Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiller, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Blaine Gabbert. What do all of these guys have in common?
They are all young men. They all are starting quarterbacks in the National Football League. Somehow, improbably, they all won their opening week games in 2016.
Seriously, even this guy!
Keep that one tucked away for bar trivia you'll need in 2030.
Unexpected success early in NFL seasons usually comes with a share of skepticism. Even in a league supposedly filled with parity we are used to seeing the same dominating (Pats, Broncos, Packers, Steelers, Seahawks, ect). When an upstart team starts winning in the early season, it can be written off to "an easy schedule," "a fluke," or "being lucky."
That's actually rarely the case. A great article by 538 took an in-depth look as this trend. It's definitely worth a read.
Let's try to separate the pretenders from contenders in the Week 2 edition of our NFL Picks & Predictions.
Let's get to it! As always the picks below are against the spread, with final score predictions as well.
Picks listed are against the spread
Home teams in BOLD
Lions (-6.5) over Titans
There's probably no better test case than the Lions as to what fans and the media think a team should be versus what they really are.
Detroit went on the road, as underdogs, and put up 39 points in a win against a team that is supposed to be AFC playoff contenders. Granted, they did do that against the Colts defense but Matt Stafford is continuing to prove his is an elite quarterback. This is still one of my dark horse NFC contenders this season.
The Titans just got manhandled at home by the Shaun Hill led Vikings, looking every bit like one of the worst four teams in the league doing it. We've seen Stafford and Co. play down to the competition before, but this line still isn't high enough.
Lions 31, Titans 20
Chiefs (+2.5) over Texans
This line opened as a pick-em but the money has poured in heavily on the Texans, now settling in at Houston -2.5. They put on an impressive performance last week at home against a Bears team who yours truly thought would keep it close. If people thought the Colts would once again lay waste to the AFC South then the Texans showed a reevaluation is needed.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs are coming off a miraculous comeback against the Chargers. That type of momentum can carry into the following week. Spencer Ware proved he is a true threat in that offense and once Jamaal Charles gets healthy they will have a truly fearsome 1-2 combo in the backfield.
Maybe this is stubborn, but I picked the Chiefs to win their division in the preseason and I still think they are just the better football team. Truly a pick-em in my head, I'll let my heart cast the deciding vote.
Chiefs 24, Texans 23
Patriots (-6.5) over Dolphins
In an era that has redefined NFL dominance and consistency what the Patriots did last week in Arizona was truly remarkable. They beat what many people think is the most talented team in football on the road not only without Tom Brady, but also without Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder. Bill Belichick has never been as excited after a regular season win as he was on the field last week. Somehow, the Patriots managed to shock the world again.
The Dolphins almost did it as well. They were a Russell Wilson one-legged touchdown drive in the final two minutes away from also shocking an NFC contender. The Dolphins defense looks rebuilt, and should be much better than the bottom tier unit we saw last season. However this is just a place the Dolphins don't win. They lost in Foxboro 36-7 last season and 41-13 the year before.
Ryan Tannehill's personal house of horrors continues this week.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 20
Ravens (-6) over Browns
Hugh Jackson thinks the Browns are winning a championship.
Ok, so while he just meant eventually that kind of confidence is something Brown's fans haven't seen in three decades. Right now, however, they are still one of the worst teams in football.
This line has ballooned from -2.5 to -6 after RG3's injury and Baltimore's stifling defense performance in a win at home against the Bills last week. It was their offense that is worrisome. I'm not sure if they have the firepower to keep stride with the Bengals and Steelers in their division but they are still are in another class than the Browns.
In what was likely the most embarrassing loss of the Gruden Era, our nation's capital watched their football team get humiliated on Monday Night. Those types of losses tend to have lingering effects. Unless, again, you're the Patriots.
I think Washington will win this, but I'm not willing to lay three points.
Washington 24, Cowboys 23
Giants (-4.5) over Saints
The Saint's secondary lost their best player, Delvin Breaux, to injury last week. Not exactly great timing when your opponent this week features one of the league's most dynamic passing attacks.
Eli Manning should have a monster day throwing to Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, Larry Donnell, and Sterling Shepard. If any of these players are sitting on your fantasy bench, put them in the starting lineup pronto.
The ray of hope for Saints' fans is that their offense was back to explosive form against the Raiders. Those who questioned the franchise for extending the contract of Drew Brees have been silenced. Brees looks like he has the weapons to throw for 5000+ yards again this season.
The Saints should be able to keep pace with the G-Men in what should be another fun shootout, but will their defense ever be able to get off of the field?
