Week 2 Picks

NY Jets at New England

This the Jets best chance for a win. New England struggled to beat the Bills, and now are going to be without Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen. Tom Brady is good, but outside of Julian Edelman he doesn’t have a rapport with any of these receivers. That plays perfectly into the hands of a Jets team that looked phenomenal on defense last week against the Bucs. After shutting down Doug Martin, the Pats running game shouldn’t be a concern. I think Geno can limit the mistakes enough that the Jets win a close low scoring game.

Jets win 20-17

St. Louis at Atlanta

Jared Cook had a phenomenal debut for the Rams, and that defensive line looks like it could be one of the top units in the league. For Atlanta, if last week was any evidence, Roddy White won’t be playing at full strength. And with a struggling offensive line, the time might be right for a Rams upset. But the Falcons still have Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and, oh yeah, Steven Jackson. The game will be close, but Atlanta will avoid falling into an 0-2 hole.

Falcons wins 23-17

Carolina at Buffalo

EJ Manuel got off to a good start last week. But this Panthers front seven looked great against the Seahawks. They should be able to limit CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson. The Patriots were able to run against the Bills last week, and expect DeAngelo Williams to do the same. The Panthers will put up more than seven points this week, and get a relatively easy win.

Panthers win 27-17

Minnesota at Chicago

I don’t like Christian Ponder on the road. I like him less outside. Against the Bears defense? Yeah I’m going to pick the Bears. Adrian Peterson will have to have a big day to keep this close.

Bears win 31-13

Washington at Green Bay

Maybe RG3 shouldn’t have tried so hard to get back early. He seemed rusty last week, and now has to travel to Green Bay to face a very talented Packers team that is looking to avoid that 0-2 hole. Green Bay doesn’t have to run 80 plays in this one to make the Redskins defense look bad. Getting the practice against Colin Kaepernick last week should have the defense prepared for Griffin, especially since he doesn’t seem to be 100% and running around like he did last season.

Packers win 34-21

Miami at Indianapolis

The Dolphins showed a great run defense last week against the Browns. The Colts didn’t really show they could run the ball. But the difference between the Browns and the Colts is who is under center. Andrew Luck>>>>>>Brandon Weeden. But he is going to have to play better than he did last week against the Raiders. For the Dolphins this will be a good week to find that running game. They looked dreadful last week, but the Colts should be a much easier team to run against. The old adage is don’t bet against Peyton, and with 11 wins last season, Luck seemed to be developing a similar reputation. Luck will certainly make this a good one, but there is too much going against this Colts team.

Dolphins win 24-21

Dallas at Kansas City

Kansas City’s defense looked unreal last week. Sure that was going against the Jaguars, but it’s not like we’re expecting them to shut out a team every week. And the talent level on this team, certainly makes it seem like this could be a top unit. Last time I checked they had a pretty good offensive line, Jamal Charles, and Dwayne Bowe as well. Oh and the game is at Arrowhead, one of the hardest places to play in the league. Did we mention the Cowboys won a game by four points after winning the turnover battle by 5? The defense won’t get the same amount of turnovers this game, and Charles might even gain 150 yards.

Chiefs win 24-14

Cleveland at Baltimore

Baltimore looked dreadful last week. They are not that bad. What are the chances they go 0-2, especially with the game at home against the Browns. But they still won’t have Jacoby Jones, and the Broncos proved the Ravens don’t have many weapons offensively. They should work to get Ray Rice the ball in space, but he’ll have a hard time gaining yards between the tackles agains this tough Browns defense. For the Browns there should be more running room. The Ravens are still a good defense even though they struggled against Peyton. But I find it hard to believe they’ll shut down the Browns running game with the same success the Dolphins had. If Weeden can limit the turnovers the Browns should be able to pull out the squeaker.

Browns win 17-14

Tennessee at Houston

So here is the question. Is the Titans defense that good, or the Steelers offense that bad. To me all the evidence points to the Steelers offense being that bad. The offense took a big hit switching from Bruce Arians to Todd Haley. Now they don’t have Mike Wallace, pretty much their lone big play producer, Maurkice Pouncey is out for the season, and they still haven’t developed much of a running game. Oh, and the Titans were the worst scoring defense in the leauge last season, and really didn’t change much. The Texans have not looked great since their strong start last season, but at home this should be a victory.

Texans win 28-17

San Diego at Philadelphia

Are the Eagles as good as they looked Monday night? No, let’s look at the defense they were going up against. Let’s remember that the Redskins heavily rely on strong schemes by Haslett. Let’s remember there was no tape on the Chip Kelly offense. Let’s remember that RG3 is clearly not 100% and didn’t add that same running element. Let’s remember the turnovers, and the lack of a running game the Redskins displayed. And then let’s remember that this Eagles team let the Redskin come close to stealing the game. Could they make the playoffs? Absolutely, but how about we see them play a couple more games before we start frothing at the mouth. But how good is San Diego. Phillip Rivers looks like he has been possessed by Norv Turner. Before there is an exorcism performed, is there a lead you’d feel comfortable with the Chargers keeping? The Eagles are going to get the win at home, and the Chip Kelly mania is going to be in full swing.

