Making picks is tricky. It’s all about risk and reward from week to week, in taking calculated risks to possibly reap larger rewards. Every week I analyze each matchup individually, taking into account what teams did the previous week, which players have solid track records, the strength of each defense, and certain other intangibles. Then I do my risk analysis. It’s a very complicated process.
But I did a good job in Week 1 picking the winners. I went 12-4, although there were a few scares like the Bengals, the Giants, and the Raiders. They came through for me as expected, though, after stiff competition, and I nailed both of the Monday night contests. As the season goes on, though, it gets harder to figure out from week to week how teams will fare against each other, and divisional rivalries will always be tough. One of those contests starts off this week on Thursday night between the Bills and the Jets.
NY Jets @ BUFFALO – There’s just something about these Bills that defies definition. Last year, when they had absolutely nothing but pride (and even that was fleeting) to play for in the last game of the season they took out these selfsame Jets. After a lackluster showing last week for the Bills, I think they come out inspired in this one. They always get up for the Jets, and this will be no exception. The streak continues. Pick – BILLS (by 3).
Cincinnati @ PITTSBURGH – The Antonio Brown traveling show keeps on going, but it stops this week at home against a division rival. Bad blood is still stirring from that dramatic Steelers playoff comeback, but Andy Dalton is healthy for this one, and that will make the difference in the game. A.J. Green will have another field day, and that Bengals defense will do just enough to take this one on the road. Pick – BENGALS (by 3).
Baltimore @ CLEVELAND – Josh McCown is back in the building. Okay, so he never left, but after the RGIII experiment crashed and burned last week maybe McCown can get things going again. It was a lackluster start for them in Philadelphia, and now they came home to face a division rival (sound familiar?). The problem is that the Ravens played well last week, and they will keep it rolling here. Pick – BALTIMORE (by 7).
Dallas @ REDSKINS – This is honestly a tossup. Will the real Dez Bryant please stand up? Dak Prescott was exposed last week, and now every team has the blueprint for pressuring him and stopping that Cowboys offense. I think the Redskins capitalize on that here, but Kirk Cousins is back to being old unreliable himself, if you can trust last week. This one will be close, but I think the Skins take it in the end because of a big play by DeSean Jackson, who always comes up big in these matchups. Pick – WASHINGTON (by 3).
Tennessee @ DETROIT – Those were bad mistakes by Marcus Mariota last week in a game that was winnable. Detroit won a game they shouldn’t have won against a bad defense, and on the arm of Matthew Stafford. What happens when a movable force meets shaky object? Both tremble. That’s what will happen this week when exotic smashmouth football goes to Motown. Too bad Stafford and Marvin Jones will rule the day. Pick – LIONS (by 7).
Kansas City @ HOUSTON – I don’t generally like to pick against home teams because it’s pretty hard to win on the road (unless you’re the Patriots, of course), but something about that comeback against the Chargers last week has me riding the Andy Reid/Alex Smith train. Maybe I’ve been drinking too much Kool-Aid, but I like their chances to dominate on the ground, and thus dominate time of possession. Pick – CHIEFS (by 3).
Miami @ NEW ENGLAND – Speaking of those pesky Patriots, they’re at home this week in another division rivalry. Did you know that the last time these two teams played the Dolphins dominated Brady and Co.? While that won’t happen again, Brady’s absence from this one gives them a fighting chance. I’m not sold on Jimmy G, and I think he comes back down to earth in this one. Pick – DOLPHINS (by 1) – This is my Upset Special of the week.
New Orleans @ NY GIANTS – I predict a shootout. The winner of this one will be the team that makes the least mistakes, and Eli still seems to like the turnover. I say he makes a couple of big mistakes here, Drew Brees rolls on the road, and this becomes another upset special, because both defenses are garbage so the Giants won’t have a true home field advantage. Eli tosses two picks, and that’s all she wrote. Pick – SAINTS (by 4).
San Francisco @ CAROLINA – One team is 1-0 and the other is 0-1, but it’s the level of competition that makes this a mismatch, in favor of the 0-1 team. Carolina’s loss came to the mighty Denver defense, while the 49ers beat a lackluster LA squad. This ship will right itself big time in this one. Blaine Gabbert is not the answer. Pick – CAROLINA (by 12).
Seattle @ LOS ANGELES – Speaking of that Rams squad, there really couldn’t have been a more difficult opponent for their first home game back in the city of angels, or could there have been? They’ve routinely played this division rivalry game well, and they did beat the Seahawks last season. But if Case Keenum plays, I don’t see it happening. He just had nothing last week. Pick – SEATTLE (by 6).
Tampa Bay @ ARIZONA – That Cardinals defense didn’t look so awesome last week, and even though Carson Palmer played relatively well it wasn’t enough to overcome the short-handed Patriots. I like how Jameis Winston played last week — fearless — and he’ll need every ounce of that to win in the desert. I think the Cardinals defense bounces back and forces Winston into an off day. Pick – CARDINALS (by 3).
Atlanta @ OAKLAND – They’re heading west, which is usually a recipe for disaster. These Falcons are an enigma, but one thing is clear. Matt Ryan doesn’t play well after having to travel a while, and this counts as a while. I like the gutsy call last week for Oakland in the Big Easy, and they won’t take their foot off the gas against an overmatched Atlanta defense. Pick – OAKLAND (by 7).
Indianapolis @ DENVER – The last time these two teams played the Colts took care of business in beating Peyton Manning and the Machine known as the Broncos defense after dispatching them in the playoffs the year before. I think they somehow had Manning’s number, but Manning is gone. There’s a new sheriff in town, and Von Miller will get his revenge on Andrew Luck. Pick – DENVER (by 3).
Jacksonville @ SAN DIEGO – After that abysmal failure to hold the lead in Kansas City last week, and after losing Keenan Allen for the season, again, this team is demoralized, even playing at home. The Jaguars played the Packers tough at home last week, and travel across country to take on the Chargers this week. But I think their offense dominates a weak defense in this one. Pick – JACKSONVILLE (by 4).
Green Bay @ MINNESOTA – Yeah, yeah. I know all about Aaron Rodgers’ dominance in Minnesota, but he didn’t put up particularly good numbers last week, or in the last battle between the two division foes. Even with Sam Bradford possibly under center for the Vikings this week, I like what I saw from the defense last week. They are opportunistic, and that will work again even against Aaron Rodgers and Co. Pick – VIKINGS (by 3).
Philadelphia @ CHICAGO – Jay Cutler, wherefore art thou? Speaking of opportunistic defenses, this Philly one fits the bill in all areas. Last week they forced turnovers against a similarly shaky offense in Cleveland, and they will pressure Cutler all game. The running game will shred that Bears defense (this ain’t your grandpa’s Bears), and this game will get away from them early. Pick – EAGLES (by 10).