NFL Week 2 game picks: Packers edge Falcons; Pats rebound

Week 2. It's the show me week of the NFL season.

Opening Sunday has earned a reputation for giving fan bases false hope, selling us analysts a lemon and proving to be atypical as the rest of the season plays out. I still remember Week 1 from two decades ago ...

Dallas was fresh off a tumultuous season that saw it go 10-6 and lose in the 1996 Divisional Round. (Remember, those Cowboys had won three of the previous four Super Bowls. Expectations were stratospheric.) The 'Boys stormed Three Rivers Stadium in the first week of the 1997 campaign and absolutely destroyed the Steelers, 37-7. The FOX guys fawned over Dallas: The bully is BACK!

Not so much.

The '97 Cowboys would go 6-10, while Pittsburgh hit the AFC Championship Game. In fact, the Steelers' offensive coordinator in that blowout loss, Chan Gailey, was hired by Jerry Jones as head coach in Dallas the very next season!

So, who sold us a bill of goods last week? Who is for real? We'll find out how strong the Chiefs really are, and if Jared Goff and the Rams are truly stronger than anyone anticipated. How do the NFC elite stack up?

That's what this week in pro football is all about: identifying the gems and the mirages as quickly as possible. I provide my best guesses below. Educated ... or erroneous? Your thoughts are welcome: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 9-6 on his predictions for Week 1. How will he fare in Week 2? His picks are below:

Baltimore Ravens 22, Cleveland Browns 10

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Browns at Ravens promises to be a knuckleball of a game. Don't expect beautiful DeShone Kizer bombs over the back end of the Baltimore defense. Consider yourself lucky if Joe Flacco completes a pass in the second half -- because he didn't manage to do that against the Bengals last week. (Although, it's not like the Ravens needed him to; they could've punted on first down and still won.) Went back and rewatched all of Kizer's seven Week 1 sacks against the Steelers. He must trust his reads and, if he does escape to the outside, know when to get rid of the ball and not get creamed from the back side. Kizer also kept trying to escape to his left, and Pittsburgh kept him contained, with few escape routes through the middle. Wouldn't be surprised if the Ravens did the same, especially with their interior linemen, and occasionally spied Kizer with an ILB. Baltimore's defense was darn-near perfect last Sunday. After all that crack analysis, watch Kizer heave an 80-yard touchdown toss to Corey Coleman on the first play. #CLEvsBAL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13, Chicago Bears 10

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Sorry, everybody: Another low-scoring affair. Keep hearing how fans want to see MORE POINTS -- perhaps for their fantasy teams -- but I personally like the defensive battles that are going on these days in pro football. Don't count me in with the masses who automatically feel like low-scoring game = sloppy game. It's hogwash. Bears at Bucs has been weird the last two years. The Hail Mary at the end of the first half of last year's matchup seemed to get the Bears back in the game -- while placing WR Cameron Meredith squarely on the fantasy radar -- but Tampa Bay went on to win, 36-10. Meredith's out this time around. So is Kevin White. Which means the Bears will have to beat the Bucs with 40 combined touches from Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. The Bucs' front seven, especially Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, should be up to the task of stopping Chicago's RBs -- so long as Alexander doesn't miss any tackles (Cohen is quite shifty). The Bears' front seven should hold its own against Tampa's run game, too. All this points to Jameis Winston being the difference on Sunday. Oh, forgot to mention: Mike Glennon returns to the pirate ship seeking vengeance! (He won't get it.) Which gives me an excuse to say, byyyye Glennon. #CHIvsTB

Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Minnesota Vikings 20

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

A fantastic matchup that, like Eagles-Chiefs, won't get its due. This is also a rematch of Super Bowl IX, one of the most boring Super Sundays ever. It was played at Tulane Stadium. Home of the Green Wave. Home to absolutely zero offense -- other than Pittsburgh's running game -- on that January day back in '75. Will the Steelers be able to run 42 years later? Le'Veon Bell did nada last week. Utilizing him will keep Minnesota's formidable pass rush off Ben Roethlisberger. On the other side, can T.J. Watt bring the same motor he ran in Cleveland? Holy cow. If so, expect Sam Bradford to return to his days of dink and dunk 'til you drop. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen can beat the Steelers' secondary if Bradford plays with the same focus on the road and receives ample time to focus. #MINvsPIT

New England Patriots 34, New Orleans Saints 24

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

It's a ticked-off Tom Brady vs. a ticked-off New Orleans defense. When the Saints get mad, they go 7-9. When Brady fumes, Super Bowl jerseys get returned by the FBI. Going with the Patriots here, though the football-watching public has already begun burying them, screaming bias in the Power Rankings. Bet they wouldn't talk like that if New England had won two of the last three Super Bowls. Wait a second ...

For the Saints to win, they must attack with the ground game. The Pats are far from a finesse team, but they lack a thumper on run defense. Dont'a Hightower hasn't practiced this week. (But Rob Gronkowski said the Pro Bowl linebacker is the smelliest guy in the Pats locker room, so there's that.) The Patriots could really use Hightower this week, as it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if the Saints rotated Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara to test Matt Patricia's defense early. #NEvsNO

Kansas City Chiefs 27, Philadelphia Eagles 23

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Without question, one of the top games of Week 2. While Eagles at Chiefs will probably get lost in the shuffle of Packers-Falcons, Cowboys-Broncos and even Patriots-Saints, we should learn much from this matchup at Arrowhead Stadium. Are the Chiefs as serious a contender as they appeared to be when they dismantled the Patriots at Gillette? Is Kareem Hunt this year's rookie phenom? Most importantly, is Alex Smith ready to challenge teams down the field on a consistent basis? That will be tough for him to do this week. The Eagles' pressure was integral in their toppling of the Redskins in Week 1. Can they bring it two weeks in a row? They'll have to, because even though Carson Wentz looks improved, he's going to have a tough time trying to change plays at the line, adjust protections or carry out any pre-snap shenanigans at Arrowhead. Chiefs win. #PHIvsKC

Tennessee Titans 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Rather large game in the AFC South. No joke here. Think about it: The Jaguars blew out the reigning division champs at their place last week. The Titans lost to Oakland. So Jacksonville could gain a two-game lead on Tennessee, and with Houston starting rookie Deshaun Watson on the road, the Jags might own a two-plus (tiebreaker talk already!) game lead on Bill O'Brien's group by week's end. Then there are the Colts, who have no quarterback (for now) and no defense. Tennessee will fight its way back in the AFC South by running right at that Jags' stacked front seven, which sandwiched the Savage-Watson tandem last weekend. Methinks the Titans will fare better. In their first meeting last year, Tennessee ran all over Jacksonville. In the second meeting, the Titans fell behind, Marcus Mariota got hurt and the offense went away from the run. Of course, all of this could be moot if Blake Bortles plays his best football ... or throws multiple picks on his end of the field. #TENvsJAX

Arizona Cardinals 26, Indianapolis Colts 14

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

I did a lot of thinking and hand-wringing about the Cardinals-Colts matchup, and I've finally determined that it is not my favorite game of the week. In fact, while writing this blurb, I started half-watching that HBO movie about Sarah Palin where Woody Harrelson played a campaign strategist. I liked Harrelson much better trying to dunk basketballs with Wesley Snipes. While I'm at it, I worry about Arizona putting the ball in the paint without David Johnson. How effective can that attack be without fantasy football's consensus No. 1 overall pick? It's a bad sign if that offense scores less than 20 points in this game. Less than 30 would even be concerning, given what is expected to be (and was, in Week 1) a weak Indy defense. The Colts have to find a way to strike balance on the ground to create some opportunity -- any opportunity -- for play-action. Moving along ... #AZvsIND

