NFL Insiders predict: Week 2 upsets, flops, NFC East race, more

The Packers finally have a legitimate No. The NFC is the dominant conference. No team results found. NFL Expert Picks - Week 2

Monday, September 17

What's your top upset pick for Week 2?

This is the sort of early game that eventually decides a division. As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the Packers will reach the playoffs. The Packers finally have a legitimate No. Adding Mo Wilkerson to the defensive line and strengthening the defensive backfield in the draft gets the Pack back in postseason play. Brady and Rodgers have met on the field just once before, and a week for the quarterbacks and their head coaches to scheme against one another could be a multipart docuseries on HBO.

This could be the best game of the regular season. Matt Stafford has played a high level the past two seasons, the receiving group has gotten better and the 27th-ranked defense from a year ago should improve immediately under the former Pats defensive coordinator. But the Lions are clearly the third-best team in this tough division. The schedule makers pitted the Lions against the Vikings in Weeks 7 and 9, so Detroit has to show mental toughness against a Seahawks team that may be down this year.

The outcome of this game will show how focused the Lions are. The Bears got better at crucial positions they had to get better at this offseason. The offensive line took a big hit losing guard Josh Sitton and the defense, while improved with Roquan Smith at linebacker, still needs to find a pass rush.

It may take one more year for this group to gel. After a difficult home game against the Pats, the Bears have a soft middle-season schedule during which they host the Jets, travel to Buffalo and host the Lions in consecutive weeks.

The rich got richer this offseason, and the Rams look to be completely unfair. Ndamukong Suh is now on a defensive line beside Aaron Donald.

Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are in the same secondary. Brandin Cooks adds speed to the offense. The Rams are building a monster, and their youthful wild-card exit last year will only fuel this campaign. No game on paper is as exciting as this one. Both squads have surrounded their third-year quarterbacks with veterans acquired through various trades and deft free-agency moves.

No team that missed the playoffs last year should feel as good about its odds in as the 49ers. They went with Jimmy G, with three wins against playoff-bound teams. Talk about a statement game to open the season. The Seahawks as we knew them are no more, and we should all mourn that. Once built with smart draft picks, the Seahawks had to go out in free agency this offseason to get parts such as Jaron Brown, Brandon Marshall and Maurice Alexander. The Legion of Boom is gone, taking the identity of this team and its juice with it.

Plenty of storylines in this one. Jon Gruden gets to go against a quarterback he gushed about for years on Monday Night Football. Marshawn Lynch faces his former squad. All this and more in a West Coast tilt between teams looking for their footing. The Cardinals are going to have to find themselves in the desert this year.

I believe first-year head coach Steve Wilks will soon have success in Arizona, but not this season. The quarterback situation with veteran Sam Bradford and future-of-the-franchise Josh Rosen will be a difficult one to navigate for the defensive-minded first-time head coach.

There was a great deal of roster turnover this offseason for a team looking for a new identity. Only once since has a team won both of the games in this series. When the Saints have a scoring defense in the top 20, the team will reach the postseason. Cam Jordan gets to rush the passer with rookie Marcus Davenport. New Orleans has depth at linebacker, and the secondary boasts reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore.

No one should have any doubts about the offense doing its job. When the Falcons go into 11 personnel, there may be no more lethal offense in Not many teams can match up with that weaponry, and Steve Sarkisian should be coming into his own in Year 2 after an up-and-down first season as offensive coordinator. Atlanta is a believer in championship windows, and the Falcons are in the middle of theirs right now. The Falcons have figured out Aaron Rodgers lately. I have no clue how well the Norv Turner-Cam Newton arranged marriage is going to work.

Carolina upgraded its receiving group with D. Moore and Torrey Smith but never really took care of the guard position vacated by Andrew Norwell. Carolina went on the road to New Orleans and lost a tight wild-card round game.

Would that game have played out differently in Charlotte? This Week 15 Monday Night Football match starts a three-game stretch to end the season for Carolina against the Saints twice and Falcons. They would like to have control of the playoff scenarios early. The Bucs were one of the most disappointing teams last season after a solid offseason and plenty of hype some of it by yours truly. Dirk Koetter got to keep his job even though his team took a gigantic step back in on both offense and defense.

