Gregg Rosenthal went 11-4-1 on his predictions for Week 1. How will he fare in Week 2? His picks are below.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 12
Carolina Panthers 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18
8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network) | Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.)
Cam Newton’s arm looked great. The uproar regarding the 30-year-old QB’s failure to throw deep in the opener overlooked the obvious heat on his deep outs. Cam missed a few key touch throws and might need to improve the consistency of his new delivery, but the Panthers’ biggest problem offensively was the lack of communication on the offensive line, leading to many protection busts. The Buccaneers’ pass rush, which hit Jimmy Garoppolo exactly one time last week, appears uniquely ill-suited to take advantage. New Tampa defensive coordinator Todd Bowles likes to blitz, but there are few outside rushes less formidable than the Bucs’ starting duo of Shaq Barrett and Carl Nassib.
The bigger surprise in the Buccaneers’ Week 1 loss was the tepid offense. They didn’t connect on any vertical passes, and Jameis Winston played on tilt from the first snap on. Even with Tampa Bay RB Ronald Jones running reborn, no risk it and no biscuits could make the Bucs a dull watch.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 15
Baltimore Ravens 30, Arizona Cardinals 12
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore)
With this matchup against Arizona following last week’s cakewalk against Miami, Ravens coach John Harbaugh should send a thank-you card to 345 Park Avenue for scheduling the sport’s two least-talented rosters in succession to open the season. Whether Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury’s frenetic fourth quarter against Detroit was a fluke or a sign of things to come, the Cardinals’ defense doesn’t have the birds to slow down the Ravens’ depth of flock.
The Ravens’ front office has surrounded Lamar Jackson with complementary playmakers. It starts with their four-headed backfield (Jackson, Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill) and an ornery offensive line, a foundation that allows one-on-one matchups for tight ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst, alongside wideouts Hollywood Brown, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman hasn’t even begun emptying out his playbook. It will take weeks’ worth of game film and a far more talented defense than Arizona’s to catch up with all the Ravens streaking down the field.
Dallas Cowboys 30, Washington Redskins 20
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | FedExField (Landover, Md.)
Of all the rookie wideouts who broke out in Week 1, Terry McLaurin might have had the most repeatable success. It’s hard to find his combination of catch-point strength and obvious speed, and he’s a reasonable pick to lead the Redskins’ baby wideout group in snaps and targets. Case Keenum played with more confidence against the Eagles than he did all last season in Denver — yet another reminder that scheme fit makes all the difference for journeymen like Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then again, this Redskins season should be about developing young players like No. 15 overall pick Dwayne Haskins, budding defensive line star Jonathan Allen and running back Derrius Guice, but the first one is benched and the other two are already hurt. Coach Jay Gruden will have to work harder than ever to earn his seven wins this season, including this week against the suddenly high-flying Cowboys.
Most defenses will provide more resistance to new Dallas coordinator Kellen Moore than the Giants did last week, but it’s not like the Redskins’ D is above average. Moore has barely started rolling out his playbook, and Dak Prescott probably can’t believe how much easier life is with a coach providing schematic advantages. It feels like 2016 all over again, safe for the rest of America outside of Dallas to enjoy watching this Cowboys offense.
Indianapolis Colts 33, Tennessee Titans 30
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.)
Andrew Luck was undefeated in 11 starts against the Titans, so no tears were shed in Nashville when he announced his retirement. Jacoby Brissett, meanwhile, was winless in his two starts against Tennessee in 2017, but the Colts were an inferior organization then — and he was a different quarterback. While Brissett held the ball too long a few times in the overtime loss to the Chargers, he was accurate and composed in the opener. The Colts’ running game, once soft and forgettable, exerted its will in a manner that was positively Titanian.
It’s remarkable how different Tennessee looked in Week 1, too. New coordinator Arthur Smith schemed up 10.5 YPA from Marcus Mariota without requiring many difficult throws. Tight end Delanie Walker’s return means more than words to the Titans’ offense, and rookie receiver A.J. Brown adds an explosive element their passing game lacked. Add it all up, and this game has the makings of a shootout, another plot point in the surprise hit of the fall: The Watchable AFC South! (Just don’t expect a different ending than usual, Titans fans.)
