Sunday, September 18, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 2 picks

I don't want to talk about last week, not after the Steelers' disgusting performance in Baltimore. Yes, I went into that game excited -- excited about my beloved Steelers, excited to have the NFL back -- but ended up thoroughly disgusted. I lost track of the turnovers when I had to move to a second hand, and while I would like to chalk it up to the Ravens being fully on their game for a game that clearly meant more to them than to the Steelers, a game they had to win if they are to make a run at the Super Bowl this year, I can't say I'm not worried. I am. Very. It helps to have a pretty pathetic Seahawks team at Heinz Field today for the home opener, but in recent years Pittsburgh has all too often played down to the level of the competition, turning what should have been easy wins into gut-wrenching nail-biters, even losing a few such embarrassing games along the way.

So what will happen today? Surely... hopefully... the Steelers will get back on track on both sides of the ball. But with yet more injuries to an already weak offensive line, and with a secondary that continues to struggle, even if it should struggle less against the Seahawks' atrocious Tarvaris Jackson-led passing game, there is genuine cause for concern. Not enough for me, or anyone, to pick Seattle, mind you, but my general optimism of last week is gone. Pittsburgh should win, and should win big, but it might not be easy.

Otherwise, it was typically strange and unpredictable opening week all across the NFL -- well, perhaps stranger and even more unpredictable than usual. There were a lot of questions going into the week. A few were answered: Yes, Vick is really good. Yes, the Colts suck without Peyton. Yes, Detroit seems to be for real... maybe. But we need more time, more weeks, to sort out what the hell's going on this year. Is Atlanta a Super Bowl contender? Well, the Bears might just be a decent team, but the Falcons didn't look great. How about San Diego? Well, the Chargers should be one of the top teams in the AFC, even with Norv Turner at the helm, but they didn't get off to a great start against the pitiful Vikings. And Dallas? I hate the Cowboys and love to see them lose, but not so much to the Jets, a team I hate almost as much, one of Pittsburgh's key AFC rivals... and you just have to wonder about Romo, who always seems to fuck up at the worst times.

Anyway, let's move on...

As I wrote last week introducing our Week 1 picks, three of us will be posting our weekly picks and tracking the results over the course of the year: my associate editor Richard Barry and I, along with a good friend who goes by the name Comfortable Kid. We'll get one point for each correct pick, along with two extra points if we get our Upset of the Week right (and it has to be a real upset, with a clear underdog) and minus-two points if we get our Lock of the Week wrong. Simple. Oh, and we'll be providing some commentary as well, looking back at the week that was as well as ahead at the games to come. Posts will go up each Sunday morning. We hope you enjoy them.

Here's how we did last week (which of course is also year to date):

MJWS: 10-6 (plus Upset) = 12 points
RKB: 9-7 (minus Lock) = 7 points
The Kid: 8-8 (minus Lock) = 6 points

And now... on to Week 2:

Oakland at Buffalo
Kansas City at Detroit
Baltimore at Tennessee
Cleveland at Indianapolis
Tampa Bay at Minnesota
Chicago at New Orleans
Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets
Seattle at Pittsburgh
Arizona at Washington
Green Bay at Carolina
Dallas at San Francisco
Cincinnati at Denver
Houston at Miami
San Diego at New England
Philadelphia at Atlanta
St. Louis at N.Y. Giants

Stickings' Pickings

Picks: Buffalo, Detroit, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, Washington, Green Bay, Dallas, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Philadelphia, N.Y. Giants.

Lock of the Week: Pittsburgh. I have to go with the Steelers, right? I have to have confidence in my team, right? And what are they if they can't handle the Seahawks? If not this, Detroit, Baltimore, the Jets, Green Bay (absolutely), and probably Houston are also solid locks. This appears to be an easier week to predict.

