While starting out a season strong may not be a guaranteed indicator of future success for NFL teams, there's no question it helps the cause. And in the case of the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills, jumping quickly out of the gates carries even further weight.
The Lions and Bills have been a long-running wrench into the league's parity plan, with both teams having last made the playoffs during the Clinton administration and producing just one winning season between them over the last decade. But after each put forth an impressively strong showing on Kickoff Weekend of this 2011 season, it's not too early to wonder whether either longtime loser will be this year's version of the 2010 Buccaneers and Chiefs, two clubs that came out of nowhere to record double-digit victories after languishing as a bottom-feeder the previous season.
In Detroit's case, such a reversal of fortune wouldn't be construed as surprising, however. The Lions have been hailed as an up-and-comer all throughout the past few months, thanks to a four-game winning streak to close out the 2010 campaign that was backed up by an unbeaten preseason. The team then did little to dissuade its ever-growing circle of touters in its regular- season opener, overcoming both the oppressive Florida heat and a talented Tampa Bay outfit fresh off a 10-win year to deliver a convincing 27-20 victory.
Buffalo's Week 1 result was a bit more difficult to see coming, with a presumably stern road test on tap against a Kansas City squad that amassed a 7-1 record at Arrowhead Stadium en route to a surprise first-place finish in the AFC West last season. The rebuilding Bills proved to be more than ready for the challenge, however, by soundly outperforming the ragged Chiefs in every phase of the game en route to a 41-7 domination that was easily the most eyebrow-raising outcome of last weekend's slate.
The one-sided win was the most persuasive piece of evidence yet that Buffalo is indeed turning the corner after a rough beginning under Chan Gailey. The Bills lost each of their first eight contests last season in the battle-tested head coach's first year on the job, but have gone 5-4 since that stumble out of the chute.
"All those people that thought we were as bad as they thought we were, we're not," said Gailey. "I do think we're improved over last year."
A 2-0 start isn't out of the question, either, as the Bills get to host a potentially jet-lagged Oakland team that'll be traveling some 2,500-plus miles to Orchard Park this weekend after playing Monday's final game of the Week 1 schedule.
Detroit, meanwhile, will welcome the slumping Chiefs -- clearly one of this year's leading candidates for a market correction after following a poor preseason with last week's wretched display against the Bills -- to the Motor City on Sunday, when they'll play a most unfamiliar role as a heavy favorite.
With about two-thirds of teams that win their first two games historically advancing to the playoffs, the chances of the Lions and Bills ending their 12- year postseason dry spells would seem to be greatly enhanced if each is to prevail again this weekend. Then again, both have teased turnarounds in the recent past, with Detroit opening up the 2007 season with a pair of victories before ultimately finishing 7-9 and Buffalo getting off to a 4-0 start prior to losing nine of its next 12 tilts the next year.
Of perhaps greater significance to a team's future playoff prospects is losing during the early stages of a season, a potentially-crippling circumstance that the San Diego Chargers can certainly attest to. Since 1990, less than 15 percent of clubs that started out 0-2 have rebounded to make the postseason.
Those frighteningly low odds make this an important weekend for the likes of Atlanta, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh -- expected contenders or perennial playoff participants that all lost their first outings of the season.
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SUICIDE POOL PIX
1. Pittsburgh (vs. Seattle) -- Having to head across the country for an early start is tough enough for the Seahawks, but encountering a more talented Pittsburgh team that'll be stewing over a humiliating loss from last week will be an even more daunting task for Pete Carroll's club.
2. Detroit (vs. Kansas City) -- Young Lions have proven they now know how to win and won't fall prey to this potential trap game, while regressing Chiefs may be a popular target in survivor pools all season long.
3. Green Bay (at Carolina) -- Yes, the Panthers are getting better and Cam Newton was phenomenal in his debut, but knocking off the defending world champions at this still-early stage of the rebuilding process may be asking a bit much.
The first week of the season is almost invariably a feeling-out process, and there's certainly more room for improvement in my prognosticating after a mediocre start. Picked just nine correct winners out of the 16 games on the Week 1 slate while posting a 7-8-1 record (.469) against the spread. On a positive note, all three of my suicide selections (San Diego, Arizona and Houston) from Kickoff Weekend did come through.
