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Pudge’s Picks – Week 2

Last week, I went 11-5 on my picks against the spread. I’m off to a good start with the New York Jets managing to cover the huge 12.5-point spread (per ESPN) from Thursday night’s game against the New England Patriots.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford

I figure the key this week will be trying not to overreact to the Week 1 performances. Obviously, one has to make some adjustments, but I shouldn’t be making wild swings of opinions based off one game.

All lines are from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em contest.

St. Louis Rams (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-2)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Falcons (-7.5)

Earlier this week, I felt pretty good about the Falcons covering this one. I just had a feeling that Sam Bradford would come into the Georgia Dome and struggle, and Mike Nolan’s defense could force multiple interceptions to allow the Falcons to win by 10 or more. But given how beat up the Falcons are going into Sunday, with what I would deem five of the 10 best players on the roster listed as questionable, I highly doubt the Falcons will roll over the Rams.

I think in the end, the Falcons manage to prevail, potentially on another last-minute drive by Matt Ryan to set up a Matt Bryant field goal. But either way, it’s likely to be a one-score game, thus there’s no reason to pick the Falcons to cover. The only real debate here is whether or not the injuries are enough for you to think the Rams could come into the Georgia Dome and win. It’s certainly possible, but at this point I put my trust in Mike Nolan and Matt Ryan a little more than I do Sam Bradford and Tim Walton.

Spread Pick: Rams
Straight Pick: Falcons

Carolina Panthers (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-1)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Bills (+2.5)

Now, this is the type of game which would lend itself to a Week 1 overreaction. The Bills played the Patriots tough at home last week, while the Panthers lost (or rather choked) at home against the Seahawks. With the Bills again at home, this should probably mean that I should pick them. But I’m going with the Panthers for the following reasons:

  1. The Bills’ offense is built on their rushing attack, and I think that Panthers front seven is going to shut that down.
  2. Stevie Johnson could be dangerous against a weak Panthers secondary, but I don’t think E.J. Manuel is quite at the point where he’ll be able to take full advantage of that weakness.
  3. Stephon Gilmore is still out which means Justin Rogers will likely draw the assignment of Steve Smith.
  4. The Bills also allowed 158 rushing yards to the Patriots last week, with a Panther offense that is predicated on the run.
  5. The Bills also got gashed by mobile QBs last year, so unless defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has made significant improvements there, the matchup against Cam Newton doesn’t bode well.

Spread Pick: Panthers
Straight Pick: Panthers

Minnesota Vikings (0-1) at Chicago Bears (1-0)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Bears (-6.5)

You can always trust Adrian Peterson to break one long run in nearly every game, which is the main reason why he put up 100-plus yards on the Bears defense twice last season. But for the most part, outside that one breakaway run the Bears, they have done a (relatively) good job containing Peterson. But the question is raised whether a defense helmed by D.J. Williams is going to be as effective as one helmed by Brian Urlacher, even an over the hill version. Charles Tillman got exposed a couple of times last week against A.J. Green, but thankfully he was playing against Andy Dalton, which helped him get two picks. He’ll have another favorable matchup this week with Christian Ponder, and Jerome Simpson is no A.J. Green. The Bears should also get credit for not giving up a sack to that formidable Bengals’ front. As long as they can contain Peterson (maybe just give up one 60-yard touchdown run instead of two), and can attack those weak Vikings corners, I think the Bears should be fine at home.

Spread Pick: Bears
Straight Pick: Bears

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Chiefs (-2.5)

It bothers me that despite having a 19-point halftime lead, the Chiefs run-pass balance against Jacksonville in the second half was 12:16. Looks like Andy Reid might be up to his old tricks. I do like that the Chiefs pass rush was on point, with six sacks. That could be the difference if they are to win given Tony Romo is nursing sore ribs. The Cowboys’ run defense really wasn’t tested last week with only 14 called runs by the Giants to to their running backs. So I’m not sure if Jamaal Charles’ rushing could mean the difference here. Monte Kiffin’s defenses are known for getting gashed for huge yardage, but Monte Kiffin hasn’t coordinated an NFL defense since 2009, so that conventional wisdom may not be applicable.

This game really boils down to which team’s pass rush I like more to create havoc for the opposing team. The Cowboys will be playing Brian Waters for the first time this year, which should be a significant upgrade over Mackenzy Bernadeau. I’m not a believer in Chiefs’ guards Jeff Allen or Geoff Schwartz, and there may be times when rookie Eric Fisher is matched up against DeMarcus Ware, which bodes poorly for Kansas City. That makes me lean towards the Cowboys, but Dallas is always very hit and miss on the road.

