My picks last week were a rubbish filled skip fire of the smelliest matter imaginable, where as Dan managed to keep steady and so after two weeks we are both have a fifty percent record. This reminds me that gambling is fundamentally stupid, and would make me wonder why I bother making these picks if it wasn’t for the fact that I love the game. We are also beginning to learn some things about certain teams, whilst others stubbornly remain a mystery so on to another interesting week.
Gee: Week 2 5-11 Overall 16-16
Dan: Week 2 8-8 Overall 16-16
Washington @ Giants (-3.5)
I am really looking forward to watching this game to get a proper look at these teams.
The Giants have twice held ten point leads going into the fourth quarter, and yet have an 0-2 record. Odell Beckham came to play against the Falcons, catching a ball on a slant pattern and taking it to the end-zone whilst racking up a further six catches for a total of one hundred and forty-six yards. Although he didn’t throw an interception, Eli Manning fumbled the ball twice with one of those going to the Falcons, and if you combine this with the clock management issues from game 1, then you can see that Eli has not had the best of starts to the season. However, so far their defence has been better than many were predicting before the start of the season, and they were neither the first, nor I suspect the last, defence to fail to cover Julio Jones. They will be desperately looking to get a win this week, particularly as results around them mean they are by no means out of the race for the NFC East, but they need to turn things around quickly.
The results so far have been a pleasant surprise for Washington fans. They played the Dolphins tough in week one, and then got a win against the Rams last week. Their defence has taken a step up from last year, and their offensive line looks better as well, which has enabled them to run the ball effectively both weeks. They are only getting steady play from quarterback Kirk Cousins, but if he can continue to protect the ball then the signs of progress in Washington could well bear fruit.
This is one of those games where I haven’t got a feel for either team compared to each other, but the line isn’t quite high enough for me to pick a road underdog, so I’ll back the Giants in this one. Reluctantly.
Gee’s Pick: Giants
Dan’s Pick: Washington
Falcons@ Cowboys (+0.5)
The Cowboys are having the worst 2-0 start to the season you could imagine, having lost Dez Bryant in week 1 to a broken foot, and now Tony Romo is out for at least eight weeks with a broken collar bone. Their defence has played well, but the offence has understandably sputtered, and neither Brandon Weeden nor the recently acquired Matt Cassel exactly inspires confidence. They will hope to do well enough to give Tony Romo something to come back for, but it could be a rough few weeks for this team.
The Falcons on the other hand, have got off to a much improved start when compared to last year as their defence is playing much better under the influence of new head coach Dan Quinn, and Julio Jones continues to give defensive backs nightmares. I have been wrong my fair share of times this season, but I think the Falcons will have too much for the injured Cowboys this week.
Gee’s Pick: Falcons
Dan’s Pick: Falcons
Bengals @ Ravens (-2.5)
The Raven have had a curious start to their season as they have fallen to 0-2. The first loss in Denver could be explained by the Broncos frightening defence, which if you are starting the season with another new offensive coordinator is not the game you would have picked for yourself. However, I don’t think anyone was expecting them to lose to the Raiders, and more worryingly, give up so much offence to them. In fact, this was more of a problem for the Ravens than their own offence, which racked up nearly five hundred yards of total offence and three touchdowns. But the Ravens defence gave up three hundred and fifty yards in the air, and although Terrell Suggs is a miss, they have to overcome it if they are going to turn their season round. They will be glad to be back in Baltimore for their home opener, and I have no doubt this will be another close AFC North battle.
The Bengals continued their good start with a second win against the Chargers. I would have liked the run defence to be a little stouter, and Dre Kirkpatrick will have to watch the penalties despite his excellent overall plays, but Geno Atkins is looking like himself again and the defence picked up four sacks with the d-line rotation really coming together. On offence, Andy Dalton is spreading the ball around to all the weapons the Bengals now have on offence, and even when someone misfires like Jeremy Hill did in this game, then someone else steps up. Dalton threw for another three touchdowns to make five on the season without an interception, and Tyler Eifert caught another one as he continues to make a name for himself at tight end.
I am worried about this pick as I think the Ravens are due a win, and will be desperate in their home opener to turn things around, but the optimist is hoping the Bengals’ season continues its good start.
