By Dill Spears
The saying is “The biggest improvement you’ll see from week to week in the NFL season is from Week 1 to Week 2.” I take that to mean that you’ll see more upsets, more oddball results, and more improvements by week 2 from teams that got housed on the road or upset at home. It’s a long season, and the only thing that’s for sure is that nothing is for sure. Week 1 showed that offseason changes don’t necessarily mean improvements right away, and just because a team finished strong last year isn’t an indicator of their start in a new season.
I’m Not an Expert by any means, but I’ll be looking back at the first week of the NFL season, as well as prognosticating about week 2. I made some boneheaded picks last week, going 7-9 ATS, but 10-6 straight up. My week 2 picks will be at the bottom of the article, after my week 1 thoughts.
STEELERS VS BILLS & OUR PARTY BUS:
Steelers 23, Bills 16. I was part of a traveling party that ventured north from Erie, PA to Orchard Park, NY for what every prognosticator assumed was not just going to be an easy victory for the Buffalo Bills, but an easy win. The place was jam-packed, the fans were rabid but friendly for the most part, with a few exceptions here and there. Parking was an absolute shit show, as can be expected when you put a 70,000-seat stadium in a city of less than 30,000, our driver, Worldwide Wes, had the worst day imaginable, between bad directions and a stress nosebleed. The place is cramped, the seats are tiny, and the Bills are in dire need of a new venue. That being said, they came out with some fire but couldn’t move the ball the way they should have, and Pittsburgh’s defense essentially shut them down.
Buffalo couldn’t run the ball effectively, except with some Josh Allen draws (which is a great way to get a young, dynamic athlete maimed or killed) and Pittsburgh harassed him all afternoon. Pittsburgh’s offense looked terrible in the first half, but they made some adjustments and scored 16 points in the second half, with the defense allowing only 6, and the special teams tacking on a backbreaking blocked punt for a TD that sapped all the energy out of the crowd and sealed the win for the Steelers.
I missed all the other games except for Thursday night, Sunday night, and Monday night. I did catch some replays and I’ve watched some highlights:
WEEK ONE NON-EXPERT ANALYSIS:
New Orleans boat-racing Green Bay:
Aaron Rodgers looks like he just gave up. 133 yards, 0 TD, 2INT, and a passer rating of 38.6. I guess your star QB holding out and bad-mouthing the organization all summer has a negative effect on the offense: 7 drives that produced 145 yards, 1 field goal, 2 interceptions, and 4 punts before Jordan Love relieved Rodgers in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. Rodgers said during the week “We’re in big trouble if we’re freaking out after week one” News flash: They’re in big trouble right now.
Now, Jameis Winston only had 149 yards passing, but he was 6-6 in the red zone with 5 TD, so I’ll take that. I don’t think this moves him into the MVP chatter or anything, but Green Bay needs to think about moving on from Rodgers if his shitty attitude persists in bringing the rest of the team down. Maybe see what Love has if Rodgers hasn’t stepped his game up by week 4 or so, before Rodgers drives another coach out of town.
My other huge shock was Arizona’s utter and complete domination of the Titans.
They got Tennessee out of their rhythm early, removing human cheat code Derrick Henry from the equation and forcing Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball with Taylor Lewan’s one ACL protecting him from sack machine Chandler Jones. The Cardinals sacked Tannehill six times on the day, with Jones dropping him five of those times, and Arizona took a 24-6 halftime lead before coasting to a 38-13 win on the road.
This is one that I chalk up to growing pains, as Tennessee has far too much talent to be this bad all season: they’ve got a new OC, Arizona is supremely talented on offense, and it’s possible that Lewan came back far too soon from the torn ACL and might have needed help against Jones and just didn’t get it. Unfortunately, he played with bad form and Jones dominated him in a way that is seldom seen against veterans in the NFL. Kyler Murray is the real deal for Arizona, accounting for 5 touchdowns (4 passing and 1 on the ground) and should be in the MVP race if he has a few more outings like this to start the season.
- Bucs over Cowboys: A great shootout to open the season. No surprise the Bucs won, no surprise it was a good game. Tom Brady is the greatest player in NFL history, and he is aging like fine wine. Dallas looked great, and they should be in the mix in the NFC east with the return of Dak Prescott.
- Panthers over Jets: The Sam Darnold revenge game had no hype nationally and lived down to its opening match billing, but the Jets are gonna Jets. Carolina could surprise some folks, especially in an NFC that’s a bit down this year.
- Seahawks over the Colts: The Colts lost a great QB in Phillip Rivers, who’s now coaching high school football in South Carolina or Georgia or fucking Utah or something. Carson Wentz is coming off a foot injury that was supposed to sideline him for up to 12 weeks. Seattle still has Russell Wilson and two great receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. The Colts defense didn’t play to their ability.
- Rams over Bears: The Rams were my NFC Super Bowl pick, and the Bears are a hot mess. I’m only surprised the Rams didn’t put up 50. Matt Nagy could be out of a job by mid-season.
- 49ers over Lions: The Lions have virtually no top-level players on their roster and the 49ers got out to a big lead, then let them back in it. I thought Detroit might get a nice 0-17, but they somehow managed to score some points, so I think they might get 2 wins this year, somehow.
