This week two teams played in Minnesota, and then there were the Vikings. The game played out like a sports movie, where the team was being dominated, there was an emotional halftime speech, and the team came back to win. This is no movie, however, it has instead been the M.O. of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers moving into a second season, and it is frustrating. All I could think during the first half was "We're better than this." Turns out we were much better, but the way the Bucs have been playing so far this season, the only thing they've been putting a beating on is my blood pressure.
Falling behind 17-0 to a QB on his third team in three seasons is unacceptable for a team with playoff aspirations. The fact that McNabb couldn't keep a starting job in Washington and then put up a whole 39 yards in week one, yet managed to lead the Vikings to a 17-point halftime lead is an appalling performance by the Buccaneers' defense, which was mitigated somewhat by their holding McNabb to 3 2nd-half points.
Luckily, the Bucs have Freeman, who led them to his 8th 4th-quarter comeback victory in his young career. LeGarrette Blount chipped in by turning in a highly effective 2nd-half, where he gained the majority of his yards and both touchdowns. Preston Parker also played a terrific game. While many were curious of the decision to keep him, Parker was extremely clutch during the game and had a 98-yard performance. Not bad for someone many thought wouldn't even make the final roster.
While the Bucs' come from behind victory was electrifying, it raises questions about the team's inability to start out strong. It is a worrying habit, because we won't be able to pull off that kind of comeback against very many opponents.
With our next game being against the Falcons, we need to be at our best. The Falcons defense seems somewhat improved, while their offense can sometimes put points up in a hurry. If the Bucs fall behind early, it may not be a whole they can climb out of.
Key to this game will be the play of the defense. If the front four can put some pressure on Matt Ryan without Coach Morris needing to resort to blitzes, it will allow the back seven to focus on shutting down Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. This will be a big task for the secondary, as Jones has the size and speed to be a serious matchup problem despite being a rookie, while White has been one of the best receivers in the league over the last few years. Add the fact that Turner is difficult to bring down and Gonzalez has been one of the best TEs in the league for years, and the defense will have its hands full.
Weekly Confidence Predictions
I am in a confidence pool this year, and decided as part of a weekly article I would add my picks for the week, as well as a short blurb about why and the numbers I assigned each team.
Jacksonville @ Carolina - Panthers, 6 points. This pick basically came down to the Jaguars choosing to play rookie Blaine Gabbert over journeyman Luke McCown. While McCown has been underwhelming, the Jags coaching staff obviously thought Gabbert required more time on the bench to pick up the system, which implies that he's not ready to play. Cam Newton on the other hand has been setting records since winning the starting job in training camp, and I don't see the Jaguars secondary slowing him down a whole lot.
Detroit @ Minnesota - Lions, 12 points. With the Vikings struggles so far this season, it is hard to see them beating a team that has won both its games in a convincing fashion. The weak Vikings offensive line is going to be hard-pressed to stop a ferocious Lions front four, while the Vikings defense is going to have to be at their best to slow the machine the Lions offense has been so far this season.
San Francisco @ Cincinatti - 49ers, 2 points. I feel no confidence in either team. This pick came down to choosing the best of the worst, and give me the veteran Alex Smith and the Niners running game over the rookie Dalton.
Miami @ Cleveland - Browns, 7 points. This was not a difficult decision to reach. Miami has looked out of sync so far this season, even during the New England game when Henne put up some big numbers. Sometimes the stats lie, because that game was never as close as the score indicated, and the Dolphins weren't nearly as good as their stats swear. The Browns on the other hand, have been putting together an efficient first two games and Colt McCoy is looking like a good long-term answer for their QB woes.
New England @ Buffalo - Patriots, 13 points. The Patriots offense has been a machine the first two games of the season, and I don't see the Bills defense being able to change that. This has the smell of the Patriots week 1 game, because while both teams should put up some good offense and a lot of points, I see the Patriots being capable of stopping the Bills on occasion while the odds of the Bills doing the same are roughly the same as being able to fly to the moon by putting your head between your legs and spitting at the ground.
New York Giants @ Philadelphia - Eagles, 3 points. My confidence in the Eagles would skyrocket if I were to know for sure that Vick would play, and play well, but his concussion suffered last week worries me. If Mike Kafka has to play instead, I still believe the Eagles will win but it will be a much closer game. On the other side of the field, the Giants have been wracked by injury after injury. I'm surprised they can still field a team, let alone a competitive one.
Denver @ Tennessee - Broncos, 8 points. While the Titans managed to surprise the Ravens last week, I don't see them being able to do that to the Broncos. I'll take Kyle Orton and his offense over the struggling Chris Johnson (less than 3 YPC so far this season) for the week.
Houston @ New Orleans - Texans, 9 points. The Saints' offense doesn't seem to have missed a beat, but their defense is getting the kind of pressure and turnovers that proved critical during their Super Bowl year. The Texans also have a high-powered offense, and their defense has been much stronger this season with Wade Phillips' new scheme already having netted Mario Williams 2 sacks and plenty of QB pressures despite worries he wouldn't quickly adjust to playing OLB.
New York Jets @ Oakland - Jets, 10 points. Oddly enough, the Jets have had issues running the ball so far this season, but I can't see the Raiders offense being able to do much against that solid Jets defense. The Jets have been forcing mistakes both weeks, and their defense absolutely pounded the Jaguars last week. I expect more of the same.
Baltimore @ St. Louis - Ravens, 15 points. The Ravens were caught with their pants down last week, drained by their emotional win over the Steelers the previous week. I foresee them taking their frustration out on the Rams, who struggled to do anything offensively with Steven Jackson sidelined.
Kansas City @ San Diego - Chargers, 14 points. The Chargers offense has been pretty solid so far this season, while the Chiefs have been inept on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs have scored 10 points in 2 weeks, and allowed 89. That's not a good formula against the Chargers, who look to keep that trend going.
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay - Buccaneers, 1 point. The Bucs' tendency to start off slow could hurt them this game, as the Atlanta offense and defense is much better than the Vikings, but I think Josh "Captain Comeback" Freeman and his youngry co-stars find a way to pull it out.
Arizona @ Seattle - Cardinals, 11 points. The Seahawks offensive line suffered another blow this week, finding out that FA acquisition Robert Gallery is going to miss a few weeks with an injury. A line that already struggled to protect the struggling Tarvares Jackson isn't likely to do better with its new anchor at LG. The Cardinals offense has been much better than anticipated, with Beanie Wells finally beginning to play to expectations. I don't see the Seattle defense being able to stop them enough to give Jackson a chance to put things together.
Green Bay @ Chicago - Packers, 4 points. The Packers high-powered offense meets a Chicago defense that has the potential for an inspired performance. After failing to hold New Orleans back, look for the Bears to put forth a much better effort on defense. It's the Bears offensive line that worries me though, as injuries have hit them hard, and they were already leaky before this. Look for Clay Matthews to be in the backfield so often you'll swear he's lining up as the Bears RB.
Pittsburg @ Indianapolis - Steelers, 16 points. It's hard to see any positives for the Colts in this game. A stifling Steelers defense should pound poor Kerry Collins, while the Colts defense will need to play like the old Steel Curtain for the Colts to have a chance in this game.
Washington @ Dallas - Cowboys, 5 points. The Redskins have started 2-0 so far this year, but I expect that to end in the Jerrydome. Romo gutted out a great comeback win last week, stupidly re-entering the game with busted ribs and a punctured lung, in a moment reminiscent of an ancient gladiator. The Cowboys defense should be able to make the Bad Rex show up to the game and force him into costly mistakes. If Good Rex shows up though, all bets are off.