Interesting scheduling note: Five teams open 2011 with two consecutive road games, the Raiders, Seahawks, Cowboys, Bengals, and Eagles. Three of those teams (Raiders, Eagles, Bengals) won their opener. That means the Cowboys and Seahawks fans could be on the ledge by the end of the weekend if their teams start 0-2. (Seahawks fans probably have lower expectations.) Of course, they’ll at least have two road games out of the way early. On the flip side the other three teams can start 2-0 without even playing in front of the home crowd – nice place to be.
Raiders at Bills
Buffalo’s march toward redemption got off to a great start last week, as the Bills stampeded a playoff team in their home stadium. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like Dan Fouts. If the Bills start 2-0, it will feel like one of those classic, promising starts doomed to collapse. I mean continue! It WILL continue. Like Marty McFLy, the Bills are trying to alter the course of future events; another shit season and they could be LA-bound. The Raiders, meanwhile, also beat a team on the road, but they come home with an admirable split. Pick: Bills.
Chiefs at Lions
The Lions, another perennial loser, also smacked down a team at home (the Bucs). Remember when the Lions couldn’t win a game on the road even if it was against Denby High? (I research my own references, thank you.) Well, Motown has won three in a row on the road dating to 2010. In the friendly confines of Ford Field, the Chiefs should be easy pickings. Pick: Lions.
Ravens at Titans
I picked Baltimore to beat Pittsburgh last week; I didn’t expect them to throttle the Steelers like a 10 year old kid embarrassing his dad playing Madden. I’m not a Steeler-hater by any stretch, but that was one of those “It’s 29-7 and I’m still finding this entertaining” games – especially when they ran the two-point conversion for no apparent reason other than boredom. Pick: Ravens.
Browns at Colts
Colts fans! Do you love the 90s? Because that’s what this season will remind you of. You’re one Kerry Collins ankle sprain away from an improbable – but entertaining – Jeff George homecoming. That’s right, I want to see old #1 warming up on the sidelines. (Don’t bother looking up his age, I’ll save you the trouble: He’s 43.) This is of course if you can’t get Favre. I know you’re thinking about this. “Favre was 41 last year, George could probably still play at 43, right?” If you don’t consider this a possibility, take a look at this.
With all this depressing news, you’re probably expecting me to pick Cleveland. Did you see them play against the Bengals? Indy gets a reprieve this week, as fans collectively believe that maybe the team can go 9-7 or something. Pick: Colts.
Bucs at Vikings
The Vikings are on quite a run. Last year they brought back Brett Favre for 25 kajillion dollars only to finally see the engine die and the shocks go on the old man. They traded a third-round – third round! – draft pick to New England for Randy Moss and cut him a few weeks later. This summer they gave up a sixth rounder for Donovan McNabb – a quarterback who was deemed to be of so little value, he was traded by one team to its shitty division rival, then benched by that team and ultimately traded (for a sixth rounder). These are the kinds of transactions that, if they occurred between brothers and involved baseball cards, dad or mom would have to intervene and nullify on the grounds that the little brother was being criminally ripped off. And let’s not forget that Minnesota gave Brad Childress a massive raise less a year before canning him.
McNabb set about silencing his critics by picking apart the Charger secondary for a whopping 39 yards. That means a rookie (Cam Newton) making his first start for a previously 2-14 team (Carolina) passed for 383 more yards than McNabb on Sunday. Hold the phone, Jeff George – there could be a bidding war! Pick: Bucs.
Bears at Saints
I know you’re not going to believe this, and I’m not sure I believe it, either. But the Bears passed well and defended the pass well against Atlanta, while New Orleans merely passed well, getting scorched by Green Bay. Now, I know Jay Cutler isn’t Aaron Rodgers. And Lovie Smith isn’t Mike McCarthy. And a Polish sausage ain’t a brat. But here’s a wild one for you….Pick: Bears.
Jaguars at Jets
Speaking of Passer Rating Differential, the Jets’ were -13.2 in that category versus Dallas. Ah, but passer rating can’t account for goal line fumbles and blocked punts (It does account for Tono Romo INTs in double coverage.) Pick: Jets.
Seahawks at Steelers
And yes, the Steelers got stomped in Baltimore. But come on – minus-7 turnover differential? That’s a statistical fluke not likely to be repeated. Well, it could be, but by Seattle this weekend. Pick: Steelers.
Cardinals at Redskins
The Rex Grossman express continues, for one more week. Pick: Redskins.
Packers at Panthers
Suddenly, at Carolina doesn’t look like the automatic ‘W’ it did when the schedule came out. Cam Newton’s debut certainly was impressive (422 yards), but I have a hard time believing he’ll repeat that against a Dom Capers defense, even if Tramon Williams is out and Jarrett Bush is in. Pick: Packers.
Cowboys at 49ers
I would actually watch this game just to see the classic blue-on-red matchup of Dallas playing in Candlestick…really brings back the good old days. This game is actually a bit of a toss-up; we don’t know if the Cowboys will get over their week one implosion, or collapse on themselves like a black hole. Gotta hand it to the 49ers – they’re really giving Alex Smith a chance. Pick: Cowboys. (On talent alone.)
Bengals at Broncos
When I picked Denver to win, I didn’t fully realize the extent to which Bronco Nation was torn about the quarterback situation. (See here.) Cincinnati, meanwhile, is somehow settled at the position for now; I guess they’ve got no choice. Pick: Bengals.
Texans at Dolphins
It’s almost unfair. The Dolphins opened at home against New England and were scorched for 500+ yards by Tom Brady on national TV. Then they turn around and have the “we’re the shit” Texans marching into town. Things will get worse before they get better. Pick: Texans.
Chargers at Patriots
Against the Dolphins, Tom Brady threw a 99-yard touchdown pass, the longest possible pass play from scrimmage. The other eleven players to do so: Frank Filchock (Redskins, 1939); George Izo (Redskins, 1963); Karl Sweetan (Lions, 1966); Sonny Jurgenson (Redskins, 1968); Jim Plunkett (Raiders, 1983); Ron Jaworski (Eagles, 1985); Stan Humphries (Chargers, 1994); Brett Favre (Packers, 1995); Trent Green (Chiefs, 2002); Jeff Garcia (Browns, 2004); Gus Frerrotte (Vikings, 2008). It must be frustrating for an athlete to know that some records can never be broken, only tied. It must be even more annoying for offensive players to know that special teams and defensive players can have plays of 100+ yards. Anyway…Pick: Patriots.
Eagles at Falcons
The Falcons aren’t as bad as they looked on Sunday. Are they? We’ll see, but I’m trusting Matt Ryan to have a solid performance. Pick: Falcons.
Rams at Giants
This might be the worst game on the slate. I’m not going to put too much thought into this one – just go with the home team. Pick: Giants.
Last week: 11-4. (I wrote about the Cardinals-Panthers game, but I actually forgot to pick a winner. So I won’t count it.) Season: 11-4.