By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
When I was writing my preseason previews for each team, I walked through the entire schedule and picked every single game, just to ensure I was as accurate with my predicted records as I could possibly be. When I made those picks in mid-August, I took San Francisco to beat Green Bay and Dallas to beat New York on the opening weekend of the season. When I made my week one picks last Saturday, however, I never actually bothered to look back at that schedule to see who I picked – even though a whopping nothing had happened during the final two weeks of preseason to change my mind on any of those four teams – and promptly took the Packers and Giants to not just cover, but win outright. The moral of the story? Stay with your first thought, kids. And now, the ball is back in my hands for week two, so let’s dial up the playbook and bang out our four downs.
If you missed the first, say… seven minutes of the NFL season, and turned on your television just in time to catch a full scoreboard on the NFL Network or DirecTV Red Zone channel at around 1:10pm on Sunday, you may have been a bit confused as to what sport your were watching. That’s because there was actually a point in time where three games – that’s right, three games – had a score of 2-0. The Jaguars, Jets, and Steelers all recorded a safety as the first score of their respective games, with the Jets safety occurring just moments before the Chiefs punched in a touchdown to take a 7-2 lead on the Jaguars. According to the UltimateCapper’s premier research team (i.e. me), that’s the first time in NFL history that three teams have scored a safety as their first points of a season. It’s also the first time in NFL history that three games were 2-0 at any point during a given week. Google said it, so it must be true. I find this fascinating, even if there’s really nothing to extrapolate from that other than it’s a really cool coincidence. Consider it a generous gift of information you can use at tailgates and cocktail parties to impress your friends and coworkers – all free of charge!
So – how about that AFC North!? It’s not every day that a winless team can be tied for first place at any time after the season starts, but it’s a little like you and the dealer each getting a 17 in blackjack – no blood for either side. All four teams went down in defeat, with the Steelers and Browns having to feel worse than the Ravens and Bengals for losing at home to teams that were supposedly inferior. Cleveland had visions of maybe surprising some people before Miami held the Browns to just 10 points, while the Steelers offense didn’t even manage any points until midway through the fourth quarter. The Ravens were exposed defensively by Manning and the Broncos, though at least the offense looked solid, and the Bengals battled well with Chicago and actually are the one team that shouldn’t feel too terrible about their week one performance. It’s only one game, but this may turn out to be Cincinnati’s division to lose, and not many would have predicted that just seven days ago.
Right and Wrong
It’s just one week, but after 60 minutes for each team it would seem I’ve already gotten a couple of hits and a couple of misses. Wins by the Lions and Saints at home against divisional foes indicate those teams are pretty close to where I valued them, and despite picking them to cover the spread I did say the Seahawks might regress offensively this season. I also said the Giants would win the NFC East and Pittsburgh would win the AFC North, neither of which look like very good picks right now. It’s still too early to tell if Kansas City is really a playoff contender or if it was just the result of playing Jacksonville, and I’m still not buying into the Dolphins in any way, but it’s always fun to see just how much opinions change (or in some cases, don’t change) after just two halves of football.
Consider this “soapbox” time. This isn’t to harp on the referees, though – their job is unbelievably difficult – but more so to harp on the people who make the jobs of the referees as difficult as it is. As a Jets fan, I will willingly admit that, while it was a rather stupid play on the part of Lavonte David to push Geno Smith in the first place, Smith had technically not stepped out of bounds yet when David began the shove. The line is so fine when making that call, though, and it’s so difficult for officials to judge that they’ll always err on the side of the QB. The same is true for a key play in the Cowboys-Giants game, as a Dallas drive was extended when Giants DL Linval Joseph, while being pushed from behind by a Cowboys offensive lineman, reached for the legs of Tony Romo and brought him to the ground just after the ball was released. The hit was not late, and was not classified as such, but a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty was issued to Joseph anyway because he “lunged” at Romo – even though he was being pushed to the ground in the process. And let’s not get started on the Packers-49’ers game, where not only was San Francisco mistakenly given an extra down and turned that into seven points, but also saw 49’ers wideout Anquan Boldin get away with blatant pass interference on a crucial third down play late in the fourth quarter that set up a field goal and all but ended the Packers comeback chances. The problem that I have is that the rules have been slanted so blatantly in two very distinct ways – protecting the quarterback and increasing the offensive production and scoring numbers – that it’s nearly impossible to actually play defense anymore. The best football to watch is balanced football, where the offense and defense go back and forth and are on equal footing, and that’s simply not the case anymore. If this trend continues, I can guarantee that the NFL will continue to increase its casual fan interest (which I understand is the primary goal), but it will also lose some of the more traditional, committed fans that simply don’t enjoy the style of game anymore. I’m definitely in that category, and it’s slowly beginning to look like the NFL is going the way of the NBA , where the rules vary depending upon the players, venue, and the time and situation of the game itself. That’s just not a good model to follow, and I’m slowly become more and more disenchanted with the professional game as a result.
New York Jets @ New England Patriots
Thu, 8:00pm, NFLN
Line: Patriots by 12
As mentioned above, the Jets were handed a gift in week one by the Bucs. Now, Gang Green is going to be expected to take a rookie quarterback on the road to the team’s biggest rival – one that’s won four consecutive division titles – on a short week against a coach known for his defensive genius that’s also always gotten a sick level of enjoyment out of beating up on the Jets. There is absolutely nothing about this game that says New York has any chance of coming out with a victory, as a 13-point line indicates. But I would go so far as to say that even though the line has actually come down from it’s opening at 14, there’s really no reason to expect the Jets to even cover this game. Patriots will run away with this one.
Pick: New England 34, New York 13
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