Sep. 20, 2018
NFL Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Not a bad start to the season at all. Let's keep it going.
Week 2 Headlines
Bryant Back in Oakland: After being released just 10 days earlier, Martavis Bryant will return to the Raiders on a one-year deal.
Le’Veon’s Holdout: The Le’Veon Bell holdout is still ongoing. To up the ante, the Pittsburgh Steelers have removed the All-Pro Running Back from their depth chart entirely.
Allen to Start: The Buffalo Bills have announced that rookie quarterback Josh Allen will start for the team in Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Injuries in Atlanta: The Atlanta Falcons have announced that Safety Keanu Neal will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Also, Pro Bowl Linebacker Dion Jones will be out indefinitely with a foot injury.
Fantasy Football Start Em/Sit Em
Starting Quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Alex Smith, and Jared Goff.
Sitting Quarterbacks: Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Derek Carr, and Derek Carr.
Starting Running Backs: James Conner, Jay Ajayi, Carlos Hyde, Dion Lewis, and Chris Thompson.
Sitting Running Backs: Jamaal Williams, Kenyan Drake, Chris Carson, Derrick Henry, and Marshawn Lynch.
Starting Wide Receivers: Emmanuel Sanders, Juju Smith-Schuster, Nelson Agholor, Josh Gordon, and Kenny Stills.
Sitting Wide Receivers: Amari Cooper, Chris Hogan, Kelvin Benjamin, Randall Cobb, and Devin Funchess.
Starting Tight Ends: Jordan Reed, George Kittle, Jared Cook, Evan Engram, and Benjamin Watson.
Sitting Tight Ends: Antonio Gates, Charles Clay, Tyler Eifert, Green Bay Packers, and Eric Ebron.
Starting Defense/Special Teams: Chargers, Rams, Broncos, Bears, and Jets.
Sitting Defense/Special Teams: Chiefs, Cardinals, Falcons, Packers, and Vikings (if Aaron Rodgers plays).
Game Picks (Season Record 11-4-1)
Bengals vs. Ravens: Thursday Night Football features an early divisional matchup out of the Afc North. The Bengals and Ravens were both winners last week. The Bengals spoiled the return of Andrew Luck and defeated the Colts. The Ravens flat out embarrassed the Bills and exploited their lack of a quarterback. Cincinnati has been on the losing side of their last four games on primetime. However, those losses only came by an average of five points. The Ravens defense will be put to a better test by having to deal with the Bengals offense. Also, we’ll see if Flacco’s early success can be sustainable. Expect a typical sloppy drag of a Thursday night game with the Ravens winning by three.
Prediction: Ravens win 20-17
Steelers vs. Chiefs: Kansas City couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill ripped the Chargers defense apart last week. But one thing to note is that Joey Bosa didn’t play last week. The Chiefs will now be put to the test in the trenches by Cameron Heyward and the Steelers. The Steelers had seven sacks against the Browns last week. Meanwhile, life without Le’Veon has gone okay for the Pittsburgh ground game. James Conner will likely have no trouble continuing his production from last week. The problem is Ben Roethlisberger looked like he had a run in with father time. It’s still too soon to say the veteran quarterback is done, but he will need to be better. For this game, I actually think the Steelers will continue to play beneath their ability. The big play ability of the Chiefs will be the difference as they win the game.
Prediction: Chiefs win 28-24
Jets vs. Dolphins: The Miami culture change is off to a 1-0 start on the young season. The Dolphins were able to control the pace at the line of scrimmage against the Titans and force turnovers out of their quarterback. Offensively, the Dolphins got great production from Kenny Stills but got mixed results from Ryan Tannehill and Kenyan Drake. Meanwhile, the Jets fans had a scare when rookie quarterback Sam Darnold threw a pick-six on his first professional pass. You could almost hear Jets fans cry out in despair and agony. But Darnold bounced back and had a very good game after that. Furthermore, the Jets defense completely took apart the Lions offense. Shame on the Lions for not changing up the vocabulary in their offense. Darnold was excellent when he was kept clean in the picket and feasted on quick passes. The gameplay for him will likely remain the same. And I expect the Jets defense to extract a few turnovers from the Dolphins.
Prediction: Jets win 24-14
Buccaneers vs. Eagles: The shock of Week 1 took place in New Orleans as the Buccaneers defeated the Saints. The Bucs were supposed to struggle with Jameis Winston serving his suspension, but Ryan Fitzpatrick had other plans. Fitzpatrick led a passing barrage with 417 yards and four touchdown passes. DeSean Jackson looked like the old DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans looked elite as usual. The Eagles opened the season with an ugly win against the Falcons. That game was basically a repeat of their playoff game back in January. Both teams struggled to move the ball, but the Eagles made one more play than Atlanta. Nick Foles will have to be consistently better for the Eagles to survive until Carson Wentz’s return. Going back to the preseason, Foles has had more ups and downs than a roller coaster. But at least the defense has been excellent. The Eagles defense will get after the Bucs and force a more Fitzpatrick performance. Meanwhile, Foles will play better and lead the Eagles to a win.
