NFL Week 2: The lesson from Week 1 is to keep guessing. You probably don't know anything. The lesson from Week 1 was the same as the lesson from every first week of every NFL season: You don't know what you're talking about.
That's also the lesson from Weeks 2-17. And by you I mean me. And everybody else, including you, probably.
For the fourth year, this column has assembled a Panel o' Experts who predict the outcome of all 256 regular-season games. In Week 1 that panel, consisting mostly of nationally known typists and chatterers at major media outlets, looked a lot like the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders. We were terrible.
How could we not have been? Who saw Atlanta putting the wood to Carolina, St. Louis smothering Denver? No wonder ESPN's Mark Schlereth, the Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer and I all only went 8-8. ESPN's Eric Allen and Chris Mortensen did even worse. Cris Carter of Yahoo and the rest of the ESPN crowd weren't much better. Who could have been?
I'll tell you who: My son Buster, the coin-flippinest 3-year-old in the Lower 48.
Buster, flipping on games where the spread is less than six points, went 14-2, charging into first place in the Panel o' for the second straight opening week. Last year he finished in a three-way tie for fourth, out of 15. Dad finished ninth. He might have trouble in Week 2, when no fewer than 10 of the 16 games have point spreads of six or more. His coin will barely have a chance to get warm.
Also doing well in Week 1, with a 13-3 record, three games better than anyone who collects a salary to write or talk about the NFL, was the newest entry in the competition, Adriana Sage. She's an adult actress and model who, for some reason, picks NFL games at a site called EroticModelPicks, which, as far as I can tell, has no adult content.
But while Buster and Adriana are off to a fast start, all is not lost for those of us on the Panel o' who don't look good in really small clothes. As a group, the panel got 58.8 percent of its picks right last week. Last year in Week 1, the group was only right 51.3 percent of the time, but rallied to get 65.6 percent correct by the end of the year.
So we turn, ever confident, to Week 2. What we're confident in is that we don't have any idea what we're talking about.
And what's all this I hear about parity in the NFL? Ten of the 16 games this weekend have an undefeated team playing a winless one. Why don't these guys pick on someone their own size? For that matter, why doesn't Buster?
Winners in caps.
Sunday early games
N.Y. Giants (0-1) at PHILADELPHIA (1-0): So I guess we're going to learn a little something about the NFC East on Sunday. All four teams look like they might be good enough to win it, and darn if they aren't all playing each other. What I mean is there are two games, each featuring two of the four teams. I know, you were picturing a really crowded field there.
The Eagles are the only one of the four that won last week, and while they didn't dominate a bad Texans team, they got off to a nice start as they attempt to bounce back from a nightmare 2005. Their offense, which led the league last week, will have a tougher assignment against the Giants' defense, but Donovan McNabb is mobile enough to avoid the big pass rush, which is New York's most dangerous element.
New primary receiver Donte Stallworth gives McNabb a nice replacement for Terrell Owens without working his last nerve. Giants running back Tiki Barber has a history of running the Eagles ragged, and it won't help Philly that corner Lito Sheppard is out, making Eli Manning's passing game better.
Really good matchup to start the day, with the other NFC East game, Washington-Dallas, finishing it. I'll take the home team here, but not there. Oh! I gave away the ending. As long as I'm at it, Rosebud's a sled.
Detroit (0-1) at CHICAGO (1-0): "We will be fine on offense," Lions quarterback Jon Kitna said. "We'll score and hold up our end." They may or may not score, but if they hold up their end, they're just going to make it easier for the Bears to kick it.
Buffalo (0-1) at MIAMI (0-1): These teams had each of the last two Super Bowl champs on the ropes in the second half last week, the Bills losing to New England 19-17 and the Dolphins falling to Pittsburgh in the season opener, 28-17.
The Dolphins looked like a better team than the Big Ben-less Steelers, but they completely fell apart after a blown coverage let Heath Miller go 87 yards with a short pass for the go-ahead touchdown. The Bills looked like they caught the Pats on a bad day. Buffalo lost two big guys on defense in that game, linebacker Takeo Spikes and safety Troy Vincent.
CAROLINA (0-1) at Minnesota (1-0): So much for those Super Bowl-bound Panthers! Everybody's favorite hipster pick to win the conference fell flat on its face against the Falcons last week, with John Abraham standing over it. Don't give up on the Panthers yet, though. They have a way of hanging around. Their front four will have an easier time chasing Brad Johnson around than they had with Michael Vick, and running back Chester Taylor, who needed 31 carries to get his 88 yards against Washington, is no Warrick Dunn.
The Panthers will miss linebacker Dan Morgan, out with a concussion, and they'll really miss receiver Steve Smith, questionable with a hamstring, if he doesn't play again. But I think they'll get a road win here.
Cleveland (0-1) at CINCINNATI (1-0): The Carson Palmer homecoming game.
OAKLAND (0-1) at Baltimore (1-0): What the Heck Pick of the week, and they don't come a whole lot more What the Hecky, Shecky.
Houston (0-1) at INDIANAPOLIS (1-0): The Texans never ever ever hundredmillionbillionfinitynever beat the Colts. This would be a What the Heck Pick if not for the Ravens, coming off a dominant performance, drawing a Pop Warner team this week.
Instead, the angle here is ... Manning Bowl 2! Perhaps you've never considered the intense rivalry between Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Texans linebacker Roy Manning. Well, neither have they, but the important thing is -- hey, look! David Carr just got sacked again.
