NFL Week 2 predictions: Rams, Bills, Packers, Eagles strong favorites

Here are our NFL Nation reporters' predictions for Week 2:



Houston Texans: Last week the Texans struggled with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who scored two early touchdowns. Their defense, though, will be better in sync after one week of playing together. If the Texans can avoid turning over the ball this week after giving up two turnovers last week, they'll be able to send Ryan Mallett to a victory in his season debut. Texans 16, Panthers 10. -- Tania Ganguli

Carolina Panthers: Carolina's defense is predicated on stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback with or without middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. For their part, the Texans weren't great in either department offensively in their opener, rushing for 98 yards and allowing five sacks. This will come down to the Panthers' defense dominating up front with the return of tackle Star Lotulelei. Panthers 24, Texans 13. -- David Newton


San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers used gimmicks to dominate the Minnesota Vikings in Monday's season opener, including an inordinate amount of three-tight end sets (33 plays) and a blitz-heavy defense (35 percent of their plays). The Pittsburgh Steelers, meanwhile, looked lost on defense in their season-opening loss at the New England Patriots. While it's a short week and a cross-country trip for the 49ers, it will have been 10 days between games for the Steelers. The schedule-makers win this one, as do the hometown Steelers over the return of prodigal son Jim Tomsula. Barely. Steelers 20, 49ers 17. -- Paul Gutierrez

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are 12-2 in their last 14 home openers, Ben Roethlisberger will be fired up after the headset fiasco in New England and Colin Kaepernick is a more favorable matchup for the Steelers than Tom Brady. The Steelers' leaky pass defense will give up a few plays to an improved Kaepernick, but the Steelers' offense has more dimensions for a potential shootout. Expect another solid performance from DeAngelo Williams as the 49ers shade Antonio Brown. Steelers 27, 49ers 20 -- Tania Ganguli


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: For all the talk about coach Lovie Smith being a defensive guru, he sure hasn't backed it up. Since the start of last season, the Buccaneers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 69 percent of their pass attempts. That's good news for New Orleans' Drew Brees. Saints 28, Buccaneers 14 -- Pat Yasinskas

New Orleans Saints: This is about as “must win” as it gets in Week 2, as the Saints (0-1) are hosting a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that they've beaten seven times in a row. The Buccaneers (0-1) and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston are reeling after a 42-14 blowout loss at home to the Tennessee Titans last week. The Saints defense didn't have a single sack or interception in last week's loss at Arizona, but Winston threw two picks and was sacked four times. The Saints need to exploit his discomfort and Tampa Bay's shaky offensive line with the crowd noise behind them. Saints 30, Buccaneers 17. -- Mike Triplett


Detroit Lions: The Lions are going to have a motivated Calvin Johnson after he was targeted only four times against the Chargers. That said, the Lions' injuries on defense (Haloti Ngata's shoulder, Darius Slay's ankle and DeAndre Levy's hip) provide a little too much pause on a defense that has given up 104 yards a game to Adrian Peterson over the course of his career. In a coin-flip game, that means taking the home team. Vikings 21, Lions 20. -- Michael Rothstein

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have lost three of their last four to the Lions, who will be just as desperate for a win as Minnesota on Sunday after losing last week. But a Lions team that gave up 483 yards to the San Diego Chargers is exactly what the Vikings need. The Lions pressured Philip Rivers on just 13.6 percent of his dropbacks last week, according to ESPN Stats and Information. If Teddy Bridgewater has that clean of a pocket, he'll be able to rebound from a shaky opening night. Vikings 24, Lions 21. -- Ben Goessling


Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are 8-8 on the road under Bruce Arians. However, Carson Palmer threw for 307 yards in his return from ACL surgery in Week 1, completing passes to eight receivers. With Chicago's Jay Cutler's penchant for throwing interceptions, an opportunistic Cardinals defense (18 interceptions in 2014) could quell any threat. Cardinals 34, Bears 17. -- Josh Weinfuss

Chicago Bears: Arizona has a strong run defense, which could results in the Bears not being able to feed the ball to Matt Forte all afternoon. There is a strong possibility that Cutler will be asked to win the game by throwing the football. And we know how that usually works out. Even though Alshon Jeffery is expected to be healthier, the Cardinals look like a team destined for their third consecutive winning season under Bruce Arians. Expect a close game, but the Bears' penchant for turning the ball over on offense, and not taking the ball away enough on defense, proves to be the deciding factors. Cardinals 26, Bears 24. -- Jeff Dickerson