Can I just take the over here? No, I have to pick? (shrug)
Giants 38, Saints 31
49ers (+13.5) over Panthers
When a line is this high in the National Football League look for reasons to take the underdog. Here they are.
1) The 49ers defense looked fast with playmakers at all three levels of the defense. After one look, this could be a Top 10 unit again.
2) Say what you want about Chip Kelly but he seems to have given renewed life to Blaine Gabbert and that entire offense.
3) The Panthers are bruised and beaten after a physical playoff-type game in the thin air of Mile High.
While an outright upset here is unlikely, those reasons are enough to have the smart money laid on San Francisco.
Panthers 30, 49ers 17
Cardinals (-7), over Buccaneers
The Cardinals were humbled in front of their home fans in the worst loss of the Bruce Arians' Era. Their general manager, Steve Keim, did his best Mark Cuban impression in a radio interview this week.
Usually calling grown men in your employ embarrassing and disappointing is not a smart idea. I doubt if Arians was thrilled to hear those comments from his boss.
If this franchise is truly ready to their first title run then they'll need to have a statement game at home on Sunday. Not for the media, but for their home fans. If they put up another stinker at home Cards Nation will rightfully start to worry.
The Bucs put on a show themselves last week in a road win at their division rivals. Is this team the true NFC dark horse? Is Jameis Winston already ascending to the upper echelon of NFL signal callers? This should be a fascinating game to watch, but I'd be stunned (again) to see Arizona not make a statement against Tampa.
Cardinals 31, Bucs 20
Seahawks (-6.5) over Rams
Have you ever seen an NFL team look worse than Los Angeles did last week in their 28-0 humiliation at the hands of the supposedly dreadful 49ers? Jeff Fisher could be on his way to becoming the NFL's all-time leader in coaching losses.
He may not have a chance to get there as owner Stan Kroenke is unlikely to keep him in place for much longer should the Rams continue to get drubbed by divisional opponents.
On the bright side the Rams have beaten the Seahawks at home the past two seasons and have won three of four against the NFC powerhouse. That oddity has a chance to continue as the Seahawks will bring in banged up quarterback Russell Wilson, who has a bad left ankle sprain, to face one of the league's best defensive lines.
This is also the regular season opener in Los Angeles, who will be hosting their first regular season NFL game in more than two decades.
As we've seen, Rams over Seahawks wouldn't be surprising but it's unlikely to happen this week.
Seahawks 24, Rams 13.
Colts (+6), over Bronocs
Yes, Denver looked good in their Super Bowl rematch with the Panthers a week ago. This is still a defensive juggernaut helmed by a game managing quarterback. Much praised was heaped on Trevor Siemian last week but his performance may have been the worst of the young quarterbacks mentioned at the top of this article. Final judgement hasn't been passed on whether Siemian is capable enough to again make the Broncos a title contender this season.
The Colts are in danger of falling two games behind Houston and spending the final 15 weeks of the season again answering questions about Chuck Pagano's future and about Andrew Luck getting battered behind a bad offensive line. It's déjà vu in Indy.
Luck looked great in the loss against the Lions, and if the offensive line can hold up against Denver's pass rush he will have a chance to make plays down the field that Cam Newton couldn't. We've seen Denver's man defense schemes get exploited by Luck, T.Y. Hilton, and the Colts in the past.
It's not Luck v. Manning but this should be a fantastic football game nevertheless.
Colts 27, Broncos 24
Raiders (-5), over Falcons
Jack Del Rio may have changed the trajectory of the Raiders' franchise with one play call.
Meanwhile, the Falcons were humbled at home by the Bucs. While Matt Ryan looked good that defense looked anything but. That's surprising considering second year head coach Dan Quinn was brought in from Seattle as one of the architects of their Super Bowl defense.
This is a separation game for Oakland. It's a survival game for the Falcons.
Raiders 28, Falcons 21
Jaguars (+3), over Chargers
It hasn't been common to pick the Jags to cover on the road. Yet the the signs-of-life talk that surrounded them in the offseason seemed confirmed as they played the Packers to the wire in Week 1. It's truly refreshing to see an owner give a coaching staff time to drag their franchise out of irrelevance and build a contender. Things are progressing nicely for Gus Bradley and Jacksonville.
The Chargers, meanwhile, are coming off a meltdown against the Chiefs. Mike McCoy is my pick to be the first coach fired this season. It may happen soon.
