We’re a week into the season and I’m feeling pretty good about my preseason predictions and Week 1 picks. I crawled onto the Rams bandwagon in early August and it was cold and dreary — a little bit like Edward Jones Stadium, to be honest.
Also, if you paid attention at all this summer, the 49ers were destined to match the 2008 Lions and go 0-16.
The lesson? Looking at a list of names you recognize, seeing they’re not there anymore, and assuming the roof has caved in isn’t always the best plan of action. Sometimes we should maybe wait to see how a team responds to such adversity before assuming the worst.
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And the Bills! I may never pick against them again. Ever.
With all that patting myself on the back, I should probably call out what I was wrong about, too.
● I’ll be honest, I thought the Eagles would roll over the Falcons with ease last Monday night. I was blinded by a preseason marked by greatness, an unstoppable offense, and an inherent desire to see things we’ve never seen before work in the NFL. What we got Monday was an average team fighting to overcome glaring weaknesses. When you spend $51 million on two running backs in free agency, you expect them to carry the ball more than 11 times. DeMarco Murray seeing no carries in the final eight minutes was alarming, and as much as I want to say, "It’s just one week, let’s move on," it’s hard to ignore the fact that Philadelphia’s guards and center were handled by Atlanta’s defensive line. Chip Kelly’s playbook may be 100 pages long and his sleep science may be revolutionary, but at the end of the day, if this team can’t run the ball effectively, the Eagles are going nowhere.
● Jameis Winston did not outplay Marcus Mariota. And the other rookies on the field for Tampa Bay didn’t look ready to play. No one in Tampa colors looked like they were ready for anything, really. That was bad.
● The Lions not only desperately missed Ndamukong Suh, but they also missed injured linebacker DeAndre Levy even more. These were not the same Lions from a season ago, and they have a long way to go.
Time to recalibrate. Let’s dig in.
Week 2 Cheat Sheet Trivia Question of the Week:
Before Jameis Winston, who was the last player to throw an interception returned for a touchdown on his first NFL pass?
Remember Week 4 last year? Patriots at Chiefs on Monday night? I was there and I can tell you there were few game day environments I’ve ever seen like that one. The Chiefs pummeled the Patriots and the questions kept coming. Is Brady done? Are the Patriots in trouble? Is this the beginning of the end? Rewrite that entire script this week for Peyton Manning and the Broncos. I see this one getting ugly early with Dontari Poe, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali abusing that porous Broncos offensive line, and Peyton Manning being under duress from go. Chiefs win big and we endure a week of hearing Brock Osweiler’s name.
The best pass of the weekend wasn’t Tyrod Taylor to Percy Harvin or any of Brady’s tosses to Gronkowski. It was Nick Foles’ dime to Stedman Bailey in overtime of the biggest upset of the weekend. Click the link here and watch the timing and precision. Challenging Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas in OT? That’s a gem of a pass and one Foles can make. I wrote it here last week: Foles took the Eagles to the playoffs in 2013 and had them at 6-2 before getting injured a season ago. Don’t sleep on Foles as an NFL quarterback. The last time the Rams traveled to D.C., they wrecked the Redskins and had some tomfoolery with the captains taking the coin toss. And they get Todd Gurley back sometime soon, too.
The Pick: Rams 23, Redskins 17
Atlanta at New York Giants
The New York tabloids had their way with Eli Manning on Tuesday morning, putting him in a dunce cap and calling him the $84 million "dope." That’s fine. You can’t get worked up over it. You’ve got to have fun with it. Giants bounce back here.
The Pick: Giants 23, Falcons 20
Tennessee at Cleveland
It’s the Kevin O’Connell Bowl! O’Connell was the personal quarterback guru for both Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota in their pre-draft training periods. Now, his pupils square off. Long known as a drop-back quarterback guru who likes his quarterbacks one way — big, strong and pass-first (Rivers, Warner, Roethlisberger) — Ken Whisenhunt unveiled a dynamic offensive set, catered to Mariota’s skills. Perfect game plan. Perfect win. They’ll notch another here.
The Pick: Titans 27, Browns 17
San Diego at Cincinnati
I threw a bit of a Twitter tantrum on Monday and still stand by my take that the NFL can’t preach player safety from the highest mountaintops and not suspend Adam Jones at least one game for slamming Amari Cooper’s head against his helmet. The intent to injure was there and it clearly came after the play. If that game was between any two teams other than the Bengals and Raiders, and wasn’t CBS’ second game of the late afternoon Sunday window, I’m confident there would have been more public outrage. Does a Cowboys defender get away with doing that to Odell Beckham, Jr. on Sunday night? Alas, Jones will suit up and play on Sunday. Health and safety!
