Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season is in the books, which means we shouldn’t be surprised that the Jaguars, Bills and Rams are all in sole possession of first place at the same time for the first time ever. Who didn’t see that coming?
Without overreacting too much, here are our Week 2 bold predictions.
1. Jaguars sack Marcus Mariota five times
Jacksonville accumulated 10 sacks – 10! – against Houston, including 3.5 in the first half by Calais Campbell. Mariota meanwhile, struggled for most of the afternoon against an Oakland front that made his life miserable. Tennessee, for all the talk of its quality run blocking, still can’t protect its franchise quarterback. The Jags have a young, fast and highly active defense that will blitz the young quarterback until he proves he can beat it. The Titans may win the game, but not before Campbell and company inflict plenty of punishment on No. 8.
2. Chiefs score 17 points or less against Philly
Hey, we warned you about KC’s upset bid last week in Foxborough. Alex Smith (368 yards, four touchdowns) threw the ball all over the yard, out-Bradying Tom Brady on his own turf en route to an impressive 42-27 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. Just don’t get used to it. Smith is a fine player and Tyreek Hill evokes fear into opposing defenses, but at its core, this remains an offense committed to a specific style of football: Run the ball, don’t turn it over and play good defense. Meanwhile, the Eagles boast FPI’s second-ranked defense, including a lethal pass rush led by two-time All-Pro Fletcher Cox. Come Sunday at Arrowhead, Kareem Hunt will find some running room because he’s really good and here to stay, but don’t expect a repeat performance from Smith and this offense.
3. Eli Manning goes for 300 and 2 scores against Detroit
The 36-year-old Manning (21.1 QBR) was simply atrocious in the Giants’ season-opening 19-3 loss to Dallas. Big Blue’s porous offensive line shares the blame as well and its an issue that will plague this team all year. But things will be better come Monday night when Manning and the Giants host Detroit. Odell Beckham, Jr. is day-to-day – and as bad as the offensive line is – don’t expect much from the Detroit pass rush either. Look for Eli to take an assortment of shots down the field and for second-year running back Paul Perkins to find more running room. This is as big a “must-win” as it gets in Week 2 and the Giants know it.
4. Deshaun Watson’s first NFL start is a disaster
This is not an indictment on Watson, who was clearly not ready Week 1 in Bill O’Brien’s mind, hence Tom Savage starting. The real question is why – after Savage was sacked six times – did O’Brien toss in his rookie quarterback, only to get him tattooed for four sacks and a slew of hits. Now, in a short week, the rookie will get his first start on the road against a battle-tested Bengals defense. There is a lot to like about Watson – mature, big arm, wants to work – but this feels like a miserable spot for him. Granted, Cincy struggled with its checks when Baltimore went empty, but Joe Flacco is an experienced quarterback who plays the Bengals twice a year. Bottom line: Expect Geno Atkins and his angry defensive line counterparts to tee off on the confused Watson, whose be top three top tight ends are all in concussion protocol.
5. Vikings beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh
We pick a marquee upset every week in this column. Pittsburgh enters Week 2 as a considerable favorite over Sam Bradford and Minnesota. My question is why? The Steelers are coming off a less than stellar 21-18 win over Cleveland and rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who made his first ever NFL start. The Vikings meanwhile, may have discovered Le’Veon Bell 2.0 in Dalvin Cook, a do-everything back who might earn 25 touches every week. The Vikings – my pick to win the NFC North – have a rebuilt offensive line protecting Sam Bradford, along with a true No. 1 receiver in Stefon Diggs. Just as importantly, Minnesota is going to make Big Ben and company earn everything. They’re going to hit him and they’re going to be disciplined, the hallmark of any Mike Zimmer defense.
– – – – – – –
Follow Jordan Schultz on Twitter @Schultz_Report