Week 2 of the NFL featured its fair share of big blowouts, close contests and sweet surprises. It also handed your’s truly a strong showing with a 12-4 mark in last week’s predictions after starting the season with a 10-6 record in the opener.
» Six teams enter the week winless, while six others remain unbeaten.
» Two of Week 3′s marquee matchups will feature unblemished teams (Eagles at Cardinals and Falcons at Chargers), while the other two teams also face road tests (49ers at Vikings and Texans at Broncos).
» The rest of the league (20 teams) are approaching the week at the .500 mark, the most in NFL history after Week 2 of the regular season. This includes the Giants and Panthers, which kick off this week’s great slate of games on Thursday night.
» Four of the six winless teams will try to earn their first win at home, with the Titans hosting the Lions, Browns battling the Bills, Raiders hosting the Steelers and Saints taking on the Chiefs. Jacksonville will also look to bounce back at Indianapolis.
N.Y. Giants (1-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-1) – Thur, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network
The Panthers have a number of apparent advantages here. First is home-field advantage on a short week. Another is Big Blue’s laundry list of injuries, including RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks (both players will miss this game).
Controlling the clock by running the football very well could go a long way towards keeping the Giants’ aggressive defense honest and keeping the ball out of the hands of Captain Clutch (my new nickname for Eli Manning) and the Giants’ offense.
Nevertheless, expect the defending champions to secure the win with a late score over the team that guaranteed a Super Bowl over the offseason in a very good game. Prediction: N.Y. Giants 27, Carolina 17
Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) at New Orleans Saints (0-2) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., CBS
Losing team starts 0-3 and will have its postseason aspirations pretty much dead and gone. The winner, winner chicken dinner here will have a chance to perhaps save its season and start to turn the corner.
The game’s in New Orleans at the Superdome and the Chiefs have proven to play better at home, just like the Saints. Kansas City entered the year as a sexy sleeper pick to win the AFC West, but in its first two games, the team has lost to the likes of Atlanta and Buffalo by 34 points combined.
You might think this staggering start is unprecedented. But just look back to last season. The Chiefs were beat up by the Bills (41-7) and Lions (48-3), before falling short to the Chargers (20-17) and then winning back-to-back games against the Vikings (22-17) and Colts (28-24) and eventually ending the year with a 7-9 record.
So while I can understand why a Kansas City sports radio host by the name of Bob “Bulldog” Fescoe recently raised the bar in sports radio rants, almost the exact same thing happened last year to start the season, so the team’s play should improve soon.
New Orleans lost a lot of its luster over the offseason from the bounty scandal and it was inevitable, especially with the absence of Sean Payton. Star signal-caller Drew Brees and the Saints will get back to business this Sunday, but they will face a Chiefs team which will perform better than it has in the first two weeks. Prediction: New Orleans 34, Kansas City 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., FOX
After getting caught sleeping in Seattle, the Cowboys have their sights set on bouncing back from last week’s 27-7 loss against the Seahawks in one of this weekend’s best games in their home opener against the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay came to play last Sunday against the Giants, but couldn’t maintain its massive lead against Captain Clutch and company, falling 41-34 after getting outscored 25-7 in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers will be able to contain the Cowboys’ ground game, as the defense ranks third against the run right now, allowing 52.0 YPG, but will get beat by the pass, as the defense ranks dead last in the league, allowing 400.5 YPG.
Look for Tony Romo to do a slightly better job connecting with his receivers than Josh Freeman, though that will have a lot to do with Dallas having a superior secondary. Prediction: Dallas 23, Tampa Bay 20
Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Washington Redskins (1-1) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., CBS
This is the regular season home debut for rookie QB Robert Griffin III and the Redskins at FedEx Field. The Bengals bounced back last week with a 34-27 victory over the Browns after getting beat up 44-13 in the season opener by Baltimore, while Washington — as expected – came up just short against St. Louis.
