This Week In: The NFL – Week 2 2013

Manning tied the NFL record with 7 TD passes in a single game
Manning tied the NFL record with 7 TD passes in a single game

In the first match of the this year’s NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens lost to the Denver Broncos 49-27, marking the first time that the reigning Super Bowl champions had lost a Thursday night opener since the tradition started in 2004.  Unlike the previous title-winning teams, the Ravens were on the road due to a clash with a pre-arranged Orioles fixture, with whom they share a car park, but the biggest problem for Baltimore was trying to contain opposing quarterback, Peyton Manning, who equalled the NFL record by throwing seven touchdown passes in a single game.  Two of those scores were caught by Denver debutant Wes Welker, while Demaryius Thomas also racked up a brace of touchdowns combined with 161 receiving yards.  Baltimore, who had won in Colorado in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last January, had gone into half-time with a 17-14 lead, but TDs on each of their first three possessions of the third quarter – the second of which started from the Ravens 10 yard line, thanks to a blocked punt – allowed the Broncos to pull away and get a small measure of revenge for their 2012 postseason exit.

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers started their 2013 season in the exact same way they ended their 2012 campaign, by being unable to contain Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers, resulting in a loss in San Francisco.  While in January, the Packers could not stop Kaepernick on the ground – allowing him to rack up the most ever rushing yards (181) by a quarterback in a single game, last Sunday it was the aerial threat that defeated Green Bay.  Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns – two of which went to tight end Vernon Davis and the other to Anquan Boldin, who moved from the champion Baltimore Ravens in the offseason and racked up 208 receiving yards in his 49ers debut.  For the Packers, linebacker Clay Matthews had promised that they were going to go in hard against the opposing quarterback, a prophecy that was self-fulfilling as he took out Kaepernick with a high, late tackle out of bounds that gave San Francisco a second attempt at third down, (incorrectly, as there were offsetting penalties due to retaliation from 49ers players, so it should have gone to fourth down), that resulted in a touchdown rather than a field goal attempt.  Despite the loss, there were signs of improvement for Green Bay in comparison to their playoff defeat – the six point deficit could have been the other way had Jermichael Finley not dropped a pass from Aaron Rodgers that was then caught by 49ers safety, Eric Reid, for the only interception of the game.  What San Francisco did show is that they are more than just a novelty act with the read-option offense and when he is given the time, Colin Kaepernick is able to throw to his receivers with great accuracy.  If the two teams do meet again in the playoffs, Green Bay will have to ensure they do not turn the ball over at all – rookie running back Eddie Lacy also fumbled in the first-half, giving San Francisco great field position that they converted into a touchdown – and play an almost perfect game, if they are to have any chance of beating this 49ers side.

The New Orleans Saints, who allowed opponents to rack up an average 28.3 points in their 16 matchups last season, gave up only 17 to their divisional rivals the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, coming from behind to win 23-17 to give Sean Payton a victorious return, following his suspension in 2012.  New England also had to mount a comeback to beat the unfancied Buffalo Bills, who had a solid outing from their new starting quarterback, EJ Manuel – the rookie threw for just 150 yards, but completed 18 of 27 attempts and notched up two touchdown passes.  It was not enough for the Bills however, as the Patriots squeaked out the win thanks to two fourth quarter field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.  Elsewhere, the Cowboys took advantage of five turnovers and a muffed punt by the Giants to earn their first victory, by a score of 36-31, over New York since they moved into their new stadium in 2009; St. Louis trailed Arizona 24-13 heading into the fourth quarter, but 14 unanswered points gave the Rams an opening week success over their NFC West rivals; the Bears and Bengals had a back and forth game in Chicago, but the home team ultimately prevailed 24-21; and in just his 18th NFL game, Andrew Luck led his 7th fourth-quarter comeback for the Colts, scoring the winning touchdown himself with a 19 yard run to beat the Raiders 21-17 in Indianapolis.  Seattle were held to just 12 points by the Panthers in North Carolina, but that was enough for the Seahawks to claim a 12-7 victory; the Chiefs kept the Jaguars offense off the board all together, giving up only a safety for a blocked punt in the endzone in their 28-2 win; Christian Ponder threw three interceptions for the Minnesota Vikings in their 34-24 loss to the Lions in Detroit; Pittsburgh were shocked at home by the Titans, who beat the Steelers 16-9; the Dolphins prevailed in Cleveland, 23-10, over the Browns; and Geno Smith helped the Jets to an opening day success, though he was assisted by the Buccaneers defensive lineman, Lavonte David, who gave up a personal foul by pushing the rookie QB when he was already out-of-bounds on the final play before a 48 yard field goal by Nick Folk gave New York an 18-17 edge.

