Massimo’s NFL Blog
NFL Predictions | Week 2: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions
By Massimo Russo – Featured Writer Silver and Blue Report & Hook’em Report

Dallas Cowboys, NFL, NFL Jersey, CowboysPete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have things aligned for their respective squads that have an early date that could determine playoff implications down the road within the NFC West division race

Week 2
Thursday Night Football, September 12 8:25 ET – TV: NFL Network
N.Y. Jets 1-0 @ New England Patriots 1-0
Since Bill Belichick’s been at the helm in New England, the Patriots have never had a visiting team with a rookie quarterback come out victorious. None of the experiences first year quarterbacks have had treated them good in a place where visitors usually end up on the losing side of things. With the world expecting Geno Smith’s NFL debut to go south, Smith completed 24 of 38 passes for 256-yards with a touchdown and an interception. On the Jets final drive of the game with the clock ticking and Smith trying to run out of bounds to stop the clock, Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David was hit with a late hit penalty on the rookie quarterback that set up the game winning kick as the Jets defeated the Buccaneers 18-17. Is Geno a good luck charm? Anything that helps and the Patriots will be without key starters on the offensive side of things. No Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola and still no Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady sure had a much better completion percentage when targeting his main targets in the Patriots week 1 win over Buffalo, but when he targeted his new bunch outside of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, his percentage dropped. I’m not saying a panic button should be pushed. The other parts of Brady’s new bunch will start chiming in at some point, speaking of the Kenbrell Thompkins’, Matthew Slater’s, Josh Boyce’s and if Aaron Dobson can recover from a hamstring, expect some kind of smooth operating system to start flowing. The Patriots really like these Thursday night games, 5-0 and Foxboro isn’t a place full of four-leaf clovers for a road rookie quarterback to find. Pick: Patriots 28, N.Y. Jets 13
Final Score: Patriots (2-0) 13, N.Y. Jets (1-1) 10

Sunday, September 15
1:00 PM ET
St. Louis Rams 1-0 @ Atlanta Falcons 0-1 – TV: FOX
In their win over the Cardinals to open up the season, the addition of Jake Long at left tackle on the Rams offensive line showed the expected promise of giving quarterback Sam Bradford the protection he needs. Bradford completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 299-yards and a couple of scores. His prime target was tight end Jared Cook who caught 7-passes for 141-yards and had both of Bradford’s TD passes. That’ll be a key factor for the Falcons defensive front, can they pressure Bradford and get him out of his comfort zone to put him in third and long situations behind a loud crowd in the dome? And the Rams being on the road will need to run the football effectively to keep Bradford out of long passing down situations. They’re going to need a better performance from running back Daryl Richardson who only averaged 3.2-yards per carry against Arizona at home. The best matchups I like in this game is St. Louis’ two physical and feisty cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan going up against Atlanta’s dynamic duel of receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. White (ankle) is hobbled but is listed as probable and should play. The difference in this game will be converting on third down and which running game will be more effective on first down, an edge I give to Atlanta in a slobber-knocker battle. Pick: Falcons 23, Rams 19

Carolina Panthers 0-1 @ Buffalo Bills 0-1 – TV: FOX
Watching Carolina’s defense hold Marshawn Lynch, a top-tier running back to only 70-yards on 26-carries caught my attention last week. They were quick to the ball carrier and were solid in wrapping up a power back. They get another talented running back this week trying to slow down Buffalo’s talented running back C.J. Spiller and change-of-pace runner Fred Jackson. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly leads a speedy core that will need to be on their toes to limit Spiller from getting past the linebackers. Once Spiller gets past the linebackers, he becomes dangerous in the open field. Spiller and Jackson are also effective out of the backfield as pass catchers. Look for Carolina’s defense to focus on limiting both Jackson and Spiller from getting into the open field to put Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel in more critical passing downs. The Bills secondary is depleted without two key starters Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and safety Jairus Byrd (feet) out. They’ll need them in this matchup to take away the deep-ball and stop Carolina receiver Steve Smith from stretching the field, catching passes from a cannon arm that Cam Newton possesses. Pick: Panthers 29, Bills 22

Minnesota Vikings 0-1 @ Chicago Bears 1-0 – TV: FOX
Other than Adrian Peterson’s 78-yard touchdown run, the rest of his 17-carries were for only 15-yards the rest of the way against Detroit. Make no mistake, no running game forces Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder to make big plays, and that’s not the pedigree that will make their offense work. And I see a stingy ball-hawking Bears defense throwing all of their chips in on crowding the line of scrimmage, forcing Ponder to beat them with his arm. Mainly, the Bears are more balanced on offense with an improved offense line that allowed no sacks against the Bengals, arguably a defense that has the best D-line in the game. Look for the Bears to establish an effective running game early on to setup the deep-ball on some play-action passes to Brandon Marshall. Head coach Marc Trestman will be in dial it up mode, simply telling Jay Cutler, “let’s zing it deep.” Pick: Bears 31, Vikings 20

