Reality

Week 2: The Preview

Following on from Thursday nights O.C. Firing- defensive showdown between the Bengals and the Texans we thankfully have the rest of week 2 to look forward too! Let’s take a quick look at each match-up and have a stab at predicting a winner…

BROWNS @ RAVENS: 13-20
Prepare for another defensive show to start off with, the Ravens held Andy Dalton touchdown-less last week and completely shut down the Bengals offense. In the light of Thursday nights game this seems slightly less impressive but they certainly will have a shot of shutting out DeShaun Kizer too. The Ravens run game took a hit with the news that Danny Woodhead will be missing for at least 6 weeks with a hamstring issue, leaving Terrance West to carry the load, former Seahawk Alex Collins is promoted from the practice squad to replace Woodhead. Flacco managed only 9 completeions for 121 yards last week although one of those completions was a 48yrd TD to new receiver Jeremy Maclin. If the two can combine again and get WR2 Mike Wallace involved then the passing game can at least threaten the Browns and keep them from bottling up West and Collins in the box. Browns Left Tackle Joe Thomas is about to set a record for 10,000 consecutive offensive snaps having not missing a play since his debut in2007. Is it tempting fate to ask how Browns would it be for him to fall down on 9,999?? Ouch. The rest of the team lacks his experience but played better than many predicted V the Steelers last week. Crowell will be key at R.B as will the decision over whether Duke Johnson will rush or play slot receiver as he did last week. Kizer is still raw in the passing game which showed at times (20-30, 222, 1 TD 1 INT) but if the team can lean on the running game and keep Kizer upright then he’ll make plays with feet and arm. If this, as expected, comes down to a battle of the D’s then the edge is with the Ravens.

BILLS @ PANTHERS: 16-24
The Bills own top slot in the AFC East which is a rare sight, and they do have a shot at staying there provided they keep Cam and his weapons bottled up. The Bills are one of three teams never to be defeated at Bank of America stadium (Dolphins and Titans being the other 2) and they are coached by former Panthers Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott who is slowly installing a simplified scheme in Buffalo. Tyrod Taylor had 2 TD passes last week and 38yrds rushing showing that he is a less glamourous version of Newton. 152 yrds between McCoy and Tolbert was proof that that the Bills are a Run-Heavy offense as expected, though Charles Clay at T.E and new WR Jordan Matthews should both see plenty of targets if Taylor gets time to throw. The Panthers had 4 sacks last week whilst giving up just 2 3rd down conversions (2-11) in a defensively dominant stand against a poor-looking 49ers, the Bills should provide more of a challenge. Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart look every bit as good as the Bills pairing at R.B and the W.R Group of Benjamin, Funchess, Shepard (53 yrds TD) and T.E Olsen are a more dynamic bunch which should allow them to outscore the Bills.

CARDINALS @ COLTS: 24-13
The big news for the Colts is that Jacoby Brissett will replace Scott Tolzien as the starting QB after relieving him in the 2nd half of last weeks heavy defeat. Brissett has nothing to lose in his first start so watch for him to break free with his legs in search of those difficult few yards as the colts try to put on a better offensive display than last week. Gore and Mack look likely to share snaps at R.B more-so than many thought. They eky to putting up points will be Adam Vinatieri who was 1-2 last week and needs to maximise the chances he gets if Brissett can drive the team to within scoring distance. As he is still learning the play-book TDs look like they’ll be few and far apart for now. For Arizona David Johnson is out for 8 weeks or more with a broken wrist so CJ2K is back with the team that released him in the pre-season. Apparently he’ll start behind kerwyne Williams on the R.B depth chart but as a proven contributor in this scheme I think we’ll see him sooner rather than later, especially if Carson Palmer continues to throw the ball to the opposition (3INTs last week). After 14 Interceptions last year it’s a bad start for Palmer who appears to be sliding down the QB scale rapidly. Larry Fitzgerald is the only worthwhile receiving target for now and should be a valuable contributor against a poor defensive unit, as could Andre Ellington catching passes from the backfield.

