As has been the norm the last several seasons, the opening week was filled with weird happenings. Also the routine has been my wayward Week 1 picks. A losing record straight-up, but a winning week against the spread… how odd is that?
But as always, I persevere. It always gets better, because it’s significantly easier to analyze match-ups using current information rather than speculating based on the previous campaign’s results and/or the dreaded pre-season stats.
Let’s give ‘er another shot…
Straight-Up: 7-9 (44%) ATS: 9-7 (56%) Over/Under: 6-9-1 (40%)
Straight-Up: 7-9 (44%) ATS: 9-7 (56%) Over/Under: 6-9-1 (40%)
New England (1-0) at Carolina (0-1)
Line: Patriots favored by 3 (total points line is 43 ½)
Series: New England won the last meeting, 32-29, in Super Bowl XXXVIII. There have been a total of three meetings between the franchises, with the Patriots winning twice.
Patriots Status Report: New England opened with a 30-20 home victory over Oakland and has three extra days of rest because they opened the season last Thursday.
Panthers Status Report: Carolina lost its opener at home to New Orleans, 23-20, and is the only NFC South team to drop its first game. In addition, stalwart DT Kris Jenkins was lost for the year with torn knee ligaments.
Other Noteworthy Info: The Patriots have several minor injuries on defense and among their wide receivers, but none are considered crucial.
Game Summary: We will see how important motivation can be for a football team in this one. Let’s see… seeking to avenge a Super Bowl loss, pitted against defending champs, coming off poor performance against New Orleans. I’d say the Panthers will be fired up… and I say it won’t matter. Patriots will take advantage of Jenkins’ absence with lots of RB Corey Dillon and their overall balance will be too much.
Prediction: PATRIOTS, 27-20
Buffalo (1-0) at Tampa Bay (1-0)
Line: Buccaneers favored by 2 ½ (total points line is 35)
Series: The Bucs won at home in 2000, the only meeting between these franchises going back to 1991.
Bills Status Report: Buffalo’s defense, expected to be excellent this season, didn’t disappoint in a 22-7 home whipping of Houston last week. And QB J.P. Losman played decently in his debut as a starter.
Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay’s defense was reminiscent of their Super Bowl XXXVII winning squad, controlling the lauded Minnesota offense last week and forcing Daunte Culpepper into five turnovers in a 24-13 triumph at The Metrodome. Rookie RB Cadillac Williams had a huge debut, although he’s likely to find the going more difficult this week.
Other Noteworthy Info: Reports out of Tampa have Michael Pittman becoming involved in the offense by playing multiple positions as well as in two-back sets. He could see time as a fullback, tight end and wide receiver. Problem is, he probably won’t see enough time to matter.
Game Summary: With these two defenses, a 13-10 type of game could be forthcoming. But I like the potential of both of these offenses, and unless the weather turns ugly in Florida, I believe there will be more scoring than most expect. Tampa Bay gets the edge at home, but these teams appear to be evenly matched.
Prediction: BUCS, 24-17
Baltimore (0-1) at Tennessee (0-1)
Line: Ravens favored by 3 ½ (total points line is 38 ½)
Series: These former divisional rivals have met only once in the last four years, a game won by the Titans at Baltimore in 2003. The road team has won five of the last seven meetings.
Ravens Status Report: Baltimore’s offense never got untracked during Sunday night’s 24-7 loss at home to Indianapolis. QB Kyle Boller suffered a turf toe and was replaced by Anthony Wright, who starts this week – and that’s good for the Ravens because Wright is arguably a better quarterback anyway.
Titans Status Report: Tennessee was routed at Pittsburgh last week, 34-7, and has numerous issues on both sides of the ball. The good news is that QB Steve McNair is relatively healthy.
Other Noteworthy Info: Ravens RB Jamal Lewis suffered a fractured finger, and is questionable. If he sits, Chester Taylor would start – and would be a great fantasy play.
Game Summary: Few would question that Baltimore is the better squad, but the host Titans might be catching the Ravens at the right time. Still, I like Wright because he makes plays… and doesn’t make many mistakes. I don’t understand why he hasn’t received more consideration to be the main guy there. I’d like to pick an upset here, and I would if Tennessee had represented itself better last week. I love teams in their home openers… but not here.
Prediction: RAVENS, 20-10
Pittsburgh (1-0) at Houston (0-1)
Line: Steelers favored by 6 (total points line is 38 ½)
Series: Interestingly, the Texans won the only previous meeting between these two clubs, in their inaugural season of 2001.
Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh shredded Tennessee at home, 34-7, as rookie back Willie Parker amassed more than 200 yards from scrimmage and a score. QB Ben Roethlisberger has directed 15 consecutive regular season victories.
