A year ago this week, the Philadelphia Eagles were preparing to take on Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. Back then, few knew which direction each team would be headed under the tutelage of their new coaches. Reid and Co. led Kansas City to the playoffs. But, an 0-2 start coupled with a slew of critical injuries has left the Chiefs’ future looking rather bleak. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is 2-0 and soaring to new heights. Chip Kelly has brought a renewed sense of optimism to a town typically coated in despondency and despair. After their 30-27 come-from-behind victory over Indianapolis on Monday, the Eagles are creating believers in a city of doubt.
This week, the Eagles welcome DeSean Jackson back to town. The diminutive receiver, who spent 6-seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, expects to play on Sunday despite a shoulder injury suffered in Washington’s blowout win over Jacksonville. Also in tow for Sunday’s affair is QB Kirk Cousins, who replaced Robert Griffin III after the latter dislocated his ankle during the first half of play last week. The former Michigan State standout has had a horde of believers ever since college, and is expected to fit Jay Gruden’s system much better than Griffin.
Still, Washington remains a hefty underdog against Philadelphia. To expect their beleaguered defense to stop the Eagles, even with Brandon Meriweather returning from injury, would be asinine. For Washington to win, they’ll have to find a way to keep the Eagles off the field. After all, getting an early lead doesn’t seem to be the answer, as evidenced by Philadelphia’s back-to-back second half comebacks. If Cousins is for real, there’s no greater proving ground than a divisional rivalry for first place in the NFC East. Ready for Sunday yet? Gentlemen, start your engines…
Last weeks record: 8-7
Year to date: 8-7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) AT Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – Falcons -6.5
Prediction: Falcons, 26-23. The Falcons are likely going to be your classic enigma this season. Their offense should be good enough to win at least 10 games. But, a shoddy offensive line and inexperienced defense will be a thorn in Atlanta’s side for awhile. Tampa, meanwhile, has struggled offensively. That’s not a good sign when visiting a division rival in the dome. Still, I think Tampa knows that a loss here means their season is over before it began. They’ll give Atlanta a solid fight on Thursday night.
San Diego Chargers (1-1) AT Buffalo Bills (2-0) – Bills -2.5
Prediction: Chargers, 21-14. Picking the Chargers to upend the Seahawks last week might go down as my best pick of the season. San Diego is another one of those teams that has usually has more talent than wins at the end of the year. This is also a game that they should find a way to win based upon talent alone. Still, Buffalo is a tough customer at home, and their defense is sufficient enough to stop anyone. I think it will be a good game. But, I’ll take San Diego on the road even in a cross-country venue.
Dallas Cowboys (1-1) AT St. Louis Rams (1-1) – Cowboys -1
Prediction: Cowboys, 26-23. If Dallas can’t beat Austin Davis and the Rams this week, Jason Garrett may want to start packing his bags. That’s because the Cowboys’ schedule evolves into a gauntlet of despair over the next two months. The Cowboys looked great defensively against the likes of Jake Locker and the Titans. One should expect similar success against the paltry Rams’ passing game. Watch out for Zac Stacy, though. The Cowboys’ front seven is pathetic on paper, and Stacy is the only thing keeping St. Louis’ season from unraveling.
Washington Redskins (1-1) AT Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) – Eagles -6.5
Prediction: Eagles, 32-29. The last time the Eagles were 3-0, they won the NFC in 2004. To reach that plateau again, Philadelphia will have to welcome back and defeat an old friend in Jackson. This spread is pretty large for a divisional game between two foes who really don’t have as much familiarity with each other as you’d expect. Keep in mind, Philadelphia did not play Cousins last year. They also haven’t faced Jay Gruden’s pro-style offense (though, it’s not all that much different than Indianapolis’). The key for the Eagles will be avoiding a third consecutive first half hole. I think it will be close. But, Cody Parkey will once again be the hero as the Eagles win a nail biter in Philadelphia.
Houston Texans (2-0) AT New York Giants (0-2) – Texans -2.5
Prediction: Texans, 27-17. Few would have believed that the worst team in the NFL a year ago, the Houston Texans, would be 2-0 to begin their campaign. Granted, those people likely didn’t look at their paltry, last placed schedule; or take into account that Houston won their first two games in 2013 as well before going on an epic losing skid. This week, the Texans visit New Jersey, where they’ll get the privilege of tangling with one of the worst offenses in football. Eli Manning leads the league with 31 interceptions since opening day 2013, and those numbers aren’t likely to get better with JJ Watt rushing the passer. The Giants are in for a long season, and it will only get worse on Sunday.
Minnesota Vikings (1-1) AT New Orleans Saints (0-2) – Saints -10.5
Prediction: Saints, 27-17. First of all, I think that the Saints have got to start winning at some point and why not this week when they take on a Vikings team engulfed in controversy and without Adrian Peterson. In fact, this would probably be my stone cold lock of the week if one only considers the moneyline. But, in this gambling world of lines and spreads, it’s impossible to predict a winless team covering 10.5 points against anyone, even if it is the Vikings. I could see New Orleans running the Vikings right out of The Big Easy. But, I’ll take Minnesota to cover; much like they tried to cover up Peterson’s indiscretions over the last 6 months.
