What an odd opening week we had, the power structure shifting and new stars emerging and a traditional power such as New Orleans briefly going in the tank.
I was with Carolina in Tampa and it was bizarre. A season ago in Glendale, Ariz., there was excitement and passion and the NFL was back and I knew I was someplace special. There was none of that in Tampa.
The Panthers came out tight. It was as if they wanted to win so badly they played as if they were afraid to fail. Good teams enjoy what they do. There was no sense of that for the visitors at Raymond James Stadium.
Panthers fans didnt think much of their work, either.
Last week: I went 10-6.
My Lock, the one game I pick against the spread that is almost a stone-cold guarantee: 0-1. The Panthers were a one-point favorite. I picked them to cover.
My Upset, a game I pick against the line, also failed. I picked Buffalo. The New York Jets, a 3-point favorite, ran to a 34-point lead, overcame a courageous Buffalo rally and hung on for a 20-point victory.
This weeks picks, with the home team in CAPS:
CAROLINA 31, New Orleans 30: I keep hearing that if the Panthers do not win Sunday they will not make the playoffs. There has never been a Sept. 16 game a team had to win since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule. But if they lose they probably ought to beat the New York Giants on Thursday.
I think the Panthers knew how tight they were a week ago and will come out differently. I think the offensive line, which had a terrible opening game, has too much talent and too many leaders not to respond. I think the defense, which adjusted nicely to an admittedly not very good Tampa Bay offense, plays well enough.
The game is as compelling as the opener was boring.
DALLAS 27, Seattle 24: Cowboys have had 11 days to prepare. Love what they did last week. Remember when Tony Romo was an up and coming quarterback, making plays and slinging the ball all over the field? Welcome back.
PITTSBURGH 27, N.Y. Jets 24: Tried to pick the Jets but failed. Maybe I know too many people from New York. Talent on most teams is cyclical; Pittsburghs might have expired. But the Steelers are at home in front of those marvelous fans and that ought to be enough.
Oakland 13, MIAMI 10: Heres my problem with the Raiders: I like them. I like their image. I like their fans. I like the silver and black. I like Kenny Stabler almost as much as I like any quarterback of all time. I met him at a Charlotte steakhouse. He was as cool as he was supposed to be. Heres my other problem with the Raiders: Every time I pick them they lose. So, Kenny, this ones for you. Also, nobody should lose to Miami.
ATLANTA 33, Denver 30: This game is so good it almost makes Monday worthwhile.
SAN FRANCISCO 23, Detroit 19
New York Giants 31, Tampa Bay 16
Minnesota 27, INDIANAPOLIS 26
BUFFALO 24, Kansas City 23
CINCINNATI 28, Cleveland 17
HOUSTON 26, Jacksonville 13
ST. LOUIS 21, Washington 20
SAN DIEGO 24, Tennessee 16
Upset of the week
Philadelphia (-2 1/2) 28
Lock of the week
NEW ENGLAND (-13 1/2) 37,