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NFL week 2 preview: Now we'll learn how good or bad teams really are

We’ll learn a lot more this week than we did on the opening weekend.

An NFC Championship rematch is the highlight of week two.
An NFC Championship rematch is the highlight of week two.
Image: Curtis Compton

10 HOURS. NOT so long ago, that would only be enough time to fit in three games of American football.

But, thanks to condensed games that play out in 40 minutes, that’s how long it took me to watch back all 15 match-ups from week one of the NFL season.

It’s something I do every week, but this week it really reminded me of the difference between box-score football and what your eyes tell you.

For example, on Thursday night, as they kicked off week two with a second loss of the season, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 224 yards.

On paper, that’s a big improvement on his 170 yards and four interceptions from week one. But the game film tells a different story.

It tells the tale of a quarterback struggling behind a bad offensive line and who, even when he has time in the pocket, is missing open receivers and his entire performance can be summed up by the final Bengals drive of the game.

On third and four, with his side still in the game, he threw the ball away rather than giving a receiver a chance to make a play. Then, even more unforgivably, on fourth down he sailed a ball two metres over his receiver’s head, handing the game to the Texans.

But hey, the stat line suggests he was better, right?

6pm Sunday

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens (-8)

Steelers hold off Browns for season-opening victory Source: Phil Masturzo/PA Images

The Browns played the Steelers hard in week one and probably ruined a lot of accumulators by keeping their loss to three points. The Ravens put up a good defensive performance against the Bengals in their opener but the other side of the ball will need to step up to cover this spread.

Verdict: Browns against the spread.

Buffalo Bills @ Carolina Panthers (-7.5)

In their opening day win over the 49ers, Cam Newton looked to be struggling as he returned from shoulder surgery. However, he finished the game six-for-six before Carolina turned to the run. The Bills took care of business against the Jets last week but will struggle to cause a surprise here.

Verdict: Panthers to cover.

Arizona Cardinals (-7) @ Indianapolis Colts

Whatever happens in this game, there was enough on show in week one to suggest both these teams will be closer to the number one pick than the Super Bowl.

Verdict: Cardinals to cover.

Tennessee Titans (-1) @ Jacksonville Jaguars

This is a somewhat surprising line given that Jacksonville are coming off a 10-sack performance in week one. While the Titans offensive line is a lot better than the Texans one, they failed to create gaps and establish the run against the Raiders. Given their game-plan, that’s a worry.

Verdict: Jaguars against the spread. 

Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)

Source: John Sleezer/PA Images

The Chiefs took full advantage of the Patriots lack of coverage linebackers and tendency towards man-coverage last week and there’s a lot to like about the versatility of an offence that can afford to use Travis Kelce as a third option. However, the Eagles pass rush is a lot more effective than New England’s.

Verdict: Chiefs to cover.

New England Patriots (-6) @ New Orleans Saints

Since 2001, when Tom Brady took over as quarterback, the Patriots have won 38 games following a loss the week before. Just 11 times in 16 years have they put together back-to-back losses. Oh, and over the same period, every time they’ve lost their season opener, they’ve gone on to win that year’s Super Bowl. You can see where this is going.

Verdict: Patriots to cover.

Minnesota Vikings @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-6)

Last September, people lost the run of themselves and proclaimed the Vikings defence the new ’85 Bears and Sam Bradford as the reincarnation of Joe Montana (I know he’s not dead) as they were the last team to suffer defeat. They failed to make the playoffs. No way people will do the same this year, will they? Spoiler: they will.

Verdict: Steelers to cover.

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7)

The Bears were a couple of drops away from providing the biggest upset of week one when they ran the Atlanta Falcons close. We haven’t seen the Bucs since the final episode of Hard Knocks and it will be interesting to see how the rare week one bye impacts the rest of their season.

Verdict: Bears against the spread.

9.05pm Sunday

New York Jets @ Oakland Raiders (-13)

Source: TNS/ABACA/PA Images

The Raiders took care of business against the Titans last week and a switch to more zone coverage on defence — plus the emergence of Eddie Vanderdoes alongside Khalil Mack — has taken away some of the concerns on that side of the ball. The Jets were worse than even the lowly expectations people had of them and this game could get ugly fast.

Verdict: Raiders to cover.

Miami Dolphins @ LA Chargers (-3.5)

The LA Chargers host their first home game in their new city and they’ll want to put on a much improved performance from their road opener against the Broncos on Monday night when only conservative play calling let them back into the game. Worth watching to see what Jay Cutler in Dolphins uniform looks like.

Verdict: Dolphins against the spread.

9.25pm Sunday

Dallas Cowboys (-2) @ Denver Broncos

You can read a lot into the Cowboys dismantling of the New York Giants last Sunday night or you can accept that Dallas learned very little from that game. I’m in the latter camp though I think the Broncos are still an unknown quantity following their win over the Chargers.

Verdict: Broncos against the spread.

Washington @ LA Rams (-2.5)

If you knew nothing about football and the first game you watched was the Rams hosting the Colts last week, you’d be forgiven for thinking the home side were world beaters. They’re not, but Washington’s disarray in the preseason carried over into week one and, in a competitive NFC East, they’ll need to find wins quickly.

Verdict: Rams to cover.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks (-14)

Source: Mike Roemer/PA Images

On paper, the Seahawks are absolutely 14 points better than the 49ers, but the problem for Seattle is that paper can’t play on the offensive line. If it could, it would be better than what’s there at the moment. The 49ers — despite putting a lot of money and draft picks into their defensive line — will need a significant improvement on last week, registering just eight pressures and two quarterback hits, if they’re to have the same success as the Packers.

Verdict: 49ers against the spread.

Monday 1.30am

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons (-3)

I’m confused by the line in this game. The Falcons struggled mightily against the Bears last week while the Packers wore down, arguably, the best defence in football. It’s worth pointing out that Atlanta’s defence is modelled on the Seattle one, so surely if you can beat the original, you can handle the imitation?

Verdict: Packers against the spread.

Tuesday 1.30am

Detroit Lions @ New York Giants (-3)

The absence of Odell Beckham Jr was noticeable for the Giants last weekend but it was far from the only issue that needed addressing over the past week in New York. On the ground they manged just 2.9 yards per carry and, on defence, allowed the Cowboys to score on five drives.

Verdict: Lions against the spread.

Disagree, of course you do. Let us know why in the comments section below.

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