The New York Giants kicked off the third week of the NFL season with a comfortable victory on the road against the Carolina Panthers, a 36-7 hammering that improved the Giants record to 2-1 whilst dropping the Panthers to 1-2. Even without starting running back Ahmed Bradshaw New York were able to move the ball effectively all night, with Bradshaw’s deputy Andre Brown carrying 20 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Although this performance shows talent on Browns behalf, it also exposes some serious shortcomings in the Panthers defence that they are going to need to correct if they want to challenge for a play-off spot this season. Here are a few more things I took away from the game:
-After three quarters of last weeks comeback against Tampa Bay the Giants were worried that their Superbowl defense had ended before it had really begun. Yet in the five quarters since New York has drawn upon it’s never say die, backs against the wall mentality that has come to represent the Tom Coughlin era that has yielded two Lombardi trophies. Not only did the Giants roar back to defeat the Buccaneers, they then travelled on the road, on a short week and dismantled Carolina with their most complete performance of the season to date.
-This particular NFL season continues to baffle most experts, and is an excellent example of the parity the league sought to bring to the league when it introduced the salary cap two decades ago. The Giants have just defeated the Panthers, who defeated the Saints just last week, yet the Saints lost to the Redskins in week one before Washington then lost to the Rams last week. In short, not many teams are yet to lose a game despite only two weeks having past, a stark contrast to recent years when teams such as the Colts, Packers and Saints have come seriously close to perfect regular seasons (not to mention the 2007 Patriots who actually did go 16-0).
-Cam Newton threw three interceptions and rushed for just six yards at one yard per carry to continue his disappointing season to date. Newton has already thrown five picks and fumbled the ball twice (one lost) in an error laden start, whilst contributing just 81 yards on the ground. If the Panthers are going to win many football games they need not only Newton to be better, but to protect their franchise player and give him at least to opportunity to win games for the team. It’s worth noting that Newton has been sacked six times already in spite of his obvious mobility and strength.
Now that I’ve recapped last nights action, here is what I predict will happen this coming weekend in the completely unpredictable world of the NFL. Last week I went 8-8, including a perfect score on the Vikings-Colts game.
St. Louis @ Chicago
The Rams defeated Washington last week and held rookie sensation Robert Griffin III in check whilst moving the ball extremely well themselves. The star performer was Danny Amendola, who hauled in 16 passes so the Bears will need to do a good job on him if they want to prevent Sam Bradford from having another prolific outing. The Bears themselves were poor on Thursday Night Football last week, and I see that form carrying over to this week especially without Matt Forte, who remains a doubt. Rams 23, Bears 21
Buffalo @ Cleveland
After last weeks polished performance against Kansas City the Bills will attempt to tide their momentum from that win all the way into Cleveland, who whilst showing improvement from week’s one to two still lost for the second week running. Trent Richardson gives the Browns a genuine offensive weapon, and I predict the Jekyll and Hyde Bills will suffer at his hands (or feet) in an upset. Bills 18, Browns 24
Tampa Bay @ Dallas
Dallas were probably the most disappointing team in the NFL last week, falling to a 20 point loss in Seattle after defeating the reigning Superbowl champ Giants in week one. Demarco Murray has had a solid season so far but the receiving core has flattered to deceive, whilst Jason Witten battles to overcome his injury and regain effectiveness. Tampa on the other hand has been a pleasant surprise, Josh Freeman having rebounded from last years horror show and the young defence showing potential. I’d love the ‘boys to lose and fall further behind my Eagles in the NFC east, but I’m gonna take the safe option on this one and give the home team the advantage. Buccaneers 17, Cowboys 27
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis
Andrew Luck, fresh of his first NFL win, looks to lead the Colts to a winning record and with the AFC south being such a poor division a victory here is a must if the Colts are to challenge for a wild card, as unlikely as they are to get one. Luck looked polished a week ago and Reggie Wayne is showing vital veteran nouse, although the defense is troubling with the exception of Dwight Freeney at defensive end. The Jags look poor, so expect the Colts to run their win streak to a huge… two. Jaguars 15, Colts 30
New York Jets @ Miami
Are the week one Jets or week two Jets the actual Jets? This week could go a long way to answering that question, and getting Darrell Revis back from a concussion (he’s questionable) could help generate a positive answer. Reggie Bush will test the Jets run defense, and the former USC running back has quietly been exceptional since he joined the Dolphins before last season. Bush is averaging six YPC and has amassed 241 yards on the ground already, giving rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill the perfect safety net as he gets his feet wet in the NFL. A lot depends on Mark Sanchez in this one, and because I don’t trust him (and think he’s a terrible QB) I’m leaning towards the ‘phins. Jets 20, Dolphins 24
San Francisco @ Minnesota
On paper, this game looks like a huge mismatch. That’s because it is. Christian Ponder probably hasn’t slept all week, and I wouldn’t blame him for waking up in cold sweats at the thought of facing Patrick Willis and co. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball Alex Smith has now turned the ball over just once in his past 15 quarters of football. Those who still think he is just a competent QB with no real skill or ability need to accept the fact that Smith is turning into a very, very good signal caller. It takes a special player to look after the ball so well and his mobility in the pocket makes the offensive line look better than it probably is (although it is still a very good unit. Blowout. 49ers 38, Vikings 13
