Somewhat Back to 'Normal'?
Update [2006-9-17 13:48:48 by tommasse]:
It's a little difficult to say that we're back to "normal" in Week 2. If Week 1 wasn't normal, and there was nothing before it, how can we go back to something that hasn't happened?
I guess it's a little like the tree falling in a forest thing, but that's probably a topic for an existential football blog. We have more important things to discuss.
Like about a half-dozen games that should have fairly significant impact down the season stretch. Just ask the Boston Red Sox how important it would have been to win those five games against Tampa Bay and Kansas City instead of saying "it's a marathon, not a sprint."
In the NFL, it is a sprint, and you can ask Bill Belichick: the September games count just as much as the January games. Hench the whole "Target September" thing the year after they won the first Super Bowl following a 1-3 start that year.
So now 32 teams have their season debuts under their belts, and the jitters are gone, and while any team can still beat any other team on Any Given Sunday, there's a greater likelihood teams will approximate more what we expect, as opposed to what they looked like last week.
What do "we" expect? I can speak only for myself. And so I will. Here are my Week 2 picks (and I'll try to pick them all this time):
Sunday, Sept. 17
Buffalo (0-1) at Miami (0-1), 1 p.m.
Miami looked awful against Pittsburgh, and Buffalo looked respectable against New England. Sort of. But you simply can't put too much stock in what happens in Week 1. Buffalo's defense may be returning to a level at which it hasn't played for a few years, so that could make their season a little more interesting. It was defense only that make it a game against New England. But if the offense can't put points on the board, it's going to be a hard road. Dante Culpepper didn't look too good against a solid defense last week, and that could spell trouble for Miami. This week should tell us a little more about Lou Saban's squad.
Prediction: Dolphins, 24-13.
Carolina (0-1) at Minnesota (1-0), 1 p.m.
Carolina looked pretty poor at home against what should be an inferior Atlanta team. I suspect it was a tough week of practice under John Fox. Minnesota sneaked by Washington, which is no great task. Carolina has a few injuries, the most significant being WR Steve Smith (questionable, hamstring), which is bad news for a team that is dependent on two or three star players. But, I just can't believe Brad Johnson can keep winning like this.
Prediction: Panthers, 23-10.
Cleveland (0-1) at Cincinnati (1-0), 1 p.m.
Cincinnati beating Kansas City, under whatever suspect circumstances, was huge for them. Starting 2-0 is going to breed a great deal of confidence in a team that really needed it coming of that playoff loss. And, man, is it going to be a long season for Charlie Weiss. The last thing Cleveland needs is to get off to an 0-2 start. I don't see any way of avoiding it.
Prediction: Bengals, 34-6.
Detroit (0-1) at Chicago (1-0), 1 p.m.
Detroit was lucky enough to catch Seattle playing one of the the worst games imagineable, and they still lost, which is no real surprise. Chicago beat up on one of the worst teams in the league, maybe ever. Chicago is still way overrated, playing some of the weakest schedules I've ever seen. No wonder they make the playoffs. Don't expect a change in the status quo this week. Chicago has a good chance to pitch back-to-back shutouts.
Prediction: Bears, 27-3.
Houston (0-1) at Indianapolis (1-0), 1 p.m.
Really, are games like these necessary? Houston may be good someday, but that day is not today; and Indianapolis gets handed the advantage week-to-week. So, what chance is there of picking this one wrong?
Prediction: Colts, 38-7.
New Orleans (1-0) at Green Bay (0-1), 1 p.m.
This may be one of the best teams Brett Favre has ever played on. It appears he's entered Troy Aikman's V-8 territory. (Just think about it.) New Orleans could quickly become dangerous. They're certainly going to be dangerous this week. I wonder when was the last time Green Bay got shutout in back-to-back games?
Prediction: Saints, 30-6.
N.Y. Giants (0-1) at Philadelphia (1-0), 1 p.m.
