The Bills appear poised to have the franchise’s best year since the Jim Kelly era. With a stellar defense and talent at the skill positions, Tyrod Taylor will make or break Buffalo’s season.
Last Week: 13 – 3 – 0
Last Season: 167 – 89 – 1
Broncos 31 at Chiefs 24
What a comedy of errors that was. Let’s start with the Chiefs committing 5 turnovers. Turnovers, obviously, are always bad, but some turnovers are worse than others. The Chiefs had four devastating turnovers. Two were red zone turnovers, taking anywhere between 6 and 14 points off the scoreboard. Two more were turnovers inside their own 20, gifting the Broncos anywhere between 6 and 14 points. That’s a 12 to 28 point swing. This just in: 28 point swings hurt. It’s funny how everyone LOVES to blame Andy Reid for most of those turnovers, especially the two to close the 2nd and 4th quarter. The Chiefs had more than two minutes and multiple timeouts prior to the 2nd quarter interception. What coach in the NFL would squat on the ball there AFTER scoring on their previous possession? It was a bad read by Alex Smith, simple as that. The Jamaal Charles fumble in the closing seconds that ultimately decided the game was not Reid’s fault, either. I’ve seen thousands of NFL games in my life. Every coach would do the same in an identical situation. No one blinks an eye if Charles doesn’t fumble there. Outcomes in sports don’t necessarily change the correctness of a coach’s decision. (See Gregg Popovich, Game 6 2013 NBA Finals.)
While the Chiefs certainly contributed to their own demise, the Denver defense and Peyton Manning also deserve credit. The Denver defense was phenomenal, gifting Manning and the offense opportunities when the game appeared to be slipping away. Manning was clutch in his own right, too. The game-tying drive in the final minutes was vintage Manning, but so was the drive after Manning threw the pick-six. At that point it looked like Denver could get blown out. Instead, Manning marched the offense down the field to cut Kansas City’s lead in half.
Though Manning had his moments, he was again mostly awful. His arm looks shot. Bill Simmons made note of how Phil Simms and Jim Nantz refused to recognize Manning’s age/inability, and he was absolutely right. My favorite came on a missed 3rd down conversion when Manning sailed a pass six feet over Demaryius Thomas’ head. Simms opted to credit the defensive back with an exceptional play even though he was completed shielded from the football by Thomas. Well done, guys.
Lastly, Denver’s offensive line is shockingly bad. Fantasy owners of CJ Anderson were angry at Anderson’s performance these past two weeks, but goodness gracious, he had six inches of free space before two or three Chiefs were in the backfield Thursday night. Denver must run the ball to protect Manning. What we’ve seen the past two weeks is defenses stuff the run and then pin their ears back and attack Manning. Manning was never good under those conditions in his prime. He’s even worse now.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Texans at Panthers
Bill O’Brien gave Brian Hoyer 54 minutes before he’d seen enough. Now Ryan Mallett will get the start under center against the Panthers. Given how good the Panther defense is, it’ll be interesting to see if O’Brien goes back to Hoyer at some point Sunday or if he just rides out the next few weeks with Mallett. Note: It’s amazing how difficult it is to find 32 capable quarterbacks in a world of 7 billion people. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -3
49ers at Steelers
Though I picked them to win last week, the 49ers were the most surprising team of Week 1. San Francisco finally ran the offense they should have run last year: Pound the ground and move Colin Kaepernick around. Kaepernick looked better Monday than he did all of last season. Carlos Hyde, though only one game, looks like the prototypical NFL back. He’s strong enough to run over people and fast enough to run by them. I kind of want to pick the 49ers. Hurry, someone talk me out of this. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers +7
Buccaneers at Saints
Remember how the Buccaneers were the vogue NFC sleeper playoff team last season? The Bucs are 2-15 since those prognostications. Whoops. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +10
Lions at Vikings
Speaking of trendy playoff sleepers, someone should remind the Vikings that Adrian Peterson is back on the team this season. While they’re at it, someone should also remind Teddy Bridgewater that just because he wears #5 doesn’t mean he has to throw the football like Donovan McNabb. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -2
Cardinals at Bears
Forgive my ignorance, but I had no idea John Fox was head coach of the Chicago Bears this year. I’m not a big Fox guy, but it certainly increases my level of respect for the Bears when picking games. Fox’s teams, while never particularly great, are almost always competitive. (For the record, Fox’s Denver teams were great but I credit much of that success to Peyton Manning, not Fox.) BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears +2.5
Patriots at Bills
Three reasons the Bills are in trouble Sunday:
- Rob Gronkowski. Doesn’t matter how good your defense is, no one player can match up with and contain Gronkowski. I’m not even sure two players could do the job. He’s the most dominating offensive force in the league right now outside of the quarterback position.
