If it were match play (and maybe it should be), I’d be up one hole with 16 to play. It’s officially stroke play, and I emerged from Week One with a one-shot lead, 11-5 to 10-6.
This week, we disagree on only one of 16 games. We’ll let you read through the picks and the analysis to see who we like, and where we differ.
Barring a tie in that one game on which we disagree, we’ll either be tied or I’ll be up two games with one-eighth of the season in the books. Which one of you care about, but which MDS and I care about in an unhealthy way.
Broncos at Chiefs
MDS’s take: With Peyton Manning’s arm no longer what it once was, he should look across the field to Alex Smith to see how to be an effective quarterback without great arm strength. Smith has shown that you can be a winning quarterback in the NFL on the strength of your brain, not your arm. I think Manning can be that kind of quarterback, too, but it’s going to take some time to adjust, and during that adjustment period the Chiefs are going to surge ahead of the Broncos in the AFC West.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 24, Broncos 17.
Florio’s take: It’s fitting in the year that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the ’85 Bears that the pendulum is swinging back to defensive football. The Chiefs have enough defense — and enough offense — to outscore a 39-year-old quarterback who already is being outscored by Father Time.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Broncos 20.
Patriots at Bills
MDS’s take: The Bills made a major statement on Sunday that the AFC East isn’t the walk in the park for the Patriots that it once was. And yet I think the Patriots made an even bigger statement when they beat up on the Steelers in the Thursday opener: New England still stands as the best team in the NFL and will win a tough one in Buffalo.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 16, Bills 13.
Florio’s take: With all the talk on how the Bills will deal with Rob Gronkowski, the bigger question is whether Tyrod Taylor can deal with the New England defense. More specifically, can offensive coordinator Greg Roman crack Bill Belichick’s code? Roman did it three years ago with the 49ers on a Sunday night in Foxboro, and Belichick surely remembers that well. Look for Belichick to figure out what Roman did in 2012 and to take that away in 2015.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 20, Bills 17.
Texans at Panthers
MDS’s take: Bill O’Brien won’t name his quarterback until Sunday, but Ryan Mallett will apparently get the nod. I think he’ll struggle against the Panthers. Carolina will win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 14, Texans 10.
Florio’s take: The revolving door already is spinning in Houston, and Ryan Mallett could end up back on the bench during his encounter with a Carolina defense that looked stouter than expected in Week One.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 23, Texans 17.
Cardinals at Bears
MDS’s take: The Bears gave the Packers a tougher test than most expected on Sunday, and Chicago may be a better team than most of us thought. But the Cardinals continue to show that when Carson Palmer is healthy, they’re one of the elite teams in the entire league. Arizona will win on the road and improve to 2-0.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 24, Bears 14.
Florio’s take: The Bears could have hired Bruce Arians in 2013. He hasn’t forgotten that. Bears fans won’t either after Sunday when the team that used to play in Chicago returns.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 27, Bears 17.
Chargers at Bengals
MDS’s take: Both of these teams looked like AFC playoff contenders in Week One, and this has the feel of one of those early-season games that ends up affecting playoff seeding in 15 weeks. I like the Bengals’ defense to do a better job against Philip Rivers & Co. than the Lions’ defense did, and Cincinnati to win.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Chargers 20.
Florio’s take: The Chargers return to Cincinnati for the first time since the 2013 postseason, when San Diego thumped the Bengals. This time around, the Bengals are poised to do the thumping, with a defense that can slow down Philip Rivers and company and an offense that can put up enough points.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, Chargers 20.
Titans at Browns
MDS’s take: The Titans looked great in Week One and the Browns looked terrible. Sometimes there’s a temptation to pick a course correction in a Week Two game like this, but I don’t think so. Marcus Mariota will have another good game and the Titans will win.
MDS’s pick: Titans 28, Browns 17.
Florio’s take: The Browns reportedly were interested in getting Marcus Mariota. They’ll now get a close look at him. They may regret not doing whatever they had to do to get him.
Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Browns 17.
Lions at Vikings
MDS’s take: Both of these teams disappointed in Week One, but the Vikings’ problems looked more correctable. The Lions’ problem is that they just don’t have the personnel on defense, and that means Teddy Bridgewater will come back nicely from his bad game against the 49ers.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 27, Lions 21.
Florio’s take: The Vikings limp home after getting their butts kicked 20-3 in San Francisco. The Lions limp to Minnesota after blowing a 21-3 lead. The edge in this battle of limping, butt-kicked teams goes to the host.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 20, Lions 17.
