St. Louis Rams @ Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, Sept. 15 1:00 p.m.
St. Louis snuck by Arizona last week behind a great day by TE Jared Cook. Cook had 2 touchdowns and almost 150 receiving yards and he figures to be an important weapon in St. Louis’ offense going forward. The Rams also did a good job of getting to Sam Bradford by sacking him four times. They appear to be much improved from last year after beating the dangerous Cardinals team. Atlanta fell to New Orleans last week and had a really hard time slowing down Drew Brees. They won’t have nearly as much trouble stopping Bradford and the Rams’ offense, but it will also be significantly more difficult to score. The Saints had the NFL’s worst defense last year, and although they got their old coach Sean Payton back, they did not make many personnel changes. Atlanta should take this game, but it will be closer than some expect.
Prediction: 20-17 Falcons
San Diego Chargers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, Sept. 15 1:00 p.m.
San Diego gave away a 21 point second half lead last week against the Houston Texans, and they will be looking to get their first win of the season this week against the up-tempo Eagles. Philip Rivers played outstandingly in the first half, throwing four touchdowns, but once again he showed that he does not play well in the fourth quarter. He was 1-7 with a pick-six, which ultimately contributed to the San Diego loss. Philadelphia was in control of their game against Washington throughout. Their offensive attack slowed down in the second half, but their defense played better than expected for the majority of the game. As the season goes on and the players become more used to Chip Kelly’s system, the Eagles’ offense could become the most dangerous in the league. Expect them to run the Chargers ragged this week in a shootout.
Prediction: 38-30 Eagles
Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, Sept. 15 1:00 p.m.
Dallas was the beneficiary of six New York turnovers in their win last week … and they still almost lost. They allowed Eli Manning to carve them up all night, so their secondary will need to improve going forward if they expect to win an unpredictable NFC East. Tony Romo played well, which is always a good sign for the Cowboy offense. The Chiefs beat the punch-less Jaguars last week in Andy Reid’s first game as the Kansas City coach. It remains to be seen whether or not the defense will play as well against a team with a competent offense, but if so, Kansas City could make some noise with former San Francisco starter, Alex Smith. I expect the Cowboys’ defense to look better this week, and their offense is definitely good enough to give the Chiefs a challenge. This could be a fairly low scoring game.
Prediction: 23-13 Cowboys
Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, Sept. 15 1:00 p.m.
The Dolphins beat Cleveland comfortably last week behind Ryan Tannehill’s good day. He threw for almost 300 yards with a touchdown, and he continued his late season success from last season. Going forward, however, they will need to get more production from the running game, as they only got 17 yards total from their two running backs. The Colts barely edged out a win against the Raiders, as Andrew Luck ran in a touchdown with 5 minutes remaining to earn the victory. He played extremely well, making very few mistakes, and his defense played well behind him, intercepting Raiders’ QB Terrelle Pryor twice. Ideally, they will get more pressure on Tannehill than they did on Pryor, though, as they only got one sack in the game. Luck will have a harder time throwing on the Dolphins secondary, but I think he will continue to make good decisions and lead the Colts to another victory.
Prediction: 16-10 Colts
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
Sunday, Sept. 15 1:00 p.m.
The Titans’ defense was outstanding against Pittsburgh last week as they held the Steelers to just nine points. Their offense squeaked out just enough points to win, but they can get far this season if they follow that formula. Jake Locker was decent, but Tennessee would like to get more from him going forward, specifically a higher completion percentage. Chris Johnson struggled to get anything going, as he couldn’t find any holes to break off any of his patented 60-70 yard touchdown runs. Houston, on the other hand, is one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL year in and year out. They have so many weapons on offense that it’s almost impossible to stop them for an entire game — just ask San Diego. When they’re not handing it to Arian Foster or throwing it deep to Andre Johnson, they can also get other players into the mix like Ben Tate and Owen Daniels, as they did Monday Night. The Titans’ defense has a big job ahead of them.
Prediction: 27-7 Texans
Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers
Washington looked incredibly rusty at the beginning of the game last week, with Robert Griffin showing that he hadn’t played at all since late last season after his knee injury. He looked tentative and unsure of himself for the majority of the first half. In the second half, the Redskins showed the potential that they have as a team, as they shut the Eagles down completely and managed to make the game interesting before falling short. They will get off to a faster start next week. However, they are facing a Packers team coming off a loss to the 49ers, a loss in which their defense was completely embarrassed by a quarterback very similar to Robert Griffin — Colin Kaepernick. Aaron Rodgers played well, but not up to his lofty standards and I expect him to play much better this week against the Washington secondary that Michael Vick shredded last week in the first half. The Redskins may have a chance with a fully healthy RG3, but I still don’t think he’s physically ready to beat a team like Green Bay.
Prediction: 34-20 Packers
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
Last weekend, Joe Flacco showed the world how much he deserved his $100 million offseason contract extension. Oh wait … the Ravens got embarrassed as the Broncos stout D had its way with the weak, Anquan-less offense. Browns’ QB Brandon Weeden had similar struggles, as he was sacked six times with three interceptions in yet another debacle against the fearsome Dolphins. This one might come down to two pitiful defenses, as Paul Kruger gets a chance to validate his preseason claims that this Browns team had a better defensive unit than the Super Bowl Champion Ravens with which he played last season. Similarly, Baltimore, led by struggling defensive coordinator Dean Pees, will look for redemption after their once infamous defense now lacking legends Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, got dismantled by future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. The Ravens are historically good at home though, and should pull it off in a close AFC North divisional battle.
