The early games were rough this week, but things got better as the day went along. I didn’t pick the Cardinals over the Patriots, but frankly I would have questioned my own sanity if I had — regardless of how the game actually turned out. This week’s NFL office pool picks — remember, they are all straight up, not against the spread — seem pretty straightforward for the most part. We’ve hit double-digits the first two weeks of the season, so there is no issues there. Now we just need to take the next step forward and win ourselves some weekly money:
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New York Giants at Carolina - I liked the way that the Giants fought back in the second half against Tampa Bay on Sunday, but I don’t like that they got into the position where they needed to come back. Carolina was imperfect in its win over New Orleans, but the Panthers got the job done, and Cam Newton found his mojo again. They are tough at home, and the location will be the difference here. Take the Panthers.
St. Louis at Chicago - I was very impressed by the toughness and lack of intimidation that the Rams showed in their win. They are a far different team than last year. I was equally unimpressed with the shabby effort by the Bears against Green Bay, and by the awful play and worse attitude of Jay Cutler. It’s a gamble, but take the Rams here.
Buffalo at Cleveland - It took Buffalo a week longer than it should have, but they looked like a solid all-round team last week as they took care of business against Kansas City. Cleveland, on the other hand, looked just like they are — a pretty average football team. Brandon Weeden had a good day against the Bengals, but the Bills will do a much better job of harassing and confusing him, and that will be the difference. Take the Bills.
Tampa Bay at Dallas - Dallas is probably better than they were last year, but there is still something missing with this squad. If only I could put my finger on precisely what it is. Still, they are at home, and they are up against a team that is much-improved but still flawed. If Dallas doesn’t win this one then they really have some issues to deal with. Take the Cowboys.
New York Jets at Miami - It took all of this time, but Reggie Bush finally looked like Reggie Bush, and that was enough to lead his team to a convincing win. He’s up against a better team this week, though, and he’s not likely to do it again. Ryan Tannehill was solid, but he was not nearly good enough to shine without Bush breaking out like he did. This one will be more interesting than I thought it would be a week ago, but you have to take the Jets — even though they were just plain lousy last week. Take New York.
San Francisco at Minnesota - San Francisco is an elite team. Minnesota isn’t. The Niners have a multi-faceted offensive attack. The Vikings don’t. The Niners play smothering defense. Minnesota doesn’t. This is a mismatch. Take the 49ers.
Kansas City at New Orleans - Neither of these teams has been even remotely impressive, and neither has come close to meeting expectations. I have real concerns about both, but someone has to win. The game is in New Orleans, and that should be the difference here. Take the Saints.
Detroit at Tennessee - Neither of these teams have been as good as they can be this year. Detroit has been better, though, and they have more talent and more upside. They also have the more accomplished QB at this point. This one is closer than many will think, but take the Lions.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis - Jacksonville didn’t show much last week, and Blaine Gabbert was really bad. Indianapolis gained momentum and confidence in a big win, and they should be able to ride that wave here. This one won’t be pretty, but take the Colts.
Cincinnati at Washington - I still don’t believe in the sustainability of the Redskins over the long haul this year. In fact, I think they are in for some very rough stretches along the way. I have very little respect for the Bengals, though — especially on the road. They let Brandon Weeden look like Peyton Manning, so imagine what Washington’s rookie will be able to do. Take the Redskins.
Philadelphia at Arizona - What the heck was that?!?!?!? I don’t know a single person in the world — or at least outside of Phoenix — who even remotely considered the possibility that Arizona could beat the Pats in Foxboro last week. It was impressive, but Philly is coming off a big win of their own, is the far more talented team, and should come out on top here. Take the Eagles.
Atlanta at San Diego - I respect the Falcons, but the Chargers are finally playing up to their potential in September, and they are going to be tough to beat here. This is a tough trip for the Falcons to take because there are certainly teams that travel across the country better. Take the Chargers.
Houston at Denver - Houston hasn’t taken a misstep yet this year. They have a chance to prove that they are the team to beat in the AFC, and a win in this one would go a long way towards proving that. It’s the best defense Peyton Manning has seen, and it’s a strong offense, too. The Broncos don’t have enough to match up here. Take the Texans.
Pittsburgh at Oakland - There’s not a lot that I love about what Pittsburgh is doing right now. It would take a far worse team than the Steelers, though, to make me pick the Raiders right now. I wanted to believe that the Raiders were moving in the right direction, and they may indeed be. However, they are certainly doing it slowly. That loss to the Dolphins was really ugly last week. Take the Steelers.
New England at Baltimore - These two teams are supposed to be the class of the AFC. Neither was supposed to lose last week. Of the two, the Patriots’ setback was far more shocking. The lapse in focus is shocking, but they are veterans who should get back on track here. Still, it’s a tough spot. It’s hard to believe that one of these teams will be 1-2 after this game. Flip a coin, I guess. Take the Ravens since they are at home.
Green Bay at Seattle - Seattle is a tough team that is doing a lot that I like this year. Still, Green Bay is an elite squad, and after a rough opener they woke up and found their way last week. They are too much for the Seahawks to handle. Take the Packers.
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