Buccaneers at Saints
MDS’s take: This is probably the easiest pick on the board. The Bucs were the worst team in the NFL last year, and after Week One they look like the worst team in the NFL this year, too.
MDS’s pick: Saints 35, Buccaneers 14.
Florio’s take: Three years ago, the Saints opened their home slate with an unexpected coming-out party for RGIII. Lightning won’t be striking a second time for Jameis Winston.
Florio’s pick: Saints 24, Buccaneers 15.
Falcons at Giants
MDS’s take: The Giants suffered a heartbreaking loss while the Falcons took a nail-biting win in Week One. In Week Two, it’s the Falcons who will come away disappointed, as the Giants correct some of their offensive problems and put a hurting on the Falcons’ secondary.
MDS’s pick: Giants 28, Falcons 20.
Florio’s take: The Falcons last won in New York during Tom Coughlin’s first year as the Giants coach. In Dan Quinn’s first year as the Atlanta coach, maybe it’s time to do it again. Especially as the Giants try to recover from a squandered road win against the Cowboys and a week of dysfunction better suited to the other team in the stadium.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 24, Giants 20.
49ers at Steelers
MDS’s take: I was impressed with the way Jim Tomsula had his 49ers ready to play on Monday night, but I have a feeling we’re going to look back on this 49ers season and say Week One was the high point. The Steelers should win this one comfortably.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 31, 49ers 17.
Florio’s take: They have 11 Lombardis between them, but no one expects either team to seriously contend for another in 2015. New 49ers coach Jim Tomsula grew up in Western Pennsylvania, and he’s surely seen plenty of these Steelers home games that are plodding and methodical and smothering of the opposition. As long as the Steelers cover Vernon Davis.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 20, 49ers 13.
Rams at Washington
MDS’s take: The Rams’ defensive line is ferocious and will pressure Kirk Cousins into at least a couple of turnovers. Another quarterback controversy may be coming in Washington.
MDS’s pick: Rams 27, Washington 10.
Florio’s take: The Rams hoped to dominate with the picks acquired from Washington in the RG3 trade. They may not be ready to dominate the rest of the league, but they’re ready to dominate Washington, again.
Florio’s pick: Rams 27, Washington 10.
Dolphins at Jaguars
MDS’s take: Blake Bortles needs to get a lot better for the Jaguars, and so far I just don’t see it happening. The Dolphins’ defense will turn in a big game and improve Miami to 2-0.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jaguars 6.
Florio’s take: Quarterback Blake Bortles says that fans who question play calls are like kindergartners questioning college students. And Sunday’s game could look like college students playing grown-ass men.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Jaguars 14.
Ravens at Raiders
MDS’s take: Nothing gets a team turned around after a rough start like a trip to Oakland. The Ravens didn’t play well in Week One, but they’re just a much better football team than the Raiders, who still have a lot of work to do.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 30, Raiders 17.
Florio’s take: The Ravens may not be as good as we thought they’d be. The Raiders definitely aren’t.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 27, Raiders 14.
Cowboys at Eagles
MDS’s take: This is about as close as it gets to a must-win game in Week Two for the Eagles: Lose, and Philadelphia falls two games behind Dallas already. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, I think their offense will struggle without Dez Bryant, and their secondary will struggle with the fast-paced attack of the Eagles. Philadelphia wins this one comfortably.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 16.
Florio’s take: There’s no such thing as a must-win game in the middle of September. For any team with designs on winning a division title, however, a visit from the defending division champion really is a must-win, because losing sets the stage for being swept. With Dez Bryant out, that task becomes easier.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Cowboys 24.
Seahawks at Packers
MDS’s take: Green Bay blew a golden opportunity to beat the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, but they won’t blow their chance to show they’re the best team in the NFC this year. Aaron Rodgers will have a big game against a Seahawks defense that misses holdout safety Kam Chancellor.
MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Seahawks 20.
Florio’s take: The Packers claim they’re not thinking about the NFC title game. The truth could be that they’re just not talking about it in order to avoid stirring up nest of Seahawks. Either way, the Packers get redemption — even if they say they’re not looking for it.
Florio’s pick: Packers 24, Seahawks 20.
Jets at Colts
MDS’s take: The Colts aren’t as bad as they looked against the Bills. The Jets aren’t as good as they looked against the Browns. Look for Andrew Luck to put up big numbers against the Jets.
MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Jets 21.
Florio’s take: Joe Namath knows not to guarantee a Jets win in this rematch of Super Bowl III.
Florio’s pick: Colts 30, Jets 20.