Well guys, after the haikus went 11-5 last week, we sit at 21-11, better than 96.9% of the world and one game ahead of the sharks in Vegas. The first few weeks of the season are always the toughest, since we're stuck trying to pick between still-largely-unknown quantities, all the while trying to fend off our preconceived notions of teams based on how they did last year.
To be completely honest with you, I'm a little nervous about this week's slate of games. I can't remember a week where there were so many (seemingly) evenly matched teams going head-to-head. Ten of this week's 16 games are between teams with identical records, which further muddies the water, and we don't even have a single 2-0 vs 0-2 matchup on which to presume an easy win.
So, with those disclaimers out of the way, get your 5% commissions ready and click through the jump for this week's winners.
This has the potential to be one of the best primetime games we see all year, as both teams feature extremely dynamic offenses practically dripping with fantasy football points. So far, the vaunted Giants defense that strangled every postseason opponent they encountered last year has been expecting to get by on reputation in 2012. Their typically ferocious pass rush has come up nigh-empty so far this season and it's left a woefully overmatched secondary prone to big plays.
Big plays happen to be Carolina's specialty, featuring a multi-pronged attack that includes DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart (though he's listed as questionable), Mike Tolbert, Steve Smith, and Brandon LaFell -- who I believe is poised to be this year's Victor Cruz. At the head of this mighty, morphing power attack is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks that God ever saw fit to create. Cam Newton's athleticism is rivaled only by his ubiquitous swagger, and an underwhelming "Big Blue" defense is going to have a hard time accounting for him if they can't provide consistent pressure up front.
All of that being said, we're still talking about the reigning Super Bowl champions here, and they're champs that didn't suffer a lot of roster turnover this offseason. The aforementioned Cruz is a bona fide game-breaker and assuming Hakeem Nicks (questionable) can go, the Giants will be just as capable of putting Carolina's secondary on the laundry line like they did to Tampa Bay last week (to the tune of 510 yards passing). Eli Manning has gone from petulant little brother with awful body language to the inside track towards a Hall of Fame career. New York will be without their starting tailback Ahmad Bradshaw, so I suspect they'll be unusually reliant on their aerial attack.
The Giants have won two of the last four Super Bowls, but both times they've found themselves behind an early season deficit. if they're going to repeat this year, I think they'll have to follow a similar path, cuz I don't see them emerging from this one with a winning record.
THE PICK: PANTHERS
It can be argued that Chicago's effort against the Packers last Thursday was the worst non-Chiefs performance of the season so far. After seven sacks and four picks, Jay Cutler could be seen scowling, pouting, and using his limp wrists and criminal paycheck to shove his rookie offensive lineman. If there's a quarterback in the league whose attempts to inspire a team seem more hollow and self-serving, I can't think of one. Couple that with the likelihood that Matt Forte will miss this one with an ankle sprain, Julius Peppers is nicked, and that Brandon Marshall was covered up like an Amish ankle by Green Bay and you've got a Bears team that could be on the ropes as early as Week 4, despite being a popular "sleeper" pick out of the NFC.
Chicago is in need of a win to keep the howls for change subdued, and frankly they don't look capable of beating any good teams. Fortunately for them, they get to host the Rams. Make no mistake, St Louis is a much better squad than the outfit that went 3-13 last year, but much better can still mean 6-10 when you're coming off of a Ground Zero campaign like they are. With Steven Jackson likely to sit this one out, or at least play at considerably less than full strength, expect Sam Bradford to go to the air close to 40 times, which means Danny Amendola will probably eat good, but also that he'll probably be the only one that does.
Expect an ugly game, but expect the home team to prevail.
THE PICK: BEARS
CJ Spiller is one of the darlings of the early season, and I don't necessarily expect that to slow down against the Browns. That said, Cleveland showed their ability to punch back in their slugfest against Cincinnati last week, highlighted by the dominating performance of rookie running back
Herschel Walker Trent Richardson. The Bills are a team that seems to be built for front-running; get ahead early, force other teams to pass a bunch, and then turn Mario Williams loose. I just don't think they jump out to that big lead in this one like the did against Kansas City last week.
I foresee the Browns turning this game into a meat-grinding affair, forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat them with his arm. Brandon Weeden looked surprisingly good in Week 2 (26-37, 322, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) against a very good Bengals secondary and I expect that confidence to continue against Buffalo's powderpuff DBs.