Tampa Bay has finished last in the division seven of the past nine seasons, and it looks to happen again in The Bucs lost and began their first of two five-game losing streaks.

This year the Bucs start the season with the Saints, Eagles and Steelers. The best to hope for, realistically, is a start, and maybe that win will come against the Steelers. Email us at talkback themmqb. Please enter your email address associated with the account so we can help reset your password. Stay up-to-date with the latest news and scores from your favorite teams anywhere and get customized notifications, special offers and much more.

I acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy. For further information, please contact customer service at or write to Sports Illustrated Customer Service Attention: But Rob Gronkowski said the Pro Bowl linebacker is the smelliest guy in the Pats locker room , so there's that.

The Patriots could really use Hightower this week, as it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if the Saints rotated Mark Ingram , Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara to test Matt Patricia's defense early. Without question, one of the top games of Week 2.

While Eagles at Chiefs will probably get lost in the shuffle of Packers- Falcons , Cowboys- Broncos and even Patriots- Saints , we should learn much from this matchup at Arrowhead Stadium.

Are the Chiefs as serious a contender as they appeared to be when they dismantled the Patriots at Gillette? Is Kareem Hunt this year's rookie phenom? Most importantly, is Alex Smith ready to challenge teams down the field on a consistent basis?

That will be tough for him to do this week. The Eagles ' pressure was integral in their toppling of the Redskins in Week 1. Can they bring it two weeks in a row? They'll have to, because even though Carson Wentz looks improved, he's going to have a tough time trying to change plays at the line, adjust protections or carry out any pre-snap shenanigans at Arrowhead.

Rather large game in the AFC South. The Jaguars blew out the reigning division champs at their place last week. The Titans lost to Oakland. So Jacksonville could gain a two-game lead on Tennessee, and with Houston starting rookie Deshaun Watson on the road, the Jags might own a two-plus tiebreaker talk already! Then there are the Colts , who have no quarterback for now and no defense. Tennessee will fight its way back in the AFC South by running right at that Jags' stacked front seven, which sandwiched the Savage-Watson tandem last weekend.

Methinks the Titans will fare better. In their first meeting last year, Tennessee ran all over Jacksonville. In the second meeting , the Titans fell behind, Marcus Mariota got hurt and the offense went away from the run.

Of course, all of this could be moot if Blake Bortles plays his best football I did a lot of thinking and hand-wringing about the Cardinals- Colts matchup, and I've finally determined that it is not my favorite game of the week. I liked Harrelson much better trying to dunk basketballs with Wesley Snipes.

How effective can that attack be without fantasy football 's consensus No. It's a bad sign if that offense scores less than 20 points in this game.

Less than 30 would even be concerning, given what is expected to be and was, in Week 1 a weak Indy defense. The Colts have to find a way to strike balance on the ground to create some opportunity -- any opportunity -- for play-action. Tried predicting a higher score. Simply can't do it. Not after the dearth of points we saw in the NFL as a whole during Week 1.

Both of these defensive units represent the strength of their respective teams, although Buffalo doesn't have Cam Newton to potentially take over the game.

Meanwhile, the enthusiasm for Tyrod Taylor continues to be tepid -- for two years running now. Taylor made a few plays against the Jets , but the instant reaction from the opener was that the Bills left too many points on the field and off the board. I fully anticipate Sean McDermott's defense will hold its own. The secondary is vulnerable to a capable passing game. But can Newton, who still doesn't seem whole after offseason shoulder surgery, exploit it?

Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen were awfully quiet in San Francisco , but some of that was Newton's rustiness and game situations. Yep, this game might be Predicting the first blowout in the picks column of this year. Don't typically predict the s, s and zips. Going with a rout here not to further bash the Jets which has become quite typical , but rather because of the matchups. The Jets ' starting back four will face one of the top passing offenses in football and a quarterback who is not afraid to challenge an opponent vertically right off the bat.

