After starting the season with a rough-and-tumble 7-9 record, Greg Kaplan returns on the eve of Week 2, trying to right the ship and put some green in his pockets just like some players rewards card will.
Before I get to the picks, let me start by saying that last Sunday, I set a personal record. Every Sunday since I moved to Savannah, GA, I have always made the trip to a local hole-in-the-wall sports bar called “Coach’s Corner”, which is only about five minutes from my condo. I always meet up with either friends or people I work with, and every time we end up sitting with people we don’t know because it’s so crowded. I always try to get there well before kick-off because of the crowds, and ended up getting there around 12:20pm this Sunday.
Apparently, after at least six buckets of Pabst Blue Ribbon, a “grand slam” burger, mozzerella sticks and a lot of pain and suffering (damn you, Blaine Gabbert), I didn’t end up leaving the bar until 11:30pm. I spent 11 hours at a bar. I don’t know how that happened. At all.
Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers (-5.5)
There is nothing easy about, well, any of these games this week. This one in particular. Last week, besides a real brain fart from Jay Cutler that led to an early pick-six, it was a dominating performance by the Bears against a really meager looking Colts team. As for the Packers, it’s still hard to tell if they looked that flat, or the 49ers defense looked that good in the match-up.
All things considered, I find it impossible believe the Green Bay Packers will open this season 0-2 with their first two games being at Lambeau Field. The Pack have won 7 of their last 8 games against the Bears (including playoffs), and it would be a huge, huge stunner if they got out to that slow of a start out of the gates.
The Pick: Packers
Kansas City Chiefs @ Buffalo Bills (-3.5)
Neither of these teams looked good at all in their Week 1 games. The Chiefs offense matched points with the Falcons early on, but their depleted defense eventually got the best of them and allowed Matt Ryan to have a field day, hitting Julio Jones and company with ease. As for the Bills, either the Jets fooled everybody and intentionally stunk up the joint in the preseason, or we totally over-valued Buffalo heading into this year. The most alarming sign from last Sunday, the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick. There no longer is an injury excuse to use as a crutch for his poor performance, so there has to be some fear that he flat-out may not be that great of a quarterback. But, the Jets defense is still well above average, so it could’ve been that.
Nevertheless, with the Chiefs approaching full health and flashing a better offense, I like them as the road dog in this match-up. Take the points when you can.
The Pick: Chiefs
Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5)
While the Chiefs and Bills didn’t look good at all Week 1, the Browns and Bengals both flashed signs of life, only to fall flat on their faces. The Browns defense played an unbelievable game, picking off Michael Vick four times and forcing LeSean McCoy to fumble, something he just never does. However, they are handicapped with probably the worst starting quarterback in the entire league, as Brandon Weeden threw up the stinkers of all stinkers, going 12-of-35 for less than 150 yards and four interceptions himself. Oh, and he also got trapped under the American flag in the pre-game festivities. Not a good week at all.
As for the Bengals, they were hanging with the Ravens for 2 and 1/2 quarters until the Ed Reed pick six really put everything to bed. While I’m not trying to imply that Andy Dalton is a better quarterback than Michael Vick in any stretch of the imagination, I think he is less willing to take the gambles Vick does. I think Dalton will play ball control offense and let The Law Firm, who looked real impressive against the Ravens, do most of the heavy lifting.
The Pick: Bengals
Minnesota Vikings (-1.5) @ Indianapolis Colts
I really don’t know who I’m angrier at, the Vikings or Blaine Gabbert for last week’s all-time worst back door cover job. It was a killer in two ways. First, the Vikings had it covered with less than 30 seconds remaining before Cecil Shorts crapped all over my heart. Then, Blair Walsh (hilarious watching him in a Georgia sports bar and hearing every Bulldog fan clamor about the game being over) kicked a clutch field goal in to send it to OT and re-establish the possible cover. When the Vikings settled for the field goal, the new OT rules still gave hope for a possible Jaguars match and another touchdown. Of course, none of this happened. Worst way to lose a game in a week you’re already struggling. Just terrible.
Moving on. The good news for Minnesota fans is that Adrian Peterson doesn’t just look healthy, he looks like he can be dominate like his old self. He’s only getting healthier the further we get into the season, and there is no player on the Colts that can match his abilities. You have to like Minnesota on the road in this one to cover. At least, I hope.
The Pick: Vikings
New Orleans Saints (-2.5) @ Carolina Panthers
Once again, we have two teams that were favored Week 1 and disappointed in their games. RGIII had himself a field day against the Saints swiss cheese defense, while the Panthers had a non-existent rushing attack against the new-look Bucs. Look, the buzz around Cam Newton has been at full force since he burst onto the scene Week 1 of last season, but the reality is the Panthers offense hasn’t really been the same since about the Week 9 marker last year. It gets masked because a lot of people only see Newton from the fantasy perspective, but the majority of his late seasons points last year came on rushing touchdowns. Teams locked down on his receivers and pretty much said “If you’re going to beat us, you’ll have to do it on the ground”. Last week, that wasn’t possible. I have more confidence in the Saints rebounding than the Panthers, even if the Saints have to travel to Carolina.
The Pick: Saints
Houston Texans (-6.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Texans coasted to a dominate victory against the Dolphins last week, maybe my worst pick of the entire bunch. I’ve already stated my clear anger with the Jaguars. They’re mean. The Texans are much more talented and flat out better. If this game is decided by less than a touchdown, it’s because of something the Texans don’t do successfully. In other words, the only way the Texans don’t cover is if they beat themselves.
Or if Cecil Shorts wants to ruin my night…again.