Gee’s Pick: Bengals
Dan’s Pick: Bengals
Raiders @ Browns (-3.5)
There are a number of teams that have struggled in recent years that have got a win already this year, and the Browns recovered from a bad loss in their first game to get themselves on the board. The defence got an impressive seven sacks as they gave Titan’s rookie Marcus Mariota a look at the other side of being an NFL quarterback. I’m still not sure what the Browns are going to be on offence, but in Travis Benjamin they got big plays in the passing game to go along with his seventy-eight yard punt return for a touchdown, but both his long touchdown receptions had the hint of the last minute hail Mary pass and so you wonder what will happen against better defences. Manziel looked a bit more like the college player that so wowed people on the long plays to Benjamin, but we still don’t know if he can sustain success in the NFL, and clearly the Browns are not sure as they look to be returning Josh McCown to the starting line up having cleared the league’s concussion protocol.
The Raiders also had their own redemption in week two as having been soundly beaten by the Bengals in week one, they got the win in a big performance against the Baltimore Ravens. The defence doesn’t seemed to have found its feet yet, with Kahlil Mack yet to record a sack from his new position of defensive end, but the offence kept pace with the Ravens to get the job done.
I’m not exactly sure about either side, but I’ll back the Browns with the Raiders travelling all the way across from the west coast, even if it does feel like a coin flip.
Gee’s Pick: Browns
Dan’s Pick: Raiders
Colts @ Titans (+3.5)
The Titans got a dose of reality against the Browns as they gave up a lot of sacks on offence, and big plays on defence and special teams. That said, Mariota did steady the ship in the second half, getting a couple of touchdowns as they recovered from being 0-21 down to make it 14-28 at the end of the game. They seem to be heading in the right direction, and whilst it is too early to tell how far this progress will take them this season, how they go in this game could be an indicator.
The Colts have got off to a rotten start, and the disharmony between Chuck Pagano and the front office staff seems to be spilling out into the press alongside criticism of Andrew Luck. There is no denying their franchise quarterback’s talent, and it is admirable that he cares more about winning than his stats, but he has to do a better job of protecting the football if the Colts are going to win. Now in fairness to him, it’s all very well to say that, but given the lack of talent that the Colts have put in front of him in the offensive line, it is not a surprise that he would struggle. If nothing else, apart from drafting Luck first over all, there have been more misses that hits in recent years and the front office has been focussing on toys for Luck rather than bolstering the offensive and defensive lines, which is what this team really needs. This game is a big one, in which the Colts will either begin to rally round, or truly sink into the mire. To their credit, they have played two very good defences, and whilst the Titans are improving, I don’t think this is the game they will win. However, I think it will be a performance that masks the Colts’s deficiencies rather than truly marks a turnaround, and whilst I can still see them winning their division, I don’t see them improving on their playoff performance this season.
Gee’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Pick: Colts
Steelers @ Rams (+1.5)
The Rams seem to have fallen into a classic let down game, having got the good win against their division rival at home, they then travelled across the country and were steamrollered by Washington’s improving offensive line. Their defensive front is very impressive, which makes Washington’s efforts all the more remarkable, but makes it very hard for me to know what to do with them in this game against the Steelers. In Nick Fowles they seem to have a quarterback who can do a bit more in the vertical passing game, but there is a question of which Rams team will show up.
The Steelers ran into a buzz saw in the opening game of the season, but put things right against the 49ers with a comprehensive win. The offense is only going to improve with Le’Veon Bell returning to the line up, although DeAngelo Williams has been able backup. However, the difference maker for me is Antonio Brown, who is making a strong case for being the best receiver in the league. He had nearly two hundred yards against the 49ers and I think the Steelers are settling into a good team now.
Gee’s Pick: Steelers
Dan’s Pick: Steelers
Chargers@ Vikings (-2.5)
The Vikings looked more like the team we were expecting to see in week two. The rumours of Adrian Peterson’s decline were soundly dispelled with nearly two hundred all purpose yards, and Teddy Bridgewater responded to Mike Zimmer’s tough coaching with a turnover free game and two touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground. The defence got a pair of fumbles and an interception, and so now we just have to see if the Vikings can sustain this, or if they are going to have an up and down season.
The Chargers are also 1-1, having been solidly beaten by the Bengals, but I was impressed with rookie running back Melvin Gordon, and Danny Woodhead was as dangerous as ever coming out of the backfield. With Philip Rives at quarterback, the Chargers are always going to have a chance, but the defence is still going to be a question, and they only have one sack for the season to go along with a Football Outsiders Defensive DAVE ranking of twenty-fifth.