Jaguars 23, Chargers 20
Packers (-2.5), over Vikings
We saw the emergence of this rivalry last season. The Vikings budding defense against Aaron Rodgers and the potent Packers offense. The upstarts won the division with a second year quarterback and were a field goal away from winning a playoff game.
The stage was set. Then Teddy Bridgewater got hurt.
While the Vikings are likely to ride the defense to a respectable season, maybe even a surprise wild card berth, they just don't have the offensive punch anymore to compete with the NFC's elite.
You can dig through all of the analysis, statistics, and breakdowns of this game but there's one inescapable fact.
This is Aaron Rodgers vs. Shaun Hill.
Packers 27, Vikings 18
Eagles (+3) over Bears
I'm not sure what is going on with this line. Yes it's the Bears in Soldier field, and yes it's the Eagles coming in with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach. But these aren't the Monsters of the Midway.
The Bears looked abysmal last week while the Eagles played like a rejuvenated team under Doug Pederson. I wrote that I expect the Bears to improve markedly in the second year under head coach John Fox. While that may still happen, that performance didn't inspire confidence.
Carson Wentz sure did. The rookie threw for 278 yards and two touchdown with no interceptions. The Bears defense he will face this week isn't much better than the Brown's one he faced last week.
The Eagles could be on their way to a surprising 2-0 start and first place in the NFC East.
Eagles 20, Bears 17
Last Week: 5-10
*Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll include the best emails in next week's column*
WWL Radio begins its fifth season of their weekly online broadcasts of the best high school football games in Louisiana.
The turn of the calendar to September can mean many things to many different people. Fall comes into swing as the leaves start changing colors, and the hot summer days start to turn into bearable 72 degree ones. However, seeing September 1 on their calendars means only one thing to the people of Louisiana; Prep Football is back.
WWL Radio kicks off its fifth season of covering games across the state with its Online Game of the Week series. David Kahn, a recent graduate of Tulane University, returns to his Play-by-Play duties for the third straight season, joined as always by his veteran color commentator, Tony D'Amico. A slight change in set up this year sees Brad Luminais move from his many years as a sideline reporter up to the broadcast booth as a color analyst. Luminais has spent the past few years as one of the main sideline reporters for the Online Game of the Week, but has years of broadcasting experience, including multiple state championship games for WWL Radio.
The ten-game regular season schedule is jam packed with schools from all across the greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas, including a spotlight on the schools from the Catholic League, who will be playing an eight-game series at Zephyr Field this season.
WEEK 1: Lutcher vs. Dutchtown @ Lutcher High School (Friday, September 2)
The Bulldogs and Griffins begin our 2016 Game of the Week series with a powerful matchup.
Lutcher comes into 2016 as the defending Class 3A State Champions, as former head coach Tim Detillier brought the hardware back home for the first time since 2008. Detillier has since stepped down from his duties, opening the way for Dwain Jenkins to return to his alma mater after they defeated his St. James team handily in last year's title matchup.
The Bulldogs will have to plug some holes this year after losing all-around athlete Trevor Comardelle and running backs Destin Porter and Kendrick Jackson, but senior quarterback Jontre Kirklin is ready to lead his team to another championship run. Kirklin tops a returning class of eight starters, also headlined by running back Daevon Adams, wide receiver Al'Dontre Davis and strong safety Dylan Recotta.
Dutchtown begins their season with revenge on their minds as they were nipped by these same Bulldogs in their 2015 opener, 20-19. However, Dutchtown was perfect on the road last season, going 6-0, so we can expect head coach Benny Saia to have his boys ready to play some hard nose football. Junior quarterback Ben Mays and senior running back Charles Davis will be tasked with leading the Griffin offense this season. Both players shined in the Jamboree against East Ascension, so there should be no reason for them not to come in ready to put up some big numbers in week one.
WEEK 2: Zachary vs. Catholic High @ Olympia Stadium (Friday September 9)
Parker Fontenot will forever be a hallowed name in Catholic High's history, as the junior kicker capped the Bears' season with a 34-yard state-championship winning field goal as time expired to defeat powerhouse Archbishop Rummel in Division I. Now back for his senior season, he looks to boot the Bears into another successful season.
Having lost their starting quarterback to graduation, the weight of leadership for Catholic High now falls to senior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the first freshman allowed to play varsity football during Coach Dale Weiner's tenure. Edwards-Helaire led the Bears in rushing and receiving yards last season, and is looking to make new quarterback Zack Crawford's life as simple as possible.
