[Editor’s note: Each week, Rosenthal and I will go head to head,
picking the winner of each game. The guy who does worse each week gets
to be the one to copy and paste together the text the next week. Last week, we tied. The NBC Competition Committee decided that I should have to copy and paste it all together again. And so I’ll take the high road and accept the ruling. In three days, after everyone applauds me for taking the high road, I’ll bitch about it on the radio.]
[UPDATE: As it turns out, we didn’t tie. Rosenthal won. And I should have kept my damn mouth shut when I realized that he’d counted his victories incorrectly.]
Bills at Packers
Florio’s take: In Week Two of the 2009 season, the Packers hosted an AFC team, and the AFC team stole a win. In Win Two of the 2010 season, another AFC team comes to town. But there’s a big difference between last year’s Bengals and this year’s Bills. Even with Packers running back Ryan Grant done for the year, Green Bay has too much talent — and the Bills don’t have nearly enough.
Florio’s pick: Packers 42, Bills 19.
Rosenthal’s take: This reminds me of the blowout specials Florio used to get to pick last year when we split the workload. You could try to make a case for the Bills, but you’d be trying too hard. Buffalo doesn’t have the receiver depth to test Green Bay’s secondary. The Bills’ three-headed running game was oddly underused last week. Their screens were predictable. Holes closed on C.J. Spiller a lot faster than they did at Clemson or in the preseason. Don’t expect daylight this week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Bills 10.
Dolphins at Vikings
Florio’s take: The Vikings’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense cancel each other out. So this one will come down to the ability of the Minnesota defense to bottle up the Miami offense. Given that the Bills were able to keep the attack largely in check last week, the Vikings should have no problems shutting them down.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 24, Dolphins 12.
Rosenthal’s take: Miami’s defense was impressive in Buffalo. Mike Nolan did a lot of fun things with Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake; they can get pressure on Brett Favre. Even short a few players, this is an improved linebacker group. Favre also may not be ready to take advantage of a Dolphins secondary that features Benny Sappy a little too prominently. There’s an old axiom that you shouldn’t pick a team to cover the spread unless you think they can win. 5.5 points feels like too much. So let’s just go all the way and take the Dolphins in an upset special. (I changed this pick at the last minute, which is the kiss of death.) [Editor’s note: Hey, Rosey, if you’re gonna pick the upset, just pick the upset and be done with it.]
Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 23, Vikings 21.
Chiefs at Browns
Florio’s take: With former Patriot Scott Pioli running the Chiefs and former Patriot turncoat Eric Mangini coaching the Browns, this one carries a strong undercurrent of hostility. Then there’s the fact that Browns running back Jerome Harrison shredded the K.C. defense for 286 yards last December. Look for the new-look Chiefs to bring their new attitude to Ohio, and to send the Browns to a loss in the second of two games that most expected Cleveland to win.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 20, Browns 13.
Rosenthal’s take: Remember all the positive energy in Kansas City on Monday night? Imagine that, but the complete opposite happening in Cleveland if the Browns fall behind Sunday. Jake Delhomme’s injury doesn’t hurt the Browns, though. Seneca Wallace is different, and could force the Browns coaches to get creative with a roster that begs for creativity to make up for a lack of talent. Eric Mangini can’t afford to lose the Belichick B-team Bowl after last week’s collapse in Tampa. Romeo Crennel knows just how to lose in Cleveland.
Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 17, Chiefs 14.
Bears at Cowboys
Florio’s take: The Bears lucked into a win at home and the Cowboys squandered a victory of their own on the road. This week, the Cowboys head back to Dallas, 25 years after the Bears authored a 44-0 beatdown of the ‘Boys. The Bears haven’t won in Big D since the year after that game — and their streak of futility will continue.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 10.
Rosenthal’s take: No clue what to make of the Bears after last week. Jay Cutler moved the ball very well, Matt Forte is revived, and the defense stuffed Detroit all day. Yet they still needed a lucky call to save them from an opening loss at home. The Cowboys are easier to read. Their offensive line has problems and they know it. The defense is great. Will the return of two injured, older starting lineman be enough to turn things around? It’s enough this week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 20.
Cardinals at Falcons
Florio’s take: The Cards barely beat a still-bad Rams team last week, and the Falcons gave fits to the Steelers on their home field. Atlanta realizes that the window will close quickly if they can’t keep pace with the Saints. Besides, Falcons are far more menacing birds.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 28, Cardinals 20.
Rosenthal’s take: Arizona fans complaining about style points last week need to get a grip. Kurt Warner has left the building. This is a different Cardinals team, and they are going to have to win creatively while Derek Anderson figures things out. The guy led two impressive fourth-quarter drives last week and that will do for now. Matt Ryan, on the other hand, has struggled to move the ball since the preseason. I think Atlanta’s improved defense carries the day here. Both these teams deserve to be 1-1.
Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 19, Cardinals 14.
Buccaneers at Panthers
Florio’s take: Since 2003, the Panthers have handled the Bucs on 11 of 14 occasions. Though Tampa pulled off a minor surprise on Sunday against the Browns, the Panthers can be expected to take care of business on their own turf. If they can’t, Carolina could be 0-5 at the bye.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 14.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs have a golden opportunity to go 2-0, even if Panthers starting quarterback Matt Moore plays as expected despite a concussion last week. Raheem Morris has the Bucs defense looking improved, like they did at the end of last year. These two similar teams fly well below the NFL radar and got against current league norms. They want to win with running, defense, and not screwing things up too badly passing the ball. John Fox has more practice. And better running backs.
Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 20, Bucs 13.
Eagles at Lions
Florio’s take: With Mike Vick making his first start since 2006, the question becomes whether he can play like he did against the Packers, who weren’t prepared to face him, when facing a Lions team that knows Vick will be the guy. Lions coach Jim Schwartz never has had to defend Vick; when Schwartz served as defensive coordinator for the Titans, Schwartz’s team was the last one to play the Falcons before Vick returned from a broken leg. Look for Schwartz to try to keep Vick in the pocket in the hopes that he’ll be forced to throw — and that he’ll force a few mistakes. And then Kevin Kolb will get “healthy” quickly.
Florio’s pick: Lions 20, Eagles 13.
Rosenthal’s take: The battle of the tortured fan bases. The rest of the world learned about what it meant to be a Lions fan this week. Week One, full of hope, they lost their young franchise quarterback and a game in the most painful way possible. The Lions have a vertical passing attack with the weakest-armed quarterback in the league in Shaun Hill. Eagles fans have it pretty good, but they like drama. They talked up Kevin Kolb all offseason, then gave up on him after 30 minutes. It’s hard to blame them after the way Michael Vick played last week. Vick will put it to the Lions just to make this whole situation more ridiculous.
Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, Lions 16.
Ravens at Bengals
Florio’s take: The Bengals somehow swept the Ravens last year. It won’t be happening again in 2010. Baltimore looks as good as they ever have looked, and the Bengals looked nothing like they looked a year ago. Look for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis to continue to drop the hammer on anyone who looks in his direction.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 23, Bengals 9.
Rosenthal’s take: The Bengals defense said they were confused early against the Patriots. So were guys like Tedy Bruschi that picked Cincinnati to go to the Super Bowl. At least the Bengals passing attack showed signs of life after the early disaster. It may have been garbage time, but Carson Palmer couldn’t put up big stats any time last year. Unlike the Jets, Cincinnati has the weapons to take advantage of Baltimore’s secondary.
Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 23.
Steelers at Titans
Florio’s take: Last year, these two teams kicked off a season that many assumed would end in a playoff rematch. Neither qualified for the postseason. This year, both look like they’re on their way to another trip to January. It all comes down to the Steelers defense against the Titans offense, and the Steelers defense is simply too tough.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 13, Titans 9.
Rosenthal’s take: The Titans were my pick to win the AFC South in the PFT Season Preview, so I’m basically going to take them at home unless they are facing the ’85 Bears. The Steelers defense isn’t at that level, but it could wind up being the best in 2010. Pittsburgh can neutralize Chris Johnson — they held him to 57 yards in last year’s opener. So it will come down Vince Young versus Dennis Dixon and Young should be up for the challenge.
Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 14, Steelers 10.
Seahawks at Broncos
Florio’s take: Former Broncos quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was essentially run off when Josh McDaniels became the head coach, returns to town with a team that unexpectedly won in Week One by 25 points. But it’s one thing to put a pasting on the 49ers at home in the season opener, it’s quite another to do it in Denver.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 24, Seahawks 17.
Rosenthal’s take: These teams that are a total mystery, especially the Seahawks. Can Seattle play so inspired without the 12th man? What is this team good at precisely? It looks like Pete Carroll is going to make this defense better and more interesting. The offense has work to do. In Denver, I know what I’m getting from Kyle Orton and his band of merry secondary receivers. The Broncos can beat suspect NFC West teams at home.
Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 28, Seahawks 21.
Rams at Raiders
Florio’s take: The Rams looked better than expected in Week One; the Raiders looked far worse. But Oakland is at home and the Rams are still learning how to win. Though neither team will be embarrassed, look for the Raiders to take care of business in the Black Hole.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Rams 10.
