Saturday, April 19, 2014
BUCCANEERS (0-2) at PATRIOTS (2-0), 1 p.m.
Outlook: The Patriots have won their two games by a combined five points, while the Bucs have lost theirs by a combined three points, proving that the margin of error in the NFL is at times paper thin. New England has won 31 of its last 34 home games and should safely sputter to its first 3-0 start since 2007.
The pick: Patriots, 24-13
TEXANS (2-0) at RAVENS (1-1), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Both teams have much to prove, with Houston the first team since 1970 to be 2-0 by winning twice on the game's final play -- "Probably not the best for your blood pressure," noted J.J. Watt -- and Baltimore less than impressive in its 14-6 defeat of Cleveland. Both teams have notable injury concerns, but Texans WR Andre Johnson (concussion) seems likelier to be at full strength than Ravens RB Ray Rice (hip). That's partly why, despite mad respect for Baltimore's home field, I like the Texans here.
The pick: Texans, 27-23
PACKERS (1-1) at BENGALS (1-1), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Cincy's defense dating to last season has not allowed more than 20 points in five straight home games. The thing is, Aaron Rodgers and that passing attack render trends like that moot. The Bengals are good, playoff good, but Andy Dalton is not cut out to outscore Mr. Rodgers, no matter the neighborhood.
The pick: Packers, 31-23
RAMS (1-1) at COWBOYS (1-1), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Dallas figures to be in rebound mode after a 1-point loss in KC, and I like the Cowboys at home even though WR Dez Bryant's iffy back is tormenting his fantasy owners. St. Louis is improved but doesn't generally travel well. DeMarco Murray ran for 253 yards when he last faced the Rams. The Cowboys would take about half of that here. Can't be greedy.
The pick: Cowboys, 27-20
CHARGERS (1-1) at TITANS (1-1), 1 p.m.
Outlook: I'm beginning to gather a bit of faith in new Chargers Coach Mike McCoy, especially with the way he has revitalized QB Philip Rivers. Also, the Chargers have won eight straight in this series. That combo portends Tennessee's home-opening crowd filing out quietly.
The pick: Chargers, 24-23
BROWNS (0-2) at VIKINGS (0-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: It's been a week of tumult in Cleveland. First the Browns vault third-stringer Brian Hoyer to starting QB, then they shockingly trade starting RB Trent Richardson to Indy for a 2014 No. 1 draft pick. Have they set a league record for earliest concession and playing for next year? Give Browns a slight upset shot, but it's far likelier the Vikes will roll in their home opener.
The pick: Vikings, 28-16
LIONS (1-1) at REDSKINS (0-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: A coin-flip of a game rendered even more unpredictable by the uncertainty with Reggie Bush, who is questionable (knee) for a Detroit squad that needs him. Lions aren't the awful roadies they used to be, and Matthew Stafford could throw for miles on the Washington's bad pass-D, but I still make this is a venue pick, albeit a very anxious one.
The pick: Redskins, 30-27
GIANTS (0-2) at PANTHERS (0-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: The Giants' 0-2 start is self-inflicted, with 10 turnovers, including seven INTs by Eli Manning. Oh-and-3 is a death knell for playoff prospects, so this is huge. Giants won in Carolina 36-7 a year ago, so this result will measure how far they've fallen or announce they're still around.
(Continued on page 2)