During the season, extra rest before a game is considered an invaluable edge. Thus, it’s a popular custom to wager on teams coming off byes and/or the previous week’s Thursday game.
But over the past eight seasons, that benefit apparently doesn’t apply to the teams that played in the high-profile season opener featuring the defending Super Bowl champion.
Since 2005, squads rebounding from this showcase game have gone 3-12-1 against the line the next week, perhaps in part because of a letdown of sorts the teams suffer after having pointed toward the opener since the schedule was announced.
Thus, beware of taking the Ravens and Broncos this week.
One more thing: Wet weather is forecast around the country. Games in Green Bay, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Kansas City could be affected.
Now for a closer look at this weekend’s games:
PRO FOOTBALL - SUNDAY, SEPT. 15
San Diego Chargers (0-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Eagles by 7 (55 total)
Facts: A big deal was made about Chip Kelly’s Eagles running 77 plays in last Monday in Week 1. But that’s 11 fewer than Philly had in its 2012 opener at Cleveland... San Diego also is working on short rest after blowing a 28-7 second-half lead in a 31-28 loss to Houston last week… In 2011-12, teams were 8-4 ATS rebounding from defeats in which they squandering a lead of 17-plus points... Philly was 3-13 ATS in 2012, matching the worst mark for a team in a non-strike season dating to 1976. The last two teams coming off such a lousy year (Ravens 2008, Rams 2012) at least tied for the league’s best ATS mark the next season.
Analysis: San Diego faces a bevy of hurdles entering this game. Not only are they working on short rest for the first time with rookie coach Mike McCoy, but have to travel across three times zones for an early Sunday game. Since 2006, the Chargers are 1-7 in that time frame back East. Also, there probably aren’t enough hours in a normal week to prepare for the fast-paced Eagles, so the abbreviated week is trouble. Not to mention the fact the Eagles know San Diego went the final 25 minutes of their meltdown without a first down. Maybe the Chargers will just punt this week and start fresh in Week 3.
Forecast: Eagles 35, Chargers 17
Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (0-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Ravens by 6 (43½)
Facts: Ravens have won 10 in a row in the series, going 7-3 ATS… The Browns, who had the third-worst third-down conversion rate last season, were 1-for-14 vs. Miami last week… After leading the Broncos 17-14 at the half, the Ravens had 6 yards on their first three second-half drives. In that stretch, Denver scored 21 points… Cleveland had a 17-play drive last week vs. Miami, the longest by any team in Week 1. But it stalled on downs…If the Browns win to get to .500 at 1-1, it will match their fastest start since being reborn in 1999... Cleveland threw a scare into the Ravens at Baltimore last year, losing only 23-16 as a 12-point underdog.
Analysis: Cleveland RB Trent Richardson was quite vocal about his puny workload last week. Considering rookie Browns coach Rob Chudzinski used to mismanage Carolina’s offense as offensive coordinator, it wasn’t a total surprise. Maybe, just maybe, he learned his lesson. Plus, Cleveland LB Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick of the 2013 draft, gets to make his debut after sitting out with a bruised lung. Baltimore, meanwhile, could be facing big problems now that QB Joe Flacco apparently has lost his playoff magic and the Ravens’ secondary lapsed into mediocrity. The hungrier team could well be Cleveland – even on the road.
Forecast: Browns 24, Ravens 21
Tennessee Titans (1-0) at Houston Texans (1-0)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Texans by 9½ (43)
Facts: Tennessee had a 40-19 edge in average starting field position against the Steelers in their 16-7 victory last week in Pittsburgh, the greatest discrepancy among any teams in Week 1… During one midgame stretch, the Titans ran 52 plays to Pittsburgh’s 19… In Houston’s comeback from a 28-7 deficit in San Diego on MNF, the Texans held the Chargers to 10 net yards on their final five possessions, getting four 3-and-outs and a pick-six… The Texans get back DE Antonio Smith from a three-game suspension since waylaying a Dolphins lineman with his Miami helmet.
