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NFL Week 3 Cheat Sheet
Want a good chuckle? Go treat yourself to a search of the words "NFL," "Lockout," "Offenses" and "Rusty."
You'll find pages of commentary from journalists and message board commenters alike on the "quality" of the game, quarterback/receiver timings and offensive line chemistry being severely altered in the first few weeks of the season because of the 133-day labor stoppage. Well, through two weeks, the 1,502 points scored thus far in the 2011 season are the most ever through two weeks.
Rusty? Not quite.
Want an even better chuckle? Go read about how little of an impact rookies would make this season.
With back-to-back big-time performances, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is the first rookie quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards in consecutive games. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in Cincinnati became the first rookie QB/WR duo to ever connect 10 times in one game. Fellow rookies Von Miller, Patrick Peterson, Randall Cobb, Daniel Thomas, Aldon Smith, Tyron Smith and Nate Solder have all stepped up and played tremendously, right away.
So, so much for that theory, too.
The lesson, as always, friends? The writers and "experts?" Maybe — just maybe — we're not always right in August.
Now, let's dig into the Week 2 Cheat Sheet.
Week 2 Record: 12-4
Overall 2011 Record: 22-10
Trivia Question of the Week
Outside of Cam Newton and Tom Brady, only two players since 2004 have thrown for 400 yards or more in consecutive games. They're both still active and each plays in the AFC West. Who are these two quarterbacks?
Gross Understatement of the Week
"I think we have to reevaluate where we are and make adjustments of whatever we need to do to start heading in the right direction, because the last two weeks are not satisfactory to any of us." — Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. The Chiefs have been outscored by Buffalo and Detroit — two teams that haven't made the playoffs since 1999 — by a combined score of 84-10 in Weeks 1 and 2.
University of Miami Player Quote of the Week
Impress Your Colleagues Water Cooler Fact of the Week
The Lions' 45-point win over the Chiefs was the largest ever by the Lions in a regular season game, tying their 59-14 NFL Championship victory over the Browns in 1957. The audio cassette tape, the soft contact lens and the handheld calculator had not yet been invented in 1957.
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST Games
Jacksonville at Carolina: The 1995 Expansion Team Bowl! With Sunday's woeful 32-3 loss in New Jersey, the Jaguars have now lost 18 games since the start of the 2009 season. 11 of those 18 games have been decided by 14 or more points. What does that tell us? When the Jags lose, they really lose. They're going to really lose this one. Cam Newton goes wild again, and this time earns his first NFL victory in the process.
The Pick: Panthers 31, Jaguars 17
Detroit at Minnesota: I saw a guy wearing a Joey Harrington Lions jersey walking out of a Manhattan sports bar on Sunday afternoon with an ear-to-ear smile on his face, and couldn't help but feel good for him. Nate Burleson, fresh off a nine-catch performance, told the NFL Network on Monday: "This year I'm going to try to be the black Wes Welker." The Lions! What's not to love?
The Pick: Lions 34, Vikings 24
San Francisco at Cincinnati: Has anyone seen Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis? With just seven receptions and no touchdowns through two games, the 49ers' longtime go-to guy is on milk cartons all over the Bay Area this week. Look for Davis to play a larger role in the offense this week, and for Jim Harbaugh to rally his troops back after a tough loss and get a big road victory in Ohio this weekend.
The Pick: 49ers 23, Bengals 20
Miami at Cleveland: Losers of nine of their last 10 home games, a road trip will be a welcomed change of pace for the Dolphins. Miami managed just one touchdown and 10 points on four trips inside the Texans' 20-yard line last week after failing to convert several trips inside the Patriots' 5 in Week 1. Cam Wake told reporters Sunday, "We're not getting beat, but we're losing." To-mato, Tom-ato. Miami, behind rookie running back Daniel Thomas, picks up their first win of the season in Cleveland on Sunday.
