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NFL Week 2 game picks: Steelers top Bengals; Pack over Vikes

Which unsung QB will it be this week?

Tuesday's Power Rankings extolled the virtues of young signal callers around the league making their presence felt. But what about sixth-year veteran Blaine Gabbert, fifth-year vet Brock Osweiler and, to a lesser (much lesser) extent, 11th-year man Shaun Hill? Can any of these guys pull off the redux?

Gabbert's Niners hit the road to face a superior team this week. Osweiler and the Texanstake on a ballclub that beat them twice last season. Then you have maybe the best quarterback in the league trying to spoil the unveiling of the Vikings' new football palace. And Hill might not even get the chance to back up his Week 1 win, with Sam Bradford reportedly hogging the starting reps of late.

With the matchups on the Week 2 slate, get ready for at least 13 more super-tight games. My picks follow. Your thoughts are welcome: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 11-5 on his predictions for Week 1. How will he fare in Week 2? His picks are below:

So, who thinks Carolina will lay an egg against a suddenly resurgent San Francisco team? Or that the 49ers are going to smoke the reigning NFC champs like they did the Rams? *Ummmm ... Yeaaaaaah ...* Some of the throws Blaine Gabbert made for San Francisco over the middle of the field this past Monday night could be dangerous against the Panthers, with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis getting depth quickly. Also, 49ers RB Carlos Hyde should find far less room to operate. When Carolina is on offense, look for Kelvin Benjamin to be even better, with one game -- and nine days off -- under this belt. While the San Francisco defense just pitched the first season-opening shutout in the history of this proud franchise, I'm trusting Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula's play calling in this matchup. #SFvsCAR

It didn't work out for me last week, but I'm gonna trust in Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott once again. Cole Beasley needs to hold on to a few more footballs. Jason Witten can't lose any more in the sun. Dez Bryant just needs to be targeted. On that note, will Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry move Josh Norman around with Bryant after all the criticism over Bashaud Breeland being left alone against Antonio Brown in Washington's loss to the Steelers? He might be forced to, as surely coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will try to create big-play opportunities for their No. 1 receiver. What could make all of this football Stratego moot is the play of Ezekiel Elliott and a highly motivated Alfred Morris running the ball for Dallas. Seeing how DeAngelo Williams ran wild on Washington's front seven, what should we expect from Elliott and Morris behind their road graders? #DALvsWAS

These Bengals- Steelers matchups never seem to be as high-scoring as you think they're gonna be. Kind of like those nights out with your fraternity brothers. The NFL's best rivalry today features the two biggest threats at wide receiver in the league -- or, at least, the AFC. (See: Week 1.) Yet, if Cincy is going to win, they must slow DeAngelo Williams' roll. The Bengals allowed the Jets to gain 152 yards on 30 carries last weekend. One player who could have an unexpected impact: Bengals rookie Tyler Boyd. Pittsburgh will roll a safety over the top of A.J. Green. If Boyd can beat Steelers coordinator Keith Butler's defense out of the slot ... long day for Pittsburgh. The Jets sacked Andy Dalton seven times last weekend and still lost. #CINvsPIT

Two of the worst defenses from 2015 square off in the Meadowlands. Remember this matchup last year? The only thing that stopped Eli Manning and Drew Brees was the game clock. That said, New York's defense looks better already, particularly against the run. Olivier Vernon was quite active in the win over the Cowboys. The Giants' corners, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins, will have their hands full with Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, who combined for 15 catches, 315 yards and three touchdowns last week. One thing that kinda plays in Big Blue's favor: New Orleans' D just gave up 486 yards of offense. #NOvsNYG

Can the Dolphins' defense replicate what it did in Seattle, limiting Russell Wilson and friends to zero touchdowns through three and a half quarters? Or is the relative inexperience of Miami's coaching staff -- at least, as compared to the Patriots' group -- going to be a major factor? Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia pulled off a masterful job of coaching against the Cardinals last Sunday night. The Dolphins have played their division bully tough before, but almost always in Miami. New England has won seven in a row in this series at home. If Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett play together this week, thinking the Fins' defense will possess few answers. #MIAvsNE

