My general opinion on applying Week 1 lessons to Week 2 games is this: don’t. The first week produces some crazy outcomes and one-offs every year. Trying to ascertain what was real last week and what will quickly go away is something highly-paid experts with years of playing and/or coaching experience often screw up. Other than impactful injuries, most of the predictions here carry little impact from last week’s outcomes.
Last week: 9-7. The Browns and Steelers tied. Because my predicted score had the Browns covering the spread, I count it as a win. Had I picked the Steelers, I would have counted it as a loss.
- Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (+1): The Ravens barely broke a sweat in pounding the Bills. The Bengals are a far different foe. Playing at home for the first time and honoring the 1988 Super Bowl team, Cincinnati figures to be revved up and ready to put on a show for the home fans.
The Bengals commitment to the run game was evident last week in their win over Indy, and it’s an important development. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor didn’t abandon Joe Mixon when the team fell behind early. Playing a balanced offense is critical to help Andy Dalton not have to win the game by himself. Quietly, I like the Bengals defensive front against Baltimore’s OL and run game, too.
Bengals 23, Ravens 20
- Houston Texans at Tennessee Tians (NL): Titans coach Mike Vrabel faces his former team, but will do so with an iffy Marcus Mariota (why there’s not a line). The Texans' offensive line losing Seantrel Henderson could be a huge loss. Martinas Rankin has some potential as a replacement tackle but he’s an unknown commodity. Deshaun Watson will be better than he was last week. As long as he gets some help from the Texans defense, it will be more than enough.
Texans 27, Titans 21
- New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars (+1.5): Going with the gut on this AFC Championship Game rematch from last year. I really like the Jacksonville defensive front, and I’m just not confident in Tom Brady’s weapons outside of Gronk, not against this unit. Gronk probably got a pubescent chuckle out of me using his name and “unit” in the same sentence…
Jaguars 34, Patriots 31
- Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints (-9): If the Browns are to have any chance at pulling off the shocker and winning for the first time since 2016, Tyrod Taylor will need to play better. His receivers not named Jarvis Landry will need to do a better job of getting open, too. There is hope that can happen against a Saints defense which could not even play the role of speed bump against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers. Saints DE Cam Jordan is the key. He’s too gifted to not make an impact on this contest. The Browns defense is very good up front but does have issues in back-end coverage, and that’s something Drew Brees and Michael Thomas can exploit.
Saints 26, Browns 13
- Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-6): Losing two key starters on the defense is far worse than losing the opener in Philadelphia last week for Atlanta. LB Deion Jones is a Pro Bowl-caliber talent who does so many little things for the Falcons defense. Safety Keanu Neal was the speedy enforcer on the back end. They don’t have the level of depth to overcome those losses, not in the long-term.
However, frequent readers will know I’m a believer in the short-term effectiveness of injury replacements. Coaches tend to do a very good job of preparing the team the first week before the relative loss of talent level really hits. Now if the Falcons could just figure out the red zone on offense…
Falcons 20, Panthers 17
- Indianapolis Colts at Washington (-6): Andrew Luck looked good in his return. The rest of his Colts team, not so much. I don’t see that changing against a Washington team that looked in fine form blowing out Arizona.
Washington 27, Colts 20
- Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5): Ryan Fitzpatrick morphed into Fitzmagic in Week 1. This is the week where the bearded backup reverts to his typical form and makes as many mistakes as he does big plays. The injuries in the Buccaneers secondary are a big issue here, too.
Eagles 36, Buccaneers 21
- Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4): If the two teams we saw in Week 1 show up in Pittsburgh, the visiting Chiefs will cruise. Big Ben Roethlisberger is a better QB at home, and I believe the tie with the Browns sufficiently scared the Steelers. They have to be sharp against the explosive Chiefs offense. I see Pittsburgh’s defense getting the deciding score in this one.
