This is my third year of picking every game every week. Last week was the first time I called less than 50% of the results. It was a weekend of firsts.
For the first time in history, the Raiders, Taterskins, Jaguars, Buccaneers, Browns and Jets all won on the same weekend. Notice, 5 of those 6 were last year's divisional 'worsts'. The Jaguars would have joined them save for a tie breaker with Tennessee. Of all of these teams, the one which seems capable of maintaining that winning momentum is the New York Jets. Washington has a huge divisional advantage with the injuries and turmoil in the NFC East. The Raiders, especially at the Quarterback position, have a great deal to build with, but a tough division to conquer. The Jets, however, simply shut the Colts down. They are on track for one of the best defensive showings of the young season, and that is precisely how to win the AFC East.
Another first for the weekend, no team in the history of the NFL has ever started a season by blowing a double digit lead in the fourth quarter two games in a row. That is until now. The New York Giants are 0-2, having been up by 10 points in the last quarter of their previous two games, and then watching it all slip away. Much noise has been made about clock management and the failings of Eli Manning. I consider all of that to be balderdash. If anyone wants to really concede how a team gives up a double digit lead, look no further than the defense. If a defense can't stop a team in fifteen critical minutes, what makes anyone think they can stop them in 1? Yes, Eli's clock management against the Cowboys could have been better. But that Giant defense is mediocre at best, a fact that has dire consequences for the GMen through the rest of the season.
Speaking of mediocre defense and dire consequence, two other 0-2 teams are suffering on defense, and the reason is clear. Both Seattle and the Ravens were playoff teams last year, and have been stung by a lack of defensive leadership. Kam Chancelor's hold out in Seattle has had very real consequences for the Legion of Gloom. He is back in camp now, and it should be expected that the Seattle D will improve from here. The Ravens are in a much worse position. There was a notable drop in performance when Ray Lewis retired. Terrell Suggs picked up much of the leadership mantle for that team, and now he's out for the season on IR. The Seahawks still stand a good chance of making it back to the playoffs. The Ravens, not so much.
I could have written an entire post about another 0-2 team, the Philadelphia Eagles, but a short paragraph will suffice. As I've expressed, I am not a believer in Chip Kelly's genius, and now we are seeing exactly why. He seems to want to engineer an offensive machine that is plug-and-play. Simply put, his parts don't fit the design he has in his head. The fast moving offense which worked with Foles, Sanchez, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, is simply not working with the skills of Bradford, DeMarco Murray and the two-tight ends Celek and Ertz. At least 5 times in the last two games I have watched the Eagles fail to get necessary yardage and said to myself, "gee, Chip, I bet you wish you had Tebow in there now ..." I am not a worshiper of Touchdown Jesus by any means, but he added an element to Chip's machine that is sorely lacking, creative mobility. And just in case anyone was still wondering whether Murray's rushing title of 2014 was him or his offensive line in Dallas, I think we have our answer. The machine will work better with practice. The question for the Eagles is this, how much of the season will they lose before pulling it together. My guess is at least a third.
On with the picks and hopes for improvement.
Washington (1-1) at New York Giants (0-2) - Giants (21-32, G-Men)
Atlanta (2-0) at Dallas (2-0) - Cowboys (39-28, Falcons)
Indianapolis (0-2) at Tennessee (1-1) - Colts (35-33, Colts)
Oakland (1-1) at Cleveland (1-1) - Raiders (27-20, Raiders)
Cincinnati (2-0) at Baltimore (0-2) - Bengals (28-24, Bengals)
Jacksonville (1-1) at New England (2-0) - Hatriots (17-51, Hatriots)
New Orleans (0-2) at Carolina (2-0) - Panthers (22-27, Panthers)
Philadelphia (0-2) at New York Jets (2-0) - Jets (24-17, Eagles)
Tampa Bay (1-1) at Houston (0-2) - Texans (9-19, Texans)
San Diego (1-1) at Minnesota (1-1) - Vikings (14-31, Vikings)
Pittsburgh (1-1) at St. Louis (1-1) - Steelers (12-6, Steelers)
San Fransisco (1-1) at Arizona (2-0) - Cardinals (7-47, Cards)
Buffalo (1-1) at Miami (1-1) - Bills (41-14, Bills)
Chicago (0-2) at Seattle (0-2) - Seahawks (0-26, Seahawks)
Denver (2-0) at Detroit (0-2) - Broncos (24-12, Broncos)
Kansas City (1-1) at Green Bay (2-0) - Packers (28-38, Packers)
Last Week's Score: 6 - 10, 37% Overall: 16 - 16, 50%