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NFL picture unclear after two weeks

Mark Bell Spectator’s Eye

September 18, 2013

Another week into the NFL season and it’s pretty evident this is going to be another one of those years when the league has reshuffled its deck and we’re just going to have to wait a little longer to see how all the cards play out.


Moving up from an 8-8 prediction record in Week One to a thoroughly mild 9-7 in Week Two, it’s time to pull an ace from the sleeve (if only I wasn’t wearing a wife beater, metaphorically-speaking).


Chiefs at Eagles – Philadelphia is still looking for that crucial dimension of the game we call defense. So far, their hurry-up offense is being interrupted by too many hiccups. While not overwhelmingly talented, Kansas City appears to be really balanced, disciplined and patient.


Andy Reid coming back to visit prior haunts will not only make everyone see red, it may even trigger one of those characteristic fan moments in Philly history that is totally off balance, undisciplined and impatient. There may be more fun in the stands than on the field at this one, especially for the home team.


Texans at Ravens – Houston still needs to prove its worth among the upper echelon. Without Andre Johnson, Baltimore’s somewhat beleaguered defense catches a real break this week. Playing at home gives them all the boost they will probably need.


The only real question left is whether or not Joe Flacco can cash in on the one or two opportunities the Texans’ defense will give him. J.J. Watt is not the generous sort.


Giants at Panthers – It’s hard to judge a matchup of early underachievers because somebody is due to break out in a big way. Big Blue is once again starting the season as Big Boo (with lots of boo-boos). They don’t have their heads out of the preseason yet.


Thankfully for New York, the rest of the division is also showing up really small to start the season so nobody is panicking yet – except for certain screeds in the big city media who get paid to do that. Winning the Super Bowl after a 9-7 season two years ago put the squelch on a lot of that from the public. Not all of it, by any means, but a lot of it.


Is Eli apt to keep pushing the turnover envelope against the Carolina defense? That doesn’t seem very likely. Is the Giants’ defense able to contain the Panthers’ decent running game? Sure. So how likely is it that Cam Newton and his limited passing offense can make a big difference here?


Not enough to make me go for it.


Lions at Redskins – Woe to be a D.C. fan when the wheels are falling off! Detroit comes to town just in time to give them a push right over the edge.


Chargers at Titans – Tennessee is surprisingly solid while San Diego remains typically flaky. It would not surprise me to see the Chargers wind up with negative rushing yards, but Philip Rivers remains able and opportunistic. Jake Locker just does not yet inspire the kind of confidence to make this a lock, but the Titans should win by a comfortable margin.


Cardinals at Saints – New Orleans at home looks unbeatable, in this game at least. Arizona will surprise, but they will not keep up.


Buccaneers at Patriots – Sometimes teams come together after having one of those “team meeting” things at which the soiled laundry gets washed and the rank air gets cleared. Then there are the other times when there’s just a bigger mess than what you had when you started.


No one knows whether or not Tampa Bay is a sleeping dog that has kicked itself awake, but New England is going through its own crisis of confidence at the moment. Tom Brady throwing tantrums has the ameliorative effect of sand in Vaseline. This is my upset pick of the week.


Packers at Bengals – The Cincinnati bandwagon is passing by and I’m just waving it right along. Beating Pittsburgh was good for the record sheet, but Ben Roethlisberger directs the second weakest offense in the game right now (Jacksonville) and they were still in it on the road with four minutes to go until an errant overthrown ball got tipped and intercepted.


This is not the sort of performance that inspires any confidence at all that the Bengals can control an offense under the command of Aaron Rodgers, who is certainly not flailing around looking for answers.