Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Now that the Green Bay Packers avoided that dreaded 0-2 start to this here-and-now 2012 season, all NFL eyes get turned to the likes of the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints.
This trio of teams lost in their Week 1 games and so we'll soon see which "name" teams - if any - stumble out of the starting gates with back-to-back losses.
Talk about an almost sure recipe to a disastrous season!
The defending Super Bowl champion Giants have had 10 days to recover from their 24-17 loss to Dallas and soon "Big Blue" fans won't have to hear much more about the Week One drops of WR Victor Cruz or the first-quarter fumble by rookie RB David Wilson.
Put it this way: If the Giants self-implode here in Week 2 against Tampa Bay, than ninth-year head coach Tom Coughlin's head may pop!
In terms of the aforementioned Steelers and Saints, they'll get our Jim Sez Week 2 game preview treatment here in just a moment plus we'll clue you in on Baltimore at Philadelphia too but first a quick look at last year's slowest starters spreadwise out of the chute:
The Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles all staggered early on a year ago with identical 1-4 ATS (against the spread) marks and note it took last year's Broncos till Week 3 to cop a pointspread "W" while the San Diego Chargers dropped their first three games in a row spreadwise and the 2011 Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams actually lost their first six in a row versus the vig.
Now here's a look at the NFL Week 2 Key Sunday afternoon previews:
BALTIMORE (1-0) at PHILADELPHIA (1-0) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Let's face it: It's not often that your team is gonna win a game when your star quarterback tosses four INTs but the Philly Eagles survived Michael Vick's hiccups to top Cleveland 17-16 as Vick led the game-winning 91-yard TD drive and RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 110 yards - and note the Eagles now are 9-1 SU (straight-up) when McCoy rushes for more than 100 yards.
If McCoy can get heated up here against a Ravens defense that will keep Baltimore's new-fangled no-huddle offense off the field -- and you saw how well QB Joe Flacco (299 yards passing with two TDs and 0 INTs in season-opening 44-13 win against Cincinnati last Monday Night) played in his 2012 opener - than the Eagles could dictate the pace/tempo of this game.
It's a new era for the Ravens who didn't overuse RB Ray Rice in the opener and watched Flacco pick/choose downfield receivers while this better-than-you-think O-line kept him upright.
The Eagles live for the sack maybe more than any team in the NFL - if they don't get to Flacco a handful of times here they won't be able to crank out their first 2-and-oh start since 2004.
Spread Notes - Baltimore is a solid 23-15-2 ATS away while dating back to the start of the 2008 season and note the Ravens have covered both of their regular-season meetings with Philadelphia since 2004 (a 15-10 loss-but-cover as 7 ½-point road dogs in '04 and a rollicking 36-7 home win as 2-point betting favorites). Meanwhile, the Eagles have failed to cover their home-opening tilt the past three years in a row including a 29-16 loss to the New York Giants in Week 3 a year ago.
NEW YORK JETS (1-0) at PITTSBURGH (0-1) - 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
Go ahead and look it up: Prior to last year's season-opening 35-7 thud-job loss to Baltimore, the Steelers had copped Week 1 wins eight years in a row and so last Sunday Night's 31-19 setback against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos gave Mike Tomlin's team that bitter-taste look - will the visiting New York Jets now pay for the Steelers' anger?
Safe to say that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger loves home cooking - the Steelers are 24-5 SU at Heinz Field in his last 29 starts there but "Big Ben" must get his timing down with long-time summer holdout WR Mike Wallace who last weekend was a total non-factor in the Mile High City. Roethlisberger would welcome a better ground attack here too as the RB Rashard Mendenhall-less Steelers rushed for just 75 yards last week, thus ranking 24th in the league in Week 1 rushing yards.
Conversely, just about everything worked right for the Jets last weekend in their 48-28 never-was-close win against the 3-point underdog Buffalo Bills.
Not only did QB Mark Sanchez get the cheers from the MetLife crowd but he threw for 266 yards and three TDs and let's see here if rookie WR Stephen Hill (five catches for 89 yards in his pro debut) is a major plus here against this rough-and-tumble Steelers secondary.
Of course, the really big news heading in here is the status of Jets Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis (concussion) who figures to be a game-time decision.
Spread Notes - The NY Jets staggered to a 2-6 ATS mark away last year after having gone 14-8 spreadwise on the road in the first two years of the Rex Ryan Era but how about the fact the J-ET-S are 7-2-1 against the odds in road openers dating back to the 2002 campaign? Note that Pittsburgh's just 19-22-1 ATS as chalk sides since the start of 2009 and the Steelers are 3-7 ATS overall since last year following last week's 12-point loss in Denver.