LOCK OF THE WEEK: Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Heinz Field (Pittsburgh)
I’m willing to give the Steelers a mulligan. They were out-coached in Foxborough after the Patriots’ sixth banner unfurled, undone by mental mistakes and one of Ben Roethlisberger’s shakiest games. That shouldn’t continue. Pittsburgh’s roster is well constructed, and I’m in too deep to give up on their championship hopes after one game. If the malaise lasts two games, emotional decisions are likely to follow.
No winning team looked worse in Week 1 than the Seahawks. Their offensive line gave up a lot of pressure and didn’t create holes in the running game. Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was out-coached by a first-time D-coordinator, to the tune of 232 yards and 12 first downs. There were positives on defense (linebackers! Jadeveon Clowney!), but the line looks thin again after losing defensive tackle Poona Ford to injury, and no amount of Pete Carroll positivity can make the secondary more talented. There will be no revenge on Bill Leavy on Sunday in Pittsburgh, just more early-season road struggles for the Seahawks.
Buffalo Bills 21, New York Giants 16
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Eli Manning has turned the ball over 20 times more than any other quarterback since 2013 and has lost more games (24) since the start of 2017 than any other signal-caller. There’s at least a chance this could be the last chance Eli gets, because the Bills defense is capable of fattening up that turnover total, and the Giants should be capable of imagining life with Daniel Jones if they fall to 0-2.
I couldn’t be higher on this Buffalo defense. Bills rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver looks like an instant star, veteran Trent Murphy appears to be back to his Redskins form and the rest of the D-line rotation is impressive in its depth. This is a defense disciplined enough to limit the production of stars like Giants running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram while forcing lesser G-Men to beat them. If Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is still a season away from fulfilling his vision, Bills coach Sean McDermott has been building to this team, this year.
Cincinnati Bengals 24, San Francisco 49ers 14
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)
No team has received more love for losing in Week 1 than the Bengals, which is a very Bengals thing to have happen. Still: John Ross is a thing now. Second-year defensive end Sam Hubbard leading a loaded defensive line is a thing now. Andy Dalton being fun to watch and escaping the prime meridian of quarterbacks could become a thing in time, if coach Zac Taylor’s first impression proves telling.
Niners fans hope that Jimmy Garoppolo’s first impression of this season proves to be misleading. Bookend pass rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa helped the 49ers defense set up 17 points in Tampa, but Jimmy G misfired often, threw a ghastly pick-six and didn’t stand tough in the pocket despite excellent protection. Rookie receiver Deebo Samuel led an incredibly young receiver group in snaps, and the team’s once-deep backfield is no longer deep after Tevin Coleman’s injury. Welcome to 2019: Dalton is the quarterback more likely to make a next-level throw in this game.
TOUGHEST GAME TO PREDICT: Detroit Lions 20, Chargers 17
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Ford Field (Detroit)
The Chargers are now without Hunter Henry (knee), Derwin James (foot), Russell Okung (pulmonary embolism) and Melvin Gordon (contract), yet they are still the more talented team in this matchup. That’s a credit to general manager Tom Telesco, who seemingly accounts for the organization’s awful injury luck.
Talent doesn’t always decide outcomes, however, and there were positives to draw from Detroit coach Matt Patricia’s defense last Sunday. The Lions’ front seven is far deeper than it was a year ago and should create problems against the Chargers’ weak offensive tackles, who collapsed as the season opener wore on. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin looks like a legit tag-team partner for Darius Slay, and rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai is shaping up to be a multi-dimensional keeper. Patricia was with the Patriots when similarly average defenses slowed down Philip Rivers, so I’ll give the home team the edge here. The final score above doesn’t make any particular logical sense, but neither does a tie ruining the standings with 16 weeks left in the season.
