Suddenly it's not quite the same NFL as we head into Week Two. My picks for this week -
Steelers over Ravens - The absurd blowup over Ray Rice does no favors to the Ravens coming off a disturbing home loss to a good Bengals squad. The Steelers themselves looked shaky while blowing a 24-point lead to the Browns, but they rallied to win, and Roethlisberger looks better than expected and Joe Flacco looks worse. Neither defense looks up to their reputations.
Bills over Dolphins - In the recent past we've seen scoring league-wide start off iffy then start swelling in Week Two. Both the Bills and Dolphins enter at 1-1 and the Dolphins run game was very good with Knowshon Moreno. The Bills have owned the Dolphins the last two seasons and should win again in what I expect to be a high-scoring affair. Buffalo also got a huge surge with word Terry Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabers, will purchase the Bills; asuring they stay in Buffalo and likely helping with the project down the road to get a new stadium or greatly refurbish the former Rich Stadium.
Browns over Saints - These are not the same old Browns, and hitting their home opener gives them confidence facing a Saints team still as good as advertised. Johnny Football time will have to wait for the Browns.
Panthers over Lions - Another shootout looks in evidence here, as the Lions took care of business against the punchless Giants while the Panthers silenced some doubters with a win at Tampa Bay, this with Carolina's backup. Both teams look like they can make the playoffs right now.
Bengals over Falcons - Both Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan want to silence the doubters; so far they're both doing a good job. Favor the home team here.
Titans over Cowboys - Jake Locker continues to grow as a quarterback; Tony Romo continues to throw interceptions. Enough said.
Jaguars over Redskins - Despite blowing it in Philly, the Jaguars showed there is something to build on while Jay Gruden's debut was absymal. Robert Griffin III more and more looks like a failure while the Jags have great opportunity to start winning over the doubters.
Patriots over Vikings - New England's line issues extend beyond offense, as the defensive line struggled in Miami. The line issues are fixable with greater familiarity and also better footwork and blocking. The Vikings are becoming the real deal, and the dangerous weapon is not Adrian Peterson, though he certainly is still superb - the weapon is Cordarrelle Patterson, who rushed for 158 yards in 2013 and this year has already broken 100 in one game. Curiously he hasn't been thrown to very much. If Aaron Dobson returns Sunday that will help the Patriots passing game. Expect the Patriots to win a shootout here.
Cardinals over NY Giants - The Cardinals are neck and neck in the three-way shootout that is the NFC West and could become a Superbowl contender. The Giants meanwhile look like a last-place team and Tom Coughlin may be staring at the end of his coaching career by winter.
Chargers over Seahawks - San Diego blew a winnable game against a very good Cardinals team on the road. Though he's not the elite quarterback he's supposed to be, Philip Rivers is still too good to keep losing. The Seahawks are the real deal in every facet but having faced the Cards, the Chargers have a taste of what to expect from Pete Carroll's bunch.
Buccaneers over Rams - The Bucs salvaged some decent play from their loss to Carolina and face a Rams team demoralized by the Vikings and still not showing they have a competent quarterback.
Broncos over Chiefs - The Chiefs clearly are not as good as they were in 2013 and the Broncos own the division right now. The achilles heel right now is the Broncos have struggled the last several games (dating to 2013) at closing the deal; it nearly cost them against the Colts.
NY Jets over Packers - The Jets are better than we thought right now. The Packers are as overrated as we thought, and their run defense looked bad against Seattle. Aaron Rodgers is not the elite quarterback people thought he was; he's just the frontrunning phony who's seen his Packers lose 14 games starting with The Golden Touchdown in Seattle. It won't change.
Texans over Raiders
- I'm starting to hear scuttlebutt to the effect Mark Davis won't keep the Oakland Raiders, period. Certainly there seems some sense of hopelessness within the Raiders as Bill O'Brien is starting to make the Houston Texans contenders again.
49ers over Bears - The Bears are as bad as we thought they were, Denny Green. Jay Cutler can put up the volume stats but even with continuing rumors predicting his firing, Jim Harbaugh keeps the Niners winning. Colin Kaepernick, after a shaky preseason, was solid in Week One and that should continue in Week Two.
Eagles over Colts - The Eagles got a huge scare in the first half against Jacksonvolle but rallied to win by three scores. They go into Indianapolis to face a Colts team that may not be as good as thought after a downer of a loss to Peyton Manning.
So we await Week Two.