As I wrote last week, the NFL’s opening week of games is almost always the hardest to forecast and pick in a survivor pool. You just don’t know what you have with the vast majority of teams. And that showed in Week 1.
Here is what I wrote about the Washington at New Orleans matchup: “This game scares the life out of me if I am a Saints backer. Yes, New Orleans was literally unstoppable at home last season. But all those suspensions now are in effect from the bounty scandal and I’m not sure how the Saints respond. Plus maybe Robert Griffin III tears up that suspect New Orleans defense. Stay far away.”
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By know everyone knows what happened. I also mentioned to say far away from the Eagles at the Browns, and Philadelphia frankly should have lost that game if not for Cleveland rookie QB Brandon Weeden’s historically bad debut. I wasn’t sold on San Diego at Oakland, and the Bolts could have been beaten if the Raiders hadn’t lost their long snapper to injury (if you saw the game, you know what I mean).
I also feared Green Bay at home to San Francisco, mostly because of the respect I had for the Niners’ defense. And it was terrific in the upset. And I worried about a bit of a sophomore slump for Carolina QB Cam Newton. He was just OK and the Cats had absolutely no running game in an upset loss at Tampa.
I had three “good” choices in Week 1. My top recommendation was Houston, and the Texans benefitted from Ryan Tannehill’s three interceptions and had little trouble with Miami. The Bears took care of business at home vs. the Colts. Detroit was very fortunate to escape a Rams upset. I wish the Rams had won as it would have helped me out in my pool.
So Houston is off the board for me this week; I still will include in this column teams I have used just in case you went another direction. Any team I list first in a matchup is the presumed favorite. On to Week 2:
New England vs. Arizona: Hate to use the Patriots this early, but as I always say: Don’t save a team for later. I could see the Cardinals covering as the biggest dogs on the Week 1 board (+13.5) as they have a good defense. But the Pats won’t lose at home and certainly not to Kevin Kolb.
NY Giants vs. Tampa Bay: The Bucs’ defense looked immensely improved from last year vs. Carolina, but the offense still isn’t very good. The Giants will have had extra time to prepare after that Wednesday night opening loss to Dallas. I just can’t see the defending champs dropping back-to-back home games. By the way, the last 0-2 team to win a Super Bowl was the 2007 G-Men.
San Diego vs. Tennessee: I only put this in the good category so I had at least three picks there. This game worries me for San Diego. The offense didn’t look good vs. Oakland without starting running back Ryan Mathews, and he’s very “iffy” again this week. Plus, it’s a short week for San Diego. If Mathews plays, I would feel better here. But if not, I would stay away.
Green Bay vs. Chicago (Thursday): Obviously this game is way too close to call to risk a pick. I find it hard to imagine that Green Bay could start with back-to-back home losses, but on a short week anything can happen.
Philadelphia vs. Baltimore: The way Michael Vick closed last season and started this one (four picks), Baltimore’s Joe Flacco will be the best quarterback on the field here. But it’s still way too close to call. If there is any team that might knock Vick out of a game, it’s the physical Ravens.
New Orleans at Carolina: I have concerns about that Saints defense, which doesn’t appear any better under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. I also worry about the coaching acumen of interim head coach Aaron Kromer. And the Saints are usually a vastly different team outside of a dome.
Houston at Jacksonville: This could a big-time trap game for Houston, which visits Denver and old nemesis Peyton Manning in Week 3. The Jags played the Texans pretty tough last year and Maurice Jones-Drew should be more involved this week.
Washington at St. Louis: TRAP, TRAP, TRAP! Griffin III was the story of Week 1 with that record-setting debut, no doubt. But the NFL is not that easy, plus Griffin might not have WR Pierre Garcon. St. Louis looks a lot better this year and had the Lions beaten despite zero from the running game. I almost expect a Rams win and would definitely take the three points on NFL odds.
Dallas at Seattle: You shouldn’t be picking road teams in Week 2. And it’s very tough to win in Seattle. Might we see Matt Flynn if Russell Wilson struggles again?
Pittsburgh vs. N.Y Jets: The Steelers looked a little old in that Sunday night loss to the Broncos. I highly doubt that Jets QB Mark Sanchez does anywhere near what he did last week vs. Pittsburgh, but I wouldn’t risk a pick on this game.
San Francisco vs. Detroit: Everyone is calling the Niners the team to beat in the NFC now. Maybe they are. While the run defense is impenetrable, the pass defense can be had. Matthew Stafford has tied an NFL record with four straight regular-season games with at least 350 yards passing and probably gets No. 5. This screams “comedown game” for San Francisco.
Atlanta vs. Denver (Monday): I will rarely pick a MNF game, and especially not one this evenly-matched.
Buffalo vs. Kansas City: These were two of the biggest disappointments of the opening week as I thought both might be playoff-caliber in 2012. The Bills were supposed to have upgraded their defensive massively thanks to Mario Williams but were torched by a Jets offense that was totally inept in the preseason. Oh, and Buffalo lost No. 1 tailback Fred Jackson for a month. The Chiefs, meanwhile, were manhandled at home by Atlanta and cost me $50 on a friendly bet!
Cincinnati vs. Cleveland: Why would anyone outside of Ohio care about this game? I will be shocked if Colt McCoy isn’t the Browns’ starting QB come Week 3 – he might replace Weeden in this game as Weeden clearly is out of his league. The Bengals should win but come off a short week and were dominated Monday by Baltimore.
Indianapolis vs. Minnesota: If this were in the Twin Cities, I might take a shot on the Vikings now that Adrian Peterson apparently is back to normal just eight months or so after a major knee injury. His performance was one of the most impressive of any player in Week 1.
Oakland at Miami: How bad are the Fins? Home dogs to a Raiders team that couldn’t even snap the ball to its punter and comes off a short week. The loser of this game could well end up with the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, although I still have some hope for the Raiders.
There’s a lot of even matchups this week, with 14 of the 16 games having a spread of seven points or less as of this writing. The Pats are the clear choice unless Tom Brady gets his nose busted up again during practice this week. I’ll let others debate whether Brady is the “toughest metrosexual” around as referred to by teammate Wes Welker.
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