New England Patriots vs
New York Jets
It wasn't that long ago when the media covering the Patriots were lamenting the early season loss of their then-franchise quarterback, Drew Bledsoe. Well New England sports fans, if you're going to worry about something, then worry if the Red Sox have enough starting pitching for the stretch drive, because the Patriots will hardly miss a beat with second-year professional Matt Cassel at the helm. Matt is a perfect fit for the Patriots offensive system of play. He completed better than two-thirds of his passes last week, while probably taking less than ten percent of the offensive snaps in practice. The Jets are coming off a close victory over the Dolphins, which is a little like the University of Florida beating Edward Watters College.
Patriots 27 – Jets 13
Tennessee Titans vs Cincinnati Bengals
I did it again! What could I possibly be thinking, picking the Bengals to win last week's opener on the road? I think I picked this under-achieving group no fewer than ten times during the 2007 season! Maybe it's due to my fondness for the Brown family, or perhaps it's because I look at their roster and see some very impressive talent at the skill positions. That being said, Carson Palmer, who I still consider among the top five signal callers in the league, played poorly in the season opener (9 for 24 and no TD's), the Bengals could not run the football (Chris Perry – 19 carries for 42 yards) and the narcissist receiver formally known as Chad Johnson, caught just one pass in the entire contest. That coupled with what I would politely describe as sub-standard offensive line play, adds up to another possible long season for the fans in the Queen City.
I've long maintained that this Titans squad is the best coached team in football. Last week the Titans defensive unit, due in part to a crippled offensive front, sacked Jaguars QB David Garrard an amazing seven times! My guess is that they won't miss a beat this week on the road against a Bengals' Club that looked absolutely hapless in a loss to the Ravens. As "The Who" once sang, "We Won't Get Fooled Again."
Titans 23 – Bengals 10
New Orleans Saints vs Washington Redskins
The Saints eked out a victory in the season opener, but if RB Deuce McAllister can't make a significant contribution to the team's anemic running game, this could spell trouble for the Saints when they line up against the iron in the NFC. Add to McAllister's knee injury,a torn ligament (thumb) to Saints top receiver Marques Colston, and the offensive efficiency could well suffer. Fortunately for the Saints, this week's opponent (Redskins), based on their season opening loss to the Giants, are a far cry from one of the elite NFC squads. Jason Campbell was 15 for 27 for a very modest 133 passing yards versus the Giants, but in my opinion did not complete a single throw in a critical situation in the Redskins' glorified hand-off passing offense. For the Saints, it's time for former number one selection Robert Meachem (2007) - who is currently tied with me in career receptions - to make a play!
Saints 21 – Redskins 17
Chicago Bears vs
I didn't expect either club to win in their season openers (neither did anyone else), but the keys to victory in this contest are offensive consistency and balance. Both teams moved the ball extremely well on the ground last week, but I really liked the way Jake Delhomme performed in their victory over the Chargers and believe he could again be the difference in this contest. Rookie Matt Forte played extremely well in his first game as a professional, and the Bears can create some serious match-up problems with Greg Olsen lining up in the slot. However, the receiving group scares nobody in this league and although Kyle Orton made few critical mistakes versus the Colts, the question that has yet to be answered is; is he capable of winning and not simply managing critical games?
Panthers 17 – Bears 13.
Buffalo Bills vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Head coach Jack Del Rio tried to downplay the injury factor to the offensive line in last weeks loss to the Titans, but the Jaguars were not able to protect their QB David Garrard (seven sacks) and the vaunted running combination of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for just 31 yards in the contest. Couple this with injuries to outside receivers Troy Williamson and Dennis Northcutt and I would have to say that this Jaguars club is in a heap of trouble!
The Bills are riding high after a huge season opening victory over the Seahawks and would like nothing better than to kick a conference rival in their teeth when they are down-and-out. Trent Edwards, the Bills third round selection in the 2007 draft (a complete joke), is currently the top QB in the division and by year's end could well be among the tops in the league. As always, the Bills special teams were outstanding last week and while we are on that subject; when is someone in this league going to consider Bills special teams coach Bobby April (the absolute best in the game) for a head coaching position?