Eagles win 34-24

Detroit at Arizona

Last season you couldn’t pay me to watch this game. This season? It actually looks like a pretty exciting matchup. The Lions looked great offensively against the Vikings. If the Rams were able to score on the Cardinals, expect to see the Lions light it up as well. For the Cardinals, man did that Bruce Arians offense look fun. Nice to see Carson Palmer finally get Larry Fitzgerald some help. But the Rams defensive line was able to take advantage of the weak Cards O-Line. The Lions defensive line might be the best in the league. They shut Adrian Peterson down last week, and should have no problem doing the same to Rashard Mendenhall. But it wouldn’t be a Lions game without some stupid mistakes. The game will be closer than it should, but the Lions will join the Eagles on the all-hype team this week.

Lions win 34-28 

New Orleans at Tampa Bay

Sean Payton vs Greg Schiano. Do I really have to write anything else? What about that week 1 matchup made you feel good about the Bucs. I don’t care that they’ll be home for this one. The Bucs will score, but I fully expect the defense to get embarrassed. Darrelle Revis is great, but the Saints aren’t a one receiver team. There will be plenty of openings for Drew Brees.

Saints win 41-28

Jacksonville at Oakland

The official Downey for Clowney game. The loser should be the favorite to draft the freak defensive end from South Carolina. But the Raiders actually showed some life against the Colts. The same can’t be said for the Jaguars. And the Raiders will be home for this one. Literally the best thing the Jags have going for them, is Blaine Gabbert is too hurt to play. Chad Henne will be under center for Jacksonville, but that won’t be enough.

Raiders win 21-13

Denver at NY Giants

The Broncos aren’t as good as they looked, and the Giants aren’t as bad. Those turnovers were awful, and six of them? Seriously. Now this isn’t to say the Giants should be favored. The Broncos are still a really good team. But defensively they won’t get the same gifts they had against the Ravens. Baltimore had one receiver that could get open, the Giants showed they have three. And don’t forget abou Dan Myers and Louis Murphy. The Broncos pass rush issues from the first half of that game could be an issue in this one. Unless they feel comfortable leaving single coverage on two of those three. That helps the Giants whose main flaw is their offensive line. Hell if they could get a running game going the offense should be unreal. But let’s be honest, Peyton is going to put up some points as well. The Giants pass rush left a lot to be desired and they are going up against a much better offensive line this week. Peyton will find the Giants weakness, and will be able to take advantage of it, unlike Tony Romo. And I really doubt the game plan is going to be short, quick passes. This one will be a high scoring one, but Eli is going to get his first win in the Manning Bowl series. It has to happen before Peyton retires, right? Plus Mr. 4th quarter hasn’t had a comeback in a while. He’ll finally get back on track here.

Giants win 44-41

San Francisco at Seattle

The complete opposite of the Jags v. Raiders game. The winner of this one has a good shot at the top NFC seed. The 49ers were embarrassed the last time they played in Seattle, but the game wasn’t as lopsided as the score would make you think. Being at home will be a huge advantage, but the 49ers will be ready this time. With two teams that seem pretty evenly matched on paper, I’m going to take the team with the better coach. People may disagree with me, but I’m giving that to Jim Harbaugh.

49ers win 24-21

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

Well I already mentioned what I think of the Steelers offense. The defense still looks good, but it’s not going to be enough in this one. The Bengals defense is way better than what the Titans threw at them, and there is no way they fall to 0-2 especially getting this game at home.

Bengals win 28-14

Week 1 NFL Power Rankings

Established Contenders

1. San Francisco (1-0)

The 49ers picked up where they left off. After losing receivers Randy Moss, Ted Ginn Jr. in the offseason, and Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree to injury there were certainly questions. The answer: Anquan Boldin. With Boldin and Vernon Davis as the main receiving threats, a strong offensive line, a top defense, and the continued emergence of Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers look like Super Bowl contenders once again.

2. New Orleans (1-0)

So that’s what it’s like to have an NFL head coach patrolling the sidelines. The defense was hit with injuries, lacked top end talent, adjusted to an entirely new defensive scheme, yet still kept last season’s top seed to 17 points. Bravo. The offense should be a top 3 unit in the NFL, and the Superdome is as tough a place to play as any. Expect them to be in the Super Bowl conversation all season.

3. Green Bay (0-1)

Yes, they lost their first game. But it was on the road, and look where that team ranks in these standings. A one score loss to the presumptive best team in the league? Yeah I’m okay ranking them third this week. The defense looks like an improved unit, and my god is Jordy Nelson good. He has gotten a lot of attention recently, but he might need more. Oh and Eddie Lacy looked solid in his first NFL game, and Jermichael Finley finally looks to be an emerging talent.

