Last week's picks were a mess. But it was just the first week of the season. Teams have rust to shake off, even RGIII. Upsets happened. This week will be different. Teams have tape to study now. Expectations are higher. Narratives will gel, and we can all sit back and watch things play out exactly like we expected them to. Exactly.
So take these picks to your office survival pool, your bookie or the other lonely internet strangers in the online pick 'em you joined just to have some human connection.
I'm picking against the spread, as opposed to straight up winners.
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots (-13)
Talk about getting boxed into a corner. Obviously, the Patriots are going to win this one. Yes, I'm aware that there are circumstances that could reverse my assumed outcome. But until I see Tom Brady thrown into a parallel universe where Scott Pioli is a successful general manager, the Jets aren't winning this game. Covering a 13-point spread is another matter entirely, especially without Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen.
The pick: Jets
St. Louis Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons (-7)
Steven Jackson racked up 10,000+ rushing yards during his time as the only positive thing about the Rams franchise. Jackson and another future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez, have a pretty favorable matchup against a St. Louis defense that struggles with plays in the middle part of the field. On the other hand, Jeff Fisher could again lean on his defensive line to take advantage of suspect protection for Matt Ryan. The Falcons should win, but covering seven points against the Rams isn't as easy as it used to be.
The pick: Rams
Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens (-7)
You know the Ravens defense is going to play better than it did last week against Denver. There's just too much talent here, and they should feast on Brandon Weeden. On the other hand, Cleveland's defense isn't going to get pushed around. Stat of note: John Harbaugh is 10-0 against the Browns.
The pick: Ravens
Carolina Panthers (-3) vs. Buffalo Bills
Are the Panthers ever going to get someone competent to handle the offense? Mike Shula's unit threw three passes 10 or more yards down the field last week. Ron Rivera said it was too conservative, which is kind of an encouraging statement from a man about to be fired sometime in the next six months.
The pick: Bills
Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears (-6)
I'm buying the Bears right now. There's just enough cohesion to things there now. Jay Cutler has the nerdy mentor to find just enough Zen in his zero-f#%s-given attitude to make the offense tick. That and a good-enough offensive line, which by recent Bears standards is a big leap forward.
The pick: Bears
Washington Redskins vs. Green Bay Packers (-8)
The Packers may have figured out how to deal with running quarterbacks. Of course, it may not matter since Washington apparently had a court order not to let RGIII tuck the ball and carry it down the field himself. What kind of timeline is there for Operation Patience?
The pick: Packers
Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans (-10)
Jurrell Casey was no match for a Steelers offensive line without Maurkice Pouncey last week. He collected two sacks in a five-sack hammering of Ben Roethlisberger and a Pittsburgh offense that could barely move the chains all day (seven punts, two turnovers on 11 total drives). Houston's not as decrepit as Pittsburgh, and had little trouble rallying from behind to beat the Chargers. That's another big spread. I don't like picking against it, but the Houston defense means Jake Locker will have to contribute for the Titans to have a shot.
The pick: Texans
Miami Dolphins vs. Indianapolis Colts (-3)
Jim Irsay demands *hiccup* better protection for his quarterback. He'll need it this week, too. The Raiders defense -- THE RAIDERS DEFENSE -- sacked Andrew Luck four times last week. Imagine what Miami can do with Cameron Wake, Dion Jordan, et al on defense. I hate to pick against another game-winning drive from Luck, but Miami has the front seven to prevent it. As an added bonus, a 2-0 start will make Jeff Ireland a little too comfortable in his position.
The pick: Dolphins
Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-3)
No team deflates expectations faster than the Cowboys. Just when you think Jason Garrett's team is playing competent football, Tony Romo throws a bundle of interceptions or some other disaster unfolds on the field or off. Still, it's too early to think Jerry's heard scatters. If anyone sees Monte Kiffin walking around in his underwear, confused and asking for directions to the Coliseum, please return him to Valley Ranch.
The pick: Cowboys
San Diego Chargers vs. Philadelphia Eagles (-7 1/2)
Maybe it's best to get the bad stuff out of the way first. Blowing another lead on Monday Night Football is not the way to make people forget about the Norv Turner era, even if the first half version of the Chargers did play better than expected. But a road game against Monday's biggest story, Chip Kelly's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! offense, doesn't bode well.
The pick: Eagles
Detroit Lions (-2) vs. Arizona Cardinals
The pick: Lions
New Orleans Saints (-3 1/2) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On some upcoming Friday morning on his drive to work, Greg Schiano's going to turn into Michael Douglas' character from Falling Down. Angry and confused by Josh Freeman and a world where restaurants don't serve breakfast after 10:30 a.m. How is the spread so close in this game after the Buccaneers' collapse last week? Is Vegas just not buying the version of the Saints defense that gave Matt Ryan and the Falcons a sour start to the season?
The pick: Saints
Denver Broncos (-4 1/2) vs. New York Giants
Is this game being hyped too much? Or not enough? Answer the question. Now, think about what your answer says about you.
The pick: Broncos
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Oakland Raiders (-6)
The perfect Thursday night game somehow lands on a Sunday afternoon, hidden by a handful of other games. We owe the people who make the schedules a thank you.
The pick: Raiders
San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks (-3)
Jim Harbaugh freaking out. Super chill Pete Carroll being advised by Alex Jones, apparently. These games are the best.
The pick: Seahawks
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals (-7)
Last week the Titans defense manhandled the Steelers, finding nary a roadblock in the middle route to the pocket. This week they get Geno Atkins. Any predictions of the Bengals rising to the top of the AFC North look incredibly prescient at this point.
The pick: Bengals