The Zachary Broncos come into 2016 on an 11-game winning streak as their star quarterback and Gatorade Prep Player of the Year Lindsey Scott Jr., led them to a Class 5A State Championship victory in a thrilling matchup against the John Ehret Patriots. Scott combined for almost 5000 all-purpose yards and over 60 touchdowns on the season, earning him a scholarship offer from LSU. Now with Scott off to college, the Broncos are in search of a new centerpiece for their offense, and they will be tested in week two by a strong Bears defense who doesn't like to lose at home.
WEEK 3: Holy Cross vs. Chalmette @ Chalmette High (Friday September 16)
Chalmette and Holy Cross continue their long time rivalry from the late 1960s this season. Holy Cross leads the series 30-11-3, but you can never count the Owls out of a rivalry matchup, especially when playing at their beautifully redesigned stadium that is sure to be packed with upwards of eight to 10,000 people on Friday night.
The Owls made it back to the playoffs last season with a 7-4 campaign that included a 6-1 grueling district schedule. Although their top speedster Masen Mitchell has left due to graduation, Chalmette returns six two-way starters behind head Coach Jason Tucker, who is back for his 10th season at the helm. QB/FS Mikael Blaise and RB/LB Alex Suragusa headline the returning class.
Holy Cross comes back in the Catholic League under third year head coach Eric Rebaudo. The Tigers went 7-5 last year before being bounced by Evangel in the quarterfinals. Holy Cross is in need of some big offensive replacements, as the loss of Tre Turner and Kyle Schexnayder, who pretty much did everything for the Holy Cross offense, both left for graduation. However, Chandler Fields filled in for Schexnayder during the majority of last year when he went down with an injury, so he has some game experience as he leads a rather young Tigers team through their grueling schedule.
WEEK 4: Brother Martin vs. John Curtis @ Zephyr Field (Friday September 23)
This game of the week kicks off the Catholic League eight-game series to be played at Zephyr Field. WWL Radio will be covering six of the eight contests on the baseball diamond turned football field, with intriguing matchups each week.
Brother Martin is riding high coming into 2016, as they are expected to be tops in the Catholic League. The Crusaders come in with arguably the top sibling duo in Louisiana with running back Bruce Jordan-Swilling and defensive back Tre Swilling. Jordan-Swilling is coming off of an incredible 2015 campaign where he rushed for nearly 2000 yards and 30 touchdowns, but he will have to have an equally successful 2016 to help the Crusaders live up to their hype. Brother Martin will see new faces at quarterback with John-Paul Pierce and tight end with Joseph Parenti, Jr. and Tanner Olsen, Jr., who look to beef up the wide receiving core alongside Houston-commit Jeremy Singleton.
One of the winningest coaches of all-time, J.T. Curtis, returns for his 48th season of John Curtis football, and is looking to bring John Curtis back to the promised land after they were taken down by Rummel in the semi-finals last year. As usual, Curtis has an incredibly stifling defense that will make it very hard to put points on the board. Their offense will remain much the same, a dual-back rush heavy attack that puts them pound for pound against any defensive line in the state. Some are calling this a down year for John Curtis, but you can never count out the Patriots, especially not in this matchup, as they are looking to revenge their 40-37 overtime loss to Brother Martin last season.
WEEK 5: St. Thomas More vs. Hahnville @ Hahnville (Friday September 30)
Success is nothing but the norm for head coach Nick Saltaformaggio, and he looks to see more of it come his third season as head coach of the Hahnville Tigers.
The Tigers had a fantastic chance to run through the Class 5A playoffs, but unfortunately were placed on the wrong side of the bracket as they met up with Lindsey Scott and the Zachary Broncos in the quarterfinals. As usual, Hahnville is expected to go either first or second in their district with their rival Destrehan, and with running back Anthony "Pooka" Williams completely healthy and ready to roll, this team can certainly be a force to be reckoned with.
St. Thomas More played a beauty of a championship game last season, but came up just short against Parkview Baptist, 24-21, in Division II. The Cougars display a completely upperclassmen starting offense and defense, and will look to use their veteran experience to get them over the hump this year. St. Thomas More has weapons at every offensive position with Gabe LeBeouf at running back and Griffin Hebert at wide receiver, so it lies on the shoulders of senior quarterback Nate Cox to put everything together and come up with a championship formula.
The Cougars embarrassed Hahnville last year at home, so be ready for the Tigers to try and get some payback when this matchup is played at Hahnville this season.
