Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books, and it provided us with some tremendous individual matchups. That came to a culmination Sunday night with Dez Bryant and Janoris Jenkins going at it in the Dallas Cowboys’ huge season-opening win against the New York Giants.
Heading into the second week of the regular season, there promises to be even better one-on-one duels. Can future Hall of Fame tackle Joe Thomas fend off Terrell Suggs after the Ravens’ pass rusher dominated Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton in Week 1? What about Tennessee Titans rookie first-round pick Corey Davis? Does he stand a fighting chance against an elite Jaguars corner in Jalen Ramsey?
Over in the NFC, Desmond Trufant will be tasked with stopping Packers star receiver Jordy Nelson after the Falcons’ top corner struggled against a weak Chicago Bears offense in Week 1. How will that impact an otherwise elite-level matchup between the two conference title contenders? These are among the top matchups for each Week 2 NFL game.
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals: J.J. Watt vs Jake Fisher
It’s high time for the Texans’ defense to step up and show its dominating ways. Primarily due to injuries suffered by J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing in Week 1, this didn’t happen against a Jaguars offense many expected to struggle at the season’s onset. For his part, Watt suffered a dislocated finger and was able to return to action.
This week, Houston has an enviable matchup against a Bengals offense that scored exactly zero points against Baltimore last Sunday. Andy Dalton was sacked five times — a number that was only matched by the amount of times Cincinnati turned it over. It was ugly. Really ugly.
Watt now has an opportunity to lead his Texans to their first win of the season. It comes against a right tackle in Jake Fisher who struggled mightily against Terrell Suggs in Week 1. Though, we have to keep an eye on the finger injury. It could impact Watt’s violent push at the line. Either way, he should be in good position to dominate come Thursday night.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: Joe Thomas vs Terrell Suggs
Speaking of Suggs, he recorded two sacks of Andy Dalton and a forced fumble in Baltimore’s shutout Week 1 win over Cincinnati. Any thought given to the idea that he has slowed down can be thrown out the window. Remember, Suggs racked up eight sacks last season. That came mere months after he suffered a torn Achilles. Science has nothing on this future Hall of Famer.
Speaking of science, it’s almost a near certainty that field will one day name Joe Thomas the first extra-terrestrial to play in the NFL. That’s how good the Browns’ left tackle has been for the better part of the past 10-plus seasons. He remains a dominating figure, someone that needs to continue playing at this level in order to help fend off pass rushers from rookie DeShone Kizer’s blind side.
That’s where this specific matchup comes into play. Primarily due to domination at the line and Andy Dalton’s horrible day, Baltimore held Cincinnati to zero points, 14 first downs and 221 total yards on Sunday. Did we mention this defense also forced an absurd five turnovers? If Suggs somehow finds a way to dominate this week, the Ravens could be looking at a second consecutive shutout against the rookie signal caller.
Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers: LeSean McCoy vs Panthers run defense
This Bills’ offense was one of the biggest winners from Week 1. After showing itself to be poor, at best, during the preseason, this unit came out and laid the hammer down on the hapless New York Jets. And it started with Shady in the backfield. Recently handed a raise from the team, McCoy put up 159 total yards and averaged 5.9 yards on 27 touches. That came against a run defense many expected to remain solid this season.
Now set to take on a Panthers defense that yielded 51 rushing yards against San Francisco in Week 1, McCoy will have to put up a repeat performance if the Bills hope to go 2-0 on the season. Not only is this on McCoy, but the likes of Richie Incognito and John Miller at guard have to do a good job fending off the Panthers’ elite defensive tackle duo of Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. If that happens, the Bills will have a fighting chance to pull off the upset here.
Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts: Patrick Peterson vs T.Y. Hilton
Whether it is Scott Tolzien or Jacoby Brissett under center for the hapless and embarrassing Colts, Hilton himself will have to step up if Indy hopes to rebound from Sunday’s humiliating loss to the Los Angeles Rams. With three catches on seven targets against Los Angeles, this just didn’t happen in Week 1.
Fortunately for the Colts, they’re going to be taking on a corner in Patrick Peterson who surprisingly struggled in Week 1’s loss to the Detroit Lions. Peterson was burned by Marvin Jones for a touchdown in that game. Sure Matthew Stafford had a ton of time, but we rarely see a receiver gain position over Peterson out in the perimeter. Jones did just that here.
Maybe the Colts will find a way to take advantage of Peterson’s early-season struggles. Then again, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the corner intercept multiple passes against this train wreck of an offense.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: Corey Davis vs Jalen Ramsey
Even after not playing a single preseason snap, rookie No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis was a major part of the Titans’ offense in their season-opening loss to the Oakland Raiders. One of the most productive receivers in college football history, Davis was targeted 10 times. He caught six passes for 69 yards in a productive NFL debut. And his first NFL catch against Raiders’ David Amerson was an absolute thing of beauty. If there was any question about Davis making the transition from mid-tier college competition to the NFL, that was answered in Week 1.
