Philadelphia at Kansas City

Doug Pederson and Andy Reid face off for the first time.

The Chiefs’ massive upset against the Patriots in the season opener came with a loss. With Eric Berry out for the season on a torn Achilles, it’s going to be difficult for Marcus Peters to hold the fort for the rest of the year.

At home against the Eagles, they get a strong offensive line and the sophomore QB Carson Wentz. Wentz may have had a pretty throw or two last Sunday, but he also threw three dropped interceptions in the first half at D.C. At least he improved in the 2nd half, but at Kansas City, he gets a tough test due to the crowd noise and the game plan of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.

What Sutton does in this game without Berry will be the deciding factor. He was excellent in shutting down New England’s underneath passing offense and forcing Tom Brady into making inaccurate throws downfield, and he should do the same here. Wentz has significantly struggled downfield, but even on short throws his accuracy is lacking. He’s a very good athlete that can extend plays, but when it comes to diagnosing his reads, he’s generally been a guy that fires on the first read and panics when it isn’t open.

So how Sutton plays his defense against Wentz will be interesting to see. I don’t expect Alex Smith to come out with the same aggression he showed against the Patriots because the Eagles have a stronger unit, but Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce should continue to be reliable targets, and Andy Reid will be able to scheme easy reads against his former team.

The Eagles should get all the opportunities in the world to take advantage of the loss of Berry, so Alshon Jeffery should get a lot more targets. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a couple of deep touchdowns with Berry out, but at the same time I wouldn’t count on the Chiefs allowing that many easy plays at Arrowhead. Philadelphia also runs an underneath passing game, which the Chiefs can play very well like they did against the Patriots.

With that said, I’m going with the Chiefs to win on Sunday. It should be an entertaining matchup between the Chiefs defensive front and the Eagles’ offensive line.

Winner: Kansas City

 

New England at New Orleans

This wasn’t the start the Patriots wanted. Not only did they lose to the Chiefs, they lost by multiple scores at home. The last time that happened with Tom Brady starting was in the 2012 AFC Championship Game against the Ravens (The Bills game last year was with Jacoby Brissett). The real concern is the lack of depth at the front 7. Devin McCourty and Donte Hightower are the only two guys they can count on, as the front got creamed by the Chiefs’ running game and rarely generated any pressure.

The Saints offense is coming off a rough spot of their own, but against a weaker defense with home field on their side, we should be able to see Michael Thomas get more opportunities. The offensive line should hold up against a weaker defensive line, but the run game is out of sorts.

The Saints need to give Drew Brees more passing plays early on, and I think they will. The run game should be significantly better this time around, but I doubt Adrian Peterson gets that many opportunities, especially after his no show in the passing game last week and his sideline scuffle with Sean Payton.

Expect a shootout with both defenses struggling. A lot of people see the Patriots winning this one easily, but on the road I’m not so sure it’ll be a blowout. Brady definitely will have a much better performance against the Saints defense since the underneath routes will be open this time around.

New England has not started 0-2 since 2001. I’ve got the Patriots winning, but this won’t be easy.

Winner: New England

 

 

Minnesota at Pittsburgh

Now this should be a fun game.

The Vikings are coming off an excellent offensive performance against the Saints. Sam Bradford looked phenomenal, consistently making tight, aggressive throws downfield while taking care of the ball extremely well, and the surprisingly good protection allowed Dalvin Cook to show off his talents.

The Steelers barely escaped Cleveland with a win. For some this is a cause for concern, but it shouldn’t be.  The Steelers were facing a well coached offense and a defense that has been improved. Even Ben Roethlisberger paid his respects to the defense and said the team as a whole would surprise people this season.

So here we get a great vertical passing offense against a great overall defense. The Steelers have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and the Vikings have one of the best pass rushes in the league. This should be able to make for some high stakes, competitive football.

For the Steelers, the pass rush has to test the offensive line, which consists of five new linemen. T.J. Watt had a fantastic debut in week 1, so it’ll be a test for the Vikings if they can stop him. On offense, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell should be able to (eventually) shake off the rust, so expect them to get involved as well.

The Vikings’ offensive line needs to hold up for Bradford’s aggressive passing attack to continue to work. This will allow the deadly combo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to consistently make big plays downfield. Cook should be involved early on in the receiving game as well.

I’m going for an upset pick this week with the Vikings. Ben Roethlisberger is clearly a lot better at home than on the road, but this defense will provide a challenge for him.

