TB (0-1) @ CAR (0-1) | THU 8:20 PM ET | NFL Network
The Buccaneers were arguably the biggest disappointment of Week 1, as it isn’t just that they lost, but how they lost—with Jameis Winston throwing two pick-sixes—that is so draining for the team/fanbase. Not even a fairly balanced offense (21 carries between Ronald Jones II Peyton Barber) was enough to keep Winston out of his own way, and it’s simply difficult to trust Tampa Bay as long as he is under center. Carolina also started the season with a loss, but they at least put up an encouraging fight against the Rams, and it sounds like the team will be close to full strength with Greg Olsen (back) expected to play despite missing some practice time. Because of the strength of the division and the NFC in general, this is a huge Thursday night matchup for being so early in the season, and the microscope will be on both quarterbacks to kick off Week 2. I give the clear advantage to the home team with the hopes that Cam Newton will push the ball downfield more against a beatable secondary.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
ARI (0-0-1) @ BAL (1-0) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
I’m not sure a team has dominated the season opener in back-to-back seasons like the Ravens have last year (when they pummeled Buffalo 47-3) and this year (59-10 victory over Miami), and while you don’t want to get overconfident as a team, it won’t hurt that Lamar Jackson is coming off what was basically a flawless performance (17-of-20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns). The second-year quarterback is in an excellent spot to keep the momentum going against an Arizona defense that struggled to defend the pass in last week’s tie, and the creative ground attack may be left on the shelf for one more week before unleashing it against Kansas City next Sunday. Perhaps the Cardinals will catch Baltimore by surprise with Kyler Murray and Larry Fitzgerald picking up where they left off in Week 1, but the Ravens defense should be suffocating for the first road game of the Kliff Kingsbury era.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
DAL (1-0) @ WAS (0-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The Cowboys have been built around Ezekiel Elliott and the running game for the past three years, so getting Dak Prescott and a high-powered aerial attack going—thanks in large part to new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore—could make them an absolute powerhouse. Things will get tougher, but the early-season schedule also helps, as Dallas can get really get in a groove with games against Washington and Miami over the next couple of weeks before a big battle against the Saints. If there’s a noticeable flaw, it’s that Kris Richard’s defense doesn’t force a bunch of turnovers, so we’ll see if they can change that against Case Keenum. Just like I said last week for Redskins-Eagles, anything can happen in a matchup between NFC East rivals, but I’m not making the mistake of picking an upset against Dallas again. The best chance for Washington is keeping the ball on the ground with 34-year-old Adrian Peterson (who rushed 24 times for 99 yards and a touchdown last season in a win over the Cowboys) leading the way.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
IND (0-1) @ TEN (1-0) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Maybe I’m wrong because I don’t watch sports talk shows, but doesn’t it seem like there is very little buzz about the Titans after Week 1? Tennessee—who may have made the playoffs last year if Marcus Mariota was healthy—completely destroyed what many deemed to be a Super Bowl contender by 30 points on the road, and the formula of feeding Derrick Henry clearly paid off, as the former Heisman winner turned 20 touches into 159 yards and two touchdowns. Indianapolis has a similar weekly game plan for 2019 (featuring Marlon Mack), and it nearly led to an overtime victory against the Chargers last week, so look for both teams to try to establish the run early on. Overall, I expect a close game, but no one was happier that Andrew Luck retired than the Titans (he was 11-0 all-time against Tennessee), and they will look to get to Jacoby Brissett, who was 0-2 against them in 2017, including absorbing eight sacks in one of the losses.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
SEA (1-0) @ PIT (0-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
They certainly wouldn’t say it’s the case (nor should they), but the Steelers almost seemed demoralized from kickoff last Sunday night, as Antonio Brown suddenly being a member of the Patriots may have sucked the energy out of the team. That said, I trust Mike Tomlin to have his guys focused for this weekend, and we should see a much better performance at home—especially if the offense gets James Washington more involved after he operated as the No. 5 receiver in the opener. Seattle showed they can be beaten by big plays against Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh can’t waste any more time in not making their new offensive approach centered around JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner with Washington as the new, field-stretching “Robin” to complement JuJu. Seattle will of course come out swinging on both sides of the ball, but winning a probable shootout at Heinz Field won’t be easy, and I don’t see the Steelers dropping to 0-2.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
BUF (1-0) @ NYG (0-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
I didn’t check Twitter during the games to find out, but I’m sure everyone was bashing Allen for turning it over four times in the first half last week. Anyone who actually watched instead of scrolling through box scores saw that three of the turnovers weren’t even his fault, though, and Allen proved he has a clutch gene once again by leading Buffalo to a couple of fourth quarter touchdowns in a 17-16 victory. Through just 13 starts, the 23-year-old has already orchestrated four game-winning drives, and the Bills have a great chance to begin the season 3-0 with another short road game in New Jersey followed by their home opener against Cincinnati next week. Allen has plenty of room for improvement (and he needs to protect himself more), but Buffalo’s elite defense gives him more margin for error. Containing Saquon Barkley will be a challenge, but Sean McDermott’s squad should be up for it, and I’m not sure Eli Manning will be able to move the ball much through the air.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
SF (1-0) @ CIN (0-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
I admittedly overlooked the Bengals as a “player” this year because the offensive line looked like a fatal flaw, but based on what I saw and heard from them during and after their 21-20 loss in Seattle, they are on the right track under new head coach Zac Taylor. The Seahawks might not be the best measuring stick because the secondary is a weakness, but Taylor’s system consistently got receivers open, and Tyler Boyd probably summed up their future outlook best when he said about the offense, “Once A.J. Green comes back, they won’t be talking about the Browns anymore.” At home, the fans’ optimism should make it a tougher-than-anticipated environment for the 49ers, and San Francisco could be a little exhausted for another early start across the country. Plus, with Tevin Coleman (ankle) out of the lineup, I’m not sure where the juice will come from to help out George Kittle. If the Bengals can hold off the Niners’ loaded defensive line, Andy Dalton should be able to distribute the ball to his playmakers and get Taylor his first win.
Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
LAC (1-0) @ DET (0-0-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
No team in the world of sports has worse injury luck than the Chargers, who were already missing star safety Derwin James (foot), and will now be without tight end Hunter Henry (leg) for at least the next month, while wide receiver Mike Williams (knee) is on the wrong side of questionable for Week 2. Los Angeles will hope to ride Austin Ekeler once again, but the matchup won’t be quite as easy against Detroit’s underrated front, and Philip Rivers is now really lacking weaponry behind Keenan Allen. On the other side of the ball, LA’s run defense didn’t improve from 2018 if last week was any indication, but the Lions need to give Kerryon Johnson 20-25 carries to take full advantage of it and allow the offense to take off. Also, with Danny Amendola (7/104/1 last week) and T.J. Hockenson (6/131/1) facing tougher matchups, look for Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones to step up on the perimeter against a stingy but undersized cornerback group.
Winner: Detroit Lions
MIN (1-0) @ GB (1-0) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
One of the biggest takeaways from the opening week of the 2019 season was that Green Bay’s young defense is for real, but another—and one that I didn’t expect—was Minnesota’s group being as stout as ever. Keeping the ball on the ground offensively to establish an overall team identity had a lot to do with it, but I was worried about the Vikings in 2019, and they have certainly alleviated concerns so far. This rivalry isn’t friendly by any means, and it could be even more heated this weekend if the matchup turns into more of a defensive battle where the offenses (both of which have publicly shown their frustration in the past) struggle to move the ball. The Vikings have Aaron Rodgers’ number over the past six meetings (4-1-1 record), but Green Bay’s quarterback is still looking for revenge after breaking his collarbone against them in 2017, and I think being at Lambeau Field with extra time to prepare will give him a good shot at it.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
JAX (0-1) @ HOU (0-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
With Nick Foles (collarbone) unfortunately on injured reserve, the game plan for Jacksonville needs to be exactly what it was in Leonard Fournette’s career debut two years ago when they gave him 29 touches for 124 yards and a touchdown in a 29-7 victory in Houston. The Jaguars will need to air it out some, too, but rookie Gardner Minshew should have success against a very vulnerable Texans secondary, and he just needs to avoid big mistakes to give his team a chance. On defense, a prideful group will want to rebound from allowing Sammy Watkins and the Chiefs to absolutely shred them in Week 1, and this could be a coming out party for No. 7 overall pick Josh Allen against an offensive line that is still clearly a weakness based on Houston’s down-to-the-wire MNF loss. Perhaps I’m just not ready to give up on Jacksonville yet, but I have them keeping it close into the fourth quarter and finding a way to steal a road win by containing DeAndre Hopkins and getting to Deshaun Watson. [Update: with Yannick Ngakoue and A.J. Bouye out, my pick has changed to Houston.]
Winner: Houston Texans
NE (1-0) @ MIA (0-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The Patriots aren’t talking about Antonio Brown’s off-field trouble, so I won’t either, but it’s fair to wonder if the troubled wideout will be able to conform to the Patriot Way. I would think he is either going to play for New England or run himself out of the league (where else would be go if catching passes from six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady isn’t enough?), but unless everything has been an act to become a free agent, AB has proven to be an erratic character, and it’d only take one selfish slipup for Bill Belichick to move on. If Brown—who notably wore No. 17 at practice today with veteran Benjamin Watson (suspension) still likely having No. 84—does buy in, the Pats will have a seemingly unstoppable offense, and despite struggles in Miami, the question for this week is probably not whether they’ll win, but by how much. I would say Ryan Fitzpatrick is a wild card that can somehow pull a rabbit out of the hat for the Dolphins in any given week, but probably not against this New England defense.
