Friday, September 17, 2010

Week 2: the confusing NFC West

After an above-average record in Week 1, here are my picks for Week 2:

Chiefs (+2) over BROWNS

Do I trust the Chiefs that much, especially on the road? Not really, but I'll take my chances with them instead of a team that let Jake Delhomme throw the ball 37 times in a game that they were leading going into the fourth quarter. By the way, he threw two picks.

PACKERS (-14) over Bills

Two touchdowns might be a little high, but do you trust Trent Edwards on the road? I didn't think so. Then again, he doesn't inspire much confidence at home either.

BENGALS (+3) over Ravens

The Bengals beat the Ravens twice last year (by three in the first game and seven in the second), though that doesn't necessarily mean much this season. The Bengals were embarrassed last week by the Patriots, particularly on defense. Like the Patriots, the Ravens have a pretty good offense too, but look for the Bengals to at least improve on a few things this week and keep the game close at home. I don't think they'll pull out the win, but expect a close game that may come down to late field goal.

Steelers (+5.5) over TITANS

The Titans shouldn't have any problem shutting down the Steelers passing attack, but the Steelers defense should be able to do enough to keep this game close -- maybe because of a Vince Young interception or two. Barring a huge game from Chris Johnson, this game should be a low-scoring contest.

Eagles (-6.5) over LIONS

Shaun Hill is a decent backup quarterback, but he'll be under siege all day by a constantly attacking Eagles defense. Also, if Michael Vick plays well, or even close to how he played last week, the Eagles should win this game handily.

COWBOYS (-7.5) over Bears

Just the other day, the Cowboys were favored in this game by nine, so lots of people seem to be backing the Bears (or at least thought nine points was too high). I'm not buying it. Sure, the Cowboys didn't look all that great against the Redskins last week, but they're getting some offensive line help and more than likely won't significantly adjust their game plan that much. The Cowboys were so concerned with the Redskins getting pressure on Tony Romo that they called a ton of quick passes to get the ball out of Romo's hands and keep him out of harm's way. They also got a little pass happy despite averaging 4.7 yards on the ground. Look for a more balanced attack this week against a team that nearly lost to a Lions team that gained 168 total yards.

PANTHERS (-3.5) over Buccaneers

Matt Moore is expected to play in this game, so that's not really that great -- for the Panthers (not that they really have any better options). Still, the Panthers should be able to run the ball and force some turnovers against Josh Freeman and the Bucs.

FALCONS (-7) over Cardinals

The Cardinals almost lost in Week 1 in St. Louis to Sam Bradford, a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. Though he threw for 253 yards and a touchdown, Bradford also threw three interceptions and was essentially outplayed by Derek Anderson (297 yards, one touchdown). That won't happen against Matt Ryan, a better and more experienced quarterback.

VIKINGS (-6) over Dolphins

The Vikings didn't give Adrian Peterson the ball enough in Week 1. They won't make that mistake again this week.

RAIDERS (-3.5) over Rams

No, I don't really know why either.

Seahawks (+3.5) over BRONCOS

I doubt that the Seahawks are as good as they looked against the 49ers, but they might be at least as good as the Broncos. I'll take the points.

Texans (-3) over REDSKINS

I don't think the Redskins will win this game; the Texans looked fantastic against the Colts, and the Redskins will have a difficult time stopping a powerful Texans attack. With that being said, let me defend the Redskins for a moment. Take a look at No. 7 in Jason Whitlock's most recent NFL Truths column. I'll agree with most of what's said in that section -- the Redskins could have easily lost the game; the Cowboys threw the ball too much; and Santana Moss and Chris Cooley are basically Donovan McNabb's only options on offense. But after reading this part -- "Washington's defense was mediocre. The 'Skins sacked Romo one time. They never mounted consistent pressure." -- I have to wonder whether Whitlock actually watched the game.

The Cowboys deliberately altered their passing attack to get the ball out of Romo's hands quicker to try to offset their weakness on the offensive line. The Redskins blitzed all night, and yes, they only sacked Romo one time and gave up 380 yards (282 through the air). But they gave up only seven points -- and even scored seven points of their own on DeAngelo Hall's 32-yard fumble recovery at the end of the first half. Even if that play should have never happened, or if the Cowboys game plan was misguided, the Redskins defense still made those plays. And even if the Cowboys were missing some linemen, Brian Orakpo still forced that holding call at the end of the game -- and the Cowboys were called for holding three other times too. That should count for something.

It's great to blow out strong teams and look awesome doing so, but it's still noteworthy to get a win over a preseason Super Bowl favorite to start the season. And without the defense's superb effort, that win would never have occurred.

Jaguars (+7) over CHARGERS

Was the Chiefs game a fluke? Or are the Chargers lacking in talent as they continue to let two solid players hold out? We'll find out soon enough.

Patriots (-3) over JETS

The Jets could be in big trouble if Revis Island isn't 100 percent. I'll take the team that can actually put points on the board.

Giants (+5.5) over COLTS

I think it's too early to panic in Indianapolis, but the Giants are a solid team. The Colts better be ready to stop the run this week.

Saints (-6) over 49ERS

I thought about picking the 49ers at home, but I can't figure the NFC West out anyway. The 49ers were supposed to be favorites in that division, and they couldn't have looked much worse in Week 1 against Seattle. Now there's a potential team mutiny against the offensive coordinator; it's only Week 2, and it's hard to believe things already appear to be this bad. I give them a chance in this game -- weird things occasionally happen on Monday Night Football -- but I'll ride with the team that continues to roll along like a well-oiled machine. Drew Brees or Alex Smith? Easy choice.

Last week: 8-6-2
Season: 8-6-2

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