Each week throughout the 2010 NFL season, Jon Wagner (Sr. Writer At-Large for Football Reporters Online, Senior Columnist for Pro Football NYC, and writer for NY Sports Day), picks the full weekly NFL slate of games based on confidence scores, going from highest (most confident) to lowest (least confident) that a certain team will win. Submit your own confidence picks in the comments sections at FRO, PFNYC, or NYSD, and see if you can beat Jon’s total confidence score each week. Here are Jon’s season results and picks for this week (home teams in CAPS):
LAST WEEK: 9-7 84 points (out of 136)
SEASON: 18-14 89.0 pts/week (out of 136.0)
16 NEW ENGLAND (1-1) over Buffalo (0-2)
The Patriots have beaten the Bills 13 straight times and have won all 8 games played between the two teams at Gillette Stadium. There’s no reason why those trends shouldn’t continue. Division games always have potential of springing surprising upsets, but this is one of the AFC’s best hosting one of the AFC’s worst. Throw in the Pats being mad over losing to the Jets last week, and this one has the makings of an easy rout for New England.
15 BALTIMORE (1-1) over Cleveland (0-2)
On one hand, the Ravens have only managed 10 points in each of their two games, winning one, while losing the other. On the other hand, they’ve yet to give up a touchdown, allowing 8 field goals in those two game. The Browns meanwhile, blew 14-3 lead to lose in Tampa, and managed to lose to the Chiefs at home despite not allowing a defensive touchdown. Baltimore finally gets the offense going at home and rolls to an easy win for the “old Browns” over the “new Browns.”
14 NEW ORLEANS (2-0) over Atlanta (1-1)
The Falcons figured it all out at home last week, crushing Arizona, after a lackluster loss to the shorthanded Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Saints haven’t looked like the defending champs yet, but they’ve found a way two go 2-0. Reggie Bush is a big loss for New Orleans, but it’s lessened in this matchup by the loss of Atlanta’s Jerious Norwood. Drew Brees, who has completed 74.3 percent (55 of 74) of his passes this year, should get the Saints’ passing game rolling and the Superdome rocking.
13 Cincinnati (1-1) over CAROLINA (0-2)
The Bengals will look to tee off on rookie QB Jimmy Claussen, who will make his first NFL start. Other than in garbage time at New England in Week 1, Cincinnati’s offense has struggled thus far. It might benefit from a short field a few times if the Bengals’ defense can rattle the untested Claussen early and often.
12 MINNESOTA (0-2) over Detroit (0-2)
The Lions have fought well and should really be 1-1, so they’ve shown improvement from their dreadful play over the past few years. The Vikings season could be on the line though, and the prospect of going from Super Bowl contenders for a second straight year to a second straight loss at home and a disastrous 0-3 start should be enough motivation to spark Minnesota to its first win.
11 Green Bay (2-0) over CHICAGO (2-0)
A great old school matchup for Monday Night Football. No NFL teams have met more than these two. The Bears will be wearing their throwback 1940’s uniforms to honor the Monsters of the Midway. Unfortunately, the Bears’ defense won’t play that way against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who looked very sharp against the Bills last week. Green Bay simply has more talent than Chicago, which is lucky to be 2-0 (they should have lost to Detroit). The Bears come back to earth a little bit and the Packers take their rightful control of the NFC North.
10 HOUSTON (2-0) over Dallas (0-2)
Jerry Jones’ dream of hosting Super Bowl XLV in Dallas with his Cowboys as a participant already seems to be slipping away. Dallas gave away a game in Washington and then played uninspired football in losing to Chicago at home. The Cowboys now have to travel to undefeated Houston to face the NFL’s top-ranked offense. Ouch. Interesting stat: for all of the passing that Matt Schaub and the Texans’ offense did to win in Washington last week, the Texans over the past three seasons, are 20-2 when they rush at least 30 times and 2-23 when they rush less than 25 times. They were all rushing against Indianapolis, all passing against Washington. They’ll need to find better balance. A hunch says the Cowboys play a lot more sound than they have the first two weeks, but the Texans, at home, who will want to stake claim as Texas’ number one team over Dallas, will make enough plays on both sides of the ball to go 3-0 for the first time in their history and send the Cowboys to their first 0-3 start since 2001.
9 Philadelphia (1-1) over JACKSONVILLE (1-1)
Andy Reid finally decided to go with Michael Vick over Kevin Kolb (after he went with Kolb over Vick earlier in the week). He might have made that decision after looking at the Jaguars’ Cover 1 defense and the potential for Vick to gain some serious rushing yards if his receivers are covered downfield. A dangerous number for a less than strong road pick in the Eagles, but the Jaguars, after a solid home win against Denver, showed what we might see more of from them last week, in San Diego.
8 NY GIANTS (1-1) over Tennessee (1-1)
The Titans have won 9 straight against the NFC and 4 in a row against the Giants. Those trends will continue if the Giants can’t contain RB Chris Johnson, who is the type of athletic and speedy back who had given the Giants’ defense fits in recent years. Johnson should be highly motivated after being held to just 34 yards against Pittsburgh last week. He’ll get his yards against the Giants, but QB Eli Manning and his wide receiver corps, along with RB Ahmad Bradshaw (both rushing and receiving) should be able to make enough plays to counteract what Johnson will do for Tennessee, while the Giants’ strong secondary will make it tough for QB Vince Young to throw down field.