Texans Status Report: Houston was stymied by Buffalo’s swarming defense all day in a 22-7 road loss last week.
Other Noteworthy Info: Both Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis are listed as questionable for this week, meaning Parker probably gets at least one more game as the featured ball-carrier.
Game Summary: A complete mismatch? I don’t think so. Houston has been an excellent home underdog almost since first entering the league. Coach Dom Capers will hold nothing back, but the Texans must protect QB David Carr to have a chance. He was sacked five times against the Bills. Roethlisberger’s streak has to end some time, but it’s probably not here, not now. Still, I smell a fairly tight game.
Prediction: STEELERS, 23-19
Minnesota (0-1) at Cincinnati (1-0)
Line: Bengals favored by 3 (total points line is 47 ½)
Series: The Vikings have won four of the last five meetings overall, but split the last two at Cincinnati.
Vikings Status Report: QB Daunte Culpepper endured possibly the worst game of his career last week in the opener against Tampa Bay, a 24-13 Vikings loss, accounting for five turnovers.
Bengals Status Report: The team pulled away to a 27-13 victory at Cleveland last week, and is getting lauded league-wide for its balance on both sides of the ball.
Other Noteworthy Info: RB Mewelde Moore is listed as questionable for this week, meaning more work for short-yardage guy Moe Williams as well as starter Michael Bennett.
Game Summary: Despite their season-opening defeat, I liked what I saw from the Vikings defense for more than three quarters. If they play with that level of intensity and execution all year, Minnesota will win its division. As it is, and despite the Bengals looking so solid in their first game, I just can’t picture a Cincinnati 2-0/Minnesota 0-2 scenario after two weeks. A mild upset pick here.
Prediction: VIKINGS, 24-21
Jacksonville (1-0) at Indianapolis (1-0)
Line: Colts favored by 9 (total points line is 45 ½)
Series: The Jaguars stunned the Colts in the dome a year ago, 27-24, and have arguably played tougher against Peyton Manning and company than any team south of Foxboro, Mass. Indy won the other meeting, 24-17, at Jacksonville.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville enjoyed a big second half to whip Seattle last week, forcing five turnovers without committing one in a 26-14 triumph.
Colts Status Report: Before a national TV audience Sunday night, the Colts demonstrated their defense is for real by shutting down host Baltimore, 24-7. TE Dallas Clark, who sat out last week’s game, is again listed as questionable with a concussion.
Other Noteworthy Info: The visiting team has covered the spread in four of the last five meetings in this series.
Game Summary: Flat out, I don’t believe the Jaguars will beat the Colts at Indy two years in a row. But they’ll come close. Their relentless, pursuing defense makes it difficult for Manning to get the correct reads. The run defense is unlikely to yield a big game to Edgerrin James. But the Colts’ D is equally up to the task, and old-timer Jimmy Smith isn’t going to have two touchdowns every week for Jax.
Prediction: COLTS, 23-17
San Francisco (1-0) at Philadelphia (0-1)
Line: Eagles favored by 13 ½ (total points line is 41)
Series: The 49ers won, 31-28, at Philadelphia in the most recent meeting in 2003 and has won five of seven going back 10 years. Interestingly, the road team has won six of those seven clashes.
49ers Status Report: The defense showed it is significantly improved, exploiting the talented but erratic St. Louis Rams in a 28-25 victory at home. Veteran WR Johnnie Morton joins TE Eric Johnson as injured pass-catchers.
Eagles Status Report: QB Donovan McNabb endured a rough game at Atlanta Monday night, suffering a severely bruised chest as the Eagles dropped a 14-10 decision.
Other Noteworthy Info: McNabb and REC Terrell Owens are talking, but only one of them may play.
Game Summary: Yes, the 49ers played relatively well last week and are optimistic for the immediate future. Yes, the Eagles were outplayed and out-hustled by the Falcons. No, the 49ers don’t have a chance of winning. I like the game to be competitive only if McNabb sits in favor of Koy Detmer, because that will make it more difficult for Owens to have the huge game he’s dreaming about against his former club. As it is, I believe McNabb will suit up but it might be a short day. Philly’s good defense and the 49ers’ improved one rule in a low-scorer.
Prediction: EAGLES, 17-7
Detroit (1-0) at Chicago (0-1)
Line: Lions favored by 1 ½ (total points line is 33 ½)
Series: The Lions have won the last three meetings, all by six points or fewer including last season’s 20-16 victory at Chicago.
Lions Status Report: Detroit’s defense was ultra-impressive, shutting down the mistake-prone Green Bay Packers for a 17-3 verdict in its opener at home. Kicker Jason Hanson has a sore hamstring and is listed as questionable. No replacement has been named at this writing.
Bears Status Report: Chicago played hard and played well on defense in last week’s 9-7 loss at Washington. But the offense was dazed and confused under the direction of QB Kyle Orton.