Winner: New England Patriots
KC (1-0) @ OAK (1-0) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS
After a summer of unbelievable drama, it was good to see Jon Gruden, Derek Carr, Mike Mayock, and the Raiders overcome everything to start the season with a victory. Losing a top-two receiver obviously hurts on the field, but Oakland isn’t exactly lacking for talent with Josh Jacobs, Tyrell Williams, and Darren Waller all looking like difference-makers, and the offensive line was basically a wall against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb on Monday night. Many are expecting this Sunday to be a reality check against Kansas City, but I’m not sure that will be the case because a) the game being played at home, b) Oakland gave the Chiefs a fight last season as a 4-12 team, and c) the comradery Gruden’s club has shown is a real factor for this week and beyond. However, the secondary is really banged up with cornerback Gareon Conley (neck) questionable and first-round pick Johnathan Abram (shoulder) done for the year; I’m not sure anyone other than the Patriots can beat Patrick Mahomes in a shootout.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
NO (1-0) @ LAR (1-0) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
They might meet again in January to reignite the conversation, but the best part of Saints-Rams happening in Week 2 is that we can hopefully put an end to the missed pass interference call from the NFC Championship Game. Jared Goff has played great in all four career meetings against New Orleans, and there’s no reason to expect any different this week, as Marshon Lattimore won’t be able to cover all three of Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp, which will leave Eli Apple and P.J. Williams in unfavorable matchups with Sean McVay surely dialing up opportunistic shots at them. As for the running game, it will be interesting to see if Todd Gurley (14 carries last week) was being conserved a bit with this game in mind, but he saw just five touches in January, so the LA offense could be really tough to stop if the 25-year-old is unleashed. The key for the Saints will be generating pressure (a breakout by 2018 first-round pick Marcus Davenport would surely be welcomed), but I’m taking Goff and McVay to win a shootout against Drew Brees and Sean Payton.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
CHI (0-1) @ DEN (0-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Vic Fangio didn’t have an easy draw in his head coaching debut as the Broncos were opposed by a fired-up Oakland team/crowd, but perhaps he will have an edge this week facing an offense that he saw in practice every day last year. And while the Bears would seem to have a huge advantage having played on Thursday night (compared to Denver’s late MNF game), is more preparation time a good thing for Matt Nagy? If the extra time to think allows him to realize that the offense would be better by simplifying things (so, getting David Montgomery on the field more and using Anthony Miller as a full-time player), then yes; but if it leads to more “creative” personnel groupings and not emphasizing Allen Robinson as a focal point for Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago could end up beating themselves again. I expect a low-scoring game that can go either way, but new Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano should have a game plan to contain Courtland Sutton (seven receptions for 120 yards last week) similar to Davante Adams in the opener.
Winner: Chicago Bears
PHI (1-0) @ ATL (0-1) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
It’s been one-sided, but Eagles-Falcons has turned into a very competitive rivalry over the past three years, including a last-second playoff victory to start Philly’s Super Bowl run in January of 2018. All three wins by the Eagles have come at Lincoln Financial Field, though, so Atlanta finally getting a shot at home might be what they need to break through in the “Battle of the Birds”. Protecting Matt Ryan—who was sacked four times and under constant pressure last week against Minnesota—will determine how far the Falcons can go in 2019, but if the former NFL MVP has time to throw on Sunday night, we could see another big game out of Julio Jones, who has totaled 29 receptions and 405 yards in three meetings since Doug Pederson took over for Philadelphia. They will need to get Carson Wentz off the field on third down, but I’m taking Atlanta as the more desperate team and a home underdog.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
CLE (0-1) @ NYJ (0-1) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN
New York’s playoff hopes are essentially crushed already with Sam Darnold (mono) looking at a multi-week absence, which is just more evidence that basically every team in the league should upgrade their backup quarterback spot in any way they can—and Sam Bradford is just sitting out there as an option. That’s not a knock on Trevor Siemian, who can probably keep the ship afloat for at least one week, but Le’Veon Bell will face a stacked boxes all night, and it will be up to the defense to carry New York. Of course, there will be some extra motivation for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams against the team he led to a 6-2 record last season, and you can be sure that his players will come out with tremendous aggressiveness to stop Baker Mayfield and defend MetLife Stadium in primetime. If the Browns fall on Monday night, owner Jimmy Haslam might think about sending a draft pick over to the Jets for Williams, but I would be surprised if Freddie Kitchens didn’t get back to basics by keeping the ball on the ground with Nick Chubb to avoid 0-2.
Winner: Cleveland Browns