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Week 1 is in the books and we finally have games to analyze after an offseason of uncertainty. The first week featured some record-breaking performances, shocking upsets, teams making statements, and dramatic comebacks.
As always the first week tends to get over analyzed by fans that expect their team to perform as they did that week, for the entire season. As we enter the second week the question is, which performances were flukes and which were the starts of trends?
After week one the No. 1 pick for surprise team of the year is Buffalo after their stunning 41-7 victory over one of the surprise teams of a year ago Kansas City. Now the question becomes, was this impressive performance a fluke or a sign of things to come?
I don’t know if this game will answer that question, but Buffalo showed signs last year of a winning team and while Oakland won last week, it was over an inferior team in the Denver Broncos. Without Darren McFadden the Raiders offense is average at best, and Buffalo will be able to contain him enough to get the win.
Prediction: Buffalo 28 Oakland 17
This is an interesting matchup because of the contrast between where these teams are now and where they were last year. Detroit was the sexy pick for surprise team of the year during the offseason and their week one victory just confirmed it. Meanwhile, Kansas City inexplicably got stomped by Buffalo of all teams in their opener. While I think Kansas City may regress this year, I don’t think they will play as bad as they did against Buffalo again. But while I see them making it a close game, I think Detroit will prevail at home.
Prediction: Detroit 24 Kansas City 20
Baltimore comes into this game fresh off a dominating performance against the rival Steelers. Tennessee comes off a close loss to the Jaguars. However in his debut Matt Hasselbeck was impressive, completing two touchdowns to Kenny Britt. In fact it was the lack of a running attack from Chris Johnson that handicapped the Titans offense.
While I could see Baltimore having a let down on the road after their emotional week one performance, their defense will keep them in the game and eventually they will pull away with the game.
Prediction: Baltimore 23 Tennessee 10
This game features two of the most disappointing teams from week one. Led by a quarterback not named Peyton Manning for the first time in 14 years, Indianapolis was embarrassed by the Texans 34-7, in Houston. Cleveland came closer to victory, but their 27-17 loss was bad just because of the team they lost to, the Bengals, who were expected by many to be a bottom tier team.
While it’s easy to say the Colts are nothing without Peyton Manning based on their week one performance, I think now that they have gotten over the shock of losing their franchise QB they will rally around Kerry Collins and play well enough to beat the Browns. And no matter who is under center, Indianapolis has one of the best home field advantages in the league.
Prediction: Indianapolis 21 Cleveland 17
Another surprise team from last year, Tampa Bay began the season by dropping to the Lions. The Vikings, looking to bounce back from a bad year, lost to the Chargers. Tampa Bay is a very young team and it will be interesting to see how they response to adversity after experiencing so much success last year.
Minnesota was respectably close against San Diego, especially considering their quarterback, the newly acquired Donavan McNabb, threw for 39 yards. McNabb will have more success against Tampa’s defense, which was gouged by Matthew Stafford, and their defense, which remains a force even when they are losing, will contain the Josh Freeman-Mike Williams connection.
Prediction: Minnesota 24 Tampa Bay 14
Considering how well the Bears played and that the Saints lost, it is surprising how unanimously the Saints are favored in this game. While the Saints are viewed as one of the favorites in the NFC, their defense remains extremely porous, as the Packers showed.
The Bears may not exploit this to the extend Green Bay did, but their defense showed against Atlanta that they can stifle a potent offense. Brian Urlacher will be playing with a heavy heart after the passing of his mother, but like Brett Favre after the death of his father, he should be able to channel his emotion into the game. Chicago will control the tempo of the game and come out with a tight victory.
Prediction: Chicago 28 New Orleans 24
The Jets and Jags each come off tight opening day victories. However the Jets fourth quarter come back victory over the Cowboys definitely was much more impressive than Jacksonville holding on to the lead against Tennessee. Luke McCown played the role of game manager well, which was enough to beat the Titans, but against the Jets defense he will not have as much help from his running game and will have to throw to win.
Playing against a banged up Cowboys secondary, Mark Sanchez had a good game week one. It remains to be seen if he will be effective against a great defense, but this week he will be good enough to put up points and the Jets will cruise to an easy victory.
Prediction: New York (Jets) 28 Jacksonville 6
The defending AFC champs got off to a bad start to the season against Baltimore, while the NFC North champs dropped its opener to San Francisco. The reason the Steelers lost was because of turnovers plain and simple. Any time you turn the ball over seven times you are going to lose the game, period.