The Pick: Bengals 33, Chargers 21
New England at Buffalo
I was in Buffalo last weekend and could have told you on Saturday night around 8 p.m. just walking around downtown Buffalo, there was no chance the Bills were losing that game to the Colts. Rarely can you feel what was felt in that city last weekend. The most positive postgame note I had? Former first-round pick Sammy Watkins, he of zero catches in Week 1, said it didn’t bother him one bit. The win was all that mattered. New England looked flawless on offense, but had its holes on D. Don’t ask how, just know that I’m rolling with the Bills in every home game this season.
The Pick: Bills 24, Patriots 20
Houston at Carolina
This crazy game of poker Bill O’Brien is playing with his quarterback position doesn’t have me feeling too great. Everyone boarded that Texans bandwagon pretty quickly this summer. They’ll be exiting in droves after this one. This isn’t Steve Young and Joe Montana. It’s not even Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. It is two giant question marks.
If Carson Palmer can stay upright, the Cardinals can go all the way this season. The 2002 Heisman Trophy winner looked the part on Sunday, lighting up the Saints. The Bears D isn’t much better. Tough pill to swallow, but I see Chicago with two home losses to start 2015.
The Pick: Cardinals 34, Bears 28
San Francisco at Pittsburgh
Upset special. I’m doubling down on the 49ers. It won’t be easy, but watching Monday’s game tape, I think the San Francisco D actually matches up well with the Pittsburgh offense — especially with Maurkice Pouncey still out of the lineup. Jim Tomsula’s a Western Pennsylvania guy through and through (have you heard him speak?). Big homecoming for him. Break up the Niners!
The Pick: 49ers 28, Steelers 27
Tampa Bay at New Orleans
Lovie Smith is 0-9 at home as the head coach of the Buccaneers. He hasn’t fared much better on the road (2-6). This is going to be a better game than you might expect, and I think Winston is more effective. But I can’t take the Tampa Bay team we saw last week to win in the Superdome.
I’ll be on the sidelines for this one on FOX and can’t wait. Adrian Peterson’s first game in Minnesota since the 2013 season and it should be an interesting one. As bad as the Vikings offense looked on Monday night, the Lions defense could have been worse. That wasn’t the Teddy Bridgewater we expected and that wasn’t the Norv Turner offense we’ve come to know for 30 years. I’d expect Minnesota to bounce back, right the ship and get to 1-1.
The Pick: Vikings 23, Lions 16
Miami at Jacksonville
That wasn’t the Jaguars team I was hoping to see last week, and the T.J. Yeldon express train to Canton that I was conducting all summer was derailed early and often versus Carolina. The Dolphins won ugly on Sunday, and sometimes that’s OK. The offense looked awfully stale and the offensive line play was treacherous, but a road win is a road win.
The Pick: Dolphins 24, Jaguars 17
Baltimore at Oakland
How can the Ravens overcome the loss of Terrell Suggs? It’s hard. The heart and soul of a defense that no longer has Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata or Ed Reed, Suggs is the team’s most valuable player outside of Joe Flacco. Good teams rally back from bad losses (both on the field and with injuries). The Ravens are a good team.
The Pick: Ravens 27, Raiders 20
Dallas at Philadelphia
Well, that wasn’t how Byron Maxwell’s debut was supposed to go. The former Seahawks corner, brought in to be the No. 1 in Philadelphia, was targeted 11 times Monday night against the Falcons. Opposing receivers caught 10 balls for 178 yards. Yuck. I’m not giving up on the Eagles just yet (they’re my Super Bowl pick), but they absolutely have to win this one. I think they will.
The Pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 24
Seattle at Green Bay
Kam Chancellor’s replacement, converted linebacker Dion Bailey, didn’t have as bad a game in Week 1 as I initially suspected. Doesn’t matter. The last time a high-profile player like this held out and his team lost the first two games, his name was Emmitt Smith. He got paid, the Cowboys righted the ship and Dallas went on to win a Super Bowl. If the ‘Hawks start 0-2, as I see them doing, Chancellor could be seeing dollar signs sooner rather than later.
The Pick: Packers 30, Seahawks 24
New York Jets at Indianapolis
Last week wasn’t pretty for the Colts. Andrew Luck had about 3 seconds to throw the ball every time he dropped back to pass (and that was without Buffalo’s top defensive lineman in the lineup), Frank Gore looked about 100 years old, and first-round pick Phillip Dorsett looked like a deer in headlights. The Colts could be in for a long season if there’s as much tension between the head coach, general manager and owner as it seems. But they’ll win this one. If they don’t, this could have 2014 49ers all over it.
The Pick: Colts 33, Jets 17
Week 2 Cheat Sheet Trivia Answer of the Week:
Brett Favre threw an interception returned for a touchdown on his first NFL pass, with the Falcons in 1991.