Kansas City @ New Orleans
The Saints have to win this game, as do the Chiefs. Coming into the season the expectations for these two outfits were miles apart, yet they find themselves with the same record and with their respective seasons on life support. Matt Cassell has actually been pretty good so far, and is only one touchdown behind Drew Brees after two games. More importantly for the Chiefs they need to get Jamaal Charles going after his cold start (91 yards, 22 carries) and play better defense after they let the Bills ride rough shed over them last Sunday. The Saints should win this given they’re playing at home, but stranger things have happened than a Kansas City win. Chiefs 24, Saints 23
Detroit @ Tennessee
Early doors, the Titans look absolutely terrible. The Lions haven’t been great so far, but this match up could be just what the doctor ordered if the Lions are to kick start their season following a close win over the Rams and a thrashing at the hands of San Francisco last week. I expect Matthew Stafford to go to town on the Titans pass D and Calvin Johnson to bag himself a score or two. Lions 35, Titans 24
Cincinnati @ Washington
Cinci pulled out a win last week against the Browns in a key divisional game, whilst the Redskins lost a tight game in St. Louis. RG III makes his home debut in this encounter, and he’ll fancy his chances of a big game against a Bengals pass defense that has flat out struggled so far this season. Andy Dalton and A.J Green have continued their rise to stardom thus far this year and this game has all the makings of a shoot out following the season ending injuries to Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo of the Redskins from last weeks game. Two young, talented QB’s face off and two, porous defenses try to stop them. I like Marvin Lewis’s chances of accomplishing that aim more than Mike Shanahans. Bengals 31, Redskins 28
Philadelphia @ Arizona
These two teams have a combined 4-0 record, yet have outscored their opponents by a combined eight points. Figure that one out! Both have played strong AFC foes in the Ravens and Patriots, yet it appears as if the Eagles are being touted far more as the real deal than are the Cardinals, which could spur Arizona on in their home arena. Kevin Kolb gets a chance to prove Andy Reid made the wrong choice in Michael Vick, whilst Vick attempts to eliminate turnovers from his game. Calais Cambell leads a strong Arizona D and if the Eagles are to win a defensive battle two things must happen: the defense must continue to perform at the high level it has played at thus far, and Vick must look after the ball. I can see the first happening, but the second remains a mystery. I’m going glass half full (from an Eagles perspective, obviously) Eagles 20, Cardinals 13
Atlanta @ San Diego
These two teams might just be the most convincing of the 2-0 club so far in 2012, but neither is getting respect as the best team in their respective conferences which seems a bit strange. The Falcons have struggled in the post-season over the past few years so that’s clearly behind most peoples rationing, yet the Chargers I can’t quite work out. The defense is stronger than it has been in a couple of years and Phillip Rivers has returned to an elite level – so far. I love how Julio Jones has exploded on to the scene this season as a top 5 receiver, and his ascension has also benefited Matt Ryan as he now has Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to throw the ball to. If he can’t put up gaudy numbers with those three he never will, and I think he’ll deliver this week and have a few more people talking about the dirty birds. Falcons 28, Chargers 24
Houston @ Denver
Peyton Manning had a very un-Peyton like performance last week by throwing three interceptions, and the Texans defense will do him no favours with it’s accomplished secondary. I can’t see the Broncos moving the ball on the ground against Houston, not the way they’ve been playing so far this season, and I can see Arian Foster continuing to hit pay dirt for the Texans as they roll to 3-0 and reaffirm themselves as the elite team in the AFC. Texans 21, Broncos 17
Pittsburgh @ Oakland
Ben Roethlisberger has two Superbowl wins, the same as Eli Manning and one behind Tom Brady, yet he doesn’t quite get the same level of recognition. Granted, his first win in 2005 he barely threw the ball (and didn’t throw well when he did) but Big Ben has a real shot at the Hall of Fame. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I think what I’m trying to say is the Steelers will comfortably win on Sunday and Roethlisberger will be a key reason why. Steelers 27, Raiders 19
New England @ Baltimore
The Patriots, Ravens, Cardinals and Eagles appear to be holding a small round robin tournament consisting of just those four teams, and the third place play-off takes place in Maryland on Sunday Night Football. The Patriots had a far worse loss last week, at home against a (probably) weaker Arizona team and Tom Brady appeared to struggle mightily once Aaron Hernandez went down. You have to think the Ravens can game plan to cover Rob Gronkowski, especially now Wes Welker is being ignored by anyone important in New England, and without a genuine rushing threat the Ravens and Joe Flacco should bounce back at home and leave the Patriots in a 1-2 hole. Patriots 21, Ravens 23
Green Bay @ Seattle
The Packers were impressive against Chicago last week despite not moving the ball through the air with much success for the second week in a row, which asks the question how good will they look when they do manage to get Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings etc. involved in the action? Seattle have impressed so far and a 20 point win over Dallas is nothing to be sniffed at, with the Seahawks D playing at a very high level thus far. The Seahawks could quite easily be 2-0 had they held on against Arizona but after this week I’m afraid they’ll slip to 1-2 and two games off the pace in the NFC west. Packers 28, Seahawks 24
So that’s what I think will happen, if you want to see what actually happens then tune in to Sky Sports on Sunday evening and hide the TV remote for nine hours while you watch the NFL uninterrupted until 3 am. Either that, or visit this site again next week for a take on everything that transpired over the weekend!