TITANS @ JAGS: 21-16
Last week the Jags defense had 10 sacks and an interception as they defeated the toothless Texan,s which was an excellent way to kickoff the season. A.J Bouye and Jalen Ramsey were fantastic at C.B and this may be enough to prevent Mariota looking deep this week, after having failed to find Eric Decker last week (just 1 catch) in what was a more favourable match-up with the Raiders. Should the Titans go run-heavy on offense then they have a good chance of keeping the Q.B cleaner than the Texans managed and should gain decent yardage without turning the ball over. The season-ending injury to Allen Robinson may rock the Jags passing game as they were already limiting Bortles to a handful of throws as they try to manage his turnover ratio, so, expect Fournette to be heavily lent on again. Speaking of running backs, DeMarco Murray was quiet last week and he rarely stays silent for long. He and Henry will be utilized more this week to help nullify the backfield D of the Jags. A tight-run based game all-round usually comes down to a moment of magic from one Q.B or the other, so I’m tipping Mariota to get the Titans season up and running.

EAGLES @ CHIEFS: 13-27
Kansas city dominated the reigning champs last weekend by excelling in the pass rush and getting runners and receivers into open space whilst protecting Alex Smith on offense. If they can replicate this performance this time then it looks like their game all the way. The Eagles defensive front (Cox, Graham and Jernigan etc) should provide a tougher test of the Chiefs O-Line than the Patriots managed and they now have film on rookie sensation Kareen Hunt who caught the Pats napping, so he may be a little less of a surprise weapon. Without Eric Berry (season ending knee injury) the Kansas City defense could be picked apart a little more easily provided Wentz manages to stay clean in the pocket. Over 300 yards passing last week at an above career average of 66.7 completion showed that Wentz is constantly progressing and more than capable of leading the Eagles to many more victories. The run game was a disappointment though and he’ll need more from Blount and Sproles if his next W is to come this week. Chiefs R.B Hunt outplayed the Pats by himself and W.R Tyreek Hill is faster than anyone on the Eagles defense so I’m expecting more of the same just a little bit closer on overall score to account for the Eagles better rush which should do a better job of pressuring Smith into throwing earlier and for shorter completions.

PATRIOTS @ SAINTS: 24-27
The two oldest starting QBs in the league square off with their teams both looking to bounce back from 0-1 starts last week. Brady will be without Amendola (concussion) as well as Edelman (season I.R) so he’ll need more than 96yards from Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan this week. More importantly Brady needs Gronk to be Gronk after he caught just 2-6 last week and dropped a go-ahead TD pass. Expect more from Burkhead and White out of the backfield to soak up Amendolas targets too. The shout yardage work will be on Gillislees shoulders and that’s fine but the Pats need to get the rest of the offense in synch asap. Brees meanwhile has plenty of receivers to throw too (Thomas, Ginn, Lewis, Fleener and even former Pat Austin Carr) what he needs is an established run game to take the pressure off of these players. Ingram (17 yards from 6 carries) Kamara (18-7) and Peterson (18-6) should find life easier against the Patriots than the formidable Vikings D line. Especially look for Karama to break into the open-field on 3rd down. Belichick is likely to have the Patriots turned around at some point but to rectify all the problems after just one week seems unlikely. Neither Defense has enough to outclass the opposing Offense and usually I’d take Brady in a shootout, but with so many weapons injured or struggling im riding Brees this week. 16-0 becomes 0-2.

VIKINGS @ STEELERS: 27-20
Sam Bradford underwent an MRI on his twice reconstructed knee this week but seems to have been given the all clear, this is great news for the Vikings who mostly cruised to victory over the Saints last week but will need to fight harder this time out against a packed Steelers squad. Adam Theilen (157 yrds) and Stephon Diggs (93 yrds 2 TDs) proved to be an excellent W.R combo which helped to open the road up for rookie R.B Dalvin Cook to break Petersons rookie rushing record for the Vikings (127 yrds) and cement himself ahead of Latavious Murray on the depth chart. When this offense is mixed with the defense which allowed only 2.9 yrds per rush and 284 yrds passing against a loaded Saints offense it appears that the Vikes have a special combination on their hands. The Steelers got the victory last week but without the luck (?) of a blocked punt and playing against a rookie QB they may not have looked so good. Remember they only won by 3pts despite having a much better team on paper than the Browns. LeVeon Bell had only 32 yrds on 10 carries and 15 yrds receiving which is hardly a great show from the supposed best back in the league. If he doesn’t improve this week then the pressure will be on Big Ben and Antonio Brown to produce the yardage needed to win and Ben on the road isn’t the Ben we see at home, he has a lower completion %, few yards per attempt and a TD pass percentage down by two thirds over his home record. Despite the upgrade in play of the Steelers defense last week , (TJ Watt 2 sacks 1 INT on debut), if the offense isn’t fully up to speed against this Vikings team that seems to have it all motoring then it won’t be good enough to win.