Arizona (1-0) at Washington (1-0), Tuesday, 1:00 (Washington -4.5)
Storylines: Matchup of teams that each lost double-digit games last season, but opened their respective 2011 campaigns with wins...Cardinals rallied for 28-21 home victory over Carolina this past Sunday behind 309 passing yards and two touchdowns from new quarterback Kevin Kolb, while Redskins got 305 yards and two scores from Rex Grossman in last week's 28-14 verdict over the New York Giants at FedEx Field...Both clubs' first-round picks in 2011 draft recorded touchdowns in pro debuts, with Arizona corner Patrick Peterson delivering 89-yard punt return for game-winning points against Panthers and Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan coming through with tie-breaking interception return versus Giants...Redskins running back Tim Hightower spent first three NFL seasons with Cardinals before being traded to Washington for veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday on July 31...Arizona linebacker Daryl Washington questionable after straining calf in last week's win, while Washington safety LaRon Landry may miss second straight game with hamstring injury...Cardinals seeking first 2-0 start since 2008 NFC Championship season, while Redskins haven't won first two tests since 2007, year of the team's last playoff appearance...Arizona surrendered 403 net passing yards and three touchdowns to Panthers last week, but sacked Carolina rookie Cam Newton four times.
Fast Fact: Redskins have defeated the Cardinals seven straight times since their last loss in the series, which took place at Tempe's Sun Devil Stadium on Nov. 5, 2000. Arizona has also been dealt defeats in six consecutive trips to FedEx Field, having last won there via a 45-42 verdict on Nov. 22, 1998.
Prediction: Cardinals have a history of floundering in early kickoffs on the East Coast, and Grossman shouldn't have a problem dissecting Arizona's soft secondary if he performs close to last week's level. Redskins 31, Cardinals 20.
Baltimore (1-0) at Tennessee (0-1), Sunday, 1:00 (Baltimore -6)
Storylines: Ravens hit the road after 35-7 home drubbing of rival Pittsburgh a week ago, while Titans still in search of initial victory for first-year head coach Mike Munchak following 16-14 loss at Jacksonville in season opener...Baltimore defense forced franchise-record seven turnovers against Steelers, with All-Pro safety Ed Reed registering two interceptions and top pass rusher Terrell Suggs posting three sacks...Tennessee running back Chris Johnson held to 24 rushing yards and nine carries by Jaguars in first outing back from extended holdout, but Titans wideout Kenny Britt racked up 136 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just five catches...Ravens likely to be without cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (ankle) and Chris Carr (hamstring) on Sunday, but wide receiver/kick return David Reed set to return from one-game suspension for violating NFL's substance abuse policy...Defensive ends Jason Jones and Derrick Morgan hopeful to play for Tennessee after missing opener with knee injuries, but end William Hayes (shoulder) and Chris Hope (shoulder) both questionable and backup running back Javon Ringer (hip) doubtful...Baltimore running back Ray Rice totaled 149 yards from scrimmage (107 rushing) against vaunted Pittsburgh defense last week, while quarterback Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes in rout...Titans allowed 163 rushing yards to Jacksonville in Week 1.
Fast Fact: Ravens are 18-1 against teams with below .500 records in head coach Jim Harbaugh's first three seasons.
Prediction: Possible letdown game for Baltimore after last week's charged-up performance, but Rice and the defensive playmakers still give the Ravens enough to get by with. Ravens 20, Titans 13.
Chicago (1-0) at New Orleans (0-1), Sunday, 1:00 (New Orleans -7)
Storylines: Battle of 2010 playoff participants who produced opposite results during Opening Weekend, with Saints falling to defending Super Bowl champ Green Bay in a 42-34 thriller on Sept. 8 and Bears impressing in a 30-12 home win over reigning NFC South title-holder Atlanta last Sunday...New Orleans has lost three straight dating back to last season, including upset defeat at Seattle in January's NFC Wild Card Playoffs...Saints could be without top two pass catchers from last season, as Marques Colston out after fracturing collarbone against Packers and fellow wideout Lance Moore questionable with groin injury...Defensive end Will Smith also out for New Orleans while still serving suspension for violating league's policy on performance enhancers...Wide receiver Roy Williams (groin) questionable for Bears, but running back Marion Barber on track to play after sitting out vs. Falcons with calf strain...Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns in opener, but team allowed Packers to put up touchdowns on all four of their red-zone trips and also gave up 108-yard kick return score...Chicago defense amassed five sacks and forced three turnovers versus Atlanta, with standout linebacker Brian Urlacher returning fumble for touchdown in second half...Bears running back Matt Forte had 56-yard touchdown catch in win and finished day with 158 yards from scrimmage (90 receiving)...Saints running back Darren Sproles had 72-yard punt return score in Week 1 loss...Bears posted 6-2 record on road in 2010.
