Line: Cleveland by 2
Last week the Chiefs beat San Diego (who went 13-3 last year) while the Browns lost to Tampa Bay (3-13). So it would seem logical to pick the Chiefs.
But hold on. In the Monday night victory, Matt Cassel completed only 10 passes for a measly 68 yards; their offense was nonexistent. If not for a Jamaal Charles 56 yard touchdown scamper, the Chiefs offense would have been under 100 TOTAL YARDS. That's terrible! They won the game on defense, special teams, and because of a raucous home crowd in the pouring rain. It was a very, very ugly victory.
Cleveland, on the other hand, outplayed and outgained Tampa Bay in every respect, but lost because of an emblematic Delhomme interception and some stupid coaching down the stretch. (Seriously, how is Eric Mangini still employed?!) But they deserved to win that game and should have.
I really like KC's young defense. I love Eric Berry and Derrick Johnson (12 tackles against SD) and Tamba Hali and Glenn Dorsey, who might have played his best professional game last week. But they'll have a tough time against Cleveland's offensive line led by Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. Cleveland should be able to run the ball in this game, control the clock, and squeeze out an ugly victory. I'll take the Browns +2 and both teams will be 1-1.
Cardinals @ Falcons
Line: Atlanta by 6.5
This line is just too high. Atlanta looked like garbage last week. Granted, they played at Pittsburgh which is never easy, but you've got to be able to score at least 1 touchdown to be favored by a touchdown.
Arizona actually looked very solid defensively. Again, granted they were against the Rams, but holding Steven Jackson to 81 yards was quite an accomplishment. Darnell Docket played really well, and should hold Michael Turner to another disappointing game.
Matchup to watch: Dunta Robinson against Larry Fitzgerald. I think Fitz lights him up. Derek Anderson is not good, but against Atlanta and their lack of a pass rush, he might have a pretty good game.
I like the Falcons to win, but I'll take Arizona against the spread.
Ravens @ Bengals
Line: Baltimore by 2
The Ravens were my Super Bowl pick, and they looked awful in a hideous win over the Jets. They only scored 10 points and managed just 49 rushing yards. But they got the victory, thanks to the dastardly play of Marc Sanchez, who was probably the worst week one quarterback of all 32 teams.
They'll face Carson Palmer this week, who stunk pretty badly himself week 1. His final stat line looked okay, but he did nothing in the first half and was trailing 31-3 by the time he started throwing touchdowns. Plus 52 of his yards came on a garbage hailmary to end the first half. I think the Ravens D will keep both TO and Ocho out of the endzone and that, combined with the 0-2 start, will spell the beginnings of crazy town for Cincinnati. Good thing they brought in Pacman Jones to keep the locker room sane.
I generally don't pick against home underdogs, but in this case I think Baltimore is just too talented. I like the Ravens +2.
Philly @ Detroit
Line: Eagles by 6
The line shifted from +4 to +6 with the news that Stafford is definitely out, and frankly I don't think they moved it high enough. Stafford isn't a great quarterback, but something about his presence gives the Lions a feeling that maybe they can win. Shaun Hill is a guy who screams "backup!" with all of his body language and doesn't inspire any confidence.
On San Francisco, Hill had a career record of 10-5 as a starter. He's got 23 TDs and just 12 INTs in his career and a 61.2% completion percentage. The good news is those 49ers teams he played for lacked a stellar offensive line and competent receivers, just like the Lions. So we know he's played well on a crappy offense before.
But not an offense quite as crappy as this year's Lions. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan looked like a complete fool last week, getting massively outcoached and coordinating the most predictable play-calling imaginable. His mentality was one we've seen before in Detroit: "Expect to lose." That losing mindset killed the Lions in the second quarter, when a complete lack of aggressiveness led to our eventual loss.
Philly's defense isn't dynamic or elite, but they're a whole lot better than Detroit's offense. Trent Cole is a tough matchup for Backus. Brandon Graham should have his way against Gosder. Ernie Sims will be looking for vengeance. And they have an instinctive safety in Quintin Mikell who should prevent the Lions from running the ball with any success. Ellis Hobbs will cover Burleson effectively.
The only favorable matchup for Detroit is Calvin against gambler Asante Samuel. Free safety Nate Allen, a rookie from South Florida, will assist Samuel in double-teaming Megatron. (Eagles FS Marlin Jackson is out with an Achilles rupture.) I love the matchup Calvin has against Samuel and a rookie. However, I don't trust Hill to get him the ball. I don't trust the offensive line to protect Hill. And I think Samuel's gambling nature will pay off and he'll have at least one interception, possibly two, and maybe three. In fact, I'll say right now that Samuel is more likely to score in this game than Calvin is. That's how little confidence I have in Hill and Linehan and the offensive line.