Carolina Panthers 17, Buffalo Bills 13

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Tried predicting a higher score. Simply can't do it. Not after the dearth of points we saw in the NFL as a whole during Week 1. Both of these defensive units represent the strength of their respective teams, although Buffalo doesn't have Cam Newton to potentially take over the game. Meanwhile, the enthusiasm for Tyrod Taylor continues to be tepid -- for two years running now. Taylor made a few plays against the Jets, but the instant reaction from the opener was that the Bills left too many points on the field (and off the board). I fully anticipate Sean McDermott's defense will hold its own. The secondary is vulnerable to a capable passing game. But can Newton, who still doesn't seem whole after offseason shoulder surgery, exploit it? Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen were awfully quiet in San Francisco, but some of that was Newton's rustiness and game situations. Yep, this game might be 6-3. #BUFvsCAR

Oakland Raiders 37, New York Jets 13

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

Predicting the first blowout in the picks column of this year. Don't typically predict the 44-10s, 42-14s and 30-zips. Going with a rout here not to further bash the Jets (which has become quite typical), but rather because of the matchups. The Jets' starting back four will face one of the top passing offenses in football and a quarterback who is not afraid to challenge an opponent vertically right off the bat. If the Titans' front seven couldn't impose its will on Marshawn Lynch or get ample pressure on Derek Carr, don't think New York will, either.

Interesting side note: The average age on New York's defense is 25 years old. So the upside is there. ... Trying to keep up with Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree? Yeesh. In order to assist that group, as well as prevent Khalil Mack from sitting on Josh McCown, how about getting Matt Forte and Bilal Powell involved? An Oakland weakness to expose exists at inside 'backer. #NYJvsOAK

Los Angeles Chargers 28, Miami Dolphins 24

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The cool thing about this predicted score is that the Chargers won't actually have to block for a field-goal attempt. Sunday's matchup marks the Dolphins' first outing of the season and the first regular-season game at StubHub Center. While both team buses will have an interesting view upon entering the area, how will NFL scenery look on a soccer pitch? For that matter, we will catch the first regular-season glimpse of Jay Cutler in a Dolphins uni. The more relevant aspect to this AFC matchup will be whether or not the right side of the Bolts' line holds up in both the run game and pass protection. Philip Rivers will handle the issue, if it indeed becomes problematic. Melvin Gordon needs to be patient with it, instead of running up his guys' backs. While I think Jay Ajayi will produce Sunday, I like the Chargers DBs to rebound against Miami wideouts. The Fins' pass catchers need more time with their new quarterback in real games. #MIAvsLAC

Seattle Seahawks 30, San Francisco 49ers 9

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX

Not feeling a tight NFC West affair. How far this rivalry has fallen since 2014 ... The quick decline in the 49ers-Seahawks series isn't rare in the salary cap era. Widespread player movement, the ravaging of roster depth and the importance of continuity from a coaching standpoint have all become hallmarks of pro football since 1994. And this volatility certainly impacts watchability. Now, San Francisco is in Year 3 of the post-Harbaugh era, trying to build a nucleus that can compete with Seattle. Newly minted GM John Lynch hasn't forged a cadre of talent yet, at least not enough to make this contest close in the toughest place to play in the NFL. Sure, the Seahawks' offensive line looked bad in Green Bay. But the 49ers don't have a player with Mike Daniels' power up front (yet). Bigger issue: Brian Hoyer and the passing game having any success against Seattle's defense. If Hoyer starts pressing this week, Russell Wilson will have shorter drives to lead -- and the Seahawks' line woes will be minimized. Excited to see more of 'Hawks rookie RB Chris Carson. #SFvsSEA