BEARS @ BUCCS: 17-30
This is the first game of the season for the Buccs following the hurricane disruption to their schedule and they will doubtless be a little rusty, However, looking at the squad and, in particular, the offense I have this down as a big win for them to kickoff their season. Jamis Winston is one of the best young QBs in the league and now he has a great wide receiver duo to throw to as DeSean Jackson has come over from the Redskins to bring his field stretching abilities into play alongside Mike Evans’s brute physicality. Watch out as these two look to dominate defences and gain huge chunks of yardage downfield. Doug Martin is suspended until game 4 for Jacquizz Rogers will start at R.B having done well last year when he stepped into Martins shoes (560yrds, 2 TDs). With a Mike Smith coached Defense that looks to have improved with the addition of T.J ward at safety this Buccs team could really surprise a few people. Speaking of surprises, the Bears played well enough last week to have a shot at winning the game with the final possession. Ok they came up short against the Falcons but at least they hung in there. The loss of another W.R (Kevin White) after the preseason loss of Cameron Meredith leaves them so thin in this position that points may be difficult to find through the passing game, but they do have Tarik Cohen from the backfield (113 yrds total and 1TD last week) who could help to relieve some pressure from Glennon at al. This will not be the best game to judge Glennon as the W.R cupboard is Bear (!) even though he’d love a little revenge against Tampa Bay.

DOLPHINS @ CHARGERS: 21-24
Phillip Rivers and the Chargers were unlucky to lose last Monday at Denver when a last gasp field goal attempt was deflected onto the post and they went down 21-24. Melvin Gordon (79yrds TD) and Keenan Allen (35yrds, TD) were prime examples on the weaponry that Rivers has at his disposal, on a team that is fully fit offensively for the first time in 2 years. The Defense also seems to have taken a step forward with Bosa (1.5 sacks) and Ingram (1.5 sacks) rolling early on. The Dolphins, like the Buccs, haven’t played yet and will doubtless be behind the 8-ball to start with. The Tannehill-Cutler transition doesn’t concern me as it’s like for like and the receivers group (Stills, Landry, Parker) returns in full alongside newly acquired Julius Thomas at T.E, it’s the running game that provides more questions as Jay Ajayi lit up the league last year with 3 200yrd running games but barely 600yards over the other 12 games he played. If he finds consistency then this team is very good. If not, then a rollercoaster year awaits. I’ll reserve judgement on the Dolphins D until they play but they’ll need to come out fighting against a loaded offense for their first match-up.

JETS@ RAIDERS: 16-27
NYJ Started the year as my pick for no.1 overall in next year’s draft, and, despite the colts awful play, they remain firmly a-top of my draft chart as, unlike Indianapolis they don’t have a saviour at QB waiting in the wings. Josh McCown played the role of himself perfectly with 187 yards and 2 INTs as the offense struggled to gain momentum. Powell and Forte had a huge 38 yards between them which certainly contributed to the need for McCown to throw more. The only bright spark on offense was Jermaine Kearse who has picked up the playbook quickly and looked assured catching 7-9 for 59 yards. The D game up 23 first downs and 190 rushing yards against an average Bills team so imagine what a better squad could do. Welcome Marshawn Lynch… Beast Mode was back last week ploughing through defenders on his return to the game and helping Oakland past a good Titans team. Crabtree, Cooper and Seth Roberts (Raiders have never lost when he gets a TD) all contributed in the passing game as Derek Carr managed 262 yards passing on his injury return. The defense held up well against a Titans team stacked with power and play-making ability so they should have no trouble handling the Jets.

