Cardinals, Ravens, Giants Are Strong Underdogs in Week 2

Before diving headfirst into this week’s picks, it’s important to take a look back at the NFL’s opening week to try to make some sense out of what happened.

First, the surprises.

INDY (-7) over Jacksonville

Final score: Colts 14, Jaguars 12
It’s sort of understood among NFL followers that the Colts aren’t the gargantuan juggernaut they once were, but to only beat a disheveled Jaguars team 14-12 in Week 1 will hopefully not be the start of an unpredictable and sporadic team.

CAROLINA (+1) over Philadelphia

Final score: Eagles 38, Panthers 10
Jake Delhomme began the “Always Bet Against Jake Delhomme” campaign early this year. Yuck.

Kansas City (+13) over BALTIMORE

Final score: Ravens 38, Chiefs 24
Even without Matt Cassel under center, the Chiefs were able to cover the spread. Until the Ravens had to go and score a touchdown with 31 seconds left, covering the spread and crushing my soul.

ARIZONA (-6.5) over San Francisco

Final score:, 49ers 20, Cardinals 16
Apparently, the Cardinals aren’t interested in disrupting history and will be content to join the long list of Super Bowl losers to fail to make the playoffs the next season. Put this one under the “Woof” category.

NEW ENGLAND (-11) over Buffalo
Final score: Patriots 25, Bills 24

San Diego (-9.5) over OAKLAND

Final score: Chargers 24, Raiders 20

The two surest bets turned out to be flops, a reminder of just how fickle this football game can be. Though Monday may have been somewhat of a disaster, there’s one guarantee: I won’t miss two games on a Monday night for the rest of the year. Whether that is due to the fact that there won’t be two games on a Monday night again is irrelevant. Completely irrelevant.

Now, onto Week 2 (home team in caps).

ATLANTA (-6.5) vs. Carolina

Matt Ryan looked comfortable last week in a convincing win over the defending AFC East champion Dolphins. Meanwhile, Delhomme was spewing interceptions at an impossible rate. Until he has a good game, it’s just too hard to count on the Panthers.

Minnesota (-10) over DETROIT
Adrian Peterson looked like Adrian Peterson in Week 1. The Lions looked like the Lions.

Cincinnati (+9) over GREEN BAY
The Bengals showed they can hang with the Broncos, a team assumed to be a contender in the AFC West. Cincinnati had it won, save for a toe-on-the-line interception by the Bengals and an are-you-kidding-me miracle reception by the Broncos. Carson Palmer (21-of-33, 247 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT) and Cedric Benson (21 carries, 76 yards, TD) put up solid numbers while the defense held the Broncos to just 215 yards before that final 87-yard play.

The Packers, on the other hand, showed they had a few holes, trailing the Bears in just about every statistical category except points. Though Week 1 performances aren’t enough to make too many judgments, the Bengals are a pretty safe pick to keep it relatively close.

TENNESSEE (-6.5) over Houston
The Houston Texans were anointed as the shocking sleeper to come out of the AFC this season. After putting up a stinker against the Jets, that movement is dying. Even the Houston crowd seemed to have completely shifted its collective mindset by the third quarter.

That said, the Titans’ loss to the Steelers proved that not all losses are equal, as they went toe-to-toe with the defending champs and barely lost in a 15-round heavyweight bout. Steve Slaton ran for just 17 yards in the opener, so you have to think the Texans will get more out of him. Still, Tennessee has the arsenal to take care of this one.

KANSAS CITY (-3) over Oakland
After Oakland’s performance against the San Diego Super Chargers in front of a national audience, picking the Silver and Black will be a popular choice this week. In case you don’t yet know, I’m not popular.

The Chiefs may get Matt Cassel back, but even if they don’t, it’s nearly impossible to pick the Raiders in a three-point spread on the road as long as they have JaMarcus Russell (12-for-30, TD, 2 INTs in Week 1’s loss) under center.

NEW YORK JETS (+4) over New England

The Patriots may get their offense on track and just may end up obliterating the Jets, but a tight game — and maybe even a Jets win — seems much more likely.

For starters, the Patriots’ defense looked lost on Monday night, and with a short week to prepare for the Jets, it may not get any better. Second, without Jerod Mayo in the middle of the defense, the Patriots will have a hard time stopping Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, who combined for 167 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against Houston.

For the Jets, Mark Sanchez showed grace under pressure in his debut, making a number of big plays while minimizing mistakes. Granted, that was against Houston, and I’d bet a nice pair of shoes that the Patriots come equipped with a little something more to confuse the 22-year-old signal-caller.
Still, as it stands now, Sanchez looks capable, and against a suspect New England defense, that’s all the Jets may need from him.

New Orleans over PHILADELPHIA (pick ‘em)

Wait. Drew Brees throws for six touchdowns, Donovan McNabb breaks a rib, and the Saints aren’t favored to win? I know the Eagles won in a blowout, but that was courtesy of Mr. Delhomme’s generosity. You have to like the Saints’ chances to win this one. You just do.

WASHINGTON (-10) over St. Louis

“Ten-point line” and “Washington Redskins” are two words that don’t necessarily go hand in hand. They also don’t inspire an overwhelming amount of confidence. But after Washington’s valiant performance in Week 1 and St. Louis’ abysmal showing against the Seahawks, it’s hard not to take the Skins.

Arizona (+3) over JACKSONVILLE
Similar to the Raiders, the Jaguars are sure to be a popular pick this week after they competed with the Colts. But it’s too soon to give up on the Cardinals and it’s way too soon to trust the Jags.

BUFFALO (-5) over Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers  gave up touchdown passes of 42 yards, 66 yards and 80 yards to the Cowboys. The Bills have Terrell Owens and Lee Evans. If someone — maybe a coach, maybe a fan – alerts Trent Edwards of this fact, the Bills are in position to pick up a big win after a devastating loss.

Seattle (+1.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

The Niners win one game, and we’re ready to call them favorites? I need to see more before I’d even think about picking them.

Pittsburgh (-3) over CHICAGO

No Troy Polamalu? No running game? No problem. Jay Cutler clearly has a lot to learn about his new offense after throwing four picks Sunday night. The Steelers will win this one, and  count  on Hines Ward making it all the way  into the end zone so it can be by more than a field goal.

DENVER (-3) over Cleveland
OK, so the Broncos didn’t exactly look like Super Bowl champs in Week 1, but the Browns hardly looked like they could be Big East champs. The Browns’ defense got scorched for 180 yards rushing – by Adrian Peterson alone. In all, Minnesota stomped for 225 yards on the ground as the Browns were worn out and outscored 24-7 in the second half.

Denver won’t need much from Kyle Orton, aside from handing the ball off to Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno.

Baltimore (+3) over SAN DIEGO
It was apparently headline-worthy when LaDainian Tomlinson opted to actually participate in this year’s preseason. Now, after just one week of real football, L.T. is already banged up. That’s bad news for the Chargers, who needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Raiders. The Raiders. The … Raiders!

Baltimore didn’t light the world on fire in its opener, allowing Brodie Croyle to throw for a pair of scores. Still, the defense is stout, and the offense is capable of traveling across the country and picking up a win.

New York Giants (+3) over DALLAS

Whenever the oddsmakers are giving the New York Giants points, you might want to take them. Even if some stadium with a giant HDTV is opening for the first time. Just take the points.

Indianapolis (-3) over MIAMI

Another Monday night and another mystery pick. Both teams stunk (relative to last year) in their openers, but you have to like Peyton Manning’s chances as he returns to the field where he won the Super Bowl.

Last week: 8-8

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