Green Bay Packers 19, Minnesota Vikings 16
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)
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The Packers’ impressive opener was all about their new additions. If defensive pickups Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos play that well all year, general manager Brian Gutekunst will garnish some Executive of the Year love. The Vikings’ opening stroll over the Falcons, on the other hand, was more about their returning players looking better than last season. From running back Dalvin Cook to safety Anthony Harris to cornerback Xavier Rhodes, Mike Zimmer’s familiar roster did what became expected of it back in 2017. Rhodes could be the key this week because of his assignment against Davante Adams, one week after shutting down Julio Jones.
The Favre-Rodgers shootouts from this rivalry are now a distant memory. Despite the incredible investments at quarterback in the division, the NFC North is starting to resemble Chris Berman’s old "NFC Norris." It’s a division where defense predominates, and the Packers are better equipped to win a rock fight than they have been in a long time.
SNEAKY GOOD GAME OF THE WEEK: Houston Texans 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 20
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | NRG Stadium (Houston)
Gardner Minshew is one road win away from turning into a Kyle Orton-level internet phenomenon with Tim Tebow upside. The Texans don’t provide the easiest test to pass, although their pass rush looked diminished without Jadeveon Clowney, and the emotional release of pricy slot cornerback Aaron Colvin on Tuesday was a reminder how poorly constructed the Texans secondary looks. Deshaun Watson will be asked to win shootouts more often this season, but at least he has the firepower to do so.
It is a testament to the overreactive power of Week 1 that there is so much anticipation for Minshew and so much pessimism about the Jaguars’ defense. Coordinator Todd Wash has mostly held Watson in check in three games against him, but the third-year QB has matured and doesn’t simply have to hope DeAndre Hopkins can outmuscle Jalen Ramsey. I want to live in a world where Minshew makes this game fun, but not one where Watson is left empty-handed again after entertaining America so thoroughly on Monday night.
New England Patriots 34, Miami Dolphins 17
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
The Patriots have lost five of their last six games in Miami, and Bill Belichick was thumped by former proteges Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel last season, facts which probably make Belichick far less comfortable than his fans this week. Even if Belichick saying that the Dolphins have so many "great players," that they "can’t get them all in the game at the same time" feels like laying it on thick, there’s a paranoid part of Belichick that probably believes it.
Comfort isn’t Belichick’s thing. The addition of Antonio Brown and the subsequent sexual assault allegations brought against him have somehow raised the stakes for an organization that has been to three straight Super Bowls. It looks exhausting from the outside, but Tom Brady followed up a sharp camp with a sharper season opener. Belichick should be glowing (on the inside) because of his defense, with a dynamic linebacker group and players like slot corner Jonathan Jones ready to make the leap. All the continuity in the secondary allows the defense to start in midseason form, while the Dolphins are just looking to find keepers after their Week 1 embarrassment. On the plus side, Ryan Fitzpatrick played about as well as a quarterback can in a 59-10 loss, and NFL rosters are too balanced for such beatdowns to continue. At least the expectations are now so low that a 17-point home loss could be considered a moral victory.
Kansas City Chiefs 30, Oakland Raiders 26
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS) | Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland, Calif.)
Jon Gruden probably wouldn’t mind pausing the season right now. The last "Monday Night Football" game in Oakland until the Raiders move back in 2039 was one of the franchise’s brightest moments since Gruden’s last stint coaching the team. Derek Carr helped achieve Gruden’s platonic ideal of offense, piling up precision completions while buttressed by Josh Jacobs’ power running like it was 1984 in The City next door. The Raiders somehow came out ahead after the Antonio Brown adventure, Mike Mayock’s draft class balled out and Vontaze Burfict played five years younger. There’s only one direction to go from here.
The comedown started on Wednesday, when first-round rookie safety Johnathan Abram was declared out for the year. That will hurt a Raiders defense working with a slimmer margin for error than it appeared to be against the Broncos — it’s one thing to slow down Joe Flacco, quite another to take down Patrick Mahomes. I don’t dare to imagine a world in which the 23-year-old MVP gets better this year, because I want to fully enjoy the present, these early stages of an all-time career where he and coach Andy Reid stay one step ahead of the league. The Raiders have the ingredients to remain relevant through the holidays, but it’s growing impossible to pick against Mahomes — even without Tyreek Hill — against all but top-shelf competition. This Raiders gang doesn’t yet qualify.
