You know the difference between NFL Week 1 and Week 2? Lipstick.
I don't get it either. I just didn't want to miss using the most tired punch line of the month. I mean, as a punch line, that one's really a pig, if you know what I mean.
But there really is a big difference between Week 1 and Week 2. In previewing Week 1 nobody quite knows what they're talking about. In previewing Week 2, nobody has the slightest idea what they're talking about.
In Week 1 it's a new season. We don't know which of last year's assumptions should carry over and which of our preseason hunches are any good, and the only clues we have come from practice games. And if there's one thing any smart observer should learn from watching NFL practice games, it's to ignore everything that happens in them except injuries.
In Week 2 we've seen the results of Week 1 -- and they're utterly baffling. Now which of last year's assumptions should carry over? Now which of our preseason hunches were worth anything?
I thought the Bills would be pretty good and the Seahawks not so hot, but I was surprised at the drilling Buffalo administered to Seattle Sunday. Maybe I was more right about the Bills than I thought. Maybe I was more right about the Seahawks than I thought. Maybe both. And it's always possible -- if not likely -- that I was wrong about both, and it was just one of those days for the Seahawks. Or for the Bills. Or for both.
I already have to lie down and I haven't even started thinking about what if anything I should try to glean from Titans-Jags, Ravens-Bengals, Saints-Buccaneers, Cowboys-Browns, Panthers-Chargers, Bears-Colts -- I'm not sure why I don't just write "the other 15 games" here. Maybe because I get paid by the word. Really. I do. Really.
What I'm trying to say is that I hope your expectations have been lowered enough for us to have a look at Week 2 together. Winners in caps, picks of game-pickin' 5-year-old Buster and coin-flippin' 3-year-old Daisy, who take all favorites of six points or more, included as always.
Sunday early games
TENNESSEE (1-0) at Cincinnati (0-1)
Vince Young is injured and either in the midst of an emotional crisis or just the victim of an overreaction to an emotional guy being understandably bummed over being injured. Who knows anything in Week 2? Either way, Kerry Collins gets the start against the Bengals, who got worked over by first-game rookie Joe Flacco last week. This is already a huge game between two teams that might or might not be contenders in their own divisions and in the wild-card race. I think the Titans defense that gave Jacksonville's good offense fits last week will do the same to Carson Palmer and his porous offensive line.
Buffalo (1-0) at JACKSONVILLE (0-1)
The Bills looked really, really good last week against the Seahawks, who might or might not be anything. The Jags might be something, but they didn't look too good last week against the Titans -- who might or might not be something. See what I mean about Week 2? I'll go with my preseason pick to win the AFC South over my pick to be a sharp wild-card team, which is to say I'll foolishly stay with a preseason hunch.
Oakland (0-1) at KANSAS CITY (0-1)
The Chiefs made the already-interesting AFC downright fascinating by knocking Tom Brady out for the season. Next assignment: Make a Raiders game interesting. Good luck with that.
Kids: Kansas City
INDIANAPOLIS (0-1) at Minnesota (0-1)
Peyton Manning rode an exercise bike on the sidelines to keep his surgically repaired knee loose during Sunday night's loss to the Bears. Playing the Vikings pass defense the week after playing the Bears is going to seem like shifting down from 24th gear on a big hill. A big uphill, that is. If, you know, exercise bikes were real bikes. On the other hand, the Colts run defense had trouble stopping Matt Forte Sunday. This week: Adrian Peterson. But passing beats running.
Chicago (1-0) at CAROLINA (1-0)
The Panthers pulled one out of their ear-hole in San Diego last week. Are they something? Can Jake Delhomme take them places? The Bears defense will be a good test. If, that is, the Bears defense is really something. I have a hunch -- this is a Week 2 hunch, which is the only kind more useless than a preseason hunch -- that the Bears are not as good as they looked against the Colts, and better than they're going to look against the Panthers, who are not as good as they're going to look against the Bears, and we're going to be confused about both of these teams for a while.
GREEN BAY (1-0) at Detroit (0-1)
For all the attention being paid to new quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are a good, deep, young team that doesn't need him to be great to win. At least not in Detroit.
Kids: Green Bay
N.Y. Giants (1-0) at ST. LOUIS (0-1)
The white pants the Rams wore with their blue jerseys last week look much better than their usual gold trousers. Problem is, you can put white pants on the Rams and they're still the Rams. You know the difference between the Rams and the Raiders? Nothing. I root for them both and they're both lousy. Where's the beef? That giant sucking sound you hear is the What the Heck Pick of the week.
