NFL GAME-BY-GAME PREDICTIONS – WEEK 2

By: Arvind Pendurthi

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (Thursday, 8:25PM)

 Week 1 Results
Steelers: W (30-27) vs. Cleveland Browns
Ravens: L (16-23) vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Though it took a last-second Shaun Suisham field goal to put the Browns away, the Steelers looked good in week 1. Second year running back Le’Veon Bell had a monster performance, rushing for 109 yards and added 88 yards through the air. He showed an excellent combination of power and finesse, breaking tackles and making smart reads. If Bell has a similar performance against a Ravens defense that held Cincinnati to just 79 yards on the ground last week, the Steelers will coast to victory.

Baltimore’s season has gotten off to a rocky start; the team cut its star running back, Ray Rice, in the wake of his domestic abuse scandal. This puts the weight of the run game on the shoulders of Bernard Pierce, who is coming off a concussion, and Justin Forsett. The latter had a strong showing against the Bengals with a yards per carry (YPC) average of 6.36. To win even one game this season, however, the Ravens will need to balance their offensive attack; Joe Flacco’s unbelievable 62 pass attempts last week cannot be repeated.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are both teams with historically strong defenses, but that is simply not the case anymore – this game will be decided offensively. Between Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, rising talent Markus Wheaton and Bell, the Steelers have too much firepower for the Ravens’ run-of-the-mill defense to handle.

Players to Watch: Le’Veon Bell (RB – PIT), Torrey Smith (WR – BAL)

Prediction: Steelers 27, Ravens 13


MIAMI DOLPHINS AT BUFFALO BILLS (Sunday, 1:00PM) 

Week 1 Results:
Dolphins: W (33-20) vs. New England Patriots
Bills: W (23-20 OT) vs. Chicago Bears

Two teams fresh off upset victories go head-to-head in a battle for the AFC East this week. The Dolphins took a while to heat up, turning the ball over on three consecutive possessions early on. In the second half, however, they destroyed the Patriots on offense, defense, and even special teams in what turned out to be an impressive victory. Knowshon Moreno showcased his hardnosed running style, earning every one of his 134 yards. Look for him to lead the Dolphins’ backfield in carries for the second week in a row, with Lamar Miller (5.36 YPC) occasionally providing a fresh, equally-effective set of legs.

EJ Manuel received heavy criticism for his poor preseason play; he silenced the critics by scoring a touchdown with his arm and another with his legs in week 1. The Bills’ run game was spearheaded by CJ Spiller, although veteran back Fred Jackson proved to be more effective, setting up Buffalo’s game-winning field goal with a powerful 38-yard run. The Bills’ defense managed to contain Marc Trestman’s high-octane offense, but they are sorely missing Kiko Alonso’s (ACL tear) terrifying presence in the middle of the field.

Miami typically does not perform well when playing in Buffalo – for example, last year’s week 16 blowout loss with a playoff berth on the line – but this year looks to be a different story. New OC Bill Lazor utilizes star receiver Mike Wallace creatively, rather than just lobbing him deep balls. Furthermore, Miami’s front four, anchored by Cameron Wake (2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles in week 1), will pressure Manuel into mistakes and keep Buffalo’s running backs in check.

Players to Watch: Chris McCain (LB – MIA), CJ Spiller (RB – BUF)

Prediction: Dolphins 31, Bills 17


 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (Sunday, 1:00PM)

Week 1 Results:
Jaguars: L (17-34) at Philadelphia Eagles
Redskins: L (6-17) at Houston Texans

Jacksonville got off to a strong start last week as Chad Henne and undrafted free agent Allen Hurns connected for two touchdown passes in the 1st quarter. They went on to give up 34 straight points in the second half thanks to blown coverage and an offensive implosion. Henne performed well – well enough to hold off rookie Blake Bortles for another week, at least.

Meanwhile, the Redskins looked terrible in the first and second half, unable to overcome Houston’s fearsome pass rushers. Robert Griffin III struggled throughout the game, holding the ball too long in the pocket and even fumbling away a simple handoff. The one bright spot for Washington was running back Alfred Morris, who totaled 91 yards on just 14 carries.

With key players Cecil Shorts III, Toby Gerhart and safety Jonathan Cyprien battling injuries for the Jags, the Redskins clearly have the upper hand. Expect a bigger emphasis on the run and further development in the pass game, as RGIII will have more breathing room against a weaker defensive line. It will be a tight one in Washington, but the home team will defeat the banged-up Jaguars.