The Pick: Dolphins 20, Browns 14
New England at Buffalo: "DID YOU KNOW THAT RYAN FITZPATRICK WENT TO HARVARD?! DID YOU?! HE WENT TO HARVARD! HARVARD, OF ALL PLACES — AN IVY LEAGUE SCHOOL. HE'S A FOOTBALL PLAYER AND HE WENT TO HARVARD. YOU'D THINK HE'D BE A DUMB JOCK IDIOT WHO ONLY READS COMIC BOOKS AND EATS SCRAP METAL. BUT GUESS WHAT? RYAN FITZPATRICK WENT TO … HARVARD!!!!" That's pretty much the start of each and every segment, mention or discussion about the Bills starting quarterback. When does that whole thing end? Ever? The Bills have looked great, but as losers of 15 straight and 21 of 22 to New England, I just can't see the Buffalo defense handling Tom Brady on Sunday. HARVARD! HE WENT TO HARVARD! HOLY MOLY, HARVARD!
The Pick: Patriots 33, Bills 24
The Pick: Eagles 31, Giants 20
Denver at Tennessee: In two games since ending his holdout, Chris Johnson, Tennessee's $54 million man, has managed just 77 yards on 33 carries (2.2 yard average). That's good for the 35th-most rushing yards in the league, three spots below Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne. Yuck. Johnson should have a breakout day on Sunday, though, as Denver's already undermanned defense could be in even more dire straits for this one. Champ Bailey's out, D.J. Williams likely won't be ready to return from his preseason injury, Marcus Thomas will be out and Elvis Dumervil's unlikely to suit up. In two games, the Broncos defense has consisted primarily of Brian Dawkins and superstar rookie Von Miller versus 11 starters. They'll be exposed in their first road game of the year. Look for Johnson to go wild.
The Pick: Titans 34, Broncos 20
Houston at New Orleans: I have been dining on some crow and drowning in emails with "WHO DAT?" subject lines from Saints fans after picking the Bears to handle them in the Superdome last week. I'll eat my humble pie and admit I severely underestimated the Saints D. They brought it, sacking Jay Cutler six times, in a 30-13 win. The Texans D has brought it this season so far as well. Yes, Houston started the year 2-0 last season, too. But they gave up a combined 884 yards, including 822 passing, and six touchdowns in their first two wins last season. This time, they've allowed just 542 yards in two games. Expect a good one here. I'll take the Saints in their own building.
The Pick: Saints 27, Texans 24
Sunday, 4 p.m. EST Games
New York Jets at Oakland: The Jets are 2-0 and atop the AFC East standings, but have a rough stretch up ahead, including three consecutive road games beginning next Sunday at Oakland and continuing at 2010 playoff teams Baltimore and New England. If Gang Green can escape that run with two wins, they'd be more than happy. I don't see it happening. Oakland, finally at home after an unfortunate scheduling quirk that put them in Buffalo after five days rest from a Monday night tilt in Denver, will take advantage of Nick Mangold's absence and force Mark Sanchez into a few bad decisions.
The Pick: Raiders 24, Jets 17
Baltimore at St. Louis: How's this for an alarming statistic, Ravens fans? Outside of Anquan Boldin, Baltimore's other wide receivers have combined for just two catches this season. Two! The Ravens, a team seemingly every expert crowned as the AFC's best squad after a Week 1 victory, should bounce back from last weekend's letdown loss in Tennessee with a better performance Sunday. The Rams are much younger and much worse than I thought they were this preseason. Look for Lee Evans to get involved (finally), taking advantage of the Rams' depleted secondary.
The Pick: Ravens 27, Rams 13
Atlanta at Tampa Bay: In the fourth quarter this season, Buccaneers third-year quarterback Josh Freeman is 26 for 37 for 260 yards and two touchdowns for a 107.9 passer rating. His comeback victory in Minnesota last weekend marked his eighth come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter or overtime, eclipsing Peyton Manning, who had seven in his first 31 starts. Atlanta's offense showed it could score when it had to on Sunday, but the defense had its troubles throughout. Through two games, the much ballyhooed "upgraded" Falcons defense has given up the sixth-most yards per game in the league. Give me Freeman and the Baby Bucs in this early season statement game on the road.