The Pick: Texans
Arizona Cardinals @ New England Patriots (-13.5)
I’m not going to lie, this was maybe the hardest pick I had this week. Look, I really hate picking a team that is entering the game at a two-possession disadvantage. All the Cardinals have to do is keep this game within reach and let the Patriots get comfortable with a 10-point lead and they can snag a back-door cover in a heartbeat. Not to mention, Kevin Kolb looked remarkable once he entered the game in place of the injured John Skelton.
But, it’s time for a reality check. The Patriots looked like the best team in the AFC after Week 1. Their defense looks as if it got the much needed influx of talented young players it desperately needed. They shut down a much better offense in the Tennessee Titans last week, and flex their offensive muscle without having to use Wes Welker at all on their way to an impressive win. Expecting the Pats to win by two touchdowns this early in the season isn’t asking for too much, especially in their home opener. Even with the Cardinals getting that many points, I’d still go with the Patriots 9 times out of 10.
The Pick: Patriots
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New York Giants (-7.5)
I officially hate picking in games played by the Bucs. This is why I relied heavily on an outside opinion who has no vesting interest in either team, besides wanting to make money off this game. He said he likes the Giants because he finds it hard to believe that a defending Super Bowl champion coached by Tom Coughlin would drop two consecutive home games to open the season.
I didn’t agree or disagree. I simply shrugged my shoulders and prayed that finally, just finally, we get a game right with the Bucs involved.
The Pick: Giants
Baltimore Ravens @ Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
Wait…what? Really? Is this a trick? This seems way too good to be true. How, after Week 1, are the Ravens an underdog in this game? They looked virtually unstoppable against a very talented Cincinnati Bengals team that has the potential to win 8 to 10 games. As for the Eagles, they looked like absolute garbage against a talent-less Cleveland Browns team that has the potential to win 0 to -2 games. I get that the Eagles are at home, but the Ravens are the better team. With distance. And you’re going to give them points? I’m waiting for the catch.
Not coming? That’s very interesting.
The Pick: Ravens
Washington Redskins (-2.5) @ St. Louis Rams
Don’t get me wrong, the Rams looked very good against a much more powerful Detroit Lions team. They had a very good chance to walk away from Week 1 with a stunning victory. As good as they looked, the Redskins looked better. Washington dominated the Saints offensively and defensively, pressuring New Orleans into making mistakes on both ends of the ball. That, and did I mention that Robert Griffin III looked like the next big thing for the NFL?
The Pick: Redskins
Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) @ Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is simply a different team when they get to play at home. They have historically posted strong records at Qwest, and that was with much worse quarterbacks than Russell Wilson under center. Look, the Seahawks were a Doug Baldwin or Braylon Edwards catch away from getting out of Arizona with a win.
The Cowboys shocked a bunch of people with their win on the road in New York to open the season, but this feels like the perfect opportunity for your stereotypical Dallas letdown. 2.5 point spreads or less basically mean you’re picking who’s going to win this game. In Seattle, you have to be a very strong team to knock off the Seahawks. We’ll find out how strong Dallas can be, but I’m siding with the home team.
The Pick: Seattle.
Oakland Raiders (-2.5) @ Miami Dolphins
It’ll be a tough test all season to determine which team is actually worse: the Browns or the Dolphins. The Raiders are better than how they played on Monday night to open the season. Its not necessarily the long snapper’s fault Oakland lost the game, but he didn’t help problems. Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden are much better than the combination of Ryan Tannehill and Reggie Bush right now. That will be more than enough to take their record back to 1-1.
The Pick: Raiders
New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5)
This is a game where I’m not necessarily saying the Jets are going to win, but I’m going to pick them because the spread seems a little high. The Steelers are a much better team than the Bills, and they won’t let the Jets put up 48 points. However, the Steelers offensive line could be as bad as it has been in the last decade for this team. With the type of pass pressure the Jets can generate, plus the uncertainty surrounding Pittsburgh’s running game, this game has all the potential to be a 17-13 slug fest to the very end.
Again, I’m not saying the Jets are going to win the game. I’m saying its going to be decided by four points or less in someone’s favor. In this case, that makes taking New York the obvious choice.
The Pick: Jets
Tennessee Titans @ San Diego Chargers (-6.5)
The Titans got whipped by the Patriots at home to open the season. The Chargers should’ve won by much more on Monday night in Oakland. Something’s gotta give for both teams. While I don’t think the Titans are a bad team by any stretch, I think they’re set up to start the season 0-2. Chris Johnson looked as bad as he has over the last two struggling seasons. He still garners more attention than any other player on offense, but he just hasn’t been able to put together a complete effort in a long time. Is it possible that his best days are truly behind him in the league?
The Pick: Chargers
Detroit Lions @ San Francisco 49ers (-6.5)
Matt Stafford struggled against the St. Louis Rams defense, throwing three picks on his way to a very shaky win. Now, he gets the vaunted Niners D, who just shut down Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. Right now, I’m not sure there is a team in the NFC I would pick to cover the spread against San Francisco. They seem to know exactly what their offense can and can’t do, meaning they’ll limit their mistakes, while their defense will cause any team into making poor decisions under pressure. I’ve drank the kool aid. I’m a goner. Let’s go Niners!
The Pick: 49ers
Denver Broncos @ Atlanta Falcons (-3.5)
Peyton Manning looked good. Matt Ryan looked fantastic. The Falcons, like the Seahawks, are a fantastic home team that know how to utilize their offensive weapons inside the dome. The Broncos defense is certainly an upgrade over the Chiefs injured unit, meaning this game is going to be plenty closer than last weeks. However, Atlanta qualifies as one of those teams I struggle to pick against at home.
Then again, so was Kansas City. And we know how that ended. Here’s hoping this week goes much better than last!
The Pick: Falcons