Washington Redskins 0-1 @ Green Bay Packers 0-1 – TV: FOX
Here’s something positive to look at for Green Bay’s defense even though they came up short in San Francisco. They held the 49ers rushing attack to only 90-yards on 34 attempts to an average of only 2.6-yards per attempt. The negative side of things was the pass defense that allowed over 400-yards passing. That should be something that both Washington head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will look into on how to exploit a suspect Packers secondary. But, don’t expect the Redskins to ever draw away from the run that never got kick started against the Eagles. You can make a safe bet that Alfred Morris and the Redskins running game are determined to turn things around this week. They’ll need to set the tone early on by establishing the run, trying to negate a hostile crowd full of cheese-head fans at Lambeau. Washington’s Barry Cofield is a vital part of the Redskins D-line that’s playing with a broken hand that’s wrapped and clubbed. Cofield is definitely one tough cookie, but he needs to be better than just good to free up the outside rush, and I don’t think he does this well enough to help pressure mobile Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s prolific passing attack from picking apart a young and prone to giving up big plays Redskins secondary. Isn’t life so wonderful when you have to deal with a Chip Kelly ran offense to start the season, and then the games best quarterback the following week? Pick: Packers 34, Redskins 24

Miami Dolphins 1-0 @ Indianapolis Colts 1-0 – TV: CBS
Imagine a team averaging 0.9 yards per rushing attempt and still managing to win a game on the road. The Dolphins finished with lesser yards 20 than attempts 23 in their win over the Browns to start the season. That will need to change at Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend. Andrew Luck and the Colts have a dynamic passing attack, and you need to keep them off the field by controlling the tempo with an effective running game. Indianapolis invested on giving Luck protection in the offseason, but Luck was still sacked four times in the opener. Miami’s defense features one of the leagues most feared pass-rushers off the edge Cameron Wake. Look for the Colts to use max protection with an extra chipper on Wake’s side of the line with a tight end or running back in the backfield on passing downs. I like Miami’s chances to have better running lanes to run the football, unlike they did in Cleveland. In the grand scheme of this matchup, this game boils down to which passer can step up in the pocket, avoiding the rush by improvising better with his feet, making throws on the run. Advantage goes to Luck. Pick: Colts 20, Dolphins 16

Dallas Cowboys 1-0 @ Kansas City Chiefs 1-0 – TV: FOX
Since the beginning of training camp, head coach Jason Garrett has been preaching about getting after the ball, the need to create turnovers, and with Monte Kiffin running the defense, you see the body language of the defense and approach trying to strip the ball. The defense intercepted Eli Manning 3 times and forced two fumbles, scoring twice on Sunday. The other turnover came on a freakish fumble by the Giants on special teams. You could say the turnovers helped them finally beat their ‘Texas Tormentors’ for the first time in ‘Jerry’s World.’ If I’m Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, I’m stealing a back-page of how the Giants placed a safety over the top on Dez Bryant the entire game. That would be an ideal plan forcing the Cowboys talented receivers to catch everything from Tony Romo underneath. I understand that trouncing the lowly Jaguars isn’t anything to get all wired up over, but Andy Reid just might be what the Doctor ordered for Kansas City to be heading in the right direction. Newly acquired veteran guard Brian Waters’ getting closer to play. The same with defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) who might be ready to go. Dallas better hope that Waters gets himself in gear after being out of football since 2011. Why? Current right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau just might be the worst starting right guard in all of football. Ultimately, I see both defenses providing pressure upfront, but if I was to choose between both quarterbacks, Kansas City’s Alex Smith and Dallas’ Tony Romo to extend plays, making bigger throws on passing downs, I have to ride my chips on Romo who has more weapons at his disposal and a dynamite sure handed tight end Jason Witten. Pick: Cowboys 24, Chiefs 17

Cleveland Browns 0-1 @ Baltimore Ravens 0-1 – TV: CBS
Things get much easier for the Ravens defense this time around in a non-Peyton game throwing passes at them. The only way the Browns can keep this game close by the 4th quarter is if John Greco, Alex Mack and Shawn Lauvao, the interior part of the Browns offensive line can create running lanes for running back Trent Richardson against a big Ravens front that will be committed in stuffing the run. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden went 1-14 on third down with 3-interceptions in Cleveland’s loss to Miami. And I don’t think the duress he faced last week with Cameron Wake in his face all afternoon long will get any better for him on passing downs at M&T Bank Stadium against a Ravens defense that will be fired up for their home opener as defending Super Bowl champs. Pick: Ravens 31, Browns 17