Kids: Giants (8-point favorites)
NEW ORLEANS (1-0) at Washington (0-1)
Washington looked downright lost in their season-opening defeat to the Giants last Thursday, the first game of the Jim Zorn era. Good thing they had an extra two days before their home opener. Otherwise they might still be looking for the stadium. Just in case, here's a hint for the team: It's in Maryland. The Saints will miss Marques Colston, but they missed him last week and won.
Sunday late games
Atlanta (1-0) at TAMPA BAY (0-1)
The Falcons pounded the Lions last week in an entertaining game in Atlanta. The early Packers-Lions game in Detroit will give us a good idea how bad the Lions are. This one should offer even more compelling evidence.
Kids: Tampa Bay (7.5-point favorite)
San Francisco (0-1) at SEATTLE (0-1)
The Seahawks scurry back to the NFC West, where everything goes down a whole lot smoother. In your heart, you know I'm right.
Kids: Seattle (7.5-point favorite)
NEW ENGLAND (1-0) at N.Y. Jets (1-0)
If the Dolphins have improved as much as Jets fans have convinced themselves they have, the Jets are the team to beat in the AFC East with Brady out and Matt Cassell playing quarterback for the Patriots. That's about as Week 2-ish a set of assumptions as it's possible to make. What's the difference between the improved Dolphins and the Brady-less Pats? A lot. Still.
Kids: N.Y. Jets
SAN DIEGO (0-1) at Denver (1-0)
And now for the post-Shawne Merriman part of the Chargers' season. The Chargers are banged up on defense even beyond the loss of their best player, but they still should pose a tougher challenge than whatever it was the Raiders were doing in front of the Broncos Monday night. The Chargers offense will have its work cut out to overcome a still-significant home-field advantage for the Broncos, as well as the possibly confidence Denver is feeling after its shellacking of Oakland. There was another bunch of folks feeling pretty confident at Invesco Field a short while ago. Audaciously so. That feeling seems to have faded.
Daisy: San Diego
Miami (0-1) at ARIZONA (1-0)
Just as the Broncos are alone in first place in the AFC West, the Cardinals are sitting atop the NFC West. And it means just about as much. It won't mean much more if it's still true after Week 2, which it should be. But whether they're alone or tied for first, it would mean a lot if the Cardinals' record next week were 1-1.
Kids: Arizona (6.5-point favorite)
Sunday night game
Pittsburgh (1-0) at CLEVELAND (0-1)
All right, let's see what's really what in the AFC North. Here are the two favorites, coming off very different first games. The Steelers slammed the Texans at home, the Browns laid an egg at home against the Cowboys. A pet move of mine is to say the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. I have a pet move in pickup basketball too, sort of a running left-handed half-hook. It never works either.
Monday night games
Baltimore (1-0) at HOUSTON (0-1)
This isn't a scheduled Monday-night double-header like last week. Ravens vs. Texans has been moved from Sunday afternoon to 8:30 p.m. EDT Monday to allow Houston an extra day to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, which was expected to hit early Saturday. The game won't be televised nationally but will appear on CBS in the teams' primary and secondary markets.
I have a bad feeling about rookie quarterback Joe Flacco's Week 2 prospects. He had a nice debut in Week 1, but now an NFL opponent has a full game's worth of meaningful tape on him. It'll be no picnic for Matt Schaub either. The Texans quarterback was terrible in a drubbing at Pittsburgh last week, as were most of his teammates, and now he'll get to line up against an elite defensive unit. But Andre Johnson's a tough cover for anyone. Schaub just has to stay upright and find him. Really, though, because of the external circumstances, this figures to be one of those weird, anything-can-happen games. Just like all the others.
Philadelphia (1-0) at DALLAS (1-0)
How do you win your first game 38-3 and get named seven-point dogs in your second? That's quite an indictment of the Rams, who got clobbered by the Eagles. But the Rams are only eight-point underdogs against the defending champs. I think I'd say take the points if I said things like take the points. I also picked the Eagles to win the division. But I'm taking the Cowboys to win this one, against my better judgment.
Kids: Dallas (7-point favorite)
Season record: 9-7
Last week: 9-7 (The people want change)
What the Heck Picks: 0-1
Rank of "Forgot" among reasons this column didn't use its annual "half the league is undefeated and the other half is winless!" competitive-balance joke: 1