If the Titans ' front seven couldn't impose its will on Marshawn Lynch or get ample pressure on Derek Carr , don't think New York will, either. The average age on New York's defense is 25 years old. So the upside is there. An Oakland weakness to expose exists at inside 'backer. The cool thing about this predicted score is that the Chargers won't actually have to block for a field-goal attempt.

Sunday's matchup marks the Dolphins ' first outing of the season and the first regular-season game at StubHub Center. While both team buses will have an interesting view upon entering the area , how will NFL scenery look on a soccer pitch?

For that matter, we will catch the first regular-season glimpse of Jay Cutler in a Dolphins uni. The more relevant aspect to this AFC matchup will be whether or not the right side of the Bolts' line holds up in both the run game and pass protection. Philip Rivers will handle the issue, if it indeed becomes problematic.

Melvin Gordon needs to be patient with it, instead of running up his guys' backs. The Fins' pass catchers need more time with their new quarterback in real games. Not feeling a tight NFC West affair. How far this rivalry has fallen since The quick decline in the 49ers- Seahawks series isn't rare in the salary cap era. Widespread player movement, the ravaging of roster depth and the importance of continuity from a coaching standpoint have all become hallmarks of pro football since And this volatility certainly impacts watchability.

Now, San Francisco is in Year 3 of the post-Harbaugh era, trying to build a nucleus that can compete with Seattle. The Bears' front seven was active and disruptive in Week 1 against Atlanta. The Tampa Bay offensive line features some shuffled parts this season, which could require a bit of an adjustment period. The Bears' offense will have to find ways to manufacture touches for its two talented backs, as it did in Week 1.

Nooooo, it's way too soon to say that. A week ago, I think we all expected the Giants to be a good team, and it would be wrong to let one game change that expectation. There's a reasonable chance Sunday was the worst game the Giants' offense will play all season, and there's a nonzero chance it's the best game the Cowboys' defense will play all season. I expect the NFC East to be a close race.

I expect the tougher schedules to make it difficult for the teams at the top to win the 13 and 11 games they won a year ago. I'm not ruling out Philadelphia and Washington as troublemakers or even contenders, assuming the division tightens up as I expect it to. Long way to go in the NFC East. I'm not throwing everything out the window after one game. The Giants were my pick heading into the season, with Dallas right there in the mix and Philadelphia as a team with boom-or-bust potential.

The NFC East is strong from top to bottom, but the Cowboys were the best team in the division in and look like the best team this year now that Elliott is expected to play the whole season. If Jaylon Smith and Taco Charlton can help make the defense even just a little bit above average, Dallas is an even better bet to repeat as division champion. That's tough for the other three teams, each of which might be the favorite if it played in the AFC South.

I didn't think the Giants had done enough to catch up with them during the offseason, and nothing that happened Sunday night changed my mind.

There is no way that one non-quarterback, be it OBJ or anyone else, can make that big of a difference. The Eagles are intriguing as Carson Wentz develops, but the Cowboys look stronger once again. Dallas taking care of business at home in Week 1 was critical, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The defense will be tested far more in future weeks, as the Giants' offense sputtered in the opener minus Beckham.

Tarik Cohen , RB, Bears. Though, not to brag, I did pick him up in a sneaky Saturday night move in one league last week. One person in the Bears organization told me a few weeks ago , "He's this year's Tyreek Hill. Some concern about whether he can hold up at 5-foot-6 -- yes, I'll field trade offers this week! Honorable mention for me is Nelson Agholor , who I think is a real part of the plans in Philadelphia.

You want the truth? I'm in the kicker market after drafting Sebastian Janikowski and then forgetting to make the change while I was traveling to Green Bay for the Seahawks-Packers game. I went into Monday night tied after getting no points from the kicker spot. Once I get a kicker, I'm monitoring Saints receivers Tommylee Lewis and Brandon Coleman , who have a chance to put up some numbers in that offense.

Don't overreact to big Week 1 games by lesser-known players. Instead, react to injuries: Jacksonville wants a run-heavy offense, but the Jaguars still have to pass the ball sometimes, and Marqise Lee is now the clear No. I expected him to be a special-teams contributor and possible change-of-pace back for the Bears right away.