By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) A record-high 791 points were tallied in a wild weekend of NFL action. There’s no doubt it’s a passing league, but I can’t help but think the replacement refs contributed to these inflated numbers. There are some intriguing games on the slate and here’s how I think it will all play out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
Game of the Week: FALCONS 30, Broncos 27 – Monday Night 7:30 PM
The Falcons looked mighty impressive in their Week 1 thrashing of the Chiefs. What’s scary is Matt Ryan missed a few throws that could’ve resulted in even more touchdowns instead of field goals. In the NFL, the key is finding three legitimate playmakers in the passing game, which the Falcons certainly have in Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez. I know everyone is ready to crown the Broncos the AFC Champs after their Week 1 win, but slow down. While it was nice to see Peyton Manning back on the field, he’s still not driving the ball downfield. I like the Falcons at home.
GIANTS 27, Bucs 20 – Noon
Things didn’t go as planned for the Giants in the season opener, becoming the first defending Super Bowl champion to lose their home opener since the Broncos in 1999. The Giants couldn’t get anything going in the running game, Victor Cruz dropped some drive-killing passes, and the secondary got burned peeking into the backfield. Last year Bucs couldn’t stop anyone on the ground, yet they held the Panthers to 10 yards rushing. I expect the Giants to rebound this week against the Bucs.
PATRIOTS 31, Cardinals 17
Look out, the Patriots have a running game. Stevan Ridley bowled over the Titans last week, averaging 6 yards per carry. More interesting, the Patriots ran the ball more than they threw it (35 to 32). It will be interesting to see if the Patriots keep up this more balanced offensive attack, if they do, they could be near unbeatable. The Cardinals just aren’t a good football team and are now back to starting the ultra-overpaid Kevin Kolb at quarterback. That spells bad things for Cardinal fans. All 11 of them.
Vikings 24, COLTS 20 – Noon
It’s official, Adrian Peterson isn’t human. It’s been a little over eight months since he had reconstructive ACL and MCL surgery, yet there he was on the field – without a knee brace – running and cutting. Kudos to him for the incredible dedication and perseverance to get to this point. As expected, Andrew Luck had an up-and-down performance in his first NFL start. He flashed some of the skills that made him the top overall pick, but also was wildly inaccurate on throws to the boundary. Hard to believe it, but the Vikings will be 2-0 after this weekend.
Saints 31, PANTHERS 24 – Noon
Neither of these two teams got off to the start they were looking for. The Saints trademark is a juggernaut passing attack, which really didn’t get on track until the fourth-quarter when they were in catch-up mode against the Skins. The Panthers were one of the premiere rushing attacks in 2011, yet were held to -1 rushing yards at halftime by the Bucs. I like the Saints to pick up their first win of the season.
BILLS 27, Chiefs 24 – Noon
Shame on the Bills for giving up 48 points to a Jets team who didn’t score a single touchdown in the preseason. This week, the Bills welcome a Chiefs team who also got thumped in their opener against the high-flying Falcons. I don’t believe the Bills defense is as bad as they looked in Week 1, but it might be panic time for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick got paid last year, but for a Harvard guy with a high “football IQ” he continues to make mind-numbing decisions with the ball. That said, I still think the Bills are a better team than the Chiefs.
Ravens 27, EAGLES 23 – Noon
The Ravens – my AFC pick to make the Super Bowl – looked mighty impressive in Week 1. Just like I wrote last week, having quarterback Joe Flacco playing for a contract this season is a boon for Baltimore. Having an offense that can build a lead will benefit an aging Ravens defense. Man, was I wrong about the Eagles last week, they were wretched. Mike Vick continues to struggle as a pocket passer and should’ve had five interceptions. The Eagles offensive line is in bad shape, which doesn’t bode well versus Baltimore.
Raiders 24, DOLPHINS 13 – Noon
I typically stay away from teams making a trip from one coast to the other for a Noon kickoff, but the Dolphins are just awful. Ryan Tannehill threw 29 of his 36 passes under 9 yards, which won’t get it done in the NFL. Considering their special teams meltdown on Monday night, the Raiders defense should be proud of itself. They held up in some tough field position situations to keep the game close versus the Chargers.
BENGALS 24, Browns 17 – Noon
It’s the Battle of Ohio, as the Browns travel to Cincinnati to battle the Bengals. Just as I wrote about last week, the Bengals have a bright future, but just aren’t in the same class as the Ravens. I liked what the Bengals were able to do in the first half versus Baltimore, but once that game turned, it got ugly in a hurry. Hats off to the Browns defense, who played an inspired game against the Eagles. The Browns offense is like a homeless person, toothless and smelly, and there’s no reason to feel that’s going to change anytime soon.
Texans 31, JAGUARS 20 – Noon
The Texans head to Jacksonville looking to pick up their first divisional win, and they shouldn’t find much resistance from the Jaguars. Blaine Gabbert looked better in the first start of his sophomore season, but neither he nor his team is good enough to beat Houston.
Cowboys 30, SEAHAWKS 17 – 3:05 PM
Impressive start to the season for the Cowboys, in particular Tony Romo. NFL games typically come down to a few crucial plays in the passing game, and Romo delivered in those moments. The Cowboys revamped secondary played well, so I expect them to shut down the Seahawks and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who struggled in his debut.
Redskins 24, RAMS 20 – 3:05 PM
There were certainly some “wow” moments from Robert Griffin III last Sunday. What stood out most to me was his poise, impressive stuff from a rookie. The Rams almost pulled off the upset against an overrated Lions team, and look to be a different team under Jeff Fisher. This will be a very competitive game, but I think the Redskins defense will be the difference.
STEELERS 27, Jets 23 – 3:25 PM
I don’t anticipate the Jets to put up 48 points again this weekend against the Steelers. The Steelers looked shaky against Denver, especially on defense, where they look old and slow. That said, I still don’t believe in Mark Sanchez, so I’m taking the Steelers at home.
CHARGERS 30, Titans 20 – 3:25 PM
At this pace, Chris Johnson will break 100 rushing yards in Week 9 of the 2013 season. 11 carries for 4 yards? Pathetic. Granted, his offensive line – particularly inside – gets pushed around, but this Titans offense is lost. Kenny Britt returns, but will be playing on a snap count. Give me the Chargers at home.
49ERS 27, Lions 20 – 7:20 PM
It’s the hard handshake bowl as the Lions head west to face the 49ers. Everyone remembers the overblown reaction of two grown men – Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz – acting like children after last year’s meeting between these two teams, and if you don’t, it will be replayed ad nauseum. The 49ers made a statement on Sunday, which was, the NFC runs through us. I’ll take Harbaugh over Schwartz at Candlestick or Thunderdome.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.