Tennessee Titans (1-1) AT Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) – Bengals -7
Prediction: Bengals, 23-10. Cincinnati is swiftly becoming recognized as a title contender; and with good reason. The Bengals have one of the best young defenses in the game, and lineman Geno Atkins’ return from injury is a large reason why. Meanwhile, the offense might find some growing pains without AJ Green, who is questionable with turf toe. If Green can’t play, expect WR Mohammad Sanu to pick up where his teammate left off. Tennessee proved last week against Dallas that they’re a pretender and will continue to be one until Locker either matures or is replaced.
Baltimore Ravens (1-1) AT Cleveland Browns (1-1) – Ravens -1.5
Prediction: Browns, 26-20. Rarely do I pick the Cleveland Browns to win anything. But, this Browns bunch is different. Their dramatic last second win over New Orleans last week proved that Brian Hoyer and Co. can win big games at home against championship caliber teams. They’ll look to prove it again in their division against Baltimore, who has hardly looked like world beaters through two weeks.
Green Bay Packers (1-1) AT Detroit Lions (1-1) – Lions -2
Prediction: Packers, 34-27. In what will be a critical early season matchup in the AFC North, I like the Packers over the Lions not due to talent. But, because of Green Bay’s poise and maturity compared to the penalty fest that is the Detroit Lions’ gameplan. No team has been penalized more since the beginning of 2013 than Detroit, and that’s unlikely to desist when a hated rival comes to town. Megatron could cause some trouble for a beleaguered Packers’ secondary, though. Take the over.
Indianapolis Colts (0-2) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) – Colts -7
Prediction: Colts, 26-13. It’s time for Jacksonville to put Blake Bortles in and end the Chad Henne era. The former Michigan QB has been as Topsy-turvy as ever this season, and his poor second half play has to give Gus Bradley ulcers on a weekly basis. Indianapolis, meanwhile, will enjoy the chance to face a QB like Henne after being diced up by Peyton Manning and Nick Foles during the season’s first two weeks. It’s do-or-die for both of these teams, and Andrew Luck and the Colts have way too much to play for to let another game slip away.
Oakland Raiders (0-2) AT New England Patriots (1-1) – Patriots -14.5
Prediction: New England, 36-10. Rarely do I pick the double-digit favorite. But, this is just too lopsided even for my moderate taste. The biggest revelation out of Minnesota last week (besides the Peterson saga) was the emergence of the much hyped Patriots defense. That unit interception Matt Cassel thrice en route to victory. Now, just imagine what they’ll do to turnover prone rookie Derek Carr. The Raiders would have a shot at covering if it weren’t for the likelihood that New England will score at least one defensive touchdown in this game.
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) AT Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – 49ers -3
Prediction: Cardinals, 20-17. San Francisco, for all their hype, has not looked good this season. Injuries have depleted the defense, while inconsistency continues to plague Colin Kaepernick and the offense. For the 49ers to go into Arizona and get a critical road win, they’ll need to see much more out of their running game than has been revealed so far. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were able to travel east and defeat the Giants even without Carson Palmer at QB. The 2003 #1 overall pick is expected to return this week, and that spells bad news for a banged up San Francisco secondary.
Denver Broncos (2-0) AT Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Seattle -5
Prediction: Broncos, 29-24. Only five times in history has there been a Super Bowl rematch the season after the big game. This week, we’ll be treated to Peyton’s crusade for revenge on the defense that made him look like Kevin Kolb. The Seahawks’ defense was exposed at times against San Diego, and I think that Denver’s depth will allow them to control the pace of play, forcing Seattle to get out of their comfort zone (basically what the Broncos wanted to do last February but were unable to due to their early deficit). It won’t be any consolation for Manning. But, he’ll be all smiles when he sends the Seahawks to 0-2 on national TV.
Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) AT Miami Dolphins (1-1) – Dolphins -4.5
Prediction: Kansas City, 17-14. I don’t know why I’m making this pick. All signs point to a Kansas City loss. The Chiefs, already banged up defensively, now may be without Jamaal Charles due to a high ankle sprain. Still, Miami is one of those teams that finds a way to lose, especially against teams they should beat. The heat in South Beach should help the defenses. But, don’t expect this to be a cakewalk for the entirely too inconsistent Dolphins.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) AT Carolina Panthers (0-2) – Panthers -3.5
Prediction: Panthers, 28-14. I love, love, love the Panthers in this game. Not only is Cam Newton back and healthy. But, the veteran QB is firing on all cylinders. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s defense continues to go through a revolution of sorts, as youth and inexperience replaces the stars of yesteryear. This is my lock of the week.
Chicago Bears (1-1) AT New York Jets (1-1) – Jets -3
Prediction: Bears, 23-20. New York blew a golden opportunity at a road win against the Packers last week. They’ll get another shot at an NFC North foe when they host Chicago on Monday Night Football. For the Jets to survive this battle, they’ll have to find their run game yet again. CJ2K and Chris Ivory are certainly capable runners who could exploit a still mediocre Bears run defense. Still, stopping Chicago’s aerial attack is going to be a problem for the Jets, whose banged up secondary is help together only by the defensive wizardry of Rex Ryan.