Football is all about “Any Given Sunday.” Okay, it’s any given Thursday, Sunday, or Monday these days, but the idea is the same. Any team can win a game as easily as any team can lose a game. It can lead to the New England Patriots owning last place in their division. It can lead to the Minnesota Vikings owning first place in their division. It can mean the Jacksonville Jaguars almost winning a game. Anything can, and will, happen.
Now we come to week 2. The stakes are higher. The expectations are more apparent. And the jokes will carry on.
Thursday, September 11
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
In case there was ever any question over the last few years, the AFC North is back to being the roughest division in the NFL. Sure, the Bengals haven’t had anyone on their team arrested in about a year, but the rest of these teams have taken up the slack. The Pittsburgh Steelers got a two-for-one deal with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, Antonio Brown is practicing mixed martial arts on the field, and nobody will ever feel safe alone with Big Ben. In Cleveland, Josh Gordon is still suspended. The Ravens just released Ray Rice.
So what better way to celebrate this back-handed AFC North triumph than a game between the Steelers and Ravens in Baltimore, under the feet of a newly built Ray Lewis statue?
Sunday, September 14
New York Jets @ Green Bay Packers
The good news is that the New York Jets defeated the Oakland Raiders last week. Sure, it looked like it wouldn’t happen when Geno Smith had his weekly fumble, but the Jets pulled it off. This is what preseason games are for, as well as games against the Oakland Raiders: fix the minor issues before playing a real football team.
The Green Bay Packers happen to be a real football team, with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, receivers and everything. This could turn into a game where Aaron Rodgers gets pulled out by the third quarter. Maybe he’ll even play a few snaps for the Jets, just to make the game interesting.
Over/Under on points scored by the Packers: 48
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
The Miami Dolphins have to be excited. They beat the New England Patriots! They are #1 in the AFC East due to their point differential! They play the Buffalo Bills next! Everything is coming up Milhouse!
Unfortunately, the Buffalo Bills are also coming off their own upset over the Chicago Bears. Even more exciting, now the players know that they won’t be relocated across Niagara Falls for good because Terry Pegula, owner of the Sabers, won the bidding war to buy the Bills. Take that, Bon Jovi!
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Washington Redskins
Congratulations, Jaguars! You finally have people talking about you again thanks to that stunning game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Granted, you didn’t actually win, but you won half the game, which is a step up from losing throughout the whole game. Football is a game of inches, and you just took three of them.
Considering how miserable RG3 and the Washington Redskins looked against last year’s “Worst Team in the League,” the Jaguars just may have a chance to get a .500 record for the first time since 2011. Hey, it could happen.
Dallas Cowboys @ Tennessee Titans
There are very few things in football that happen three times in a row. No team has won the Super Bowl three times in a row. No one has won the Heisman Trophy three times in a row. No one has even won the AP MVP award three times in a row. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, however, broke into his own three-peat: ending three drives in a row with an interception.
Meanwhile, Jake Locker of the Titans is looking like the second coming of Troy Aikman. That trend should continue against the Cowboys defense, provided Locker doesn’t injure himself by banging his shin against a coffee table.
Over/Under on Tony Romo interceptions this game: 2
Arizona Cardinals @ New York Giants
Even with their star running back Andre Ellington almost in a cast, the Arizona Cardinals found a way to defeat the San Diego Chargers. That’s one more week of Carson Palmer not screaming at his coaching staff, which is probably good for locker room morale.
The bad news is the Cardinals must now fly across the country for their next game. The good news is that the game is against the New York Giants, and cornerback Patrick Peterson can catch up on his interception numbers against Eli Manning. I swear, I KNEW that second interception was coming when Manning rolled out, even before he started to throw off his back foot. It was like watching a shopping cart rolling toward your car when you’re across the parking lot. It happens slow, you know it’s going to happen, but you just can’t do anything about it.
New England Patriots @ Minnesota Vikings
In an effort to show that he really is the man of the house, Tom Brady has decided to grow a giant beard. Unfortunately, his wife Gisele Bundchen has already one-upped him in manliness by beating up a punching bag in an Under Armour commercial. I wouldn’t be surprised if beards stopped being manly just because of Tom Bundchen.
Meanwhile, former Tom Brady backup Matt Cassel has no beard, plays in Minnesota where you need a beard to live and is on the Vikings, whose logo has a huge beard. What Cassel does have is a win. One more than Tom Brady, and that makes all the difference.
Odds of Tom Brady shaving his beard after losing this game: 3-1
New Orleans Saints @ Cleveland Browns
In a game that we expected to see last year, the New Orleans Saints had an absolute shooting match against the Atlanta Falcons, complete with overtime, clinical offenses and Rob Ryan sightings. Unfortunately for the Saints, Jimmy Graham was a non-factor and the Saints lost.
Now the Saints have a chance to get back on track by playing the Cleveland Browns, who are more excited by possibly getting back Josh Gordon than almost winning their game against the Steelers.
