What. A. Game.
I of course mean this from the perspective of a Packers fan living in Chicago as opposed to a neutral viewer or Bears fan.
Whatever doubts we had about the toughness of this Green Bay team were laid to rest last night when they came out and physically BEAT DOWN the Bears. This was especially the case on defense, where the Packers sacked Jay Cutler seven times and notched four interceptions. This game was a huge stepping stone for a unit that had not put together a game like that in almost two years.
It’s incredible how much better the Packers secondary looks when there is a viable pass rush. What Clay Matthews did to Jay Cutler is illegal in most red states. Tramon Williams stuck closer to Brandon Marshall than his own shadow as Marshall didn’t catch a pass until the fourth. Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett’s faces are on milk cartons this morning.
It’s too soon to overreact, though. The Packers aren’t going to cakewalk to an NFC North title or Super Bowl because they beared down in Week 2. The drops have been terrible so far and everybody has been guilty of them. While it’s impossible to expect the defense to play every week as well as it did last night, it needs to be closer to that than it was last week against the 49ers. I go to bed praying that whatever Clay Matthews has done to get back to this level of play never results in a failed drug test.
For Bears fans, that was about as bad a game as you can imagine. Giving up a fake field goal for a touchdown, drops, dumb penalties that killed drives on offense (Gabe Carimi’s personal foul) and extended them on defense (12 men on the field), a stubborn refusal to alter an offensive game plan that simply was not working, a high ankle sprain for Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler’s meltdown on the sidelines on rookie tackle J’Marcus Webb.
There was a lot of backlash to Cutler’s yelling at teammates yesterday and, as tends to happen, backlash to the backlash. “Why is it OK for Aaron Rodgers to yell at James Jones?” people asked.
There are definite differences in body language. Cutler slinks his shoulders and gets rattled by adversity. Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning yell at their teammates but don’t let it affect them on later series. When things are going poorly for Cutler, you don’t expect him to rebound from it in the same way. There are legitimate questions about his leadership today.
Even though there are only 16 games, it’s a long season. Bears fans will be an awful combination of angry, sad, and nervous for the next 10 days but this team still has the talent to contend. They have to make adjustments on offense. Last night, they were lucky that Cutler didn’t get hurt as he kept dropping back and getting CRUSHED because his offensive line was a sieve and receivers were never open. It was mind boggling that Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Tice did not call for more runs and quick routes. But these are issues that can be addressed.
The intense rivalry magnifies victory and defeat but this season was not made or broken for either team last night.
On to the picks:
Tampa Bay @ NY Giants (-7.5)
Ryan: One of the cardinal rules in picking games is not to react to what you see in Week 1. The Bucs played great and the Giants played terrible so this line is about five points lower than it would have been last week.I’m absolutely terrible at predicting the Giants because nothing they do ever makes any sense. One week they look like they’re the worst team in the league and then you look up in February and they’re Super Bowl champions. I wish I could just stay away from picking their games. Because of the line overreaction to Week 1, though, Giants cover.
Asif: Nothing to cure a disappointing home opener loss (I’m not commenting on that game) like hosting the Bucs. Giants cover.
Arizona @ New England (-13.5)
Ryan: I’m trying to think of how high this line would have to be for me to pick the Cardinals. 24 seems about right. Patriots cover.
Asif: I’m calling it now, the Patriots are primed to go on a 2007-type run this season. They absolutely smoked a Titans team that I think might actually be pretty good. Arizona’s defense looked pretty feisty against Seattle, but I think the Pats might be too much to handle. Also, Kevin Kolb is starting for the Cardinals. New England covers.
Minnesota (-1.5) @ Indianapolis
Ryan: Until Adrian Peterson tears his ACL again, the Vikings are undervalued. Andrew Luck looked pretty good last week but the Colts have a REALLY bad defense.
One of the dangers in picking games by Friday morning is that NFL teams guard injury information like it’s the Da Vinci Code. You have to pare through several beat reporter columns and interpret intentionally nebulous coach-speak to make an educated guess about whether important players like Dwight Freeney are playing or sitting. And then if they do play you have absolutely no idea how effective they will be. It looks like Freeney will be out of this game and when he went down last week, it was business time for the Bears. Vikings cover.
Asif: I see no reason why Minnesota should be favored in this game. Andrew Luck got jipped worse than perhaps any single player by the replacement refs last week when he aired it out and was intercepted on a blatant offsides by the Bears defense thinking he had a free play, only to find that the officials missed a neutral zone infraction that was visible from space. As for Minnesota, beating Jacksonville by 3 points while making Blaine Gabbert look semi-competent does not make you a favorite against anyone. Colts cover.
New Orleans (-2.5) @ Carolina
Ryan: Tough to have a Week 2 overreaction to this game because both of these teams lost games in which they were favored last week. Considering the ease with which RG3 gashed the Saints defense last week, though, I think Cam Newton will do the same. Bad karma for the Saints continues. Panthers cover.
Asif: I’m with Ryan, the Saints are going to have a tough year. They got railroaded by the refs last week, but I’m not sure it would have mattered either way. Panthers cover.
Kansas City @ Buffalo (-3)
Ryan: If Buffalo played Alabama in Tuscaloosa this Saturday, would the spread be more or less than 10?
I don’t think the Bills should be favored over anyone in the NFL right now. Chiefs pro bowl linebacker Tamba Hali returns from his one-game suspension this week. I’m wagering on Romeo Crennel at my own risk. Chiefs cover.
Asif: Ummm Ryan, did you see the Chiefs last week? They’re every bit as bad as the Bills, Tamba Hali or no. Also, the Jets just seem to have Buffalo’s number. I’m ready for some Fitzmagic. Bills cover.