7 Washington (1-1) over ST. LOUIS (0-2)
Last week, Donovan McNabb gave his new team exactly what they wanted when the Redskins traded for him… except a win, that is. But, that had more to do with the Redskins’ normally very solid defense collapsing against Houston while blowing a 17-point second-half lead in an overtime loss to the Texans. Sam Bradford has been fairly good in his first two NFL games, but he simply doesn’t have the team around him. Washington is the better team here and McNabb, along with Clinton Portis, and Washington getting back to normal Redskin defense, will keep the 2010 top draft pick waiting at least another week for his first NFL win.
6 San Francisco (0-2) over KANSAS CITY (2-0)
The 49ers looked a lot better against the Saints than when they laid an egg in Seattle, but they’re still seeking their first win. The Chiefs meanwhile, failed to reach 10 first downs or 200 total yards against San Diego, and went without an offensive touchdown in Cleveland, yet they’ve started 2-0. Look for things to get back to what was expected here. The Niners finally get their first win while the Chiefs fall back down to earn a little bit as they find it tougher to win yet again with a struggling offense.
5 ARIZONA (1-1) over Oakland (1-1)
RB Beanie Wells, injured earlier in the week, will play for a Cardinals team that finally gets to play its home opener after flying out to St. Louis and then across the country to Atlanta to split its first two games on the road. But, Oakland is stout against the run, so even a healthy Wells won’t help much. Cardinals tough. Offseason acquisition Jason Campbell will remain benched for the start of this one in Bruce Gradkowski, who seems to give the Raiders a lift at home, but almost never on the road. Same here. If in Oakland, the Raiders would be the pick. But, in the dome in the dessert, home opener for the Cards, Arizona will get by.
4 Indianapolis (1-1) over DENVER (1-1)
The Colts must have felt a little like Mark Twain. After setting the record for the most consecutive seasons with at least 12 regular season wins, reports of Indianapolis’ demise were greatly exaggerated after a season-opening loss in Houston. Of particular note, the Colts’ running –- yes, running game, not only their passing game –- keyed a win over the Giants during which the Colts never broke a sweat. Peyton Manning will hurt the Broncos’ pass defense enough to overcome one of the better home field advantages in the NFL, as Denver looks to put together two straight good efforts at home after opening with a road loss in Jacksonville.
3 San Diego (1-1) over SEATTLE (1-1)
Week 1, the Chargers were disappointing in a loss while the Seahawks surprised with an easy win. Last week, San Diego kicked it into high gear with an easy win while Seattle stepped back with a bad loss. Now you know why this one is only a score of 3 (tough to tell what to expect in this league). But, QB Phillip Rivers should have a second straight solid performance and much like Peyton Manning helping the Colts overcome a tough home team in Denver, Rivers should help the Chargers get by a Seattle team that’s the good Jekyll at home and the bad Hyde on the road.
2 NY Jets (1-1) over MIAMI (2-0)
It’s an absolute disgrace that WR Braylon Edwards is playing in this game 562 days after he was out drinking with Donte Stallworth the night Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian with his car in Florida. Edwards learned nothing from Stallworth’s crime, but thank the overprotective CBA for not allowing the Jets much leeway to appropriately discipline Edwards instead of waiting for the NFL to take care of that. Hopefully, head coach Rex Ryan has the conscience to bench Edwards for most of the game and Edwards isn’t a factor. If Edwards wanted to do the right thing however, he could ask out of the game and Ryan could oblige that way. Don’t expect that, though. All of that drama aside, QB Mark Sanchez played well with the reigns taken off of him last week, and the Jets’ defense shut out New England on the second half without shutdown CB Darrelle Revis, who will miss this game with a hamstring injury. Though the Dolphins have yet to lose, they’ve also yet to score that much. And, although Miami’s defense will again be tough, Sanchez will find enough receivers and TE Dustin Keller (as he did last week) to move the ball, and RB LaDainian Tomlinson should make at least a couple of big plays. If RB Shonn Greene can also produce and keep the ball off the ground, it will be even easier for Gang Green, which after a distracting couple of weeks, tries to put the focus back on the field, instead of off of it.
1 TAMPA BAY (2-0) over Pittsburgh (2-0)
Who would have thought that this would be a fascinating Week 3 matchup between a pair of 2-0 teams? Yet, that’s exactly what it is, with the Steelers going with fourth-string QB Charlie Batch, trying to find a way to win yet again on nothing more than defense and guts, and virtually no offense (see last week’s 127 yards of total offense while winning in Tennessee). The Bucs meanwhile, haven’t been tested (with wins over Cleveland and Carolina). This one might be 6-3 with the way these two defenses can play, and with the offensive issues each team has. Thanks to injury though, the Bucs have the better quarterback, they’re at home, and the Steelers can’t win every game with out Ben Roethlisberger, can they?