Fast Fact: Saints head coach Sean Payton is a native of the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois and served as a replacement quarterback for the Bears during the 1987 NFL players' strike.
Prediction: Saints will lure Bears into a shootout in which their aggressive defense squeezes one too many costly mistakes out of a shabbily-protected Jay Cutler. Saints 30, Bears 27.
Cleveland (0-1) at Indianapolis (0-1), Sunday, 1:00 (Cleveland -2)
Storylines: Kerry Collins to make second start at quarterback for Colts with Peyton Manning sidelined for likely the entire 2011 season after undergoing another neck surgery last week...Indianapolis coming off 34-7 road shellacking by AFC South rival Houston in Week 1 and seeking to avoid first 0-2 start since Manning's rookie year of 1998...Browns opened with disappointing 27-17 home loss to AFC North foe Cincinnati last Sunday in first game under new head coach Pat Shurmur...Colts managed just 236 total yards against Texans, team's lowest output since 2009 regular-season finale, and finished 1-of-9 on third- down conversions...Indianapolis also to be without linebackers Gary Brackett (shoulder) and Ernie Sims (knee) on Sunday, but wide receiver and Cleveland native Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring) probable after missing last week's loss...Browns offensive tackle Tony Pashos (ankle) expected to sit out second straight game, while team placed punter Richmond McGee (back) on injured reserve Tuesday and signed 15th-year veteran Brad Maynard to fill in...Cleveland defense produced four sacks against Bengals, two of which were recorded by linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, but allowed Cincinnati's Cedric Benson to rush for 121 yards and a touchdown...Colts have won seven of last eight home openers and are 13-3 at Lucas Oil Stadium under head coach Jim Caldwell.
Fast Fact: The Browns' most recent victory over the Colts occurred on Sept. 25, 1994, a 24-21 victory in Indianapolis under then-head coach Bill Belichick. The Colts are 5-0 against Cleveland since Manning's arrival in 1998.
Prediction: Colts may be in pretty dire straits, but there's still enough talent around to outscore a Cleveland team that's also trying to find its way right now. Colts 20, Browns 16.
Green Bay (1-0) at Carolina (0-1), Sunday, 1:00 (Green Bay -10.5)
Storylines: First career regular-season home start for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who comes off a rookie-record 422-yard, two-touchdown passing display in last Sunday's 28-21 loss at Arizona...2010 world champion Packers began defense of their Super Bowl title with a hard-fought 42-34 home win over New Orleans on Sept. 8, with star signal-caller Aaron Rodgers leading charge with 312 passing yards and three touchdowns...Including playoffs, Green Bay has won seven straight games dating back to last season, with Rodgers throwing for 17 touchdowns over that span...Packers rookie receiver Randall Cobb tied NFL record with a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown in the victory and added a scoring catch in debut...Carolina Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason suffered season-ending Achilles tear in Arizona game, while Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams questionable after bruising shoulder against Saints...Panthers wideout Steve Smith led all Week 1 performers with 178 receiving yards and scored two touchdowns on eight catches...Packers veteran Donald Driver enters contest with 9,656 career receiving yards, tied with Hall of Famer James Lofton for most in franchise history...Green Bay tied for second in NFL with 47 sacks in 2010, while Carolina surrendered second-most sacks in the league (50) last year.
Fast Fact: Rodgers became the first quarterback to throw three touchdown passes in a season opener since Buffalo's Jack Kemp do so in an AFL matchup against Kansas City on Sept. 13, 1964.
Prediction: It's not going to come easy every game for Newton, and Green Bay's opportunistic defense will make Sunday a learning experience for the rookie while Rodgers and his receivers put on a clinic against Carolina's overmatched secondary. Packers 38, Panthers 17.