While Detroit is punting and turning the ball over, Michael Vick will be running the WildCat (or the WildDog in his case) and torturing the Lions defense. He's got 4 very good receiving threats - speedsters Jackson and Maclin, possession guy Jason Avant, and tight end Brent Celek. Expect Vick to throw at least 1 and probably 2 deep touchdowns on a blown coverage, and to have 25-30 completions without breaking a sweat. Detroit's secondary gave up 372 passing yards last week. And nickleback Aaron Berry (the guy who made the interception last week) is now out for the season with a shoulder injury. Detroit signed former Bear Nathan Vasher (best known for this 108 yard return) and also has Alphonso Smith to replace Berry. I have zero confidence in either of those guys and neither should you.
But remember, this is Michael Vick we're talking about. Forget the passing game. He's looking to run. He's looking to make highlights, not win football games. And therein lies our one chance to win this game. Vick is the Allen Iverson of the NFL. He's a me-first guy who wants to create an individual legacy of highlights and stats. He will make stupid mental mistakes. He will fumble. He will throws picks. If, and only if, the Detroit defense makes him.
Remember when Vick was on Atlanta in the early 2000s and the one team that could always stop him was Tampa Bay? Remember when Simeon Rice and Chidi Ahanotu (the athletic defensive ends) and future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks would completely remove Vick's ability to run and force him to throw? Remember the game in 2004 when Tampa blanked Atlanta 27-0 and Vick had four turnovers? For some reason, that game sticks out in my mind and always has.
In those days, Tampa provided a template for how to beat Mike Vick. It's simple - containment. The defensive ends need to be able to keep Vick from escaping the pocket, and a linebacker needs to chase him all over the field. Tampa had the personnel and as a result they beat Vick 6 out of 8 times before he went to prison.
Does Detroit have the personnel? Well, Kyle VandenBosch should help. Cliff Avril is pretty good. But neither are Pro Bowlers. And our linebackers are very lackluster, especially considering that DeAndre Levy is likely to miss another game with the groin injury and Landon Johnson looked lost against Chicago last week. Vick is now 30 years old, but he still has speed. And I hate this matchup for Detroit. I wish Kevin Kolb was playing.
The good news is, I picked up Vick and am starting him in 7 of my 12 leagues.
I like Philly and the over. Projected score: 33-13. Yay for the home opener.Pittsburgh @ Tennessee
Line: Titans by 5
Okay, so I didn't like Tennessee this year and last week they won against Oakland in a game I picked slightly wrong. Okay, so they won by 4 touchdowns. I may have misunderestimated Chris Johnson.
But I still am not sold on the Titans defense, or Vince Young.
Pittsburgh beat Atlanta in a very ugly game (as I predicted they would) and the defense looked positively awesome. Dennis Dixon, on the other hand, looked positively awful. So much so that Steelers fans everywhere are crying for Charlie Batch to start. But Tomlin is sticking with Dixon, for better or worse.
I think this will be a highly entertaining and low scoring game. I think Johnson's streak of 12 straight 100-yard games comes to an end. I think Dixon plays a little better and doesn't make many mistakes. I think the difference in the game is turnovers, and like I said earlier, I don't trust Vince Young.
I like the Steelers in the upset of the week.
Miami @ Minnesota
Line: Vikings by 5.5
After watching Favre last week, there's no way he should be getting 6 points against a pretty good team. He looked terrible. Really, honestly, terrible.
But ... Miami didn't look much better. They only beat Buffalo by 5. They only managed one touchdown. But a win is a win, and they'll take it. Karlos Dansby looked excellent as the new leader of Miami's defense.
Anyone can look excellent against Buffalo. Let's see Dansby against Adrian Peterson. If Favre doesn't get in the way, Minnesota should win this. But I'll take Miami against the too-high spread.
Buffalo @ Green Bay
Line: Packers by 13
You gotta love lines like this.
Last week, after a 27-20 victory in Philly, Aaron Rodgers met with one of those sideline reporter girls and told me everything I need to know about the Packers this season. He was pissed. He was wildly disappointed. He blasted himself and said he failed to execute the offense and was angry, but they would be better next week. He acted like they just lost in a blowout. Hello? You just won IN Philly against a pretty good team and you scored 27 points.
If Rodgers was unhappy with 27 points on the road against a good team, how is he going to play at home against a horrendous team? Something tells me they couldn't make this line high enough. I'm not going to be surprised if it's 56-3. I like the over. In fact, make that the Lock of the Week.
Chicago @ Dallas
Line: Cowboys by 7.5
Last week two of Dallas's starting offensive lineman, Marc Columbo and Kyle Kosier, were MIA and as a result Dallas's offense couldn't do much (7 points, 5 for 13 on 3rd downs, and about 6 holding penalties). This week, one or both of those guys should be back, and Dallas should hang at least 30 points on the board. The Bears defense just didn't look impressive last week. Especially in the secondary. Romo is a great fantasy play this week.
