Cam Newton got rave reviews for his Week 1 showing, but things are about to get a lot tougher. (Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire)
The first week full of predictions in our "Bet On It" feature produced six correct prognostications out of eight tries. A pretty successful week, I thought. Some of you seemed to feel otherwise, arguing via our comments section that the Week 1 "bets" were too timid, too obvious.
So, as George Costanza once bellowed: "You wanna get nuts? Come on ... let's get nuts!"
Stepping further out onto the limb for Week 2:
• Cam Newton will throw at least three interceptions
Honeymoon's over, Cam. Or at least, it's back to real life for a week.
Newton had an incredible debut performance, shredding Arizona's pitiful pass defense for 422 yards and two touchdowns. He tossed just one INT in that game, a 28-21 loss, but the challenge in front of him is about to kick up a notch.
Sure, the Packers allowed more than 400 yards passing to Drew Brees on opening night. But that's Drew Brees. Green Bay will come after Newton with a variety of blitzes that he hasn't seen before, and Charles Woodson will do what he can to take away Steve Smith, who had eight catches for 178 yards in the opener and was clearly Newton's first choice.
Denver didn't have the defensive front to slow down McFadden and the Raiders' ground game. Buffalo does.
Oakland, of course, has a stout front too, meaning that Jackson will have to work for his yards. The difference is that Ryan Fitzpatrick can gun-sling it for the Bills to create some lanes for Jackson; Jason Campbell won't have as much success doing that for Oakland.
Bonus prediction for you: Neither Jackson nor McFadden gets to 100 yards rushing.
• Jacksonville will have a second-half lead on the Jets
At last check, the Jets were nearly a 10-point home favorite against the Jaguars. With New York coming off a dramatic win over Dallas, and Luke McCown and the Jacksonville offense still looking a bit uncomfortable in Week 1, that line is understandable.
This, though, sets up like a classic letdown game -- the Jets' Week 1 rally was a draining one, especially coming at the end of the emotional 10th anniversary of 9/11. The Jets also set off on the road after this one for three key games -- at Oakland, Baltimore and New England.
Jacksonville controlled the time of possession last week against the Titans and will utilize Maurice Jones-Drew and a short passing game to try to do the same Sunday. The last time Jones-Drew battled the Jets, in 2009, he rushed for 123 yards.
• Seattle won't score a touchdown
Also in consideration: "Seattle will get shut out." I'll save that one for another week, in case these predictions still aren't bold enough for you.
Pittsburgh's defense was manhandled by Baltimore last Sunday, prompting questions all week about whether or not the veteran group is simply too old and too broken down to get it done anymore. Those aren't the sentiments I'd want lingering if I were about to face that defense.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, had to scratch and claw for 14 points in Week 1 after failing to get on the scoreboard before halftime. Watch for Pittsburgh to get after Tarvaris Jackson from the get-go, which ought to lead to a few Seattle turnovers.
Atlanta has to find some way to get its offense going after a miserable Week 1 blowout loss at Chicago. The problem is that Philadelphia visits Sunday, meaning that the Falcons will have their hands full on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Matt Ryan found Roddy White eight times last week but averaged just 7.6 yards per connection. White figures to draw Nnamdi Asomugha, while Asante Samuel or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be tasked with rookie Julio Jones.
The one spot where the passing attack will favor Atlanta is in Gonzalez against the Eagles' shaky linebacking corps. Gonzalez has size over both of Philly's outside linebackers and should be able to school rookie MLB Casey Matthews, if that's the matchup Philly tries. Ryan will find his safety net early and often.
• Rex Grossman will throw at least three touchdown passes
I can't even believe I just typed that sentence, though I suppose three TD passes doesn't necessarily mean Grossman won't also toss a couple of interceptions.
Arizona's secondary was shredded by Newton in Week 1, despite its front seven holding DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to 56 combined yards rushing. If the Cardinals employ a similar strategy Sunday -- taking away Tim Hightower and the Redskins' run game and forcing Grossman to beat them -- then Washington will have a field day.
Grossman settled in nicely in Week 1, throwing for two TDs and more than 300 yards. He's in line for an even bigger Week 2.
• Peyton Hillis will rush for 150 yards
Hillis had just 57 yards on 17 carries in a loss to the Bengals last week. That just won't do for Cleveland -- Hillis needs to get rolling for that offense to have any chance.
Fortunately, waiting in Week 2 is an Indianapolis defense that got bullied at the point of attack by Houston last Sunday. Colt McCoy obviously doesn't have the weapons that Matt Schaub does, which allow Schaub to loosen up a run D. But Cleveland's QB is competent enough to stretch the Colts out, which should give Hillis plenty of opportunity to get between the tackles.
• Sam Bradford won't finish the Monday nighter
Read into this however you want -- Bradford's injured finger takes another hit, the Giants blow the Rams out, etc. Come some point in the fourth quarter, A.J. Feeley will be under center for St. Louis. The Rams aren't going to take any unnecessary risks with Bradford, who reportedly suffered some nerve damage in the index finger on his throwing hand last week. This isn't a game St. Louis is supposed to win, meaning the Rams could be staring at 0-2 with home games against Baltimore and Washington upcoming. They'll need Bradford to traverse that challenging schedule.