That said, the Chargers did well enough against the Bengals this week that I think they will have enough going into Minnesota, even if the prospect of Peterson running into the Chargers defence does worry me a lot.
Gee’s Pick: Chargers
Dan’s Pick: Vikings
Jaguars @ Patriots (-13.5)
I need to learn my lessons about the Patriots, which is that it’s not that I don’t see the things that I worry about, but the game plan changes so much that you should just have faith in Belichick and Brady until things start costing them games consistently. Even Rex Ryan came out and said he was out coached, although I’m sure part of that was to take the pressure of his team, and you can see why players love to play for Ryan. But whilst they might love playing for Ryan, if you can stomach the way Belichick coaches you get to win a lot of football games. A healthy Rob Gronkowski is a terrifying weapon, and with Julian Edleman catching so many balls their offence is really humming. When one side of the ball is working so well, the other side only has to be good enough, and they certainly were against the Bills and you imagine they will be again against the Jaguars at home.
The Jaguars are another team that has struggled in recent years that managed to get a win this week against a Dolphins team that seems to be suffering various kinds of dysfunction. Whilst getting a win this early is a sign of improvement, and is encouraging given the injuries they’ve had to start the season, there is not getting away from the fact that the Jaguars are still not a good team, which is reflected in the line. I really wanted to take the Bucs last week, but couldn’t bring myself to do it in the face of their week one performance. I’m tempted to take the Jaguars, but let’s be honest here, despite the points, the Patriots and Tom Brady are desperate to prove a point this season so there is only one way I can go with this game.
Gee’s Pick: Patriots
Dan’s Pick: Jaguars
Saints @ Panthers (-6.5)
The Panthers are winning ugly. Their defence is playing well, even last week minus Luke Kuechly who is under league concussion protocol, and the offence is getting enough done despite losing their best receiver for the year in preseason. The thing that worries me is how much Cam Newton is carrying his team, not because he can’t in bursts, but because I don’t know how long he can sustain it if he keeps running the ball as much as he does. The flip into the end zone against the Texans last week is all very well, but you just hope for the Panthers’ sake that he can stay healthy.
The Saints look to be heading towards the end of an era. There’s talk that Brees will play this week, but you would worry about his bruised rotator-cuff and there hasn’t been much evidence of moving towards a run based attack. More worrying is the defence, which is not playing well, and as a team that doesn’t travel that well I’m not expecting them to turn things round in Carolina.
I could regret this as we’ve had a lot of upsets this season, but I’m sticking with the home favourite in this one, after all the Saints just got beat convincingly by the Bucs.
Gee’s Pick: Panthers
Dan’s Pick: Panthers
Eagles @ Jets (-2.5)
The Jets have got off to a really strong start, and having taken care of the Browns in week one, they had more than enough to see off the Colts in the Monday night game. Tod Bowles has come in and made the most of the secondary that was brought in over the offseason to create a very strong defence that had more than enough to exploit the problems the Colts are having. They have just announced that Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain their starter even when Geno Smith is back healthy, which given how solid the Jets have looked in their opening two games is hardly a surprise. They may miss Eric Decker if, as expected, he misses this game with a knee injury, but the Eagles secondary has not exactly being doing great things so far this season.
The result of the Eagles game really surprised me as their offence looked to be coming together in the second half against the Falcons, and they could have very easily won that game. Instead of them coming out in their home opener and setting things right, they struggled, bringing into question some of the high profile moves that Chip Kelly has made now that he has full power over personnel decision. I think there is an element of Kelly the GM letting down Kelly the coach, as the line is being questioned and an awful lot of talent has been shipped out. It is also interesting to hear people question the coaching and whether his system can work at the NFL. The theory is that now that defensive coordinators have had time to study, that you can’t scheme a win based on spacing if you don’t have players that can win one-on-one matchups. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the season, as I really was impressed with Kelly as an interview last year, and with what I saw on tape. However, I see the logic of their being too many man hours spent in professional coaching to allow you to win on scheme alone, and the price spent on running backs rather than on linemen worried me, as well as the trade for Kiko Alonso who has promptly re-injured his ACL. The last thing the Eagles need to get themselves right is an away trip to a very good Jets defence, and I think it is about to get worse for the Eagles before it can get any better.