New England Patriots: The difference is the matchup on the interior, where the Bills get Marcell Dareus back from suspension to pair with Kyle Williams and the Patriots might play with three rookies along the interior offensive line at different points in the game. Five of the last six meetings between Bill Belichick- and Rex Ryan-coached teams have been decided by three points or fewer, so I'm expecting a close one. Bills 17, Patriots 16 -- Mike Reiss

Buffalo Bills: From the time the NFL released its schedule in April, I've considered this a game the Bills can and should win. It won't be because Brady will struggle on the road; he's actually been better against the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium (72.6 QBR since 2010) than at Gillette Stadium (67.2 QBR since 2010). Instead, Ryan will be the difference. Brady had a 46.7 QBR in road games against Ryan-coached New York Jets defenses from 2009-2014. Bills 24, Patriots 21. -- Mike Rodak


San Diego Chargers: San Diego's defense will have trouble containing Cincinnati's talented running back duo of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The Bengals totaled 127 rushing yards against Oakland last week. Defensively, the Bengals should make things hard for San Diego's patchwork offensive line, with defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Carlos Dunlap creating consistent pressure in Rivers' face. Bengals 27, Chargers 23. -- Eric D. Williams

Cincinnati Bengals: Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has brought out a variety of motivational tactics this week to get his defense ready for San Diego's top-ranked offense. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers caught the Bengals' attention with his 404-yard effort last week. Expect Cincinnati to clamp down on Rivers' passing lanes this week. Bengals 27, Chargers 23. -- Coley Harvey


Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota will fall back to earth a bit; I don't expect four touchdown throws. The Browns will make more plays on defense than Tampa Bay did. But the Titans will find a big play or two against whoever the quarterback is, and they'll match last year's win total in just two weeks. Tennessee 24, Cleveland 13. -- Paul Kuharsky

Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel spent the past two days working with the starters. Josh McCown will take over Friday if he's cleared from his concussion and practices without issues, but right now Manziel is the starter. He has to find something he hasn't shown in any of his NFL games. Tennessee 24, Cleveland 13. -- Pat McManamon


Atlanta Falcons: The Giants are far from being a dominant team, but the fact that they host this game and are coming off a bad Week 1 loss against the Cowboys is bad news for the Falcons. There is some uncertainty about Julio Jones' status coming off a hamstring injury, which could affect the flow of the offense. Not to mention the Falcons have not had success on the road against the Giants, losing three in a row there, including a playoff loss. Although Eli Manning lacks his full stable of playmakers, the running game tandem of Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, who combined for 120 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Falcons last season, might be too much, even for an improved Falcons defense to overcome. Giants 24, Falcons 21. -- Vaughn McClure

New York Giants: I expect the Giants' offense to function better this week than it did Week 1 in Dallas, especially if it can get the ball before the 11th minute of the game this time around. And I understand the Falcons are a lousy road team that's lost seven straight road games outside the NFC South (including one last year against the Giants). But I just don't have any faith in the Giants' ability to stop Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons' offense. The Giants pressured Tony Romo on just six of his 45 dropbacks last week (third-lowest percentage in the league), while Ryan was pressured by the Eagles on just three of his 37 dropbacks (lowest percentage in the league). Falcons 28, Giants 24. -- Dan Graziano


St. Louis Rams: Behind defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the defense, the Rams shut out Washington last December in a game in which they posted seven sacks. That same defense is coming off a six-sack performance against Seattle and, like the Seahawks, the Redskins have question marks aplenty on the offensive line. The Rams have to be wary of a letdown after an emotional season-opening win, but another dominant defensive effort should be enough to get to 2-0 for the first time since 2001. Rams 27, Redskins 13. -- Nick Wagoner

Washington Redskins: In the last eight games dating to last season, the Rams have forced 15 turnovers -- and that's been a problem area for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has thrown at least two interceptions in six of his 15 NFL games. The Rams' defensive pressure, which produced six sacks last week, will force Washington to get rid of the ball quickly (a Cousins strength). The last time Washington played the Rams, it did not have receiver DeSean Jackson, and the Redskins were shut out. He won't play Sunday, allowing the Rams to be more aggressive in trying to stop the run game. Rams 20, Redskins 16. -- John Keim