Upset of the Week: Cincinnati. Because something just isn't right at Mile High, with Orton struggling to hold onto the #1 QB spot, with public clamour for Tebow (as ridiculous as that is), and with the John Fox defence yet to gel. It pains me to pick the detestable Bengals. I think their win over the Browns last week was a fluke, but their D may be good enough to contain an injury-plagued Denver offence. I don't have many upsets this week (Indy over Cleveland wouldn't be an upset and Tampa over Minny wouldn't be enough of an upset to qualify here), but I do think San Fran could beat Dallas. Oakland over Buffalo isn't a bad pick either, though west coast teams travelling east for early games generally don't do well.

As I said, it's a week for the favourites, I think, with things settling down after the craziness of Week 1. There are still many questions to be answered, like... Are the Bucs a playoff contender? Can Dallas compete with Philly in the NFC East? Is Buffalo... gasp!... good? But I think we'll come away from Week 2 realizing that Green Bay is awesome and that, while Baltimore may have overtaken Pittsburgh in the AFC North, the team to beat in the AFC is New England. Unless they lose to the Chargers, but I just don't think they will.

It's also a week for a few really interesting matchups, especially Bears-Saints, Chargers-Patriots, and Eagles-Falcons. I'll be obsessing over the Steelers, but those three games should be fun to watch.

Barry's Tea Leaves

Picks: Buffalo, Detroit, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Green Bay, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New England, Philadelphia, N.Y. Giants.

Last week was an unusually hard week to pick. Lots of close games going in and surprises coming out. This week will be easier.

Here's my list of "should wins": Buffalo, Detroit,  Baltimore, New Orleans, the Jets, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Dallas, Houston, New England, and the Giants.

Buffalo looked surprisingly good last week and since they are the closest franchise to my home, I wish them well. Then again, maybe this game will be close, but I'm feeling good about the Bills right now. New Orleans may have lost to Green Bay, but so what? And the Bears may have looked pretty good against the Falcons, but I still don't see them as a quality franchise (sorry, Rob). N.O. should be able to take them. Pittsburgh stunk it up in week one against the Ravens, but we're talking about Seattle here, plus the fact that the Steelers will be so pissed off. Man, K.C. looked bad against the Bills. The Lions should eat them alive (grrrrrr). The Jets got lucky against the Cowboys, but will have no trouble with Jax. Is there anyone who is not going to pick Green Bay over Carolina as their lock? Not me. Last time I looked, Romo was still the Cowboys QB, but even that won't prevent them from beating S.F. Houston will be fine against the fish. I read on somebody's website that you don't bet against New England until they lose a game. Agreed.

And that leaves me with my Giants. Not good last week, and I know they're playing with a lot of injuries, but if they don't beat St. Louis, this season could be over for them after two games. That's too hard to contemplate, so I'm going with my heart.

My picks for the games that could be close: Indy, Tampa  Bay, Arizona, Denver, Philly. Cleveland vs. Indy could go either way. Gotta pick someone, so I guess it's Indy because Cleveland is clearly, again, not ready for the big time. It might be time for McNabb to go away completely and the Bucs could hurry that process along. If Grossman has another game like he had against the Giants, the Cards will have a long afternoon, but I don't think that's going to happen. His receivers were coming down with overthrown balls all day. And we know that Rex can turn bad in a hurry, so this is my upset of the week. I'll pick Denver over Cincy, but this could be closer than a lot of people think. And Philadelphia and Vick did not look all that great last week for my money, despite the final score, but neither did Atlanta. Philly should take it, but it might be a good game.
Lock of the Week: Green Bay.

Upset of the Week: Arizona.

Comfortable Kid

Picks: Oakland, Detroit, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh, Washington, Green Bay, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New England, Philadelphia, N.Y. Giants.

Lock of the Week: N.Y. Jets. Jets coach Rex Ryan will torment rookie Jacksonville QB Luke McCown. Who is Luke McCown, you say? My point exactly.

Upset of the Week: Oakland. This is sort of a softy, but after my performance last week, I need to get some points here. Oakland will get the win thanks to its marquee RB Darren McFadden, who will be leading the league in rushing yards after two weeks. The game will be close, but I think Oakland's underrated defence will also cool Buffalo's jets a little. 

(Photos: The QBs of two surprising teams so far, the Redskins' Rex Grossman and the Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick. Both could put up big numbers this year.)

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