NFL Week 2 game picks: Jags upend Pats; Vikings over Packers

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Much to weigh as we weigh in on Week 2 ...

Injuries and sloppiness.

Both were hallmarks of Week 1 and, frankly, will remain topical in weeks to come. With the current CBA limiting practice time throughout the year -- and many coaches avoiding even making eye contact with their valued starters during the preseason -- health and disorderliness have become prominent September talking points. So many players suffered tweaks in Week 1, or they simply got winded fast.

Schedules come into play here, as well. SiriusXM's Pat Kirwan pointed out how the Eagles have nine days to get ready for their Week 2 game at Tampa, which is important when you consider how many Buccaneers could use that extra time -- like former Philly wideout DeSean Jackson, who went into concussion protocol after Week 1. And don't forget about "Thursday Night Football." Ravens and Bengals players, who just started getting back into this mysterious fad called "football shape," have to hit the gridiron for another game just four days after the season opener. We'll see how that goes.

On to other matters ...

No more underestimating the Redskins -- by myself or Baldy:

Speaking of the Redskins ...

Lawrence is referring to my list of the top five greatest games at Lambeau, which I provided in the intro to this week's Power Rankings. And yeah, Lawrence, I'm with you. That's why I have that game in my personal vault. In fact, many of the documentary shorts we execute here spawn from footage in my collection. Like this one:

As for those Chiefs, see below how I anticipate them faring in Pittsburgh three decades later. Special teams could dictate the outcome in Panthers-Falcons, as well as Ravens-Bengals. Your takes are always special, so send along: @HarrisonNFL.

Elliot Harrison went 11-4-1 on his predictions for Week 1. How will he fare in Week 2? His picks are below.

SUNDAY, SEPT. 16

Atlanta Falcons 23, Carolina Panthers 17

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)

Back home this week, the Falcons even up their record and potentially pull even with everyone in the NFC South. With the 0-1 Saints hosting the Browns and the 1-0 Bucs hosting the defending champs, there is an excellent chance that each team in the division will be 1-1 after this weekend. Both Carolina (1-0) and Atlanta come in banged up (Atlanta sent Deion Jones and Keanu Neal to injured reserve, while Carolina will be without Greg Olsen and Daryl Williams for some time), which makes you wonder about the preseason strategy of sitting everybody. Julio Jones has wrecked the Panthers in front of the home folk before; thus, James Bradberry must play at his highest level. Ditto Panthers safeties Da'Norris Searcy and Mike Adams, who will inevitably be asked to bracket Jones. Expect Falcons backs Devonta Freeman (if he can go) and especially Tevin Coleman to be bigger factors than they were in the Kickoff Game loss to the Eagles. (UPDATE: The Falcons announced on Friday that Freeman has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a knee injury.)

Washington Redskins 28, Indianapolis Colts 14

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | FedExField (Landover, Md.)

Don't see the Colts holding up out east this weekend. The running game will be stunted by a newly improved Redskins front, which features those Alabama defensive linemen. Andrew Luck will be under pressure often, especially if Anthony Castonzo is still not right. Going to the other side of the ball, Alex Smith won't give an overmatched Indy defense any freebies. The Redskins' wide receiver group isn't the scariest in the league, but it is different when tight end Jordan Reed is healthy. This could be another productive matchup for Adrian Peterson, too. #2-0

Houston Texans 22, Tennessee Titans 21

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Nissan Stadium (Nashville)

Going with the road team this week. Could see Tennessee getting a late field goal to win, but that would necessitate Marcus Mariota leading a clutch-time drive. We haven't seen that much from him at this level, partially because of the Titans' approach, but perhaps also because Mariota hasn't progressed as a prolific passer. Anyway, he's banged up and without his top target, while Houston's Deshaun Watson held himself accountable following the loss to the Patriots and sounded determined to do a 180. Given Houston's style of defense, this should be a Dion Lewis game.

Philadelphia Eagles 21, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Fla.)

Consider this score a proclamation that: A) The Eagles' offense will struggle again, sans Alshon Jeffery, and B) Ryan Fitzpatrick will come back to Earth against a championship-tested defense. Philadelphia has the ability to rotate its defensive line, which should give Tampa's O-line plenty of issues. That's why it's imperative that the Bucs' Peyton Barber-led running game plays a larger role this weekend than it did in New Orleans. That is, unless Fitzy starts heaving long balls to Mike Evans, Kevin House and Jimmie Giles. Sorry, went back a few decades. It would be nice if Nick Foles could connect on one long ball of his own. It's been a minute. It will also have been nine days since Philadelphia presumably began preparing for this meeting.

Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Kansas City Chiefs 28

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Heinz Field (Pittsburgh)

What an interesting matchup this is. Both teams feature explosive offenses, although the Steelers gave the ball to the other team's offense (without punting) more than they could score last week in Cleveland. As for the Chiefs, they could've scored 28 on the 2000 Ravens D the way things were going in Carson last Sunday. Think the K.C. track team will slow from an all-out sprint to a swift jog at Heinz Field. Then again, the Chiefs might procure 28 by the midpoint of the second quarter. Pittsburgh must make Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable, something the Joey Bosa-less Chargers couldn't do in Week 1. The Le'Veon Bell-James Conner concoction will be too much for a shaky Chiefs defense. Check that: The James Conner Solo Tour will be too much.

New York Jets 27, Miami Dolphins 10

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)

The Dolphins' Victory Tour stops in Week 2. Don't consider this an overreaction to the Jets' demolition of the Lions in Detroit, either. Pound for pound, New York's roster is certainly comparable with Miami's, including at quarterback. If Miami is to pull off the road win, Kenyan Drake must take advantage of the Jets' so-so OLBs, and Frank Gore needs to churn out quality yards, even if he only puts up a 50-spot for the game. One factor that could make this a much tighter contest: Gang Green's secondary, which got nicked up Monday night and is still waiting for Marcus Maye to make his 2018 debut. After all, this is a short week for that group. That's OK. J-E-T-S ... Jets, Jets, Jets.

Los Angeles Chargers 26, Buffalo Bills 14

1 p.m. ET (CBS) | New Era Field (Orchard Park, N.Y.)

The Bills get off to a fast start in this one with a couple of defensively fueled scores. (I'm seeing a Tre'Davious White pick-six.) Then Philip Rivers and the Chargers get the offense moving. Love what little-known RB Austin Ekeler adds to the unit. Sure, Buffalo won't have to face Joey Bosa -- but the Bills' offense isn't at the point that it can take advantage of something like that. One area Buffalo should definitely attack (or try to attack) is the Bolts' middle. Give the chicken-wired offensive line a chance to hit people and get into the flow of the game. Give LeSean McCoy, who didn't accomplish much in Baltimore, the rock (like 30 times?). Of course, it's kind of hard for a running back to make hay when down by 44 points. Josh Allen gets a chance to improve on that performance in his starting debut. Let's hope this deal goes better than the last time a Buffalo QB got his first career start against the Chargers.

Minnesota Vikings 22, Green Bay Packers 17

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)

Picking the visiting Vikings to win at Lambeau against a hobbled Aaron Rodgers (another if in Week 2). It won't come easy. Kirk Cousins will face better personnel in the back seven than he saw in coverage against the Niners last week. Minnesota's own back seven will see a far more talented passing game, as well. Make no mistake, this is an incredibly important game in the NFC North, irrespective of the week. With the Lions stinking up the joint last Monday night, going up 2-0 against division threats Chicago and Minnesota would be huge for Green Bay. But the Packers must get something out of the running game, which won't be easy against this loaded Viking defense. Minnesota can line up across the board against any offense. Bryan Bulaga gets to see Danielle Hunter one week after visiting with Khalil Mack. Oh boy!

New Orleans Saints 34, Cleveland Browns 20

1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans)

Look for the Saints to get back on track. (I hate that phrase almost as much as watching New Orleans' defense get marched on repeatedly by Tampa Bay last week.) The Browns are better on offense than they were a year ago. That said, QB Tyrod Taylor can ill-afford to be inaccurate this week. The Bucs ousted the Saints in their own place because Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with his receivers. It's not about opportunities in this matchup; the game will be defined by missed opportunities. Or else it will be the foreclosure of Cleveland's dream of reaching Week 3 without a loss. Sorry, listening to Megadeth right now.

San Francisco 49ers 29, Detroit Lions 21

4:05 p.m. ET (FOX) | Levi's Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)

Looks as though the Lions are starting 0-2. In what amounts to an important game for both teams, the 49ers should prevail at home. While Jimmy Garoppolo did face pressure against the Vikings last week (three sacks), there were other times he enjoyed adequate time to throw. Comparing the Detroit pass rush to the Minnesota pass rush is like, well, comparing Barry Sanders to Jim Kleinsasser. Except the advantage is going the wrong way for the Lions (and I love Jim Kleinsasser). Going to the other side of the ball, perhaps the biggest disappointment from Detroit's blowout loss to the Jets (other than Matthew Stafford's four picks) was the play of the offensive line -- which was thought to be a team strength. Detroit gained little traction on the ground. The Lions can't put the whole game on the quarterback anymore.

