In 2016, offenses dominated the league. Quite arguably the best defense (Denver) failed to even make the playoffs. The best defense on paper in the playoff field (Giants) folded in the wild-card round. In the NFC, we saw Atlanta outgun the Seahawks (without Earl Thomas) and Packers. The Patriots and Steelers met for the first time in the playoffs since the 2004 AFC Championship Games, but both defenses were a far cry from where they were that year. The Super Bowl was of course highly offensive.
Now if the first 16 games of 2017 are any indication, then the pendulum may be swinging back to the defense. It wasn’t a pretty start last Sunday, especially when it came to the QB statistics. We have a team like the Bengals doing impotent things that haven’t been done since 1939 like going eight home quarters without a touchdown to start a season.
But I wouldn’t stick a fork in offense yet. This weekend has some stellar matchups scheduled and scoring will undoubtedly go up. It just may not happen when your team is starting Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. I’m also not sure the Mike Glennon Revenge Game is going to be much of anything in Tampa Bay, but glad to see the Buccaneers (and Dolphins) get started. We’ll start with that other Florida team that’s been irrelevant for a long time.
The Biggest Jaguars Game Since 2010
This is without a doubt the biggest game the Jaguars have played since 2010 when they were 8-5 and lost out to lose the AFC South to Indianapolis. Jacksonville has since had some 0-6 starts and really never been in a position to do anything even in a weak division. This week, they have a chance to drop the preseason favorite Titans to 0-2 with a home win. The Texans are struggling at 1-1, the Colts look like they won’t win a game without Andrew Luck, and so the Jaguars can take a nice early lead in this division race with two wins already.
That means it’s also the biggest, and perhaps the first relevant, game of Blake Bortles’ career. Does that mean he becomes a garbage-time hero again? Not if the Titans start slow like they did last year and did last week. I also think this is a game with two of the most uninspired coaching hires in years (promoting Mike Mularkey and Doug Marrone from interim title), but if this is the new race for the AFC South, then this is one to keep an eye on. Leonard Fournette surprised me last week as I really thought the Texans would have a spirited effort defensively.
New England at New Orleans
What an interesting game. Sure, we all expect a 45-38 game here based on the quarterbacks and the way these defenses looked in Week 1. However, don’t you just trust Bill Belichick to figure things out with a few extra days off since the Chiefs loss? Also, that was one lousy game by the Patriots (offense included). The Saints have been lousy on defense for years and I see no resistance coming in this one. The interesting factors are that it is in New Orleans where Drew Brees is usually money, and he does have great career success against Brady/Belichick (should be 4-0, but #DatRobRyanD). Without Danny Amendola, will we see Brady continue to try being a deep thrower like he so uncharacteristically was vs. KC? Then again, Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan should all have great matchups against a defense that made Sam Bradford look like the GOAT.
No Dont’a Hightower is another interesting factor to consider for the Saints, but I get the feeling they may try to get the running game going to calm Adrian Peterson down after some early rumblings. The Saints are also missing their tackles and Willie Snead (suspension), so they have key flaws too heading into this one. It’s not like Brees played poorly on Monday night, but the offense definitely seemed to lack efficiency and explosion without Snead (and Cooks off to NE).
I feel like the “remember what happened last time NE got killed by KC in prime time?” thing is a false hope for this year. This is a 40-year-old QB now. This is a defense that is not magically going to be more talented, especially without Hightower available. The best news for NE is that they still play in the AFC East, and who in that division is going to replace them in 2017? So even if the Saints light up the scoreboard and drop the Patriots to an inconceivable 0-2, I still don’t see a need to panic. They’re still likely to have a home playoff game just because of the state of the AFC East.
Minnesota at Pittsburgh
Another good game, though I wonder what’s going on with Sam Bradford’s knee injury. This doesn’t sound insignificant by any means, and we heard nothing about it Monday night, a seemingly perfect night for him. With that injury in mind, I liked the Steelers in this one to begin with. I think while the Vikings offer a tough defense, this is a week where the Steelers will be more comfortable at home in getting Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant better reacquainted with the offense. There was rust there, and it didn’t help that Todd Haley seemed to think he didn’t need to get creative to beat the Browns. The offensive line also didn’t get much push against that front seven (minus Myles Garrett), but I think they’ll put a much better performance on film at home.
Defensively, I think the Steelers contain Dalvin Cook. The bigger issue is defending Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Joe Haden did not have a good debut for the Steelers, and the secondary is still the weakness with this defense. If Bradford can deliver the ball on time, he’ll have great matchups with his wideouts, but I think Cook and Kyle Rudolph can be held in check. Ultimately, I think the Steelers get enough pressure against a quarterback on a potentially bad knee, and that’s enough for the edge at home.
Dallas at Denver
A few weeks ago I pegged this as a loss for Dallas, because I thought Ezekiel Elliott would be suspended. The run defense is the best way to attack Denver, which has suffered some injuries up front so far. Elliott seems to run well against just about any defense he faces, and I liked how Dak Prescott handled the Giants last week. I think this is a very winnable road game for the Cowboys, who can limit big plays for Denver’s offense. Rod Marinelli deserves a lot of credit for how he’s coached that defense. It lacks talent, they give up a lot of short completions, but they keep the play in front of them and tackle well. As long as Demaryius Thomas doesn’t take a short catch the distance, I think the Cowboys hold Denver to another low point total and get this win.
Green Bay at Atlanta
A very nice night cap to the day. I’m not sure much has changed for these teams from last year. It’s hard to outscore Aaron Rodgers three times in a row, but Atlanta certainly can do it with Matt Ryan and this offense. When Julio Jones has a quiet game like he did last week for his standards, he usually explodes the next week. We know he’s had some monster games in the past against Green Bay, including that NFC Championship Game win. Green Bay’s defense looked quite good against Seattle, but that’s probably going up against the worst offensive line in the NFL, and the Packers were not rolling offensively by any means. Ty Montgomery might have a big night here, but Falcons will be happy to have Desmond Trufant back to match up with Jordy Nelson. Ultimately, Atlanta needs the crowd to be fired up in opening the new stadium and to not be afraid to rush Rodgers like Dan Quinn did in the playoff game when they were very aggressive.
2017 Week 2 Predictions
Another Thursday game wrong. Damn those boring Texans and their low-scoring games with the Bengals.
Winners in bold.
- Patriots at Saints
- Vikings at Steelers
- Bears at Buccaneers
- Bills at Panthers
- Eagles at Chiefs
- Browns at Ravens
- Cardinals at Colts
- Titans at Jaguars
- Dolphins at Chargers
- Jets at Raiders
- Redskins at Rams
- Cowboys at Broncos
- 49ers at Seahawks
- Packers at Falcons
- Lions at Giants
Road teams were good last week. TNF excluded, I think home teams rebound this week.
Week 1: 8-7