Other Noteworthy Info: Lions QB Joey Harrington had no turnovers and two TD passes in the opener.
Game Summary: Detroit is getting no respect as of yet, if you look at the spread. The Bears will be pesky at home, but the Lions are clearly the better team at this point. They’ll prove it with a no-nonsense game plan that results in a no-nonsense victory.
Prediction: LIONS, 21-13
Atlanta (1-0) at Seattle (0-1)
Line: Even (total points line is 41 ½)
Series: The Seahawks edged the Falcons at home last season, 28-26, and have won three of the last four meetings.
Falcons Status Report: Atlanta’s defense was impressive in Monday night’s 14-10 home victory over Philadelphia, but the offense struggled much of the night.
Seahawks Report: Seattle committed five turnovers – and didn’t get any takeaways – in a 26-14 loss at Jacksonville.
Other Noteworthy Info: CB Kevin Mathis, who missed last week’s game when he was ejected for a fight that took place prior to kickoff, is listed as questionable with a hamstring strain.
Game Summary: This is a lethal spot for the Falcons, who are going on the road for a cross-country trip on short rest against a defending division champion that’s at home and coming off a disappointing effort. I expect the Seahawks to do a better job of taking care of the ball and win in a fashion similar to last year’s match-up.
Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 27-24
St. Louis (0-1) at Arizona (0-1)
Line: Cardinals favored by 1 (total points line is 44 ½)
Series: The Rams had pretty much owned this series until going into Tempe last December and getting shellacked, 31-7. St. Louis won five of the six prior meetings.
Rams Status Report: St. Louis didn’t appear to start playing until the fourth quarter, and its rally fell short in a 28-25 loss at San Francisco last week.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona’s special teams yielded two touchdowns in a 42-19 loss to the New York Giants at The Meadowlands that was, in the Cardinals’ defense, closer than the final score would suggest.
Other Noteworthy Info: Reports have it that the Rams might be playing for coach Mike Martz’s job. My comment – it’s about freakin’ time.
Game Summary: We know that both these teams are better than they demonstrated last week, so I’m ignoring those “disrespective” performances in analyzing this contest. The desert heat could be a factor, with a dome team coming into town for an afternoon contest. But the Rams should have more of a sense of urgency if Martz’s job is, indeed, on the line. Give the Rams a close victory in a game that truly could go either way.
Prediction: RAMS, 28-25
Miami (1-0) at New York Jets (0-1)
Line: Jets favored by 6 (total points line is 37 ½)
Series: The Jets swept last season, routing the Dolphins at home and winning a fairly close contest at Miami. The Dolphins swept in 2003.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami’s first game under new coach Nick Saban was a rousing success, as the Dolphins routed visiting Denver, 34-10. QB Gus Frerotte played well, and is entrenched as the starter.
Jets Status Report: Last week’s game at Kansas City may not be indicative of the Jets, but it still happened – a 27-7 loss that was as ugly for the visitors as the score would indicate.
Other Noteworthy Info: There are reportedly already some scattered catcalls in New York for veteran former Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler to take over for Chad Pennington as starter. Huh?
Game Summary: Hey, give the Dolphins credit. They played brilliantly in their opener. But the Jets are legitimate playoff contenders, the Dolphins still a long way from that status. At home, the Jets should be able to execute their balanced offense and their pass defense as a whole is better than Denver’s, even if the Jets don’t feature Champ Bailey to shut down opposing studs. I like both teams to be 1-1 when this one’s over.
Prediction: JETS, 20-17
Cleveland (0-1) at Green Bay (0-1)
Line: Packers favored by 6 ½ (total points line is 41)
Series: These teams have only played three times in the last 15 years, with Green Bay winning twice. The last meeting was in 2001, also won by the Pack.
Browns Status Report: Cleveland was expected to struggle this season and the Browns did just that in a 27-13 home loss to Cincinnati.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay wasn’t expected to struggle as much but did just that in a 17-3 road loss at Detroit.
Other Noteworthy Info: With WR Javon Walker gone for the season with torn knee ligaments, Robert Ferguson becomes a starter opposite Donald Driver, and the Packers reportedly were looking to sign free agent Jerome Pathon as well.
Game Summary: Green Bay’s offensive line is obviously a major concern, but it’s doubtful that the Browns can formulate enough of a rush to exploit that weakness. On the other hand, Cleveland’s pass protection for QB Trent Dilfer was superb – no sacks allowed. The Browns have virtually no healthy tight ends available, and that puts a damper on running the ball outside as well as ball-control passing. The Packers have the superior offensive personnel, and that’s enough to prevail in their home opener.
