Today's absurd prediction:
The NFC goes 3-1 against the AFC in week 2.
Picking numerous upsets killed me in a week 1 that, for a change, went largely as expected. So this week I'm overcompensating. Depending whose odds you're looking at, I'm only picking one upset. Really it makes sense, since week 2 has some seriously lame games in contrast to the exciting matchups of week 1.
Houston at Carolina - I imagine the Panthers are using David Carr as a resource, because no one knows the Houston offensive line's particular weaknesses better than Carr. The Panthers did a great job stopping a strong veteran offense last week, so a less-strong young offense shouldn't be difficult, and Steve Smith should be able to burn the Texans' secondary for a score or two. Panthers 23, Titans 15. Game MVP: Julius Peppers - 2.5 sacks, 8 tackles, 5 hurries
Indianapolis at Tennessee - Chris Brown and LenDale White were able to run all over Jacksonville last week. Indy's run defense is supposed to be weaker, so a reprise would seem possible. But the Colts' smaller, faster front 7 is a better match for Brown than the Jags', and Peyton Manning won't take long putting the Titans in a hole they can't get out of by running. Colts 39, Titans 13. Game MVP: Peyton Manning - 23 of 30, 340 yds, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
New Orleans at Tampa Bay - Last week's trouncing in Indianapolis should have taught Drew Brees and Sean Payton something about how to play the Cover 2. Look for him to throw the ball downfield a little bit more. The Bucs are dealing with injuries to Jeff Garcia and Cadillac Williams - both hope to play but probably won't be 100%. Saints 38, Bucs 10. Game MVP: Reggie Bush - 12 rushes for 89 yards, 5 receptions for 103 yds, 2 rec TDs.
San Francisco at St. Louis - This is my one upset - I wouldn't be surprised if this is another off game for Steven Jackson. This game will be won by the team whose defense plays surprisingly well. The injury to Orlando Pace hurts the Rams' playoff chances more than losing Jackson, Bulger, or Holt would-St. Louis is woefully shallow on the offensive line. I'm picking the 49ers to pull off the upset. 49ers 24, Rams 23. Game MVP: Frank Gore - 25 rushes for 144 yards, 2 TDs
Buffalo at Pittsburgh - I really wanted to pick Buffalo to pull off the upset, but they had so many injuries last week, particularly on defense, that I can't see them stopping Pittsburgh's new-look powerful offense. I think Losman will look good and pull them close, but a late clock-eating drive by Roethlisberger and Willie Parker will put the game away. Steelers 31, Bills 28. Game MVP: Santonio Holmes - 6 receptions, 127 yards, 2 TDs.
Green Bay at NY Giants - Like Tampa Bay, the Giants will be playing with an injury-hampered QB and RB, at best. Meanwhile, Green Bay's young defense is looking great; they shut down the Eagles' top receivers last week. Derrick Ward won't be sneaking up on anybody this week. Packers 27, Giants 17. Game MVP: Brett Favre - 21 of 36, 308 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Atlanta at Jacksonville - After getting embarrassed by the Titans' running game last week, the Jags are going to play lights-out and completely shut down the Falcons, daring Joey Harrington to beat them. Harrington will fail to do so. Jaguars 19, Falcons 3. Game MVP: Marcus Stroud - 11 tackles, 1 FR
Cincinnati at Cleveland - This is the blowout of the week. The Bengals have won the last five contests, and it'll happen again. Ben Roethlisberger put up great numbers against the Browns last week; imagine what Palmer could do. The Browns will score most of their points in garbage time, making the outcome seem slightly less lopsided. Bengals 42, Browns 13. Game MVP: Carson Palmer - 20 of 24 passing, 289 yds, 4 TDs, 0 INTs.
Dallas at Miami - The Cowboys couldn't ask for a better matchup. They are built to withstand Miami's strengths and exploit the Fins' weaknesses. They won't get a lot of big rushes, but Jones and Barber should be able to consistenly pull 3-4 yards. The Dallas defense looked weak last week, but not as much so as the Dolphins' offense. Cowboys 24, Dolphins 16. Game MVP: Tony Romo - 22 of 32 passing, 313 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.
Minnesota at Detroit - Both are NFC North teams with low expectations. Both are 1-0 after playing the NFL dregs last week. Minnesota's defense is strong, its offense suspect; the reverse is true for the Lions. This one will go back and forth all day long, but I like Jon Kitna's chances of eventually tiring out the Vikings' secondary and pulling out a W. Lions 30, Vikings 27. Game MVP: Jon Kitna - 28 of 43 passing, 356 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT.
Seattle at Arizona - Last week, the Cardinals had a solid run game, their QB only got sacked once, and they played good defense, but they couldn't get a passing game going. WHO ARE THEY? This is clearly not Dennis Green's Cardinals team. I think it'll take a few games for them to figure out their identity, while the established, experienced Seahawks will outplay them all over the field. Seahawks 34, Cardinals 20. Game MVP: Shaun Alexander - 25 carries for 133 yds, 3 TDs, 4 rec, 34 rec yds.
Kansas City at Chicago - Opportunistic defensive play will keep Kansas City in the game, but in truth they'll never get close to winning this one. They'll keep the pressure on Grossman and he'll make mistakes; they'll shut down the running game with ease, but they'll move backwards on offense. The Chicago defense will shut down Larry Johnson even better than they did to LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chiefs' only score comes from a fumble recovery for a TD. Bears 16, Chiefs 7. Game MVP: Hunter Hillenmeyer - 9 tackles, FF, FR, INT
NY Jets at Baltimore - Baltimore played worse than they have in a long time last Monday and they still came within a few yards of going to overtime against a very good team. I expect Steve McNair to play through the pain like he does so well and shake off his errors from last week. I expect the home crowd to help rally the Ravens to be their usual, menacing selves. At least the fans won't be calling for Pennington's benching in Baltimore. Ravens 27, Jets 13. Game MVP: Willis McGahee - 26 rushes, 109 yds, 2 TDs.
Oakland at Denver - Jay Cutler will learn to find other targets on offense when Nnamdi Asomugha shuts down Javon Walker. Fortunately, there won't be much pressure, since the Raiders won't score all game. This is a great day for Cutler to build experience without worrying about wins and losses. Broncos 20, Raiders 0. Game MVP: Travis Henry - 24 rushes, 111 yds, TD.
San Diego at New England - The best two matchups this week come on Sunday and Monday nights. Now I've seen a lot of power rankings in the past few days, and most have the Colts, Bolts, and Pats interchangeably taking the top 3 spots. This game will take the Chargers out of this group, as they should already be. The difference is that while all three faced tough foes in week 1; San Diego is the only one that showed any exploitable weakness. Chicago focused solely on stopping LaDainian Tomlinson, and Rivers didn't have the receivers to make them pay for it. This one won't be nearly as close as people expect, as Norv Turner gets thoroughly outcoached by the evil genius Belichick. Patriots 38, Chargers 17. Game MVP: Tom Brady - 23 for 30 passing, 4 TDs, 1 INT.
Washington at Philadelphia - The Eagles have owned Washington in recent years, and I don't expect that to change on Philly's home turf. But I do think it'll be close. The loss of Lito Sheppard will allow the Redskins to stay in the game on some big pass plays to Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, who may turn out to be Jason Campbell's favorite target. But McNabb knows how to beat the Redskins - he's done it 7 of the last 8 times he's played them. Eagles 31, Redskins 28. Game MVP: Donovan McNabb - 21 of 32 passing, 3 TDs, 0 INTs.