Baltimore @ Philadelphia (-2.5)
Ryan: This spread seems so outlandish on the basis of how the teams entered this season and how they played last week that I feel like Vegas must know something. This has all the feelings of a game where Michael Vick takes shot after shot from the Ravens defense and is out before the third quarter. Since I feel like 70% of the action will be on Baltimore in this game, though, I’m going to be contrarian. Eagles cover.
Asif: Let me get this straight… Baltimore straight up eviscerates a playoff team while Philly almost loses to Cleveland (I’ll repeat that — the Eagles almost lost to the Browns) and its the Eagles who are favored by 2.5? Yes, I would like some free money. Ravens cover.
Oakland (-2.5) @ Miami
Ryan: Despite 3 (three!!!!!!) awful snaps by reserve long snapper Travis Goethel in Monday’s loss to the Chargers, the Raiders were in the game until the very end. Oakland actually has a pretty good defense. Miami doesn’t have a pretty good anything. Raiders cover.
Asif: There are going to be so many miscues in this game, you guys. (Derp Bowl) Miami covers.
Cleveland @ Cincinnati (-7)
Ryan: With Cleveland’s best cornerback Joe Haden now officially suspended four games for Adderall (it’s a good thing for college students everywhere that universities don’t have as a rigorous of PED testing as the NFL), the Browns are going to struggle on defense. They don’t have the personnel to replicate what the Ravens were able to do to the Bengals on Monday night. Bengals cover.
Asif: This is going to be a massacre. Notwithstanding their derpfest against an inspired Ravens team last week, I believe in the Bengals. On the other side of things, I think Brandon Weeden has been taking quarterbacking lessons from Blaine Gabbert.
Houston (-7.5) @ Jacksonville
Ryan: The Texans are starting this season on a tear. I’m confident in their ability to massacre bad teams. Houston covers.
Asif: I didn’t watch any of the Jaguars-Vikings game last week because I like looking at pleasant things, but apparently Blaine Gabbert went 23-39 for 260 yards and 2 TDs. There is no chance of anything close to that happening again. Houston covers.
Dallas (-3) @ Seattle
Ryan: This seems like a Week 1 overreaction as this game may have been a pick’em if it were played last week when some people were picking the Seahawks to go to the Super Bowl.
Seattle has an underrated home field advantage. Also, like Green Bay last week, they started to gel in the second half against the Cardinals after playing an abysmal first half. I have to see more from this Cowboys team before picking them on the road in a hostile environment. Seahawks cover.
Asif: Turns out Russell Wilson isn’t the second coming after all. Shocking, I know. Come on Pete Carroll, make Matt Flynn the starter…. you know you want to…
Coming off a brilliant performance throwing to whoever was being covered by the Giants’ 5th best corner, this game has Tony Romo derp-fest written all over it. Seattle covers (I make this pick entirely out of spite).
Washington (-3) @ St. Louis
Ryan: I would say, “I’m not picking rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III on the road” if he didn’t just go beat a Saints team that is better than the Rams and plays in a louder stadium last week. But, still, I need to see him do it for more than one week.
The Rams played pretty tough last week. I think they pull this one out in a mini-upset. Rams cover.
Asif: At what point do we admit that Sam Bradford is basically Mark Sanchez with a proclivity for psychedelics…
The Redskins got the benefit of so many calls on Sunday that if the replacement refs weren’t so blatantly incompetent across the board you might have wondered if Roger Goodell instructed the officials to punish New Orleans. Washington covers.NY Jets @ Pittsburgh (-6)
Ryan: The Steelers got punched in the mouth by the Broncos last week. No two ways around it. However, this is another line that has a drastic shift based on Week 1 performances. What would the Steelers have been favored by last week? 10?
It looks like Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are out which is sort of mitigated as the Jets are without all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. Just based on my perceived line shift, Steelers cover.
Asif: I watched the 1 PM games with a group of Jets fans last week and although I personally love those guys, Jets fandom is just intolerable. These people have now talked themselves into thinking that their offense is actually good, based on one week against a clearly shitty Bills team. I’m just going to keep reflexively betting against the Jets, and I think it’s going to work out for me. Steelers cover.
Tennessee @ San Diego (-6)
Ryan: The Chargers were the beneficiaries of three muffed punts last week and still had a chance to lose the game in the fourth quarter. That’s pretty special. I unfortunately didn’t get to see any of Titans-Patriots but I refuse to believe that this line should be more than 3. Titans cover.
Asif: Man, that Raiders – Chargers game sure was a derpfest. I realize that the Titans got smoked by the Patriots last week, and people who drafted Chris Johnson in their fantasy leagues are probably burning him in effigy right now, but I’m predicting a bounceback. Trust me, the Patriots are on another level, the Titans are pretty good, and the Chargers secretly kinda suck. Titans cover.
Detroit @ San Francisco (-6.5)
Ryan: Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions against the Rams last week and would have thrown a fourth if it wasn’t dropped by a defensive back. This Lions team is undisciplined and has in no way shown that it can go and win a game on Sunday night on the road against an elite team.
If the Lions and Vikings games go like I think they will, Minnesota will be alone atop the NFC North on Monday morning. THAT’S WHY THEY PLAY THE GAMES. 49ers cover.
Asif: Remember all that talk last year about how defense was dead, based largely on the way the Patriots and Packers demolished opponents while yielding 30 points a game themselves? The 49ers apparently didn’t buy into all that, and wouldn’t you know it, you actually can win a bunch of games behind a rock solid defense! Even against good teams! I think the Niners are the best team in the NFC, and maybe second best in football behind New England. San Francisco covers.