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Sunday, May 20 2018

NFL Predictions 2012: Week 2

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Not a bad opening week. Picking winners I was a respectable 10-6. I stumbled just a bit against the spread at 7-9, but made up for it on the over/under at 12-4.

Chicago (1-0) @ Green Bay (0-1): The NFC North is expected to be a three-way race, but few expected the Packers to be struggling to keep up with the Bears and Lions. They are already looking up at both teams, and the Vikings for that matter. A loss here would put them in an early hole. A short week impacts both teams although Chicago was home last week and will not travel far and Green Bay has yet to leave home. The visitors come off an easy win over the Colts while the Pack might be reeling just a bit following a surprising loss to the 49ers.

 

I’m not so sure the Bears are not the superior team at this point. Their offense has gotten better with rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (3 catches for 80 yards 1 TD last week) and adding Michael Bush to the backfield gives them the ability to wear teams down. Against Indy the tandem of Bush and Matt Forte combined to carry the rock 28 times for 122 yards and 3 scores. Jay Cutler threw for 333 yards. This is bad news for a struggling Green Bay defense trying to get ready after just a few days off.

 

It’s pretty easy to figure out what went wrong for the Packers last week. They couldn’t run the ball. Aaron Rodgers scrambled 5 times for 27 yards to lead the team in that category and while he peppered the ball around to five different players who caught at least 4 passes all of them were tight ends or wide receivers and they were playing from behind most of the afternoon. Cedric Benson’s debut was a big disappointment and no other back was handed the ball.

 

I expect them to at least try to run on the Bears and to definitely get other rushers involved. If not, Julius Peppers is going to be a nightmare rushing Rodgers. Fatigue might lead to more scoring here if big plays catch the respective defenses off guard. It’s not as if either unit is going to shut the other side down. I can’t fathom Green Bay going 0-2 on their home field so I think they will their way to this win by the skin of their teeth: Green Bay 27, Chicago 23 (CHI +6/under 51.5)

 

Oakland (0-1) @ Miami (0-1): No team wants to start the season 0-2 because historically it is very difficult to rebound and make the playoffs. The Raiders are in a tough spot here. They are travelling across the country on a short week and dealing with the Florida heat. The Dolphins come home after taking a beating in Houston. If the talent level were a little closer I would lean heavily towards Miami here based on the circumstances.

 

However, this is an awful roster for the home team and other than perhaps long snapper the visitors have a lot of talent. Oakland’s defense played extremely well on Monday Night Football when faced with their opponent repeatedly being handed the football in plus territory. Now they go up against a struggling rookie quarterback who a couple years ago was playing wide receiver at Texas A&M.

 

Another factor is that offensive coordinator Greg Knapp used to coordinate the Texans who just worked over this defense. Maybe the Dolphins learned from last week’s beat down, and certainly the Raiders are not as talented on offense but they do have Darren McFadden. They also might have wide receiver Denarius Moore back in the fold as opposed to recently signed Derek Hagan being forced into action.

 

Ultimately, I look at defense and a lot of running here on both sides. Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas tortured the Silver and Black last December combining for 173 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown during a 34-14 wipeout. Oakland didn’t have McFadden healthy and their run defense was a mess, plus Thomas is out for this game. This result is flipped around and with the Raider defense getting on Ryan Tannehill they squeeze out a road win: Oakland 24, Miami 17 (OAK -1/over 38.5)

 

Houston (1-0) @ Jacksonville (0-1): It was nice to see Blaine Gabbert resemble a professional quarterback even though he lost a thriller in Minnesota. Last year was basically his senior season at Missouri as I look at it and now he can start to be evaluated. It helps to have Maurice Jones-Drew back and here he has a fantasy showdown with Arian Foster.

 

Neither of them ran for 100 yards in the last meeting between these two teams, but that was overshadowed by both teams needing to use two quarterbacks in Houston’s 20-13 win. Four players attempted at last 11 passes. The Texans had to turn to rookie third-stringer T.J. Yates after backup Matt Leinart was injured and the Jaguars benched then-rookie Gabbert in favor of Luke McCown. I expect better quarterback play in this one.

 

Defense usually rules the day when these teams hook up and I don’t expect anything different here. I look for a lot of running to keep the game clock moving. Jacksonville is going to be hoping to stay alive into the fourth quarter. Houston will be trying to get ahead and coast. They know they are a trendy Super Bowl pick and have to be feeling a quiet confidence that should grow with every victory.