The Redskins have surrendered over 800 yards in the first two games on defense. Look for Cincinnati to exploit Washington’s sudden weakness on the edges after losing Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo for the season with a heavy dose of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Washington 27
Buffalo Bills (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-2) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., CBS
Could Cleveland gets its first win this weekend in the Brandon Weeden era? The No. 22 overall pick completed 26 of 37 passes (70.3 completion percentage) for 322 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 34-27 loss to the Bengals.
Rookie RB Trent Richardson ran the football 19 times, just as he did in the season opener. However, he chalked up 109 yards and a score and added four receptions for 36 yards after accumulating just 39 yards and one catch for five yards in Week 1.
In his first two seasons, running back C.J. Spiller registered 63 catches for 426 yards and three touchdowns through the air with 844 yards and four scores on 181 carries on the ground in 30 games (12 starts).
Spiller, 25, a former first-round pick (ninth overall in 2010) now leads the league in rushing with 292 yards and three TDs on 29 carries (averaging 10.1 yards a pop) with five receptions for 72 yards through the first two games.
The Bills’ front four also started to live up to its expectations last week, as mentioned would likely happen in last week’s predictions. Look for Buffalo to hold on here, but the Browns will give the team some trouble. Prediction: Buffalo 21, Cleveland 18
N.Y. Jets (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-1) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., CBS
Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and company showed a lot of life in last week’s 35-13 rout against the Raiders. However, Oakland did have to make a cross-country trip on a short week, so you may want to take the Dolphins’ dominating showing with a grain of salt.
Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano returns to South Beach knowing how to attack the Dolphins defense. Reggie Bush has run wild for 241 yards and two scores on 40 carries (6.0 YPC) and nine catches for 71 yards in the first two weeks of the season. Having that same level of success against Gang Green will be a daunting task. Prediction: N.Y. Jets 28, Miami 14
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-1) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., CBS
Jaguars starting signal-caller Blaine Gabbert completed seven passes for 53 yards at home in last week’s 27-7 loss to the Texans. He’ll have more success on Sunday against Indianapolis. Indy’s D ranks 22nd overall, 25th against the pass and 26th in points allowed. Don’t expect Jacksonville to pile up a ton of points, but the Jaguars will make some plays.
Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts will ultimately make more plays and generate more points, as they start the season with a 2-1 record. Peyton Manning only won three of his first 16 games. Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Jacksonville 17
Detroit Lions (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (0-2) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., FOX
Is this a must-win game for both of these teams? Quite possibly. Tennessee’s defense ranks 30th right now against the run and in points allowed, while on offense, the Titans are dead last in the league in the same categories — rushing and scoring.
Detroit displayed some good things on opening weekend and again at San Francisco last Sunday night. Chris Johnson has carried the ball 19 times in the first two weeks for a total of 21 yards and no player on the roster has amassed 100 receiving yards.
Matthew Stafford looks to feast this week on the road against the Titans’ weak pass defense and he currently leads the league with 2,504 passing yards since December 1, 2011. Former eight-year Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz also looks to enjoy a homecoming filled with warm and fuzzy feelings. Prediction: Detroit 23, Tennessee 6
St. Louis Rams (1-1) at Chicago Bears (1-1) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., FOX
Bad news, Bears. Sam Bradford is off to a strong start in St. Louis this season. Coach Jeff Fisher has this team poised to make some serious noise in his first year in the improving NFC West division.
Fisher also returns to the place where he once played for arguably the best defense in NFL history.
He’ll try to get this Rams defense to rattle Jay Cutler and company early, forcing the Bears to make more mistakes, which would likely already happen with the controversy Cutler created following last Thursday evening’s poor performance, as well as the anemic offensive line and the absence of Matt Forte. Prediction: Chicago 24, St. Louis 16
San Francisco 49ers (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1) – Sun, 1:00 p.m., FOX
Here’s a head-scratching stat: quarterback Christian Ponder is currently the most accurate passer in the NFL.
