For an opening weekend full of uncertainty, week one was alright in terms of predictions. I was right on the money with some such as the Packers/Jaguars game, but like many was way off on the Rams/49ers snooze fest. One takeaway I had from opening weekend reminded me of something I read back when I was in high school. Then living in Jacksonville, I read the Jaguars site daily and in particular the “Ask Vic” column by Vic Ketchman who has been reporting on the NFL for decades. The particular quote I remembered is when he once mentioned the league in terms of play was becoming “basketball on grass”.
While the passing game reliance has continuously grown since, games are now being played at a much faster pace. Teams are even going on scoring runs that resemble what you’d see in a basketball game (look at the Lions/Colts quarter by quarter scoring as evidence), and many of the weekend’s contests came down to the very last possession if not play. This is a topic I’ll evaluate in more depth as the year goes on, but it is a trend worth following throughout the intriguing slate of games week two has to offer.
Last week: 10-6
Last week against the spread: 8-8
Game of the weak: Ravens vs Browns: Surprisingly, the two games these two AFC North teams played in 2015 were extremely entertaining. In Baltimore, the Browns left with an overtime win in a high scoring game. However in Cleveland, things happened in a way which only Browns or Lions fans can relate to as the Ravens returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown as time expired. Despite that, I’m not expecting a repeat at least this time around in 2016.
The Robert Griffin era lasted all of one game as he is in danger of missing the season with a fractured bone in his shoulder. The Browns now will turn Josh McCown who when given the chance last year actually looked relatively impressive in spurts last season. While that bodes well for the Browns offense, their defense at this time doesn’t look like it’s going to do them any favors. Who am I kidding, could this turn into another shootout? Ravens 26 Browns (+6.5) 17
Game of the week: Bengals vs Steelers: The cliché “there is no love lost between these teams” is said in announcers booths often this time of year. However, with these two teams it is actually true. I’m not sure if the league intentionally wanted to get one of these games out of the way while Vontaze Burfict was suspended, but this game could go any which way. From a high scoring affair, to defensive struggle all the way to sideline clearing brawl I’m not ruling anything out.
On offense, both teams figure to establish a ground game to open things up for their top tier receivers. For the Bengals, a physical contest like this would suggest we see more Jeremy Hill, who could open up opportunities for Andy Dalton to find A.J. Green. With the Steelers, DeAngelo Williams looks to build off a fantastic week one which would help get the Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown connection rolling. Brown at this point in time is an otherworldly receiver, but in comparison to the 30 other teams he faces, he has struggled against the Bengals by comparison. That will be an interesting trend to follow that could very well sway the outcome in what should be a highly contested matchup. Bengals 21 Steelers (-3.5) 24
Titans 20 Lions (-5.5) 26
Cowboys 20 Redskins (-2.5) 17
Saints 26 Giants (-4.5) 31
49ers 13 Panthers (-13.5) 27
Dolphins 17 Patriots (-6.5) 24
Chiefs 24 Texans (-2.5) 20
Seahawks 20 Rams (+6.5) 14
Buccaneers 20 Cardinals (-6.5) 26
Jaguars 23 Chargers (-2.5) 27
Falcons 21 Raiders (-4.5) 28
Colts 16 Broncos (-5.5) 24
Packers 23 Vikings (+2.5) 17
Eagles 20 Bears (-2.5) 23