Analysis: QB Jake Locker gets credit for leading the Titans to that big win last week, but the team had only 229 yards of total offense, the third lowest total among all offenses last week. And, if he’s got a good memory, he might recall that in his start against the Texans last December, he was sacked six times and pitched three INTs. And, sure, the Titans held Pittsburgh to 195 yards, but their backfield was stripped thin and the Steelers lost their center (knee). On offense, Houston will be rushing the potent combo of Ben Tate and Arian Foster at them all day. And neither of those guys are content sharing the load.
Forecast: Texans 27, Titans 13
Miami Dolphins (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (1-0)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Colts by 2 (43)
Facts: Miami is trying to become the first team to open a season with back-to-back road victories as an underdog since the 1991 Cardinals… The Dolphins beat Cleveland 23-10 last week despite totaling only 20 yards on 23 rushes, only the second team the past three seasons to win with a norm less than 1 yard a carry… Indy overcame Oakland last week 21-17 despite having an average starting field position of its 19. Last season, teams were 3-30-1 when their launch-point norm was inside the 20. Incredibly, Miami had two of the wins, both times with an average of its 17... Indy RB Vick Ballard, last year’s leading rusher, is out for the year afte injury a knee Thursday. Donald Brown is listed at No. 2.
Analysis: Last year when these teams me in Indy, the Colts won 23-20 in Week 9 with QB Andrew Luck throwing for a season-high 433 yards and the team also topping out at 516 yards. Indianapolis’ biggest chore this time will be protecting Luck, who was dropped four times last week against an Oakland defensive front that doesn’t have players as talented as Miami DE Cameron Wake and rookie OLB Dion Jordan. But until Miami shows a running game (RB Lamar Miller had 3 yards on 10 carries), Ryan Tannehill can’t drag this team on his back.
Forecast: Colts 21, Dolphins 13
Carolina Panthers (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Panthers by 3 (43½)
Facts: In two-plus seasons, Carolina’s Cam Newton has had four games in which he completed fewer than half his passes. One came in last year’s finale, another last week… Buffalo had only one drive longer than 37 yards last week in a 23-21 home loss to New England in EJ Manuel’s debut at QB… Dating to 2007, the Bills are 0-5 ATS and SU the week after playing host to the Patriots, being outscored by an average of 25.8 points. ... The Bills will be playing in front of some of the best players in Buffalo history, for the team will be conducting a special Wall of Fame ceremony.
Analysis: Both teams suffered narrow losses to playoff teams in front of the home crowd in Week 1, but Carolina’s close loss (12-7) might have been somewhat morale-building since the powerful Seahawks were largely at full strength. And if the Panthers could hold Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to one TD and 12 points, they should do well against a quarterback of much lesser stature. On the other side, Carolina’s Newton can’t help but feel more comfortable in the pocket throwing against a depleted Bills secondary that’s a significant drop in class from Seattle’s.
Forecast: Panthers 31, Bills 19
St. Louis Rams (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Falcons by 6 (47)
Facts: Ominous news for Falcons: Over the previous three years, teams are 10-33-1 ATS the week after facing the Saints… Last week, the Rams started possessions at the Arizona 4 and 22, but had a net of minus 1 yard and kicked two FGs… St. Louis’ four sacks against Arizona were five fewer than they had in last year’s 17-3 victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis… Falcons RB Steven Jackson will be going against his ex-team, for whom he had eight straight 1,000-yard seasons. He had 77 yards on 11 bulldozing carries against New Orleans last week and added five catches for 45 yards... Atlanta WR Roddy White, however, is questionable (ankle).