Gee’s Pick: Jets
Dan’s Pick: Jets
Buccaneers @ Texans (-6.5)
The Texans appear to not be a very good football team right now. They still have JJ Watt who amassed four tackles, two quarterback hits, and his obligatory sack, but if you look at Football Outsider’s DAVE statistic they are only ranked fifteenth on defence and given where their offence is ranked, this isn’t high enough to get them wins yet. If the defence doesn’t look quite right, the offence is really struggling, which is in part to them missing Arian Foster and not being able to run the ball. For me this make me wonder about their offensive line, which again only ranked twenty-first in the league according to Football Outsiders for run blocking, as both Alfred Blue and Chris Polk looked okay in preseason and are not getting it done. I don’t think the changes at quarterback have helped this team at all, if you pick Hoyer for his consistency, then you have to give him more than three quarters before you yank him out of his first year with an offence. I’m not a huge Hoyer fan, but he was solid at the Browns and given we’ve seen Mallett miss training through over sleeping and mimic Cam Netwon’s Superman celebration having scored a touchdown, whilst losing, I don’t have a lot of faith in Mallett as a replacement.
This week the Texans welcome a Buccaneers team who vastly improved on their performance in week one. On offence Jameis Winston was able to protect the ball in throwing for over two hundred yards and a touchdown whilst not adding to his interception total from his debut, and in the running game they got over one hundred and thirty-nine yards. Meanwhile on defence the Bucs looked to have a better handle on Lovie Smith’s cover 2 system, generating a total of three turnovers, but causing five fumbles even if they only recovered two of them. Fumble recovery is one of those things that is entirely random, but causing fumbles can be taught and is something Smith has always focussed on as this is why he plays the softer coverage in his cover 2 system, it protects you from deep plays, but also allows defenders to keep an eye on the ball and try to intercept/rip it out.
It is hard to say for certain who is going to win this game give we have only played two games, but I don’t see why the Texans should be giving six and half a points away, and so despite risking the wrath of JJ Watt, I’m going to back the Bucs to cover in this one.
Gee’s Pick: Buccaneers
Dan’s Pick: Buccaneers
49ers @ Cardinals (-6.5)
The Cardinals are staking a claim to be the best team in the NFC West this year. They are 2-0, but have only faced the Saints and Bears so far, but welcome divisional rivals the 49ers this week. They are ranked inside the top ten for both defensive and offense according to statistics, and whilst it is hard to read too much into that given that Football Outsiders are not adjusting for opponents yet and who they have played, the Cardinals have looked very good on offence and should have more than enough defence to cope with the visiting 49ers.
The 49ers came back to Earth with a bump against the Steelers last week. There are very few teams that are going to find it easy to cope with the Steelers offence, but they were unable to get a sack or force a turnover in that game, so you worry about them facing a Carson Parmar who has looked very good so far this season. On offence, they only had one turnover themselves, but conceded five sacks and Kaepernick fumbled the ball twice. What is more, Kapernick was also their leading rusher and this is not likely to a recipie for long term success.
You would normally expect divisional games to be close, but I think that Cardinals are in a different class to the 49ers.
Gee’s Pick: Cardinals
Dan’s Pick: Cardinals
Bills @ Dolphins (-2.5)
The Dolphins eked out a win in game one, and then lost to the Jaguars. The defensive line has not been as good as was expected, with Cameron Wake fighting an injury which has limited his productivity, which has meant teams have been able to focus on Suh. Let us not forget that this unit fell apart at the end of last season, and have not looked that great this season. More worrying perhaps though is the lack of offence that the Dolphins have had. The offensive line is struggling at both guard positions, and am injury to Lamar Miller means that the running game looks set to continue to struggle, whilst Tannehill hasn’t been as efficient as he was last year whilst being asked to do a lot because of the lack of run game.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, this week they welcome the first of a pair of good defences that they face over the next two weeks. The Patriots may have put up huge numbers and points on the Bills, but make no mistake, this is a very good defence who will have a point to prove and one suspects Rex Ryan will be doubly focussed in this game. The Bills offence is also likely to benefit from not having to keep up with Brady and co. this week, so I can see this going very wrong for the Dolphins.
I know that Dan always likes to pick his team, but I think that unless they can turn things round very quickly, it could be past the bye week before the Dolphins get another win. Sorry Dan.
