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Thursday, 12 September 2013

NFL Week 2 Picks 2013 (September 12-16)

It was a strange first week of the new season with some surprise results and some clear blowouts, but the majority of games were decided by just one possession.

I did say last week that Week 1 is always a tough one to predict as some teams just seem to click quicker than others, while Defenses are slightly ahead of Offenses and that was shown by the number of 'under total points' games we saw last weekend. Below I have a few thoughts on Week 1, have my top and bottom five teams and then will have the picks from the Week 2 games posted below that.

Week 1 Thoughts
New Orleans Defensive Improvements: Last season we saw the New Orleans Defense give up all sorts of record numbers as the whole Saints organisation suffered after the Bounty-Gate scandal that saw a number of players and Head Coach Sean Payton suspended.

Steve Spagnula was released as Defensive Co-Ordinator and the fiery Rob Ryan came in this off-season… If the first game is anything to go by, and it usually isn’t to be honest, the Saints Defense could be serviceable enough to help take New Orleans back to the Play Offs after missing out a year ago.

There was a feel good factor in the Dome anyway on Sunday, but the Defense more than did their part by holding a potent Atlanta Offense to just 17 points and also ensuring the win by stopping them four times in the Red Zone within the last minute of regulation time.

It was a big win for the Saints, but a bigger one for a Defense that was roundly criticised for their performances last season. If New Orleans continue playing as well as they did on Sunday, the Offense will comfortably score enough points to possibly lead to 10 wins and a return to the Play Offs either as Divisional winners or a Wild Card team.

New Orleans have another test of their newly inspired Defense as they travel to Divisional rivals Tampa Bay next weekend, but it was a very positive beginning to the season for that unit.

 Potential New England Offensive Problems: They may have won the game, but the New England Patriots didn’t look comfortable with an Offense that is missing many pieces of what made them so successful in recent years.

Wes Welker had a big performance for the Denver Broncos last Thursday and Tom Brady has to be missing his Receiver already, despite decent performances from Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman.

Rob Gronkowski is still not healthy, while Aaron Hernandez will consider football the least of his worries at the moment and the Patriots do look weaker across the board on that front.

I don’t foresee a lot of problems for New England within the Division because of the weakness of the Jets and Bills, even though Buffalo had more positives coming out of Week 1, but will this Offense be able to score enough points against someone like the Denver Broncos or San Francisco 49ers, the leading contenders for the SuperBowl?

At this moment in time, I wouldn’t envision the Patriots beating either of those teams, while the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans are possibly other teams in the AFC that I would place above them.

Maybe things will click the more time New England have together, and while Tom Brady is behind Center they will remain a threat, but winning shoot-outs isn’t likely for this current roster and so the pressure will shift to the Defense to make enough plays to keep the Patriots in front.

It was those Defensive plays that won the game in Buffalo, not the Offensive ones, and even last drive that set up the game winning field goal shouldn’t paper over some of the cracks

Jacksonville Jaguars have prime position for the Number 1 Pick in next year’s Draft: Wow, that was an ugly performance from the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1, the team that will give those ‘lucky’ fans in London a chance to watch them next month.

The Offense was as bad as advertised and there was no real surprise for me on that front considering Blaine Gabbert is still the starter there- my only reasoning for that is because the Jaguars want the Number 1 Pick next April in the Draft and the opportunity to take Teddy Bridgewater or Tajh Boyd as the new potentially franchise Quarter Back for this ailing club.

I do respect what Kansas City have in terms of talent on their Defense, but the Jaguars were horrendous Offensively and that unit failed to score a point in the game. This week, Gabbert has been ruled out so the chance for Chad Henne, who looked ok in his starts for Jacksonville last season, will get the opportunity to put a win on the board as they travel west to take on the Oakland Raiders.

This could be the game that ends up deciding which of those teams gets the top pick in the Draft next year, but Oakland looked a lot more competitive than Jacksonville and it is hard to see the latter win on the road in that contest.

A defeat would mean the Jaguars are going to be hard to shift from having the worst record in the NFL this season and thus give the new owner, General Manager and Head Coach a chance to begin anew next season with a brand new Quarter Back to lead the team forward.

Who will stop the powerful Denver Offense? How good did Peyton Manning and the Denver Offense look last Thursday night after they settled into the game with the reigning SuperBowl Champions the Baltimore Ravens?

This looked like an Offense that was going to be tough to stop on paper, but the emergence of Julius Thomas at Tight End and the arrival of Wes Welker from New England has added more options for Manning along with Erik Decker and Demayrius Thomas.