Los Angeles Rams 31, Arizona Cardinals 13

4:05 p.m. ET (FOX) | Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles)

Last Sunday, the Cardinals couldn't get anything going offensively. Last Monday, the Rams were just getting warmed up. I would anticipate Arizona giving L.A. DC Wade Phillips a steady diet of David Johnson in an effort to loosen Phillips' defense early. Arizona will also want to increase the game speed. That was an issue the Raiders had in the "Monday Night Football" loss to L.A.: Their offense stalled in the second half, and Oakland did not take any time off the clock, which caused the defense to peter out over several drives. If the Cardinals thought they saw a good tailback in their first game against the Redskins and Adrian Peterson, wait until they get a load of No. 30. Oh, yeah: They've seen him -- and this Rams offense -- before.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17, New England Patriots 14

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Fla.)

This sucker made my "Top 18 games of the 2018 season" back in April. It's an enticing matchup that should come down to the wire -- unless the Jaguars' defense absolutely controls the engagement. Put another way: If the Patriots are to win, it will be in a close contest where Tom Brady engineers a couple of clutch fourth-quarter drives. However, if Jacksonville plays its best football in front of the raucous DUUUUUVAL residents -- and if Leonard Fournette is healthy -- this game could get ugly for Bill Belichick's group. None of the Pats' wide receivers are superior one-on-one players when compared to the Jags' DBs. Put Jalen Ramsey on Rob Gronkowski to counter that strategic advantage. So, what's the issue with this prediction, and the score? The uncertainty of Fournette's hamstring.

Denver Broncos 23, Oakland Raiders 20

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | Broncos Stadium at Mile High (Denver)

The Raiders will show up, but will a strong road effort be enough? Case Keenum has historically been much more careful with the football than he was last week. Although his 2017 season with the Vikings was, statistically speaking, a bit of an anomaly for the Broncos quarterback, he did sport a 22:7 TD-to-INT ratio -- one of the best in the league. His career interception percentage (interceptions divided by pass attempts) is a respectable 2.3 percent. So there will be no freebies. Oakland should run right at this Denver front, so as to neutralize the pass rush to some extent. Von Miller hurt the Seahawks. Player I want to see more of: rookie Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay, who might be the best back Vance Joseph has.

New York Giants 28, Dallas Cowboys 24

8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

The Giants spoil Dallas' home opener. They did precisely that nine years ago -- also in Week 2, also on "Sunday Night Football" -- in the grand opening of Jerry World (sort of). Hard to believe it's been that many years since the palatial football estate opened. Unfortunately, for all its wonder, the stadium just doesn't present a hostile environment for visiting teams. It's as if teams enjoy playing there. Big Blue won there in a defensive slugfest -- and in Dak Prescott's first start -- back in 2016. The G-Men will probably play eight in the box against Dallas -- even on a few obvious passing downs, much like the Panthers did in Week 1, daring Prescott to beat them through the air. The Saquon Barkley-Ezekiel Elliott RB duel is pretty rad. Dallas needs this win more than the Giants, given the Cowboys' schedule and the perception in some corners that they're already done. Meanwhile, New York needs to close the deal, unlike last week.

MONDAY, SEPT. 17

Chicago Bears 27, Seattle Seahawks 24

8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) | Soldier Field (Chicago)

Russell Wilson gets Seattle moving late, when it's too little, too late. Despite the collapse in Lambeau, I like this Bears team. The running game is totally legit. Tarik Cohen is Darren Sproles 2.0 in the pass and run sections of this offense, while the quality O-line makes it all go. And Chicago's defense will finish in the top seven. Book it. The question mark is Mitch Trubisky, and if you believe a tweet showing him miss a wide-open receiver is an indicator of his overall play, you're missing the point. Windows close fast in the NFL, and he might have been playing it safe -- i.e., trying not to turn the ball over. That's normal for young QBs. Even Wilson played it safe early in his career. In this game, Wilson will need his defensive line to prosper as much as his offensive line, so as to force Chicago into second-and-longs.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 13

Baltimore Ravens 24, Cincinnati Bengals 20

8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network) | Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)

Pretty juicy matchup, even if these franchises don't have the most "national" fan bases. As you might know, Andy Dalton silenced Ravens fans' audible playoff dreams last year on fourth-and-forever. Now, both squads are 1-0 and feature solid defenses. Baltimore is better on that side of the ball, however, and should remind Joe Mixon quite early that these aren't the Colts he's playing.

Key matchups: The Ravens' offensive line against a strong Cincy front, and the Bengals' receiving corps versus a Jimmy Smith-less defensive backfield.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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