Breaking down the Week 2 slate

To say the
offenses were ahead of the defenses in Week 1 is a vast
understatement. Five different games featured two quarterbacks going
over 300 yards, most unforgettably Cam Newton’s stellar 418-yard
debut and Tom Brady’s 517-yard demolition of the Dolphins on Monday
night. So will it be more of the same in Week 2? In Newton’s case, a
repeat performance will be awfully tough against the defending
champion Packers. Brady will also face a stiff test in San Diego. But
smart money says continue to look for aerial fireworks throughout the
season. And so without further ado:

Last week/season: 8-7-1

Arizona at
Washington (-3.5)

Analysis: The
Redskins showed that they shed a lot of last year’s baggage with Week
1’s convincing 28-14 win over the Giants, who had beaten them six
straight. In comes Arizona, who survived Cam Newton’s 418 passing
yards to hang on and win, 28-21. This game features two quarterbacks
looking to prove themselves for different reasons. Kevin Kolb needs
to prove his worth after the Cardinals traded for him for Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick, while Rex Grossman simply
wants to show he deserves to be a starter in this league. The
Redskins played with poise and confidence in Week 1, and Arizona has
to be a little concerned with their pass defense. Washington should
emerge from this one 2-0. The pick: Redskins.

Baltimore (-6) at

Analysis: The
Ravens sleighed a major dragon Sunday when they hammered the
Steelers, 35-7. For many in Baltimore, it may have felt like the
Super Bowl. So one could understand if they are somewhat emotionally
spent going into Tennessee, who is essentially in a rebuilding mode.
The biggest threat the Titans have is Chris Johnson, who left the
teams’ 2008 playoff matchup early with an injury and the Titans
weren’t the same in a game Baltimore ultimately won. Because of last
week’s high stakes, this one could be close for a while, but in the

end there is no excuse for the Ravens not to win by at least a
touchdown. The pick: Ravens.

Chicago at New
Orleans (-6.5)

Analysis: This
might seem like an oddly familiar spot for the Bears. A year ago,
coming off a home win against Detroit that they essentially stole,
they were big underdogs going into Dallas, where the Cowboys had high
expectations for the year despite losing their opener. The Saints
also have a lot expected at them, and could already be feeling the
heat despite their game performance in last Thursday night’s opener
against the Packers. The Bears walloped the favored Falcons a week
ago and seem to constantly be an afterthought despite last year’s NFC
Championship Game appearance. If there’s one team that has been Drew
Brees’ bugaboo, it’s the Bears, against whom Brees is 0-4. That
includes a 39-14 loss in the 2006 NFC title game. It might be tough
to ask the Bears to pull the trick again, but either way, this won’t
be easy for the Saints in the Big Easy. The pick: Bears.

Cleveland (-2.5)
at Indianapolis

Analysis: Cleveland
is favored by 2.5???? That would have been any sane person’s reaction
if you told them that several months ago, and frankly it still
doesn’t look right on paper now even with Peyton Manning out of
action for the foreseeable future. The Browns dropped the ball big
time last week in losing to lowly Cincinnati at home, but of course
it’s major panic mode in Indy after Houston throttled the Colts,
34-7. Still, the Colts should be able to get past both the shock of
that loss beginning life without Peyton and the fact that they are
home underdogs against the Browns, who have had just one winning
season since returning to the NFL in 1999. Out of both pride and
principal, the Colts should muster enough of the old magic to avoid
their first 0-2 start since 1998 (Manning’s rookie year). The
pick: Colts.

Green Bay at
Carolina (-9.5)

Analysis: Cam
Newton was stellar in his NFL debut, setting a rookie record with 418
passing yards despite coming up just short in Arizona. But now he
gets to face the defending champion Packers, who did give up a big
game to Drew Brees in Thursday’s opener but will pose a much greater
challenge than the Cardinals. Traditionally this is viewed as a tough
spot for a team like Green Bay that is expected to coast, and it
could be a little tough early, but Newton may be overwhelmed this
time around. Aaron Rodgers should have a big day against a Carolina
defense that just lost its top player in Jon Beason for the season.
The pick: Packers.

Jacksonville at
New York Jets (-9)

Analysis: The Jags
have been somewhat of a thorn in the side of the Jets in recent
years, having covered the spread in each of the last four meetings
and winning the previous three of those matchups. Luke McCown takes
his show on the road now and will need a big day from Maurice
Jones-Drew to overtake the Jets, who won by the skin of their teeth
at the gun last week against Dallas. That should be a wakeup call for
New York and Jacksonville may not have enough manpower to keep it
close for four quarters. The pick: Jets.

Kansas City at
Detroit (-9)

Analysis: Potentially
another shocking line here. I don’t know if the archives go back far
enough to find a time when the Lions were this heavily favored, but
they are on a roll having won five straight dating back to last year.
Kansas City was thoroughly embarrassed last week by Buffalo at home,
then received more bad news when they lost Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry
for the season with a torn ACL. From mid-2007 to early 2009, the
Lions won just one game – 25-20 against the Chiefs in the
second-to-last game of the 07 season. Detroit is looking to start 2-0
for the first time since 2004 and is likely do so, but Jamaal
Charles’ running and the urgency with which the Chiefs need to play
after last week’s debacle should make this a tight one. The pick:

Oakland at Buffalo

Analysis: Could
Hue Jackson begin his coaching career with two road wins? If
Sebastian Janikowski can kick another 63-yard field goal through the
winds of Buffalo, that would be a start. Darren McFadden could
duplicate his Week 1 success against a modest Bills run defense,
which admittedly held its own last week in Kansas City against Jamaal
Charles. The last time these teams met in Buffalo in 2008, the Bills
came away 24-23 winners thanks to a last-second field goal en route
to a 4-0 start. This would could be equally nailbiting as one of
these teams is going to come away from this game a surprising 2-0.
The pick: Raiders.