What do Defenses do? Focus on taking away the top two Receivers and having Julius Thomas and Welker create mismatches in the middle of the field or take away the middle and hope to beat the two Wide Receivers? It just doesn’t look like a lot of good options for Defenses going forward, although one saving grace is that the Broncos don’t have a dominant running game to add to their passing options.

Even then, it is going to be very difficult for Defenses to stop the Broncos doing what they want this season for most of the games they are scheduled to play and I feel comfortable picking Denver to end with the Number 1 seed in the AFC.

Replicating the numbers Manning had in Week 1 would almost certainly see Denver reach the SuperBowl next year in New York too.

San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers could meet again to decide NFC representative in the SuperBowl: It was a fascinating game between San Francisco and Green Bay in Week 1 and there is clearly some tension between the teams after some of the late hits and scuffling we saw in that game.

The 49ers got the better of Green Bay for the third time within the last twelve months, but this was the best I have seen Green Bay play in those games and they could have won the game if the referees hadn’t botched an earlier penalty call.

Eddie Lacy could give the Packers the running game that has made their Offense one-dimensional at times last season (although that was still good enough to beat the majority of teams they faced) and that added crease makes Green Bay a tougher out than they were last season.

The Defense played better and the Packers have a schedule that could give them a Number 1 or Number 2 seed in the NFC and a chance to go deep in the Play Offs.

San Francisco also showed off an added crease to their Offense and showed even the absence of Michael Crabtree is unlikely to slow them down. Anquan Boldin had a huge game, while Colin Kaepernick showed off the arm that makes him a dangerous dual-threat Quarter Back while his chemistry with Vernon Davis has improved significantly from last year.

Both teams are going to be a tough out for anyone this season and it wouldn't be a huge surprise if this exact same game decides the NFC Championship next January.

Top Five
1. Denver Broncos: Had Denver as the team to beat in the AFC, but was still blown away by their spectacula  start to the season.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Impressive performance to hold off the Green Bay Packers and could easily represent the NFC in the SuperBowl for the second season in succession. 

3. Houston Texans: Showed heart in coming back from a 21 point deficit to beat the San Diego Chargers, although more will be expected from a Defense that was carved apart by Philip Rivers in the first half.

4. Seattle Seahawks: It was a tough game at Carolina with the early start and a tough Defense in front of them… Still, Russell Wilson made a big play and Seattle now host NFC West rivals San Francisco next Sunday primetime.

5. New Orleans Saints: A surprise to have them this high, but this Offense will score plenty of points and they could be a real threat in the NFC if the Defense steps up to the same level they showed on Sunday against Atlanta.

Bottom Five
32. Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s no surprise I consider them the worst team in the NFL as they just don’t have a lot of talented pieces anywhere on the team and look like a team that could be fighting for the Number 1 Pick in the Draft next April.

31. Cleveland Browns: There would have been a real expectation the Browns could turn a corner this season, but that was a mistake-filled start against the Dolphins and Brandon Weeden’s noose just got a little tighter.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I did expect much better from Tampa Bay this season, but they made the New York Jets look a lot better than they are and then giving away the game in the bonehead way they did just made matters all the worse.

29. Oakland Raiders: The Raiders played much better than I thought they would, but that could say more about the Indianapolis Colts than Oakland. Big game this week as they host Jacksonville and they won’t have a better chance to put a W in the column.

28. Carolina Panthers: The Defense will certainly keep them in games if they play as well as they did last Sunday, but the Offense lacked imagination and there were too many mistakes from Receivers with drops.

Week 2 Picks
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: The Baltimore Ravens have had ten days to sort themselves out after the embarrassing beating they took in the opening game of the season at Denver,but they should be able to get back on track against the Cleveland Browns.

What makes me take a step back on the pick though is a Cleveland Defense that is much stronger than people think and one that completely bottled up the Miami rushing game last week. Joe Haden should deal with Torrey Smith, but Baltimore will be hoping Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson don't drop as many balls as they did last week.

I also trust Joe Flacco way more than Brandon Weeden and I can't help thinking that the latter may make a couple of key mistakes that gives the Ravens the win by a Touchdown or more. Baltimore are 7-3 against the spread against Cleveland and have won 4 of their last 5 at home by at least 7 points against the Browns.

St Louis Rams @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: The St Louis Rams are going to be a tough team to play for anyone in the NFL this season including their two NFC West rivals the 49ers and Seahawks, but I still like the Atlanta Falcons to find a way to win this one and clear the spread.

Atlanta have a very strong Offense, although Roddy White could be limited again like last week, and they have a strong record under Mike Smith following a loss by 6 points or more. However, Matt Ryan will hope for better protection against a vicious pass rush that St Louis send, although Atlanta will be given confidence with the way that Arizona moved the chains against this Defense last week.

