A shootout in Buffalo got NFL Week 2 kicked off with a bang, and that was just a preview to give us a taste of what’s to come.
With fierce divisional rivalries like Cincinnati at Pittsburgh and Dallas at Washington headlining the early games, a Sunday night game to break in Minnesota’s shiny new stadium and a Monday night tilt featuring rookie Carson Wentz, it’s going to be a fun weekend of action.
Now, for some predictions.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
How the Bengals win
Shutting down DeAngelo Williams is a good first step. Then there’s this other guy nobody’s heard about named Antonio Brown who might be a factor. Keep both of these players under wraps and the win is assured.
How the Steelers win
It’s a tall task, but Pittsburgh needs to keep A.J. Green from going ham. The best way to keep this from happening is to pound out long drives with the running game and completed passes. Keeping pressure on Andy Dalton will also go a long way towards walking out victorious.
Prediction: Bengals win 35-30
Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions
How the Titans win
This is simple, but not exactly easy. Essentially, the Titans need to play keep-away from Matthew Stafford. The best way to do this is by running the ball relentlesslyto make sure he touches the ball as little as possible.
Also, let’s not allow two defensive touchdowns this week, okay guys?
How the Lions win
The best way to ensure victory is to bottle up the tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Making the Lions one-dimensional on offense would be a clear path to 2-0.
Prediction: Lions win 28-17
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
How the Ravens win
The offense needs to get cranked up. Last weekend against Buffalo at home, the Ravens weren’t exactly kicking butt. They failed to convert their only red zone attempt and lost a fumble. Joe Flacco should have a field day, if he is sharp, against Cleveland’s miserable pass defense.
How the Browns win
Protection up front is a must on offense. Also, let’s get Isaiah Crowell more involved, okay? Sincerely, Crowell’s fantasy owners. Of course, the biggest thing here is that Josh McCown will be taking over for Robert Griffin III, who is on IR now. Can he do what he could not last year when he went 1-7 in his eight starts?
Prediction: Ravens win 17-10
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
How the Cowboys win
Follow the blueprint of the Steelers from a week ago. Run the ball excessively. In spite of some serious work to build up the roster, Scot McCloughan must have been furious to see his defense give up 147 yards last week. Ezekiel Elliott is primed to have a big game, if the Cowboys run on a regular basis.
How the Redskins win
This one’s easy. Kirk Cousins has to play like the franchise passer he thinks he is.
He was far from reliable against a suspect Steelers secondary on Monday night, throwing into coverage and off the mark during critical moments of the game.
Prediction: Cowboys win 23-20
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants
How the Saints win
Points will be scored in bunches by both sides.
The Saints must show some semblance of a defense Sunday, or the Giants will win. It doesn’t matter how good Drew Brees plays. He must have some help from his defensive teammates for the Saints to avoid falling to 0-2 on the season.
How the Giants win
The new, expensive defense of the Giants performed well in Week 1, keeping Elliott and Dez Bryant bottled up for most of the contest. A repeat performance, coupled by some pressure up front on Brees, should give Big Blue all it needs to win.
Prediction: Giants win 35-31
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
How the 49ers win
The 49ers must prove their defensive performance against LA last weekend wasn’t a mirage. Getting consistent pressure on Cam Newton will be key, and it’s imperative to shut down the running game.
For Blaine Gabbert and the offense, it all boils down to turnovers. We know they won’t score many points, but the 49ers could make things interesting if the offense doesn’t lose the game.
How the Panthers win
It’s no secret Cam Newton got blasted like a thousand times during Thursday night’s tilt against the Broncos in Week 1. Clearly, the offensive line is vulnerable, so making sure Newton is safe and sound is the biggest key. Also, shutting down Carlos Hyde is the biggest defensive priority.
Prediction: Panthers win 27-16
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
How the Dolphins win
Catch the ball, Kenny Stills.
The Dolphins should have beaten the Seahawks in Seattle. That bodes well for the rest of the season. But the defense needs to continue applying pressure this week like we saw in Week 1.
How the Patriots win
Everybody do your job.
Keeping Jimmy Garoppolo clean in the pocket is critical. He performed admirably against the Arizona Cardinals and looks to be quite comfortable playing within the confines of New England’s game plan. Keep it status quo and the Pats should win at home.
Prediction: Patriots win 24-17
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans
How the Chiefs win
Kansas City’s defense needs to step up its efforts applying pressure on the quarterback. Given enough time in the pocket, Brock Osweiler is bound to find his deep threats open downfield. Offensively, the Chiefs must not turn the ball over, and Spencer Ware needs to keep up his Jamaal Charles impersonation for at least another week (more on that here).
