Antigonish - September 22, 2012 - Pigskin Picks fell back to Earth after a solid start by going 2-5 in week 2, bringing my total to a decent if not flashy 6-10. Obviously hoping for better results in Week 3, my predictions are as follows:
Lock of the Week: 49'ers at Vikings - The 49'ers, having beaten the Packers in Week One and the up and coming Lions in Week 2 have made a strong case for being the best team in the league. With a balanced passing game led by revitalized QB Alex Smith and the seemingly unstoppable TE Vernon Davis, not to mention a finally healthy WR Michael Crabtree, the 49'ers finally have a good complement to their strong running game and stifling defense. All of this, of course, makes the match look pretty daunting to the 0-2 Vikings, who lost in Week 2 to the worst team in the league in 2011, the Colts. 49'ers in a romp.
Upset of the Week: Rams at Bears - After years of porous play in the secondary, the Rams are finally getting good CB play after adding much maligned Janoris Jenkins in the draft, and with QB Sam Bradford playing up to his draft status as the #1 player overall, due in large part to an improved WR corps and good health, the Rams are looking like a team on the rise. The Bears, despite early season high expectations are facing team turmoil due to QB Jay Cutlers propensity to lash out at teammates for his struggles. In fairness to Cutler, whom DB Charles Woodson derided last week as the "same old Jay" after Cutlers 4 interceptions vs the Packers, the Bears' pass protection has not looked good, and no matter how strong his arm is and how good his WR are, he cannot complete passes (to his teammates) lying on his back. With RB Matt Forte out, the running game takes a hit, as does the Bears chances of defeating the underdog Rams. Rams win!
Steelers at Raiders - The Raiders looked brutal so far this season, and have simply not gotten the job done on offense on the ground or through the air. Star RB Darren McFadden, who was such a weapon last year in the Power running scheme the Raiders employed under former head coach Hue Jackson has failed to break loose in the zone running scheme employed this year, and Carson Palmer's arm looks to be near its end. The Steelers, on the other hand, continue to rely on the strong arm of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler power running game, as well as a tough zone blitz defense that seems to be amongst the leagues best year after year. Best team wins - Steelers!
Chiefs at Saints - The Saints are 0-2, and even star QB Drew Brees has uncharacteristically struggled. While the bounty legacy has seemingly been hanging over this team like a dark cloud, all things must come to an end, and facing a Chiefs team that looks ripe for the picking, that time is now for New Orleans. The Chiefs have looked bad on both sides of the ball, with RB Jamal Charles not looking as though he is fully recovered from ACL surgery, and QB Matt Cassel looking like anything but a franchise QB, look for the Saints to finally get into the win column, and for the Chiefs to continue to slide. Saints win!
Game of the Week: Patriots @ Ravens - In a re-match of last years AFC title game, the Patriots travel to Baltimore short one of their top offensive weapons with TE Aaron Hernandez out with a high ankle sprain. While the Pats signed TE Kellen Winslow to fill the void, look for holdovers WR Wes Welker and TE Rob Gronkowski to be the focal point of the Patriots passing attack, and for RB Steven Ridley to struggle to find to room against the tough Raven defense. I have previously labelled the Ravens as one of the most talented teams in the league, and I stand by that assertion, but I have a hard time betting against Patriots QB Tom Brady, and foresee him leading a drive down the field in the game's waning moments for a very close Patriots win. Patriots win!