There is also the possibility that this is closer than I imagine if Sam Bradford is protected as well as he was last week, but the Falcons are a strong home favourite. The Falcons are 21-11 against the spread in this spot, while they are 13-4 against the spread as the home favourite playing a non-Divisional rival.

St Louis were a strong road underdog under Jeff Fisher last season, but I did think this spread may have been a couple of points higher.

Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers Pick: Both teams won their respective Division and made it to the Play Offs last season, but one could be in a very difficult spot after falling to 0-2 this week. That is not a position that too many Play Offs team would have begun the season with so the losing team will have a mountain to climb.

The Green Bay Packers should have plenty of success on the Offensive side of the game in this one, particularly with Eddie Lacy giving them an effective running game, even if it wasn't at full tilt last week against the tough 49ers Defense. I am expecting Lacy to show his talent in this one, while that should open things up for Aaron Rodgers to dissect this Washington Secondary.

I also believe the Packers have a better Defense than the San Francisco Offense made them look last week and Green Bay should be able to make a couple of big plays on that side of the ball to win this game with the cover.

The Packers are 20-10 against the spread as the home favourite over the last few seasons and they are also 12-4 against the spread coming off a straight up loss.

Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: I was really hoping this spread would just move half a point more in the direction of the Dallas Cowboys, but I still like them to cover with the field goal head start in this game.

I know Kansas City were impressive last week, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are hardly an acid test of any teams ability- Andy Reid will also know the level of talent in the Dallas roster having competed against them for years as Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles but there have been enough changes in the Cowboys in the off-season to cause problems.

Tony Romo and Dez Bryant were hurt last week, but both will play and I still think Dallas can find some success with their Offense, even if the Chiefs Defense is under-rated. I also think Monte Kiffin's new look Defense will make it difficult for Alex Smith to keep the chains moving, particularly if Dallas are as effective bottling up Jamaal Charles as they were with the Giants running game last week.

I don't imagine a lot of points to be scored but Dallas have the more talent in my opinion as long as they can steer clear of mistakes that Kansas City are unlikely to make. Dallas are also 12-5 against the spread as the road underdog in recent years, while the Chiefs are a terrible 3-14 against the spread as the home favourite.

Add in the fact that Kansas City will be playing at Philadelphia in a big game for Andy Reid in four days time, and Dallas may just surprise.

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears Pick: Back to back road games is always tough in the NFL, but it is even tougher when both of those road games are against Divisional rivals which is what faces the Minnesota Vikings this week.

Even with teams loading the box to stop Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder continues to struggle at Quartet Back, but I am expecting a much better effort from Minnesota than they had last week in Detroit.

The Defense is also good enough to give Jay Cutler and the Chicago Offense some problems and I do think this game is going to be closer than the spread indicates. However, I don't trust Ponder enough to put down more than a unit, especially with their poor recent record on the road against the Bears, but I also don't believe Chicago were as fluent on Offense last week to think they should be giving up more than a field goal in this one.

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick: This is the spread of the week where I can't understand why the New Orleans Saints are not favoured by at least 6 points to win this game, even it is on the road.

The Saints are a team that can put up a lot of points when they are firing and Tampa Bay may just struggle to keep up if Josh Freeman cannot get his head into the game. A bonehead play cost them the chance of winning the game last week, but they didn't show enough on Offense throughout the game, although the Saints Defense isn't even close to being as effective as the New York Jets Defense.

Even so, Drew Brees is likely going to make the bigger plays than Freeman, while the Saints are 3-1 against the spread in their last 4 visits to Tampa Bay.

Denver Broncos @ New York Giants Pick: This looks like a game where both teams will be able to move the chains up and down the field all day, but I trust big brother Peyton to get the better of Eli for the third time in a row.

Both Defenses can be passed against, but I just believe the Broncos are less likely to make critical mistakes that end up costing them the game.

I also think the additional rest time for the Broncos could prove critical in the game, while I believe Denver's Offense is less likely to be stopped in the game of the two units. The Giants Secondary is very attackable and while that wasn't shown up by Dallas last week, I am expecting a lot more from the Broncos and I like them to win this game by a Touchdown.

MY PICKS: Baltimore Ravens - 6.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Atlanta Falcons - 5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 7 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys + 3 Points @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Minnesota Vikings + 5.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
New Orleans Saints - 3 Points @ 1.92 Bet Fred (3 Units)
Denver Broncos - 4 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Week 1: 5-6, - 3.50 Units

Season 2012- 4.78 Units

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