Top storyline for each Week 2 NFL game

NFL quarterbacks, Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan and Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers

More so than this past weekend, Week 2 of the NFL season offers us a bunch of great storylines. Whether they’re carried over from last season or stem from what we saw during the first weekend of action, there’s a whole heck of a lot to look at here.

Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon returns to his former home of Tampa to take on the quarterback who unseated him as a starter back in 2015. In Kansas City, Andy Reid helms the upstart Chiefs against his former team and young quarterback Carson Wentz. These are a couple of the reunions we’re focusing on this week.

Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in their new digs. It’s a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game, one that could set the tone for the rest of the season. These are among the top storylines for each Week 2 NFL game.

Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals: Two dreadful offenses

Andy Dalton was brutal in Bengals shutout loss to Ravens.

It was embarrassing for both the Bengals and Texans’ offenses in Week 1. It could also lead to a snooze-fest come Thursday night in Cincinnati. There’s some added relevance here because both teams boast pretty darn good defenses.

For the homestanding Bengals, it was all about a lack of protection in front of Andy Dalton in Week 1’s shutout loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Dalton was sacked five times, ultimately leading to him turning the ball over five times as well. It won’t get any easier going up against J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Co. on Thursday.

On the other hand, Tom Savage has been replaced under center in Houston by rookie Deshaun Watson after the two combined to be sacked 10 times by a swarming Jaguars defense on Sunday. How will Watson respond against a solid defensive front in his first regular season NFL start? Yeah, it’s not going to be pretty.

Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers: Utilizing Christian McCaffrey

It’s interesting. When we look at McCaffrey’s game tape in his debut against San Francisco last week, it didn’t seem that he made a huge impact. Then, when we check out the stat sheet, that changes a bit. The rookie gained 85 yards on 18 touches in the game. Not a bad debut at all.

More than this, McCaffrey forces defenses to account for him in a big way in the passing game. Not only did he catch five balls against San Francisco, he helped receivers get wide open down the field. It’s now up to a rusty Cam Newton to actually show more accuracy down the field. It will be interesting to see how Carolina utilizes McCaffrey schematically in Week 2 and whether it mirrors what we saw in the opener.

Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Glennon returns “home”

Prior to worrying about having his job taken over by rookie Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago, Glennon himself was in the same situation with the Buccaneers. After putting up a surprising 29 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions in his first 18 career starts, Glennon was passed over by then rookie Jameis Winston as the Bucs’ starter back in 2015. He would ultimately throw 11 passes over the past two seasons with the Buccaneers.

Now, heading back to Tampa Bay as a high-priced starter for the Bears, we’re pretty darn sure Glennon will want to prove that his former team made a mistake. And while it might take a whole heck of a lot, the veteran is actually coming off a strong Week 1 performance that saw him nearly lead Chicago to a win over the defending conference champion Falcons. It’s not the biggest homecoming of the 2017 season. But for Glennon, it matters a great deal.

Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers: Elite vs elite

Le'Veon Bell Antonio Brown, Jan 8, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) celebrates with Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) after scoring a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to allowing a garbage-time touchdown drive late in the fourth on Monday, Minnesota’s defense had held Drew Brees and the Saints to 12 points and 274 yards of offense. It was a tremendous season-opening performance from a unit many expect to be among the best in the NFL.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh stumbled out of the gate offensively against Cleveland in a narrow Week 1 win. Sure Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown would connect for 11 catches and 182 yards on 11 targets. But outside of that, Big Ben struggled. He completed 13-of-25 passes for less than four yards per attempt to the rest of his teammates.  Meanwhile, Le’Veon Bell went for just 32 yards on 10 carries in a narrow 21-18 win.

If Pittsburgh hopes to overcome what looked to be a well-oiled Vikings machine in Week 1, its offense will have to perform better. Yes, that includes Brown doing his thing against Xavier Rhodes. But Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers must also play better against a potentially elite secondary. Winning with an uneven performance against Cleveland is one thing. Doing it against the Vikings is a completely different ball game.

Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts: Just how bad are the Colts?

We’ll find out first-hand just how horrible this Colts team is when it takes on a David Johnson-less Cardinals squad that also struggled in Week 1 at home on Sunday. Scott Tolzien or Jacoby Brissett will get the start for Indy. All Tolzien did in Week 1 was throw two pick-six’s against the Los Angeles Rams in a game that saw the Colts lose by the embarrassing score of 46-9. Tolzien was bad. Really bad.

Defensively, Indianapolis yielded 300-plus passing yards to second-year Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who completed 12-of-16 passes to his top-three wide receivers. It was a disastrous performance from that unit, too.

The good news here for Indy is that it is taking on a Cardinals offense that will be without star running back David Johnson for at least the next two months. That’s an absolutely huge blow, considering Johnson accounted for 36 percent of Arizona’s yards last season. Add in Carson Palmer’s epic Week 1 struggles, and some figure the Colts have a chance here.

That’s until we realize just how bad this team is without Andrew Luck. Even a competitive game would be a step in the right direction for head coach Chuck Pagano and Co.

New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints: Tom Terrific?

Tom Brady

NFL fans the world over should be willing to give Brady a mulligan for his Week 1 performance against Kansas City. Sure he proved to be the most inaccurate starting quarterback of the 30 that took the field. But Brady has proven himself time and again. One bad performance doesn’t write off his five Lombardi trophies or his place in league history as the top signal caller to ever play the game.