Jacksonville (1-0) at N.Y. Jets (1-0), Sunday, 1:00 (N.Y. Jets -9.5)
Storylines: Both teams coming off narrow Week 1 victories, with Jets rallying for 17 unanswered points in the final 12 minutes to pull out 27-24 home victory over Dallas and Jaguars holding on for 16-14 decision over visiting Tennessee...Jacksonville shooting for first 2-0 start since 2006...New York quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for 335 yards against Cowboys and had pair of touchdown passes, including one to Plaxico Burress in the once-incarcerated wide receiver's first NFL regular-season contest since 2008...Jaguars signal- caller Luke McCown went 17-of-24 for 175 yards last week in first start since 2007...Jacksonville rushed for 163 yards against Titans, while Jets defense held Dallas to 64 yards on the ground...New York rushed for only 45 yards on offense, however, and face Jaguars unit that held Tennessee star Chris Johnson to 24 yards on nine attempts a week ago...Jacksonville Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf strain) and offensive tackle Eben Britton (back) both questionable for Sunday's tilt, while defensive end Aaron Kampman (knee) expected to miss second straight game...Former Jets Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery return to MetLife Stadium as members of revamped Jaguars secondary, with Jacksonville acquiring Lowery in a trade with New York at final cuts.
Fast Fact: Jaguars are 8-1 in their last nine games in which running back Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for 90 yards or more, and the All-Pro amassed 123 yards and a touchdown in Jacksonville's 24-22 win over the Jets at the old Meadowlands in 2009.
Prediction: McCown and Jacksonville's running game will find the Jets' defense to be a much more difficult assignment than the one they faced last week. Jets 24, Jaguars 9.
Kansas City (0-1) at Detroit (1-0), Sunday, 1:00 (Detroit -8.5)
Storylines: Lions kicked off promising 2011 campaign with 27-20 road win over Tampa Bay last Sunday, team's fifth consecutive victory dating back to last season, and will in be search of first 2-0 start since 2007...Defending AFC West champion Chiefs dealt most lopsided season-opening loss in franchise history in Week 1, a 41-7 home setback to Buffalo...Kansas City mustered only 213 total yards in defeat, while defense surrendered 163 rushing yards and four passing touchdowns to Bills...Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns against Buccaneers in first start since November of last season, with standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson hauling in two of those scoring strikes....Chiefs safety Eric Berry suffered season- ending torn ACL in last week's loss...Both team's 2011 first-round draft picks currently out of action, with Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley still recovering from foot surgery and Kansas City wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin dealing with a broken right thumb...Chiefs went 4-0 against NFC teams in 2010 and have won five straight interconference games, but were just 3-5 on the road last season...Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham spent 11 seasons with the Chiefs organization, including a two-year stint as head coach from 1999-2000.
Fast Fact: The last Lions quarterback to eclipse 300 passing yards in a season opener was Hall of Famer Bobby Layne, who accomplished the feat in the team's 1953 lid-lifter.
Prediction: Chiefs really are a mess right now, and healthy and hungry Lions will be smelling blood in their home opener. Lions 27, Chiefs 10.
Oakland (1-0) at Buffalo (1-0), Sunday, 1:00 (Buffalo -3.5)
Storylines: Raiders came through with hard-fought 23-20 win at rival Denver on Monday in Hue Jackson's head coaching debut and will be attempting to record back-to-back road victories to start a season for first time since 1982...Resurgent Bills delivered most one-sided season-opening triumph in franchise history with last Sunday's 41-7 road rout of Kansas City...Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tied career high with four touchdown passes for Buffalo, two of which went to tight end Scott Chandler, while running back Fred Jackson rushed for 112 yards in win...Oakland racked up AFC-best 190 rushing yards against Broncos, with standout back Darren McFadden accounting for 150 yards on 22 attempts...Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski had three field goals on Monday, including an NFL record-tying 63- yarder...Oakland wide receiver Jacoby Ford left opener with hamstring injury and questionable for Sunday, while fellow wideout Louis Murphy (groin) doubtful and tight end Kevin Boss (knee) also uncertain to play...Cornerback Terrence McGee out for Buffalo after straining hamstring against the Chiefs...Bills also placed reserve wide receiver Marcus Easley on injured reserve Tuesday due to a heart condition, while re-signed veteran pass-catcher Ruvell Martin and cornerback Reggie Corner.
Fast Fact: Prior to last week's outburst, the Bills had not reached the 40- point mark in their first outing of the season since a 40-7 rout of the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 6, 1992.
Prediction: A short week and cross-country trip could put the Raiders at a disadvantage, but one they can overcome with another big day from McFadden and a fierce pass rush that will cause problems for Buffalo's patchwork offensive line. Raiders 19, Bills 17.