Players to Watch: Marqise Lee (WR – JAX), Robert Griffin III (QB – WAS)

Prediction: Jaguars 10, Redskins 14


DALLAS COWBOYS AT TENNESSEE TITANS (Sunday, 1:00PM) 

Week 1 Results:
Cowboys: L (17-28) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Titans: W (26-10) at Kansas City Chiefs

The Dallas Cowboys were destroyed last Sunday by none other than themselves. Their defense performed as expected considering the unit lost their two best players to free agency and the injured reserve. Three Tony Romo interceptions and a DeMarco Murray fumble all led to touchdowns for the 49ers. That’s 28 points off of turnovers and more pressure on an already unstable defense. With elite talent at every skill position and a top-tier offensive line, the Cowboys suffered a complete meltdown.

Tennessee, on the other hand, dominated the Chiefs. The Titans’ defense more than made up for star cornerback Alterraun Verner’s departure, intercepting three of Alex Smith’s passes. Jake Locker looked poised throughout the game, finishing with 2 TD passes and 266 yards with a 66% completion rate. If he can stay healthy, the fourth-year quarterback will continue to improve and make the most of his talented receiving corps.

Although Dallas’ offense looks unstoppable on paper, the Niners quickly proved otherwise. The Cowboys will not play as poorly this time around, but Tennessee’s high-caliber defense will contain them enough to get the win. Look for Jake Locker to spread the ball to several receivers, once again, in a victory in Nashville.

Players to Watch: Jurrell Casey (DE – TEN), Dez Bryant (WR – DAL)

Prediction: Cowboys 21, Titans 28


 ARIZONA CARDINALS AT NEW YORK GIANTS (Sunday, 1:00PM)

Week 1 Results:
Cardinals: W (18-17) vs. San Diego Chargers
Giants: L (14-35) at Detroit Lions

34-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer took a sip from the fountain of youth before Monday night’s victory over the Chargers, rushing for a career-high 29 yards. To put that number in perspective, Palmer had 3 rushing yards all of last season. Arizona’s offense demonstrated flashes of potential from young playmakers such as Michael Floyd, Andre Ellington, and rookie receiver John Brown.

The Giants, meanwhile, looked completely lost. New York struggled on defense, especially on a broken play which resulted in Calvin Johnson being 11 yards away from the nearest defender; at no point in time should the NFL’s best receiver be that open. On offense, Eli Manning struggled to connect with any of his wideouts and the run game was equally ineffective. It remains to be seen when rookie Odell Beckham Jr. will return from a persistent hamstring injury and what impact he will have on the offense, if any at all.

Week 2 will be 60 minutes of déjà vu for Giants fans, as the Cardinals’ offense is just as potent as Detroit’s. Although they are facing a stronger defense this time, New York will put up the same number of points thanks to the loss of Arizona’s veteran linebacker John Abraham, who quit the team due to a concussion suffered Monday night.

Players to Watch: John Brown (WR – ARI), Jon Beason (MLB – NYG)

Prediction: Cardinals 30, Giants 14


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (Sunday, 1:00PM) 

Week 1 Results:
Patriots: L (20-33) at Miami Dolphins
Vikings: W (34-3) at St. Louis Rams

The Patriots’ week 1 performance was surprising not only because they lost to Miami, but because of how they lost. Typically one of the strongest second-half teams in the league, New England looked increasingly flustered as they watched the Dolphins pile on 23 straight points. Thanks to an alarmingly injury-prone receiving corps including Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and star tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots simply did not have an answer for the Dolphins’ stifling defense.

Bad news continues to roll in for New England as the Vikings have developed a legitimately worrisome offense. Head coach Mike Zimmer finally unleashed second-year playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson against St. Louis. The “receiver” outrushed Adrian Peterson (75 yards) with an astounding 102 yards and a touchdown on just 3 carries. Look for the Peterson-Patterson combo to put points on the board for Minnesota all season.

Although New England had a poor showing in week 1, they will not have a repeat performance. The Patriots defense will hold firmer than St. Louis’ and, more importantly, the Vikings are no longer facing Shaun Hill and Austin Davis. Tom Brady, still one of the premier quarterbacks in the league, will lead his team to victory.

