Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There's no such thing as a must-win game
during the second week of the NFL season. For the Green Bay Packers and New
Orleans, however, their next outing is about as close as one can get to the
critical stage at this point.
Both projected powerhouses, who combined for a sterling 28-4 record in the 2011
regular season, put forth performances more resembling also-rans in highly
disappointing debuts. The mighty Packers were outmuscled on their home turf by
the NFC's new bully on the block, the San Francisco 49ers, while the Saints
became an unwilling facilitator to the growing legend of Robert Griffin III
with a sloppy and shocking loss to the rising Washington Redskins on the same
Superdome field they were virtually unstoppable on a year ago.
Those defeats weren't only alarming, but painfully revealing in regards to the
two teams' vulnerability in a conference that at first glance appears to be
even more jumbled and wide open than last season, when the New York Giants
emerged from the pack despite a 9-7 finish that stood as the worst mark among
the six playoff entrants.
The Packers were predictable on offense and extremely exploitable on defense
in their 30-22 loss to the physical 49ers, with San Francisco running the ball
at will and rendering Aaron Rodgers into mere mortal status with a seek-and-
destroy mentality that took full advantage of Green Bay's disproportionate
dependency on the pass.
While the Packers' flaws do seem quite correctable, they only have a mere
three days to smooth out the rough spots before a meeting with another
opponent capable of exposing their weaknesses. And this one happens to reside
in their own division.
The Chicago Bears will come into Thursday's showdown at Lambeau Field both
determined and confident after easily disposing of lightweight Indianapolis in
their opener. While Green Bay will present a far greater challenge than the
reconstructing Colts, the Bears also look to be considerably more formidable
than the team the Packers have pushed around routinely over the past few years
with a healthy and more assured Jay Cutler under center and the addition of
game-changing wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
It goes without saying that a loss to the Bears would put a severe dent in
Green Bay's chances of repeating as NFC North champion, as a two-game deficit
in the standings with only six home dates remaining would be an uphill climb
for any team, even one that went 15-1 one year after winning the Super Bowl.
And that alone should be enough to raise the intensity up a notch in a rivalry
that rarely ever lacks motivation regardless of the stakes.
While the Saints may have been due for a period of transition after having
head coach Sean Payton exiled for the entire season for their affront of
Commissioner Roger Goodell with their pay-for-performance scheme, his absence
doesn't excuse the defense's wretched display against a rookie quarterback
making his initial professional start in Sunday's 40-32 clunker against Griffin
and the Redskins. Nor does Aaron Kromer's suspension-coerced elevation into
first in command explain the uncharacteristically off-target afternoon of
quarterback Drew Brees, who connected on a Tebow-esque 46 percent of his pass
attempts in his first effort after setting a new league standard for that
category in 2011.
Excused or not, the Saints have problems, and ones that needed to be fixed in
very short order. If a green rookie like Griffin can pile up 320 yards with
relative ease right out of the chute, imagine what a proven air assassin like
Rodgers would be able to accomplish when New Orleans heads to Lambeau Field in
two weeks. Or when the Saints pay a visit to Denver in late October for an
encounter with Peyton Manning.
Of course, New Orleans can't be focused on the daunting challenges that lie
ahead, not with a pivotal divisional road game against Carolina right on the
horizon. Although the Panthers were unexpectedly lethargic on offense in an
ugly loss at Tampa Bay last week, there's more than enough talent on that side
of the ball to create another day of headaches for new defensive coordinator
Steve Spagnuolo and heartache for the entire Who Dat Nation.
It's quite possible the Saints were simply just caught off guard in the opener,
and the team's admirable track record of both success and overcoming adverse
situations suggests that their Week 1 showing may not be an accurate indicator
of the future. Then again, having the organizational infrastructure blown apart
by a vindictive Goodell as punishment for its bounty crimes may prove to be too
much for New Orleans to overcome.
The answer should become infinitely more clear on Sunday, when Brees and his
mates square off against the dangerous Cam Newton and a Carolina squad that's
at a similar crossroads at this juncture.
NFL POWER POLL
The Sports Network's updated NFL Power Poll, which ranks all 32 league teams,
can be found at:
Find Fantasy Editor Steve Schwarz's latest analysis at:
SUICIDE SELECTION OF THE WEEK
After very nearly crashing and burning with last week's choice of Detroit,
maybe a more sweatless selection should be in order for Round 2. And in
glancing over the upcoming schedule, the candidate that clearly stands out is
The Patriots are a dominant home team that will face a quarterback in Arizona's
Kevin Kolb who's pressed into duty after failing to claim a starting job he had
the inside track on in the preseason, although the maligned and injury-prone
passer did do some good things when taking over for an ailing John Skelton in
the Cardinals' Week 1 win over Seattle.
