The biggest thing to make sure you do after the first week is to not overreact. I write this paragraph every season, and every season I feel the need to write it again. The Green Bay Packers will win a game this year, the New York Jets will not average 48.0 points per game, and Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick will not throw four interceptions per game. The NFL does not have a balanced schedule. The Packers opened up with a tough game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Atlanta Falcons played against a Kansas City Chiefs defense that was without their best pass rusher, Tamba Hali. These things tend to balance themselves out over the course of 16 weeks. In the words of Bill Parcells, you are what your records says you are. However, (1-0) or (0-1) does not say much.
Therefore, we will take what we learned this week and see if we can apply it to the second week without jumping off the bridge. In addition to picking each game, I am going to assign a point total to each game and will tally my overall record, my point total from the week before and my record in the lock pick game (the game I assign 16 points toward). I will give an explanation of why I am using the team I am using in the suicide pick spot. I will also list which team I have already picked and will not assign 16 points to the same team twice during the season. This will help people that are not only looking to pick games, but also play in these various confidence pools. My record in 2012 is (9-7). I scored 89 points for the confidence pool last week and I have used Houston for my suicide pick, which I am (1-0).
1) Chicago Bears (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-1) – I was not impressed with the Packers on Sunday. I saw a defense that was pushed around both in the running game and the passing game. I saw an offense that was one-dimensional. While the Bears do not have the defense that the 49ers possess, they have just as many weapons and a better quarterback in Jay Cutler. The Packers are tough at home and have the reigning MVP, QB Aaron Rodgers. However, he cannot be asked to carry the entire team, he needs the defense to force turnovers and make stops.
I like the Bears in this game. I know the Bears had a much easier Week 1 opponent (Colts), but I think their offense is going to move the ball on the Packers defense. While the Packers can move the ball, they are going to be playing from behind again, which turns them into a pass only team. Rodgers could single handily win this game, but I think the Bears are good enough to survive a great game by Rodgers. Winner: Chicago (6)
2) Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) – The Eagles were absolutely awful against a Browns defense that is good at stopping the pass. The Eagles kept the Browns in the game thanks to four interceptions by QB Michael Vick. Now they go home to play a Ravens team that blew the Cincinnati Bengals out of their building 44-13 on Monday Night. The Eagles will not be able to turn the ball over four times without the Ravens turning those interceptions into touchdowns.
I am just not a fan of the Eagles offensive line and WR Jeremy Maclin is either going to be out or limited in this game. I think the Ravens have the balance to move the ball on this Eagles Defense and I look for the Ravens to earn a big road win. The Eagles will be too sloppy with the ball to win this game. Winner: Baltimore (9)
3) New York Jets (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) – I literally have no idea what to think about this game. I do not think the Steelers are going to be dominant this year, but they will win a lot of games and be in the AFC Playoff Picture. I think the Jets have a good team, but they are not going to score 48 points each week. QB Mark Sanchez is over scrutinized, but he also has not been consistent and could easily be terrible this week.
I would be shocked if Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was as generous with the ball as the Bills were last week, but the Jets have a tough defense that can force good quarterbacks to make mistakes. I will go with the Steelers at home, but it is too early in the season to know exactly where either of these teams stands. The Jets did something so unexpected in Week 1 that I need more games to make sense of them scoring 48 points in the opener. Winner: Pittsburgh (1)
4) Detroit Lions (1-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-0) – The 49ers were as impressive as any team in the NFL in Week 1, going to Green Bay and dominating the Packers on both sides of the ball. The Lions were as unimpressive as any team in the NFL. They should have had what was a cakewalk at home against the Rams. Instead, they took the game down to the final gun, winning 27-23. The 49ers are not going to play that well all season and the Lions will not play that bad all season. The Lions were able to survive four interceptions by QB Matthew Stafford and no touchdowns to WR Calvin Johnson. Winning ugly is still winning.
I still do not think the Lions are ready to win a big road game in San Francisco. The 49ers have the best defense in the NFL and an offense that is loaded with weapons. QB Alex Smith is doing a good job of playing within his abilities and managing the game. I think that is what he will do in Detroit and the 49ers will force too many turnovers for the Lions to win. Winner: San Francisco (7)
5) Denver Broncos (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0) – This is a very tough game to pick as well. Broncos QB Peyton Manning looks like the Hall of Fame quarterback from 2010, not the one that had four neck surgeries and missed 2011. The Falcons struggle to stop the pass and the Broncos have the weapons to keep up with the track meet. The Broncos also have the cornerbacks (Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter) to try to cover the Falcons explosive wide receivers, Julio Jones and Roddy White.
