Saturday, September 18, 2010

NFL Week 2 Picks: Minnesota Vikings Continue Losing Ways Against Miami Dolphins

AP Photo/Bill Haber

The tricky part with the opening week of the season is not seeing enough of teams going full throttle to know what to expect. The problem with Week 2 is that, as Bill Simmons put it in his latest column, you don’t want to overreact to what you did see.

No, this isn’t the end for the Indianapolis Colts—not as long as Peyton Manning is back there. It also doesn’t mean the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready for a playoff run. What happened in Week 1 needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

That being said, the way the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys started their seasons, and went about the preseason, there is cause for concern. Those two teams need to get their stuff together. They need to show it, it can’t be all talk and hype anymore.

And then there is Minnesota. A not so impressive outing in Week 1, plus some more missing pieces in an already makeshift offense and you have a recipe for another loss.

Who do you think will win this week?

Pittsburgh (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0)

Pittsburgh was able to pull out an overtime thriller last week at home thanks to a big weekend from running back Rashard Mendenhall (120 yards rushing, game-winning touchdown).

The task is tougher this weekend going into Tennessee to face the Titans. They had a much easier weekend against Oakland. The competition was easier then Pittsburgh’s, but they did have to get the job done.

Tennessee picked up where they left off last year, and running back Chris Johnson looks motivated for another huge season.

Tennessee wins.

Miami (1-0) at Minnesota (0-1)

Neither team looked that good last week.

Miami’s offense mustered only 13 points (they got two from a safety) against the lowly Buffalo Bills. Their defense on the other hand did look improved, much in part to Karlos Dansby's eight tackles and one sack.

Minnesota had a tough task playing at the Superdome when the Saints raised their Super Bowl banner. They only turned the ball over once and Brett Favre only got sacked once, however the team seemed rather out of sync throughout the night, resulting in only one touchdown.

Sidney Rice is out, and Percy Harvin may not be able to go either. Part of the problem came from Favre coming in late to preseason and not being used to his receivers, and having his top two guys out doesn't help.

I'll take the team that isn't quite there yet but has an improved defense, against a team that isn't on the same page.

Miami wins.

Arizona (1-0) at Atlanta (0-1)

Arizona's win was deceiving last week.

They needed a late fourth quarter touchdown to come from behind and beat the Rams. They also lost four fumbles, an alarmingly high number. Quarterback Derek Anderson didn't throw any interceptions, but he did fumble the ball twice, turning it over once. Starting running back Tim Hightower lost two fumbles, and receiver Max Komar put the ball on the ground three times, one of which was picked up by the Rams' defense.

St. Louis also contained Larry Fitzgerald, who did score a touchdown and was targeted 15 times, but only made three catches for 43 yards.

The Cardinals were aided by the three picks rookie Sam Bradford made in his NFL debut.

The Falcons had a difficult time running the ball last week (25 attempts, 58 yards) and only managed to score three field goals. However they only turned the ball over once.

Atlanta is the more disciplined team and that should service them well in this game.

Atlanta wins.

Baltimore (1-0) at Cincinnati (0-1)

For a team that brought in Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to bolster a receiving corps and offense, 10 points is a pretty poor output. They also were only able to rush for 49 yards. For a team pegged as a strong Super Bowl contender, that's very bad. They also turned the ball over three times.

Still, their defense allowed only nine points and a suspect secondary allowed only 60 passing yards. But was their dominance their own, or thanks to a horrid Jets team? It's probably a combination of the two.

The Bengals fell way behind in their game early and were forced to pass the ball a lot, but they did so efficiently. The Patriots knew they had to pass, but they couldn't stop them. Carson Palmer threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception early, but was accurate from there on out.

He has a slew of receiving options with Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Jordan Shipley, and Jermaine Gresham. Ray Lewis can't hit all of them on the same play.

The Ravens' performance was not convincing and the Bengals should be aided by a return home.

Cincinnati wins.

Kansas City (1-0) at Cleveland (0-1)

Kansas City was an exciting team to watch last week. Aided by a refurbished home stadium and extremely loud home crowd, the Chiefs got great production from return men Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster. Running back Jamaal Charles also produced some big plays, putting together 92 yards on 11 rushes and scoring a touchdown.