4. Denver (1-0)

This certainly is a low ranking for a team that completely throttled the defending champs this week. But the Ravens aren’t the team they were last year. They lost Boldin, Dennis Pitta before the season started, and Jacoby Jones to friendly fire in the first half of the game. Not to mention the Broncos had next to no pass rush before Jones went out. Oh, and the game was in the friendly confines of Mile High Stadium. That isn’t to say their win wasn’t impressive…just not enough for me to put them ahead of the three teams in front of them. Especially when the AFC looks as weak as it does.

5. Seattle (1-0)

It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. As good as the Panthers front seven looks, they’re defensive backfield leaves a lot to be desired. Russell Wilson was able to pass for over 300 yards, and they were only able to walk away with 12 points. Still their defense kept the Panthers to a lone touchdown, and they were on the road. Something tells me this team is going to go 8-0 at home, so any road win is good news. And it’s not like the Panthers are expected to be a bad team this year. The Seahawks had Super Bowl aspirations before the season, and there is no reason to have them any lower than here. In fact, I might be regretting putting them this low in a week.

6. Atlanta (0-1)

Last year’s NFC runner-up didn’t start the season out the way they would’ve liked. But they went into one of the hardest places to play, against a top team who certainly seem like they’re on a mission this season. Steven Jackson looked good in his first game in red. This team is clearly still very talented. But with the added expectations, and the expected reemergence of New Orleans, I don’t see a second season as the top seed very likely.

7. New England (1-0)

That was closer than any Patriot fan would’ve hoped. But there are a lot of new receivers, Rob Gronkowski missed the game with an injury, and they went up against a Bills team with a new quarterback, and head coach. Not like they had a lot of game tape on them. At the end of the day they won an away game against a division opponent. They were expected to be a top team in the AFC and there isn’t much reason to second guess that just yet.

Wait and See

8. Houston (1-0)

They started off really slow, but were dominant in that comeback. They stifled the Chargers running game, and Phillip Rivers couldn’t get anything done in the fourth quarter. Rivers didn’t even throw for 200 yards. This team is just outside being a Super Bowl contender. They have talent, and they’ll probably win the AFC South again, but they haven’t won many big games in this stretch. Maybe a healthy Ed Reed can change that for them this season. But we’ll have to see it first.

9. Kansas City (1-0)

Their performance is probably the least surprising of the week. Granted a shutout by the defense is still pretty impressive (I find it hard to pin a safety on the defense), even if it is against the hapless Jags. This team should be much better than they were last season, a wild card is certainly in reach, and they may even be able to sneak their way to a division title. They’re like the Bengals with better coaching, and a stronger running game. But they get to beat up on the Chargers and Raiders twice a season, a luxury Cincinnati doesn’t have in the AFC North.

10. Carolina (0-1)

A five point loss to a team many are expecting to win the Super Bowl? Not bad, even if it was at home. At the end of the day my biggest problem with this team is they have Ron Rivera at head coach and Cam Newton at quarterback. Two men that don’t inspire the most confidence come crunch time. That front seven is flat out awesome, and there is enough talent on the offensive side of the ball that 6-8 wins is highly likely. If enough things fall their way they may actually turn into contenders. With a better coach I might’ve even expected it.

11.  Baltimore (0-1)

That loss was ugly, I’ll give you that. But I don’t think that means the Ravens are done for. They have plenty of talent on defense, and now it is getting the pieces to mesh together. Oh and having an offense that can actually get those guys a rest. I see this team getting stronger as the season goes on, and with the lack of talent in the AFC, I still see a winning record as a possibility. And did I mention the other three teams in their division lost too? They need to get Michael Oher and Jacoby Jones back on offense. In the meantime Torrey Smith needs to beat man coverage, and they need to get Ray Rice more involved on offense.

12. Detroit (1-0)

Good win, but the same flaws keep rearing their head with this team. They play dumb. Jim Schwartz is another guy who deserves the boot. He just hasn’t proven to be a good leader. The Reggie Bush signing was a great one. I don’t think it was hard to predict. With all the attention Calvin Johnson gets, a guy who can make plays in space from the flat is a perfect compliment. Checking down will be far from the worst thing for Matthew Stafford. And that front seven did a great job containing Adrain Peterson. But the secondary remains my concern with the defense, and Christian Ponder certainly isn’t a guy who is going to test that. Too close a game at home against a team like the Vikings. But there is clearly talent on this team.

13. Chicago (1-0)

They fall behind the Lions more because of my rankings before the season started, and because I’m oddly not overly impressed with the Bengals. Still they got a win at home that a playoff team is supposed to get. Who knows where they end up when the season ends, but they certainly have a chance. They improved the offensive line, and have a coach who should get more out of Jay Cutler. The defense looked solid as well. Playoffs are a real possibility for this team.