Prediction: Ravens 32-25
Carolina Panthers @ Buffalo Bills
Carolina’s defense played well last week against Seattle, but their offense couldn’t get anything going against the tough Seahawk defense. Cam Newton struggled to move the ball down the field, only throwing for 125 yards and rushing for 38 more. He will need to contribute more to the offense this week, as he is by far their most dynamic player. Buffalo had their hearts broken last week against New England, coming two seconds away from a huge upset victory behind their rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel. Manuel played extremely well in his first start, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. If he can contribute similarly the entire season, the Bills may have finally found their quarterback. Manuel will have a longer leash this week after proving that he can make good decisions against a quality team.
Prediction: 24-13 Bills
Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears
The Vikings’ defense struggled mightily against the Lions, but Detroit is an incredibly difficult team to defend. Chicago does not have as many weapons and the defense should have a less challenging week. Adrian Peterson started the game off with a bang with a 78-yard touchdown on the first play. However, after that, he only ran for 25 yards on 17 carries. The MVP will undoubtedly get back on track next week. Minnesota’s run defense, once a hallmark of the team, got gashed by Reggie Bush in the rushing and passing game, and they will need to improve big time going forward. Jay Cutler continued to find his favorite receiver in Brandon Marshall last week, and I don’t expect that to change while both of them are wearing Chicago uniforms. Their rush defense played well, but their secondary did not, allowing A.J. Green to do seemingly whatever he wanted. Nevertheless, the Bears should have enough to beat Minnesota this week.
Prediction: 20-7 Bears
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Saints seem like they are back to their old selves with the return of Sean Payton. Drew Brees continues to do what he does best — throw for a ton of yards and put pressure on the opposing secondary. He threw for over 350 yards against the good Atlanta defense and I expect him to have another nice day against Tampa. New Orleans has never been a rushing team, but it would be nice if Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas could get something going this week to help Brees out. Tampa Bay lost a heartbreaker against the Jets, seemingly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. After a personal foul, they allowed the Jets to drive up the field and kick a game winning field goal. Doug Martin struggled in his first game after his great rookie season, but I’m confident that he will get on track. This will be a good division matchup.
Prediction: 34-27 Saints
Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals
Detroit has a good offense, there’s no doubt about that. Adding Reggie Bush in the offseason was simply icing on the cake, and he played incredibly in his Lions debut. Their problem is, and has been, their defense. They gave up 24 points to the Vikings last week, and they need to solidify their secondary if they want to be Super Bowl contenders. Detroit did get 3 interceptions on Christian Ponder, however, which is incredibly promising. They will face a more talented quarterback this week in Carson Palmer, and will need to figure out some way to stop Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Cardinals’ offensive attack. Palmer played well in his first Cardinals’ start, and he should bring stability to a position where the Cardinals had a revolving door last season.
Prediction: 38-20 Lions
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Oakland Raiders
Jacksonville is probably the worst team in the league right now, and they showed it last week. They could only muster up two points against the Chiefs, and they couldn’t slow down their offense whatsoever. Blaine Gabbert played terribly, throwing two interceptions and having a completion percentage lower than 50%. Even All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew only had 45 yards, so the Jags couldn’t get offensive production from anywhere. Oakland had a quarterback change in the offseason, with Terrelle Pryor now taking the reins. He played decently, but he could have played a little bit better, as he threw two interceptions that contributed to the Oakland loss. He will be a big threat with his legs, however, as he ran for over 100 yards and was the leading rusher for the game. As the season goes on, he should get better and regain his former Ohio State glory.
Prediction: 20-6 Raiders
Denver Broncos @ New York Giants
Denver completely embarrassed the Ravens secondary last week, as Peyton Manning tied an NFL record for touchdowns in a game with 7. He probably won’t have the same success this week, but he will still have a good game against the Giants. They allowed Tony Romo to do whatever he wanted last week, and Manning will do exactly the same. Their defense held one of the best running backs in the league, Ray Rice, to 36 yards, so they shouldn’t have any problem with the New York rushing attack. The Giants were careless with the ball last week against Dallas and had six turnovers. If they do that against Denver, they will have absolutely no chance of winning. The Broncos will take advantage of those mistakes every time, so Eli Manning must do a better job of taking care of the ball.
Prediction: 34-23 Broncos
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
Colin Kaepernick had one of his best games as a starter last week against the Packers. He threw for over 400 yards, the most he has thrown for in any start in his career, and he also threw three touchdowns. The most impressive part of the victory though, is that he did not run the ball nearly as much as he has in the past. He showed that he can beat a team with his arm alone, but he still maintains the threat of being one of the most dangerous scramblers in the league. The Seahawks have a dynamic quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson, who threw for over 300 yards in their win over the Panthers last week. This matchup is a repeat of their playoff thriller last year and it is the ‘can’t miss’ game of the week.
Prediction: 24-23 49ers
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers continue to allow Ben Roethlisberger to get hit over and over again. Their offensive line is easily the worst part of their team, and it really contributes to their lack of offensive production. Pittsburgh struggled to run the ball without their mainstay running back Rashard Mendenhall after he left for the Cardinals. Their defense played with typical Steeler toughness, but we will see how good their defense is against a more high-powered offense like Cincinnati’s. The Bengals played very well, even though they lost to the Bears last Sunday. Andy Dalton has to take better care of the ball, as he threw two interceptions, but I’m confident he will play better as the season goes on.
Prediction: Bengals 17-10