 

I look for wide receiver Lestar Jean to have a bigger presence here than he did in the opener and the same goes for backup running back Ben Tate. Houston’s offense is obviously very dynamic and they will need to be sharp to avoid an upset. As much as I like what Jacksonville did last week, the level of competition goes way up here on both sides of the ball. Being at home helps them a bunch but not enough to win: Houston 26, Jacksonville 17 (HOU -7/over 41)

 

Cleveland (0-1) @ Cincinnati (0-1): It’s kind of funny that of the three quarterbacks who hail from colleges currently in the Big XII the oldest has the least NFL experience. Brandon Weeden suffered a dismal NFL debut and has to look over his shoulder at Colt McCoy. Andy Dalton is coming off a playoff season, but his Bengals were wiped out on Monday Night Football and don’t look ready for a return trip.

 

The loser here starts 0-2 and both teams come in deflated. Cleveland pretty much had their game against Philadelphia won even with a pathetic offensive performance only to allow a late touchdown to ruin the upset. Cincinnati is coming home on a short week with their tail between their legs. This is probably going to be a tightly contested, low scoring game. Since a wild 51-45 game won by the Browns in week 2 of the 2007 season these contests generally stay within a few points up or down from 40.

 

I think this contest goes a bit on the low side with both teams looking to establish the run. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a strong debut with the team averaging 5.1 yards per carry last week and will be given more opportunities here. On the other side, the Browns can’t let their rookie Weeden throw 4 more picks and they were lucky to recover both of his fumbles. Even though fellow rookie Trent Richardson struggled to find running room he will be given plenty of chances here to redeem himself. I like the experience team with the established quarterback but it won’t be a rout: Cincinnati 23, Cleveland 14 (CIN -7/under 39.5)

 

Kansas City (0-1) @ Buffalo (0-1): A handful of teams gave up at least 40 points in their opener and here are two of them. I’m not sure it necessarily means both defenses are awful though, or to automatically bet the over. For one thing Tamba Hali returns for the ChIefs after sitting out the opener. The Bills are without Fred Jackson in the backfield and while C.J. Spiller put up great fantasy numbers last week it is never a good thing in “real” football to lose an offensive option. They also will be missing receiver David Nelson and given the limited weapons at Fitzpatrick’s disposal that is going to be a factor.

 

Each side has a quarterback who falls in the category of being just good enough not to lose his job. Buffalo foolishly extended Ryan Fitzpatrick last year and it seems like Kansas City is on the brink of realizing Matt Cassel is never going to be their answer. One of the two is going to start the season 0-2 and be feeling a lot of heat. Odds are it will be the guy who is dealing with a hostile crowd on the road.

 

I actually like what the Bills are doing on defense this year, but it is going to take some time. Last week obviously the Jets worked them over. The Chiefs were similarly made to look very bad by the Falcons and in that case it was in their own stadium. Emotionally the huge edge goes to Buffalo. They are at home and defensive line stalwart Marcell Dareus just lost his brother. Either he plays with a heavy heart and the defense rallies around him or they play their butts off in his absence. That’s just how it works.

 

In a game between two offenses without much punch and two defenses at least capable of getting to mediocre quarterbacks it really is up to the respective running backs to produce explosive plays. I see just a couple, and a pretty low scoring game although I wouldn’t bet the house on it. I wouldn’t be stunned to see a wacky high scoring affair. I just think the smart bet is this: Buffalo 21, Kansas City 19 (KC +3.5/under 45)

 

Baltimore (1-0) @ Philadelphia (1-0): The Ravens looked great last week and the Ravens looked shaky, so this result should be obvious right? Well, not so much. For one thing Baltimore is travelling, albeit a very short trip, after losing a day since they played on Monday Night. Philadelphia entered the season with high expectations, again, and got served humble soup almost losing at Cleveland last week. When two talented teams hook up anything is possible.

 

It’s easy to like the Eagles on offense because of their speed. In their stadium I like their chances to make a few plays even against a stout defense. Michael Vick isn’t going to throw another handful of interceptions, mainly because he barely played in the preseason. Suddenly the Ravens are looking explosive on offense, but let’s not put Joe Flacco into elite status just yet. They have a tendency to look awesome one week and flat the next.

 

One thing I don’t like about the Ravens is their run defense. If LeSean McCoy starts rolling up yards it will be easier for Vick to make some big plays with his arm and legs. Then again the Eagles gave up a high average (4.5) against the Browns even with rookie Brandon Weeden looking inept throwing the ball. Everyone seems to think the visitors are going to roll in this one. I have a gut feeling everyone is wrong. This is how the NFL goes, it’s a roller coaster: Philadelphia 21, Baltimore 20 (BAL +3/under 46.5)

 

Minnesota (1-0) @ Indianapolis (0-1): Perception is a funny thing. Andrew Luck is viewed as a super human in this his rookie season out of Stanford, one of the best quarterback prospects ever. Christian Ponder had many doubters entering the 2011 draft, a lot of people thought he went too high and he is still trying to prove himself. All that matters is right now, and at this moment Ponder has a better supporting cast. His team is ready to win and spoil Luck’s home debut.

