NFL: September 25th

Better late that never right? With school picking up the pace, I have been woefully unable to keep up the rapid-fire pace of writing many of you have come to expect from OTC. However, I am now getting to the NFL for tomorrow, and while it is a day early, it is still on time, technically speaking. Alright, enough with the apologies, let’s get to it.

Last week we split the NFL world up by division. This week we are going to try splitting them up into teams that are “Meeting Expectations”, “Exceeding Expectations”, “Not Meeting Expectations” and “Other”. Keep in mind that these are MY expectations we are talking about, so when the Chiefs fall into “Meeting Expectations” it is because I figured they would suck, just maybe not this badly. In case you forgot what my expectations were, a link to the column is here. Ready? Good.

Exceeding Expectations

Buffalo Bills

The real hero of Buffalo's hot start

I thought the Bills would be a much-improved team and a team that could be 8-8 in a different division. That expectation has been met. However, I have been pretty impressed with their quarterback play and the moxie they showed on their way to 2-0. Are they going to be playoff contenders? Almost definitely not. Are they going to be at least fun to watch this year? Almost definitely. Their long-term expectations are still right on par, but they have done it in a way that stands out.

Washington Redskins

Hey, it is another team that is 2-0 but not THAT good! I kind of like the Redskins this year. Nothing about them is sexy (not even Rexy) but they are almost definitely better than the Giants and could definitely sneak to 8-8 or even 9-7.  I didn’t think much of this team going in, but they seem to be pretty solid all around, and they appear far better than the “Standard NFL Team” as I dubbed them last year with their middling QB play, decent defense, and all-around standard specs. I will talk about them more when I make my picks later on, and if you are a Redskins fan, you will want to read it.

Detroit Lions

I, like seemingly everyone, said the Lions would be good if Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson were healthy. However, I had no clue they would be THIS good. The destruction of the horrible Chiefs was one thing, but against Tampa Bay, they didn’t even play well and won that game easily (the score ended up close as Josh Freeman lead yet another long drive late in the game). We have seen what Shaun Hill can do, so maybe they are a playoff team even without Stafford, but I do not know. For now they are exceeding expectations, but let’s hope they stay here because I really do not want to see another Lions injury and collapse.

Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks
Indianapolis Colts 

Even worse than I could have imagined. In the case of the Colts, every bit as bad as I had imagined.

San Francisco 49ers

I really underestimated the difference between last year and this year. Jim Harbaugh is doing an excellent job here and while it is never, ever, wise to think a team lead by Alex Smith can win a division, but I think they can. Not going to put my money on them quite yet but I really like their chances. I need to watch this team a little more to get a feel for them, but they have a very good shot.

Carolina Panthers

0-2 record be damned, there are signs of life here. They played two potential division winners and had a shot at winning both games with a few lucky bounces. The Cam Newton honeymoon is almost over and teams will start to figure him out, but he makes me want to watch the Panthers in a way I couldn’t imagine from his first 2 games. He will be a top 15 QB in the league by the end of the year.

Meeting Expectations

New England Patriots
San Diego Chargers
Green Bay Packers
New Orleans Saints

These are the NFL’s elite and they have done little to dispel that notion over the first few weeks. They all went about it a bit differently, but they are clearly the cream of the crop.

Oakland Raiders
Denver Broncos
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Minnesota Vikings
New York Giants
Jacksonville Jaguars
Miami Dolphins 

Nothing says "below average" like Luke McCown.

Again, all these teams went about it differently, but all proved they are nothing to be feared this year. I still like a few of these teams (Bengals/Browns, Vikings) to surprise some people this year, and some others may be decent teams, but they are clearly average or thereabouts. The Giants almost slip into “failing to meet expectations” but after revising my opinion on them after week 1, they fall here.

Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys
St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pittsburgh Steelers
Tennessee Titans
New York Jets 

I still like all of these teams and I projected all of them to make the playoffs, but I have far more questions about them today than I did on the first day of games. The teams to be least concerned about are the Steelers, Jets, Eagles and Titans but all deserve some extra thought after a few rough patches to start the season. At the other end of the spectrum we have the Rams and their brutal early schedule. I thought they needed to beat the Giants to really solidify my opinions about them, but redzone shortcomings and turnovers killed them. You cannot win a division early, but you can lose one, and while the Rams certainly did not lose the division yet, they did themselves no favors. As for the Cowboys and Bucs, I need to see more, but I still like them.

Arizona Cardinals

I figured they would be the best of the NFC West and they may be, but their complete and total lack of a pass defense is a little scary. The Rams are the only team really capable of taking advantage of the deficiency but obvious flaws are often bad signs. Ask the Texans last year. Still probably the favorites to win the division but they have a lot of work to do. In the NFC West, doing that work and winning the division and not doing the work can mean 8-8 or 5-11.

Failing to Meet Expectations

Honestly, there have not been too many teams I thought would be good that have ended up being bad. The Giants would have fit here if I had not jumped off the mini bandwagon after week 1. The only teams that could fit here really belong in “Other” so let’s get to them.

Jay Cutler's ACL and body in general in 3 weeks. Thanks, Offensive Line!

