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NFL Week 2 Preview

   by Larry Ness - 09/17/2012

It was a very high-scoring Week 1, as the 16 games averaged 49.9 PPG (a record five teams scored at least 40 points in an opening week!) but yet, overs only outnumbered unders, 9-7. Home teams checked in at 9-7 SU and 8-8 ATS with home dogs going 2-3 SU and 3-2 ATS. Week 2 got underway Thursday and reports of Green bay’s demise (especially its defense), have been greatly exaggerated. Chicago’s Cutler was sacked seven times (3 1/2 times by Matthews) and threw four INTs (two times by Williams), as the Packers avoided an 0-2 start in 2012 with a 23-10 win. Rodgers was sacked five times himself but completed 22-of-32 for 219 yards (one TD / one INT). Cedric Benson, after being held to 18 yards (nine carries) vs San Francisco, added 81 yards rushing on 20 carries(Green Bay needs him).

Four, Week 2 games feature teams off to 1-0 starts, including both the Sunday night game (Lions at 49ers) and Monday night’s Broncos at Falcons contest. The other two are the Ravens at Eagles and Cardinals at Patriots. It’s obvious the Arizona at New England game doesn’t have quite the “street cred” as the other three, as the Pats own the NFL’s best home record since 2008 (28-4) plus own the NFL’s longest active streak of wins in home openers (10 straight). Meanwhile, the Cardinals are 3-13 SU (6-10 ATS) on the road the last two seasons. Then we have the QB “showdown,” featuring Tom Brady against Kevin Kolb. Brady’s 125-35 in the regular season as a starting QB, becoming fastest QB to 125 wins (160 games), easily besting Peyton Manning, who took 184. Arizona counters with Kevin Kolb and his career record as a starting QB of 6-10. Hardly seem like a fair fight. Then again, the pointspread always has a chance to be the great equalizer. Pats are favored by 13 1/2-points.

The Ravens were impressive in their home opener last Monday, steadily pulling way from the Bengals in a 44-13 home win. As for the Eagles, Vick threw four INTs at Cleveland in Week 1 but because Brandon Weeden had one of the worst debuts in NFL history (12-of-35 for 118 yards with zero TDs and four INTs / 5.1 QB rating), Vick’s 16-play, 82-yard TD drive was enough to edge the the Browns, 17-16. Vick was threw 56 times for his 317 passing yards (two TDs) and McCoy added 110 yards rushing but Philly will have to be much better here vs the Ravens “D,” plus Flacco looked very good in his 2012 debut, completing 21-of-29 for 299 yards with two TDs and zero INTs (128.4 QB rating). Eagles are favored by 2 1/2-points.

NBC and ESPN have two outstanding matchups on Sunday and Monday nights. The Lions and 49ers meet in a rematch of “the handshake game” Sunday night (you can’t possibly be confused?), while Peyton leads his new team intto Atlanta on Monday, to face a Falcons team which owns the NFC’s best home record (26-6 / 3rd-beat in the entire NFL) since Mike Smith (head coach) and “Matty Ice” (QB Matt Ryan) took over in 2008. The Lions ‘escaped’ 27-23 at home last Sunday against the Rams (just 2-14 in 2011), when QB Stafford (355 yards but three INTs) connected on a five-yard TD pass with 10 seconds left. Meanwhile, the 49ers ended Green Bay’s 13-game regular season winning streak at Lambeau in Week 1, winning 30-22. San Francisco’s “D” kept Rodgers in check and held Green Bay to 45 yards rushing. Alex Smith was 20-of-26 for 211 yards two TDs / 0 INTs) plus Gore ran for 112 yards (7.0 YPC) and one TD. Just how good are the 49ers? The Lions last won in San Francisco back in November 1975, losing their last 11 visits. The 49ers are favored by seven points.

Peyton’s return to the playing field after 611 days away turned out pretty darn well last Sunday night. The four-time MVP was coming off four neck surgeries that wiped out his final season in Indianapolis last year but he completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two TDs. The first TD pass was the 400th of his career, reaching that milestone in 209 games, the fastest ever (Marino got there in 227 games and Favre, 228). He was sacked twice and bounced up both times without trouble. The Falcons made short work of the Chiefs last Sunday in KC, winning 40-24. Ryan passed for 299 yards with three TDs and zero INTs (136.4 QB rating) and just may have the NFL’s best receiving trio. Many would argue that Gonzalez is the NFL’s best-ever pass-catching TE and Roddy White enters 2012 having caught 94.2 passes for an average of almost 1,300 yards per season the last six years (42 TD catches). Add to that, last year’s rookie sensation Julio Jones from Alabama (60 catches / 1,067 yards / 17.8 YPC / 10 TDs in 2011), who opened this year with six receptions for 108 yards with two TDs. Atlanta is favored by three points.

Other games of interest are Houston at Jacksonville, where Maurice Jones-Drew hosts Arian Foster. Drew has 3,007 yards rushing since the start of the 2010 season, the most of any RB in the NFL, with Foster right behind him at 2,919. Washington visits St Louis, as last year’s Heisman-winner RG III (can he really be that good again?) takes on the 2008 winner, Sam Bradford. The Steelers are looking to avoid that dreaded 0-2 start this Sunday, hosting the Jets, who scored more points (48) than any other team in Week 1 (who DIDN’T predict that?). The Steelers have won nine straight home-openers (2nd-longest active streak behind the Pats) and the Jets are just 4-17 all-time vs the Steelers, including 1-8 in Pittsburgh. However, all those games were played pre-Tebow.

Join me back here Monday afternoon for my CFB version of Random Thoughts, with my NFL version appearing Wednesday afternoon.

Good luck...Larry

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