The team that shall not be named
The team that shall not be named

On Monday night, the San Diego Chargers – who are expected to be among the worst teams in the league this year – had a 28-7 lead over the Texans late in the third quarter, but Houston rallied and scored 24 unanswered points to give the reigning AFC South champions a 1-0 start; while the Philadelphia Eagles used the new quick offense of former Oregon head coach, Chip Kelly, to great effect in the first half as they built a 26-7 lead after two quarters, having ran 53 plays in the opening 30 minutes, and they held off a comeback by Washington to prevail 33-27 in the end.  Robert Griffin III had looked rusty in his return from injury, having missed all of pre-season, but his second half performance, when he threw two touchdown passes and appeared much more in sync with his receivers, will give hope to the fans of the…NFL team from the District of Columbia area.  I call them that because of the ongoing controversy surrounding their name – this week, both Peter King at Sports Illustrated and Bill Simmons at Grantland/ESPN have stated that they will no longer use the nickname of the Washington football team, as many find it offensive.  The Oneida Nation have lobbied Congress to force Washington to change both their name and mascot, since Native Americans should not be made into figures of fun.  It is hard to argue against that and thus, although I do not think that simply not saying the R-word makes up for European colonists coming and taking over the land, pushing Native Americans westward, plundering natural resources and giving only small pox and syphilis in return (you can check out my 2012 state by state election previews which all start with information of the indigenous people of that area); I would not feel comfortable referring to a team who was called the Alabama N-Words (let’s be honest, if there was a team with that moniker, they would only be from ‘Bama…or Mississippi) and thus from now on I shall use the name of a different tribe* each time I refer to the NFL team from Washington, until an official change is made.

*If only they had Belgian players, they could have been the Waffles of the NFL…

In that vain, this Sunday the Washington Tuscarora travel to Green Bay**; the Seahawks, who were 8-0 at home last year, take on the 49ers in Seattle; Atlanta host St. Louis; the Chargers have the task of trying to slow down the Eagles offense in Philadelphia; Miami remain in the midwest to face the Indianapolis Colts; while the Panthers are in Buffalo.  Perhaps the two biggest stories of the weekend’s matchups see the Cleveland Browns go to Baltimore – though unlike in 1996, they are not relocating, simply taking on the Ravens – while there is another Manning Bowl in New Jersey, as Eli’s Giants take on Peyton’s Broncos.  The Cowboys will hope that Tony Romo will be fully fit for their trip to Kansas City, after he suffered bruised ribs in Dallas’ win on Sunday; one team will (probably) have to win in Oakland as the Jaguars play the Raiders; the Lions are in Arizona to face the Cardinals.  There are five more divisional rivals squaring off in week 2: in the AFC East, the Jets travel to New England; Sunday sees Minnesota and Chicago, who tied on 10-6 records in the NFC North in 2012, meet at Soldier Field; the Texans, who have won the AFC South for the last two years, host the Titans; the Saints play the Buccaneers; and the Monday night fixture is between the AFC North’s Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in southern Ohio.

**While we are on the subject of unfair stereotypes, can State Farm please stop portraying Packers fans as fat idiotic cheese lovers please?  Having said that, I do like a bit of cheddar…or brie…stilton…

Week 2 Predictions

Last week, 8-8

Home teams in bold

Jets +12.5 over Patriots

Falcons -7.5 over Rams

Bills +2.5 over Panthers

Bears -6.5 over Vikings

Ravens -6.5 over Browns

Cowboys +2.5 over Chiefs

Packers -7.5 over Washington Onondaga

Texans -9.5 over Titans

Colts -3.5 over Dolphins

Chargers +7.5 over Eagles

Cardinals +0.5 over Lions

Saints -3.5 over Buccaneers

Giants +5.5 over Broncos

Raiders -6.5 over Jaguars

49ers +2.5 over Seahawks

Steelers +7.5 over Bengals

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