- I’m expecting a much better Patriots team this week than the one we saw in Week 1. All the Deflategate mess has fizzled, the emotional boil has simmered and they’ve had 10 days to prepare.
- Pictures from the Bills practice facility indicate the Patriots may have an illegal advantage Sunday.
But seriously, it’ll be interesting to see how Tyrod Taylor performs Sunday after putting tape out there for the rest of the league to study, and more notably, Bill Belichick. I thought Taylor was perfect last week, or at least perfect for what the Bills are asking of him. He made plays, managed the offense, and most importantly, avoided major mistakes (turnovers). Did I mention Taylor did all that with little help from prized running back LeSean McCoy and no production from Sammy Watkins? I was impressed. I think Taylor raises Buffalo’s ceiling to an 11 win team. Of course, that’s only going off one week’s performance, but if he can replicate that on a weekly basis Buffalo’s defense will be more than enough to finish the season with double digit wins and maybe even a division title. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -1
Chargers at Bengals
Is the hoopla surrounding the vulnerability of a West Coast team traveling east for an early game still a thing? I haven’t seen or heard much about it in recent years. That used to be such a big deal, especially in gambling circles. I wonder if… A. Teams solved how to adjust or B. It was never a big deal in the first place and pundits just finally shut up about it. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +3.5
Titans at Browns
Marcus Mariota played very well in his NFL debut. He was poised. He was accurate. He also only threw the football 16 times and benefited from a TON of yards after the catch. While none of that is his fault, it’s important to keep in mind so we don’t go too crazy when Mariota has a rough outing. BROWNS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns +2.5
Falcons at Giants
I’ve been afraid to pick most of the early games this week. It’s so difficult to sift through what was real from Week 1 and what was a fluke. I mean, I’m always guessing when picking games, but weeks like this I’m really guessing. This matchup is the scariest of the week. Have the Giants recovered from such a devastating loss? Were the Giants beating an NFC playoff team prior to the collapse or are the Cowboys not good? Did the Falcons benefit from the Eagles sputtering out of the gates or were they mostly responsible for Philadelphia’s struggles? GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -3
Rams at Redskins
I think we’ll learn a lot about the Rams Sunday. A team taking that “next step” pummels the Redskins and moves on. A team too happy with itself for taking out the division rival and two-time defending NFC Champs will struggle with a depleted and dysfunctional Washington team. As I mentioned last week, I think St. Louis finally makes the leap this year, but my confidence isn’t overwhelming. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams -3.5
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Dolphins at Jaguars
I’m fine if Florida wants to keep this matchup all to itself. Really, it’s no problem at all. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins -6.5
Ravens at Raiders
I love Steve Smith. He’s one of my favorite players of the 2000s. But he can’t be your top receiving threat at this point in his career. That’s not fair to him or your quarterback. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -7
Cowboys at Eagles
The Eagles have to win this game, not because their season is on the line or because they have something to prove. They must win simply because Dallas is so depleted. No Dez Bryant. No Orlando Scandrick. No Greg Hardy. No proven run game. Sunday is essentially Tony Romo vs. the Eagles. There are no excuses. I don’t care if it’s a 3-0 win or a 56-55 win. It just needs to be a win. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -5
Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)
Seahawks at Packers
Kam Chancellor is beyond excited for this matchup. Though, he’s probably cursed Jordy Nelson’s knee injury at least a handful of times this week. With a healthy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers could have really made Seattle miss Chancellor. By the way, if reports are true that the Seahawks and Chancellor are only $900k apart, what’s stopping Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas from solving this thing? It’s easy. Sherman and Thomas ask both Chancellor and the Seahawks to concede $250k. Now they’re $400k apart. Thomas and Sherman both give back $200k to the Seahawks to pay Chancellor, because after Sunday night, an 0-2 start and more losing on the horizon is more painful than losing $200k. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3.5
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Jets at Colts
I live near too many Buffalo fans. While playing basketball last Sunday night, someone tried to tell me how overrated Andrew Luck was and that he’s not even that good. Someone got footage of my response.
COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -7
If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 11 – 4 – 1
Last Season: 139 – 113 – 3