I don't like to pick the over on spreads higher than 7, but Chicago looked like a really sucky team last week and I have zero confidence in Jay Cutler. So I'll go with Dallas.
Tampa Bay @ Carolina
Line: Panthers by 3.5
Change the line to Panthers by 10 and then we'll talk. Next.
St. Louis @ Oakland
Line: Raiders by 3.5
Not saying the Rams will win. But I don't think Oakland should be favored by more than a field goal after last week's embarrassing effort. I'll take the Rams in what I think will be a close game. But who knows with either of these teams.
Seattle @ Denver
Line: Broncos by 3.5
I don't like the idea that Seattle could be 2-0, but I don't really think Denver is a winning team. But alas, someone has to win this battle of ego-maniacal coaches who have disassembled their rosters and put their teams in terrible shape for the future.
I think this will be one of those ugly punt-filled games that will ultimately be decided by a big special teams play or a crucial turnover. Hasslebeck seems the safer quarterback to bet on. But Denver's usually pretty good at home. Bah. When in doubt, take the points. I'll go Seahawks.
Houston @ Washington
Line: Texans by 3
This is how Vegas works. You beat the Colts week 1, you'll be favored for a while, even on the road against decent teams. Houston really can't afford to lose this game and fall right back into a tie with Indy for the division lead. They've got to make Indy chase them for a while. And to be honest, I didn't see anything about Donovan McNabb that makes me think he isn't completely washed up. I mean, Washington got outplayed badly last week and only won because Dallas beat themselves. I don't think Houston beats themselves. And I don't think Andre Johnson will be under 100 yards two weeks in a row.
Matchup to watch: rising star Arian Foster (not afraid of contact) against grumpy Albert Haynesworth.
I've like Houston all summer and I'm not backing down now.
Jacksonville @ San Diego
Line: Chargers by 7
That's a big line for a team coming off a loss to the Chiefs. I'm leery about picking a team that has to fly cross-country, but I am taking the Jags in this one.
I just think the absence of left tackle Marcus McNeill is a bigger deal than people realize, and Aaron Kampman (who had 2 sacks and 9 tackles last week against the LT-depleted Broncos) will torment Rivers all game. Ryan Matthews doesn't look like he's ready for the NFL. And San Diego's defense isn't ready for Jones-Drew. Call me crazy, but I like Jacksonville to go 2-0 and San Diego to start 0-2. I may be wrong, but against a 7 point spread I'm willing to go out on a limb.
New England @ NY Jets
Line: Patriots by 3
Gambling 101: beware of the Home Dog. (AKA underdogs at home.) I hate the Jets this year and everything about them; conversely, I love the Patriots and think they're a top 5 overall team right now.
But things don't usually work out for me. I'm usually wrong. So I'll take the Jets ... this game just feels all yucky to me.
NY Giants @ Colts
Line: Indy by 5.5
Here's a sidebet: how many times will they show Archie Manning in the stands? I'll put the over/under at 16.5 and take the over.
Next question: how many times will the commentators say the word "Manning" in this game? Over/under at 220. I'll take the over again.
As for the game, I like Indy because what are the chances of Peyton Manning losing 3 straight games? Has it ever happened? And is he really going to go 0-2 at the hands of his dopey little brother? No stinking way. Eli will fight admirably, but Peyton has too many weapons. This'll be a classic, maybe a 45-38 shootout, but I'll take Indy narrowly over the spread.
New Orleans @ San Francisco
Saints by 5.5
Another Home Dog. Another team flying across the country. And another chance for the Madden Curse to strike. More than likely the Saints will win, but 6 is too many points for San Fran to be giving up at home. I think this'll be a nasty slugfest and San Fran will prove that last week was an anamoly and they do belong in the playoffs.
Fantasy Studs and Duds
Here are the guys I would recommend and steer clear of:
STUDS - Mike Vick against Detroit (5); Garrard against San Diego (7)
DUDS - Brees against San Fran (12); Brady against the Jets (10); Palmer against Baltimore (24)
Running Backs --
STUDS - Brandon Jackson (5); DeAngelo Williams (4); Jonathan Stewart (9); Ahmad Bradshaw (11)
DUDS - Ray Rice (13); Cedric Benson (22); Ryan Matthews (25)
Wide Receivers - -
STUDS - Jeremy Maclin (11); Donald Driver (13); Steve Smith CAR (2)
DUDS - Randy Moss (21); Chad Ochocinco (22); Marques Colston (25); Calvin Johnson (40)
STUDS - Eagles (1); Packers (2); Panthers (5); Texans (9)
DUDS - Vikings (12); Jets (14); Saints (23)
That's it. Enjoy week two. Go Lions.