WEEK 6: Holy Cross vs. Rummel @ Zephyr Field (Friday October 7)
The Archbishop Rummel Raiders are in need of leadership. After a season where the team thought they could put it all together was cut just short by Parker Fontenot's leg in the state title game, the Raiders have lost a lot and will need to rely on Jay Roth's coaching prowess to be successful. While the Raiders do return a majority of their defensive stalwarts, including defensive backs Jakobi Jones, Andre Danove and Aaron Brule, as well as linebackers Shane Brotherton and Derrick Munson, the team will have major gaps to fill in without the big body of Briston Guidry and the speedy quick attacks from the secondary of Kristian Fulton. On the offensive side, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and tight end David Mosley led the returning squad, but without a tride and true quarterback after the departure of three-year starter Chase Fourcade, Rummel has a lot of unanswered questions to figure out by the time they get to this matchup against Holy Cross.
Rummel defeated Holy Cross with a late touchdown in the fourth quarter last season to win 21-14, and this 2016 matchup could be even closer as both teams get into the thick of district play.
WEEK 7: Brother Martin vs. Holy Cross @ Zephyr Field (Friday October 14)
Both teams will be well-settled into the season by now, but after just playing Rummel the week before as they get deep into district play, Holy Cross will need to use every weapon they can find against the Swilling brothers and Brother Martin. This game seems like it might have the possibility of a blowout written all over it, but, it will be seven weeks into the season, so a lot can change from now to then, and Holy Cross has always been known to surprise a few people late in the year.
The Tigers were blanked in their matchup against Brother Martin in 2015, 36-0, and one could expect a similar result if Holy Cross can't find an answer for Bruce Jordan-Swilling.
WEEK 8: Holy Cross vs. John Curtis @ Zephyr Field (Friday October 21)
This game sees the end of a four-week nightmare schedule for Holy Cross, as they face Jesuit, Archbishop Rummel and Brother Martin in consecutive weeks prior to this matchup. Both teams will know each other very well by this point, and it will just be a matter of who can play a better football game over four quarters. History has proven that John Curtis will be up to that task 99 percent of the time, and it doesn't seem to be any different in this matchup as the playoff picture will begin to take shape when the week eight dust settles.
WEEK 9: St. Augustine vs. Holy Cross @ Zephyr Field (Friday October 28)
This game marks the end of a five-game stretch where Holy Cross is featured on the Online Game of the Week, and we get to see another Catholic League foe in the St. Augustine Purple Knights.
The Purple Knights had an abysmal 2015 under new head coach Al Jones with the departure of Cyril Crutchfield and running back Lanard Fournette after 2014. They went just 2-9, dropping their opening round playoff matchup to Holy Cross and not really making any noise minus their huge win against Brother Martin last season. They did make several games closer than they should have been, but no one really gave them a contender's chance come playoff time.
This year; however, St. Aug returns over half of their offensive line as well as senior quarterback Justice McCoy, running back Garland LaFrance and wide receiver Takulve Williams, among others. With a year of experience under Coach Jones and his schemes behind them, this Purple Knights team looks poised to create some waves in the Catholic League if they can grab some early leads in a few of these matchups. Their offensive attack should be much improved from last season, and it will be up to their defense to hold any leads they can muster if St. Augustine is going to put themselves into one of the top spots in the Catholic League.
WEEK 10: Jesuit vs. Brother Martin @ Zephyr Field (Friday November 4)
The regular season Game of the Week schedule wraps up with Jesuit and Brother Martin, two very familiar foes in a game that may have huge playoff implications in terms of seeding for Division I.
Since Jesuit's improbable run to a 2014 state title, they have been a bit of a question mark. Last year was certainly a down season, going 5-7 and managing just one win in the playoffs against Archbishop Shaw in the opening round. The Blue Jays showed signs of their championship form returning with their defense, holding teams to under 20 points in four games, but were too streaky to put a successful year together. The Blue Jays have lost key wide receivers in Kalija Lipscomb and Malachi Hull, but their running game is still quite formidable with Connor Prouet holding down the backfield and a well-built offensive line ahead of him.
Brother Martin put up 49 against the Blue Jays last year, so they will need a more consistent defensive effort to win this matchup. That may be a tall task against Jordan-Swilling and the rest of the Brother Martin offense, but if Jesuit wants to win this one, Connor Prouet is going to have to beat the Swilling duo at their own game.
Every Online Prep Football Game of the Week can be found on the WWL Prep pages at WWL.com. All games will kick off at 6:40 p.m. CST with a pregame show featuring head coaches' interviews and analysis leading up to the matchup. Don't forget to tune in to the Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Football Roundup show on WWL 870 AM and 105.3 FM every Friday night from 7p.m. – 10:30 p.m.