Well, last weekend felt normal! Week 1 of the Big Ten is in the books, and Ohio State and Michigan are both undefeated! Everyone in this area should be in somewhat of a good mood after Saturday, and my guess is you'll keep riding that high after this weekend as well.
We'll talk about the Buckeyes later, so I won't talk too much about them now. But can we appreciate the Michigan Wolverines for a second? My lord, I can't tell you how many times the press box at Michigan stadium has collectively groaned while watching the underachieving offenses the past couple of years. Saturday night was a breathe of fresh air for the Maize and Blue. It finally looked like speed in space! I'm very high on Joe Milton after game 1, and I can't wait to see what he does with Nick Eubanks returning at Tight-End. Oh, and Don Brown's defense looks ferocious up front like it usually is. So we might actually have a competitive game in Columbus this year! Well....maybe. We shall see.
Until then, here are my Top 5 of the Week:
5. New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills
As a staunch, Tom Brady loyalist, I'll admit that the recent struggles in New England have been fun. It's finally time that the dumb narrative that Brady is a "system QB" dies as the Buccaneers have instantly transformed into a prime time product. What happens to the Evil Empire when the backbone leaves? It's not all that dissimilar to Darth Vader helping Luke vanquish Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. The Empire was destroyed, and it waited many years before it was restored to it's former glory. The Patriots, are faced with the same situation. Their new Vader, Cam Newton, threw for 98 yds. and 3 interceptions against the 49ers last week! Now, they have to go into Buffalo and have everything fixed against the best Bills team in recent memory. Julian Edelman is listed as questionable to play, and if he doesn't, this thing won't be close.
Frank's Pick: Bills -3.5
4. Las Vegas Raiders @ Cleveland Browns
Here's the deal: the Raiders are good and I need Baker to show me something. His performance last week was spectacular when the game mattered most. But in the NFL, you're not evaluated on how you play against bad teams like the Bengals. I want to know what Baker can do against the Steelers, the Ravens,, etc... So here's a worth opponent, with the Raiders defense giving up over 32 pts. a game. I'm not sold that Baker is the guy, and you shouldn't be either. I don't care that OBJ is out, you have to limit the mistakes and piece together good drives. If he doesn't play well, I'm not saying hit the panic button just yet, but doubt will remain in the right people's minds. So let's see what he does to help get the W. I'll put faith in him this week, just because I have a hunch he'll surprise me. But, they're the Browns so who knows what version of this team we'll actually see.
Frank's Pick: Browns -2.5
3. Northwestern Wildcats @ Iowa Hawkeyes
Just hear me out on this one. This will be a very important game in the Big Ten West Division. Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats dominated Maryland last week 43-3 for Fitzgerald's 100th career win as Head Coach. The Wildcats are very much like Wisconsin in the sense that their greatness comes in waves. One year they'll be ugly, the next year they're in the Miss America pageant; not much in-between. Last week, the defense did work, only allowing 64 yds. on the ground. The Hawkeyes on the other hand, lost to perennial bottom feeders, the Purdue Boilermakers in a game where QB Spencer Petras threw no touchdowns and finished with a 53.8 QBR. Kinnick Stadium is a tough place to play when there are fans, but this time there won't be that advantage. I'm all in on the Cats.
Frank's Pick: Wildcats +2.5
2. #3 Ohio St. Buckeyes @ #18 Penn St. Nittany Lions
This 100% would have been my top game if...ya know...Penn St. didn't collapse in Bloomington last weekend. The Buckeyes looked damn good last week despite some early struggles against Nebraska. But what do you expect? It's the first half of meaningful football these kids have played in a long time. The defense looks like it'll be a "bend, don't break" kind of unit, with Justin Fields and the offense doing most of the dirty work. They're looking for those guys to step up and fill the roles of their playmakers last year: Chase Young and Jeff Okudah. What's a Buckeye defense without an elite pass rusher? We'll see, maybe the next guy is there, waiting to bust onto the scene. The offense was damn good as expected. Justin Fields was about as perfect as one could possibly be, completing 20/21 passes for 276 yds. and 2 touchdowns. He also led the run game with 15 carries for 54 yds. and a rushing score. That's the only offensive concern for the Scarlet and Gray; can you establish a run game? Master Teague will be replacing J.K. Dobbins in the backfield-big shoes to fill-and was very mediocre on Saturday. Having said that, the Buckeyes still covered, and have the chance to go 2-0 this weekend in Happy Valley. No fans. No Whiteout. Just football. Without the environment, expect a BIG Ohio St. win.
Frank's Pick: Buckeyes -12
1. Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
After taking the #2 spot last week, the Steelers are back in the top game of the week. It's the first time this year these two rivals will meet, with the Ravens opening as a 4 pt. favorite at home. Baltimore's only loss came at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers, are the only undefeated team that remains in the NFL, winning a close game in Tennessee last weekend. They've proven time and time again that they're an elite team. In Football, you can get a lot done with a veteran QB and head coach, and Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin are a hell of a duo. On the other side, Lamar Jackson is a young, athletic QB, directed by John Harbaugh. It's going to come down to whether the Steelers can stop the run game and force Jackson to win in the air-which, he can. The Steeler have won every game close so far, and this one won't be much different. Win or lose, I don't think it'll be more than 3 pts.
Frank's Pick: Steelers +4