Miami Dolphins: This is a rematch of Miami's 2014 win over Jacksonville in Week 8, and I see this game going pretty much the same. The Dolphins did a good job of pressuring then-rookie quarterback Blake Bortles into mistakes and making him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. Miami's defensive line, led by Ndamukong Suh, is not happy with their performance last week against Washington and will be determined to establish their dominance against Bortles and Jacksonville. Dolphins 20, Jaguars 10. -- James Walker

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars have six starters or key players on the shelf, including DT Sen'Derrick Marks and TE Julius Thomas, arguably the team's best players on both sides of the ball. LT Luke Joeckel also might not be able to play because of an ankle injury. That could turn out to be one of the biggest problems because his replacement, Sam Young, gave up two sacks on 22 snaps last week, according to Pro Football Focus. There aren't many teams that can be without that many players in the lineup and be competitive, and the Jaguars' roster wasn't exactly elite before the injuries. Dolphins 21, Jaguars 10 -- Michael DiRocco


Baltimore Ravens: There is a noticeable sense of urgency with the Ravens, who are looking to avoid their first 0-2 start under coach John Harbaugh. Baltimore, which has practiced on the West Coast all week, should feel quite at home against the Raiders, especially this time of the year. Oakland is 2-11 in September games since 2012. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12) are worse in the first month of the regular season during that span. Ravens 23, Raiders 17. -- Jamison Hensley

Oakland Raiders: The Ravens have been working in the Bay Area all week after losing in Denver in Week 1. That's a long time on the road, especially dealing with the season-ending loss of leader Terrell Suggs. But how can anyone go with the Raiders after that complete stinker at home against Cincinnati last week? The Raiders were awful and they are battered, especially in the secondary. Quarterback Derek Carr is likely in line to play, but will he be healthy enough to pull off a big win? Ravens 24, Raiders 10 -- Bill Williamson


Dallas Cowboys: As the Cowboys get ready for their first game without Dez Bryant since Week 2 of the 2011 season, it's worth noting Bryant caught 10 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns against Philadelphia last season. Without Bryant, the Cowboys will have to be methodical in their approach, leaning on the running game. You have to go back six games versus the Eagles to find the last time the Cowboys' lead runner averaged 4 yards a carry. Without Bryant, the Eagles will try to suffocate the Cowboys' run game even more. Eagles 27, Cowboys 19. -- Todd Archer

Philadelphia Eagles: I picked the Eagles to win their first two games. Although they managed to prove me wrong with a 26-24 loss in Atlanta on Monday night, I'm sticking with my original thinking here. Especially with Bryant out, the Eagles almost have to keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East. Eagles 31, Cowboys 27.. -- Phil Sheridan


Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks don't want to give in to Kam Chancellor, but there's no denying his absence was felt in Week 1. Given that Nick Foles was able to produce eight pass plays of 20-plus yards, what is Aaron Rodgers going to do? The Seahawks should be able to run the ball effectively with Marshawn Lynch, but unless they can get a number of issues on defense corrected quickly, they'll be staring 0-2 in the face. Packers 27, Seahawks 24 -- Sheil Kapadia

Green Bay Packers: The Packers finally have the Seahawks at Lambeau Field after losing three straight to Seattle out West. In those three games, Rodgers has just two touchdown passes and three interceptions. Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception at home since Dec. 2, 2012. That streak could come to an end on Sunday. Seahawks 27, Packers 21. -- Rob Demovsky



New York Jets: After beating up on the Browns and their backup quarterback, Johnny Manziel, the Jets face a significant step up in competition. Andrew Luck is 19-5 at home, and the Colts are desperate after getting bullied by Rex Ryan's Bills in Week 1. Their defensive speed will be too much for the Jets to handle. Colts 27, Jets 24. -- Rich Cimini

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts had three turnovers against Buffalo. The Jets, meanwhile, forced five Browns turnovers and turned them into 21 points in Week 1. One of the biggest differences between the Jets and Bills is that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is not mobile like Tyrod Taylor. The NFL season is only two weeks old, but the Colts can't afford to start the season 0-2 because it'll add more questions about coach Chuck Pagano's future. Expect a lot of Frank Gore and a lot of pinpoint accuracy from Luck. Colts 21, Jets 10. -- Mike Wells