How the Texans win
Houston’s offense needs to continue clicking. Lamar Miller is the key. If he can churn out another 100-yard-plus performance on the ground, the Houston should win at home. The only problem is Kansas City’s defense is slightly better than the one Chicago is trotting out these days.
Prediction: Chiefs win 27-24
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
How the Seahawks win
Watch Rams-49ers tape.
Rinse, wash, repeat.
Also, the Seahawks have got to keep Russell Wilson healthy. He’s the key player on the roster Seattle cannot afford to lose.
How the Rams win
This is tough, because it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Rams actually win.
Getting Todd Gurley going on the ground is a huge key. Also, the Rams need to find a way to get to Wilson — something they could not do against the 49ers last week on Monday night.
Prediction: Seahawks win 31-13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals
How the Buccaneers win
Jameis Winston and his receivers must be on the same page. Beating the Falcons is one thing. Taking the Cardinals out in Arizona is quite another. The offense needs to be flawless, and Tampa Bay’s defense needs to rattle Carson Palmer early.
How the Cardinals win
Mistakes were a killer last week. A missed field goal at the end of the game cost them the win, and there were a few key drops offensively. Of perhaps greater concern is the fact that the Cardinals couldn’t keep the Patriots from gaining first downs and moving the chains with the game on the line.
Prediction: Cardinals win 23-20
Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers
How the Jaguars win
One huge advantage in this one is that Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing on the other side. His brilliance single handedly won the game for the Packers in Week 1 (watch here).
This week, Blake Bortles needs to be sharper. He gave up an interception and was off the mark on other passes that had big-play potential. Also, Jacksonville’s defense needs to shut down San Diego’s rushing attack to make Philip Rivers throw the ball into trouble.
How the Chargers win
The Chargers should not be 0-1 right now. Head coach Mike McCoy continues to ridiculously blow leads with asinine play calling.
With that in mind, the Chargers must pound the ball on offense. Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead should touch the ball 30-plus times to ensure the Jaguars’ offense remains on the sideline as much as possible.
Prediction: Jaguars win 31-28
Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders
How the Falcons win
Figure out how to run the ball, for crying out loud. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman totaled just 42 yards on 19 carries. That’s not going to get it done against the Raiders on Sunday.
Defensively, Atlanta needs to keep the Raiders from going wild on the ground. The 75-yard run by Jalen Richard was a huge tipping point for Oakland last week.
How the Raiders win
Bringing the heat against Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense is the quickest way to ensure victory. He’s especially susceptible to pressure up the middle. Oakland has the defense to make Atlanta’s offense miserable.
On the other side, Derek Carr and his offense just needs to continue plugging away and avoid turnovers.
Prediction: Raiders win 31-20
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
How the Colts win
Blocking Von Miller and Co. is the biggest thing the Colts must do on offense. The running game is practically non-existent, and we shouldn’t expect that to change. Defensively the Colts have a hard task ahead of them because the secondary is a disaster.
How the Broncos win
C.J. Anderson needs to get 20-plus touches. He’s the workhorse of the offense and Trevor Siemian’s best weapon. If he tops 100 total yards, this one’s probably in the books, provided Denver’s pass rushers get to Andrew Luck.
Prediction: Broncos win 27-21
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
How the Packers win
Keeping Adrian Peterson bottled up is a huge first step to beating the Vikings. It’s going to be wild and crazy inside U.S. Bank Stadium as Minnesota christens the new football cathedral, so Aaron Rodgers and the offense must not let penalties kill drives.
How the Vikings win
It’s looking like Sam Bradford will start this week. He’s taken all the first-team reps since Sunday (more on that here). Keeping him clean in the pocket and making a consistent effort to run the ball are the big offensive keys.
Defensively, the Vikings just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing since last year — dominate the line of scrimmage and force turnovers.
Prediction: Packers win 27-21
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
How the Eagles win
Philly must maintain the same balanced approach on offense that won the game last week against the Browns. Chicago offers a bit more resistance defensively, so the running game is key for the Eagles, as rookie Carson Wentz will be tested much more in this one.
How the Bears win
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio must have a rock-solid defensive plan to keep Philadelphia’s receivers from breaking open deep down the field. If Chicago’s defenders keeps everything in front of them, first downs and touchdowns will be much more difficult to come by in the passing game for young Mr. Wentz.
On the other side, Chicago’s offensive line needs to dominate the line of scrimmage paving the way for Jeremy Langford to have a big game.
Prediction: Bears win 17-13