Matt Cassel desperately needs to improve his 10-22 and 68 yard passing performance, but he didn't throw a single interception and the Chiefs did not turn the ball over at all.

Cleveland will be without Jake Delhomme (which may not be a bad thing actually), but Seneca Wallace has his work cut out for him with a team that could only muster two touchdowns against Tampa Bay.

Kansas City wins.

Chicago (1-0) at Dallas (0-1)

Dallas had a bad preseason and that carried over into Week 1. They were penalized 12 times for 81 yards, more than any individual running back had. The penalty with the biggest impact came when Dallas seemed to tie the game up in the last seconds of the game, but offensive tackle Alex Barron was called for holding.

They were only 1-3 in the red zone, and managed to score only seven points the whole night.

They got a lot of production from receiver Miles Austin (10 receptions, 146 yards, and a touchdown), but it wasn't enough.

On the other hand, Jay Cutler had a very good game, throwing for 372 yards and two touchdowns.

Even bigger was the defense stuffing the Lions running game for only 20 yards.

Chicago needs to improve on their ability to hold onto the ball, losing three fumbles, their penalties (nine penalties for 100 yards), and Cutler needs to cut down on his turnovers (one interception, one fumble lost), but the defense was strong and they were able to move the ball up the field.

It could be an ugly, undisciplined game, but right now Chicago just looks more dangerous than Dallas does.

Chicago wins.

Philadelphia (0-1) at Detroit (0-1)

Both teams are missing their starting quarterbacks, with Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb out with a concussion and Detroit's Matthew Stafford missing the game because of a shoulder injury.

Philadelphia made a bold comeback last week, down 20-3 at one point but finishing the game to lose by only a touchdown. Michael Vick played extremely well, completing 67 percent of his passes, throwing for a touchdown, and rushing for 103 yards.

Detroit rushed for only 20 yards total, was outgained in total yards by 295 yards, and turned the ball over three times. Also, Calvin Johnson dropped what would have been the game changing touchdown.

Jahvid Best's two touchdowns were promising, but there needs to be a lot of improvement all around.

Philadelphia wins.

Buffalo (0-1) at Green Bay (1-0)

Buffalo looked bad last week.

They struggled to get 166 yards of total offense, showing no spark at all, and while losing decided the smart play was to surrender a safety in the name of field position instead of trying to get points on the board. Gutsy, interesting, stupid, unconventional, call it whatever you want but it was unsuccessful.

Green Bay let Philadelphia back into the game last week, but they did finish the job.

This contest is just an old-fashioned mismatch.

Green Bay wins.

Tampa Bay (1-0) at Carolina (0-1)

Panthers quarterback Matt Moore threw three interceptions in the end zone last weekend. That just cannot happen if you expect to win games.

Tampa Bay won, but they weren't that great, turning the ball over twice, being the more penalized team, and lost the yardage battle. They also were only 1-3 in the red zone.

Moore could lose the game for Carolina, but if they could jump out to a quick lead of any margin and aren't forced to throw the ball, DeAngelo Williams should be able to run all over Tampa Bay. They gave up an average of 4.5 yards per rush and a touchdown last week against the Browns.

Williams is a much better runner than anyone on the Cleveland roster, and the Panthers are just more successful the more touches he gets.

Give the ball to DeAngelo.

Carolina wins.

Seattle (1-0) at Denver (0-1)

Seattle came out of nowhere last week to come up with a big victory at home over San Francisco. They allowed only two field goals and a total of 49 rushing yards.

They were outgained in the passing game though, 214-165.

Yes the Seahawks were winning big and didn't need to pass, but they were actually balanced on offense throwing and rushing the ball 23 times each.

If it comes down to an aerial battle, the Seahawks could fall behind. Kyle Orton threw for 295 yards against the Jaguars and he won't make the same costly mistakes that San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith made.

With home field advantage, if the Broncos can get a little more from their running game (25 carries, 89 total yards, and one touchdown) they could prove a much tougher task than the 49ers did.

Denver wins.