Now set to take on fellow youngster Jalen Ramsey in the first of what will hopefully be a decade-long rivalry in the AFC South, we can rest assure Davis will have his sights set on the boisterous Jaguars corner. For his part, Ramsey continues to prove himself to be an All-Pro caliber corner, even as just a second-year player. His technique on the outside is just simply amazing. It will be a tremendous first major test for Davis — one he’ll have to win if the Titans want to earn their first victory of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs: Lane Johnson vs Justin Houston
If Carson Wentz is going to rebound after an uneven performance in Week 1, his offensive tackles will have to hold up against a ferocious Chiefs pass rush. Just ask Tom Brady, who himself put up a dud of a performance in last Thursday’s season opener. And in reality, a lot of that had to do with the consistent pressure Houston put on the five-time Super Bowl winner.
With left tackle Jason Peters nursing an injury, there’s a chance Johnson will be tasked with protecting Wentz’s blindside against Dee Ford. But at this point, Peters seems to be good to go. If so, Johnson will have to step his game up big time against this former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Wentz found himself sacked twice and hurried eight times in 41 drop backs during the Eagles’ Week 1 win against an average Redskins pass rush. It led to some questionable decisions from the second-year quarterback. Should this repeat itself at the not-so-friendly confines of Arrowhead on Sunday, the Eagles will be in major trouble. That’s where Johnson comes into play against Houston.
New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints: Brandin Cooks vs Marshon Lattimore
These two never played together. Lattimore was selected in the first round by New Orleans mere weeks after it sent Cooks to the Patriots in a blockbuster trade. But that doesn’t make this matchup any less intriguing. We already know that Cooks’ career in New Orleans ended on a sour note. He was not happy with Michael Thomas taking over as Drew Brees’ favorite target, and he let everyone know about it.
Now set to return to New Orleans after putting up just three catches on seven targets in his Patriots debut, we can rest assured that Cooks wants to lay into his old team big time. Here, it comes against a rookie in Lattimore who is already the Saints’ No. 1 corner. It should be fun with jawing on both sides.
Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers: Xavier Rhodes vs Antonio Brown
This is going to be so much fun. Quietly, Brown put up a heck of a performance in an otherwise lackluster effort from the Steelers’ offense in Week 1. The stud receiver caught all 11 passes thrown his direction for 182 yards. To put that into perspective, Ben Roethlisberger completed 13-of-25 passes for 81 yards to the rest of his Steelers teammates in a narrow win over Cleveland.
On the other side, Rhodes absolutely dominated new Saints No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas in the Vikings’ Monday Night Football win over New Orleans. Despite dealing with dehydration, Rhodes helped his Vikings hold Thomas to five catches for 45 yards on eight targets. That’s an average of 5.6 yards per target after Thomas averaged nearly double that amount as a rookie last season. Yeah, this is going to be a great matchup.
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Sitton vs Gerald McCoy
Sitton remains one of the most underrated players in all of football. This came out big time in Chicago’s impressive Week 1 performance against the defending conference champion Atlanta Falcons. Facing a pretty darn good Atlanta defensive front, Sitton helped open up holes for the duo of Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard, who went for 118 yards on 18 combined attempts.
It’s going to be a completely different monster against McCoy, who is one of the top-five defensive players in all of football. Not only will Sitton have to fend off McCoy from a run-blocking standpoint, he’ll have to keep a clean pocket for Mike Glennon. Simply put, McCoy has been one of the most-dominant interior defensive linemen in the NFL since entering the league back in 2010. If he can get pressure from the interior, it will lead to mistakes from Glennon. As a result, this could turn into a blowout.
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers: Laremy Tunsil vs Melvin Ingram
A highly-touted former first-round pick from Mississippi, Tunsil entered the NFL last season as a potential franchise left tackle. Though, Miami took it slow within him — ultimately playing the offensive lineman at guard throughout the vast majority of his rookie season. Tunsil excelled, leading Miami to move on from the now retired Branden Albert. He now enters his sophomore season as the team’s unquestioned left tackle in front of Jay Cutler.
With Miami having seen its season opener postponed due to Hurricane Irma last week, Tunsil’s first test will be against a dominating pass rusher on the road this upcoming Sunday. Just signed to a massive extension, Ingram paired up with Joey Bosa to sack Broncos’ starter Trevor Siemian three times on Monday night. Should this repeat itself, the Dolphins will be in major trouble in Los Angeles come Sunday afternoon.
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders: Morris Claiborne vs Michael Crabtree
Oakland currently finds itself as whopping two-touchdown home favorites against the Jets. It’s in this that we like can’t find too many top-end matchups. There’s very little to think this game will be close. The talent difference between the two sides is simply too much for New York to overcome.