Bills 19 – Jaguars 16
New York Giants vs
St. Louis Rams
In last weeks total annihilation at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, Steven Jackson averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, All Pro wide receiver Torry Holt caught one pass for nine yards, and every starting member of the offensive line was charged with a penalty; yikes! When one looks at this football game critically, you see a team (Giants) that is totally committed to running the football and another club (Rams) that has shown a total inability to stop the run. Do you see a pattern emerging here? It's a crying shame, but this one could well be over by half time.
Giants 34 – Rams 10
Indianapolis Colts vs Minnesota Vikings
It's only week number two and already both the upstart Vikings and what appears to be an ageing Colts squad, are looking at a critical game in their season. Viking quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, played much better than his numbers might indicate last week, but he's also going to have to become far more consistent in his overall play if this Vikings' team is to have any real chance of impacting in 2008. Speaking of numbers, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, gained 103 yards on 19 carries (modest for him), but I've got to tell you, this guy is one explosive, game changing football player. If he can maintain good health for this season and beyond, he could be really something special.
The Colts were plain sloppy and didn't appear to play with the type of emotion that has characterized Tony Dungy led clubs. I actually felt that the Colts QB Peyton Manning played rather well considering his lack of preparation leading up to the opener, but the offensive line played poorly (run and pass), and the running game accounted for just fifty-three yards on fifteen carries. I hate to bet against any Manning led squad, particularly coming off a loss, but after watching last Sunday's contest versus the Bears, I have a feeling that the Colts' window of opportunity is beginning to close.
Vikings 24 – Colts 23
Green Bay Packers vs
Come on Mr. Ford, the great sports fans of the Motor City, deserve a whole lot better than what you have provided to them over the past decade. I jumped on the band-wagon last season, heck I even own a Ford Escape, but last week's performance versus a team that won't win more than a handful of games this season, was in a word, pathetic!
The Packers with first year starter Aaron Rodgers leading the way (sounds a little strange), should have little trouble moving the football through the air or on the ground. Look for Ryan Grant to put up some impressive numbers.
Packers 35 – Lions 13
Oakland Raiders vs Kansas City Chiefs
Boy, was I ever disappointed in the Raiders effort on both sides of the football on Monday night! What was really disheartening was the play of QB JaMarcus Russell, the number one selection in the 2007 draft. Russell, who was an early season holdout in the 2007 season, looked like he had literally joined the club on Monday afternoon! He is grossly overweight and based on his Monday evening performance; it appears this game is moving far too fast for him at this stage.
I don't see myself picking the Chiefs in too many contests in 2008, but even without starting QB Brodie Croyle in the line up, I really like their chances in this one. Expect to hear Larry Johnson and rookie Jamaal Charles' names called more than a few times in this divisional battle.
Chiefs 24 – Raiders 13
Atlanta Falcons vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Congratulations to the entire Atlanta Falcons organization on their season opening victory over the Detroit Lions, but playing on the road this week against a divisional opponent, poses a much different proposition for this young Falcons football club. Michael Turner looked more like his former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson in his debut and if he can come anywhere close to duplicating that effort, the Falcons have a real chance to go two up on the season. I believe that the Buccaneers veteran defensive unit will make a conscious effort to shut down the Falcons running game and try and put the football in the hands of their rookie QB Matt Ryan as much as possible. I believe the Buccaneers may have been a tad hasty in making a quarterback switch, but in my opinion, it all comes down to the play of the defense in this one.
Buccaneers 16 – Falcons 9
San Diego Chargers vs Denver Broncos
The Chargers lost a heart breaker last week and hope to regroup this week on the road against a Broncos club that they have handled rather convincingly in recent years. This week's game of divisional rivals features two of the best young quarterbacks in professional football in Phillip Rivers and Jay Cutler.