Players to Watch: Adrian Peterson (RB – MIN), Darrelle Revis (CB – NE)

Prediction: Patriots 31, Vikings 14


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS AT CLEVELAND BROWNS (Sunday, 1:00PM)

Week 1 Results:
Saints: L (34-37 OT) at Atlanta Falcons
Browns: L (27-30) at Pittsburgh Steelers

An exciting shootout against the rival Atlanta Falcons ended in disappointment for the Saints, but showed plenty of promise on offense. Former Alabama standout Mark Ingram fought for yardage on every carry, resulting in 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rookie Brandin Cooks is emerging as one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets, drawing in 7 receptions for 77 yards and a score.

Things are not looking as good for Cleveland, unfortunately. Last week’s matchup saw injuries to the Browns’ biggest, and possibly only, offensive threats – Ben Tate (sprained knee, out 2-4 weeks) and Jordan Cameron (AC joint sprain). In Tate’s absence, however, the rookie running back tandem of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell performed admirably; the former rushed for 100 yards while the latter racked up a YPC of 6.4. Star cornerback Joe Haden struggled against Antonio Brown, but he will have a better outing against the less-explosive Marques Colston.

Cleveland’s weakened offensive attack will have a tough time matching up against New Orleans’ physical defense. The Saints’ secondary did a poor job of tackling in space last week, but they will perform better this time around. Expect Junior Gallette and Cameron Jordan to shut down the Cleveland rush attack and Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd to lock up Brian Hoyer and his receivers.

Players to Watch: Mark Ingram (RB – NO), Joe Haden (CB – CLE)

Prediction: Saints 35, Browns 23


ATLANTA FALCONS AT CINCINNATI BENGALS (Sunday, 1:00PM)

Week 1 Results:
Falcons: W (37-34 OT) vs. New Orleans Saints
Bengals: W (23-16) at Baltimore Ravens

Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense were firing on all cylinders last Sunday in the Georgia Dome. They did not show any signs of slowing down, either. The key difference between this year’s Falcons and last year’s disappointing team is the health of stars Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Steven Jackson. For Atlanta to have a successful year, that health needs to be sustained.

Cincinnati’s defense suffered a major blow with the news that Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict suffered a concussion. His status for this week’s matchup is currently uncertain and if he does sit out, the Bengals will need to rely more heavily on the offense, specifically AJ Green and Gio Bernard. Expect OC Hue Jackson to get the ball to rookie power back Jeremy Hill more to add another element to Cincinnati’s offense.

Atlanta’s star CB Desmond Trufant has his work cut out for him matching up against AJ Green. If Trufant can contain Andy Dalton’s number one option in the passing game, the Falcons will simply need to outscore Cincinnati’s run game and coast to a win.

Players to Watch: Desmond Trufant (CB – ATL), Giovani Bernard (RB – CIN)

Prediction: Falcons 34, Bengals 21


DETROIT LIONS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS (Sunday, 1:00PM)

Week 1 Results:
Lions: W (35-14) vs. New York Giants
Panthers: W (20-14) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Detroit has enough talent to earn a playoff berth this season. Whether they accomplish this task is completely up to them, but they sure looked the part in week 1. Matthew Stafford was phenomenal, directing the offense with confidence and connecting with Calvin Johnson on two 1st quarter touchdowns. He was elusive and aggressive, not only in escaping pressure, but also on his short touchdown run.

Carolina stifled Josh McCown and his trio of 6’5” receivers with tough defense and heavy pressure, spearheaded by Luke Kuechly (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble). DeAngelo Williams quietly rushed his way to a very respectable 72 yards on 14 carries and Derek Anderson did an excellent job of filling in for starter Cam Newton (rib injury).

After taking the first week off to allow his ribs to heal fully, Cam Newton will have his plate full trying to keep up with the Lions’ ferocious offensive attack. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin has been nothing short of impressive, but one talented player will not be enough for Carolina to keep up with Stafford and company.

Players to Watch: Ndamukong Suh (DT – DET), Cam Newton (QB – CAR)

Prediction: Lions 28, Panthers 24


 ST. LOUIS RAMS AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (Sunday, 4:05PM)

 Week 1 Results:
Rams: L (3-34) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Buccaneers: L (14-20) vs. Carolina Panthers

The Rams are sorely missing QB Sam Bradford who is lost for the season thanks to yet another ACL tear. This was clear in St. Louis as backup Shaun Hill struggled before going down with a hamstring injury; third-string quarterback Austin Davis also had a rough outing. St. Louis’ “strategy” of handing the ball off to whichever running back, Zac Stacy or Benny Cunningham, plays better may prove to backfire in an already messy offensive situation.