I could see Pittsburgh having a down year, as almost every Super Bowl losing team does, but they are still a well coached team and they won’t turn the ball over that much again. Seattle is going to have a hard time winning games as long as Tavaris Jackson is its starting QB.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 30 Seattle 13
Two teams coming off disappointing seasons, the Redskins and the Cardinals were each victorious in their opening week. The Redskins dominated the favored Giants 28-14 with Rex Grossman leading a terrific passing attack. The Cardinals eked out a 28-21 win over Carolina, despite giving up over 400 yards to rookie Cam Newton. I think Newton’s performance has more to do with Arizona’s inept pass defense than his passing, and Grossman will be able to take advantage of this. Though Kevin Kolb should keep the Cardinals in the game, the Skins will take this one at home.
Prediction: Washington 34 Arizona 27
The biggest surprise of the season so far was Cam Newton’s performance against Arizona. Though they came up short in Arizona, Newton shattered Peyton Manning’s record for rookie passing yards in a debut. The Packers surprised no one by beating New Orleans in a shoot-out in the first game of the season. Though it was not apparent in their week one victory, Green Bay does have a very good defense and you can bet defensive coordinator Dom Capers will try to confuse the Newton with various different looks. And if Arizona can throw the ball on your defense, you can bet Green Bay will too.
Prediction: Green Bay 38 Carolina 14
Two teams coming off disappointing season face off after polar opposite week ones. The Cowboys had control of the New York through three-quarters and then squandered a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. The 49ers handled last year’s division winner Seattle at home. However, the 49ers beat Seattle mainly because of the returning skills of Ted Ginn Jr., their offense was average at best.
Though the Jets put up 27 points, the Cowboy defense only allowed 17, as the Jets scored a touchdown on special teams and were given the ball already in field goal range on a Romo interception. The Cowboys hit Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez all game long, and Rob Ryan will definitely dial-up the blitzes against the relatively inexperienced Alex Smith. Barring another breakdown day from return man Ted Ginn, the Cowboys should handle the 49ers easily.
Prediction: Dallas 34 49ers 13
Houston sent a message to the NFL with their week one performance: the AFC South is ours. In their 10th season as an NFL franchise they seem finally poised to make a playoff run. The Dolphins come off an embarrassing loss to the Patriots, as they appeared incapable of stopping any pass Tom Brady threw.
But, while the Texans have a good passing attack, Matt Schaub is not as balanced in who he throws to as the Pats, focusing in of Andre Johnson more than anyone else. The Texans will get a boost with the return of Arian Foster, but it’s difficult to know what to expect from him coming off an injury. Expect the Dolphins defense to play better after their terrible week one performance, but the Texans should hang on for the road win.
Prediction: Houston 24 Miami 21
Probably the most anticipated game of the week features two of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Though each team won its first game, they each showed some flaws. The Pats looked impeccable on offense, but defensively they let Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne carve them up in the passing game and running game.
The Chargers struggled more than they normally do on offense, and gave up big plays in the running game on defense. Also the special teams bug that cost them so many games a season ago bit them again with Percy Harvin’s kickoff return for a touchdown.
The matchup between the Patriots offense and the Chargers defense is an interesting one: Tom Brady put up 517 yards last week, while the Chargers allowed 39 passing yards.
The Patriots D has to play better than last week, because Rivers is a much better passer than Henne. But with all the weapons Brady has at his disposal, the Patriots should be able to win in what should be a high scoring affair.
Prediction: Patriots 41 San Diego 38
There aren’t many must win games in the second game of the regular season, but for Atlanta this is as closest as it comes. Coming off a miserable loss to the Chicago Bears the Falcons have to show something at home against the “dream team” Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles won their first game against the Rams, but were exposed somewhat in the running game. Also the Rams got good pressure on Mike Vick and the one thing the Falcons did well week one was rushing the passer, as they sacked Jay Cutler five times. I expect Atlanta to bounce back offensively, to run the ball effectively and set up the pass, but in the end their defense will let them down against the high-powered Eagles.
Prediction: Philadelphia 31 Atlanta 24
The two teams that lost to NFC East teams week one face off on Monday night. Though the Rams looked bad week one, at least it was somewhat understandable because the Eagles are expected to be a contender. The Giants on the other hand, lost by two touchdowns to the expected-to-be-bottom-dweller Redskins and made Rex Grossman look like Tom Brady.
Something’s got to give and I think it will be the Rams who still don’t seem to have found a go to receiver for Sam Bradford. Steven Jackson is currently questionable and will most likely not be 100 percent even if he does play. The Giants are a veteran squad and though they looked bad, should be able to rebound at home.
Prediction: New York 24 St. Louis 13