Spread Pick: Cowboys
Straight Pick: Cowboys

Washington Redskins (0-1) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Packers (-7.5)

The Packers did a good job containing Colin Kaepernick last week (only 22 yards rushing), so I’m not as worried about RG3’s mobility gashing them. The Packers still remain one-dimensional offensively (no running game) with a porous offensive line. But it’s Aaron Rodgers and he’ll be facing a young Redskins secondary that is headed by DeAngelo Hall. So that bodes very well for the Packers’ passing attack having a big game. The issue they have to deal with is whether or not Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan will rip through tackles David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay as Aldon Smith did last week. The Packers defense really should only have to worry about Alfred Morris having a big game. But given they bottled up the 49ers rushing attack (68 combined yards from the running backs), that shouldn’t be a major issue. Basically the Redskins are going to need RG3 to really play lights out in this one, and I don’t think he’s quite ready for that given his rust from a week ago.

Spread Pick: Packers
Straight pick: Packers

Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (0-1)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Ravens (-6.5)

The Ravens got exposed quite a bit in their season-opening contest against the Broncos. But thankfully, they won’t be facing Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, or Demaryius Thomas in this one. Instead it’s Brandon Weeden, Davone Bess, Jordan Cameron, and Greg Little. At home, I see the Ravens’ defense playing much better. Cameron Wake destroyed Mitchell Schwartz last week, and I expect Elvis Dumervil to have similar success. The main question I have about this game is whether the Ravens’ offense will be able to score points against a solid Browns defense. If the Browns can contain Ray Rice like they did Dolphins’ backs last week (18 carries, 17 yards), and Joe Haden can lock down Torrey Smith, we have the makings a low-scoring affair, which will make it tough for the Ravens to cover. At this point, I’m counting on the Ravens’ offense we glimpsed in the first half vs. Denver as showing up for the entire game against Cleveland.

Spread Pick: Ravens
Straight Pick: Ravens

Tennessee Titans (1-0) at Houston Texans (1-0)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Texans (-9.5)

The Texans got off to a very slow start against the Chargers last week, while the Titans shut down the Steelers. This is another instance of trying to not overreact to the first week. Before last Sunday, I would have expected the Texans to roll in this one. Arian Foster and Ben Tate should be able to produce, and J.J. Watt would give Chance Warmack a very ignominious introduction to the NFL. So I’m not really going to change my opinion. Unlike the Steelers, I don’t see the Texans getting behind early with some first half turnovers. The Steeler’s pass protection and running game were non-existent as well, putting Roethlisberger in some bad situations. I don’t see that happening with the Texans and Schaub at home.

Spread Pick: Texans
Straight Pick: Texans

Miami Dolphins (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (1-0)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Colts (-3.5)

The Colts have some injuries. Vick Ballard is out, Dwayne Allen doubtful, and a couple of linebackers may also be limited. The positive from that is that the dropoffs from Ballard to Ahmad Bradshaw and Allen to Coby Fleener aren’t huge. And the Colts’ linebackers were a weakness to begin with, so they won’t be missed all that much even if backups get extended reps. This game for the Colts might just come down to slowing down Cameron Wake. With time, Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, and T.Y. Hilton should create problems for that Dolphins’ secondary. But Wake will be facing Gosder Cherilus, and that could spell trouble for Indianapolis.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Vick

Spread Pick: Dolphins
Straight Pick: Colts

San Diego Chargers (0-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
Sunday, September 15 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Eagles (-7.5)

This is a game where I could also fall into the trap of overreacting to the first week. The Chargers fell apart in the second half against the Texans, and the Eagles looked really strong through the early portion of their win over the Redskins. If the Eagles get off to a similar start, then unlike the Redskins, the Chargers shouldn’t be able to keep pace. But I can’t simply think that way. But I do think the matchups favor the Eagles. The early kickoff time won’t help the Chargers get off to a fast start on a short week. And the weakness of the Eagles’ defense is their running defense, which isn’t the strength of the Chargers’ offense. The issue is going to be whether the Chargers’ defense can slow down Chip Kelly’s up-tempo attack. I don’t think it’ll happen with the Chargers’ weak corners.

Spread Pick: Eagles
Straight Pick: Eagles

Detroit Lions (1-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-1)
Sunday, September 15 at 4:05 pm ET on FOX

Line: Cardinals (+0.5)

The Lions are notoriously bad on the road under Jim Schwartz (9-23), so I do understand the line somewhat. But I think on a neutral field, the Lions should be favored by a bit more than a field goal, which this line is basically indicating since the home team automatically gets three points. The first question I have for this game is whether Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush will be as effective against Patrick Peterson and an underrated Cardinals’ front seven? The second is can the Cardinals’ offensive line stand up to the relentless front four of the Lions? For the first question, I do think the Lions won’t have as much success moving the ball against the Cardinals as they did against the Lions. But I do think Suh and the boys will more than compensate and probably force Carson Palmer into a couple of turnovers this week as Robert Quinn and Chris Long did a week ago. That will limit how effective Larry Fitzgerald is, as he could have a field day against the weak Lions’ secondary.

