Friday, April 18, 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.
The pick: Giants, 24-20
CARDINALS (1-1) at SAINTS (2-0), 4 p.m.
Outlook: Drew Brees has a 131.3 passer rating in two career meetings with the Cardinals, and him at home vs. this pass D should make for more fantasy-pleasing numbers. WR Larry Fitzgerald questionable (hamstring) bodes ill for Arizona.
The pick: Saints, 34-20
FALCONS (1-1) at DOLPHINS (2-0), 4:05 p.m.
Outlook: Atlanta is a better team overall but also is diminished, with RB Steven Jackson (thigh) out and WR Roddy White (high ankle sprain) not himself even if he does play. That levels the field and makes me lean toward Miami in its home opener, presuming Ryan Tannehill will be OK after being limited in practice this week by a sore shoulder.
The pick: Dolphins, 24-20
JAGUARS (0-2) at SEAHAWKS (2-0), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: The involvement of sad Jacksonville alone makes any game a Dog of the Week candidate, and here we add the likelihood of a miserable rout. Looks like Chad Henne will start again at QB for Jacksonville over Blaine Gabbert, like it matters? The Seahawks figure to have an almost indifferent effort after an emotional rout of rival San Francisco but should still have no trouble here.
The pick: Seahawks, 24-7
BILLS (1-1) at JETS (1-1), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: Round 1 in the fight for the AFC East cellar brings us a duel of young QBs -- EJ Manuel and Geno Smith -- who became friends out of high school attending a South Florida football camp together. The Jets have won eight of 10 in the series, including three straight at home, so make this one a venue call. Jets bring a bit better defense, too.
The pick: Jets, 19-16
COLTS (1-1) at 49ERS (1-1), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: The Niners should be on a fierce rebound after they were simply embarrassed in Seattle last week, and nobody knows Andrew Luck (or presumably how to defend him) better than his former Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh. But the Colts got better this week by trading for RB Trent Richardson and should at least keep it close.
The pick: 49ers, 27-20
BEARS (2-0) at STEELERS (0-2), 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: Yes, Ben Roethlisberger needs a running game like popcorn needs butter. Yes, a once-vaunted Steelers' D has zero takeaways in two games. And yes, your home field does cede some mystique when you lose your opener there to Tennessee. Despite all that, the prime-time Sunday stage and a dose of early desperation will summon a vintage effort and allow Pittsburgh to dodge its first 0-3 start since 2000.
The pick: Steelers, 21-17
RAIDERS (1-1) at BRONCOS (2-0), 8:40 p.m.
Outlook: It's a record 17th MNF meeting for Raiders-Broncos, and this one finds Denver as only the third team in the last 30 years to start 2-0 with 40-plus points in each game. And you wonder why TV loves Peyton Manning? Do not see an upset, but see Oakland keeping it reasonably close.
The pick: Broncos, 34-23
-- Greg Cote, The Miami Herald (last week: 13-3; season: 24-8)