If the Jets are going to even keep this game close, their corners are going to have to stand tall against the best wide receiver duo in the AFC. Sure, we’ll be looking at Buster Skrine going up against Amari Cooper. But who really thinks Skrine has an opportunity to even contain Derek Carr’s favorite target?
Instead, we look to the other side of the field. As consistent of a No. 2 receiver that you’ll see in the NFL, Crabtree caught 6-of-7 targets for 83 yards in the Raiders’ Week 1 win over Tennessee. Sadly, for the Jets Crabtree now goes up against a corner in Claiborne who was beat repeatedly by Bills rookie Zay Jones and committed an atrocious pass interference penalty in Week 1. If Claiborne can’t keep up with Crabs here, it will lead to an incredibly lopsided affair in Oakland on Sunday.
Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos: Dez Bryant vs Aqib Talib
If you thought Bryant and Janoris Jenkins had a war of words in Week 1, just wait until this potentially epic, conversation-filled matchup between these two chirpy veterans. Talib will line up against Bryant in Week 2, primarily because he has the physicality to take the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver out of the game. He can also take away the deep pass with the best of them for a Broncos defense that yielded an absurdly low 69.7 quarterback rating last season.
For his part, Bryant has still yet to find a real connection with Cowboys second-year quarterback Dak Prescott. He put up just two catches for 43 yards on nine targets in Sunday’s win over the Giants. Sure Jenkins has Bryant’s number (4-of-23 on targeted passes in three games), but he has not lit it up against other competition, either. That will have to change if the Cowboys want to overcome an elite Broncos defense on Sunday.
Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams: Jordan Reed vs Lamarcus Joyner
It’s not too much of a surprise that Reed was ineffective in Washington’s Week 1 loss to Philadelphia. In addition to seeing Kirk Cousins struggle mightily with accuracy, the tight end was going up against an Eagles defense that’s the best in the NFL in covering players at this position. It led to the talented pass catcher putting up just five catches for 36 yards on eight targets.
It won’t get much easier against a revamped Rams defense under first-year coordinator Wade Phillips. In switching Joyner to a true rover position, Phillips has found himself a nice little defensive weapon. That came out in droves during Los Angeles’ 46-9 destruction of Indianapolis in Week 1. Not only did Joyner record four tackles and two passes defended, he had a brilliant pick-six in the game. Likely to continue playing the slot with Reed lined up against him, Joyner has an opportunity to continue proving his worth as a vastly improved defensive back.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: Trent Brown vs Michael Bennett
We were going to go with Joe Staley against Cliff Avril here, but that’s been the one elite matchup between these two NFC West rivals for the better part of the past five seasons. Instead, we look at a right tackle in Trent Brown who has turned into one of the best players at his position in the NFL.
In an otherwise ugly Week 1 loss to Carolina, Brown did not allow a single pressure. Considering the interior of San Francisco’s offensive line was dominated by the Panthers, it’s going to be important for Brown to keep up this elite level of play against Seattle on Sunday. He also needs to do it in one-on-one situations so San Francisco can send help to its guards.
That most definitely won’t be an easy task against a player in Bennett who recorded 1.5 sacks and four quarterback pressures of Aaron Rodgers in Week 1. Should Bennett dominate here, it will be a tough task for the 49ers to score a single point. If not, San Francisco could stay close against a questionable Seahawks offense.
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons: Jordy Nelson vs Desmond Trufant
Oh man, it sure looks like the Aaron Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson connection is full-steam ahead during the early part of the 2017 season. Despite an otherwise lackluster offensive showing against Seattle in Week 1, Nelson caught seven of the eight passes thrown in his direction for 79 yards and a score in Green Bay’s win.
It’s not going to get much easier Week 2 against one of the top corners in the NFL in the form of Desmond Trufant. Returning from a serious injury he suffered last season, Trufant struggled with rust in Week 1’s narrow win over Chicago. Considering the Bears lack any real threat at receiver, that should be a question heading into this Sunday Night Football game.
Then again, getting back on the field for one game could alleviate some of the rust. When healthy, Trufant has more than proven himself to be among the best cover corners in the NFL.
Detroit Lions at New York Giants: Rick Wagner vs Jason Pierre-Paul
Pierre-Paul looked leaner and stronger in Week 1 than we saw in the past. That’s most definitely not good news for opposing NFL offensive tackles. And while JPP did not record a sack against an elite Cowboys offensive line, he did put pressure on Dak Prescott multiple times Sunday night.
For Detroit, adding Wagner on a huge free agent contract this past spring was a way for the team to improve its offensive tackle performance. That came out it in droves in Sunday’s win over Arizona, with Matthew Stafford sacked just one time. And really, Wagner’s performance was the primary reason for this. Should he fend off Pierre-Paul come Monday night, the Lions could be looking at a 2-0 start to the season.