Pudge’s Picks – Week 2 2014

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is questionable for Sunday’s game

The key to picking games this early in the season is to try not to overreact to the first week of games. But at the same time, there will be Week 1 surprises that will carry over into Week 2 surprises. And it’s difficult to decipher which teams are decent teams that just got lucky the first week, or teams that are going to be legitimately good this year. There is always that team that starts the year strong, only to finish at 7-9 or worse.

My favorite thing about Week 2 is that for the week following the games, how networks like ESPN and NFL Network will write off many of the teams that start the season 0-2. You’ll hear stats about how teams that start 0-2 rarely make the playoffs.

My own research says that since the dawn of the “Parity Era” in 1995 when the league expanded to 30 teams and free agency was in full swing, there have been 162 teams that have started their season 0-2. Only 15 of them have wound up making the playoffs. That means a team has about a 9.26 percent chance of making the playoffs if they start 0-2. Teams begin each year with a 37.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, so basically an 0-2 start cuts a team’s chances by a fourfold.

There are three match ups between 0-1 teams on Sunday and thus the odds are that up to 12 teams will start this year 0-2. Among them, the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear the most likely playoff candidates. Let’s find out if any of them will start the year 0-2:

Atlanta Falcons (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line: Bengals (-5.5)

Normally, I’d probably pick the Bengals to win at home and the Falcons to lose on the road. Mike Smith is 1-5 in road openers, while Marvin Lewis is 8-4 in home openers with the Bengals. But the Bengals are pretty beat up with key injuries to Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict, their two best players on defense. I expect the Falcons to start slow, but find a way to win in the end if their offense can show up on the road. Hopefully last week’s second-half offensive explosion was no fluke.

Spread Pick: Falcons
Straight Pick: Falcons

Miami Dolphins (1-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Bills (+0.5)

Surprising that the team that will start the year 2-0 in the AFC East is not the New England Patriots. Buffalo’s defensive line wreaked havoc on the Dolphins offensive line a year ago, and thus will be reliant on that again this year along with more rushing success. That will be harder to get against the Dolphins defense than they did a week ago against the Chicago Bears. But again, I expect the Bills pass rush to carry the day against a weak Dolphins offensive line.

Spread Pick: Bills
Straight Pick: Bills

Detroit Lions (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Panthers (-2.5)

The Lions are pretty beat up on that offensive line, having re-signed Garrett Reynolds, who may be inserted into the starting lineup at right tackle. And despite the outcry from the rest of the world, Greg Hardy is going to be playing on Sunday. That doesn’t bode well for the Lions, whose goal will be to contain the Panthers pass rush. That should allow Matt Stafford time to find Calvin Johnson, who could destroy the weak Panthers secondary. Cam Newton will also make his 2014 debut in this game as well. The Panthers seem to possess the formula to beat the Lions, which is to try and control the line of scrimmage, if their own offensive line can hold up against “Donkey Kong” Suh and Newton’s fellow Auburn teammate Nick Fairley.

Spread Pick: Panthers
Straight Pick: Panthers

New Orleans Saints (0-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Browns (+6.5)

This will be a good test for the Browns defense, with their propensity to put their cornerbacks on islands against Saints weapons at wide receiver. Rookie Terrance West will be taking over at the running back position, and it’ll be on him and the Browns running game to control the clock and keep the Saints offense off the field. The Saints aren’t always a great team on the road, but they should be able to move the ball against the Browns defense and outscore them if need be.

Spread Pick: Saints
Straight Pick: Saints

New England Patriots (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Vikings (+3.5)

Adrian Peterson has been deactivated over an issue involving him disciplining his child. That is a huge blow for the Vikings offense, although I won’t write them off completely given the Patriots haven’t been a great road team as of late, who are 2-7 in their last nine road games (including the playoffs). However, the Patriots rarely lose two games in a row. I expect the Patriots offensive line to hold up a lot better than they did in Week 1 vs. the Dolphins. This one will probably be close, but I think the Pats pull it out.

Spread Pick: Patriots
Straight Pick: Patriots

Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Giants (-1.5)

It is very concerning that the Cardinals will be without top pass-rusher John Abraham, and quarterback Carson Palmer has missed a lot of practice time with a shoulder injury this week. The Cardinals will likely dial up some blitzes to try and get after Eli Manning. If they are successful they might be able to pull off this road win. But it’s a short week for them and they are playing an early game on the East coast, which is not a good mix. The Cardinals have won in the Eastern time zone at times over the years, famously beating the Patriots in 2012. But their defense isn’t quite that good anymore, so I expect the Giants might win a squeaker.