Seattle (0-1) at Pittsburgh (0-1), Sunday, 1:00 (Pittsburgh -14.5)
Storylines: Steelers head back to Heinz Field aiming to rebound from startling 35-7 defeat at rival Baltimore last Sunday and will be attempting to avoid first 0-2 start since 2000...Seahawks head east after 33-17 loss at fellow NFC West member San Francisco in which club allowed two touchdowns to 49ers return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. in game's final four minutes...Pittsburgh has won eight consecutive home openers, the second-longest active streak in the NFL, and is 6-0 at Heinz Field in September under head coach Mike Tomlin...Steelers lost offensive tackle Willie Colon to season-ending triceps tear in Week 1, with rookie second-round pick Marcus Gilbert slated to take his place...Seahawks could be without top wide receiver Sidney Rice (shoulder) and guard Robert Gallery (knee) for second straight week, while fullback Michael Robinson ruled out with high ankle sprain...Linebacker David Hawthorne (knee) probable for Seattle, though, after sitting out opener...First road start as a Seahawk for quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who threw two touchdown passes in official debut with new team last weekend...Pittsburgh committed seven turnovers against Ravens, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being picked off three times and losing two fumbles...Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace eclipsed 100-yard mark for fourth straight regular-season contest after eight- catch, 107-yard performance last week.
Fast Fact: Seahawks went 2-6 on the road in 2010, with each of those defeats coming by 15 points or more.
Prediction: Steelers will be angry and motivated after last week's debacle, which is bad news for Jackson and Seattle's inept offense. Steelers 30, Seahawks 10.
Tampa Bay (0-1) at Minnesota (0-1), Sunday, 1:00 (Minnesota -3)
Storylines: First NFL regular-season game to be held at the Metrodome since facility's roof collapsed under a heavy snowfall last December...Host Vikings trying to avoid second straight 0-2 start and coming off 24-17 Week 1 loss at San Diego in which Chargers scored 17 unanswered second-half points...Buccaneers hit the road after suffering 27-20 home defeat to up-and- coming Detroit last Sunday...Minnesota mustered only 187 total yards against San Diego, with quarterback Donovan McNabb throwing for just 39 yards on 7- of-15 passing in official Vikings' debut...Tampa Bay gave up 305 yards and three touchdowns through the air to Lions, though cornerback Aqib Talib had 28- yard interception return for touchdown and now has seven picks over his last 12 games...Minnesota defensive tackle Kevin Williams to finish serving two-game suspension for violating NFL's performance-enhancing substances policy...Slot receiver Sammie Stroughter (foot surgery) out for Tampa Bay, while defensive tackle Brian Price questionable with hamstring injury...Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin returned opening kickoff 103 yards for touchdown in last weekend's loss, his fourth score in that manner..Minnesota signed veteran offensive lineman Joe Berger on Monday...Buccaneers have won last four meetings with Vikings, but will be making first trip to Metrodome since 2005.
Fast Fact: With Peyton Manning missing last week's contest, Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber's current streak of 184 consecutive starts is now the longest among active players.
Prediction: Though Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman is the quarterback McNabb used to be, the Vikings should be able to ride the powerful legs of running back Adrian Peterson and a steady pass rush to give the Metrodome a nice welcome home. Vikings 20, Buccaneers 13.
Dallas (0-1) at San Francisco (1-0), Sunday, 4:05 (Dallas -3)
Storylines: Clash of 2010 disappointments that combined for just one win over last season's first five weeks, though 49ers got Jim Harbaugh era off to a good start with this past Sunday's 33-17 home victory over Seattle...Cowboys kicked off season-opening road trip with bitter 27-24 loss at New York Jets, with team blowing 14-point fourth-quarter lead and quarterback Tony Romo committing two costly turnovers in final nine minutes...San Francisco sealed Week 1 win with 102-yard kickoff return and 55-yard punt return touchdowns by Ted Ginn Jr. in fourth quarter, with the two scores coming 59 seconds apart...Romo finished with 342 passing yards and two touchdowns against Jets, and now faces Niners defense that held Seattle to 219 total yards and registered five sacks last week...Wide receiver Dez Bryant (quad) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (shoulder) both probable for Dallas, and team hopeful corner Terence Newman can return after missing last Sunday's test with strained groin...Cowboys will be without cornerback Orlando Scandrick (ankle), however, and signed veteran Frank Walker Monday as insurance...Dallas also re-signed fullback Tony Fiammetta during week while releasing wide receiver Laurent Robinson...San Francisco signed veteran tight end Justin Peelle and waived rookie safety Colin Jones on Tuesday.