Add in Arizona's extremely dubious history in cross-country games with early
kickoffs, and it seems like a clear recipe for success.
For those intending on saving the Patriots for later in the season, Cincinnati
could be a good bet at home against a Cleveland team that looked absolutely
awful on offense in the opener and will be without arguably its best defender,
suspended cornerback Joe Haden.
THE GAMES (All Times Eastern)
Week 1 record (straight up): 11-5
Week 1 record (vs. spread): 9-7
Chicago (1-0) at Green Bay (0-1), Thursday, 8:20 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 5 1/2
KEY INJURIES: Bears -- QUESTIONABLE: CB Charles Tillman (leg), TE Kyle Adams
(shoulder); PROBABLE: MLB Brian Urlacher (knee), LT J'Marcus Webb (thumb).
Packers -- DOUBTFUL: WR Greg Jennings (groin), RB James Starks (toe), CB Davon
House (shoulder); QUESTIONABLE: DE C.J. Wilson (groin).
THE SKINNY: Bears seeking first victory at Lambeau Field since 2007 and have
lost four straight and six of their last overall meetings with Green Bay,
counting a 21-14 Packers' win in Chicago in the 2010 NFC Championship ... Green
Bay dealt Bears a 35-21 defeat in Wisconsin on Christmas night of last season
behind career-high five touchdown passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and
also prevailed by 27-17 score at Soldier Field during Week 3 of 2011
campaign ... Packers coming off 30-22 home loss to San Francisco last Sunday in
which defense was gashed for 186 rushing yards, and had 13-game regular-season
win streak at Lambeau Field halted ... Green Bay attempting to avoid 0-2 start
for first time since head coach Mike McCarthy's first season in 2006 ...
Chicago opened season with 41-21 home rout of Indianapolis, with quarterback
Jay Cutler throwing for 333 yards and two touchdowns and new addition Brandon
Marshall gaining 119 yards with a score on nine catches ... Bears have won last
six games that Cutler has started, but he's had five interceptions against just
two touchdown passes in his last three matchups with Packers ... Green Bay led
NFL with 31 picks in 2011 ... Rodgers threw for eight touchdowns, four of which
went to tight end Jermichael Finley, while completing over 73 percent of his
attempts in last year's two encounters with Chicago.
PREDICTION: Bears have closed the gap on the Packers with their offseason
moves and will be a handful for the reigning division champs, but Rodgers is
still the less likely of these two quarterbacks to make the critical mistake
that could be the difference. Packers 31, Bears 24.
Arizona (1-0) at New England (1-0), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Patriots by 13 1/2
KEY INJURIES: Cardinals -- OUT: QB John Skelton (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: CB Greg
Toler (hip); PROBABLE: RB Beanie Wells (hamstring), CB Jamell Fleming
(shoulder). Patriots -- QUESTIONABLE: RG Dan Connolly (concussion), RB Shane
Vereen (foot), TE Daniel Fells (shin), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder); PROBABLE:
RT Sebastian Vollmer (back).
THE SKINNY: Kevin Kolb to draw start in place of Skelton and helped rally
Cardinals to 20-16 home victory over Seattle in Week 1 by completing 6-of-8
attempts for 66 yards and throwing go-ahead touchdown pass with under five
minutes left ... Defending AFC champion Patriots began season with 34-13 win at
Tennessee in which running back Stevan Ridley rushed for career-best 125 yards
and a score on 21 carries ... New England has defeated Arizona five straight
times, with Cardinals' last triumph in series coming in 1991 ... Cards also
haven't prevailed in New England since 1984, when franchise was based in St.
Louis, and have been outscored by 88-7 margin in last two visits to
Foxborough ... Patriots are 10-0 all-time at Gillette Stadium in home openers
and have won 35 of last 36 regular-season contests there when quarterback Tom
Brady has started ... New England rookie defensive end Chandler Jones had sack
and forced fumble that was returned for touchdown by fellow 2012 first-round
pick Dont'a Hightower in debut ... Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald
three catches shy of becoming youngest in NFL history (29) to reach 700 for
career ... Pats wideout Wes Welker enters game tied with Troy Brown for most
receptions (557) in team history.
PREDICTION: Cardinals won't be able to generate enough scoring chances on
improved New England defense to prevent Brady and his charges from carving out
a methodical win. Patriots 23, Cardinals 6.