 

Adrian Peterson looks right as rain, and without Dwight Freeney the Colts are going to have trouble on defense. Ponder won’t have to do too much. He will lean on Percy Harvin and try to repeat last week’s effort by not throwing any interceptions. Luck has to deal with Jared Allen who will be attacking a suspect offensive line. I can see an emotional effort for Indy leading them to a win here, but logically the visitors are the better team. As everyone who has followed me over the years knows I typically go with the common sense play: Minnesota 24, Indianapolis 23 (IND +3/over 45.5)

 

Arizona (1-0) @ New England (1-0): The Patriots are looking scary again, and it starts with their defense. In the draft they picked up much needed talent on that side of the ball and for good measure appear to finally have a running game with Stevan Ridley. Right now the Cardinals are nowhere close to in their class. Kevin Kolb is trying to prove he really was worth the big contract despite losing his starting job in preseason, but this is a tough spot for him on the road against a juggernaut. He also has a shaky backfield.

 

Obviously Tom Brady is going to put up his numbers, peppering passes around to receivers, tight ends and backs at will. The defense is going to stake him to a lead and he will do the rest. I’m not sure there is too much left to say. It’s only a matter of how badly they will beat them. Traveling from the desert is not an easy task and I don’t see too big of an effort from the visitors once they fall behind: New England 31, Arizona 15 (NE -13.5/under 48.5)

 

New Orleans (0-1) @ Carolina (0-1): It’s early, but this is almost a survival game in the rugged NFC South. The Panthers were expected by some to make a step forward this season. One week in it appears not to be the case. Defenses might be catching up to Cam Newton in his “sophomore” campaign. On the other side, the Saints were definitely distracted by the bounty scandal and dropped their opener against the Redskins. At least they showed offensive pop though. The Panthers were pretty lifeless.

 

This game comes down to offensive options. New Orleans is not as potent outdoors on natural surface, but they have so many different players for Drew Brees to choose from. Carolina is relying a lot on Newton and he needs to be a lot better than he was in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay who is not considered to be a contender. The Panthers have talent in their backfield, but need to get something out of it. It’s a similar situation for the Saints with the difference being the presence of Darren Sproles. I’ll take the experienced quarterback with his back against the wall in a thriller: New Orleans 31, Carolina 28 (NO -2.5/over 51.5)

 

Tampa Bay (1-0) @ NY Giants (0-1): It’s pretty cool for Greg Schiano making his return to the area and bringing a team coming off a nice opening win. However, the Giants have had a half-bye week to get ready for this one and zero interest in overlooking an inferior opponent or falling to 0-2 on their home field. They are going to be ready and focused here.

 

I do like the Bucs to be improved this season although I wasn’t sure it would reflect in their record as it did last week. In this spot they will look more like the 2011 version. Josh Freeman is going to be under pressure all game. Eli Manning had some bad luck in the opener with Victor Cruz dropping 3 passes, which won’t happen again. Hopefully Tom Coughlin will unleash David Wilson who found himself in the doghouse following a costly fumble against the Cowboys so we get a showdown of rookie rushers with Doug Martin on the opposite side. Either way, I see this as a wipeout: NY Giants 27, Tampa Bay 10 (NYG -7/under 44)

 

Washington (1-0) @ St. Louis (0-1): At first blush I looked at this game as one capable of going either way. It’s going to be tough for the Rams offensively though with an offensive line in shambles. The Redskins are going to put up points with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III looking like this year’s version of Cam Newton. Sam Bradford doesn’t have the targets to deal with a shootout. Griffin has a lead rusher in Alfred Morris to help balance the offense and enough options in the passing game to be just fine after cutting tight end Chris Cooley before the season.

 

I know St. Louis has the potential to hang in a low-scoring affair if Steven Jackson runs like a man, but behind this line and with no balance offensively I don’t see it happening. I’ll ride the wave with the Redskins until it fizzles out. They just won on the road in a dome against a more talented opponent. I don’t think overconfidence is going to be a problem for them with Griffin at the helm. He is going to be focused and will direct another win: Washington 24, St. Louis 17 (WAS -3/under 44)

 

Dallas (1-0) @ Seattle (0-1): The Cowboys are feeling great after upsetting the Giants in the NFL season opener and have had extra days to prepare for this one. However, it’s a tough trip for them to make. The Seahawks have a rookie quarterback making his home debut. Russell Wilson is an exciting player to watch and for the moment looking like a third-round steal. Tony Romo, on the other hand, is fighting to be considered an elite NFL quarterback. Last week was a big step towards making that happen.

