The Pats-Vikings game is available in most television markets even though it is an early game, but there are two head-scratchers in terms of the decision making that went into choosing which game to broadcast.
Houston will see the Jacksonville-Washington game, apparently because the Jaguars are a division rival of the Texans. Seriously, does anybody in Houston really care whether the Jags are on television or not, or look forward to seeing them when they can’t watch their Texans play?
The other is Tampa, where the CBS station there has apparently reverted to the idea that the Dolphins are the second-favorite team in that area. While that may have been true thirty years ago when the Buccaneers were still in their infancy and the Dolphins were still enjoying the benefit of being the state’s only NFL team for ten years, it is absolutely not the case now. All one has to do is check out what gear people are wearing, logos and bumper stickers on vehicles, or sports bars catering to out of town fans to see that is not the case. After the Bucs, the fan favorites in the Tampa Bay area are the Steelers, Patriots and Giants, followed by a second tier that includes the Bears, Eagles, Browns, Bills, Lions and Jets. The Dolphins may not even rank in the top ten in number of fans, yet CBS and the local affiliate ignores this reality and broadcasts Miami games whenever they can.
End of rant; here are some quick thoughts on the week two NFL games.
New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings ★★★★★
Early game on CBS; Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
Broadcast in New England, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and everywhere west of the Mississippi River except for eastern Texas
Minnesota dumped Leslie Frazier and his outdated Tampa-2 defense in the offseason, replacing him with Mike Zimmer as the new head coach. Zimmer has installed a more aggressive defense, mixing things up by bringing extra players to the line of scrimmage and calling stunts and overloading on one side of the line. Their defense starts six former first round draft picks (DT Sharrif Floyd, rookie SLB Anthony Barr, Pro Bowl WLB Chad Greenway, FS Harrison Smith and CB Xavier Rhodes), and has been bolstered by the addition of veteran free agents NT Linval Joseph and CB Captain Munnerlyn. Bottom line is that this Minnesota defense is vastly superior to the one that ranked dead last in the NFL in 2013, allowing 30.0 points per game. Unless New England’s offensive line gets their act together and performs much better than they did last week, that’s a huge problem for the Patriots.
The Patriots need to scrap the 3-4 and go back to the 4-3; the 4-3 is much better suited for the personnel on their roster, and will best take advantage of the talents of guys like Chandler Jones. RB Adrian Peterson is inactive for the Vikings, but that is somewhat offset by the Pats best coverage linebacker, Jamie Collins, also being declared out with a thigh injury.
This game could easily go either way, but I’m thinking that the New England coaching staff will make enough adjustments to put their players in a better position to win individual battles this week.
Pick • Patriots 24, Vikings 23
Vikings +6 (one unit)
Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers ★★★★
Early game on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber
Broadcast in Michigan, Wisconsin, Chicago, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, western Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina
Are the Lions that good, or is it just that the Giants are that bad? As good as Matthew Stafford (22/32/346, 2 TD, 0 INT), the fact Detroit averaged just 2.5 yards per carry and committed eight penalties for 85 yards against a clearly inferior team is enough to pump the brakes on this bandwagon. Cam Newton returns for this game, and Luke Keuchly and the Carolina defense will be the difference for a home victory for the Panthers.
Pick • Panthers 24, Lions 17
Panthers -2½ (one unit)
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills ★★★
Early game on CBS; Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta
Broadcast in New York (except New York City), Miami, Fort Myers and Tampa
Both teams are feeling good after coming off upset victories in week one, but injuries to the Dolphins’ defense that could have a major impact for this game. Miami is depleted at linebacker, with Dannell Ellerbe (hip) out for the season, Koa Misi (ankle) doubtful, and Philip Wheeler (thumb) questionable after missing last week’s game. EJ Manuel was solid, throwing only six incompletions (16/22/173, 1 TD, 1 INT), and the Bills will stay on the ground with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson attempting to take advantage of the situation at linebacker. New Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s up-tempo offense was much more effective running the ball (191 yards, with 134 from Knowshon Moreno) than they were passing: Ryan Tannehill was barely over 50% (18 of 32 for 178 yards), and will need to do better for the Dolphins to win on the road.
Pick • Bills 23, Dolphins 20
Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington ★★
Early game on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Broadcast in Orlando, Jacksonville, Savannah, eastern North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, DC, Philadelphia
Washington scored a measly six points against Houston last week, while the Jaguar defense racked up five sacks and forced three turnovers. Sure, the Eagles put it together in the second half, but Griffin (can we please call him by his two-syllable last name, rather than his three-syllable marketing-driven nickname?) looks as if he can neither throw nor run.
Pick • Upset Special – Jaguars 20, Redskins 17
Dallas Cowboys at Tennessee Titans ★★★
Early game on FOX; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Broadcast in eastern Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, San Francisco
Tennessee won as an underdog last week, but I’m not ready to jump on the Jake Locker bandwagon. The Titans rolled up 405 yards in a 16-point victory over the Chiefs, while the Niner defense forced four Dallas turnovers, including three picks off Tony Romo. I’m expecting the Dallas offense to bounce back this week; however, their defense still has a long ways to go.
Pick • Titans 28, Cowboys 27
over 48½ (one unit)
Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants ★★
Early game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch
Broadcast in New England (except Boston and Providence), New York (except Buffalo), New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Arizona, West Palm Beach FL
Not a big fan of backing west coast teams when they play an early game on the east coast, but on the other hand it is very difficult to find a solid reason to back the Giants. Carson Palmer didn’t seem to have a good grasp of the offense early last year, but he performed much better in the second half of the season. Arizona also gets a boost with the news that RB Andre Ellington will be able to play rather than missing six weeks with a foot injury.