Philadelphia is obviously lost without Deion Branch -- I mean Terrell Owens. Oh, right. They're not. Receivers don't make that big of a difference. This is a huge game for both teams. This division should be decided by a game or two, and this one is going to count big, especially for New York, should they fall to 0-2. I don't think Philly's defense is good enough against a good offense, and I think New York's is.
Prediction: Giants, 28-24.
Oakland (0-1) at Baltimore (1-0), 1 p.m.
Wow. Outside of the half-dozen good games, there's a boatload of really, really bad ones. Oakland better hope a special teams unit can put up a couple points.
Prediction: Ravens, 41-0.
Tampa Bay (0-1) at Atlanta (1-0), 1 p.m.
This is another huge division game. If Atlanta wins, they're already 2-0 in the NFC South, and Tampa is 0-2. "Chucky" is in trouble. How's that Cadillac working out for you? Hard to say what to expect in this one, other than Tampa is just about out of the playoffs.
Prediction: Falcons, 17-14.
Arizona (1-0) at Seattle (1-0), 4:05 p.m.
Now that Seattle has Deion Branch, they should be unstoppable. OK, they were almost unstoppable before they got Branch, and while Branch should help, he's not the difference between losing to Pittsburgh and winning a ring.(Matt Hasselbeck was 25 of 30 last week. How much better could Branch make him?) Arizona, meanwhile, remains the talented team that couldn't. A reputation they haven't shaken since the early days of Jake Plummer. If Arizona steals this one, they greatly improve their lot late in the season. But it's hard to believe Shawn Alexander can be held to 50 or so yards per week. This is one of just three games featuring two 1-0 teams.
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-17.
St. Louis (1-0) at San Francisco (0-1), 4:15 p.m.
San Francisco better hope home field is more important in Week 2 than it was in Week 1. I can't imagine.
Prediction: Rams, 28-10.
Kansas City (0-1) at Denver (0-1), 8:15 p.m.
Trent Green obviously doesn't have a contract that affords him the protection of a player like, say, Peyton Manning. The Green-less Chiefs were iffy before losing one of their most important players. Yes, Damon Huard might be able to hold down the fort, but Denver is going to be a lot tougher than they were last week, especially at home.
Prediction: Broncos, 31-23.
New England (1-0) at N.Y. Jets (1-0), 4:15 p.m.
See the full preview, posted seperately.
Prediction: Patriots, 34-17.
Tennessee (0-1) at San Diego (1-0), 4:15 p.m.
Another mismatch. Like Houston, Tennessee may win some games with this group of new players, but that may be years down the road. San Diego is far too good for them right now.
Prediction: Chargers, 20-7.
Washington (0-1) at Dallas (0-1), 8:15 p.m.
Now that Dallas has has Deion Branch -- I mean Terrell Owens, they're unstoppable, like they were last week. Oh, wait a minute. They weren't. They aren't. Turns out a receiver doesn't make that big of a difference. Meanwhile, this is Drew Bledsoe's big chance to earn reprieve. He best take advantage of it. While I don't expect this to be a great game, it's important for both teams. You don't want to start out 0-2 in this division. Poor Joe Gibbs. While his return was the best thing for Washinton, it wasn't the best thing for Joe Gibbs.
Prediction: Cowboys, 33-17.
Monday, Sept. 18
Pittsburgh (1-0) at Jacksonville (1-0), 8:30 p.m.
A far better game than the two Monday Night games last week put together. Ben Roethlisberger is still listed as questionable. Jacksonville already has a short list of their own injuries. Jacksonville earned some confidence with a solid comeback against Dallas. Pittsburgh definitely got off to a good start, beating Miami with Charlie Batch at the helm. Pittsburgh is probably the better team, but I'm going to try my "home field really matters" schtick one more time.
Prediction: Jaguars, 24-23.
Last week: 6 - 10.
Looks like whole "home field really counts in Week 1" thing didn't work out too well for me. I may have to reevaluate that strategy next year. Forgetting to pick a game didn't help much.
Season: 6 - 10.