Analysis: Atlanta’s 23-17 loss in New Orleans in no way takes the Falcons out of the conversation of the best teams in the NFC. In fact, it was only a Saints fingertip on a Matt Ryan pass into the end zone in the final seconds that kept Atlanta from opening 1-0. And St. Louis didn’t exactly prove it was championship timber by needing a desperation rally to overcome an 11-point Cardinals lead in the fourth quarter. And how good can that Rams defense be by allowing an Arizona team that had the fewest first downs in the league last year to get 25 last Sunday, its most since Kurt Warner was QB in 2009.
Forecast: Falcons 38, Rams 21
Washington Redskins (0-1) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Packers by 7 (50)
Facts: The Packers have gone a league-high 44 straight games without a 100-yard rusher. Washington, meanwhile, gave up a Week 1-high 184 ground yards last week to Philly’s LeSean McCoy and 263 overall on 49 carries… In their meeting three seasons ago in D.C., the Redskins beat the eventual league champions 16-13 in overtime. Since 2010, Washington is 4-0 against that year’s Super champ, including a sweep of the Giants in 2011. Against the rest of the league in that span, the Redskins are 17-29… The Packers did puncture San Fran’s rugged defense for four TDs last week, but their five three-and-outs tied for their second most the past three years.
Analysis: There’s two ways to look at the performance of Washington QB Robert Griffin III last week. He looked stiff and rusty after not playing all summer; or he played like gangbusters in a comeback attempt, directing 22 first downs in the second half. But they came against a yielding Eagles defense that was protecting a 33-7 lead. For sure RG3 wasn’t his old self, running only five times for 24 yards. So Green Bay’s preparation for San Fran’s Colin Kaepernick all summer should come in handy here. Also, Packers rookie RB Eddie Lacy should be able to fine running room against an aging Redskins defense.
Forecast: Packers 30, Redskins 16
Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
Time: 1 p.m. PST
Line: Chiefs by 3 (46½)
Facts: Last Sunday night, high-fives poured in for Dallas DC Monte Kiffin, whose unit scored twice on returns and forced six turnovers in a 36-31 win over the Giants. But NY had four TD drives of 80-plus yards, matching the most by anyone the past seven years… KC’s six sacks in a 28-2 win in Jacksonville last week were its most since getting seven against St. Louis in 2002. The Chiefs also held the Jags to a Week 1-low 178 yards… The last time these teams met, in KC in 2009, Dallas WR Miles Austin had his breakout game with a league season-high 250 yards on 10 catches… Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles is nursing a bruised quad.
Analysis: Arrowhead Stadium supposedly is a difficult place to play for visitors, but the numbers don’t bear this out. Dating to 2007, the Chiefs are 3-14 ATS as a home favorite and a stupendously horrid 5-12 straight up, including three losses of 21 points or more. And, guess which franchise has lost its last four home playoff games? The Chiefs. That’s a league record. In addition, wet weather forecast is forecast for the area, and since Chiefs QB Alex Smith famously has relatively small hands, that could make ball- handling dicey. Ex-Dallas QB Troy Aikman also had small hands and said he struggled mightily in the rain.
Forecast: Cowboys 24, Chiefs 14
Minnesota Vikings (0-1) at Chicago Bears (1-0)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Bears by 6 (42)
Facts: Although Vikings RB Adrian Peterson had 93 yards on 18 carries last week in Detroit, he had only 17 on his final 15 rushes. That total is his worst since Week 2 last season… The Bears started rookies on the right side at OG and OT yet still didn’t yield a sack against Cincinnati. Last year Chicago had only two sackless games… The Vikes broke a six-game losing streak in the series with a 21-14 home win in Week 14 last year… Peterson gained 262 yards on 49 carries for a 5.3 average in two games vs. Chicago in 2012. By contrast, QB Christian Ponder passed 60 times for 250 yards, which is a 4.2-yard norm.
Analysis: Since Chicago managed 24 points last week against Cincinnati while playing a conservative offense that stressed optimum protection for QB Jay Cutler, there seems to be no need to stray from such a successful recipe against DE Jared Allen and Minnesota. And considering the Vikings didn’t get to Detroit’s Matt Stafford last week on 43 throws, Cutler should fare well again. And so should RB Matt Forte, who saw Lions RB Reggie Bush gore Minnesota for 191 yards from scrimmage.