Prediction: PACKERS, 24-14
San Diego (0-1) at Denver (0-1)
Line: Broncos favored by 3 (total points line is 45)
Series: Denver has dominated this series at home, winning by double-figures in five of the last six meetings (with a 37-13 romp at San Diego in ’03 also in the mix). The Chargers managed to win at home a year ago, 20-17.
Chargers Status Report: They lost at home to Dallas, 28-24, after having numerous chances to score the winning touchdown from close range in the final minute.
Broncos Status Report: Denver was embarrassed at Miami, 34-10, as every facet of the Broncos’ game was sub-par.
Other Noteworthy Info: TE Antonio Gates returns to the San Diego lineup after missing the opener due to a suspension stemming from his contract holdout. For Denver, both CB Champ Bailey and RB Mike Anderson are questionable.
Game Summary: If you look at recent history, Denver should roll. Coach Mike Shanahan beats Marty Schottenheimer like a drum, year after year it seems. But while San Diego played well enough to win last week, the Broncos were awful. I’m not sure a simple batch of home cooking is enough, especially if Bailey doesn’t play. So I will make this my upset of the week and go with the Chargers behind an abnormally heavy dose of LaDainian Tomlinson, forgotten down the stretch last Sunday and with a history of Denver struggles. Both trends end.
Prediction: CHARGERS, 23-20
Kansas City (1-0) at Oakland (0-1)
Line: Chiefs favored by 1 (total points line is 53 1/2)
Series: The Chiefs have won five in a row in this series, including a 34-27 victory at Oakland last December. Of the five wins, all but one was decided by a TD or less.
Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City throttled the visiting New York Jets last week, 27-7, with a defense that, if not a Week 1 fluke, appears strong enough to make KC the AFC West Division favorite.
Raiders Status Report: Oakland played respectably at New England last Thursday night but lost, 30-20, to the two-time defending champ.
Other Noteworthy Info: The Raiders are only 12-12 at home over the last three years.
Game Summary: I like KC convincingly here. The Raiders are at home, and this is a rivalry game. But the Chiefs showed last week that they can generate a legitimate pass rush, and they suddenly have the downfield defenders to keep teams from beating them for big plays – CB Patrick Surtain’s concussion not withstanding. On the other side of the ball, Oakland’s defense likely doesn’t have an answer for the two-headed Priest Holmes/Larry Johnson monster or TE Tony Gonzalez. And QB Trent Green should have shaken off the rust by now.
Prediction: CHIEFS, 31-17
New Orleans (1-0) at New York Giants (1-0)
Line: Giants favored by 3 (total points line is 44)
Series: The Giants have won six of the last eight meetings, including four of five at home, but the Saints won in a rout, 45-7, at New Orleans in the most recent clash in 2003.
Saints Status Report: New Orleans gained an emotional 23-20 victory at Carolina in their opener, motivated to represent their mostly-destroyed city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.
Giants Status Report: The Giants’ special teams ran roughshod, scoring twice in a 42-19 rout of visiting Arizona last week.
Other Noteworthy Info: This was originally scheduled as a Sunday home game for New Orleans, but was moved from the severely damaged SuperDome.
Game Summary: A tough call – both teams played well and the Saints’ heartwarming story is balanced by the Giants being at home. RBs Deuce McAlister and Tiki Barber should both run well, QBs Aaron Brooks and Eli Manning will be periodically effective but erratic, and each defense will play well for the most part but give up the occasional big play. Could go either way, but I’m taking the host Giants because New Orleans is suddenly very thin at tight end and that reduces Brooks’ comfort level.
Prediction: GIANTS, 21-16
Washington (1-0) at Dallas (1-0)
Line: Cowboys favored by 6 (total points line is 35 ½)
Series: Dallas has dominated this once great rivalry the last several years, winning 13 of the last 14 meetings. The Cowboys swept last season, but both games were decided by three points.
Redskins Status Report: Washington held off the visiting Chicago Bears for a 9-7 victory in its opener, but it was anything but pretty. Mark Brunell gets the start at QB over Patrick Ramsey, who injured his neck last week but is listed as probable. That means, essentially, that Ramsey was conveniently benched.
Cowboys Status Report: Dallas pulled off a minor upset, beating the Chargers at San Diego, 28-24, as young WR Patrick Crayton surfaced as QB Drew Bledsoe’s favorite target.
Other Noteworthy Info: Head coaches Joe Gibbs of Washington and Bill Parcells of Dallas have won five Super Bowls between them in seven appearances.
Game Summary: I like the Redskins’ defense, but Dallas has absolutely owned this series and I’m impressed with what I saw last week from its passing game. The Cowboys’ dominance in this rivalry has to end some time, but Washington just isn’t impressive enough anywhere else to be given serious consideration. As was the case both times a year ago, I like it to be close.
Prediction: COWBOYS, 22-17