Los Angeles Rams 20, Washington Redskins 16

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX

Another slugfest this week in the NFL. It also features the youngest head coach in the league facing his former team -- so can Sean McVay's offense repeat its stellar performance from Week 1? Well, in order to do that, the run game has to get going. The Redskins have been vulnerable in the past when teams go heavy and run at them. The Eagles didn't necessarily attack Washington in that manner last week. The Rams tried to accomplish that versus a not-formidable Colts defensive front and failed repeatedly. That matchup, weak on weak, could decide the game. Kirk Cousins will probably eat chunks of grass for the second straight Sunday. Aaron Donald returns from his lengthy holdout and, uh, can't say I love that matchup for the Redskins. Josh Doctson, a budding if not realized vertical threat, is questionable (again). #WASvsLA

Dallas Cowboys 20, Denver Broncos 16

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX

Fun matchup -- and another Super Bowl rematch! Though, if you thought Super Bowl IX was boring, wait until you get a load of Super Bowl XII. Thankfully, Cowboys fans voted for it to be the one we showed on YouTube last year to represent Dallas' classics. (Note to anyone: Never let team fan bases vote on wins they haven't seen. "Sweet Home Alabama" with director's commentary was better than this.) Will the Cowboys offensive line neutralize Denver's ILBs? Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis are very active. They get the pleasure of facing Ezekiel Elliott this week, not Alfred Morris, as it seemed like it would be before last week's court decision put Zeke's ban on hold. Thankfully it's only a difference of about one of Dwayne Carswell's thighs. In that infamous Super Bowl back in '78, Dallas' pass rush swamped Craig Morton. These Cowboys had better follow suit against the pesky Trevor Siemian. They win a tight interconference affair. #DALvsDEN

Green Bay Packers 30, Atlanta Falcons 28

Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Going to get this out there: Packers win -- on the road. Not that you couldn't read the score, but I realize this contest could go either way. Falcons fans will point out that their favorite team swept the Pack last season. True, but in that first game, Aaron Rodgers' toolbox was empty enough (Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery, Eddie Lacy and James Starks were all out) that Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison all caught big touchdown passes. Enter your Lone Ranger jokes here: _____________. The movie royally sucked, by the way. I mean awful. Kind of like the NFC Championship Game. Green Bay's secondary was just too banged-up and inexperienced for a hot Matt Ryan in Kyle Shanahan's offense. So, how does the matchup look this time around? Think the Packers own the advantage at quarterback and receiving corps (barely). Offensive line and run game go to Atlanta. Defensively, you could give all three levels to the Falcons, although Green Bay's secondary should be one of the most improved groups in the NFL in 2017. The Packers' safeties are better as a tandem. Football Outsiders has a detailed ranking of special teams, where Green Bay owns the (slight) edge. Coaching, along with motivation from getting embarrassed in the NFC title game, provides the Packers an edge. #GBvsATL

New York Giants 23, Detroit Lions 17

Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Eli Manning bounce-back game. Or so we hope. His play can't be any worse than it was in Dallas, right? Well, slow down. Besides not having Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall didn't appear to be open, while the running game was M.I.A. This week, the Lionscome to town and they don't match up well with New York. I don't anticipate eating up the clock with Ameer Abdullah, while Big Blue's secondary should hold up against the Lions' receivers. Matthew Stafford will be healthy this time around at MetLife (he had a dislocated finger in last year's game), but the anticipated return of Beckham should provide the advantage to the Giants' quarterback. #DETvsNYG


Cincinnati Bengals 17, Houston Texans 14

Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network

The Texans are starting a new quarterback, hoping to rebound from a home-opening blowout. The Bengals are starting the same quarterback, hoping to rebound from a home-opening blowout. Andy Dalton threw four picks last week in what might have been the worst performance of his career. As solid as Houston's defense is, it probably won't be as stout as the Ravens group Dalton played hot potato with last week. How will Houston's offense operate with new starter Deshaun Watson? Will Bill O'Brien take advantage of the former Clemson star's mobility until the scheme, coverage and pre-snap aspects of the game become second nature for him? I think so. Of course, that's all assuming Watson isn't watching half the game from the turf. His offensive line played ugly last week. And no, not in a good way. #HOUvsCIN

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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