Two weeks into the 2008 season and already there are teams that have been pleasant surprises and major disappointments.
Of course it’s still early but with a short 16 game schedule, each game is huge in terms of a team’s chances of making the playoffs.
The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants have yet to show signs of the well noted champions’ hangover as they’ve started 2-0 and have been in full control of both games.
Super Bowl runner-up New England is also perfect after two games although the offense has struggled with the loss of QB Tom Brady. The Pats have tallied just 36 points in defeating Kansas City and the New York Jets.
Surprise teams at 2-0 would have to include Buffalo, Carolina, Denver and Tennessee. Each has won a game outright as an underdog (although Denver was bet up to a 1 point favorite at many of the Las Vegas books this past Sunday against San Diego).
Arizona has also started 2-0 but the Cardinals were favored in each of their first two wins over San Francisco and Miami.
Three teams that made the playoffs last season are in early trouble after starting 0-2. Jacksonville, San Diego and Seattle are each yet to win this season after being favored in the pre season to again make the playoffs.
Of concern is the fact that each of these three teams has lost at home to a team that finished with a losing record last season. Things can change quickly in the NFL as we have seen in recent seasons so each of these teams faces crucial tests in this coming week.
Minnesota has also started 0-2 after being highly touted as dark horse contender in the NFC this season.
The Vikings host 2-0 Carolina this week and the Panthers get back WR Steve Smith who was suspended for the first two games after belting a teammate during training camp.
And then there are the pathetic teams that could make a lengthy run at imperfection and an 0-16 record. Both Cincinnati and St Louis have been awful thus far, especially the Rams.
St Louis has been outscored 79-16 in their first two games despite a roster that has much talent on offense.
A few other teams have started 0-2 but at least Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami and, to a certain extent Detroit, have been competitive.
Here’s a preview of the 16 games to be played this weekend:
Chiefs +4 at Falcons (35): The Falcons have run the football very well. The Chiefs have fared poorly in the ground game, which has usually been the strength of their offense. Still, it’s hard to lay more than a FG. CHIEFS.
Raiders +9 at Bills (37): Buffalo has been impressive in winning its first two games and the Raiders are not as good as either Seattle or Jacksonville. Still, asking the conservative Bills to win by a margin may be a bit too much. UNDER.
Texans +5 at Titans (38): Houston returns from an unscheduled bye week. The last five games between these teams have all been close and the rested Texans are much improved this season on both sides of the football. TEXANS.
Bengals +13 at Giants (42): Cincy remains the most dysfunctional team in the NFL. The Giants are playing with chemistry and confidence. The Bengals are doing anything but. GIANTS.
Cards +3 at Redskins (42): Arizona is unbeaten after two games for the first time in more than a decade and has the more talented roster. Washington is still getting used to its new offensive system and over 450 yards last week is evidence of progress. OVER.
Dolphins +12½ at Pats (35): QB Matt Cassel did a fine job of avoiding mistakes while executing a conservative game plan. Miami was overmatched in Arizona. Still, the Patriots have scored just 36 points in two games while gaining just 598 yards. UNDER.
Bucs +3 at Bears (35): Former Bears’ QB Brian Griese leads Tampa Bay into the Windy City for what handicaps as a low-scoring, physical football game. Four of the last five meetings between these teams went below the projected total. UNDER.
Panthers +3 at Vikings (37): The Panthers have the better QB, but the Vikings have the superior rushing game. The Vikes also have the better defense and face this game as critical to their hopes of having a very successful season. VIKINGS.
Rams +10 at Seahawks (44): The Rams seem to have perfected the prevent offense, gaining 367 yards over two games. The defense allowed 522 to the Eagles and 441 to the Giants. Despite the OT loss to the 49ers, Seattle is strong at home. OVER.
Lions +3½ at 49ers (44½): The Lions face their former offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The Niners have played well in both games this season and feature the much better ground game. The Lions also have the much weaker defense. 49ERS.
Saints +5½ at Broncos: Kudos to Denver coach Mike Shanahan for his decision to go for two because it worked! The Saints catch Denver off two divisional games to open the season and a third next week at KC. SAINTS.
Steelers +3 at Eagles (NT): In two wins the Steelers held Houston and Cleveland to a combined 128 rushing yards. The schedule dynamics favor the Steelers, but they have struggled on the road against good teams the past two seasons. EAGLES.
Jaguars +5 at Colts (42): QB Peyton Manning clearly is rusty after not playing a down in the preseason. Jacksonville QB David Garrard has already tossed three interceptions. This game should be played between the 20-yard lines. UNDER.
Browns +2 at Ravens (39): The Ravens ran for 229 yards, while holding the potentially potent Bengals offense to just 154. The Browns are dropping in class after hosting Dallas and Pittsburgh, but Baltimore’s defense is the equal of those first two foes. RAVENS.
Cowboys -3 at Packers (NT): QB Aaron Rodgers had a strong second half last year in Dallas, replacing an injured Brett Favre. The Green Bay offense looks very comfortable behind Rodgers. PACKERS.
Jets +9 at Chargers (43): The Monday Night Game. San Diego coach Norv Turner is not at as great a disadvantage here against Eric Mangini as he was against John Fox and Mike Shanahan. He has the more talented team. CHARGERS.