Tennessee Titans 1-0 @ Houston Texans 1-0 – TV: CBS
Word out in Houston is that head coach Gary Kubiak wants to limit running back Arian Foster’s touches early in the season for the better in the long haul. Foster’s calf has been a concern that Kubiak doesn’t want to get worse. The Texans second running back on the depth chart Ben Tate, a solid change-of-pace back should get more touches going forward. I don’t think this is anything of a major concern for an offense known to be effective running the ball. What I like most about the Texans was keeping their composure on the road when down by 21 points and finding a way to come back and win the game. That tells me they have a mature group with leadership to get through the smoke and fire. As for Tennessee’s win over the bruised and battered Steelers to open things up, their defense has a much more difficult task at hand trying to get past Houston’s offensive line. No pressure on Schaub, lots of catches for Andre Johnson and gang to move the sticks on third down. Pick: Texans 27, Titans 13

San Diego Chargers 0-1 @ Philadelphia Eagles 1-0 – TV: CBS
It’s a proven fact when traveling across country, the impact on the visiting team has been negative, especially in a short week. To make matters worse for San Diego, they need to deal with the new-look Eagles and Chip Kelly’s up-tempo style of offense. And although the Eagles new offensive approach stole the show on Monday, the defense flying around the ball caught my attention against Washington. With the Chargers vulnerable offensive line, look for Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis, a disciple as a defensive quality assistant of Bill Cowher and Dom Capers to send the speed upfront to pressure a non-mobile quarterback Philip Rivers. How San Diego’s defense slows down the tempo by pressuring Michael Vick or stopping LeSean McCoy and the Eagles running game, beats me. Good luck. Pick: Eagles 38, Chargers 24

4:05 PM ET
Detroit Lions 1-0 @ Arizona Cardinals 0-1 – TV: FOX
I can’t wait to catch a glimpse of one of the best cornerback’s, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson going up against the best receiver in the game, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. Last year when they met, Arizona got the best of the Lions in a blowout 38-10 win, a game that Johnson still managed to catch 10-passes for 121-yards with Peterson matched up on him. Peterson gave his take on what it’s like going one-on-one with the ‘Megatron.’ “The way he moves, the way he moves in and out of traffic,” Peterson said. “The way he gets off of press coverage. He’s big, but he moves like a little guy, he has little guy speed, he comes in and out of his breaks, which is really impressive for a tall guy. He’s always doing the unthinkable each and every Sunday, so my job is to slow that down and not have that happen to me and this Arizona Cardinals defense on Sunday.” Arizona is situated better at quarterback with Carson Palmer connecting with star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and even though Reggie Bush makes the Lions offense dangerous with his ability to catch out of the backfield, there’s something about going to Arizona when coming off a win or feeling good about things that just go south. I sense a game Detroit beats themselves, penalties, turnovers that stall drives coming away with field goals instead of touchdowns. Pick: Cardinals 17, Lions 16

New Orleans Saints 1-0 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-1 – TV: FOX
Watching Tampa Bay blow it out in Jersey against a dysfunctional Jets team gives me second thoughts of a team I had on my bubble-surprise watch-list. And with Drew Brees coming to town with a rejuvenated Saints team that has coach Payton back on the sidelines, things in New Orleans potentially look like we are going to see a contending Saints team, unlike the 2012 version that missed the postseason. Tampa Bay can potentially keep the Saints high-powered offense off the field if they can get running back Doug Martin going with an effective running game. They’ll need to control the tempo and time of possession with time consuming drives. They need to do better than average 2.6-yards per attempt like they did against the Jets. I think they do, but fall short in a high-scoring affair. Pick: Saints 33, Buccaneers 30

4:25 PM ET
Jacksonville Jaguars 0-1 @ Oakland Raiders 0-1 – TV: CBS
As bad as both teams are, at least one has life in them and a player that could be the first step into building something futuristic wise. Watching the 6 foot 4, 233 lbs. Terrelle Pryor making plays with his feet and rushing for 112-yards at quarterback, gives the Raiders a shed of light, unlike the lifeless Jaguars who are coming off a 28-2 loss to Kansas City. With the evolution of the read-option taking flight, Pryor shows that he can make plays running it. The Raiders may not win many games this season, but they better not bench him, unless he makes inexcusable mistakes on the regular. Stick with the plan and let it run its course. Is this the beginning of the Pryor era in Oakland? Pick: Raiders 24, Jaguars 13