Baltimore (1-0) at Philadelphia (1-0), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Eagles by 2 1/2
KEY INJURIES: Ravens -- DOUBTFUL: OL Jah Reid (calf); PROBABLE: FS Ed Reed
(hamstring), CB Corey Graham (leg). Eagles -- DOUBTFUL: WR Riley Cooper
(collarbone); QUESTIONABLE: WR Jeremy Maclin (hip), CB Curtis Marsh
(hamstring), S Colt Anderson (knee); PROBABLE: WR Jason Avant (wrist), RB Dion
THE SKINNY: First regular-season appearance at Lincoln Financial Field for
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who spent 10 seasons as Eagles assistant from
1998-2007 and served last nine years of that tenure under Philadelphia
sideline boss Andy Reid ... Baltimore kicked off 2012 campaign with 44-13
dismantling of visiting Cincinnati on Monday, with quarterback Joe Flacco
throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing to lead
way ... Ravens finished night with 430 total yards of offense ... Eagles pulled
out 17-16 road decision over Cleveland on Sunday, with quarterback Michael
Vick overcoming four interceptions to direct 91-yard drive capped by winning
touchdown pass with 1:16 left ... Philadelphia defense limited Browns to 210
total yards and picked off rookie signal-caller Brandon Weeden four times,
with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Kurt Coleman netting
two each ... Ravens dropped 15-10 verdict in lone previous stop at Lincoln
Financial Field in 2004, but routed Eagles by 36-7 count in Baltimore in
teams' last meeting back in 2008 ... Philadelphia signed wide receiver Mardy
Gilyard on Tuesday while waiving safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, team's second-round
selection in 2011 draft.
PREDICTION: Ravens will encounter difficulty from Philadelphia's outstanding
pass rush and the speed of running back LeSean McCoy, and Vick can't be as bad
as he was last week. Eagles 24, Ravens 21.
Cleveland (0-1) at Cincinnati (0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bengals by 7
KEY INJURIES: Browns -- OUT: CB Joe Haden (suspension); QUESTIONABLE: CB
Sheldon Brown (shoulder), OLB James-Michael Johnson (ribs); PROBABLE: RB Trent
Richardson (knee), OLB Scott Fujita (knee). Bengals -- OUT: CB Dre Kirkpatrick
(knee); QUESTIONABLE: DE Carlos Dunlap (knee), RB Bernard Scott (hand), CB
Jason Allen (quadriceps); PROBABLE: DT Domata Peko (knee), TE Donald Lee
THE SKINNY: Battle of AFC North inhabitants coming off losses on Kickoff
Weekend, with Bengals enduring 44-13 throttling at division-rival Baltimore on
Monday and rebuilding Browns edged at home in 17-16 setback to Philadelphia,
with Eagles scoring go-ahead touchdown with 1:16 to play ... First career road
start for Cleveland rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who completed just 12-
of-35 passes for 118 yards and was intercepted four times in rough
debut ... Haden to begin four-game ban for testing positive for banned
substance ... Cincinnati swept 2011 series, posting 27-17 win in Cleveland and
23-20 decision at home, and has taken three straight and six of last seven
matchups between Ohio residents ... Browns 1-7 in their last eight stops at
Paul Brown Stadium, with lone victory over that span coming in 2008 ... Four of
past six meetings in set have been decided by three or less points ...
Cleveland defense recorded four interceptions of Philadelphia's Michael Vick in
opener, with linebacker D'Qwell Jackson returning one pick 27 yards for club's
only touchdown ... Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins tallied career bests
for catches (eight) and receiving yards (86) against Ravens, while running back
and offseason pickup BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 91 yards and touchdown on
18 attempts in first game with Cincinnati.
PREDICTION: Bengals still have plenty of problems to sort out, but should be
able to find some success against a punchless Cleveland team that was lucky to
be in last week's game. Bengals 24, Browns 10.
Houston (1-0) at Jacksonville (0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Texans by 7
KEY INJURIES: Texans -- PROBABLE: ILB Brian Cushing (ribs), CB Johnathan
Joseph (illness), ILB Tim Dobbins (neck). Jaguars -- OUT: DE Austen Lane
(foot); DOUBTFUL: RB Rashad Jennings (knee); QUESTIONABLE: OLB Daryl Smith
(groin), CB Derek Cox (hamstring); PROBABLE: RG Uche Nwaneri (ankle).
THE SKINNY: Reigning AFC South champion Texans shoot for fourth consecutive
victory over Jaguars and opened 2011 season with 30-10 home dismantling of
lowly Miami on Sunday, while Jacksonville attempts to rebound from tough 26-23
overtime setback at Minnesota in Week 1 in first game at EverBank Field under
head coach Mike Mularkey ... Houston halted string of four straight losses in
Jacksonville with 20-13 decision last November, following up 24-14 triumph
over Jags at Reliant Stadium earlier in year ... Jacksonville quarterback
Blaine Gabbert compiled career-best 260 passing yards and threw for two
touchdowns against Vikings, including 39-yard scoring strike to wide receiver
Cecil Shorts that briefly gave team 23-20 lead with 20 seconds left in
regulation ... Texans placed second in NFL in total defense and third against
the run during last year's playoff run and faces 2011 league rushing champion
in Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew, who gained 77 yards on 19 carries last week in
first action since ending 38-day holdout ... Houston held Dolphins to 275 total
yards and no offensive touchdowns in opener, while standout receiver Andre
Johnson amassed 119 yards and a touchdown on eight catches for Texans ...