Prediction: Eagles win 27-17
Saints vs. Browns: Only the Browns could end a losing streak by not winning. I think they’re getting far too much credit for last week’s result. With the way the Steelers played, the Browns should’ve won that game. A tie in that manner is basically another loss in my book. Even with the lackluster results, the Browns didn’t look incompetent. And that ladies and gentleman is an improvement. The Saints entered the season on the short list of Super Bowl contenders. Their defense turned in a vintage performance. They were ripped to shreds and allowing 48 points in a shootout loss to Tampa. After playing great on that side of the ball last year, it was jarring to see the Saints revert to that extent. They’re going to be angry at home this week, and that doesn’t bold well for the Browns.
Prediction: Saints win 34-20
Redskins vs. Colts: Alex Smith has already rubbed off on his new team in Washington. The Redskins win wasn’t flashy in any aspect, but it was efficient. And while everyone normally jokes about how that style of play falls short in the playoffs, it’s generally effective during the regular season. Look for Washington to try and put pressure on Andrew Luck and run the ball down the Colts throats. Meanwhile, Smith won’t cost them the game since he’ll be playing steady. Speaking of Steady, the return of Luck went about as well as expected. He completed 73 percent of his passes, tossed a couple of touchdowns, and finished with a quarterback rating of 93.2. Unfortunately, Luck can’t do everything on his own. The Colts defense is still a question mark.
Prediction: Redskins win 27-23
Bills vs. Chargers: I’ll never understand why the Buffalo Bills insisted Nathan Peterman was a starting caliber quarterback in this league. It baffles the mind. Now that Peterman has proven that he doesn’t belong, the Bills are left with no other option than to start rookie quarterback Josh Allen. Unfortunately, Allen isn’t much better than Peterman at this moment. According to Pro Football Focus, Allen only completed two of seven passes for 38 yards when pressured by the Ravens. Pressure is what they should expect from the Chargers. The last time the Bolts saw the Bills, they picked off Peterman five times in a half. The Chargers are also a team that was served humble pie last week. The Chargers are another trendy pick to advance to the Super Bowl. The secondary, nicknamed the ‘Jack Boys’, is allegedly known for their speed and physicality. Tyreek Hill laughed at that and showed them some real speed. But their offense had no trouble moving the ball against Kansas City. They should have an easier time against the Bills. And the Chargers defense will feast on the Bills rookie quarterback.
Prediction: Chargers win 42-3
Packers vs. Vikings: Green Bay had themselves a scare last week against the Bears. Aaron Rodgers went down with an injury and the Bears took a 20 point lead late in the game. All seemed lost until Rodgers returned to the field for the Packers. And with one good leg, he ripped the Bears heart out of their chest and won the game for the Packers. With a sprained knee, it is being advised by some experts that Rodgers sit out the game. And for good reason when you consider the history. The last time the Vikings saw Rodgers, they broke his collarbone and took him out for the year. Plus, Rodgers will need his mobility if he has any hopes of playing at a high level against this defense. And now, the Vikings defense isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense also deserve some respect. Top to bottom, the Vikings are the better team. And with a compromised Aaron Rodgers, I can’t pick the Packers to win this one.
Prediction: Vikings win 28-14
Falcons vs. Panthers: Opening night had to feel like groundhogs day for the Falcons. They outplayed the Eagles for a good portion of the game. Also, their offense stalled in the red zone with the game on the line. And now, the Falcons have even bigger problems. Their defense will be without two of their most important players. Keanu Neal will miss the remainder of the season with an ACL injury, and Deion Jones is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Next, to Vic Beasley, those two are the heart and soul of the Falcons defense. And to top off the bad news, the Panthers are coming to town. Against the Panthers defensive front, the Falcons will need to protect Matt Ryan from pressure. And they’ll need more than Julio Jones to win the game. As for the Panthers, look for them to exploit the Falcons injuries. Without Jones in the lineup, I expect a big game from Christian McCaffrey. I also expect a lot of RPO that features Cam Newton as the focus. Given the injuries and the struggles of Matt Ryan, I expect Carolina to win the game.
Prediction: Panthers win 23-17
Titans vs. Texans: Deshaun Watson’s return to the field didn’t exactly go as planned. He struggled to throw the ball downfield against the Patriots defense. So look for Bill O’Brien get Watson back on track by playing to his strengths. That means more RPO for Watson and allowing him to use his legs more. The Texans defense will have a favorable matchup as well. The Titans have lost Delanie Walker for the rest of the season and Marcus Mariota is a wildcard at quarterback. The Texans will try to stuff the run and force the Titans QB into winning the game. And if Mariota can't play, the Titans will have to rely on Blaine Gabbert....