Fast Fact: Ginn became the 12th player in NFL history to return both a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in the same game and the first to do so on Opening Weekend. Chicago's Devin Hester was the last to turn the trick, doing so against Denver on Nov. 25, 2007.
Prediction: Cowboys' potent offense will provide a sterner challenge for new- look Niners this week, and they'll hold a lead to the final whistle this time around. Cowboys 27, 49ers 20.
Cincinnati (1-0) at Denver (0-1), Sunday, 4:15 (Denver -4.5)
Storylines: Bengals enter Mile High City in search of first 2-0 start since 2006 after orchestrating 27-17 road upset of Cleveland in Week 1...Veteran Bruce Gradkowski likely to start for Cincinnati after relieving injured rookie Andy Dalton (wrist) at halftime of last weekend's win and throwing go-ahead 41- yard touchdown pass to 2011 first-round pick A.J. Green in fourth quarter...Broncos suffered 23-20 home defeat to rival Raiders Monday in first game under head coach John Fox and try to avoid first 0-2 beginning since 1999...Linebacker D.J. Williams (elbow) and wideout Demaryius Thomas (Achilles) to miss second straight week for Denver, while status of cornerback Champ Bailey (hamstring), wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (groin) and Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) unknown after all left Oakland game with injuries...Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (foot) and cornerback Kelly Jennings (hamstring) both on track to play for Bengals...Cincinnati running back Cedric Benson rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown against Browns and faces Denver defense that yielded 190 yards on the ground to Raiders...Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton threw for 304 yards in Monday's loss, while wide receiver Eric Decker had 90-yard punt return touchdown for Broncos.
Fast Fact: The last time these two teams met, the Broncos pulled out a 12-7 victory in the 2009 season opener on a desperation 87-yard touchdown connection from Orton to wide receiver Brandon Stokley.
Prediction: Dalton's injury turns out to be a short-term blessing for Bengals, with the more experienced Gradkowski and Benson taking advantage of a banged-up Broncos team on short rest to continue Cincy's surprising strong start. Bengals 20, Broncos 17.
Houston (1-0) at Miami (0-1), Sunday, 4:15 (Houston -3)
Storylines: Texans aim for second consecutive 2-0 start and head to Sun Life Stadium off last week's 34-7 dismantling of short-handed Indianapolis, while Dolphins fell to 3-7 all-time in September under head coach Tony Sparano following Monday's wild 38-24 home loss to New England...Miami has lost 10 of its last 11 home games and surrendered franchise-worst 622 total yards to powerful Patriots, including 516 yards and four touchdowns through the air...Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne did throw for career-best 416 yards and two scores in defeat, while top wideout Brandon Marshall finished with 139 yards on seven catches...Rebuilt Houston defense held Peyton Manning-less Colts to 216 total yards and recorded three sacks, two by outside linebacker Mario Williams, in debut under new coordinator Wade Phillips...Texans running back and 2010 NFL leading rusher Arian Foster tentatively expected to play after missing opener with strained hamstring, but wide receiver Kevin Walter out 1- to-2 weeks after injuring shoulder against Colts...Houston brought back wideout David Anderson on Tuesday to help fill the void...Dolphins released nickel back Benny Sapp after New England loss and re-signed veteran cornerback Will Allen on Wednesday...Texans defensive back Jason Allen spent first four-plus seasons with Miami before being waived by Dolphins last November.
Fast Fact: Texans have prevailed in all five lifetime meetings between these teams, though all but one of those bouts have been decided by three or less points.
Prediction: Dolphins sorely need this game, and it's tough to gauge just how good Texans really are -- especially on defense -- off last week's cakewalk. Dolphins 30, Texans 27.