His team has home-field advantage and San Francisco comes into this week’s test after taking on two tough contenders from the same division: Detroit (home) and Green Bay (road) back-to-back, so San Francisco might not be at its best and very well-rested. Nevertheless, the Niners are the best team right now in my book and they’re the better team here by leaps and bounds. Prediction: San Francisco 31, Minnesota 10
Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) at Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – Sun, 4:15 p.m., FOX
Raise your hand if you guessed any of these things would happen entering this Week 3 marquee matchup:
The Eagles turn the ball over nine times. Both Cardinals QBs John Skelton and Kevin Kolb toss exactly 14 incompletions. Tight ends Todd Heap (8 REC, 94 YDS) and Brent Celek (12 REC, 222 YDS) lead their respective team in receiving. And both clubs clash in this bird battle unbeaten with a 2-0 record.
Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the only significant surprise in my eyes has been the Cardinals, but I wouldn’t be the least surprised if they come away with the upset again this week. Playing at home is a huge advantage for the Cardinals and Arizona’s defense has been nothing short of stellar so far this year.
Kevin Kolb faces his former team and a constant pass rush. Keeping quarterback Michael Vick contained and collapsed in the pocket is the key to victory for the home team, but Patrick Peterson could be a major factor yet again. Prediction: Philadelphia 22, Arizona 19
Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at San Diego Chargers (2-0) – Sun, 4:05 p.m.
San Diego has a history of slow starts and it’s probably not going away anytime soon. Sure, the Chargers are 2-0, but the Titans are abysmal and the Raiders were rolled much worse at Miami last weekend.
Matty Ice and company look like a recent version of the Packers, Saints or Patriots. The team ranks second in scoring (33.5 PPG), albeit 21st in total offense and 27th in the ground game. The Falcons perform better at home in their own dome and this is a cross-country trip on a short week against another serious playoff contender.
Look for lots of fireworks between Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers, but in the end, solid defensive and special teams play gives the Falcons the win in a close contest. Prediction: Atlanta 24, San Diego 17
Houston Texans (2-0) at Denver Broncos (1-1) – Sun, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Houston has its sights set on beating Broncos QB Peyton Manning on the road for the first time. As expected, the Texans have excelled against lower-level competition from the Sunshine State over the first two weeks, but the Broncos will be a tough test this Sunday. Albeit Manning should perform better after his three INTs on Monday Night, it won’t be enough with all of the Texans’ veteran defenders and lethal young pass-rushers wanting a piece of Peyton on every play. Expect a great game. Prediction: Texans 28, Broncos 24
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-2) – Sun, 4:25 p.m., CBS
The Oakland Raiders have fallen far from early expectations this season, while the Steelers have proven they still possess plenty of punch after picking apart the Jets last weekend, 27-10. While the Steelers should see a few struggles this Sunday against the Raiders on the road, as the up-and-coming regime seeks to put last week’s dreadful display in the past, the Steelers prevail. Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Oakland 17
New England Patriots (1-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – Sun, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Joe Flacco and co. look to avenge last year’s loss in the AFC Championship Game. The team finished the 2011 season unbeaten at M&T Bank Stadium and has home-field advantage again here in what looks to be the biggest game of the week.
The Patriots possess a porous offensive line and will take their lumps without tight end Aaron Hernandez in the lineup. Look for yet another classic, bare-knuckles brawl between these two AFC heavyweights. It’s tough to envision either team starting the season with a 1-2 record. The Pats encounter their first losing record since the team started the 2003 season with a loss. Prediction: Baltimore 30, New England 23
Verse of This Piece: “My son, keep your father’s commands, and don’t forget your mother’s teaching. Keep their words in mind forever as though you had them tied around your neck.”—Proverbs 6:20-21
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He also writes for RantPolitical.com, where he reports on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyzes important issues in the liberty movement. Follow @_MichaelGartman, @RantPolitical and @GridironGrit on Twitter!