Prediction: Texans win 30-14
Rams vs. Cardinals: After allowing the Raiders to hang with them for three quarters, the Rams were able to get back on track. The sheer talent of Los Angeles eventually showed as they beat Oakland down in the fourth quarter. Against the Cardinals, priority number one will be to neutralize David Johnson. The Cardinals could attempt the brute force approach the Raiders took, but eventually, the quarterback will need to make plays. And that’s where the Cardinals will fall short. The Rams have talent all across the secondary. The best the Cardinals could do is exploit their weakness at linebacker. On defense, there’s not much the Cardinals can do to stop the Rams. If Adrian Peterson could have an effective game against them, then Todd Gurley should rip them to pieces.
Prediction: Rams win 34-12
49ers vs. Lions: After getting strangled by the Minnesota defense, the 49ers probably can’t wait to get on the field with the Lions defense. Jimmy Garoppolo was brought back down to earth last week. He completed only 45.5 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions. If Sam Darnold can find success against the Lions defense, I fully expect Jimmy G to find some of his own. And while the Lions didn’t play well last week, their receivers still managed to find some success in that pass-happy offense. Matthew Stafford will just have to be better and do more to disguise his adjustments on the field. Detroit’s lack of a running game still renders them one-dimensional. So I expect the Niners to win this game.
Prediction: 49ers win 30-21
Broncos vs. Raiders: The Raiders have become the media’s new favorite punching bag. They traded away Khalil Mack, the coach has publicly criticized his quarterback and were just blown out by the Rams. Despite the score of the game, the Raiders actually hung with the Rams for three quarters. In fact, they looked like the more active and physical team in the first half of that game. Penalties, poor quarterback play, and lack of talent eventually derailed their efforts. Their ironic lack of a pass rush was also evident in their loss, and that could hurt them against Denver. While Case Keenum did throw three interceptions, he also threw for over three hundred yards and three touchdowns. The Broncos showed signs of having an offense for the first time in years. The Raiders defense lacks the pass rush and the cornerbacks to stop something like that. Also, Denver’s defense will cause problems for Derek Carr. Carr at times looked scared in the pocket and missed a lot of throws against the Rams. When the game was still within reach, Carr basically threw the game away. With those trends in mind, I don’t see how the Raiders can win this game. The best they can do is muck the game up like they did last week, but the lack of talent will still eventually show.
Prediction: Broncos win 31-20
Jaguars vs. Patriots: This is the rematch of the AFC Championship Game that Jacksonville has been waiting for. They looked poised to go to the Super Bowl until Tom Brady took it away from them. And this really highlights the problem with having Blake Bortles as a quarterback. While he didn’t do anything to really cost the Jaguars that game, he still didn’t do enough to win it. The Jaguars offense will have to find a way to score points when their defense stops other teams. The Patriots lack of wide receiver options is apparent, but Rob Gronkowski is still a force on offense. And of course, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. The Jags defense has the necessary athletes to cover Gronk and to pressure Brady, but I still have concerns about the offense. But I’ll still pick Jacksonville to win the game. I believe this will be Tom Brady’s ‘uh-oh’ game. A type of game that will have people wondering if Brady has fallen off the cliff. I think he turns the ball over one too many times and the Patriots lose. There’s no statistical basis for this. Just a feeling.
Prediction: Jaguars win 20-17
Cowboys vs. Giants: While the Giants received a spark from rookie Saquon Barkley, they didn’t get much else from their offense. Jacksonville completely shut everything else down. And when you really look at Barkley’s stats, they look good mostly because of a 68-yard touchdown run. Defensively, they aren’t as scary as the names on the paper make them look. But the one thing they will be doing is stacking the box against the Cowboys. The secret has been out for a while now. Teams are looking to shit out Ezekiel Eliot and force Dak Prescott to throw the ball. And with no notable receivers on the team, Dak has a tough job. Zeke will have a good game, but eventually, Dak will need to do more. The Giants secondary will be waiting to take advantage of that.
Prediction: Giants win 24-17
Bears vs. Seahawks: Chicago has been a sort of media darling since acquiring Kahlil Mack. But even with Mack’s excellence, the Bears couldn’t beat a one-legged Aaron Rodgers. The Bears defenders will need their track shoes on to chase around Russell Wilson. And thanks to the Seahawks lack of an offensive line, the chase will be on all night long. So expect another big game from Mack. The Bears will also need a complete game form their offense. They looked good for a couple of drives but ultimately didn’t do a whole lot. They only produced 294 yards and one touchdown. While these aren’t the Legion of Boom Seahawks anymore, they still deserve some respect as an NFL unit. Ultimately, the Bears should be able to find a way to win this game. Wilson is elusive, but he will eventually be caught by the Bears defense. And this should be the week the Bears offense shows some life.
Prediction: Bears win 23-20