Incredibly, 16 teams are undefeated as we head into Week 2. How can the NFL talk about parity when the power is so obviously weighted toward one half of the league? And it gets worse: 16 teams are winless!
I'm demanding that the NFL begin an investigation at once.
This is the last full slate of games for a while. Starting next week, teams start getting bye weeks, and not a moment too soon. They'll be exhausted after playing twice. I'm sure Carolina, Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia will be happy to have next Sunday off so they can be fully rested for that stretch run of 14 games. After this week there won't be another full schedule of 16 games until Nov. 16-17.
On to the picks, winners in all caps:
TENNESSEE (1-0) at Indianapolis (1-0): Titans kicker Joe Nedney got hurt in the Raiders game Sunday, so punter Craig Hentrich stepped in and kicked three field goals, including a 49-yarder. With Nedney out for the year the Titans have signed 44-year-old Gary Anderson, the NFL's all-time leading scorer but a guy who didn't show much remaining leg strength last year in Minnesota. Why not just have Hentrich kick field goals and make use of that roster spot? Some experts are saying that losing Nedney will hurt the Titans' Super Bowl hopes. Give me a break. Conventional wisdom is that special teams are one-third of the game. I think special teams can lose games, but not win them. Special teams that are not awful are good enough. Nedney is so valuable that the Titans are his sixth team in a nine-year career. "The Sporting News Ultimate Pro Football Scouting Guide" ranked him the 23rd best kicker in the league this year. Kickers fall off of trees. The Titans' real problems are injuries to quarterback Steve McNair, who returns to his skip-practice, play-on-Sunday routine, and tight end Frank Wycheck. But they'll beat the Colts and get a leg up on the division race.
MIAMI (0-1) at N.Y. Jets (0-1): Two teams that looked horrible last week. The New Yorkers own the Mammals lately, but Week 1 was more of an anomaly for the Dolphins than it was for the Jets.
SAN FRANCISCO (1-0) at St. Louis (0-1): Conspiracy theorists believe Kurt Warner's concussion is a sham, invented to justify starting Marc Bulger after coach Mike Martz swore Warner was his guy. That would be so cool if it were true! I doubt it, though, and while the 49ers aren't as good as their 49-7 mugging of the Bears might lead you to believe, the Rams have more problems than just Warner.
BUFFALO (1-0) at Jacksonville (0-1): Last week the Jaguars blew a 17-0 third-quarter lead and lost to Carolina. "We learned a valuable lesson," said new Jags coach Jack Del Rio. That lesson was: Don't suck in the second half. What a voyage of discovery this life is, eh Jack?
WASHINGTON (1-0) at Atlanta (1-0): Teams usually play pretty well the first game after losing a big star, and the Falcons won last week without Mike Vick. But watch out for that second game. Atlanta's also lost wideout Brian Finneran now, so Peerless Price can expect lots of company as he runs his routes. And no, Finneran doesn't count as a big star.
Houston (1-0) at NEW ORLEANS (0-1): Not two weeks in a row, Texans.
Pittsburgh (1-0) at KANSAS CITY (1-0): The new, improved Chiefs defense vs. the newly high-flying Steelers offense is one of the most interesting matchups of the week. There's a lot to recommend both teams after the first game, so I'll go with the home team. This game always gets bonus points from me for looking, from the far end of the bar, exactly the same as Iowa vs. Iowa State. The Iowa vs. Iowa State game gets bonus points for the exact opposite reason, now that I think of it, but let's move on.
Detroit (1-0) at GREEN BAY (0-1): The Packers have been blown out in three straight games now, dating to last year's regular season finale, though they made the score of last week's loss to the Vikings close in the final minutes. The Lions kicked off the Steve Mariucci era with a win. A week ago I'd have picked the Lions on a hunch, but after stinking out the prognosticating joint last week I've grown timid. (See what I did there? If the Lions win, I can go: See? I knew it!)
CLEVELAND (0-1) at Baltimore (0-1): I read a note this week: "Since 1950, the Browns are 17-7 (.708) following a season-opening loss." No, they aren't! The Baltimore Ravens are the ones who were playing in 1950. Through 1995, they were known as the Cleveland Browns. The current Cleveland Browns have only been around since 1999. The NFL insists on a Stalinist rewriting of history that pretends the Browns franchise has been a continuous one, but with a three-year hiatus, and that the Ravens sprung into existence in 1996, rather than moving lock, stock and linebackers from Cleveland. It's insulting and maddening and wrong. Does baseball merge the history of the New York Giants and Mets and consider the San Francisco Giants to have been an expansion team? Of course not. That would be absurd. I seem to be alone in the world in caring about this. Browns win. I mean the new Browns!
Carolina (1-0) at TAMPA BAY (1-0): I think the Bucs might actually be better than anybody thought they were going to be, and most of us thought they were going to be good enough to at least go back to the Super Bowl.
Seattle (1-0) at ARIZONA (0-1): So much for that Seahawks-Saints shootout last week. Seattle actually played some serious defense, collecting three sacks and forcing four turnovers. But the Cardinals will present a stiffer challenge. Just kidding. This is my What the Heck Pick of the week. (Sponsorship still available. Rally's Hamburgers: Call me.)
New England (0-1) at PHILADELPHIA (0-1): The Eagles looked bad against the Bucs last week, but everybody looks bad against great defenses. This is an intriguing ballgame because even though it's only Week 2, both of these Super Bowl hopefuls need a win badly. The Eagles can ill afford to be 0-2 after two home games and with two whole weeks to think about being winless. And another blowout loss like last week's Buffalo massacre might mean curtains for the demoralized Pats.
Cincinnati (0-1) at OAKLAND (0-1): Have you ever heard that thing about how everybody looks bad against good defenses? Well, everybody looks good against the Cincinnati Bengals.
DENVER (1-0) at San Diego (0-1): Have you ever heard that thing about how everybody looks good against the Cincinnati Bengals? Well, the Broncos beat the Bengals by three touchdowns last week, but new quarterback Jake Plummer was 12-for-25 for 115 yards, three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 21.7, which is a little more than half of the 39.6 rating he would have earned if he'd simply spiked the ball on every play. I still think Plummer will be fine, though. I also think this is a really interesting game that will tell us a lot about how these two teams' seasons are going to go.
Chicago (0-1) at MINNESOTA (1-0): From what I've been reading about the refurbished Soldier Field, every game the Bears play on the road is like a little victory for Chicago fans. And if you're a Bears fan these days, you take those wherever you can get them.
Dallas (0-1) at N.Y. GIANTS (1-0): The Dallas-Atlanta game on Fox last week got monster ratings, presumably because it was Bill Parcells' coaching debut in Dallas. Enlighten me, people: Do you tune in to a game because of the coach? Is Parcells so interesting on the sideline that his lousy team is worth watching? I think Parcells is a great coach, and I think the Cowboys are going to be good in a year or two. But for now I want to watch good players on good teams. Watching a coach coach is like watching a writer type. It's the wrong part of the process to focus on. We deserve better on Monday night.
Season record: 8-8
Last week: 8-8
What the Heck Picks: 0-1
Mentions of Britney Spears' tiny shorts this week: 0
- - - - - - - - - - - -