The Pick: Buccaneers 34, Falcons 24
Kansas City at San Diego: My buddy Kevin owns a bar in Manhattan where hundreds of Chiefs fans gather to watch Kansas City games every Sunday. Here was his take on the scene at 3 pm EST, last Sunday afternoon, as the Lions took a 41-3 fourth quarter lead. "Truthfully, it was as quiet as I've ever heard the bar. I thought they all swallowed their dip and then I saw the score of the game. I couldn't tell if it was Sunday football or a book club meeting." Ouch. Chargers by three touchdowns here.
The Pick: Chargers 35, Chiefs 13
Green Bay at Chicago: Dom Capers has fielded top-five-ranked defenses in each of his two seasons running the Green Bay defense. In two games in 2011, though, the Packers have allowed 477 to the Saints and 475 to Panthers, respectively. The glass half full? The Packers won both of those games. The glass half empty? Neither of those teams knows the Packers' offense like Chicago. Look for Harry Melton, Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije to get after Aaron Rodgers early and often. If the Bears can keep Jay Cutler upright — I know, that’s a big if — I like Chicago to defend its home turf and serve the Pack their first “L” in 10 games.
The Pick: Bears 23, Packers 20
Arizona at Seattle: In two games, the Cardinals have given up 932 yards against the Panthers and Redskins. Nope, not the Packers and Patriots — the Panthers and Redskins. Fortunately, they're playing the one offense in the league that won't light them up this year. The Andrew Luck Watch is officially on in Seattle.
The Pick: Cardinals 27, Seahawks 17
Sunday Night, 8 pm EST
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis: Watching the 2011 Colts is eerily getting more and more like watching the '97 San Antonio Spurs. That year, David Robinson broke a toe in the preseason, missed the entire campaign and the Spurs ended up with the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Insert Tim Duncan, and the rest is history. If Andrew Luck ends up in Colts blue and white, the Indy fans won't be dealing with home losses to the Cleveland Browns of the league much longer. I hope you have some alternative programming options for Sunday night; this one will be over before it even gets started.
The Pick: Steelers 31, Colts 7
Washington at Dallas: After a wild two-game road trip to start the year, the Cowboys return to JerryWorld for their season opener Monday night. Running back Felix Jones could be out until the bye week, Miles Austin is out until Week 6, Tony Romo and Jason Witten are banged up and the defensive backfield is a veritable M*A*S*H unit. I'm still taking Dallas. I'm not buying this 'Skins team just yet. Let's see them win a road game under the lights before crowning them champs of the NFC East.
The Pick: Cowboys 33, Redskins 20
Reader Email of the Week
I noticed Cleatus, The FOX Sports Robot, follows you on Twitter. What's that relationship like?
—Brent, Edina, Minnesota
I guess you can say it's complicated. It started off great, with glowing pucks, inside jokes about C-3P0 and R2-D2 and plenty of critiques of that "Wall-E" movie. Ya know, typical Robot stuff. Then, Cleatus started making more friends in the FOX family, palling around with the Mike Pereira's and Curt Menefee's of the world, leaving me in the dust. We still chat, and I'll get the occasional "See that Hugh Jackman robot boxing trailer? Pfff …" text, but it's not the same. Things have changed. Hey, thus is life.
**TRIVIA ANSWER: As Steve McNair's replacement in December of 2004, Billy Volek threw for 426 yards in a Monday night loss to the Chiefs and 492 against the Raiders the following Sunday. In 2008, filling in for Tom Brady, Matt Cassel threw for 400 yards against the Jets and 415 against the Dolphins in consecutive weeks for the Patriots.