Forecast: Bears 34, Vikings 17
New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Saints by 3 (47½)
Facts: FYI: Despite what TV folks have been saying, the Saints didn’t have the worst defense in NFL history last year. They gave up 440.1 yards a game, but that was topped by the 1950 Baltimore Colts, who yielded 450.2 in a 12-game season… Tampa Bay’s biggest loss last season was 41-0 in New Orleans, the only time since 2002 a team that finished last in total defense pitched a shutout… Drew Brees had 357 passing yards last week against Atlanta. In the Saints’ first 13 years, no one reached that number… The Bucs had a league-high 13 infractions marched off against them last week. In 2012, that number was exceeded only seven times.
Analysis: Weather could play a big role, with thunderstorms forecast and the temp about 90. That heat could play a pivotal role if the Saints’ short-handed defensive line corps starts dragging in the second half. On the Tampa Bay side, no doubt the Bucs have been disappointed with QB Josh Freeman on the field and off (missing a team picture), but he should be able to be trusted handing off to second-year RB Doug Martin, who rushed for 1,454 yards and had 472 more receiving last year. Plus, 6-foot-5 Vincent Jackson should flourish against a Saints secondary that lists two starters and a key backup questionable.
Forecast: Buccaneers 28, Saints 20
Detroit Lions (1-0) at Arizona Cardinals (0-1)
Time: 1:05 p.m. PST
Line: Lions by 1½ (48)
Facts: Last season Arizona beat Detroit 38-10 as a 5½-point home dog. Perhaps the Cardinals had a little extra motivation coming off its humiliating 58-0 loss in Seattle the week before. That’s Arizona’s only win its past 13 games… The Lions’ Reggie Bush rushed for 90 yards last week in the victory vs. Minnesota. Not bad for a team that hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher in a league-high eight straight years… Arizona had a pair of 80-yard TD drives at St. Louis last week and are halfway to their 2012 total of four, which was the fewest by any team.
Analysis: Last year’s Arizona victory was a pure aberration. Not only were the Cardinals rebounding from one of the worst defeats in league history, but Detroit was coming off a demoralizing loss at Green Bay in Week 13 that took the stuffing out of them the rest of the season. Now, the Lions are coming off a glorious comeback against Minnesota and should be able to flummox Arizona’s line. Especially OLT Levi Brown, who gave up three sacks to St. Louis last week. Perhaps most distressing of all for Arizona and QB Carson Palmer is the fact standout WR Larry Fitzgerald is questionable with a hamstring injury. Ditto for RB Rashard Mendenhall.
Forecast: Lions 28, Cardinals 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-1)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PST
Line: Raiders by 5 (39½)
Facts: The Raiders haven’t been this big of a favorite since the last time Jacksonville visited, in Week 7 last season, when Oakland was a six-point choice and won, 26-23… Jaguars QB Chad Henne gets to replace injured Blaine Gabbert (hand). Henne had a career day the last he stepped in as a starter, throwing for four TDs without an INT at Houston last year. Alas, he finished out the season with 10 INTs and only six more TD throws… Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor directed a spread-beating 21-17 loss at Indy last week, but his 70.6 passer rating was the sixth worst among Week 1 starters. The lousiest mark was by Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert (30.8).
Analysis: The Jaguars might be worth a look, but probably not with leading receiver Justin Blackmon suspended, TE Marcedes Lewis likely out with a calf injury and acrobatic WR Cecil Shorts nursing a groin injury. After all, RB Maurice Jones-Drew can’t do it all, and he proved it last week in the lopsided home loss to Kansas City. Oakland, meanwhile, is excited about Pryor, especially how he ran for 112 yards last week and kept the Raiders in the game at Indy till the end. And the Raiders’ defense hounded the Colts’ Andrew Luck, so maybe they’ll have good luck against a line that yielded six sacks last week.