Winner: Minnesota

 

Dallas at Denver

The last time these two teams faced off, we had a famous Tony Romo-Peyton Manning shootout in 2013. With Dak Prescott and Trevor Siemian, we might not get that.

That’s more of a shot at Siemian than it is Prescott. The sophomore Cowboys QB was clearly rusty on Sunday night, but he still played a key role in guiding Dallas to a win because of his constant work audibling before the snap. Doing this was able to help the Cowboys get favorable spots where targets would be easily open. Prescott’s role as starting QB is legit.

On the other side, the Broncos came off another missed (blocked) FG attempt to start the season 1-0. There are more questions regarding the depth on defense this season than in previous ones, but C.J. Anderson remains a great running back.

With the Cowboys going up against the Broncos at Mile High, the big question is whether Ezekiel Elliot will be suspended or be able to play the game. The wide variety of ways he can be used in the passing game will enhance Dallas’ probabilities of winning. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas need to do all they can to ensure Siemian’s passes arrive without danger, and Anderson should be used early on.

With or without Elliot, I think the Cowboys win this one.

Winner: Dallas

 

Green Bay at Atlanta

A rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game, this will be the first game ever played in the Falcons’ new stadium.

The Packers are coming off a tough win against the Seahawks. It wasn’t the best game from Aaron Rodgers, but the fact that they were facing the worst offensive line in the league and had a fully healthy Jordy Nelson assured victory.

The Falcons themselves are coming off a close win themselves. The Bears have been underestimated this season, but the play calling from Steve Sarkisian was far more conservative than Kyle Shanahan’s from previous seasons. Matt Ryan still had a really good performance nonetheless.

The key matchup will be Jordy Nelson against Desmond Trufant. Trufant missed the playoffs last season, and even though Atlanta made it to the Super Bowl without him, it’s great to have him back. Nelson’s athleticism has returned, and two of the best at their position facing each other will make for a fun matchup.

The Packers offensive line was great against the Seahawks’ defensive line, and they get another great line in Atlanta. Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, and Keanu Neal are just a few of the big names from that front, and this will make for another exciting matchup.

Matt Ryan needs to continue to take exceptional care of the football. He had two consecutive passes at the end of the game that should’ve been picked, but was otherwise outstanding. He should be able to do more than enough with Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman all fresh.

As was the case with the previous 2 matchups from 2016, the Falcons should win this one.

Winner: Atlanta

 

New York Giants at Detroit

This isn’t your older brother’s Detroit Lions.

Detroit seems to be in the exact same territory as they were last year: Struggling for 3 quarters then emerging in the 4th quarter victorious. Matthew Stafford has gotten the credit for this, but the big reason is the outstanding situational football offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter uses. He’s able to distance the amount of nerve wrecking pressure put on his offense despite the stakes, and it’s made the Lions an exciting team when the 4th quarter comes.

The Giants desperately need Odell Beckham. That’s not to criticize the weapons, because Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram are all really talented, but Beckham negates pressure the offensive line puts on Eli Manning (who was extremely off in week 1) because of how he’s able to win everywhere. That in turn helps make Marshall/Shepard/Engram’s jobs easier so they can thrive with their respectable skill sets.

The Giants’ lethal defense couldn’t do enough to overcome the poor performance of the offense, and although they get a lesser offensive line, the Lions actually have pretty decent protection. T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner have been massive signings, and we saw that last Sunday when Stafford was afforded a lot more clean pockets than in previous seasons.

With Landon Collins, Jason Pierre Paul, and Oliver Vernon headlining the defensive line, and Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie highlighting the secondary, the Lions need to have the focus primarily be on Theo Riddick and Golden Tate getting as many opportunities as possible. Both are excellent underneath receivers, using their athleticism and situational awareness to create yards after the catch while being mismatches against defenses.

For the Giants, this is a game that can be won easily. The defense is significantly better than Arizona’s, and they should be able to force Stafford into some bad mistakes. Eli Manning must show better accuracy going against the Lions defense, which was predicted to be one of the worst coming into the season. Beckham returning would be huge.

Because of the defense, I think the Giants win on the road.

Winner: New York Giants

 

Predictions

CIN>HOU

CLE>BAL (Upset)

CAR>BUF

AZ>IND

KC>PHI

NE>NO

MIN>PIT (Upset)

TB>CHI

LAC>MIA

OAK>NYJ

DAL>DEN

LAR>WAS

SEA>SF

ATL>GB

NYG>DET

 

Featured image via sportsnet.ca

 

 

 

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