Denver Broncos 1-0 @ N.Y. Giants 0-1 – TV: CBS
With running back Andre Brown (fractured leg) sidelined for at least 8 weeks and starter David Wilson fumbling the football, the Giants decided to bring back Brandon Jacobs, a big-bruising running back that was a vital part of the Giants two Super Bowl titles over the last 6 seasons. Offensively, Eli Manning and the Giants offense will need to take care of the football. They can’t turn the ball over 5 times on offense like they did in their loss to the Cowboys. The other turnover came on special teams making it 6 turnovers total. Even though the offense turned the ball over at an alarming rate, they moved the football well. Eli Manning connected big with his trio of receivers that went over 100 yards in a game for the first time in the history of the team. Victor Cruz had 118-yards, Hakeem Nicks 114-yards and Rueben Randle 101. The Broncos defense is missing their best pass-rusher Von Miller who’s suspended, and cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) hasn’t practiced this week leaving no optimism that he’ll play. The Giants are dealing with injuries of their own. Linebacker Dan Connor (neck) was placed on injured reserve and tackle David Diehl (thumb) are both out. The good news for the Giants defense is cornerback Prince Amukamara (concussion) had a full practice on Friday and says he’s ready for the challenging matchup against Peyton Manning and his deadly weapons at receiver. The known three weapons Manning has with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker now has a fourth member, 6 foot 5, 250 lbs. tight end Julius Thomas who caught two of Peyton Manning’s record tying 7-touchdown passes in their blowout win over Baltimore. So we get both offenses that should attack the soft spots on the backend of both defenses. The key will be who’s defensive line can get after the quarterback on passing downs? The Giants have more talent upfront in that department, but they’re going to need defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (back) at 100 percent throughout the game, unlike against the Cowboys. And he just doesn’t look up to par or in the right form of game shape. If he’s not creating havoc in this game, then Peyton Manning will settle in the pocket and go to work on the Giants secondary. The Broncos have a much better offensive line than what the Giants defense faced against the Cowboys. I’m going older brother over little brother in a shootout. Pick: Broncos 34, N.Y. Giants 30.

Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
San Francisco 49ers 1-0 @ Seattle Seahawks 1-0
This is operational serious business between two heavy-weights. At 20:30 military eastern time this Sunday, CenturyLink Field will be its same old loud-mouthed place with the ‘12th Man’ wild and crazed barking Seattle fans in their home opener underneath the pacific northwestern sky. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick lit up the Packers defense to start the season for 412-yards and 3-touchdowns. His prime target was Anquan Boldin who caught 13-passes for 208-yards and a touchdown. You can make a safe bet that Boldin isn’t going to have that kind of game going up against a top secondary like Seattle’s. In my opinion, Anquan Boldin matched up across from Seattle’s Richard Sherman is the more intriguing one-on-one battle of the weekend. Establishing the run is a must for the 49ers, a very difficult task against a speedy ball-hawking defense that tackles well getting after the ball carrier. You’re not going to really negate the Seattle crowd no matter what you do on offense, they never stop screaming unless, someway somehow you’re up big, but chances are slim of that falling in your favor. Now back to the Boldin vs. Sherman thing, look for the 49ers to move Boldin around and line him up in the slot to try to get him matched up away from Sherman here and there. Boldin is physical and could catch the ball in tight spots from every angle, but Kaepernick needs to be cautious with Sherman, a corner with quick instincts that could jump slant-routes. But when in the redzone, don’t be surprised if they try a fade in the corner with Boldin’s underrated leaping ability to out-muscle the defender. Seattle will try to get the running game going as well, something they do extremely well at home. This will be a field position type of battle and make or break game with both coaches Seattle’s Pete Carroll and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh that just about have the same vision of the game. Start out by getting after the ball on defense and establish the run to dictate the passing game for big plays down field. I like what the 49ers have lined up for this matchup, but I see Seattle’s offensive line playing like the season is on the line, being more disciplined with limited penalties, creating running lanes for running back Marshawn Lynch to setup the deep pass for Golden Tate late in the game after working the 49ers defense underneath early on, methodically. Pick: Seahawks 24, 49ers 20

Monday Night Football, September 16 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Pittsburgh Steelers 0-1 @ Cincinnati Bengals 0-1
Sounds like all things are heading into a pit full of lava for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers who’ve been hit by the injury bug. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (knee) and linebacker Larry Foote (biceps) suffered injuries against the Titans that could sideline them for the remainder of the season, a big kick to the stomach. Tight end Heath Miller’s (knee) return remains cloudy with limited practice this week and the Steelers are thin at running back with Le’Veon Bell (foot) who could miss another month. To make matters worse, LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee) was placed on injured reserve Monday. The team is left with Isaac Redman who only gained 8-yards on 7 attempts last week. With Pouncey out, the mammoth D-line of the Bengals will get a push upfront, and the mobile Roethlisberger knows that he’ll need to be dancing and prancing in the pocket, making improvising throws and extending plays with his feet. Problem is where’s his big-play receiver? Oh, that’s right, he’s complaining about not getting the ball in Miami. “We should’ve kept Wallace, says Steeler Nation.” Pick: Bengals 24, Steelers 10.

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