Need to Prove Themselves

14. Miami (1-0)

They went on the road and got the win against a Cleveland team that shouldn’t be as futile as they’ve been in the past. It was a close game for most of the day, and with the combined pedigree of the Browns and Dolphins, it’s hard to get too excited about the win. But they looked stout against the run, were able to bring plenty of pressure, and they forced turnovers. They really need to improve that running game if they want to be real contenders, though. 1-0 is a good start, but let’s see a little more from these guys before we bump them up this list.

15. St. Louis (1-0)

The offense certainly looks better, and Sam Bradford looked great in the fourth quarter. Jared Cook looks every bit as explosive as advertised, and the running game was better than I expected. Defensively they have talent, but that was a pretty close game at home against the Cardinals. The Cards should be better than they were last season, but they have to be one of the worst offensive lines the Rams are going to see all season. And while Carson Palmer is certainly a competent quarterback, he’s probably the worst one in the division. Like the Dolphins, we are going to have to see more from this team before we expect them to be real contenders.

16. Philadelphia (1-0)

This game, maybe more than any this weekend, is a hard one to draw any concrete conclusions. But at the end of the day the Eagles looked like the best team in the NFC East…not that that’s a huge accomplishment. But how much was it the unveiling of a new system? Was the performance at the end of the game the Redskins adjusting, or the Eagles taking their foot off the peddle? How good are the Redskins expected to be this season? Was RG3 just rusty? Lots of unknowns with this team, and based on their performance last year, it’s hard to put them much higher than this. And it’s fitting that the next three teams are all part of the NFC East.

17. NY Giants (0-1)

The Giants are a hard team to place. They dismantled the Cowboys defense all game. Eli threw for four touchdowns and over four hundred yards. The game was close enough that “garbage time” should not be a word thrown out (except maybe for touchdown number 4). If they had five turnovers they would’ve won the game. That’s crazy. But the offensive line looks worse than expected. That has caused big problems near the goal line, and has hurt Eli’s chances of getting comfortable in the pocket. And the defensive line has to do a MUCH better job. Thankfully the secondary was better than expected. The big hope is Prince Amukamara isn’t out too long. This team has a lot of talent. They played a similarly sloppy game week 1 of the 2010 season against a Panthers team that finished 2-14, and they ended up with a 10-6 record (they missed the playoffs, but 10 wins will generally get you in). They have enough talent at key spots that they can realistically make the playoffs. But they have enough flaws to miss it.

18. Dallas (1-0)

Probably not fair to rank them behind the Giants right after they beat them, but 1) it was at home 2) they realistically could’ve lost to the Giants if they only (ha) turned it over five times 3) The defense looked dreadful 4) Where was Dez Bryant? Plainly speaking, they did not look like a good team. I walked away from that game less impressed with the Cowboys than the Giants. The Giants looked stupid, the Cowboys looked bad. If the Giants settled down after their first three turnovers, I think the Giants could’ve realistically blown them out. That should not be comforting to the Cowboys. There was really no part of the team that seemed impressive, and they got incredibly lucky. They recovered every loose ball. That won’t happen every week.

19. Washington (0-1)

What a terrible start for RG3 and the Redskins to the season. The defense played way better than the sum of its parts last season. Can they do it again. Did the Eagle expose the flawed defense, or did the lack of tape on Chip Kelly have to do with it? RG3 looked human, and so did Alfred Morris. The Redskins offensive line isn’t a top unit, and with Griffin not really looking like a threat to run, that was exposed. So was Alfred Morris. But if that was just RG3 knocking off the rust, and he comes back strong next week, who will remember this game? Oh, and they were able to making it interesting in the second half. Like with the Eagles, it’s hard to know if that was the Redskins adjusting, or the Eagles letting them back in. Still hard to lose a division home game, especially when they have to travel to Green Bay next week. But a win there and they will skyrocket up these rankings.

20. Cincinnati (0-1)

Like the Bears, this ranking might have more to do with my preseason bias. But if they were supposed to take the next step this year, that game certainly would’ve been the time to do it. The Bengals esteemed defense should’ve been able to hold the lead, and with the monster day AJ green had, you’d hope for more than 21 points. And no points in the fourth quarter? Really? What about 63 yards rushing, should that make me question their run game any less? They went 7-1 down the stretch, but against bad opponents, and ones teams that were hitting their valleys. This team certainly isn’t hopeless, and one 3-point loss on the road doesn’t write them off, but it is once again an example of this team failing to take that next step. 19 might be a bit low, but I’m waiting for them to prove me wrong.

21. Indianapolis (1-0)

That win was U-G-L-Y. Where is the alibi? (I apologize…profusely). But seriously… I’m not too surprised with Oakland putting 17 points, when they were starting a running quarterback who there is basically no tape on. Especially when I wasn’t expecting much of the defense anyway. But Andrew Luck failing to throw for 200 yards, only scoring 21 points, giving the Raiders plenty of chances to come back and win this game? That worries me a lot. Especially when last season’s offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, left to Arizona where the offense looks significantly better than a year ago. And it’s not like Oakland was expected to have a good defense. Bad games happen. It was week one. Luck didn’t have a great game week one last year either. But now they’ve got to prove it was a bad game, and not the start of a letdown season.