Houston running back Arian Foster averages 103.3 rushing yards against
Jacksonville for career and needs just 20 yards on the ground to become Texans'
all-time leader in that category ... Houston quarterback Matt Schaub one
touchdown pass shy of reaching 100 for career.
PREDICTION: Gabbert is showing improvement, but still has a ways to go before
the Jaguars can be picked with any amount of confidence to overtake a Houston
outfit that's solid in just about all areas. Texans 23, Jaguars 13.
Kansas City (0-1) at Buffalo (0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bills by 3
KEY INJURIES: Chiefs -- DOUBTFUL: FS Kendrick Lewis (shoulder); QUESTIONABLE:
CB Brandon Flowers (heel), NT Anthony Toribio (ankle), DE Allen Bailey
(groin), CB Jalil Brown (groin). Bills -- OUT: RB Fred Jackson (knee), WR
David Nelson (knee, IR); PROBABLE: WR Stevie Johnson (groin), DT Marcell Dareus
THE SKINNY: Clash of AFC clubs that both entered season with high hopes but
suffered ugly losses in their respective openers, with Chiefs dropping 40-24
home decision to Atlanta last Sunday and Bills sustaining mistake-filled, 48-28
defeat at New York Jets over the weekend ... Kansas City attempting to avenge
41-7 shellacking by Bills at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 1 of 2011 campaign,
with Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald tossing season-high four touchdown
passes to key team's fourth victory in last five bouts with Chiefs ...
Including two playoff setbacks, Kansas City has lost in each of last five trips
to Ralph Wilson Stadium and last prevailed in Buffalo in 1986 ... Chiefs,
however, won four of final six road tests in 2011 ... Fitzpatrick threw for
three touchdowns against Jets this past Sunday, but was intercepted three times
and has had 19 picks over his last 10 games dating back to last season ...
Bills running back C.J. Spiller rushed for career-best 169 yards and a
touchdown on only 14 carries last week and starts in place of Jackson ...
Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles amassed 87 rushing yards on 16 totes
against Falcons in first outing since tearing ACL during Week 2 of 2011 season
... Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston notched one sack in opener and has
6 1/2 over last six outings.
PREDICTION: Chiefs defense is better than it showed in a short-handed state a
week ago, while Bills still have serious issues on that side of the ball and
continue to struggle with turnovers. Chiefs 24, Bills 20.
Minnesota (1-0) at Indianapolis (0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Vikings by 1
KEY INJURIES: Vikings -- OUT: WR Jerome Simpson (suspension); QUESTIONABLE: LB
Marvin Mitchell (ankle); PROBABLE: RB Adrian Peterson (knee). Colts -- OUT: ILB
Pat Angerer (foot); DOUBTFUL: OLB Dwight Freeney (ankle), RT Winston Justice
(concussion), LG Joe Reitz (knee); PROBABLE: WR Austin Collie (concussion), DE
Cory Redding (knee), WR T.Y. Hilton (shoulder).
THE SKINNY: Regular-season home debut for Colts rookie quarterback and 2012
No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, who tries to bounce back from three-
interception performance in team's 41-21 Week 1 loss at Chicago in which he
finished with 309 passing yards ... Vikings in search of first 2-0 start since
2009 and delivered thrilling 26-23 overtime triumph over Jacksonville last
Sunday at Metrodome, with rookie kicker Blair Walsh forcing extra time with
55-yard field goal on final play of regulation and second-year quarterback
Christian Ponder accumulating 270 yards on sharp 20-of-27 passing ... Peterson
contributed 84 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in return from
torn ACL sustained in December and faces rebuilt Indianapolis defense that
ranked 29th against the run in 2011 ... Minnesota aiming for first-ever road
victory over Colts and first outright win in series since 1997 ... Vikings are
0-10 all-time as visitor in set and have dropped three straight overall to
Indianapolis ... Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne coming off nine-catch, 135-
yard effort against Bears, while rookie tight end Coby Fleener had 82 yards on
six grabs in initial NFL game ... Indianapolis signed veteran offensive lineman
Trai Essex on Monday.
PREDICTION: Luck will make an impact in his first real test in front of the
home fans, but Peterson and Vikings playmaking receiver Percy Harvin will be
the eventual difference-makers. Vikings 27, Colts 20.