 

Clearly quarterback play is huge, and beyond that it comes down to receiving options. The new Cowboy corners were awesome in the opener and should shut down Braylon Edwards and Sidney Rice who for my money are just in the game for the money. Are they really going to be making plays here? I doubt it. Marshawn Lynch isn’t ready for beast mode. On the flip side, the Seahawks have stud corners as well, but the Cowboys unleashed Kevin Ogletree as their third receiver and have DeMarco Murray out of the backfield. It’s a close game because of the travel and lethargy, but the Cowboys do it: Dallas 23, Seattle 21 (SEA +3.5/over 42.5)

 

Tennessee (0-1) @ San Diego (1-0): The Titans are already looking pretty bad on offense. Jake Locker is questionable at quarterback so veteran Matt Hasselbeck could get the start. Once known as CJ2K, Chris Johnson is struggling to return to form. At least they get receiver Kenny Britt back. The Chargers have issues on offense as well with Ryan Mathews hurt and their running game stuck in neutral. Tight end Antonio Gates is also banged up. They were fortunate to win in Oakland last week and while it’s a short week they had a quick flight from Northern California so it’s not a big deal. On the other hand Tennessee has a long trip to make.

 

I’m looking for a defensive struggle here. Typically San Diego comes up big at home in spots like this against weak opponents. They aren’t as talented as they have been in recent seasons, but Philip Rivers is by far the best quarterback on the field, so I like their chances. This is probably going to be a snoozer unless Johnson breaks a big run or two: San Diego 23, Tennessee 14 (SD -6/under 43)

 

NY Jets (1-0) @ Pittsburgh (0-1): The Steelers lost a deceiving opener on SNF. They had some players out and were in a tough position trying to win in Peyton Manning’s return to the NFL. On the flip side the Jets shook off a dismal offensive showing in preseason by rocking the Bills. Momentum seems to be on the side of the visitors, which always gives me pause.

 

I look at Pittsburgh and I see a team that knows how to rally against a good opponent. New York can be overconfident in a heartbeat. They lose cornerback Darrelle Revis and with Mike Wallace another week removed from his holdout this is a problem. The Steelers get safety Ryan Clark back after he sat last week for medical reasons. Above all that, Ben Roethlisberger is money at home. Unless Tim Tebow, who ended Pittsburgh’s season last year as a member of the Broncos, takes over for Sanchez in the fourth quarter I’m pretty comfortable with this pick. It will be a defensive war: Pittsburgh 19, NY Jets 16 (NYJ +6/under 42.5)

 

Detroit (1-0) @ San Francisco (1-0): The handshake at the end of the game was an exciting moment last year after a thrilling game. This time I expect both to be much less dramatic. The 49ers just served notice they are pretty much the team to beat in the NFC. Anyone who thought last year was a fluke is backpedaling. They are playing smash mouth football and just took it to the Packers on their field. The Lions had a struggle past the lowly Rams in comeback fashion, hardly a great start after making a surprise playoff appearance of their own last year.

 

In general I don’t like dome teams playing outdoors, and especially against a great defense like San Francisco has. Detroit is not balanced on offense. If Matthew Stafford struggles they are sunk. On the other hand, Alex Smith has more receiving options this year and a deeper backfield. As long as the defense is doing their thing the offense just needs to eliminate mistakes. Under the SNF lights I don’t expect any sort of letdown from the 49ers. I see their defense blanketing Calvin Johnson and knocking Stafford around in a relatively easy win: San Francisco 24, Detroit 16 (SF -6.5/under 46)

 

Denver (1-0) @ Atlanta (1-0): The euphoria surrounding Peyton Manning’s return to the NFL continues here in his second straight national television appearance. This one won’t go so well though. The Falcons are looking legit. Their offense has a lot of options and unlike his days with the Colts I don’t think Manning can keep up. Matt Ryan is awesome at home and Julio Jones is becoming a superstar.

 

Defensively I do like the pass rush from Denver, but in a dome the impact is lessened. Conversely, even though Manning knows how to deal with this environment as well as anyone it will definitely help Atlanta’s pass rush. I see this as another primetime snooze unless turnovers come into play. I look for the Falcons to jump ahead with big passing plays and ride their running game the rest of the way. That’s their formula and it works: Atlanta 28, Denver 20 (ATL -3/under 51.5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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