Getting the football into the hands of LaDainian Tomlinson is the key to the Chargers offense, but the team's lack of a legitimate vertical receiving threat and depth at the running back position is still a major concern in my mind. They have only played one game this season, but leading receiver Antonio Gates does not appear to be one-hundred percent back from his season ending toe injury in 2007.
The Broncos passing attack was nothing short of sensational in week one versus the Raiders and the running game was also impressive, but this week's opponent poses far more defensive problems and will be far better prepared this Sunday than the Raiders. The Broncos are a much different club at home than they are on the road, but I don't feel they have enough weapons on both sides of the ball to defeat the Chargers.
Chargers 31 – Broncos 20
Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals
Let me make an early season prediction: the Miami Dolphins will not have a road victory in 2008. The Dolphins actually kept last week's game versus the Jets far closer than I had originally expected, but I believe they are going to have a very difficult time running the football against the Cardinals. Quarterback Chad Pennington does not have near the skills to put a football club on his back. As long as the Cardinals can do battle against the likes of the 49ers, Dolphins, Redskins and Rams, their 2008 fortunes look rather bright, but let's wait until they get into the meat of their schedule before we start making reservations for this year's Super Bowl.
Cardinals 27 – Dolphins 10
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns
The Browns were totally outplayed on both sides of the football in last week's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and this week's battle versus division rival Pittsburgh Steelers will not get any easier. The big challenge on Sunday for the Browns will be to stop RB Willie Parker, who in running for 138 yards dispelled any rumors that he is not 100% back from last year's season ending injury.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (currently nursing a slight shoulder injury), was also very efficient in last week's victory over the Houston Texans. It all comes down to this: if the Browns can not establish a running game and or shut down the very potent Steelers running attack, this one won't be very pretty. Last season's unlikely hero, Derek Anderson, struggled in week number one and unless he can get things going very quickly, expect impatient media types and fans alike to start calling for Ohio's favorite son, Brady Quinn. Hey, do you think he can play defense?
Steelers 28 – Browns 16
Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys
On paper this one looks like an excellent match-up of two high-powered offenses, but I don't think is going to be even close. The Cowboys are easily the top team in the league, albeit only week number two, but let's not get too excited about an Eagles team that beat a totally inept, unprepared and unemotional St. Louis Rams football team.
Three Eagles receivers totaled over a hundred receiving yards last week with QB's McNabb and Kolb combined for 414 yards passing, but this Cowboys defensive unit will give the Eagles problems on both the front and back ends. Brian Westbrook, does so many things well, it's hard to think that there could possibly be a better all around back in the entire NFL. He's a great one, but not good enough to overcome what the Cowboys will throw his way on Sunday.
Cowboys 30 – Eagles 17
Baltimore Ravens vs Houston Texans
The Ravens defense under defensive coordinator Rex Ryan looked in mid-season form last week vs the Bengals. The Texans will not be able to run the football against the Ravens so look for the Ravens to mix things up defensively and put a lot of pressure on Texans QB Matt Schaub, who was under a great deal of duress in last week's loss to the Steelers. Joe Flacco played well in his first professional game, but unless the Ravens can establish a more consistent inside running game, it could be a long season for the boys from Baltimore.
Texans 14 – Ravens 10
San Francisco 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have totally dominated the 49ers in recent years, particularly at home, and even though they will enter the contest short-handed, particularly at the wideout position, I give the 49ers little chance of winning this contest.
The key player in the 49ers offense is hard-running Frank Gore. Look for 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz to use him much in the same way he featured Marshall Faulk in his coaching days with the St Louis Rams. The 49ers do not currently possess the type of receivers necessary to make Mike Martz' high potent passing offense' a reality, and
therein lies the problem. On the other hand, the Seahawks have few home run hitters left on their roster that nearly captured a Super Bowl a few season's ago and although they should have enough to beat the Niners,
I believe they are a team heading in the wrong direction.
Seahawks 23 – 49ers 17