Houston has won eight of its past 10 regular-season contests. Does anyone realize the Chiefs have won 11 straight regular-season games? And that's not counting the 30-zip beatdown of the Texans at NRG Stadium in the 2015 playoffs. (Yes, I called it NRG after many readers let me know how awful I was for referring to the ballpark as Reliant. I will endeavor to get my corporate sponsors in line.) Well, Brian Hoyer isn't walking through those doors. Jadeveon Clowney could be -- could be -- a different player this year. And Houston has some different offensive weapons. New running back Lamar Miller and rookie receiver Will Fuller put their own personal stamps on the Texans' win over Chicago. Give Kansas City credit, too. Andy Reid's Chiefs never fold the tents, whether they're streaking toward the postseason last year or overcoming a 21-point deficit last week. Also worth noting: The Texans' defense experienced plenty of problems vs. Kansas City's Alex Smith and Travis Kelce in Week 1 last season. Love this matchup. #KCvsHOU

Spoke with a concerned, diehard Lions fan in our NFL West offices who said this is precisely the kind of game his team loses. Then he mentioned the greatness of Eric Hipple. In related news, Matthew Stafford was outstanding against the Colts in Week 1. Not that he was bad before, but in Year 8, Stafford is the unquestioned leader in the Detroit clubhouse. He sure looked like a coach on the field last Sunday. That's important, because Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick will endure tougher sledding against this Titans front than they did against Indy. Marcus Mariota must be careful with the football if Tennessee is going to avoid 0-2 -- no botched handoffs, getting picked by LBs, etc. Mariota can play. The ground game is there. But the Titans are not good enough to give the ball away and win. #TENvsDET

Don't assume the Browns are going to merely show up and lose. Cleveland split with the Ravens last year, winning that crazy overtime game where Gary Barnidge pulled a thighmaster on John Harbaugh's group. I like Baltimore in this contest because of Joe Flacco and his receivers. Flacco performed efficiently most of the day against a superior Bills defense (uh, superior to the Browns' unit anyway) in Week 1, while finding Mike Wallace down the field. Flacco has been a top-shelf quarterback throwing the deep ball for most of his career, and he should find the same seams Eagles rookie Carson Wentz exploited last week. Think Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown will acquit himself well. Just remember that he received far fewer reps in training camp with Robert Griffin III -- who was placed on injured reserve after the Browns' Week 1 loss -- anointed the starter so early in the preseason. #BALvsCLE

Thinking the Rams will come out of the tunnel slightly pissed off. Jeff Fisher's team looked terrible Monday night, appearing much worse than it really is. The Rams traditionally play the Seahawks tough, particularly at home. And it'll be very interesting to see what kind of home-field advantage the Los Angeles Coliseum provides. It was great in the preseason, but we'll have to see how that plays out over the course of the Rams' first year in L.A. It's the unknown quantity. Another unknown: Russell Wilson and that injured/not-injured ankle. Anticipate a ground-heavy approach for Seattle (the 49ers ran the rock 42 times against L.A.), especially if Wilson is ailing more than the 'Hawks are letting on. That would, in theory, play into Los Angeles' hands, as Seattle's offensive line is no great shakes. Neither is the Rams' quarterback situation. Still don't understand why, down 21-0, Case Keenum didn't take more chances downfield for L.A. Whether it was play calling, the protection or Keenum himself, if you don't go vertical often, the field shrinks awfully quick. You don't want Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor camping out in an eight-man front all day. #SEAvsLA

The Buccaneers were my sneaky NFC team coming into this season, a group I thought could compete for a wild-card berth. Not straying here -- rather, I believe Bruce Arians simply won't allow his Cardinals to falter at home (again). The key matchup in Arizona: new Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter vs. Cards defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Koetter has proven himself as a play caller and offensive mind. Meanwhile, Bettcher has been questioned. Most notably, in the playoffs last year -- as well as against the Patriots last week. New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looked more than prepared for what he saw unfolding in front of him. It will be fascinating to see how Bettcher and his unit respond to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. Cardinals signal caller Carson Palmer, for his part, should play much better against this Tampa secondary. #TBvsAZ

On the surface, you'd think this game would end up being a lower-scoring affair. Jacksonville's secondary already looks a step better than it was last year, while San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is devoid of his biggest weapon in the passing game. That said, this is an extremely long road trip for Jacksonville. And San Diego's defense just made Alex Smith look like Dan Marino in the second half last Sunday. Maybe that's a bad example. (The last time Jags fans saw Dan Marino, their team was winning 62-7.) OK, well, Blake Bortles should find opportunities. Hope I am wrong on both fronts here, because A) Jacksonville cannot be carried by the offense again, and B) who's not sick of Rivers having to do everything by himself? #JAXvsSD

The disappointing defense vs. the surging quarterback? Perhaps. The Raiders' D allowed the Saints over 500 yards of offense in the season opener. Matt Ryan disappointed Falcons fans often over the last three seasons, yet over the last three games, he's performed: He posted a 112.6 passer rating against the Bucs in Week 1, following 103.2 and 119.6 passer ratings to close out 2015. Atlanta's skimpy pass rush is no match for Oakland's offensive line. Zero sacks in 32 pass attempts sounds like a case of the Mondays -- on a Sunday. #ATLvsOAK

Would you believe this is the first Colts- Broncos matchup since 1993 that will not feature Peyton Manning? It might not feature much of Andrew Luck, either. At least not compared to the performance we saw last week from No. 12 versus the Lions. This is a bad matchup all the way around for Indy. The air game is the Colts' strongest asset, but T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett will face an even more talented triumvirate in Denver cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby. The Broncos' offense should pound the Colts' front with 35 carries between C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. If the Colts are to have a chance in this game, Frank Gore must go off. Trivia: John Elway started that 1993 Colts- Broncos game. Which QB got the starting nod for Indy? #INDvsDEN

Dude, this is a matchup. It instantly reminds of some great '90s tilts between the Vikings' defense (coached by DC Tony Dungy) and three-time MVP Brett Favre. Favre broke Dan Marino's career touchdown record of 420 in 2007 while leading the Packers to a win in Minnesota. Of course, Favre eventually ended up playing for the Vikes, and he and Aaron Rodgers squared off in Minneapolis in a fun game in 2009 (although Packers fans wouldn't mind forgetting that whole episode). Now the Vikings are opening up their new digs, which are beautiful. So with all this quarterback talk, and the 2016 Minnesota defense being every bit as good those John Randle squads of yore, this matchup comes down to ... Big Ed. Lacy ran right through the Vikings' defense in Minnesota last year, and the Packers' back looked good last week despite average numbers. If he gets going, Green Bay's pass rushers get more rest time. Which means no fun for the Vikes' quarterback. What a game. #GBvsMIN

Carson Wentz can't possibly start 2-0, can he? Stranger things have happened for Philadelphia sports fans. James Thrash was once a WR1. Von Hayes once hit two home runs in the first inning. Tyrone Hill put up 18 points and 13 rebounds in an NBA Finals game. (I just wanted to mention Tyrone Hill.) It might be hard to fathom, but I like the Bears' offense against Jim Schwartz's D less than Wentz and Co. vs. the Monsters of the Midway. Chicago's defensive group looked like Charlize Theron in "Monster" last Sunday. They stayed on the field F.O.R.E.V.E.R., allowing the Texans 36:19 in time of possession. A possible solution to that for the Bears: Get running back Jeremy Langford off to a fast start. #PHIvsCHI


New York got swept in this series last year, getting sweater-vested in the first matchup, then picked three times in the second. That latter meeting came with a playoff spot at stake for the Jets, with Ryan Fitzpatrick faltering when his team needed him most. Gang Green simply can't afford to start 0-2. Their next four games after Thursday: at the Chiefs, host the Seahawks, at the Steelers, at the Cardinals. That could spell a 1-5 start for what was supposed to be a playoff contender. The Bills can't contend until they find a passing game. Tyrod Taylor ran for his life in Baltimore, while Sammy Watkins is running with pain. This feels like a LeSean McCoy game, but will he be enough to put Buffalo over? The Bills' five-game win streak in this series comes to an end. #NYJvsBUF

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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