First Tier – Must Starts
- Chicago – No reason to think they can’t manhandle the Lions the way they did the Packers.
- Baltimore – Wow! Are they really back? A “test” against the lowly Raiders at home may prove just that.
Second Tier – Solid Starts
- Indianapolis – Last week, they let Lil Manning and Tiki Barber do whatever they wanted, basically. Let’s just say that I doubt David Carr and Wali Lundy will have that kind of success.
- Carolina – After their Week 1 stinker, they will be pumped up to perform. The statuesque Viking QB Brad Johnson will be ripe for the pickin’ (and sackin’).
- San Diego – After toying with the Raiders, they get another pretty cupcake matchup against the Titans.
- Denver – They very well could be the high scorers of the week and deserve starting. Chief fill-in QB Damon Huard facing the Bronco secondary? Good luck with that.
- Jacksonville – If they face a rusty Ben Roethlisberger, they will be on him like white on rice. Otherwise, they face a very average Charlie Batch. Either way, their defense will have to be up to the big task on Monday Night Football.
- Pittsburgh – The possible loss of Troy Polamalu will hurt a bit, but they’ll still perform admirably. Even on the road against a solid opponent in Jacksonville.
Third Tier - Best of the Rest
- Miami – They’ll be pumped up in their home opener against a weaker divisional foe.
- Atlanta – The possible loss of DE John Abraham will lessen their pass rush, but they’ll still handle the Bucs at home.
- Seattle – Arizona QB Kurt Warner got through all of his Week 1 matchup with the Niners with no INTs. I don’t suspect that happening here in Week 2.
- Dallas – It’s Rivalry Week already, I guess. Dallas will look to stymie the questionable Redskin offense.
Note: League scoring used for this column is 2 points for safety, fumble recovery, blocked punt or FG, 1 point for blocked PAT or sack, 6 points for defensive or special team TDs, and anywhere from 10 to 2 points based on points allowed.