NEW ORLEANS (0-1) at CAROLINA (0-1) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Here's the bad news for the N'Orleans Saints: Head coach Sean Payton won't be walking through those locker room doors any time this year but that rag-tag defense will:
In last week's 40-32 loss to Robert Griffin III and the new-look Washington Redskins, the Saints' defense surrendered 306 yards passing (25th-worst in the league) and 153 yards rushing (27th-worst in the NFL) and LB Jonathan Vilma may have been reinstated from his BountyGate woes but a knee injury has shelved him till further notice as New Orleans placed him on the PUP list.
So, what's the remedy here?
The Saints - who have not started a season at 0-2 SU since 2007 -- need to bottle up Carolina QB Cam Newton in his red-zone visits plus N'Orleans slinger Drew Brees can't stall any drives with bad picks. Last week's two INTs really haunted the 2009 Super Bowl champs and we'll expect more "safe stuff" here with TE Jimmy Graham and RB Darren Sproles potentially catching 15 balls between 'em in this NFC South showdown.
Key stat: Last week Newton rushed for a career-low four yards in his team's 16-10 loss at 3-point home dog Tampa Bay. Say what?
Spread Notes - New Orleans has covered seven of its last 10 games at Carolina and note despite last week's home loss to the 'Skins, the Saints still are a tasty 12-5 versus the vig as betting favorites while dating back to the start of last year. On the flip side, Carolina is just 4-9 vig-wise when playing fellow NFC South foes the past two-plus seasons.
SUNDAY NIGHT PREVIEW GOES WEST FOR A PRIME-TIME BATTLE BETWEEN THE LIONS AND NINERS
Once upon a time it was simply called the "flavor of the week":
In short, the NFL media experts from sea to shining sea would step up on their soap boxes and declare so-and-so as the best team in the league and right after their Week 1 win at Lambeau Field, everyone - and we mean everyone - came out of the woodwork to proclaim that the San Francisco 49ers were the NFL's best team.
Heck, even ABC play-by-play veteran Brent Musburger got into the act late in Saturday's win by Notre Dame over Michigan State by saying he thought the 49ers were "the best team" he watched in Week 1. Gotcha!
No doubt the 49ers were brilliant in last weekend's 30-22 win against the Pack - our Jim Hurley clients cleaned up with that game and never did need the six points - but anyone that's watched the NFL over the years knows that even the best teams have their high highs and their low lows and so let's reserve judgment at this time regarding who's the NFL's best team - but the SF 49ers will get to strut their stuff again this evening and they may even convince us they're the "best" sometime before midnight ET.
Here's the Sunday Night Preview ...
DETROIT (1-0) at SAN FRANCISCO (1-0) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
No need to rehash the 49ers' aforementioned big win at Green Bay last week but note this: Quarterback Alex Smith (20-of-26 for 211 yards and two TDs) had a real comfort level with all his wide receivers in that clash and we're wondering why wide-out Michael Crabtree (7 catches for 76 yards in that win) didn't get more post-game "love" from the media types. If Smith can get Crabtree included right from the get-go here, it'll soften things up in the trenches for RB Frank Gore whose 16-carry, 112-yard game against GB was "man's man" stuff, if you ask us!
The Lions tiptoed around a few mine fields in last week's 27-23 come-from-behind non-cover win against St. Louis as QB Matthew Stafford overcame a three-INT first half to drive the Motowners down the field late for the game-winning score but can someone tell us if Stafford is gonna have to chuck it 50 times here?
Okay, so we know you're waiting for a handshake reference between San Fran boss-man Jim Harbaugh and Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz - well, tune into those silly pre-game shows and they'll be talkin' all about it plenty!
Spread Notes - San Francisco is now 13-5-1 ATS (against the spread) overall since the start of last year and did you realize the 49ers have covered 11 of their last 15 games when placed in the favorite's role? Meanwhile, Detroit has failed to cover five of its last seven games when grabbing up points but Lions are a decent 14-9-1 vig-wise when playing non-NFC North teams the past couple of years.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL QUICK HITTERS
Folks, we'll have all this coming week to dig into all the College Football goodies from this past Saturday but let's take a moment to touch on three things here:
Number one, don't look now but could we be getting a BCS Championship Game encore game between Alabama and LSU now that the mighty Men of Troy from USC have been beaten? Can't happen again, now, can it?
Number two, if you want to discover what a "fraud" team looks like than take a gander at Virginia Tech and/or Tennessee. When the lights shined brightly on these guys on Saturday, they both blew a fuse and let's start to wonder if it might be time for both V-Tech head coach Frank Beamer and Tennessee boss Derek Dooley to exit stage left following this current campaign;
Number three - and finally - if you've already shelved USC quarterback Matt Barkley from further Heisman Trophy discussion (heck, he spent more time on the Palo Alto turf in that 21-14 loss to Stanford than you could ever imagine) than make sure you mention Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o on said Heisman list after this star registered a dozen tackles plus broke up two big passes in the Irish's never-in-doubt 20-3 win at 5 ½-point fav Michigan State.
Te'o played that prime-timer with a heavy heart after the loss of two people very close to him and thanks to the ND defense the South Bend guys are now off to their best start in 10 years ...really!