The problem is the Falcons play very well at home and they have so many weapons, that even the best of defenses cannot contain them. I do not think anyone can keep up with the Falcons at home, but the Broncos will give them a good shot. Winner: Atlanta (4)
6) Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-1) – I think the Bills loss is being blown way out of proportion. The Bills were too careless with the football, were behind too quickly against the Jets and the game snowballed on them. That loss does not mean they are destined for 0-16 nor does it mean the Jets are Super Bowl bound. It was a bad loss to open the season. I think the Bills bounce back with a nice win; they beat the Chiefs 41-7 in Kansas City last year. I think this game is closer than last year, but the Bills will be motivated to show their fans that better games are ahead. Winner: Buffalo (8)
7) Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) – I almost picked this game for my suicide pick. The Cleveland Browns are terrible and the one strength they have is their pass defense. That will be severely limited without CB Joe Haden, who has been suspended for four games. The problem is that the Bengals lost 44-13 in their opener. I think the Bengals are not the same old Bengals, but the Browns rivalry has been competitive in recent years. The Bengals home win against the Browns was only by three points last year and four of the last six games between these two have been decided by three points or less. I am fairly confident the Bengals win this game, but I am not willing to use the suicide pick on them. I may save the Bengals for Week 5 when they host Miami. I will know more about their team by then. Winner: Cincinnati (12)
8) Minnesota Vikings (0-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1) – These are always fun games to pick, two teams that picked third and first in the NFL Draft and lost last week. I am going to go with the home team and QB Andrew Luck exposing a weak Minnesota secondary, but the confidence is fairly low. Winner: Indianapolis (5)
9) New Orleans Saints (0-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-1) – This is a big spot for the Saints. They do not want to start 0-2 in the NFC with their next two games at home against Kansas City and on the road at Green Bay. A loss in Carolina could be a recipe for a 1-3 start to the season and three NFC losses. I think the Saints win this game, but if their defense gives up another 40 burger, you have to wonder if the Saints will have the defense to compete for a NFC playoff spot. I think this game is high scoring, but the Saints should be able to score enough points to earn a win. Winner: New Orleans (2)
10) Houston Texans (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) – The Texans have a very impressive defense and are loaded on offense, plus the Jaguars have to feel they let a game slip through their fingers in Minnesota. They had the lead with 20 seconds and could not seal the deal. I like the Texans to run over the Jaguars. This is an acceptable suicide pool pick if you did not use Houston in Week 1. Winner: Houston (15)
11) Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Miami Dolphins (0-1) – I think the Dolphins are arguably the worst team in the NFL, but the Raiders are traveling to the East Coast, which has not been kind to West Coast teams in recent years. I am going to take the Raiders, because they have more play makers and their defense played solid on Monday Night, but I have little to no confidence in this selection. Winner: Oakland (3)
12) Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at New England Patriots (1-0) – I so wanted to save the Patriots for later in the season, but I already used the Houston Texans. I am not crazy about using my two best teams in the AFC the first two weeks. However, this is the most certain game of the week. Patriots QB Tom Brady has lost one regular season home game since 2007 and West Coast teams have a tendency to play like garbage when they make long road trips east. The Cardinals will be playing with backup QB Kevin Kolb. The Patriots have a number of easy games, but they are not a good late season play. I do not like picking road teams in Divisional Games. The Patriots are on the road against New York and Miami in Week 12 and 13 before coming home to play Houston and San Francisco. The other logical places to use them would be Week 8 at St. Louis or at home against Indianapolis in Week 11. I can safely use Jacksonville at Green Bay in Week 8 and in Week 11 Cleveland at Dallas is an enticing Dallas Pick. The season will have developed by then and some picks that look hard now may be easier picks by then. At least I have two sure options I know I can use those weeks.
There are four games that strike me as potential suicide picks this week, excluding Houston because I selected them last week. I already talked about the Bengals over the Browns. I like the Redskins over the Rams, but could also use them at home against Minnesota in Week 6 or when they play at Cleveland in Week 15. The New York Giants could be a good play against Tampa Bay, but they could also be used at home against Cleveland in Week 5 when Haden is still suspended. I may go that route if I do not like Miami at Cincinnati in Week 5. There is a perfectly good reason to leave New England and go with one of the other teams, saving the Patriots for later in the season. I think I can take them here and have enough good options for later in the season, especially with Cleveland and Miami playing many teams that should dominate them. Winner: New England (16)
13) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1) – I doubt the defending NFC Champions are going to lose two in a row, especially to a team that won only four games last year. The only thing that makes me nervous about this game is the Giants can be inconsistent; especially when they cannot run the ball and the Buccaneers stopped the run very well last week. I am probably going to save the Giants until Week 5 when they play the Browns, but love them at home this week. Winner: New York Giants (14)
14) Washington Redskins (1-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-1) – The only thing that worries me here is the letdown factor. Does the rookie QB Robert Griffin III start reading his press clippings and prepare the way he should? Is the injury to WR Pierre Garcon serious? Did the Rams play the Lions so close because the Rams are improved or because the Lions regressed? I loved RGIII’s attitude after the game, I think he prepares well and I think the answer is Redskins win big. I would like to have a bigger sample of games before I pick the Skins as a suicide pick. I also want to see if the Rams close loss was a fluke or an improved team from 2011. Winner: Washington (13)
15) Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Seattle Seahawks (0-1) – The Dallas Cowboys were very impressive on the road against the New York Giants and have had 11 days to rest and prepare for Week 2. Seattle is among the toughest places in the league to play, their crowd noise is among the loudest in the NFL. I think the Cowboys have the defense to stop the running game of the Seahawks and they have enough weapons to score on the Seahawks defense. I am fairly comfortable that the Cowboys win this game on the road. Winner: Dallas (10)
16) Tennessee Titans (0-1) at San Diego Chargers (1-0) – I feel like the moment you buy into the Chargers is the moment you are burned by the Chargers. This team is among the most up and down teams in the NFL, but they looked poised and smart on offense and did not have the inopportune turnovers that killed them last year. The defense extending the final Raiders offensive drive was troubling, but the defense played well most of that game. Titans QB Jake Locker will have to wear a brace on his non-throwing shoulder, but he is expected to play this week. I think he is going to struggle to win in San Diego against a Chargers team that knows they cannot start slowly as they have in recent years. Winner: Chargers (11)