September 14, 2012
As the second Sunday of NFL games approaches, there is plenty to look at. Mathematically speaking, on any given week, half the teams in the league win and half lose. Based on that simple fact in week 1, that left us with 16 teams that were undefeated and 16 teams still with the big donut in the win column. Being 0-1 isn’t as bad as it seems: in the 10 years since the league expanded to eight divisions, 70 of the 120 teams that made the postseason were either 1-1 or 0-2 after the second week of the season.
As it turns out, the number of undefeated and winless teams both were cut by one last night, as the Green Bay Packers upped their mark to 1-1 with a 23-10 win over the Chicago Bears, who were 1-0. Jay Cutler was dismal, completing 11 of 27 passes, though that number would jump to 15 of 27 if you included the four passes the Packers intercepted. He also was sacked seven times, while Aaron Rodgers went down five times himself.
With four games pitting 1-0 clubs against each other, we’ll be left with a maximum of 11 teams with perfect 2-0 marks by the time Monday night’s game comes to a close. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the week 2 action and give our thoughts on what might unfold. The lines shown are based on Friday’s postings and may shift slightly one way or the other by the time games kickoff over the weekend. I never advocate betting money, but if you do decide to have some action on contests, be sure to wager what you can afford to cover.
Tampa Bay at NEW YORK GIANTS (-7): Sure, in a role reversal, the Bucs are 1-0 and the Giants are 0-1. The fact still remains that the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions and Tampa Bay lost the final ten games of 2011. While the Bucs have improved and rookie running back Doug Martin looked good against Carolina, gaining 55 of his 95 rushing yards after contact, their strengths don’t negate strengths of the Giants. Tampa Bay shut down the Panthers’ run game last week but the Giants don’t run the ball; they were dead last in the league last season.
The Giants like to throw and Tampa Bay gave up 291 yards last week to Cam Newton. The Bucs will hang close but inevitably fall short in this one as Eli Manning gets things righted for the G-Men. Giants 28-20
Arizona at NEW ENGLAND (-14): There isn’t a whole lot to say about this game. New England bombed Tennessee last week 34-13 in a game that saw Brandon Lloyd get targeted more than anyone else on the Patriots. That means more than Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker. On the flip side, the Cardinals held on after the replacement officials mistakenly awarded another time out to the Seahawks, claiming victory when Braylon Edwards dropped a fourth down pass in the end zone.
The bad news for Arizona: John Skelton is out with an ankle injury he sustained in the Seattle game which means Kevin Kolb, Mr. Injury Waiting to Happen, gets the start. They should have an over/under on what quarter he goes to the bench in. This one doesn’t look promising for the Cardinals. Patriots 37-17
MINNESOTA (-2) at Indianapolis: While Andrew Luck looked decent in his first start, the Colts still are a team with a lot of needs on both sides of the ball. The team needs to establish a ground game, giving Donald Brown 9 carries is not going to strike fear in opposing defenses. Reggie Wayne caught nine balls for 135 yards but was targeted 18 times. That’s a lot of keying in on one receiver. Austin Collie may be back in action this week as he was cleared by team doctors to practice. He sustained a concussion that was diagnosed on August 19.
Christian Ponder was sharp in Minnesota’s overtime win over Jacksonville and Adrian Peterson looked just fine, rushing for 86 yards and a pair of scores. When it comes to a game of young quarterbacks, go with the one that has a season under his belt, not to mention a superior ground game. Vikings 27-17
NEW ORLEANS (-3) at Carolina: Is there a team in the league more pissed off right now than the Saints? They get Will Smith back before the opener and proceed to get lit up by Robert Griffin III to the tune of 40 points at home and lose to the Redskins. Did the Saints forget that Marques Colston was on the field? Statistics say he was targeted 11 times but he caught just 4 balls, while Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore caught six each. Brees was off his game, completing just 24 of 52 passes.
Meanwhile, the Panthers did absolutely nothing on the ground with Jonathan Stewart out with an ankle injury. Carolina ran the ball 13 times for 10 yards, with DeAngelo Williams putting up the vomit inducing stat line of 6 carries for minus one yard. Carolina needs the ground game to open up the passing attack and keep the Saints off the field. The Panthers are improving but not enough to win this one. Saints 31-21
Kansas City at Buffalo (-3): A battle of two of the five teams that gave up 40 points or more in week one takes place in Buffalo. The Bills were on many people’s radar as a sleeper pick in 2012 though it’s safe to say that the bandwagon has room for new members after their ugly 48-28 loss to the Jets. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and the team turned the ball over four times while making Mark Sanchez look like Joe Montana. Fred Jackson is out at least a month with a knee injury and David Nelson, who caught 61 balls a year ago, is done for the year after tearing an ACL. The Bills will have to dig deep for this one.
Kansas City was drubbed by Atlanta, though they played competitively in the opening half before falling apart. The defense struggled without several starters and it is unclear if Brandon Flowers will be back in action or not. Tamba Hali returns from a one game suspension but I don’t see the Chiefs being able to hold off Buffalo, which has an air of desperation after just one week. Bills 24-20
Oakland (-3) at Miami: A battle of winless teams takes place in south Florida with differing trains of thought. Ryan Tannehill looked rough in his first NFL start as the Texans battered him into three interceptions and three sacks in a 30-10 defeat. Miami’s lone touchdown came courtesy of the special teams on a punt return by Marcus Thigpen. On the flip side, special teams proved to be the downfall of the Raiders on Monday night, as replacement long snapper Travis Goethel had three poor snaps on punts. One led to a block, the first of Shane Lechler since 2006, while the other two led to excellent field position for San Diego.
The Raiders have a better set of offensive weapons than the Dolphins and that may be enough to carry the day over a rookie quarterback with no threats to speak of. Raiders 27-12
Cleveland at Cincinnati (-7): Neither team was overly impressive in week one: while the Browns intercepted Michael Vick four times, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden tossed four picks of his own in a one point defeat. Meanwhile, Cincinnati was maimed by the Ravens on Monday night by a count of 44-13 and seemed to throw in the towel in the second half. That said, the same credo that applies to Minnesota/Indianapolis applies here: take the more seasoned quarterback. Bengals 24-10
Houston (-7.5) at Jacksonville: While Jacksonville showed improvement in the opening week of the season, actually moving the ball (!!!) before falling in overtime, they have a long way to go to be a viable threat in the AFC South. Houston was sharp in dismantling Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. They now get a chance at another young quarterback in Blaine Gabbert. Maurice Jones-Drew returned from his holdout and got more work than anticipated due to an injury to Rashad Jennings and will be the workhorse back again this week. Sadly, it won’t matter in this one as the Texans are more than ready to take care of business. Texans 34-16
That covers all the early starts for Sunday. Which game are you hoping to catch on the TV this weekend?