Steelers 30, Chiefs 28
- Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (NL): There is no line here because Aaron Rodgers missed Wednesday’s practice with his knee malady. If he plays, the Packers get a 60 percent chance of victory at home. Without Rodgers, they have a 25 percent chance of scoring more than once. As a result of Rodgers’ cloudy status, this forecast gets a hedge: If Rodgers plays more than 75 percent of the offensive snaps, the Packers win by a field goal. If he doesn’t, the Vikings win by 25. I’ll make the official prediction as if he’s playing.
Packers 24, Vikings 21
- Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-3): Sam Darnold shook off throwing a pick-six on his first NFL snap quite nicely. One thing that helped the precocious rookie was a strong run game. That will help him again. The Jets become the most improbable 2-0 team by burying a Dolphins unit which nicely adapted and survived against Tennessee in the longest game (in terms of time) in NFL history.
Jets 25, Dolphins 20
- Los Angeles Chargers at Buffalo Bills (+7.5): Josh Allen gets his first start, and the Bills 1st-round rookie catches a break with Joey Bosa’s foot injury sidelining the Chargers’ best player. Los Angeles struggled to get much pressure on Patrick Mahomes, a similar style of strong-armed and athletic QB, in last week’s loss. They also couldn’t force any turnovers and had some issues with speed.
Unfortunately for Allen, his offensive line appears dreadful. He doesn’t have Tyreek Hill or Sammy Watkins at his disposal, either. Allen will make a couple of incredible plays, which is more than hapless Nathan Peterman could ever do. But he won’t be able to make enough chain-moving plays, not with his limited receiving weapons. Philip Rivers won’t have those issues for the Chargers, especially if Travis Benjamin can learn to catch the ball.
Chargers 33, Bills 12
- Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers (-6): No team disappointed me more than the Lions in Week 1. Head Coach Matt Patricia’s debut was abysmal. The Jets knew exactly how to defend everything coming at them, and their task was made easier by one of QB Matthew Stafford’s worst games (4 INTs). I expect a rebound by the Detroit offense, in part because their pass protection was actually quite good. Too much talent on that Lions offense to lay another egg. I do like some of the young pieces (Witherspoon, Warner, Buckner) on the 49ers defense quite a bit, but it’s an incomplete unit. So is the San Francisco offense. Then again, I thought that about the Jets and they hung 48 on Detroit…
Lions 30, 49ers 27
- Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-13): For no apparent reason, I’m being attacked by a vile earworm from 30 years ago. The song Could’ve Been by redhead pop tartlet Tiffany has been stuck in my head for hours. As fond as I am of redheads, this really needs to stop. NOW! Sort of like what the Rams defense will do to Sam Bradford and the Cardinals offense. This is my survivor fantasy pick for the week.
Rams 32, Cardinals 14
- Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-6): I’m more than a little concerned the Raiders shot their proverbial wad in the first half of the opener. All that emotion and intensity from the two early scoring drives quickly faded. They looked lifeless and planless thereafter. Denver’s defense is a very bad foe to face without diversity or a carefully crafted plan of attack. Von Miller continues his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy in front of the boisterous fans.
Broncos 26, Raiders 10
- New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-3): When Cowboys “fans” start calling for Kellen Moore to unretire and replace the struggling Dak Prescott behind the struggling offensive line with a struggling receiving corps, you know it’s bad in Dallas. While those fans are probably overserved, it does highlight the very real issues with the Cowboys offense. They definitely miss center Travis Frederick, but also Jason Witten. Maybe he can come out of the MNF booth. It seems doubtful anyone would miss him there…
Giants 20, Cowboys 17
- Seattle Seahawks at Chicago (-3.5): The Bears have the better pass rush. They have the better receivers. They have the better run game. What they don’t have is the better quarterback. In Russell Wilson we trust.
Wilson, err, Seahawks 22, Bears 20
Ohio State 38, TCU 33
Auburn 20, LSU 17
Oklahoma State 34, Boise State 24
Toledo 40, Miami 37
Alabama 28, Ole Miss 20