Last week’s bold predictions were the equivalent of going 0-for-4 in the batter’s box, but making loud contact. That’s about the best you can expect from predictions that are truly of the bold variety—even if hitting .300 is an attainable goal.
In Week 2, we have a bit more information than we did in Week 1, but there is still a lot we don’t know. There is still a lot of potential when it comes to hitting on a few unique predictions. Week 1 can sometimes be fool’s gold.
So I’m going against the grain a lot more in Week 2 than Week 1—inspired by the fact that one could have predicted that the Denver Broncos would score 14 points in nine seconds to beat the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night.
The Buffalo Bills Shut Down Tom Brady, Beat the New England Patriots
In Week 16 of the 2014 season, Rex Ryan’s New York Jets slowed down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a 17-16 loss. In six road starts against Ryan’s Jets, Brady and the Patriots were 3-3. They scored 17 or less in three games and lost another 30-27.
Brady has also shredded Ryan’s defenses on occasion, but that has been largely the result of a pedestrian offense and not a suspect defense. Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith didn’t exactly help Ryan win games.
In Buffalo, Ryan has more talent on the defensive side of the ball. Last week, they shut down the Indianapolis Colts at home despite facing an offense that was every bit as good as New England’s last season and added weapons like Andre Johnson and Frank Gore this offseason.
Also, Bill Belichick is a great coach, but he can’t prepare for what he doesn’t know. The Patriots under Belichick are 3-4 against rookie quarterbacks on the road. The quarterbacks have thrown 12 touchdowns and just six interceptions in those seven games. No, Tyrod Taylor isn’t a rookie, but he is a first-year starter, so he shares some similarities to rookies.
On top of that, Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman guided the San Francisco 49ers offense to a 41-34 in New England in December of 2012. It’s one of just five losses at home in December or January since Belichick took over as head coach in New England.
Seattle Seahawks Move to 0-2 in blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers
Things aren’t going very well for the Seattle Seahawks right now. After losing to the St. Louis Rams in overtime in Week 1, they have to go to Green Bay to try to get their season back on track. Going to Lambeau Field to try to get your first win of the season is a tall order for any team—even one as talented as the Seahawks.
Last season, the Packers gave the Seahawks all they could handle in Seattle in the playoffs. The Packers actually had a 19-7 lead until Russell Wilson ran for a touchdown with 2:09 to play in regulation. The Packers would ultimately lose in overtime after failing to recover an onside kick, allowing the go-ahead touchdown and then driving for the game-tying field goal with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The Packers want revenge and are 40-7-1 at home against eventual playoff teams since Aaron Rodgers became the starting quarterback. The Packers have a point differential of 12.93 points per game in those games. We may expect a competitive game, but the Packers in a rout is the bold call.
Marcus Mariota Gets Intercepted Three Times by the Browns
There is no doubt Marcus Mariota got off to a fast start in Week 1, but Tampa Bay’s defense is also suspect. The Browns have issues, but their defense is solid and head coach Mike Pettine is just as rough on rookie starters on the road as the notorious Rex Ryan.
Despite his performance last week, rookie starters on the road have a tough time. Over the last decade, rookies that attempt more than 15 passes on the road are 80-206 with more interceptions (252) than touchdowns (227).
For as bad as the Browns have been recently, quarterback Josh McCown looked good until he fumbled into the end zone last week. At worst, the Browns will move the ball, which should force Mariota to drive the length of the field. Mariota often has a short field against the Buccaneers, who seemed unprepared for the new-look Titans.
Exotic blitzes from Pettine a veteran secondary should fluster Mariota and bring his rookie passing numbers back to earth.
Khalil Mack will Sack Joe Flacco Twice
Last week’s prediction for Khalil Mack was a little too bold. Three sacks and a win for the Oakland Raiders proved to be an awful prediction, but it’s time to double down on the talented Mack.
It’s a good time to buy low because Mack was consistently better last year than he was in Week 1. In fact, Pro Football Focus gave him a +1.7 grade in Week 1 and he graded out worse in only four games last season—his first career game and three blowout losses. That’s not exactly shocking for a pass-rusher like Mack and it basically mirrors what happened in Week 1.
This time, we’ll just expect the Raiders to lose despite Mack’s best efforts as they did often last season. We’ll also aim for Mack to get just two sacks, which would match the number of times Joe Flacco went down last week.
The Baltimore Ravens have a good offensive line, but Flacco may hold the ball a little longer to try to take advantage of Oakland’s suspect secondary. They’ll have to be mindful of defensive tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Justin Tuck, who played well opposite Mack last week. Linebacker Aldon Smith will also be better acclimated in Week 2, which should draw some attention away from Mack.
The 49ers Upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers are heavily favored at home to take care of the San Francisco 49ers. Last week, the 49ers beat the Minnesota Vikings 20-3 at home. The Vikings are supposed to be a pretty good team offensively and defensively, which can’t be said about the Steelers.
Pittsburgh were a great offense a season ago, but they are still without running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant due to suspensions. That means the Steelers will have to rely on DeAngelo Williams at running back and Darrius Heyward-Bey at wide receiver. That’s enough of a talent differential to make this game a lot closer than the current six-point affair predicted by oddsmakers.
Pittsburgh’s defense is also highly suspect. Last week, they allowed Dion Lewis to average 4.6 yards per carry. Carlos Hyde was Week 1’s leading rusher, so a big day for him will at least keep the 49ers in the game. Hyde is a very talented running back, which is the only reason the 49ers let Frank Gore leave this offseason.
The Steelers also struggled covering wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski. The 49ers don’t have the same level of talent, but veteran receiver Anquan Boldin is a savvy route-runner and tight end Vernon Davis can be a poor-man’s Gronk at times.
Overall, the 49ers have just enough talent on both sides of the ball to give the Steelers problems. It should result in one of the biggest upsets of the week.