22. Buffalo (0-1)

EJ Manuel looked good. The only way the game could’ve gone better is if they won :-P. But to keep it close against the Patriots is a good start. A lot of people seem to like Doug Marrone, and the Bills actually looked solid. They have talent on both sides of the ball. The Colts didn’t win their first game of the season last year and still finished with 11 wins. Basically the season isn’t over yet. The Bills could realistically make a push. But a point more grounded and plenty promising: the Bills look to be moving in the right direction. Obviously it is very early to tell, and they’ve fooled us before, but they might be real playoff contenders as soon as next season.

23. NY Jets (1-0)

Fire Rex? Seriously? Let’s axe Schwartz and Rivera first please. This team always plays hard, loves Rex, and my god is he good at coaching defense. New parts this year and the unit still dominates. Yes, they went up against the Bucs, but it’s not like the Bucs are completely hopeless offensively. If I recall, Doug Martin had a pretty good year last year. Geno didn’t look great, and the running game still hasn’t gotten going, but there were enough signs. Geno kept his poise, and at least put them in a position to win at the end of the game (even if the Bucs did help him out). A one-point home win doesn’t instantly make them playoff contenders, but it just puts them in the bubble. They won 6 games last season, and had a chance to get as much as 8. In a weak AFC, why can’t they get there again? Still, really early, but there is some hope.

It’s Not Over Just Yet

24. Cleveland (0-1)

They need Josh Gordon back. It’s clear they’re in need of a playmaker on offense. But Davone Bess looked solid, as did Richardson, and if Weeden could stop turning the ball over (easier said than done?) they would’ve had a real good chance of winning this one. More importantly the defense looked great for much of the day. That unit should keep them in games all season. Plus like we mentioned with the Ravens, it’s not like anyone else in the division won. The AFC North reminds me of the NFC East of the last couple years. No juggernaut, but probably no bottom feeder either. 9-7 might win it this year. The offense should get better as the season progresses, and that might be enough for the Browns to sneak in. Then again they only put up 10 points against a Dolphins team that’s still a question mark, so 24 is definitely fitting for right now.

25. Arizona (0-1)

The offense looks much improved. But the defense isn’t going to be the same dominant unit they’ve been in the past. It also doesn’t help that they play in a very competitive NFC West. If they were in the AFC a wildcard might be a possibility. I guess it’s still a chance, but it is certainly an uphill battle. They clearly have talent on both sides of the ball, and Bruce Arians continues to prove himself as a good offensive mind. They’re ranked this low for a reason, but crazier things have happened.

26. San Diego (0-1)

They do not look any better than last season. They still can’t run the ball, and once again they fell apart in the second half. They don’t have a good enough offensive line or receivers to be a truly dangerous offense. And their defense isn’t going to scare a lot of people either. You have to admire the way this team came out this season, and switching from Norv Tuner to Mike McCoy at head coach could get this team moving in the right direction. But right now it’s hard to imagine this team making the playoffs.

27. Tennessee (1-0)

Well that was the surprise of the weekend. Never in a million years did I expect the Titans D to keep the Steelers out of the end zone till garbage time in the fourth quarter. But we still don’t know how good the Steelers are going to be. And Jake Locker is still their quarterback. They got 6 wins last season, and if the defense actually has improved they could be a wild card team…or at least better than number 27. But we’re going to need more than one game to move them up higher than this.

28. Pittsburgh (0-1)

If the Colts win was ugly, I don’t know how to classify the Steelers loss. I had them missing the playoffs, but that performance made them look more like a team that was going to pick in the top ten. Granted this may be an overreaction to one game. We have no idea how good the Titans are going to wind up being. But no offensive points till garbage time? ZERO?!? It’s got to make you even a little worried. Especially because “the genius” Todd Haley is still their offensive coordinator. Getting Le’Veon Bell back at some point will help. But Mike Wallace isn’t coming back, and they’re always a Big Ben injury away from completely leaving playoff contention. But it’s never smart to completely write off the Steelers. Who knows, maybe in a week they make me regret this ranking.

Pack it in Boys

29. Tampa Bay (0-1)

I didn’t like them before the season started. Nothing that happened this week changed my mind. I am not a fan of Greg Schiano, and their defensive coordinator, Bill Sheridan, doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside either. They don’t have the talent to make up for the coaching deficiency. Josh Freeman still hasn’t established himself as a good quarterback in this league. On Sunday they looked sloppy and were clearly out-coached. I feel pretty confident saying they are going to miss the playoffs this season.

