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NFL officials continue to dominate the conversation as Week 2 begins. Last week provided a comedy of errors, with games running too long, fights occurring in seemingly every game, and some big missed calls.
Missed pass interference calls altered the course of the Philadelphia-Baltimore game, and there was a bad miss in the Giants-Bucs game. But still, the league soldiers on with the replacements, and it’s a matter of time until their inexperience costs some team a game.
Last week was a rough week for picks, as an 8-8 record would attest, so here are this week’s selections, with the hope for improvement:
Thursday – Giants at Panthers: Eli Manning had a day to remember in last week’s 41-34 win over Tampa, passing for 510 yards (eighth-highest in history) and three TDs in the victory. Victor Cruz (11 rec., 179 yds. 1 TD) and Hakeem Nicks (10 rec. 199 yds. 1 TD) caught almost every pass Manning threw, and they will again thrive against a Panthers secondary that has allowed opponents to complete 64 percent of their passes through two games. Factor in that the Giants always play better on the road in the Manning era, and the Giants should take this. Giants 34, Panthers 31.
Rams at Bears: The Rams have just two sacks and have given up eight plays of 20+ yards already. That’s great news for a Bears team that continues to struggle to protect Jay Cutler, and which has the offensive firepower to exploit such a defense. Bears 30, Rams 24.
Bills at Browns: A battle between two hot young rushers, C.J. Spiller (170 total yds., 2 TDs) and Trent Richardson (153 yds., 2 TDs). Brandon Weeden bounced back after a dismal opener in which he compiled a QB rating of 5.1, but the Bills have the experience (and a slightly better defense) to pull of their second straight win. Bills 35, Browns 28.
Bucs at Cowboys: Both teams suffered wrenching defeats last week, but the Bucs’ defensive woes (510 passing yards?!) tip the scales firmly in Dallas’ favor. Cowboys 35, Bucs 21.
Jaguars at Colts: Blaine Gabbert was injured last week, and his status as of now is unknown for this game. But former Dolphins QB Chad Henne could get the start. The Colts don’t stop the pass very well, but Jacksonville has struggled to throw the ball. The Jags don’t stop the run well, but the Colts don’t run it very well. So, take the better QB in this one. Andrew Luck will find a way. Colts 27, Jaguars 17.
Jets at Dolphins: The Dolphins are coming off a surprising rout of Oakland, while the Jets were handled in Pittsburgh last week. This is a blood rivalry, which means team records and stats don’t mean much, and the game is in Miami, so take the Dolphins in a shocker. Dolphins 23, Jets 16.
49ers at Vikings: The Niners are the best team in football right now, and in consecutive weeks have shut down Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, two of the best in the business. Christian Ponder is a second-year quarterback; you do the math. 49ers 24, Vikings 13.
Chiefs at Saints: Two 0-2 teams meet, with the loser likely on the outside of the playoff chase already. Neither team can stop anyone, but Drew Brees is a better QB and has better weapons than Matt Cassel. Saints 41, Chiefs 30.
Lions at Titans: Coming off a tough loss last week, the Lions should have their way with Tennessee, which has struggled offensively under Jake Locker’s leadership. Lions 27, Titans 17.
Bengals at Redskins: Two more teams that have struggled to stop their opponents so far this season, and that was before Washington lost defensive stalwarts Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker last week for the season. Andy Dalton beats RG3 in a battle between rising young quarterbacks. Bengals 27, Redskins 23.
Eagles at Cardinals: Two superb defenses face off, but the quarterback play has been shaky. Michael Vick has a whopping six interceptions in the first two games of the season, and add a fumble and that’s seven turnovers in two games. That’s too many, and even though the Cardinals don’t have much at QB, they’ll turn Vick’s miscues into points. Cardinals 20, Eagles 17.
Falcons at Chargers: Both teams are 2-0, and both have been impressive in their victories. But San Diego will have a harder time stopping Atlanta than vise versa, and the Falcons have the more opportunistic defense, as their three-INT plundering of Peyton Manning Monday night would attest. Falcons 24, Chargers 16.
Texans at Broncos: Houston has been the dominant team in the AFC so far, but stifling the Dolphins and Jaguars isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. The Broncos are Houston’s first test so far, on the road and with Manning having to bounce back from last week’s monstrosity. He will. Broncos 21, Texans 20.
Steelers at Raiders: This was once one of the great rivalries in the NFL in the 1970s, but those days were long ago. Oakland has looked lost in the first two games, and the Steelers still have their strong defense and Ben Roethlisberger. Steelers 21, Raiders 10.
Patriots at Ravens: Both teams lost on field goals at the gun – New England missed theirs to lose to Arizona, and the Ravens watched the Eagles make theirs in a loss. But the Patriots have looked un Patriot-like this season, as Tom Brady has not been his hugely productive self, due mainly to an offensive line that has more holes than a moth-eaten shirt. Baltimore, on the other hand, has looked like one of the stronger teams in the league, and Joe Flacco has made a strong case for being an elite quarterback. Ravens 27, Patriots 23.
Packers at Seahawks: Seattle is a totally different team at home, as witnessed by their demolition of Dallas a week ago, and the secondary is one of the best in the NFL. The Packers, like the Patriots, have struggled to get into an offensive groove so far. Take the ‘Hawks at home. Seahawks 20, Packers 16.
Last week: 8-8