As a fan of football, there’s something innately exciting about Cam Newton. He’s got something that Jake Delhomme could never dream of. Nor could Chris Weinke, Matt Moore, nor Jimmy Clausen. Cam has a confidence–a swagger–about him. And justifiably so.
Anyone who watched last Sunday’s game against Arizona could tell you that Cam Newton looked like the real deal. He revived an offense that sputtered to score 12.2 points per game last year–more than four and a half less that 31st placed Cleveland. The offense reached heights not seen since, ironically enough, just before the Arizona playoff game more often remembered as the game Jake really crapped the bed.
What made his outing even more impressive was how well he handled pressure. Cards’ coach Ken Whisenhunt threw blitz after blitz trying to confuse Newton, but he felt the heat, stayed cool, and picked apart their secondary. He didn’t depend on his legs. He didn’t force throws. Cam Newton just made the right throw–24 times for 422 yards.
Now no one expects Cam to keep this up. Tom Brady never even through for 400 yards until Monday Night and Michael Vick’s never done it. But even playing competently is a massive upgrade for the Panthers, and it shows that their bright future could be coming sooner rather that later.
So maybe when all’s said and done, the teams that are tanking this year for Andrew Luck really should have tanked last year for Cam Newton.
Week 2 picks; home teams in CAPS.
BILLS (-3.5) over Raiders
Who knew the Bills could play so competently? Better get your Harvard QB jokes in quickly before they take over third place in the AFC East for good.
SAINTS (-7.5) over Bears
Beating the tough Bears D by more than a touchdown is a tall order, but the Saints are tough. They were 12 inches and some good luck away from beating the Packers on the road to start the season after falling behind 0-14. Drew Brees won’t let this team fall to 0-2, not at home.
COLTS (+2.5) over Browns
Imagine telling someone exactly 1 year ago today that the Browns would be favored on the road by 2. They’d probably ask if they were playing the Raiders, Bills, or Bengals, but that would still be somewhat hard to believe. But the Colts? No way. Funny how things change. But in the end, if the Colts want any shot at treading water before Peyton comes back to save my fantasy team Indy’s season, they’ve got to beat Cleveland at home.
LIONS (-8.5) over Chiefs
I’m trying not to fall into this trap. What’s not to like about the Lions? They spent #1 picks on a QB, wideout, running back, and tight end who have all more or less panned out plus the most dominate defensive lineman for the next decade. They have cool new uniforms, a young defensive-minded coach, and a chip on their shoulder. So Vegas pushes their line. But the Chiefs gave up 41 points last year. That’s bad if you’re playing the Patriots. But they were playing the Bills.
One more weird stat: Matt Cassel completed 22 passes against Buffalo–two less than Cam did. But instead of airing it out for 422 yards, he compiled a measly 119 yards. That’s not even 6 yards per completion. Every time he took a snap, the offense averaged 3.3 yards.
Packers (+10.5) over PANTHERS
Watching Cam last week made me consider taking Carolina for a moment. Then I remembered that the Panthers can’t tackle, and they lost their best tackler for the season last week. Joy.
Ravens (-5.5) over TITANS
The Titans couldn’t beat the Luke McCown-led Jags last week.
Buccaneers (+3.5) over VIKINGS
Did you know that Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards against San Diego. No, not 39 yards on the first drive. Just 39 yards. Even Ethan Albright with his 17 throwing power and 16 throwing accuracy could do better. I’d take the Bucs -3.5.
JETS (-10.5) over Jaguars
How many straight weeks can Luke McCown get a shoutout here? I’m sure that’s his biggest lifetime achievement. Either that or succeeding Tim Rattay at Louisiana Tech.
Cardinals (+4.5) over REDSKINS
I still think the Redskins are going to be really, really bad. And, no, you can’t fool me, Rex Grossman. I still know you are a T-R-B-L turrrrrrrible player.
STEELERS (-14.5) over Seahawks
I thought about taking Seattle. Because winning by more than 2 touch downs is tough no matter who’s playing. But they I pictured a terrified Tarvaris Jackson seeing thousands upon thousands of terrible towels being waved as James Harrison stares intensely at him just feet away. And now I’m more than willing to give the Sidney Rice-less Seahawks 14.5 points.
Cowboys (+2.5) over NINERS
Just like Sexy Rexy, Alex Smith can’t fool me. Unlike the Redskins, the Niners have some serious talent on both sides of the ball, especially on offnse. However, I really like the ‘Boys this year, and believe it or not, Tony Romo is a really good QB. Just get that image of him fumbling the field goal snap out of your head, that was like totally four years ago.
Bengals (+5.5) over BRONCOS
These teams are so bad, I figure I might as well take the points and a potentially sneaky good offense (AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham, and Cedric Benson) over Kyle Orton and an pretty bad run game. I actually wonder if FOX and CBS punishes their worst announcers with games like these.
Texans (-2.5) over DOLPHINS
Did anyone watch last week? That game where the Texans put up 34 on the Colts? Because the Dolphins are no good home or away, and the Texans may just have turned the corner. And you can add Chad Henne to the you-can’t-fool-me group of QBs already mentioned. Am I going to pick against the Dolphins twice in a row at home to open the season as myLance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week? Cracker, please. Wait, that’s racist.
PATRIOTS (-6.5) over Chargers
Is this line really that big? The Chargers have to fly cross country, and they already are historically slow-starting. Between Brady’s surgeon-like precision and a running game averaging 4.8 yards per carry, New England is just tough to stop. And just wait until Ochocinco and Stevan Ridley get worked into the offense.
FALCONS (+2.5) over Eagles
Just like the Lions game, I’m falling into the trap. I’m giving up too many points because a feel good team with a possibly-over-hyped young quarterback and cool unis has stolen my heart. Roddy White. Michael Turner. Julio Jones. What not to like? Yes, they lost to Chicago last week and play a tougher Eagles team, but they are too good to just roll over the first two weeks.
Rams (+6.5) over GIANTS
I’m breaking my Don’t-Take-NFC-West-Teams-On-The-Road-Out-Of-The-Division rule way too early in the year. But I have a great feeling about Sam Bradford against a beaten-up Giants D, plus Eli Manning isn’t exactly Peyton in the clutch. Wait, that doesn’t make sense, Peyton sucks in the clutch. Either way, Eli definitely isn’t that top-5 QB he said he was. He’s far from even top-15.
Last Week: 7-9
Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 1-0