Spread Pick: Lions
Straight Pick: Lions

New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
Sunday, September 15 at 4:05 pm ET on FOX

Line: Bucs (+3.5)

Did Greg Schiano throw Josh Freeman under the bus this week? I don’t know, but it seems like the Bucs are in disarray coupled with their last-minute collapse against the Jets. Without factoring that in, I would like the Bucs’ secondary against the Saints’ passing attack, especially at home. If the Bucs could get Doug Martin going against a mediocre Saints’ front, I would probably pick the Bucs. But it looks like guard Carl Nicks will sit out another one, and with everything surrounding Schiano, things don’t look promising. I think the Saints are vulnerable, and the Bucs traditionally have played the Saints tough in the Sean Payton Era. The Bucs need to win this game in order to get their season back on track, but given all that has occurred over the past seven days, I’d feel a bit foolish for picking them. But then I have to consider whether or not I’m overreacting to Week 1.

Spread Pick: Saints
Straight Pick: Saints

Denver Broncos (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
Sunday, September 15 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS

Line: Giants (+5.5)

Eli has lost both “Manning Bowls” i.e. games which feature the Manning Brothers going toe to toe.  And given that Denver is a much better team than New York, it doesn’t look good for him to win the third. Initially when doing my season predictions, I pegged this game as one of only three Broncos losses this year. I might have to backtrack on that one. I do think the Giants will play much better than they did a week ago against the Cowboys, as there’s no way they turn the ball over six times again. But the matchups will be tough to overcome. I like that the Broncos’ pass rush was mostly non-existent with Von Miller out of the lineup vs. Baltimore, at least until they were able to pin their ears back late with a substantial lead. That should give Eli plenty of time to find his trio of receivers (including a fully healthy Victor Cruz) and attack the Bronco’s defense that will be without Champ Bailey once again. But the Giants have some injuries in their secondary too, and unless Jason Pierre-Paul and that pass rush can really get after Peyton, I don’t see them being able to keep pace with the Broncos. This one smells like a shoot-out.

Spread Pick: Giants
Straight Pick: Broncos

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-1)
Sunday, September 15 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS

Line: Raiders (-6.5)

Frankly, this is the battle for the No. 1 pick as the loser of this game will be the front-runner for the top selection in April 2014. Terrelle Pryor gashed the Colts’ defense last week with his running, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t do the same against the Jaguars. But the problem with young, inexperienced quarterbacks like Pryor is that you can never really count on them to show up the same week in and week out. This was the problem with Michael Vick during his days in Atlanta, and I don’t see that much difference between him then and Pryor now. The positive for the Jaguars is that Blaine Gabbert is out, and Chad Henne will start for them. Although that’s like choosing between brown snow and yellow snow. Jacksonville is down to both of their second-string cornerbacks on a defense that probably already had the league’s weakest pair. But again, will that matter if Pryor struggles to throw the ball effectively?

Spread Pick: Jaguars
Straight Pick: Raiders

San Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
Sunday, September 15 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC

Line: Seahawks (-2.5)

Another game that is vulnerable to a Week 1 overreaction. I liked the Seahawks in this contest going into the season, since I pegged the Seahawks to be virtually unbeatable at home this year on their way to a Super Bowl. But they looked sluggish last week, and couldn’t get much of any pressure against Carolina. But Cliff Avril’s return should help there. And there’s a slim possibility that Chris Clemons might also be in the lineup. I think that Seahawks offense should be energized by the home crowd and I think it’s going to be a much tighter ball game that it was at the end of last season.

Spread Pick: Seahawks
Straight Pick: Seahawks

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
Monday, September 16 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

Line: Bengals (-7.5)

The Steelers lost Maurkice Pouncey for the year last week, and their line gave up five sacks to the Titans. This week, they are going up against the front four that I believe is the best in the league. But the Steelers have played very well against the Bengals over the years, including a 24-17 road win a year thanks largely to Andy Dalton’s inability to complete passes in the second half (4 of 14 for 40 yards). I expect the Steelers defense to respond this week, and result in another lackluster Dalton performance. The concern is whether the Steelers will have any luck moving the ball against the Bengals’ defense. Roethlisberger’s mobility helps, but unless Antonio Brown and Co. can really exploit that Bengals’ secondary then I don’t see much success this week. Missing Heath Miller just really takes a key element out of the Steelers’ offense. I think the Steelers defense makes it close, but unless they can force multiple Dalton turnovers (certainly possible), I don’t see the Steelers winning.

Spread Pick: Steelers
Straight Pick: Bengals

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Author: Aaron Freeman

Aaron is the founder of FalcFans.com.

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