New Orleans (0-1) at Carolina (0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Saints by 2 1/2
KEY INJURIES: Saints -- OUT: MLB Jonathan Vilma (knee, PUP), WR Adrian
Arrington (knee, IR); DOUBTFUL: CB Johnny Patrick (knee); QUESTIONABLE: WR
Devery Henderson (concussion), CB Jabari Greer (groin), OLB Scott Shanle
(leg). Panthers -- OUT: DT Andre Neblett (suspension); QUESTIONABLE: RB
Jonathan Stewart (ankle); PROBABLE: WR Steve Smith (knee).
THE SKINNY: Defending NFC champion Saints trying to avoid first 0-2 start
since 2007 and shake off surprising 40-32 home loss to upstart Washington in
first game under interim head coach Aaron Kromer, while Panthers vying to
rebound from 16-10 defeat at division member Tampa Bay in which team's usually
strong running game managed a mere 10 yards on 13 attempts ... New Orleans has
won four straight in series and followed up 30-27 victory in Charlotte last
October with 45-17 home trashing of Carolina in 2011 regular-season finale,
and has averaged 36.3 points in last three wins over Panthers ... Saints
quarterback Drew Brees piled up 389 passing yards and five touchdowns in Week
17 rout of Panthers and put up 339 yards and three scores last weekend, but
was intercepted twice ... 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton
threw for 303 yards for Panthers in Sunday's loss, while also tossing a pair of
picks ... New Orleans wide receiver Lance Moore finished with 120 yards and a
touchdown on six catches against Redskins, while teammate Marques Colston
compiled 145 yards and two scores on seven receptions in Saints' most recent
matchup with Carolina ... Panthers top target Smith finished with 106 yards on
seven grabs in opener ... Saints signed wideout Greg Camarillo on Wednesday.
PREDICTION: Both offenses will be far more effective than each showed last
week, but it's hard to go against Brees and a somewhat-desperate Saints squad
if it's indeed a shootout. Saints 31, Panthers 27.
Oakland (0-1) at Miami (0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Raiders by 2 1/2
KEY INJURIES: Raiders -- OUT: WR Jacoby Ford (foot), CB Ron Bartell (shoulder);
QUESTIONABLE: RB Taiwan Jones (ribs), LS Jon Condo (concussion); PROBABLE: WR
Denarius Moore (hamstring), DT Richard Seymour (knee). Dolphins -- DOUBTFUL:
RB Daniel Thomas (concussion).
THE SKINNY: Matchup of first-year head coaches still seeking their initial
win. with Dennis Allen's Raiders coming off frustrating 22-14 home loss to San
Diego on Monday and Joe Philbin's Dolphins receiving 30-10 manhandling at
Houston on Sunday ... First home regular-season start for Miami rookie
quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw three interceptions and failed to lead
the offense into end zone against tough Texans ... Dolphins' lone touchdown in
Week 1 came on 72-yard punt return by reserve running back Marcus Thigpen ...
Revamped Oakland defense held Chargers to 32 rushing yards and 258 total in
opener, but committed three special-teams miscues that led to nine San Diego
points ... Raiders have lost three straight and nine of their last 10 non-
playoff tests with Miami, including a 34-14 defeat at Sun Life Stadium last
December in which Dolphins rushed for 200 yards, but did come through
with a 35-17 triumph in South Florida in 2007 ... Oakland's Darren McFadden set
new franchise record for receptions by a running back with a 13-catch, 86-yard
outburst in Monday's tilt ... Miami running back Reggie Bush totaled 115 yards
from scrimmage in opener and aiming for third straight 100-yard rushing effort
at home, one of which came against the Raiders.
PREDICTION: Short week and an early start time after a cross-country trip
could be an ominous scenario for Raiders, but Dolphins are so inept
offensively it may not really matter. Raiders 20, Dolphins 10.
Tampa Bay (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 7 1/2
KEY INJURIES: Buccaneers -- QUESTIONABLE: CB E.J. Biggers (foot), CB Anthony
Gaitor (hamstring); PROBABLE: RB LeGarette Blount (neck), LG Carl Nicks (toe),
WR Arrelious Benn (knee). Giants -- DOUBTFUL: CB Michael Coe (hamstring);
QUESTIONABLE: CB Prince Amukamara (ankle); PROBABLE: WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), S
Kenny Phillips (back), OT Will Beatty (back), DT Marvin Austin (back), OLB
Keith Rivers (hamstring), CB Jayron Hosley (toe).