To make matters worse, Tampa Bay did not fare much better in week 1 either. Veteran Josh McCown consistently held the ball too long and was unable to connect with either Vincent Jackson or promising rookie Mike Evans. Doug Martin looked rather pedestrian, with just 16 yards on 10 carries, prior to exiting with a knee injury – he is expected to play this week.

The good news for the Buccaneers is that week 1 was a fluke for their offense. One of St. Louis’ premier defensive linemen, Chris Long, has been declared out at least 2 months because of an ankle injury sustained last Sunday afternoon. This crushing loss, combined with an incompetent offense, spells bad news for the Rams’ chances of victory.

Players to Watch: Zac Stacy (RB – STL), Mike Evans (WR – TB)

 Prediction: Rams 10, Buccaneers 24


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (Sunday, 4:05PM)

Week 1 Results
Seahawks: W (36-16) vs. Green Bay Packers
Chargers: L (17-18) at Arizona Cardinals

The defending champions kicked off the NFL season against the highly-touted Packers with a swift punch in the mouth. The Seahawks got off to a slow start, but once they warmed up, Russell Wilson’s offense piled on the points and never looked back. Seattle’s hard-hitting defense pressured Aaron Rodgers into poor throws all night and even earned a safety.

San Diego lost a close one Monday night as a result of several missed opportunities and simple miscues; Keenan Allen dropped a crucial pass, Philip Rivers let a snap slip through his fingers on third down and the Chargers’ defense allowed 35-year-old Carson Palmer to pick up a first down with his legs on 3rd and 12. Hopefully the Bolts have used this week to clean up any errors – the talent is there, it is just a matter of execution.

If Rivers’ offense commits the same errors it did in Arizona, the Seahawks will make sure the game is not decided by 1 point. Though the margin for error is practically nonexistent against Seattle, the Chargers will put up a better fight than Green Bay did in week 1. Lynch and the Seahawks, however, are too powerful to handle.

 Players to Watch: Richard Sherman (CB – SEA), Ryan Mathews (RB – SD)

 Prediction: Seahawks 40, Chargers 28


HOUSTON TEXANS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS (Sunday, 4:25PM)

 Week 1 Results:
Texans: W (17-6) vs. Washington Redskins
Raiders: L (14-19) at New York Jets

Houston’s appalling 2013 season is a mere afterthought due to a dominant performance on both sides of the ball last week. RGIII was harassed repeatedly, courtesy of JJ Watt and rookie Jadeveon Clowney. Things are not all sunshine and roses for the Texans, however; Clowney suffered a torn meniscus ligament and will miss 4-6 weeks. Furthermore, although Ryan Fitzpatrick is a serviceable quarterback, he is not going to win any ball games himself.

The Raiders’ rush attack was completely ineffective against a stout Jets defense; it will not fare any better against Houston. This means Oakland will need to take a page out of their week 1 playbook – putting their faith in rookie quarterback Derek Carr. The Fresno State product showed plenty of potential (20-32, 151 yards, 2 TDs) against a secondary similar to the Texans’, although he did receive some help from a spectacular one-handed touchdown grab by James Jones. A player who without a doubt Carr needs to lean on even more.

Oakland will not win this matchup, but it will develop because of it. Though it was only one game, Carr looks like he could be the answer to the Raiders’ quarterback struggles of the last decade. However, pressure from Houston’s defensive line will force the rookie to make mistakes and give the Texans opportunities to put the game away early.

 Players to Watch: DeAndre Hopkins (WR – HOU), Derek Carr (QB – OAK)

 Prediction: Texans 21, Raiders 14


NEW YORK JETS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (Sunday, 4:25PM)

 Week 1 Results
Jets: W (19-14) vs. Oakland Raiders
Packers: L (16-36) at Seattle Seahawks

Aside from an inexcusable goal line fumble, Geno Smith played a solid game of football. The only other blemish came from a phenomenal Charles Woodson interception. However, New York’s success came from the run game. Chris Ivory eclipsed 100 yards (102 yards, 1 TD) and Chris Johnson averaged 5.23 YPC. The Jets’ defensive line was equally effective in shutting down the opponents’ rush attack.

Green Bay, on the other hand, is a scary team looking to get the bad taste out of their mouths. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson continue to provide Aaron Rodgers with trustworthy targets. However, star running back Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion and is still waiting on clearance.