NEW ORLEANS (1-0) at Green Bay (0-1): The Saints haven't beaten the Packers at Lambeau Field since 1971, when Charlton Heston was their quarterback. You remember him, don't you? "It's a madhouse! A madhouse!" He was watching the tape of Brett Favre against the Bears last week.
TAMPA BAY (0-1) at Atlanta (1-0): The Buccaneers looked like 3-day-old rabbit snot last week while the Falcons looked like seven different kinds of sublime with a parfait chaser. And parfait's gotta be the tastiest thing on the whole damn planet. But I tell you what, I'm not quite convinced in either direction. The Falcons looked great in Week 1 last year too. They finished 8-8.
The Falcons had both defensive ends, John Abraham and Patrick Kerney, get hurt in last week's win over the Panthers, and while they're both likely to play, they might not be at full strength. That should help Cadillac Williams' running and Chris Simms' passing. A caveat: Williams missed practice Thursday with back spasms but was expected to play Sunday. The Bucs defense has also been good enough and fast enough over the years to keep Vick in check, and while that defense is aging, it's not over the hill.
I realize I picked the Falcons to make the playoffs and the Bucs to miss them, and I'll feel really dumb if the Falcons go 12-4 and the Bucs 4-12, but you know, I feel dumb anyway.
Sunday late games
Arizona (1-0) at SEATTLE (1-0): How can it be that the defending NFC champions, a team that led the league in scoring last year, went into Detroit, played a team with mad genius Mike Martz at the offensive controls and won 9-6 on a last-second field goal? What really went on there?
You want to know what happened? I don't know what happened. I tried. I taped the "Short Cuts" version of the game, the 25-minute edit that has all the plays and nothing else. And I couldn't bring myself to watch it. I wanted to. I sat down. I turned on the TV. I opened a Diet Coke. I just couldn't bring myself to hit "play." So now you know. The maximum number of NFL regular-season games I'll watch this year will be 255.
OK, 251. I also didn't watch the wins by the Saints, Eagles, Jets and Cardinals.
ST. LOUIS (1-0) at San Francisco (0-1): The biggest surprise of Week 1 may have been the Rams' dominant defense against Denver. Looks like new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is the latest of many NFL examples of the Peter Principle at work. Coaching, he ain't much. Coordinating, he's a star!
Kansas City (0-1) at DENVER (0-1): Jake Plummer had a bad game last week and now the fans in Denver want him replaced by a rookie? Thanks for taking us to the AFC Championship Game last year, pal. Let's settle down, good, demanding, football crazy people of Denver. Give the guy one more week. Or observe how the Chiefs do with their backup quarterback, Damon Huard, getting the start with Trent Green out because of a concussion.
However, I am coming around to the idea that the Chiefs are always worth tuning in just to watch Larry Johnson wait and wait and wait and wait and then explode when a hole finally opens up.
NEW ENGLAND (1-0) at N.Y. Jets (1-0): I don't know if you've heard about this, but the Jets' coach, Eric Mangini, used to work for Patriots coach Bill Bellichick. Like, for a long time! Where is the mainstream media on this?
The Patriots are doing with their receivers what they've typically done with their defensive backs over the last few years -- trying to find some healthy ones among passersby on the sidewalk -- but they still represent a step up in class for the Jets. Probably too big a step just yet.
Tennessee (0-1) at SAN DIEGO (1-0): The Titans are still mad about missing out on signing Jeff George. They had to settle for Kerry Collins. Tennessee will take its lumps against the Chargers, and then it looks like they'll trade backup quarterback Billy Volek -- who should be starting for the Titans right now --
WASHINGTON (0-1) at Dallas (0-1): Researchers at Central Missouri State University announced this week that they'd discovered the largest known prime number, which is expressed as 2 to the 32,582,657th power minus one. But they had to retract their findings. It turns out you get the same number by multiplying the ages of Mark Brunell and Drew Bledsoe.
Could it be that Bledsoe has actually become as bad a quarterback as I've said he's been for years? That would be really bad.
PITTSBURGH (1-0) at Jacksonville (1-0): The Jags looked pretty bad in the first half against Dallas last week before the Cowboys wheezed to a stop. The Steelers didn't look great against Miami before the Dolphins veered into a ditch.
This week the Steelers are a little banged up, with Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu all appearing on the injury list, though all are at least questionable, meaning 50-50, and when you're 50-50 for a Monday night game that looks like a playoff preview, you play. That means the Steelers should be better.
The Jags? They managed to get the job done on offense against the Cowboys, but the Steelers defense is a whole nother animal. Jacksonville wins on defense, but again, even if Charlie Batch is under center instead of Big Ben, it's a tougher assignment. The Steelers can actually block.
It doesn't help that the Jags are hurting on defense, with defensive end Reggie Hayward, out for the year with an Achilles tear, only the worst of a host of injuries. A whole bunch of guys, including middle linebacker Mike Peterson, are questionable, so they'll probably play, but how effectively?
Season record: 8-8
Last week: Do the math
What the Heck Picks: 0-1
Number of minutes I spent trying to decide whether to use that Bears kicking joke about Jon Kitna's "hold up our end" quote or this one: "With all the troubles the Lions have, why would they want to go and get Joe Buck mad at them?": 37
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