Rosenthal’s take: The optimism stops here for one of these teams. The Raiders wouldn’t be able to sell progress after a blowout loss on the road and a home loss to the Rams. Sam Bradford has given the Rams hope for the future, but the present looks awfully bleak if they go 0-2 with a soft opening schedule. Two Raiders, including Jason Campbell, alluded to being overconfident heading into the Titans game. You know, because of their draft grades. Losing 11 or more games for seven years hasn’t humbled this franchise. Maybe losing to the Rams will.
Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 21, Raiders 17.
Texans at Redskins
Florio’s take: The reunion of the Shanahans and Gary Kubiak adds intrigue to a game that suddenly has become one of the best of the weekend give the teams’ performances in Week One. We’ll quickly find out whether Houston tailback Arian Foster rolled up all those yards because he played against a bad run defense or because the Texans have become the ultimate “pick your poison” pass/run attack. And we’ll find out whether the Redskins’ offense can score a touchdown or two without having it handed to them.
Florio’s pick: Texans 27, Redskins 24.
Rosenthal’s take: Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak are road favorites coming off a huge win. This is exactly the game they usually trip over, which worries me. Also worrisome: Every aspect of the Redskins offense except their tackle play. (How odd is that?) Washington just doesn’t have enough firepower to hang with Houston, who should give Arian Foster a break and only rush him 25 times this week.
Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Redskins 17.
Patriots at Jets
Florio’s take: During an offseason of incessant Jets chirping, the Patriots have remained largely silent. Apart from Tom Brady’s acknowledgement that he hates the Jets, the Pats have avoided the trash talk. Instead, the Patriots have saved it for the field, and the Jets may have a hard time saving themselves as the Pats make the only kind of statement that truly matters in football.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 35, Jets 13.
Rosenthal’s take: What goes up in the NFL usually comes down. And vice versa. An overconfident team loses one week, gets ripped, and plays hungry the next time out. Last year, Rex Ryan called the Jets’ Week Two game against the Patriots the team’s Super Bowl. This one is far more important. The Jets know they can’t go 0-2 at home to start the year. The Jets defense still looks great. The offense can find a way on the ground. Don’t crown the Patriots yet; this will be a season-long battle.
Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Patriots 16.
Jaguars at Chargers
Florio’s take: Most expected one of these teams to be 1-0 and the other to be 0-1; few expected that the Jaguars would be undefeated and that the Chargers would be winless. Though it may feel like a home game for the Jaguars since the stadium will be partially empty (rim shot!), the Chargers have the horses to get back to 1-1 against a Jaguars team that overachieved against the Broncos.
Florio’s pick: Chargers 30, Jaguars 21.
Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers talked all offseason about avoiding yet another slow start to the year, and then slogged through a loss in the Kansas City rain. Weather should be more conducive to vertical passing in San Diego this week. I don’t trust either secondary or either pass rush, even if Aaron Kampman looks like a fine pickup. I’ll take Philip Rivers in a shootout over David Garrard every time.
Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Jaguars 26.
Giants at Colts
Florio’s take: Peyton Manning has started 0-1 only three times in his 13-year career. Only once, as a rookie in 1998, has Peyton Manning begun a season at 0-2. This time around, Peyton takes an 0-1 mark into his second career game against his kid brother. And more importantly than not going 0-2 to Peyton will be avoiding losing to Eli. Sometimes, it really is that simple.
Florio’s pick: Colts 31, Giants 19.
Rosenthal’s take: Both brothers have grown up a lot since the last Manning Bowl. Peyton won a Super Bowl and did the United Way spot on Saturday Night Live. Eli won a Super Bowl, got significantly better after the title, and adjusted his Southern fraternity mop top. That makes this a fair fight, especially if the Giants pass rush has truly reawakened. Fair, but not equal. Peyton is still the one with MVPs and Peyton doesn’t start the year 0-2.
Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 34, Giants 30.
Saints at 49ers
Florio’s take: Rarely if ever has a team with high expectations imploded as quickly as the 49ers. They open their home schedule with a visit from the Saints, who will have had the longest possible non-bye-week time to prepare for the game, playing on a Thursday and next on the following Monday, 11 days later. After the game, Niners coach Mike Singletary will be thanking Sean Payton in the same way Singletary thanked Pete Carroll.
Florio’s pick: Saints 30, 49ers 13.
Rosenthal’s take: Weirdly dangerous game for the Saints against an ornery 49ers team. New Orleans fans don’t like that I questioned their run defense this week, but one game doesn’t erase all of last season and a shaky linebacker group. Luckily, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams doesn’t have to get too creative to stop Alex Smith and the 49ers passing attack. Load up the box, and dare Smith to beat you. The Saints are in Payton/Brees version 5.0. The essentially can do anything they choose with a veteran group of receivers. The 49ers can’t get the play calls in on time.
Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, 49ers 21.