THE SKINNY: Homecoming for Buccaneers head coach and New Jersey native Greg
Schiano, who directed the football program at state university Rutgers for 11
years before joining Tampa Bay this past winter ... Bucs scored 16-10 home
victory over fellow NFC South member Carolina last Sunday in Schiano's NFL
intro, with defense rendering Panthers to just 10 rushing yards on 13
attempts ... Defending Super Bowl champion Giants try to bounce back from 24-17
loss to rival Dallas at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 5 and avert first 0-2 start
since 2007, with injury-riddled defense allowing 307 net passing yards and 433
total to Cowboys ... Tampa Bay mustered only 258 total yards against Panthers,
with rookie running back Doug Martin accounting for 118 (95 rushing, 23
receiving) in initial pro action ... Buccaneers have dropped last four matchups
with New York, including a playoff defeat in Tampa in 2007, and haven't beaten
the Giants since 2003 ... Tampa Bay also 1-6 lifetime as visitor in this
series, with lone win coming in 1997, and is facing New York on the road for
first time since 2006 ... Tampa Bay veteran safety Ronde Barber named NFC
Defensive Player of Week for 10th time in career after registering one sack,
one interception, two passes defensed and a pair of tackles for loss in 200th
consecutive start during Week 1 ... Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike
Sullivan was an assistant under Giants head coach Tom Coughlin from 2004-11
and spent the last two seasons as New York's quarterbacks coach.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers' revamped defense looked good in shutting down a
Carolina team with its share of firepower and should keep them in it, but
Giants are the fresher and more battled-tested club. Giants 24, Buccaneers 17.
Dallas (1-0) at Seattle (0-1), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Cowboys by 3
KEY INJURIES: Cowboys -- QUESTIONABLE: NT Jay Ratliff (ankle), C Phil Costa
(back), FS Gerald Sensabaugh (concussion); PROBABLE: TE Jason Witten (spleen),
CB Mike Jenkins (shoulder), RB Felix Jones (ribs), S Danny McCray (neck).
Seahawks -- OUT: G James Carpenter (knee); QUESTIONABLE: LT Russell Okung
(knee); PROBABLE: WR Golden Tate (knee), WR Doug Baldwin (mouth).
THE SKINNY: First meeting between teams in Seattle since Seahawks' memorable
21-20 victory over Cowboys in 2006 NFC playoffs, with the game's signature
play a botched hold attempt by Dallas quarterback Tony Romo on a potential go-
ahead field goal try ... Cowboys seeking first 2-0 start since 2008 and look to
build off big 24-17 road decision over NFC East nemesis New York Giants on
Sept. 5, with Romo spearheading win by throwing for 307 yards and three
touchdowns ... Seattle returns home off narrow 20-16 loss at Arizona on Kickoff
Weekend in first career start for rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who
finished with 153 yards and one touchdown and one interception on 18-of-34
passing ... Dallas has taken last three games in series, including 23-13
triumph at Cowboys Stadium last November in which running back DeMarco Murray
rushed for 139 yards, but has fallen in last two trips to CenturyLink Field
(counting playoffs) since last prevailing there in 2004 ... Murray added 131
yards on 20 carries in this year's opener, while wide receiver Kevin Ogletree
broke out for career highs of eight catches, 114 yards and two touchdowns for
Dallas ... Murray goes up against stout Seahawks defense which limited
Cardinals to just 43 yards on the ground on 20 attempts last Sunday ... Seattle
running back Marshawn Lynch had 135 rushing yards and a touchdown in last
year's clash with Cowboys and leads NFL in that category (1,026 yards) since
PREDICTION: A boisterous home crowd and Seattle's rugged defense won't make it
easy on Romo, but Cowboys' talent and experience edges win out in a close one.
Cowboys 17, Seahawks 13.
Washington (1-0) at St. Louis (0-1), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Redskins by 3
KEY INJURIES: Redskins -- OUT: SS Brandon Meriweather (knee), LS Nick Sundberg
(arm, IR); QUESTIONABLE: WR Pierre Garcon (foot). Rams -- OUT: C Scott Wells
(foot, IR), WR Austin Pettis (suspension); DOUBTFUL: LT Rodger Saffold (neck),
DT Michael Brockers (ankle), G Rokevious Watkins (ankle), DT Darell Scott
(knee); QUESTIONABLE: DT Matt Conrath (knee), S Darian Stewart (hamstring).
THE SKINNY: Second road test for Redskins rookie sensation Robert Griffin III,
who threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-26 passing in dazzling NFL
debut that led Washington to 40-32 upset at NFC powerhouse New Orleans last
Sunday ... Redskins acquired Griffin by dealing for No. 2 overall pick held by
St. Louis prior to April's draft ... First home date for Rams under new head
coach Jeff Fisher, whose club came up just short in 27-23 Week 1 loss at
Detroit after Lions scored game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds left ...
