question is whether their defense will hold up to Michael Vick and that extremely fast offense. Will the offensive line give Michael Vick enough time? I look for Michael Vick to come out and dominate from the pocket. I do look for him to make one or two runs that are spectacular and jaw-dropping. After this game, look for a lot of finger-pointing from the Atlanta Falcons. The finger-pointing will be unfortunate but will be a result of a 0-2 start.
Monday Night Football
St. Louis Rams versus New York Giants – who picked this game as a Monday Nighter? Over the last several years, there have been several young quarterbacks to come into the league and Sam Bradford is no exception. He’s shown small flashes of brilliance with his decision-making. I don’t think that he has a great arm. More importantly, I’m not sure that he has the right receivers around him. The New York Giants have a big question mark on defense. As I said last week, the formula for the New York Giants was a suffocating defense along with a big-play offense. I’m not sure that their defense is up the task quite yet. I still look for the New York Giants to figure out a way to win this game.