This will not be much of a contest, provided the Packers’ defense fixes blown coverage assignments and learns not to bite so hard on read-option plays. The wildcat package may work for the Jets, but only for a series or two. Rodgers will pick apart New York’s depleted secondary and, if Lacy is unable to play, James Starks is an excellent fill-in for Green Bay’s high-powered offense.

 Players to Watch: Chris Johnson (RB – NYJ), Derek Sherrod (RT – GB)

 Prediction: Jets 17, Packers 38


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS AT DENVER BRONCOS (Sunday, 4:25PM)

 Week 1 Results:
Chiefs: L (10-26) vs. Tennessee Titans
Broncos: W (31-24) vs. Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City took the league by storm last year, starting the season 9-0 before faltering at the end of the season, including the playoff wild card game loss. The losing streak continued last weekend and the Chiefs add to it in week 2. Although they welcome Dwayne Bowe back from his one game suspension, the overrated receiver will not make up for the loss of Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive tackle Mike DeVito, both of whom ruptured their right Achilles tendons and will miss the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Denver is off to a similar start to last year, but they are hoping for a different ending this time around. Peyton Manning (22-36, 269 yards, 3 TDs) continues to methodically pick defenses apart from the pocket, delivering perfectly timed balls to each of his receivers. Julius Thomas, in particular, is making a strong bid for the Broncos’ #1 “pass catcher”, fresh off a 3 touchdown, 104 yard performance.

Jamaal Charles had an outstanding season last year, amassing 1,980 yards from scrimmage. Behind a revamped offensive line, this looks to be a very different season for the elusive back. DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, TJ Ward and Aqib Talib will terrorize the Chiefs’ rush and pass attacks. In addition, Broncos rookie Bradley Roby had a strong showing in his NFL debut; Kansas City’s weak receiving corps will be good practice as he continues to improve.

 Players to Watch: Dontari Poe (NT – KC), Demaryius Thomas (WR – DEN)

 Prediction: Chiefs 13, Broncos 45


CHICAGO BEARS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (Sunday, 8:30PM)

 Week 1 Results
Bears: L (20-23 OT) at Buffalo Bills
49ers: W (28-17) at Dallas Cowboys

Surprisingly enough, Chicago struggled to get anything going offensively against the lowly Bills. Mid-game injuries to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery resulted in average performances – at least by their standards; each WR finished with 71 yards. Matt Forte racked up 80+ yards both rushing and receiving in yet another impressive game. The Bears’ biggest issue was quarterback Jay Cutler’s poor decision making, resulting in two interceptions.

San Francisco had its way with the Cowboys, scoring on offense and defense, and then letting up on the gas the entire second half. Colin Kaepernick used his legs to complement his arm, resulting in huge plays throughout the game. This was highlighted by a 29-yard touchdown strike to TE Vernon Davis (4 catches, 44 yards, 2 TDs) in which he escaped pressure and stayed on his feet long enough to find a gap in the coverage.

The Bears’ offense will not stall the way it did last week, but that does not mean the 49ers will not lock it down. There is plenty of talent in San Francisco’s secondary alone to contain Marshall and Jeffery. The Niners come away with the win thanks to strong defense.

Players to Watch: Jay Cutler (QB – CHI), Eric Reid (FS – SF)

 Prediction: Bears 17, 49ers 24


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (Monday, 8:30PM)

 Week 1 Results:
Eagles: W (34-17) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Colts: L (24-31) at Denver Broncos

The Eagles came out sluggish against the Jaguars, but clawed their way back, finishing with 34 unanswered points to take the win. If Chip Kelly’s offense starts out similarly, this game will not end the same way. Philadelphia must set the tone early on, getting the ball to playmakers such as LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, and Zach Ertz.

Indianapolis offense was somewhat inept early on as well, putting the team in too deep of a hole to have a shot at winning. Andrew Luck must be smarter about throwing into coverage’s and Trent Richardson must average more than 3.33 yards per carry.

Both teams have potent pass offenses – when run correctly – so it appears this game will be decided by the better defensive performance. Neither squad is particularly fantastic on that end of the field, so the rush attack will be the x-factor in this Monday night matchup. LeSean McCoy is clearly superior to Trent Richardson or Ahmad Bradshaw, giving the Eagles the advantage in this one.

Players to Watch: LeSean McCoy (RB – PHI), Trent Richardson (RB – IND)

Prediction: (OT) Eagles 38, Colts 35

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