Other

Chicago Bears

I might have gotten the Bears prediction wrong. I may have gotten it right. They looked like completely different teams against the Falcons and Saints and I do not have them figured yet. They could be really good, or they could be really bad. Clueless.

Houston Texans

They crushed the woeful Manningless Colts and beat a solid-ish Dolphins team. If they were a middling team that would be great (see Buffalo), but if they are going to be contending for anything, they need to show me something against a good team. A team like New Orleans, whom they play this week. This is not a litmus test game where winning makes them legit and losing makes them pretenders, but a nice showing would go a long way towards solidifying their spot as contenders.

Baltimore Ravens

I have a sneaking suspicion that their week 1 performance against Pittsburgh is by far the best the Ravens will play all year. They may have put all their marbles into that basket and are spent. Of course, Tennessee might just be really good and the Ravens are fine. I think it is a blend of the two but I just don’t know.

Atlanta Falcons

Just like with the Bears, their two performances are so different, I am not sure what to make of them. Maybe I should just believe that they are really good at home (they are) and mediocre on the road. Just like with the Bears, I am clueless. Sticking to my prediction on them (I think I had them at 9-7 after Manning’s surgery) but clueless at the moment.

That's right, these two teams played in a Super Bowl.

WEEK 2 PICKS

SF @ Cincinnati (-2.5)

First off, you pick against NFC West teams out of conference. Secondly, it is a west coast team in an early east coast game. The fact that the 49ers may be better is a moot point and Cincinnati gets to build some momentum that may or may not catapult them into shock-team status.

New England (-7) @ Buffalo

The Bills stop here. I think it will be a decent game, but not THAT close. Hell, if the game ends 30-20 in favor of New England isn’t that a big deal for the Bills and still a cover?

New Orleans (-4) vs Houston

I will absolutely be watching this game. I think New Orleans may be the 2nd best team in the NFC and Houston has something to prove. If this game were in Houston, I’d take the Texans. As it is, New Orleans by 6.

Philadelphia (-8.5) vs NYG

The Giants just aren’t good, Vick is playing and the Eagles will win handily.

Miami (+2.5) @ Cleveland

Miami is better and play better away from home. Cleveland probably needs this game if they are going to make it to 8-8 this year but I am not sure if they can make it.

Tennessee (-7) vs Denver

I really like the Titans this year and with the Broncos training room looking like a war zone hospital ward, it is hard to imagine the Broncos posting too much resistance even though I think they are decent. Titans to barely cover.

Detroit -3 @ Minnesota

I know it is a trap game. I know the line is low on purpose and Detroit is really bad on the road traditionally. I don’t care. Lions to roll.

Carolina (-3.5) vs Jacksonville

In the battle of the same-year expansion teams the Panthers are just much better this year. Gabbert will throw a couple of picks and the Panthers will win comfortably.

SD -14.5 vs KC

Boom goes the dynamite. I am guessing we see Billy Volek around the 8 minute mark of the 4th quarter.

NYJ -3 @ Oakland

This one is way harder to pick than you’d expect but I will stick with the Jets to pull it out. It has all the ingredients for an upset but I think the Jets will pull it out of the hat yet again.

I tried to reconcile this picture with Dave Chappelle's "World Series of Dice". I couldn't.

St. Louis (+4) vs Baltimore

This is one of those games where I am probably letting my expectations for the teams get in the way of the actual pick but I expect St. Louis to at least make it close at home, if not win outright. Score in the red zone and hold onto the ball and you will be fine, St. Louis.

Atlanta (+1.5) @ TB

I have absolutely no idea about this game. I still don’t have the Falcons figured out and I am hazy on the Bucs. Yeah don’t trust my pick here.

Arizona (-3.5) @ Seattle

This game scares me a little as a desperate Seattle team gets to play at home against a team it will break its neck trying to bear. If this line were 5, I would take the points, but as it is I will narrowly take the Cardinals.

Green Bay (-4) @ Chicago

Green Bay has not hit its stride yet and I do not have Chicago figured out yet but the Packers should roll here. By a touchdown at least.

Pittsburgh (-10.5) vs Indianpolis

This line should be Pit -18. No, seriously. There is zero possibility that Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter puts up more than 7 points in non-garbage time.

Washington (+5) vs Dallas

I like Washington to win this game. I don’t care if Tony Romo showed he was tough against SF, he has broken ribs and the Redskins can probably knock him out of the game. Even if he does play, it seems like a game the Cowboys lose and  Jerry Jones says the sky isn’t falling while giving every indication that it is. I guess this qualifies as my upset of the week.

Cincinnati -2.5 vs SF
NE -7 @ Buffalo
NO -4 vs Houston
Philadelphia -8.5 vs NYG
Miami +2.5 @ Cleveland
Tennessee -7 vs Denver
Detroit -3 @ Minnesota
Carolina -3.5 vs Jacksonville
SD -14.5 vs KC
NYJ -3 @ Oakland
St. Louis +4 vs Baltimore
Atlanta +1.5 @ TB
Arizona -3.5 @ Seattle
GB -4 @ Chicago
Pittsburgh -10.5 vs Indianapolis
Washington +5 @ Dallas

Just for fun, here is our three team teaser of the week: Pit -10.5, SD -14.5, Det -3.

Last week 7-7-2
Season: 16-13-3

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