Teams squaring off in St. Louis for third straight season, with Rams posting
30-16 victory in 2010 and Redskins exacting revenge via 17-10 decision last
October ... Washington rushed for 196 yards in that contest, while rookie
running back Alfred Morris gained 96 and scored twice in a 28-carry effort in
New Orleans win ... Free-agent pickup Garcon had 88-yard scoring catch in first
outing as Redskin last week, but may be game-time decision on Sunday ... Former
Jets Robert Turner and Wayne Hunter slated to start for St. Louis in Wells' and
Saffold's place, respectively ... Washington sacked Rams quarterback Sam
Bradford seven times in last year's meeting, with outside linebacker Brian
Orakpo netting 2 1/2 takedowns and forcing a fumble ... Redskins signed veteran
long snapper Justin Snow on Tuesday to fill in for Sundberg.
PREDICTION: Griffin looks more like a rookie against an improved and somewhat
underrated St. Louis defense, though the Rams' injury problems along the
offensive line will be too much to overcome. Redskins 26, Rams 13.
New York Jets (1-0) at Pittsburgh (0-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Steelers by 5 1/2
KEY INJURIES: Jets -- DOUBTFUL: S Eric Smith (hip); QUESTIONABLE: WR Jeremy
Kerley (back); PROBABLE: CB Darrelle Revis (concussion), WR Stephen Hill
(calf), NT Sione Pouha (back), OLB Bryan Thomas (hamstring). Steelers --
OUT: TE Weslye Saunders (suspension); DOUBTFUL: RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee),
ILB Stevenson Sylvester (knee); QUESTIONABLE: OLB James Harrison (knee);
PROBABLE: SS Troy Polamalu (calf), RB Jonathan Dwyer (foot), RT Marcus Gilbert
(knee), RG Ramon Foster (eye).
THE SKINNY: First meeting between teams since 2010 AFC Championship at Heinz
Field, which Steelers won by 24-19 count, and first encounter between
Pittsburgh and new Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow since the then-Denver
Bronco helped his old club to stunning overtime upset of Steelers in the
opening round of last season's conference playoffs ... New York attempting to
maintain momentum after erupting for unforeseen, 48-28 throttling of visiting
Buffalo in Week 1, with starting signal-caller Mark Sanchez throwing for three
touchdowns and Jets also getting scores on defense (Antonio Cromartie
interception return) and special teams (Kerley punt return) ... Pittsburgh
aiming to bounce back from 31-19 road loss to Peyton Manning-led Broncos last
Sunday in which Denver produced 24 second-half points to prevail, and has won
nine consecutive home openers ... New York dealt Steelers 22-17 loss at Heinz
Field late in 2010 regular season, franchise's only victory in nine lifetime
trips to Pittsburgh, including the playoffs ... Rookie Hill had two touchdown
catches and team bests of five receptions and 89 yards in strong debut for Jets
last week ... Revis is a native of nearby Aliquippa, Pa., and played
collegiately at University of Pittsburgh, while Jets wide receiver Santonio
Holmes spent first four NFL seasons with Steelers from 2006-09.
PREDICTION: Rex Ryan's aggressive defense will pose some problems for a
Pittsburgh front line that doesn't protect Ben Roethlisberger all that well,
but Jets offense won't nearly resemble the juggernaut it appeared to be in
the opener. Steelers 24, Jets 20.
Tennessee (0-1) at San Diego (1-0), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Chargers by 6
KEY INJURIES: Titans -- QUESTIONABLE: MLB Colin McCarthy (ankle), RB Javon
Ringer (elbow), DE Scott Solomon (knee); PROBABLE: QB Jake Locker (shoulder),
WR Kenny Britt (knee), WR Nate Washington (leg), DT Sen'Derrick Marks (knee),
RG Leroy Harris (knee). Chargers -- OUT: LT Jared Gaither (back); DOUBTFUL: RB
Ryan Mathews (collarbone); QUESTIONABLE: NT Antonio Garay (ankle), CB Shareece
Wright (ankle), WR Richard Goodman (concussion); PROBABLE: TE Antonio Gates
(ribs), CB Quentin Jammer (hand).
THE SKINNY: Road introduction for Locker, who threw for 229 yards and a
touchdown on 23-of-32 passing in first career NFL start in Titans' 34-13 Week
1 home loss to New England but was responsible for two turnovers (1
interception, 1 fumble) ... Chargers come back to San Diego off hard-earned
22-14 victory at rival Oakland on Monday, with kicker Nate Kaeding tying
career-best with five field goals to account for most of team's scoring, and
shoot for first 2-0 beginning since 14-win season in 2006 ... Tennessee
attempting to break seven-game losing streak to Chargers, which includes a
setback at Qualcomm Stadium in 2007 AFC playoffs, and franchise hasn't topped
San Diego since a 27-0 home shutout by the Houston Oilers in 1992 ... Titans
last bested the Chargers in San Diego in 1990 while still the Oilers, with
team having dropped five straight on road in series ... Britt set to make first
appearance since tearing ACL during Week 3 of last season, having sat out New
England loss due to league-imposed suspension ... San Diego running backs
Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley combined for only 17 rushing yards on 15
carries in place of Mathews in the opener, while Tennessee's Chris Johnson was
held to a paltry four yards on 11 totes by Patriots ... Titans defensive end
Kamerion Wimbley notched four sacks in matchup with Chargers last November
while then member of Oakland ... Tennessee signed veteran guard Deuce Lutui on
PREDICTION: Chargers can be a tough team to handle when quarterback Philip
Rivers gets adequate time to throw, as Titans may find out the hard way if
their lackluster pass rush isn't more of a factor. Chargers 27, Titans 16.