30. Minnesota (0-1)

This team was primed for regression. I don’t need any fancy analytics to tell me that. Christian Ponder is still their quarterback. That’s all I need to know. He has had flashes, but overall has looked overmatched in the NFL. Sure his receivers aren’t the greatest, but he has a top offensive line, and a running back that demands a 9 man box. Not to mention a Pro Bowl tight end in Kyle Rudolph. The defense played above their talent level last season too. They have some true stars. Namely Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, and Harrison Smith. Those three, along with Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield helped spur the defense along. That isn’t going to happen this season. The best thing for this team is to completely bottom out, so they have a pick high enough to finally answer the constant question at quarterback. They just better hope they don’t whiff. It was one game on the road, against a team they don’t match up particularly well with. So it’s not fair to completely write them off, but man are there a lot of reasons not to like this team.

31. Oakland (0-1)

They showed more this week than expected. But how much of that was their opponent. It’ll be a few weeks before we find out. In the end there just aren’t enough reasons to like this team. They might be a tougher game than they were given credit for, but it’s very unlikely they can get more than four wins over the course of the season. Their best case is Terrelle Pryor turns into an answer at quarterback. As of now, four wins seems like their ceiling.

32. Jacksonville (0-1)

This team was as pathetic as you’d expect. They’re lucky they got the safety. With Justin Blackmon serving a suspension, and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback there really isn’t much hope this season. It’s not like there is a ton of talent on the defense. They might have the worst defensive line in the entire NFL. Remember the days of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud? Neither do I.

Week 1 Picks

Baltimore at Denver 

Denver was one competent display from Rahim Moore and Tony Carter from making the AFC Championship game last season. Of course Baltimore benefited from that play to beat the Broncos in overtime, and eventually take home the Lombardi Trophy. Think the Broncos forgot about that? Add in the fact that Denver is at home where they were 7-1 last season, and, while Peyton doesn’t have the best playoff record, he has OWNED the regular season in his career. Oh and Baltimore lost Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, and Dannell Ellerbe in the offseason. Certainly makes sense that Denver is the favorite going into this game…

Until you realize that 7-1 home record is more a product of a 13-3 regular season, and that homefield advantage didn’t help them in the playoffs last season. And while the Ravens lost plenty of players they also added Michael Huff, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, a healthy Ladarius Webb, and Elvis Dumervil. Yes, the same Dumervil that has terrorized quarterbacks for the Broncos the last few years. His partner in crime, Von Miller, is suspended for the first six games of the season. That’s 29.5 sacks that won’t be on the field for Denver.

This game should be close once again, but you can’t underrate what those two pass rushers meant to the Broncos defense last season. In the end the Ravens pull this one out.

Ravens win 32-27

New England at Buffalo

The EJ Manuel era has begun. The Bills have announced the rookie out of Florida State will be healthy and under center for them this Sunday. That one move makes the Bills one of the least predictable teams this season. They could go anywhere from cellar dwellers to surprise division winners. Manuel and CJ Spiller might form the most explosive backfield in the entire NFL.

For the Patriots they lose Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, and Rob Gronkowski. You know, their four leading receivers from last season. But Tom Brady has dealt with similar issues before. Back in 2005 he lost Deion Branch and David Givens and still lead the Patriots to a division title. Not to mention the Patriots have owned the Bills since 2000, going 23-3 in that stretch. At what point is it smart to underestimate Bill Belichick?

Pats win 35-21

Cincinnati at Chicago

These two teams are very similar. Both are led by strong defensive units highlighted by a stud on the defensive line (Geno Atkins for the Bengals, Julius Peppers for the Bears), have questions at quarterback despite having a starter who made the Pro Bowl, an elite receiver, and top tight end. Both could take the next step this season and become real Super Bowl contenders, or both could be duds that finish at the bottom of the division. So yeah, this is a tough one to pick.

I’ve gone back and forth on this one, and I’m gonna take the cop out and go for the team with homefield advantage. So…

Bears win 21-17

Miami at Cleveland

In a weird way this might be the game I’m most excited to see. It features two of the biggest winners of the offseason. Both teams have a chance of surprising quite a few people and make a playoff appearance.

While Miami added a lot of pieces, they lost Reggie Bush and Jake Long. As a result there are questions along the offensive line and with the running game. The Browns defense should be able to take advantage of that. If the Dolphins can’t establish a running game, Ray Horton and the Browns should be able to get plenty of pressure on Ryan Tannenhill and the Dolphins. Mike Wallace should be a nice addition for the Phins, but Joe Haden has proven to be one of the top corners in the league.

On the flip side the Browns have a strong offensive line. That’s going to help against a pretty good front seven for the Dolphins. Trent Richardson didn’t have the greatest rookie season, but he will get his sophomore campaign off to a good start. This guy is a future star, and he is going to break a few big ones for the Browns. Under the tutelage of Norv Turner, Brandon Weeden will do just enough to win this game.

Browns win 24-14

Atlanta at New Orleans

Possibly the greatest game of the day (yeah that includes the 49ers/Packers game). New Orleans had one of the messiest seasons last season…and still finished 7-9! Their defense was historically bad, and the offense was uncharacteristically turnover prone. That changes with the return of Sean Payton, and a change to Rob Ryan at defensive coordinator. This team is too talented to go 7-9 again.