- Broncos over Giants: I didn’t think this would be a 14-point game with the catastrophe the Broncos have had a QB over the past few years, but the Giants are just stuck in roster churn as they try to gain relevancy. So, not only are they going to waste a few years of Saquon Barkley while they figure things out, their defense can’t stop Teddy Bridgewater.
- Raiders over Ravens: Yes, the Ravens have lost about 17 guys to torn ACLs, but they still have Lamar Jackson and a great young defense. Las Vegas’ Carr to Waller is a Brady to Gronk combo for the 2020’s, and Baltimore had no answer. Plus, and this is important, fuck the Ravens.
- Eagles over Falcons: The surprise here is not that the Eagles beat the Falcons, because they’re both trash, it’s the ease with which they did it. Jalen Hurts may or may not be the answer in Philadelphia, but Matt Ryan’s window has closed in Atlanta. The Falcons need to tear this thing down. Hard to believe these teams were the NFC’s Super Bowl representatives after the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
- Bengals over Vikings: This went to OT, so by rule, if it wasn’t 6-6 at the end of the 4th quarter, it was good. I’m glad to see Joe Burrow playing well after that tragic injury last season that derailed what would have certainly been an AFC offensive rookie of the year campaign for him. Kirk Cousins played REALLY well, and the Vikings offense kept them in it, but as usual, their defense let them down. Dalvin Cook didn’t get started, but he’ll come around.
- Chiefs over Browns: The Browns went out and scored a bunch of points in the first half but couldn’t keep the pressure on Patrick Mahomes and that KC offense, who had them right where they wanted them, trailing by 12 at the half. Cleveland ran the ball well, but Baker Mayfield wasn’t able to produce a passing TD, which is something they’ll have to rectify moving forward. I’m sure they will, and it’s not like he was completely ineffective, he had 321 yards passing to 8 different receivers. The big problem again for Cleveland is that they weren’t able to stop a good offense that they knew was going to be throwing the ball: Tyreek Hill went off with 9 catches for 197 and a TD, and Travis Kelce, only the best TE in the league added 6 for 76 and 2 TD. The pressure was there, with 6 QB hits and 2 sacks, but it just wasn’t enough. These two teams will be there come January.
- Miami 17, New England 16: One team on the rise, one on the rebuild. This promised to be a channel-changer and I’m sure it was. If it had been on where I live and I’d been home, I’d have been watching Red Zone. I maintain that Tua will come into his own and in a few years, people will consider Mac Jones the steal of the 2021 draft. The AFC East is going to be two teams chasing the Bills and the Jets going 3-14 every year.
- Chargers 20, WFT 16: This looked bad on paper, and the recaps did not allay my concerns that it was bad. Justin Herbert torched the supposed-to-be-good WFT defense for 337 yards and 3TD and an insane 14 of 19 on third down, but still only managed 20 points. Washington kicked a bunch of field goals after 85-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick fell and broke his hip in the second quarter.
WEEK TWO PICKS:
- NYG (+3.5) @ WFT – I took the Giants and the points here, because WFT didn’t impress me in week one, plus Taylor Heinicke was an unproven commodity to me. WFT won, but they didn’t cover, so I’ll take the W.
- CIN (+2.5) @ CHI – The Bengals started strong, I like them to keep it going and get the win as a road dog.
- HOU @ CLE (-12.5) – The Browns should dominate this one and easily cover this spread.
- LAR (-3.5) @ IND – Rams as a road favorite against a Colts team that looked bad last week? Yessir.
- BUF (-3.5) @ MIA – This should be close, but the Dolphins defense is not Pittsburgh’s. Buffalo covers on the road.
- NE (-5.5) @ NYJ – This was a tossup for me, but I think the Patriots can cover this, if not win outright.
- SF (-3.5) @ PHI – Philly comes back down to earth, and SF covers on the road.
- LV @ PIT (-5.5) – First regular season game at home in a full stadium in almost two years? Pittsburgh wins and covers easily.
- NO (-3.5) @ CAR – NFC South dogfight, but NO has the firepower to cover as a road favorite.
- DEN (-6.5) @ JAX – Jacksonville is still growing, and Denver has enough to cover this.
- MIN @ ARI (-4.5) – Arizona is going to win this game by double-digits. This spread is way too small.
- ATL @ TB (-12.5) – Wow. Two double-digit lines in the same week. This one makes me wary because it’s a divisional game, but the Falcons looked _so_ bad last week and the Bucs looked really good. I like TB to cover this at home.
- DAL (+2.5) @ LAC – Dallas as a road underdog against a 1-0 Chargers team? The Cowboys travel well, to be certain, so I’m going to say they can use their offensive firepower to win this outright.
- TEN @ SEA (-5.5) – Cross-country trip? Late game? Loudest stadium in the league? I’m taking the Seahawks to cover at home.
- KC (-3.5) @ BAL – KC looked great in the second half against Cleveland, they’re a road favorite against an already banged-up Ravens squad that lost to the average-at-best Raiders last week.
- DET @ GB (-10.5) – Green Bay covers this, our THIRD double-digit spread of the week, at home, because Detroit is the trash take of the season.
Highway to Ham Standings:
|Joe Brogan, Shaggy||10-6||100|
|Alex, Ryan, Donnie, Nick||9-7||90|
|Uppy, Big D, Morgan||8-8||80|
|Jake, Dill, Jason, Marty, E-Unit E||7-9||70|
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See you next week!