It was only a year ago when the New York Giants’ two most visible faces, coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning, were feeling heat.
Manning was hearing boos from the home fans and Coughlin’s job was in jeopardy as the Giants stumbled to 0-2.
After a remarkable postseason road trip and a Super Bowl win, it’s much different now.
The Giants are trying to go 2-0 today with a win at St. Louis. New York is an 81/2-point favorite over the Rams, and handicapper Joseph D’Amico is siding with the team that rarely loses on the road.
“The best road team in the NFL keeps rolling,” said D’Amico, last year’s winner of the Review-Journal NFL Challenge.
The Giants, looking to extend their winning streak away from home to 12 games, opened the season with a 16-7 victory over Washington.
The Rams, hammered 38-3 at Philadelphia a week ago, need to get running back Steven Jackson and quarterback Marc Bulger on track. Jackson, a former Eldorado High School star, held out for most of training camp and was held to 40 yards rushing in the opener.
“Jackson showed signs of rust in Week 1, and Bulger and an already banged-up offensive line will get lots of pressure from Giants defensive ends Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck,” said D’Amico (Allamericansports.info).
Brandon Jacobs rushed for 116 yards on 21 carries against the Redskins, but the Giants settled for three field goals in the first half. Manning completed 19 passes, 10 to Plaxico Burress.
D’Amico said Manning will see better results against a decimated St. Louis defense that allowed 522 total yards to the Eagles.
D’Amico breaks down the rest of today’s Week 2 schedule:
• Oakland at Kansas City (-31/2): In his first road start, Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell needs confidence fast. He looked inexperienced in Monday’s 41-14 whipping at the hands of the Denver Broncos. Now he has to play in the NFL’s noisiest stadium in a rivalry game. Oakland’s running backs looked good last week, but its offensive line and receivers were a sorry bunch.
The Raiders don’t fare well against the Chiefs, but they stopped a nine-game series losing streak in Week 12 of last season. Kansas City running back Larry Johnson figures to top 100 yards in a winning effort. Watch the number here, and buy it down a half-point if you have to and lay minus-3 with the Chiefs.
• Tennessee at Cincinnati (-1): The Titans will be without quarterback Vince Young as Kerry Collins gets the start. This is a revenge game as the Titans took their worst loss of last season, 35-6, to the Bengals.
Tennessee can rely on its rushing attack, with Chris Johnson’s speed and LenDale White’s strength keeping the Cincinnati defense on its heels. The Johnson-White tandem combined for 133 yards in a 17-10 win over Jacksonville. The Titans’ run defense is strong. The Bengals’ Carson Palmer had one of the worst outings of his career last week with 99 yards passing. Tennessee’s defense wins this game.
• Indianapolis (-1) at Minnesota: Peyton Manning and the Colts looked flat last week in their 29-13 loss to the Bears. Indianapolis, 7-1 straight up on the road a year ago, will have problems containing Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. However, the Colts’ pass rush should bother shaky QB Tarvaris Jackson. The Colts’ Tony Dungy is as good as any coach in the league at preparing his team, and Manning will exploit a Vikings pass defense that ranked 32nd in the league a year ago. Go with the Colts.
• New Orleans at Washington (Pick): Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell seems lost in new coach Jim Zorn’s version of the West Coast offense. Including the final two preseason games, Washington has been outscored 87-13 in three outings.
The Saints’ Drew Brees picked apart a good Tampa Bay defense for 343 yards and three touchdowns last week. He has thrown for 30 TDs in his past 13 games. A problem for Brees will be filling the void of 6-foot-4-inch wideout Marques Colston, who’s out with a thumb injury. But let’s not forget about tight end Jeremy Shockey and versatile Reggie Bush. Take the New Orleans offense.
• Green Bay (-3) at Detroit: The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers makes his first road start. But the Detroit defense has several holes that were exposed in a 34-21 loss to Atlanta. Green Bay running back Ryan Grant must be a double threat as Rodgers dumps off a lot more short passes. Lay the points with the Packers.
• Chicago at Carolina (-31/2): This is the toughest game on the board to figure out. The Rex Grossman-less Bears looked great against the Colts, but were they that good or was Indy just that flat? Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton looked solid as he passed for 150 yards, and running back Matt Forte pounded the ball up the middle as well as any rookie I have seen. The Bears’ defense will blitz Carolina’s Jake Delhomme. It’s too tough to call.
• Buffalo at Jacksonville (-5): The Jaguars had three offensive linemen hurt in the loss to Tennessee, and that’s a problem for David Garrard, who was sacked seven times last week. Bills coach Dick Jauron beefed up his team’s defense. Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 76 yards against Seattle, will be the difference. With Lynch running the ball, Buffalo will control the clock and keep it close.
• Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-7): The story here is Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and how quickly he can mature. But running back Michael Turner will be the equalizer for Atlanta. Turner ran for 220 yards and two TDs last week. Tampa Bay is a solid team but not good enough to lay more than a touchdown, so take the points.
• San Francisco at Seattle (-7): The Seahawks enjoy one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL, going 19-8-1 against the spread in their past 28 at home. Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck has several receivers banged up. The fact the 49ers are a dismal 2-9 ATS versus the NFC, plus the Seahawks’ home advantage, tells me to take the favorite.
• Miami at Arizona (-61/2): Chad Pennington will improve the Dolphins’ offense with performances like last week’s 251 yards passing and two touchdowns, but he still doesn’t have a slew of weapons around him. Miami’s defense must pressure the Cardinals’ Kurt Warner, but I don’t see that happening. Warner leads Arizona to another win.
• New England at N.Y. Jets (-11/2): The absence of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is worth 6 to 7 points in the line. But New England has the best head coach in football, the best system and the best team. The Jets looked good last week, although the jury still is out on the aging Brett Favre. Don’t count out the Patriots, but it will take time for the offense to believe in Matt Cassel. I am staying away from this one.
• San Diego (-1) at Denver: The Chargers want to avoid a repeat of last year’s 1-3 start. San Diego won both meetings with Denver last season by a combined score of 64-6. Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler looks more mature with each outing, and wideout Brandon Marshall is back after a one-game suspension. It’s hard to go against the Chargers’ big three of Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. I’ll go with San Diego.
• Pittsburgh (-6) at Cleveland: The Steelers have won nine straight against the Browns. The Cleveland defense looked shabby in a 28-10 thumping by Dallas. Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker ran for more than 100 yards in both meetings last year against the Browns, and QB Ben Roethlisberger was sharp last week. Lay the points with the Steelers.
COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS