What a wild week for the AFC North! Other divisions might have had some ups and downs, but none like this star-crossed division.
The Steelers opened the season by winning an exciting game against the Titans that cost them Troy Polumalu. The Browns forgot that it takes four or five men to stop Adrian Peterson. Joe Flacco became a 300-yard passer, and, in case you missed it, the Bengals were less than 40 seconds from a win against the Broncos when, according to Brandon Stokely, divine intervention became the latest to hate on Cincinnati.
Looking back at my picks from Week One, I had a few hits and a bunch of misses. I thought you should avoid Roethlisberger, who threw for over 300 yards. To the contrary, I said Willie Parker was a sure thing and he missed by a lot.
I picked Joshua Cribbs as a green light pick, and he proved me wise. So did Cedric Benson, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. Baltimore's Defense gave up how many to Kansas City, though? I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone in being surprised to see that on Sunday night.
Where do we go from here? How do you spin an encore from that hot mess?
Simple. You send the defending champions to Chicago where everyone wants to see whether or not Jay Cutler has grown up yet. You send the Browns to the Denver team that broke the Bengals' hearts. Cincinnati goes to Green Bay, and the Ravens head to San Diego for what figures to be a fantastic game.
Let's take a look at these matchups.
Cincinnati @ Green Bay – Sunday 1:00 PM EST
Aaron Rodgers looked rusty Sunday night, and Ryan Grant didn’t fly out of the gates. In fact, until Greg Jennings beat Nathan Vasher like a rented mule, nobody on the Packers offense was having an exceptional night.
This week’s game could present an intriguing matchup for the Packers offense. The Bengals defense, much like the Bears in Lambeau last week, did a nice job until they got beat on a prayer to lose. The million dollar question, though, is whether or not the Bengals defense is that good, or the Broncos offense is… who we thought they were.
Similarly, the Bengals offense didn’t fo much against the Denver defense last week, and the Packers took advantage of Cutler employing the Helen Keller method of reading zone coverage. Is Green Bay’s defense that good, or was Cutler that bad?
Prediction: Green Bay 34 - Cincinnati 23
Green Light: Rodgers, Jennings, GB DEF
Yellow Light: Grant, Benson, Carson Palmer, Donald Lee
Red Light: CIN DEF, Chad Ochocinco
Sleeper: Laveranues Coles
Pittsburgh @ Chicago – Sunday 4:15 PM EST
Both of these teams are dealing with serious losses to their defenses, with Troy Polumalu and Brian Urlacher, two of the marquee defensive players in the entire NFL, being inactive. The Steelers didn’t lost much more than their star safety, though; Chicago lost half the defense.
The wild card in this game is what Pittsburgh offense comes out in Chicago’s home opener. In Week One, it was an aerial assault from Ben Roethlisberger because of a faltering run game. The Steelers would love to establish their ground game, but the Bears banged up and vulnerable secondary might make them pass-happy again.
On the other side of the ball, to say the Bears have something to prove on offense might be the understatement of the season. With all the hype that Cutler brought with him to the offense, they were miserable in the first half in Green Bay. If Cutler plays like he did in the third and most of the fourth quarters, the Bears could have something to move the ball against the Steelers. If he comes out like he did to start the game against the Packers, it could be an ugly night by Lake Michigan.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 24 – Chicago 20
Green Light: Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes
Yellow Light: Cutler, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Matt Forte, Greg Olsen, Willie Parker, PIT DEF, Heath Miller
Red Light: CHI DEF
Sleeper: Hines Ward
Baltimore @ San Diego - 4:14 PM EST
When was the last time a Baltimore game had the potential to become a shootout? The Ravens defense looked vulnerable against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, but they were able to get the victory behind the suddenly trigger-happy Flacco.
Meanwhile, the Chargers are a team with questions this week. LaDanian Tomlinson was on the bench for their game-winning drive on Monday night and continues to be questionable. Given his toe injury and the Ravens' run defense, logic would indicate that Philip Rivers will be putting the ball in the air on Sunday.
Speaking of the ball in the air, though, the Chargers pass defense gave up both yards and points to the Raiders on Monday night. Given Flacco's track record, and in light of his opening day performance, this could become a game littered with fantasy winners in the passing game.
Prediction: San Diego 27 - Baltimore 17
Green Light: Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Ray Rice
Yellow Light: Flacco, Derrick Mason, Antonio Gates, BAL DEF, SD DEF
Red Light: Tomlinson, Darren Sproles
Sleeper: Mark Clayton
Cleveland @ Denver - 4:15 PM EST
The Browns had all sorts of offensive issues last week, but they were playing an elite defense. If you're a fantasy owner of Brady Quinn, this week might be where you have to make the tough question: How did I wait that long to take a backup?
Just kidding. The question you need to answer is really How bad is Denver's defense, and am I comfortable playing Quinn against them? I'm not sure I would be ready to jump on the Quinn Bandwagon yet. However, I would have no problems playing Jamal Lewis against the Broncos defense this week after Benson gave them a handful last week.
On the flip side of that, the Broncos offense didn't do anything until the final 40 seconds last week, but the Browns couldn't keep Adrian Peterson out of the end zone that long. Again, the great fantasy dilemmas abound.
Prediction: Cleveland 17 - Denver 13
Green Light: Brandon Marshall, Jamal Lewis, Joshua Cribbs
Yellow Light: CLE DEF, Brady Quinn, D'Qwell Jackson, DEN DEF, Correll Buckhalter
Red Light: Kyle Orton
Sleeper: Knowshon Moreno