Forecast: Raiders 20, Jaguars 10
Denver Broncos (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PST
Line: Broncos by 4½ (55½)
Facts: Denver QB Peyton Manning, who had a record-tying seven TD throws last week against Baltimore, will be looking for the career hat trick against brother Eli when the Broncos face the Giants. Peyton won twice previously while a member of the Colts... Eli’s Giants didn’t pick up where they left off last year. In the finale against the Eagles, they had TD drives their first four possessions. Last week, they had turnovers on their first three en route to a 36-31 loss in Dallas… New York RB David Wilson was the only player in the league to lose two fumbles in Week 1, which prompted the Giants to re-sign one of their former Super standouts, RB Brandon Jacobs.
Analysis: There’s a desperation factor that could play a significant role in this game. Eli wants to break through and beat his older brother in the worst way. Plus, Tom Coughlin has been harping that the Giants already are 0-1 and cant’ risk falling two games off the pace in the NFC East even before summer is out. And although the Broncos looked unstoppable last week against Baltimore, the Ravens are a shell of themselves from their 2012 season playoff run. This game sets up well for a hungry New York squad.
Forecast: Giants 31, Broncos 28
San Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Seattle Seahwaks (1-0)
Time: 5:30 p.m. PST
Line: Seahawks by 3 (44½)
Facts: Seattle was the only team not to lose by double digits last year, with its biggest loss 13-6 in San Fran. Two years earlier, though, in a division-winning season, all 10 of the Seahawks’ losses were by at least 10 points… Last year’s meeting in Seattle resulted in a 42-13 win for the Seahawks, with then-rookie QB Russell Wilson throwing for a season-high four TDs… Seattle DE Cliff Avril, who had 9.5 sacks for Detroit last year, will likely be back after sitting out last week with a hamstring injury... SF receiver Anquan Boldin, who was targeted a league-high 17 times last week, had a Week 1-best 208 yards receiving on 13 catches against Green Bay.
Analysis: The 49ers had a league-high four false starts last week – and that was in a home game. So how are they going to operate successfully this week while Seahawks fans try to set a Guinness Book record for having the loudest stadium in the world? It will be interesting to see if 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick can have another 400-yard passing game against a secondary filled with Pro Bowlers as opposed to the porous Packer unithe faced. Plus, SF seems reluctant to let Kaepernick loose with a full-fledged read-option attack. Looks good for Seattle.
Forecast: Seahawks 27, 49ers 20
PRO FOOTBALL - MONDAY, SEPT. 16
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
Time: 5:40 p.m. PST
Line: Bengals by 7 (41)
Facts: There were three 90-plus-yard touchdowns drives in the league last week, with Cincinnati having two of them (91, 97) against Chicago, which had the league’s No. 5 defense in 2012… Pittsburgh’s 32 rushing yards were its fewest since it totaled 26 in 2006 at Jacksonville in a 9-0 MNF loss… Cincinnati blew an 11-point second-half lead last week in its loss at Chicago. It was the Bengals’ biggest collapse since squandering a 14-3 edge vs. visiting Pittsburgh last year in a 24-17 loss… Game-breaking Bengals WR A.J. Green had 162 yards receiving against the Bears, a total second only to SF’s Boldin last week.
Analysis: On the surface, it looks like a runaway for the Bengals, playing at home in prime time against a ravaged Steelers squad that just lost the anchor to its line (center Maurkice Pouncey, knee) and still will be without standout rookie RB Le’veon Bell (out). But the hunch here is that coach Mike Tomlin will rally the troops, no matter who shows up. And it’s not like the Steelers don’t have a defense, for they held Tennessee to 229 yards last week. Plus, Pittsburgh is 11-1 in Cincinnati since 2002. That counts for something.
Forecast: Steelers 24, Bengals 20
Last week/season total: 7-7-2 ATS (.500); 9-7 SU (.563)
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].