Detroit (1-0) at San Francisco (1-0), Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 6 1/2
KEY INJURIES: Lions -- OUT: RB Mikel Leshoure (suspension); DOUBTFUL: FS Louis
Delmas (knee); QUESTIONABLE: CB Chris Houston (ankle), CB Bill Bentley
(concussion); PROBABLE: WR Calvin Johnson (foot). 49ers -- QUESTIONABLE: RB
Brandon Jacobs (knee), WR Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle).
THE SKINNY: Fiery head coaches Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh go head-to-head
for first time since infamous post-game spat between two after 49ers' 25-19
victory in Detroit last October ... San Francisco puts six-game regular-season
home winning streak on line and comes in off impressive 30-22 road ousting of
2011 NFC top playoff seed Green Bay last Sunday, while Detroit rallied for
harder-than-expected 27-23 home decision over St. Louis in Week 1 on touchdown
pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to running back Kevin Smith with 10
seconds to play ... Lions vying for first win in San Francisco since 1975 and
have dropped eight straight overall to Niners since a 27-24 triumph in
1995 ... Detroit has lost 11 in a row on road in series and is just 1-12
lifetime at Candlestick Park ... San Francisco rolled up 186 rushing yards on
Packers, with top back Frank Gore gaining 112 yards and a touchdown on only 16
carries, while quarterback Alex Smith hit on 20-of-26 passes for 211 yards and
two touchdowns and kicker David Akers tied NFL record by booting 63-yard field
goal ... Gore registered 141 yards and a score on just 15 attempts in last
season's verdict over Lions ... Stafford threw for 355 yards in opener, but had
three interceptions that the Rams converted into 13 points ... Johnson finished
with 111 yards on six catches in Sunday's test and burned San Francisco for
113 yards on seven grabs in last year's meeting.
PREDICTION: Harbaugh won't be as exuberant with his handshake this time out,
though he will still have cause for celebration if the 49ers come out on top in
the turnover battle like they usually do. 49ers 26, Lions 24.
Denver (1-0) at Atlanta (1-0), Monday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: Falcons by 3
KEY INJURIES: Broncos -- OUT: DT Ty Warren (triceps, IR), OLB D.J. Williams
(suspension), RG Chris Kuper (arm), TE Virgil Green (suspension); QUESTIONABLE:
CB Chris Harris (ankle). Falcons -- OUT: CB Brent Grimes (Achilles, IR).
THE SKINNY: Prime time showdown of 2011 playoff participants in which Broncos
quarterback Peyton Manning takes to road for first time since Week 16 of the
2010 season and inaugural away game in Denver uniform ... Manning threw for 253
yards and two touchdowns in ballyhooed Broncos debut and return from career-
threatening neck surgery last week, leading 24-point second-half surge that
lifted Denver to key 31-19 victory over Pittsburgh ... Falcons signal-caller
Matt Ryan accounted for four TDs (three passing, one rushing) and generated 299
yards to spark team to highly impressive 40-24 triumph at Kansas City in Week
1 ... Second-year wide receiver Julio Jones also had big day for Atlanta,
accumulating 108 yards and two touchdowns on six catches ... Manning owns 11-3
career record on "Monday Night Football," while Falcons are 26-4 at Georgia
Dome in regular-season games Ryan has started over past four seasons and
unbeaten in home openers over that stretch ... Broncos have prevailed in each
of last five stops at Atlanta, with Falcons' last home win in series taking
place in 1975 ... Denver cornerback Tracy Porter named AFC Defensive Player of
Week after offseason acquisition recorded eight tackles, five pass breakups and
returned an interception 43 yards for a game-sealing touchdown against
Steelers ... Broncos head coach John Fox returns to NFC South wars after
spending nine years in charge of Carolina from 2002-10 ... Denver signed
veteran center Dan Koppen, formerly of New England, on Tuesday while placing
Warren on injured reserve.
PREDICTION: Grimes' loss could be a crippler for Falcons, as Manning may have
an easier time navigating a depleted Atlanta secondary than Ryan will against
a Denver defense that's very good at generating pressure. Broncos 28, Falcons
The Sports Network