COWBOYS @ DENVER: 21-20
Denver won a one-score game late on by the skin of their teeth against the Chargers, this week it could be a role reversal as their excellent Defense looks to come up short against a Cowboys team packed with offensive talent. The cowboys had their work supposedly cut out for them last week against the Giants D, but despite the receivers being contained a 104 yards from Elliott on the ground got the team moving and in the end Offense won out. The Denver D is no better than the Giants so I’d expect more of the same here. For Denver to compete Trevor Siemian will need to get bigger plays from Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Saunders out wide as they had less than 100 yards between them last week. For me this is one of the best match ups of the week and should see a lot of hard-hitting action as Denver tries to withstand Elliott and co. Comes down to the kickers, and I take Dan Bailey over Brandon McManus this time.

REDSKINS @ RAMS: 13-20
Before the season I had the Redskins as a sneaky push for the playoffs, thinking that Tyrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder could match the output of Garcon and Jackson from last year. Now, it’s too early to say they can’t but it didn’t look like a good pick after last week’s feeble showing against the eagles. The NFC East is a packed division and no one can afford to fall behind so a loss for the Redskins here really torpedoes their early hopes. Cousins cannot replicate his 23-40 1TD 1 INT performance from last week if the Redskins are thinking of victory. The fact that Cousins led the team in rushing with 30 yards points to where a great deal of the problem lies. Pryors 2 drops were costly and he needs to put that behind him quickly, Crowder had just 14 yards from 7 receptions and is apparently struggling with injury this week. The Rams blow-out win over the Colts surprised a lot of people, me included, but what didn’t surprise anyone was how awesome the defense looked. Que the return of Aaron Donald… I wouldn’t want to be Kirk Cousins as Donald proves his worth to the team… The Redskins couldn’t rush last week and they’ll struggle this week against such a strong front 7. If Gough continues to find Watkins (5-58) and rookie standout Cooper Kupp (76 yards and a TD) then the Rams could dominate again.

49ers @SEAHAWKS: 10-27 LOCK OF THE WEEK
The Seahawks are licking some wounds after narrowly failing to contain Aaron Rogers last week. The O-Line was porous and Russell Wilson found himself scampering around again and again. 0 TDs and 0 INTs for 158 yards is all he could manage. Things should be a little easier this time out as the 49ers didn’t manage a sack last week and didn’t look overly threatening upfront. If Wilson has time to pick out Lockett, Baldwin and co then the pressure will be off the returning Thomas Rawls at R.B to deliver. Jimmy Graham is a T.E in need after just 8 yards of offense last week. The team needs him more involved. The 49ers had 1 field goal last week as Hoyer went 24-35 with one INT. There is nothing to recommend a much better performance this time out, C.J Beathard must be anticipating some action sooner rather than later. T.E George Kittle did look a good pick and Carlos Hyde was doing well before the team moved away from the run so it’s not all doom and gloom, just mostly. This is only going one way regardless of Shermans availability at C.B for the Seahawks.

PACKERS @ FALCONS: 21-24
Green Bay contained Russell Wilson not because they were great but because the Seahawks O-Line is poor, that is not the case with the Falcons who protect Matt Ryan really well. They’ll be looking to open holes for Freeman and Coleman who struggled last week against the Bears, and if the ground games gets going then Green Bay could be in trouble trying to stack the box and leaving Julio and Sanu in single coverage outside. Speaking of Jones, he was only targeted 5 Times last week (66yards), you’ll see that increase this week for sure as the Falcons look to show that the Packers D is still the Packers D. Rogers has a full complement of weapons again and will need them all and then some. He also needs the O-line to keep Vic Beasley and company off his back and to try to restrict the scrambles required before he unleashes passes downfield. Look for Martellus Bennett to be on the field a lot, firstly as a blocker but then a TD threat if Green Bay falls behind. Close one to call. 1 score game.

LIONS @ GIANTS: 21-20
The Giants have 20 or fewer points in their last 7 games and that seems unlikely to be enough against the Lions who just keep coming back when the chips are down. Stafford looks composed at all times, even during what looked like a poor defeat last week he pulled it out again (4TDs 1 INT) for an 8th 4th quarter comeback in the last 17 games. Kenny Golloday (2 TDs) was a monster on the field and may be the new Calvin Johnson if he continues to threaten the end zone. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate added to Golloday make this a very Ariel team indeed. The Giants D kept the Cowboys receivers quiet last week but didn’t do so well against the run, so watch out for Abdullah to break through the line after a tough game last week. As for the Giants… Eli need Beckham, Eli needs a run game, Eli needs a defense. If any of those a missing Eli needs to retire. Should be tight but Lions squeak it.

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