Atlanta Falcons @ Cincinnati Bengals
It seems like everything is set for the Atlanta Falcons to have the type of season they expected last year. Matt Ryan already has a game where he threw over 400 yards. Tony Gonzalez has a decent replacement in Levine Toilolo. Julio Jones didn’t lose his foot… yet. Even Devin Hester got involved by acting like a receiver and not just as a return specialist. This means that the Falcons will really let their fans down when they lose in the playoffs.
Another team that looks good enough to fail their fans in the playoffs again? The Cincinnati Bengals, and boy do they look primed for that letdown. The Bengals gave us the excitement that only a come-from-behind monster touchdown pass to A.J. Green late in the fourth quarter against the Ravens can provide.
Detroit Lions @ Carolina Panthers
You know what’s scary? Calvin Johnson looks healthier than he has in two seasons. You know what’s even scarier? Matthew Stafford doesn’t look like he just lobs the ball somewhere in Megatron’s direction. Stafford has plans! He’s calling audibles! It’s like the Detroit Lions have a multi-dimensional offense!
That type of offense may help the Lions survive the woodchipper defense that the Carolina Panthers still have, and need considering their starting quarterback is Derek Anderson until Cam Newton heals up. You may remember Anderson as the starting interception-thrower of the Cleveland Browns back in 2009.
St. Louis Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I warned you about that last Buccaneers game being slow, but no one ever listens to me. Luckily, that last game against the Carolina Panthers wasn’t the 5-3 slug-fest I imagined it to be. Sure, the Buccaneers lost, but that’s a Buc’s Life. This game, however, against the St Louis Rams who are already on their third-string quarterback? Easily a 3-2 snoozer. Okay, 4-3. I’ll be optimistic this time.
As a side note, look for the North Endzone Krewe at Raymond James Stadium. They’re the crazy guys with giant cardboard cutouts of Warren Sapp’s head and have an awesome tailgate.
Over/Under as far as I can tell: 6 points
Seattle Seahawks @ San Diego Chargers
Talk about a clinic. The Seattle Seahawks must have recorded every obnoxious thing I said about their offense last year (namely their passing game) and thought, “Let’s take this guy down a peg.” And they did. And it was magical. Percy Harvin even survived a whole game!
The San Diego Chargers? All they did was make me happy that I didn’t start Danny Woodhead on my fantasy team, and that I wasn’t one of the 20 people who stayed up for that late on a Monday night. Look for a Twitter war between Richard Sherman and Philip Rivers, or at least a parody account of Philip Rivers.
Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders
The Houston Texans have already lost their #1 draft pick to an injury. That’s right, all my dreams of an opposing quarterback braking in half when being hit by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney at the same time may have been shattered for the season with Clowney undergoing knee surgery. He may be back after six weeks, and it may not even matter considering how great the Texans defense played. It helps when your quarterback doesn’t throw pick-sixes every game.
The Oakland Raiders, on the other hand, may have to throw Matt Schaub out onto the field this week to get their offense going. I’m not saying they should start him at quarterback. They should line up Schaub on the edge so that the entire defense goes after him instead of the ball.
Over/Under on the amount of times Matt Schaub is mentioned: 15
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
Sometimes coaches make the rest of us feel really smart. Andy Reid for instance. He spoke to the press, agreeing that he should have gotten his All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles involved in the game. Because, you know, valuable players can do stuff. Then again, if we know this, than the opposing defense may know this also.
This trend will continue as the Chiefs play the Denver Broncos. Even Peyton Manning will be telling defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, “Hey, that Charles guy? You may want to do something about him.”
Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers
Aw. Da Bears. Dey lost. Da worst. The Bears also managed to lay waste to most football knockout pools by losing to the Buffalo Bills. Not me. I picked the Jets, which was its own insanity.
Next stop? Levi’s Stadium and the San Francisco 49ers, whose defense doesn’t look like they lost a step even though half of them are hurt or suspended. But Jim Harbaugh is still there, resorting to arguing about a call that turned a Kaepernick interception into an incomplete pass. Why was he arguing? Because Jim Harbaugh, that’s why.
Over/Under on how many time Jim Harbaugh has a temper tantrum: 12
Monday, September 15
Philadelphia Eagles @ Indianapolis Colts
The Eagles pulled off a stunning comeback last week to take hold of the NFC East once again. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly stunning. They were playing the Jaguars, who beat them for a whole half. They’re in the NFC East, whose other starting quarterbacks had a touchdown to interception ratio of 2:5. And they have Chip Kelly, whose offense scheme is great for his cardio when he’s huffing and puffing up and down the sideline.
Now the Eagles get a true test on defense: the Indianapolis Colts, who won’t be relying on a third-string rookie receiver to score all their points.
Patrick Emmel is a sports humorist who once punted a soccer ball fifty yards to his teammate, who then scored the only goal for his college intramural soccer team’s season. Seriously, that kick was placed PERFECTLY. He is also still a believer that Colt McCoy is going to break out as an NFL quarterback. You can read more of his obnoxious commentary at This Jeer In Sports and heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.