St. Louis (0-1) at Oakland (0-1)

Oakland had a difficult time scoring last week, but then again so did St. Louis, each team managing to put only 13 points on the board.

The Raiders' passing game wasn't very strong, totaling only 150 yards, but the running game stepped up going for 136 yards.

The big difference in this game will be the turnover battle. Jason Campbell lost a fumble and threw an interception, not the difference Oakland was hoping for when they acquired him this offseason to replace JaMarcus Russell.

However, Sam Bradford threw three interceptions. The Rams also stayed in the game thanks to Arizona's four fumbles.

If Oakland takes care of the ball, they should be able to put enough points on the board for a victory.

Oakland wins.

Houston (1-0) at Washington (1-0)

Houston picked up a big win last week over division-rival Colts thanks to an impressive 257 yards rushing, 231 of which came from Arian Foster.

Washington picked up a division win, but it wasn't as impressive a showing. They ran for only 89 yards, were outgained in the passing game, and were 0-2 in the red zone. Washington's defense did a good job of bending but not breaking, and scored an opportunistic touchdown when DeAngelo Hall stripped the ball away from Tashard Choice.

Houston pretty much abandoned the passing game last week, but they had their game plan in place and executed. They were sharper than the Cowboys and will be more difficult for the Redskins to handle.

Houston wins.

New England (1-0) at New York Jets (0-1)

For all the talk and bravado, the Jets looked just plain bad on Monday Night Football. They didn’t show any true spark all preseason and couldn’t get out of their own way against the Ravens.

Shonn Green was a fumbling machine, so first order of business for the Jets is to install LaDanian Tomlinson as the starter. He at least has looked like he’s playing with some sense of urgency. The same can’t be said for the rest of the offense.

New England took care of business against the Bengals in Week 1. They threw the ball with efficiency, and their defense, as decimated as it is, wasn’t too bad. Gary Guyton had a big interception returned for a touchdown.

The Jets need to show some sign of life. Until then, you can’t pick them.

New England wins.

Jacksonville (1-0) at San Diego (0-1)

No Marcus McNeil and no Vincent Jackson left the Chargers' usually punchy offense pretty lifeless. They managed only two touchdowns in total, the second coming with just under two and a half minutes remaining.

Tight end Antonio Gates had a strong game (five receptions, 76 yards, and a touchdown), but as a unit they could not get the ball in the red zone (only two attempts from 20-yards out all night, the last one coming at the end of the game and unable to punch the ball in), let alone the end zone.

For Jacksonville, David Garrard had the highest QB rating of his career. He only threw for 170 yards, but he tossed three touchdown passes.

The Jaguars made plays, the Chargers did not. It looks like San Diego is still recouping from the losses and distractions of Jackson and McNeil.

Jacksonville wins.

New York Giants (1-0) at Indianapolis (0-1)

Houston not only took advantage of a slow-starting Colts team, they devised a strong game plan to exploit the Colts' weaknesses in their 34-24 win.

Indianapolis surrendered 257 yards rushing and they constantly pressured Peyton Manning. Even though he was only sacked two times, the pocket was constantly collapsing and they forced Manning to move around, escape the pocket, and hurry his throws.

It seems like a simple formula, but it is easier said than done.

The Giants were able to generate four sacks. However they only managed to rush for 118 yards.

They were lifted by Hakeem Nix's three touchdown receptions, but Eli Manning still threw three turnovers. Eli's three picks were neutralized by the three interceptions Matt Moore threw, but against Indy it won't be the case.

Peyton won't make those mistakes.

Indianapolis wins.

New Orleans (1-0) at San Francisco (0-1)

You don’t want to press the panic button after the first week. What you want to do is just work on fixing the mistakes you made in order to turn things around quickly.

That being said, San Francisco has a lot of mistakes to fix as they were trounced by the Seahawks last week. They were so bad head coach Mike Singletary demanded a team meeting as soon as they got off their flight.

The Saints didn't have their best game, but they still did enough to get the win. They won't have the emotion of their fans and raising the championship banner like last week, but San Francisco has bigger problems.

New Orleans wins.

Last week: 8-8

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