Pick • Cardinals 27, Giants 17
Cardinals -1½ (two units)
New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns ★★★★
Early game on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Broadcast in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio (except Cincinnati), southern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana
The New Orleans defense wasn’t bad last year, but Matt Ryan (31/43/448, 3 TD, 0 INT) made them look bad last week as Atlanta totaled 568 yards of offense in week one. Cleveland’s defense seemed to regress from 2013 as well, as the Steelers scored 30 points with 503 yards of offense, averaging 7.5 yards per play. New Orleans is notorious for playing so poorly on the road, and unlike last week’s game, this one is not only away but also outdoors on a natural surface. This is no cakewalk for the Saints, but I’m not going to go so far and say the Browns will win.
Pick • Saints 24, Browns 20
Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals ★★★
Early game on CBS: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Broadcast in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio (except Cleveland), Kentucky, Tennessee (except Nashville), South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
The Falcons come crashing back to earth as they go on the road and face a very legitimate defense.
Pick • Bengals 30, Falcons 20
Bengals -4½ (one unit)
St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers ★
Late game on FOX; Dick Stockton, Kirk Morrison
Broadcast in Florida (except Miami and West Palm Beach), southern Illinois and Missouri
While the Bucs lost last week, that was against one of the NFL’s best defenses (Carolina). The Rams on the other hand looked like they are early favorites to have the number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft. These two teams combined to score just 20 points while allowing eight sacks, and Tampa Bay gained just 21 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Pick • Bucs 17, Rams 13
under 38 (one unit)
Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers ★★★★★
Late game on FOC; Thom Brennaman, David Diehl
Broadcast in Boston, Providence, Buffalo, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, California (except SF), Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii
San Diego was limited to 52 yards rushing last week, and now they face a stout Seattle defense. While the NFL is a passing league, becoming too unbalanced can lead to predictable situations that this Seahawk defense can take advantage of. One area that San Diego may look at is at whoever Seattle has covering San Diego’s tight ends and slot receivers. After Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, at cornerback Seattle is dealing with Jeremy Lane (placed on in-season injured reserve), and Tharold Simon (knee) not being available Sunday. Even though it is on the road and without their 12th man, I still like the Seahawks to win a close one here in what looks like it may be the best game of the week.
Pick • Seahawks 24, Chargers 20
Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders ★
Late game on CBS; Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker
Broadcast in Texas (except Dallas) and northern California
New head Bill O’Brien has an opportunity to win his second game in two weeks, which is as many as the Texans won all last year. The Houston defense is starting to look like they did two years ago while the Raiders, well, looked like the Raiders as rookie QB Derek Carr threw for just 151 yards on 32 passes.
Pick • Texans 20, Raiders 17
under 40 (one unit)
New York Jets at Green Bay Packers ★★★
Late game on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Broadcast in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania (except Pittsburgh), West Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, Miami and West Palm Beach
Sure, Green Bay lost by 20 points last week – but that was against the best team in the NFL (Seattle) at the toughest stadium in the league for a road team to win. Even if Eddy Lacy (concussion) is not available, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay receivers should pick apart that weak Jet secondary. The Jets have a good offensive line and one of the league’s best defensive line, but that’s it. Beating Oakland at home by five points is not impressive and nothing for Jet fans to crow about.
Pick • Packers 31, Jets 17
Packers -8 (three units)
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos ★★★
Late game on CBS; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Broadcast in Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas (except Tampa, Miami and west Palm Beach), Pittsburgh, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, southern Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Dallas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, southern California (except San Diego), Colorado, Utah, Las Vegas, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii
Since the midway point of the 2013 season, when they started facing legitimate starting quarterbacks, the Kansas City defense has been absolutely torched. Now they get to go on the road and face the league’s best offense – without two of their best defensive starters (LB Derrick Johnson and DT Mike DeVito).
Pick • Broncos 38, Chiefs 24
over 50½ (one unit)
Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers ★★★★★
Sunday night game on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
If the Bears could not beat Buffalo at home, how can they be expected to defeat San Francisco on the road? The Bears’ run defense was not good last year, and they gave up 193 rushing yards last week. Jay Cutler threw two picks in week one, but with Niner corners Tramaine Brock (toe) and Chris Culliver (concussion, stinger) hurting, he and WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery could be in for a big game. Things don’t get much easier for the Bears; this game starts an eight-game stretch in which Chicago has to go on the road six times.
Pick • Niners 30, Bears 24
over 47½ (one unit)
Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts ★★★★★
Monday night game on ESPN; Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden
Granted it was at Denver, but I am not at all impressed with the Colt defense. Philly slept walked through the first half before outscoring Jacksonville 34-0 in the second half. I think the Eagles will cover, and have a good chance of winning this game straight up even though they are on the road. This should be an entertaining, high-scoring game.
Pick • Colts 30, Eagles 28
over 52½ (one unit)
The crystal ball has been very cloudy thus far, but the season is still young. Last week was tough with the top play being a four-unit loss (Saints minus 3 at Falcons), and Thursday night went not the way I expected at all as Baltimore crushed Pittsburgh. The season is till young though … enjoy the games (responsibly).
Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats
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