Los Angeles Rams 26, New Orleans Saints 20
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles)
The Rams’ win over the Saints in November 2017 legitimized Sean McVay’s upstart Rams. The Saints’ win over the undefeated Rams in November 2018 paved the way for New Orleans to gain home-field advantage in the playoffs, which they squandered in an NFC Championship Game in January 2019 that changed the NFL rulebook. The disastrous no-call distracted from the reality of Drew Brees’ back-breaking overtime interception and Jared Goff’s incredible second-half performance. Sean-Off IV has lower stakes, a palate cleanser intended to wipe away traces of all those storylines
It’s hard to find big edges for either team in this matchup, but Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata’s return from suspension may not be enough to stymie Los Angeles’ resurgent running game. If the Saints struggled to stop Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson at home, then slowing Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown on the road will be a big ask. McVay, meanwhile, should be concerned with how poorly Goff’s pass protection held up last week, considering Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and breakout candidate Trey Hendrickson are coming to town. The only surprise in this game would be a blowout, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Sean-Off V were to happen in January 2020, this time in the Los Angeles winter.
Denver Broncos 15, Chicago Bears 13
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | Empower Field at Mile High (Denver)
Vic Fangio facing the Bears is the opposite of a revenge game. Few coaches left Chicago with a higher approval rating after he helped deliver the best Bears defense since Buddy Ryan and Mike Ditka were battling for credit. Fond memories and competitive well-wishes have flowed between these two teams this week, with Fangio noting how much fun it was to watch the Bears’ film. He said he was "glad to see them doing so well," which could be a nod to the early improvements from pass rusher Leonard Floyd and linebacker Roquan Smith.
Fangio clearly wasn’t talking about the Bears’ offense. The season opener was another example of Mitchell Trubisky struggling to survive when coach Matt Nagy fails to scheme wide-open receivers for him. Those could be tough to find this week, because no coach has more information with which to attack Trubisky’s shortcomings than Fangio. Expect a giant bright red panic button to hang a mile high over the fourth quarter of another ugly Bears game, because one of these teams will be staring at 0-2.
Philadelphia Eagles 31, Atlanta Falcons 27
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
It’s cliche to say teams win up front. It’s basic to point out that the Eagles’ mammoth offensive line should handle Atlanta’s erratic edge rushers. It’s repetitive to mention that the Falcons haven’t solved their offensive line issues, especially after losing first-round guard Chris Lindstrom to injury. It’s still all true.
When the Eagles edged the Falcons in the 2017 Divisional Round, it felt like these two teams could be battling for NFC supremacy for a while. But the Eagles have continued to evolve while the Falcons appear stuck in quicksand, fixing the same old problems, waiting for Dan Quinn’s defensive know-how to show up, wasting Matt Ryan’s increasingly underrated prime. It’s only Week 2, so why does it feel like the Falcons are running out of time?
MONDAY, SEPT. 16
Cleveland Browns 26, New York Jets 13
8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Here’s a list of disappointing aspects from the Browns’ and Jets’ openers, ranked in order of long-term concern: My friends’ well-being, Adam Gase’s proclivity for the dink-and-dunk, the Jets’ well-paid interior offensive line, Cleveland’s offensive tackles, the Browns’ blah pass rush, the Browns’ penalty party, Gase’s cranky press conferences, Baker Mayfield’s interceptions and Odell Beckham Jr.’s sartorial choices.
I did not expect to have to add Sam Darnold’s mononucleosis to the mix, which climbs right to the top. I predicted the Browns winning on the road even before the depressing Darnold development because of the Jets’ passing-game struggles, which won’t improve with Trevor Siemian behind center. Now a fun, desperate matchup between 2018 draft wonder boys has been sullied before it even started, which could describe this entire Jets season, with Darnold also expected to miss Week 3 against the Patriots. Give your local Jets fan a hug.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.
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