The Falcons had an amazing season last year, and still lost to the Saints in New Orleans. Atlanta should be a Super Bowl contender once again, but they’re primed for regression. Winning in Louisiana isn’t happening this week.

Saints win 41-28

Tampa Bay at New York Jets

So Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory at running back. Rookie Geno Smith starting at quarterback. And the Bucs added Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to a team that already lead the league in run defense. Do I have to say anything else?

No I’m not a huge Schiano fan, and I like defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan even less. But in what world do the Jets offense get anything done? They have to be a bottom three unit. The Jets defense should be a challenge for the Bucs, but Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson will get a few big plays. The Bucs will pull this one out.

Bucs win 24-14

Tennessee at Pittsburgh

The Titans significantly improved their offensive line. They added Shonn Greene to an attack that already featured Chris Johnson. But this isn’t the week they get the running game going. The Steelers defense is going to once again be one of the better units in the NFL. Maybe not as dominant as they’ve been in the past, but with Jake Locker taking the snaps for Tennessee they don’t have to be.

On the other side, the Titans were one of the worst defenses in the league. They didn’t do much in the offseason to change that. Even with questions at running back and the loss of Mike Wallace, Big Ben should have enough to work with to win this game easily.

Steelers win 31-10

Minnesota at Detroit

The Vikings swept this series last season. That won’t happen again. The biggest advantage the Vikings have is their defensive line over the Lions offensive line. But even adding Reggie Bush as a wide receiver should make things difficult for Minnesota. With the amount of focus they’ll have to spend on Calvin Johnson, Bush should be able to get plenty of open looks.

The Lions defensive line should be a dominant unit this season. No chance Adrian Peterson can win this game by himself. Christian Ponder is going to see plenty of pressure up the middle, and there is no way he is going to lead this offense to enough points to top the Lions.

Lions win 27-17

Oakland at Indianapolis

Indianapolis wins 31-10

Seattle at Carolina

Carolina is a popular sleeper pick this season. They played well down the stretch, and Cam Newton is the perfect quarterback to take advantage of the emergence of the read-option. But the Seahawks have a guy that can run that offense as well…and a defense that has plenty of experience stopping it. The Panthers don’t have many receiving options that scare you. Without a big threat in the passing game Cam Newton is going to have to wait a week to put up big numbers.

The Seahawks running game against the Panthers front seven will be the most exciting battle of this game. If the Seahawks win that this game will be a laugher. But even if they struggle there, if Russell Wilson can continue his strong play, the Seahawks should be able to take advantage of a pretty weak secondary for Carolina.

Seahawks win 31-21

Kansas City at Jacksonville

The Jaguars have the looks of a good offensive line, a strong running game, and some solid receivers…when Justin Blackman comes back from suspension. But they have Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, and they’ll have to put that dreadful defense on the field.

Kansas City wins 38-10

Arizona at St. Louis

Two teams that would be great sleeper picks…if they didn’t play in the NFC West.

Carson Palmer drastically improves the Cardinals quarterback situation. But first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is out for the season. There should still be questions on that offensive line and with the running game. The defense shouldn’t even be as good as it was last season. The safeties have been replaced, and they lost coordinator Ray Horton.

The Rams lost Steven Jackson, and that will hurt the running game. They added offensive talent in Tavon Austin and Jared Cook. That’s not as much as everyone makes it seem, but Bradford should have a better season. Oh, and they added Pro Bowler Jake Long to the offensive line. More importantly their defense should continue to improve.

Rams win 20-13

Green Bay at San Francisco

The 49ers owned the Packers last season. This season shouldn’t yield the same results. For as good as the 49ers defense is, the Packers have been able to score on it. With the addition of Eddie Lacy they might actually have a threat of a running game. Defensively they had all offseason to prepare for the read-option, and the 49ers are missing Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, and Ted Ginn Jr., the top four receivers from last season.

But the 49ers have gotten good production from their receivers in the preseason, and added Anquan Boldin. More importantly the Packers don’t have a strong offensive line and the 49ers will be able to get pressure on Rodgers. The Packers will probably have to find another week to get the running game as well. And for all the scheme adjustments that Packers were able to make, they didn’t improve the personnel that much. The game will be close than in the playoffs, and, if these teams meet again, the Packers might get the W, but not this week.

49ers win 31-28

New York Giants at Dallas

The two division rivals face off to start the season for the second straight year. Both are hurting along the offensive line, but the Cowboys also have a few injuries to their defensive line. They also have to adjust to a new 4-3 defense. The Giants should be able to get plenty of pressure on Romo and that will help contain Dez Bryant more than the corners will. And if Prince Amukamara wants to prove he can be the top corner for the Giants he better help on Dez too.

Both teams should struggle to run the football, but David Wilson is the bigger threat to take it to the house. With Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff sidelined, as long as the makeshif offensive line for the Giants isn’t in shambles Eli should have time to throw. If he has time he has the weapons to make the Cowboys pay.