San Diego (1-0) at New England (1-0), Sunday, 4:15 (New England -7)
Storylines: Showdown of expected AFC contenders that will feature strength-on- strength, as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 517 passing yards and four touchdowns in Monday's 38-24 win at Miami and Chargers defense yielded a minuscule 28 yards through the air in 24-17 come-from-behind victory over Minnesota in Week 1...San Diego vying for first 2-0 start since team won league-best 14 regular-season games in 2006...Pats have prevailed in nine consecutive home openers, while Brady enters clash riding an NFL-record streak of 28 straight winning starts at Gillette Stadium...Chargers lost kicker Nate Kaeding to torn ACL on opening kickoff versus Vikings, with journeyman Nick Novak signed on Wednesday as a replacement, while defensive end Luis Castillo sidelined indefinitely after fracturing leg in win...Patriots to be without longtime center Dan Koppen for 6-10 weeks after he broke his ankle on Monday, while regular right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) questionable for Sunday...New England piled up franchise-best 622 total yards on Dolphins, with wide receiver Wes Welker totaling 160 yards on eight catches and connecting with Brady for 99-yard touchdown in fourth quarter...Chargers running back Mike Tolbert scored personal-best three touchdowns last weekend and expected to play despite suffering minor knee injury against Minnesota, while veteran wideout Patrick Crayton (ankle) questionable to return after sitting out opener.
Fast Fact: Brady's 517 passing yards was the fifth-highest single-game total in NFL history and the most since Boomer Esiason threw for 522 while with Arizona in a 37-34 overtime win over Washington on Nov. 10, 1996.
Prediction: Chargers' excellent defense gave Brady fits when these teams met last season, but Patriots still have too many quality weapons to be completely contained. Patriots 27, Chargers 24.
Philadelphia (1-0) at Atlanta (0-1), Sunday, 8:20 (Philadelphia -2.5)
Storylines: Michael Vick to make first start at Georgia Dome since the one-time Falcon and current Eagle was suspended by the NFL and later imprisoned for two years on well-publicized dog-fighting charges following the 2006 season...Marquee matchup of 2010 division winners who produced differing results on Opening Weekend, with Philadelphia earning 31-13 road decision over St. Louis and Falcons dealt a 30-12 loss at defending NFC North champion Chicago...Eagles amassed league-best 236 rushing yards against Rams, with top back LeSean McCoy generating 122 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and Vick adding 97 on 11 scrambles...Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux to miss about a month after suffering partial MCL tear against Bears, while linemate Corey Peters (knee) questionable and center Todd McClure (knee) likely to sit a second straight week...Defensive end Darryl Tapp (pectoral) and linebacker Akeem Jordan (shoulder) both doubtful for Philadelphia...Falcons offense put up 386 total yards in opener, but committed three turnovers and failed to reach the end zone, with team's lone touchdown coming on defensive end Kroy Biermann's interception return...Atlanta is 20-2 all-time at Georgia Dome in games quarterback Matt Ryan has started...Eagles seeking first 2-0 start since 2004 NFC Championship season, while Falcons haven't opened with two straight defeats since 2007.
Fast Fact: Eagles are 8-1 against Atlanta under head coach Andy Reid, which includes a pair of playoff victories (2002 and 2004 seasons) in which the Falcons were quarterbacked by Vick.
Prediction: Philadelphia's offense displayed its trademark explosiveness in the opener, while last week's performance showed the Falcons are still a work in progress in that department. Eagles 23, Falcons 16.
St. Louis (0-1) at N.Y. Giants (0-1), Monday, 8:30 (N.Y. Giants -5.5)
Storylines: Rams to make their first appearance on Monday Night Football since 2006, while former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo faces former team for first time since taking over as St. Louis' head coach in 2009...Rams quarterback Sam Bradford probable despite injuring throwing finger in last Sunday's 31-13 loss to Philadelphia, but running back Steven Jackson a question mark after injuring quadriceps early in that game...St. Louis also to be without 2010 leading receiver Danny Amendola (elbow) and cornerback Ron Bartell (neck), while fellow starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher (toe) doubtful and offensive tackle Jason Smith (ankle) questionable...Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks totaled 122 yards on seven catches in last week's 28-14 setback at Washington, but considered game-time decision after sustaining knee bruise in contest...Defensive end Justin Tuck (neck) slated to return for New York after missing opener, but pass-rushing counterpart Osi Umenyiora (knee surgery) to remain sidelined...Second-year pro Jason Pierre-Paul recorded two sacks in both players' absences against Redskins...Giants trying to avoid first 0-2 start since 2007, year team defeated then-unbeaten New England in Super Bowl XLII with Spagnuolo coaching the defense...Rams presently last in the league in rushing defense after permitting 236 yards on the ground to Eagles.
Prediction: Giants finally find an opponent with even greater injury issues than that of their own. Giants 28, Rams 13.