Seattle at
Pittsburgh (-14.5)

Analysis: The
Steelers looked awful in committing seven turnovers to Baltimore last
week, while the Seahawks let things slip away on special teams in San
Francisco. Tarvaris Jackson could find life miserable in Pittsburgh
against an angry Steelers squad, but the fact is that the Steelers
are much more concerned with starting 0-2 than the Seahawks are. They
are a better team and should prevail, but giving up more than two
touchdowns in the spread seems a tad steep. The pick: Seahawks.

Tampa Bay at
Minnesota (-3)

Analysis: The
scoreboard lied a bit last week for Minnesota, as the game was not
nearly as close as the 24-17 score seemed to indicate. San Diego
throughly outplayed the Vikings, and now need to rebound in their
return to the Metrodome against last year’s upstart in Tampa Bay. The
Bucs lost at home to the Lions for the second straight year a week
ago, and their best chance for victory comes in stopping Adrian
Peterson. Tampa Bay is another team that could be feeling some
pressure to not start 0-2 and will need to weather the storm of
emotion in what figures to be a raucous environment under the new
roof of the Metrodome. Donovan McNabb has had his struggles in the
past against Tampa Bay and needs to get off to a fast start if he
hopes to exorcise those demons. Minnesota should have just enough in
this one. The pick: Vikings.

Dallas (-3) at San

Analysis: The
Cowboys were stunned last week, blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter
lead for the first time in franchise history. The 49ers got a major
jolt from Ted Ginn Jr., whose amazing minute featured a kickoff
return for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown in the
teams’ 33-17 win over Seattle. DeMarcus Ware could cause major
problems for Alex Smith and his shaky offensive line, perhaps so much
so that Tony Romo can breathe a little easier as the critics come
calling again after last week’s meltdown. This won’t be easy for
Dallas, and the 49ers looked a lot more organized under Jim Harbaugh
last week, but it’s do-or-die for the Cowboys and they should respond
for Jason Garrett. The pick: Cowboys.

Cincinnati at
Denver (-3.5)

Analysis: Broncos
fans were calling for Tim Tebow as Kyle Orton struggled in Monday
night’s loss to Oakland. The Bengals pulled off a surprise in Week 1
and it’s unclear who will be under center, but Orton is under a great
deal of pressure to perform, and it seems like this 2011 Bengals
squad will be playing with house money. That’s somewhat of a
dangerous proposition for a team like Denver trying to establish its
identity, so regardless this one will be close. The pick: Bengals.

Houston (-3) at

Analysis: The
Texans are a perfect 5-for-5 against Miami, having most recently
beaten them in Miami late in the 2009 season. Matt Schaub and the
Texans offense should be salivating after seeing what New England did
to Miami’s defense, and given their history against Miami they could
get out of the gates fast in this one. Unless the Dolphins suddenly
have an answer for Andre Johnson, Houston should be 2-0 for the
second consecutive year.

San Diego at New
England (-7)

Analysis: The
Patriots are in the Chargers’ heads, plain and simple. Last year, San
Diego committed four turnovers, two of the absurd variety, and missed
a late 50-yard field goal after a penalty pushed them back in a 23-20
loss. They haven’t beaten the Patriots with Tom Brady at quarterback
since 2005, when they ended New England’s 21-game home winning streak
with a 41-17 throttling. The Patriots looked unstoppable Monday night
in Miami, and while the Chargers will pose more of a real threat,
they don’t figure to have the intestinal fortitude to hang tough for
four quarters against a New England juggernaut. The pick:

(-2.5) at Atlanta

Analysis: Michael
Vick makes his second return to Atlanta (he led the Eagles to a
dominating 34-7 win there in 2009) as the “Dream Team” seeks yet
another 2-0 start. Atlanta was pounded last week coming off a 13-3
season, and that has to be concerned considering the way they bowed
out of the playoffs last January. An aggressive Eagles defense could
cause problems for Matt Ryan just as Chicago did, putting extra
emphasis on Michael Turner to have a big game. Still, that doesn’t
figure to be enough to stop the high-flying Eagles. The pick:

St. Louis at New
York Giants (-6)

Analysis: Sam
Bradford suddenly has a chance to play Monday night, something that
didn’t seem possible mere days ago. That’s the ticket to success for
the Rams against the Giants, for whom Steve Spagnuolo coached as the
defensive coordinator in 2007-08. New York needs to establish a sound
running game to control the tempo, something that might be tough on
St. Louis’ end with Steven Jackson’s status up in the air. Justin
Tuck seems ready to play, which could provide a boost for New York’s
pass defense that was lacking last week and that could be a big
difference-maker against a Rams offensive line still getting it all
together. This one won’t be a blowout, but the Giants should handle
their business and avoid 0-2. The pick: Giants.

Upset of the
Week: BEARS over SAINTS. I wrestled with going with the Bengals here,
but even that wouldn’t be too much of a shocker. Chicago has owned
New Orleans and more specifically Drew Brees, as the QB is 0-4
lifetime against the Bears. Chicago excelled in a similar spot a year
ago in Dallas and that jump-started them to an 11-5 season. If Week 1
is any indication, Jay Cutler is ready to silence his critics, and
the Saints have some issues getting to the quarterback and preventing
big plays. If not for the new kickoff rule, Devin Hester could prove
to be a game-breaker here, but that seems unlikely given the
touchback frenzy we saw in Week 1.

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