Giants win 28-24

Philadelphia at Washington

RG3 is back. Cleared to start the season opener despite the ACL tear in the playoffs last season, RG3 instantly makes the Redskins a threat to compete as NFC East champs. Even with all the changes the Eagles made, they’re still not a playoff team.

The Eagles are adjusting to a 3-4, and Trent Cole has not looked good in space. The Redskins should be able to run on this defense. The most exciting matchup will be the Redskins pass rushers against an Eagles offensive line that could be one of the best in the league. If the Redskins can get the pressure they want, this game will be over quickly.

The wildcard is Chip Kelly’s offense. Despite having tape of his time in Oregon, no one is certain what his offense will look like in the NFL. But if it’s anything similar the tempo should be quick, and the offense should run tons of plays. The Redskins aren’t the deepest defense in the league, and if Chip Kelly can tire them out the Eagles have a chance. But at the end of the day I like RG3 to win it even if it’s close.

Redskins win 27-20

Houston at San Diego

San Diego doesn’t have a great defense, and they don’t have a great offensive line. The receivers aren’t too intimidating either.

The Texans get Brian Cushing back, and still have DPOY JJ Watt.

Texans win 28-14

Time to rebuild?

The Knicks went all in last season. Outside of a rehabbing Iman Shumpert there were no eyes to the future with the roster. The Big Three, Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, and Carmelo Anthony were in their primes, and an overly veteran group (they were the oldest team in the NBA) were their supporting cast.

The results? A second seed in the East (though a ways away from the Heat), but an embarrassing 6-game loss to the third seeded Pacers. The series didn’t even seem as close as the tally woud indicate.

The Knicks have to retool this offseason if they have hopes of even maintaining their hold as one of the premier teams. That need was exacerbated after the Nets major move, and the eventual return of Derrick Rose to the Bulls.

So what have the Knicks done? They’ve traded for Andrea Bargnani, and signed Ron Artest. The rest of the signings will come on veteran minimum deals.

These moves could either make the Knicks better or have almost no effect. But unless Bargnani realizes his potential of a lottery pick (number one overall actually), the moves aren’t enough to be a top four team in the East (at least on paper…the Nets might not work out as well as people think).

What the Knicks have to hope for is a big improvement from Shumpert, a full season of health from Stoudemire, a steal in Tim Hardaway Jr., and some luck. Even then, returning to a second seed and a second round exit might be all she wrote.

Crazier things have happened. Who saw the Mavs winning the title just a few seasons ago? But if I were a betting man I think this core will never win a title.

The Second Half

A sense of optimism

Let’s get this out of the way to start. No, I don’t expect the Mets to be in the playoff hunt. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see them fall apart like they’ve done the last few seasons. Yet I’m still excited for what’s in store. I feel like I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Mind you this light isn’t piercing. It’s simply the first time I’ve seen any in a while.

Even with mild expectations (and that was probably optimistic), the season started out disappointing. Once again Ike Davis had a slow start. The only hitter outside of David Wright with true star potential on the roster, and he put up some of the worst numbers in all of the majors. Ruben Tejada went from a possible starter to a minor leaguer, and Jon Niese has suffered through some poor starts and an extended stint on the DL that almost saw his season come to a close. Not to mention an injury to top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, the main impact player in the Dickey trade that was supposed to premier with the big league club.

So why am I optimistic for the second half? It’s Matt Harvey looking like a Cy Young candidate in his first full season. It’s Zach Wheeler flashing the promise of a staff ace in his first few starts. It’s Niese avoiding season ending surgery. It’s Jeremy Hefner turning from a stop-gap to a potential piece of the puzzle. It’s Bobby Parnell turning into a big trade chip, and a stud young closer. It’s wanting to see if there is any way in hell Josh Satin and Eric Young Jr. can keep it up. And it’s hoping to see d’Arnaud in the majors sooner than later. Basically, it’s a lot.

I want to see the progression of these players because honestly the Mets could be a competitive team as early as next season (competitive as in second wild card contender…which is a lot when you consider the last several seasons).

And it’s almost entirely because of the pitching depth in the system. Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Hefner, Dillon Gee, Noah Syndergaard, and Rafael Montero. That’s seven strong starting pitchers in the majors or the high minors. Pick any five and you have yourself a strong rotation to build around, and that leaves you two strong trading chips (If I had to guess I’d say Niese and Montero are most likely to be traded).

Ok, hitting might leave more to be desired. But Wright has become the leader of this team. He has been the best third baseman in the National League, and one of the most productive players in the majors despite having very little around him (outside of Marlon “Are you absolutely sure PEDs are not involved in any way?” Byrd).

There is still the chance d’Arnaud can establish himself as a solid hitter before the season ends. And let’s not forget all the money coming off the books at the end of the season. If the Mets can use the payroll flexibility to add a bat and trade for another (entirely possible) the Mets lineup could be respectable by next season (and with the rotation that’s good enough).