THE PICK: BROWNS
The Cowboys are a lot better than they looked against Seattle last week, and there's a gigantic difference between trying to beat the Seahawks at Century Link Field and trying to beat the Bucs at home. Like St Louis, Tampa is better this year under a new head coach, but their defense is pitiful and Dallas has the weapons to take advantage. The country at large will feel better about the 'Boys after this one, and we'll be sure to hear about all week after.
THE PICK: COWBOYS
I'm tempted to pick Tennessee in this one for a couple of reasons. one, I don't think the Lions are really that good of a football team and two, the Titans can't possibly be as bad as they looked through the first two weeks, can they? Well, yes, they can. You see, there's a difference between having a couple of bad games, and having a team that lacks the ability to execute on a regular basis.
Everyone has been quick to harp on Chris Johnson as a bust this year, but no one seems to be talking about the fact that Johnson actually has negative yards before contact on the season. That means that, on average, he's being hit before the line of scrimmage every time he carries the ball. What do you expect him to do? The Titans' O-line has been completely unable to adapt the new blocking scheme and it's forced Jake Locker to throw far more than he should have to, given his issues with accuracy. Add to that the fact that he's hurt (and really looked it, bouncing several short throws against the Chargers last week), and you've got Tennessee facing an uphill battle despite playing a relatively mediocre team at home.
I expect Calvin Johnson to emerge in this game, forcing the Titans to once again abandon the run and play catch up with a team that's ill-equipped to do so.
THE PICK: LIONS
For a boring team, Jacksonville sure has played some exciting football. After losing their opener against Minnesota in pinball fashion (like, 90 points were scored in the last two minutes of regulation), they came back and gave the Houston Texans everything they could ha-- wait, no, they looked exactly how you expected the Jags to look.
Listen, this team sucks. Indianapolis isn't very good either, but the Colts are at home, feeling good after Andrew Luck's first win, and I think the home squad wins this battle of bad teams. That said, if I'm wrong about any game this week, this is the one I'll care the least about.
THE PICK: COLTS
Before the season started, I really thought the Dolphins could end up with the first overall pick in next year's draft. So why am I picking them to beat the Jets? Well I think I underestimated Ryan Tannehill a bit, and despite being a huge Reggie Bush fan, I didn't think he'd pick up where he left off last season when he damn near led the NFL in rushing over the last nine games of the season. Besides, I still don't think the Jets are very good and I really believe that their explosion against the Bills in Week 1 was an aberration.
THE PICK: DOLPHINS
Look, I hate to say it as much as you hate to hear it, but I think the Niners have been the NFL's best team so far. Sure, I think Jim Harbaugh is an overbearing bag of feminine product that rubs his players the wrong way (especially Alex Smith), but there's no denying that top to bottom, their starting 22 might be the most talented in the entire league. they'll lose enough games this year to keep the NFC West up in the air til the end of the season, but at Minnesota is not one of them. Expect the Bay Area lovefest to continue into Week 4.
THE PICK: 49ERS
I know a lot of people are shocked that the Saints are 0-2, but I said all offseason that this would be one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and despite the insane amount of weapons they boast in Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, etc, they still suffer from a major leadership vacuum in the wake of their coaches' suspensions. They've shown a complete inability to come close to stopping their opponents so far, and I think they'll even make the Chiefs look pretty good.
All of that being said, I think that Kansas City may be this year's version of the last year's Buccaneers and their season is already at risk of spinning off into the ether. I think they have enough firepower to keep this one close, but I can't see them coming back if they fall behind and I don't even really see them hanging onto a lead, should they get one.
THE PICK: SAINTS
Robert Griffin III is one of my favorite athletes in the world right now. He reminds me so much of Kevin Durant and I think he'll have an insanely successful NFL career. However, I still think the Redskins are relatively talent-deficient overall and I have a sneaking suspicion that they're all unsure of where they stand with head coach Mike Shanahan on account of his unblinking glass eyeballs.
The Bengals are better than they've looked so far this year and I think that this is the game where we see the Andy Dalton-AJ Green combo really light it up. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a better back than Cedric Benson and I think that the striped ones keep control of the ball for the better part of this game. RGIII will get his, but it won't be enough.