Gee’s Pick: Bills
Dan’s Pick: Dolphins
Bears @ Seahawks (-14.5)
Not all 0-2 teams are created equal, as this game nicely demonstrates. The Seahawks lost a surprise game against the Rams, but no one can really blame a team for losing to the Packers in Green Bay. However, whilst the Kam Chancellor hold out has ended, which should help with their defensive problems, there are issues on offence that might not be addressed this season. The line is struggling, which is not a surprise if you trade a when healthy Pro-Bowl centre and don’t invest in his replacement. This might be part of the explanation for their struggles running the ball, although maybe farther time is sneaking up on Marshawn Lynch. The failure of Jimmy Graham to impress is indicative of a problem the Seahawks seem to have in offensive game planning. I’m not sure Graham’s problems are that surprising given that the Seahawks singularly failed to integrate Percy Harvin into their plans, but if the difficult personality he has mitigates that failure, Golden Tate has been very good for an up and down Lions team and he did not look like that playing in Seattle. It shouldn’t be that hard to integrate a talent like Graham into your offence, even if you don’t want to make him the centre piece of your game plan, but he was only targeted twice against the Packers last week, and given that you traded number one picks and a centre to get him, you would have thought that he would have been expected to make a difference to your team.
Turning round the Bears looked like it would be a long process before the season, and so far it certainly has lived up to that impression. On the other end of the 0-2 spectrum, the Bears lost respectably to the Packers in week one, and then got thumped by the Cardinals last week. To make matters worse, they lost quarterback Jay Cutler to a hamstring injury, and as yet we don’t know if he will play Sunday. This could easily turn into a season of losses where the Bears fans start studiously studying the quarterbacks likely to declare for the draft rather than concentrate on the team on the field.
Seattle is not the place to visit if there are questions about your quarterback, and with Kam Chancellor returning to the fold and likely playing, I fear for the Bears in this one. The points make me pause, but in the end they lost by twenty-five points last week and I suspect Seattle’s 12th man will be raucously desperate to make their voices heard in their team’s home opener.
Gee’s Pick: Seahawks
Dan’s Pick: Bears
Broncos @ Lions (+4.5)
The Lions have got off to a rocky start on the road, losing a lead in the fourth quarter to a surging Chargers team in the first game, and going behind in the first quarter against the Vikings to fall to a second loss. The defence hasn’t rebounded from losing Suh yet, and are still missing DeAndre Levey to injury, whilst the offence is having familiar problems with their offensive line. They couldn’t get anything going on the ground against the Vikings’ defence, and Matthew Stafford is carrying some kind of rib injury which may account for his inaccuracy with the ball.
The Broncos stole a second win against the Chiefs, in a game they very easily could, and possibly should, have lost. All the talk is about Peyton Manning and whether he is done, but whilst he is well past his best, when the Broncos ran his offence Manning was effective moving the ball, and I’m not sure there isn’t some compromise on the scheme coming. The real problem with the offence is going to be if they can’t get the offensive line to gel and establish a run game that takes the pressure off him, but as long as the defence continues to look like one of the nastiest in the league then they will always have a chance.
The Lions are getting four and a half points, but I don’t see them being able to move the ball on the Broncos so I don’t think they will cover.
Gee’s Pick: Broncos
Dan’s Pick: Broncos
Chiefs @ Packers (-7.5)
The Packers lost a major piece on offence in the preseason, and lost Eddie Lacy last week to an ankle problem, but Aaron Rodgers is so good that it hasn’t slowed them down at all. The good news is that Lacy’s injury doesn’t seem to be too bad, and James Starks is a more than capable backup who ran for ninety-five yards of his own last week. On defence it looks like BJ Raji is beginning to find some form, and Clay Mathews has stiffened their run defence by switching between playing his favourite outside linebacker spot inside on running downs. The ageless Julius Peppers is still giving them a pass rush, and you have to think that they will win at home this week.
The Chiefs are a good team, but they couldn’t put the Broncos away at home, and even with their excellent defence, you have to worry about them visiting Green Bay. They have the pass rushers to trouble Aaron Rodgers, and Marcus Peters has been very impressive in his rookie season at corner back, but I don’t think they will be able to keep up with the Packers in Lambeau field where Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception in something like two seasons.
I think that if this was played on a neutral field or at Arrowhead then the Chiefs might have a chance of getting an upset, but I fear they will fall short this week and fail to cover.
Gee’s Pick: Packers
Dan’s Pick: Packers