Spread Pick: Giants
Straight Pick: Giants

Dallas Cowboys (0-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-0)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Titans (-3.5)

If the Titans win this game, I might have to start buying into the them. We’ll see if their defense can keep the Cowboys and Dez Bryant in check. But it certainly helps the Titans that they get the opportunity to face the Cowboys defense, which should allow Jake Locker all the time he needs to make the necessary throws and also be able to get their ground attack going. This is the pick this week that I have the feeling I will regret the most come Monday, but I’m going to pick the Cowboys in an upset.

Spread Pick: Cowboys
Straight Pick: Cowboys

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) at Washington Redskins (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Redskins (-5.5)

This is the sort of game where I have the feeling both quarterbacks will be running for their lives as they each play behind weak offensive lines. The Jaguars pass-rush showed up early against the Eagles last week, while it’s seemingly been a long time since Redskins edge-rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan really showed out in a game. For that reason, I think the Jaguars keep it close. But ultimately, I’m hopeful that Alfred Morris and the Redskins ground game gets going to pull out the victory.

Spread Pick: Jaguars
Straight Pick: Redskins

Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at San Diego Chargers (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 at 4:05 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Chargers (+5.5)

The Chargers won’t play scared against the Seahawks defense, but that doesn’t exactly play into their favor. They will have to run the ball effectively, which they didn’t do last week. It just seems like a healthy Seahawks team will overwhelm the Chargers in the same manner they did against the Packers last week. They have several days of rest, while the Chargers are on a short week. It has all the earmarks of a blowout.

Spread Pick: Seahawks
Straight Pick: Seahawks

St. Louis Rams (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Bucs (-5.5)

This is an interesting matchup because the Rams pass rush is fearsome going up against a weak Buccaneers offensive line. But the Rams have their fair share of problems with shoddy quarterback play. Quarterback Shaun Hill is questionable and the Rams pass-rush won’t be quite as good without Chris Long in the lineup. The positive for the Rams is that they shouldn’t have to worry about getting down too early against a ho-hum Bucs offense. The winner of this game will likely be the team that runs the ball the best, and right now I feel more comfortable with the Bucs and Doug Martin at home.

Spread Pick: Rams
Straight Pick: Bucs

Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)
Sunday, September 14 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Broncos (-13.5)

The season-ending injuries to Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito that the Chiefs suffered last week will make it very difficult for them to matchup against the Broncos offense. Their hope will be to get Jamaal Charles going and slow down Peyton Manning by keeping him off the field. It’s a nice theory, but simply just isn’t reality. But it’s a pretty large spread, and thus I think the Chiefs will find a way to cover against a divisional opponent.

Spread Pick: Chiefs
Straight Pick: Broncos

New York Jets (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Packers (-8.5)

The Packers have had some extra days to prep for this game, which should allow them to be ready for a physical Jets team. The Jets have a formidable defense and thus will likely be able to attack the weakness the Packers have at right tackle in Derek Sherrod. But Geno Smith hasn’t been great on the road over his short career, and unless the Jets can get the ground game going, they might struggle to score points. But again, it’s a very large spread and thus I like the Jets’ chances to cover.

Spread Pick: Jets
Straight Pick: Packers

Houston Texans (1-0) at Oakland Raiders (0-1)
Sunday, September 14 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Raiders (+2.5)

The Raiders will need to rely on their ground attack to take pressure off rookie quarterback David Carr. The Texans did get beat on the ground last week vs. the Redskins, and to no one’s surprise, the Raiders struggled to run against the Jets front. Maurice Jones-Drew is questionable this week, so that doesn’t bode too well for the Raiders’ plans. Without many playmakers on defense, there doesn’t seem to be enough for the Raiders to stop the Texans offense.

Spread Pick: Texans
Straight Pick: Texans

Chicago Bears (0-1) at San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
Sunday, September 14 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC

*Line:: 49ers (-7.5)

With several members of their offensive line beat up as well as top wideouts Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, it seems next to impossible for the Bears to pull off this upset on the road. If there is any hope, it probably rests on the shoulders, back and legs of Matt Forte. Unfortunately, the Bears run defense has a lot to prove themselves, and they are facing one of the league’s most physical ground attacks. Not a recipe for success. Expect the Bears to have to deal with questions whether they can make the playoffs after an 0-2 start.

Spread Pick: 49ers
Straight Pick: 49ers

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
Monday, September 15 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

*Line:: Colts (-2.5)

Andrew Luck has a 14-3 record as a starter at home. They will rely on pressuring Nick Foles. The Colts don’t have much of a rush without Robert Mathis, but thankfully the Eagles offensive line is pretty beat up. The Colts focus on defense will be of course stopping LeSean McCoy, which will be a tough task. Luck has eight fourth-quarter comebacks in his two-year career, and I think there’s a good chance that number might be nine after Monday night.

Spread Pick: Colts
Straight Pick: Colts

About the Author

Aaron Freeman
Founder of FalcFans.com