THE PICK: BENGALS
A lot of people are sitting up and taking notice of the 2-0 Cardinals, and they're right to do so. Kevin Kolb has looked so much better than he did last year, and their defense is probably one of the 10 best in the NFL (what a division we have on our hands!). They've beaten the Seahawks and the Patriots despite Larry Fitzgerald recording a total of five receptions so far. It's easy to buy in to this team right now, but it's worth remembering that they were only four yards away from losing to the Seahawks and a missed FG away from losing to New England. I'm not here to diminish the Cardinals' accomplishments so far, because that defense is for real for real, but I still think we're talking about an eight-win team.
Philly, on the other hand, has struggled mightily in their first two contests, turning the ball over like they're scared of what would happen if they don't. Even so, they've overcome an incredible amount of mistakes to log wins in their first two games and, as my pick to play Houston in the Super Bowl this year, think Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and the rest of Andy Reid's guys will be good enough on Sunday to take down the Cards.
THE PICK: EAGLES
Despite Jack Tatum's ferocity in the defensive backfield, and the three-headed monster of Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen, and Cliff Branch on offense, I just don't see Al Davis' "Speed Kills" team capable of holding serve at home against the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, and that fearsome Pittsburgh steel curtain. Expect lots of candid verbosity from Howard Cosell in this one, as Chuck Knoll's Steelers trample their way through Oakland and into some 1980s championship matchup against the Redskins or whatever.
THE PICK: STEELERS
I'm as surprised at anyone that the Chargers are 2-0, at least, I was surprised until I considered who they've beaten. The Atlanta Falcons are a much different beast than either the Raiders or Titans and I can't imagine how the San Diego defense will be able to keep up with Roddy White, Julio Jones, and the cryogenically-preserved Tony Gonzalez. i really think that Matt Ryan is poised to enter the top ten in terms of best QBs in the NFL and the Bolts simply lack the firepower to keep pace. Don't be shocked if the Falcons leave San Diego with a double-digit win.
THE PICK: FALCONS
Houston Texans at Denver Broncos
Last week, the Texans continued their heartless roll through their schedule, bludgeoning the hapless (has anything ever been described as hapfull?) Jaguars into a tortured coma with an unending battery of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. I'm tempted to say they continue that trend in Denver, but the Broncos are awfully good at home and I don't think Peyton Manning will continue his Tim Wakefield impression in Week 3. Eric Decker and Demaryus Thomas will be handfuls and for some reason, everyone continues to overlook just how good Willis McGahee is.
This will be a very close game, methinks, and could be one of the few legitimate struggles Matt Schaub and the Texans encounter all year. Nonetheless, I don't think there's a team in the NFL better equipped to protect a lead than Houston, and even if they fall behind, they have the weapons at running back (Foster/Tate), tight end (Owen Daniels/Joel Dreesen) and receiver Andre Johnson to come back should they fall behind. besides all of this, Wade Phillips has constructed one of the best defensive units in the NFL and combined, i think that formula will be too much for the Broncos to stomach.
THE PICK: TEXANS
I just... I just have no freaking clue about this one, you guys.
THE PICK: RAVENS
I'll admit that I think there's a legitimate chance Seattle wins this game. Furthermore, I think there's a legitimate chance they win this one convincingly. After last week's performance, there's plenty of reason to believe that the 'Hawks are capable of beating anyone at home. When everything clicks, as it did last week, you can get a very clear picture of what Seattle's path to greatness looks like.
I expect the Seahawks secondary to do an excellent job of covering Green Bay's receivers, and I'm hopeful that Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin can generate consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers. But even if both of those things happen, perhaps no team is better suited to overcome it than the Packers. Rodgers is honestly one of the best QBs I've ever seen when it comes to completing passes even when his receivers aren't necessarily open. Seattle will give him fits at times, and the CLink will make things tough on them, but I think Rodgers eventually gets his way, even if it means a lower scoring output than we've become accustomed to from him.
Besides, I just don't see any reason (outside of a second straight masterful performance by the Seahawks run game), that current sack leader Clay Matthews doesn't just terrorize the 'Hawks backfield. I anticipate a low-scoring affair, but I still think this is Green Bay's game to lose.
Obligatory Russell Wilson mention to generate page views and comment-section debate.
THE PICK: PACKERS
NFL Picks, Week 3: Road Teams For The Win - SBNation.com
SB Nation's Week 3 NFL picks are in and they're heavy on teams winning on the road.