But if Brady were to somehow struggle against an anemic Saints defense in Week 2, we will then have to worry. Here’s a unit that allowed Sam Bradford to complete 27-of-32 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in Week 1.

Dating back to the start of the 2015 season, New Orleans has given up 75 passing touchdowns with 18 interceptions in its past 33 games. It’s an historically bad pass defense. If Brady can’t take advantage of that, questions will come up about whether the 40-year-old signal caller has regressed.

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: Huge road test for rookie quarterback

As expected, rookie Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer had an up-and-down NFL regular season debut in Week 1. He completed 20-of-30 passes with two total touchdowns and an interception in a narrow loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now taking to the road for the first time in his career, Kizer faces what could be the ultimate test of his rookie season. He’s set to take on a Ravens defense that absolutely demolished Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1. When we say demolish, it’s not an overreaction.

Led by Terrell Suggs, the Ravens forced five Andy Dalton turnovers, sacked the quarterback five times and gave up exactly zero points. As embarrassing as this performance was for Cincinnati, it was equally impressive for Baltimore. We’re not expecting a whole lot from Kizer in Week 2, but it will be interesting to see how he responds against what might be the best defense in the NFL.

Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs: The Andy Reid Bowl

For the first time since leaving Philadelphia, Reid will coach a regular season game against the team he led to the Super Bowl years back. While the head coach wants to downplay just how important this game is to him, we know deep inside he wants to stick it to the brass in Philadelphia.

Luckily for Reid, it comes following a Week 1 game in which his Chiefs absolutely whooped the defending champion New England Patriots on the road. Winning by the score of 42-27 doesn’t do it justice. Kansas City’s offense took the Pats’ defense behind the woodhshed to the tune of 537 total yards and 26 first downs in an effort that no Bill Belichick-led team has seen against it before.

Now set to take on an Eagles team that is coming off an error-filled Week 1 win over Washington, Reid has an opportunity to prove that his Chiefs are the class of the AFC. It just so happens to come against a squad he led to the playoffs nine times in 14 seasons.

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: Changing of the guard in the AFC South?

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell sacks Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage

It’s hard not to overreact when we see the young Jaguars put it all together on the football field and absolutely dominate a reigning division champion on the road. That’s exactly what this team did in Week 1, handing Houston an embarrassing 29-7 loss.

Unlike when the Jaguars found themselves to be an entertaining product two seasons ago, it was the defense that stepped up big here. Led by Calais Campbell, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler upfront, the Jags sacked Texans quarterbacks 10 times and forced four turnovers en route to forcing Houston into benching Tom Savage.

Now, as the team prepares for its first home game of the season in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, it’s time for Jacksonville to prove that it is the class of the AFC South. It will come against Marcus Mariota and a Titans squad that surprised to the tune of nine wins last season. The same squad that dropped its home opener in less-than-stellar fashion to the Oakland Raiders in Week 1. This is, in every sense of the word, a true statement game for the Jags.

New York Jets at Oakland Raiders: Bloodbath by the bay

Following its impressive Week 1 road win in Nashville, Oakland gets to open up its home slate against the least-talented team in the NFL. It is currently 14-point favorites against Josh McCown and Co., a spread we fully expect the Raiders themselves to best.

Not only was Derek Carr uber impressive in his first game since signing a massive extension, Marshawn Lynch dominated physically in his first game following a one-year hiatus. Really, it seems that the Raiders’ offense has an opportunity to be the most-dynamic in the NFL this season. Add in Amari Cooper’s freakish ability at receiver, and that’s taken to a whole new level.

For the Jets, they’re coming off what was a better-than-expected performance on the road against Buffalo in Week 1. Having kept the game to within one score in the fourth quarter, the Jets were much more competitive than most figured. Expect that to change big time in Northern California come Sunday.

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers: First of 16 consecutive

More so than seeing their home city flooded by Hurricane Irma, the on-field aspect of this devastating natural disaster will be felt by the Dolphins for some time now. The NFL declined Miami’s request to have its Week 4 game against the New Orleans Saints in London moved to the states. This means that not only will the Dolphins play 16 consecutive weeks, they will not have a bye week after returning from London. That’s just simply insane. It could also have wide-ranging ramifications, especially with their Week 1 game against Tampa Bay being rescheduled the week the team returns from London. Whew.

Needless to say, it will be incredibly important for Miami to get off to a strong start on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday afternoon. The good news here is that Miami is rested after last week’s postponement and will be taking on a Chargers team that’s on a short week after a bad loss to Denver on Monday Night Football. In Jay Cutler’s regular season debut with the Dolphins, we’re definitely expecting him to take advantage of what is a weak Chargers secondary. If so, the first of 16 consecutive weeks of football will culminate in a win for the Dolphins.

Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos: Another major test for Dak and Co.

Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott and his Cowboys aced their first major test of the season in Week 1. After losing both of his starts to the New York Giants as a rookie last season, Prescott completed 24-of-39 passes for 268 yards with a touchdown and zero picks in a 19-3 Cowboys win. This came against an elite Giants pass defense that yielded 15 touchdowns compared to 17 interceptions for a 75.8 quarterback rating last season.

The Cowboys’ Week 2 opponent — Denver — boasted the only defense that topped what we saw from New York last season. Led by Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at corner, the Broncos yielded an NFL-low 69.7 rating in 2016. Though, this unit is coming off a Week 1 performance that saw it allow three Philip Rivers touchdown passes. Considering it gave up just 13 touchdown passes through the air last season, that could be a bit alarming.

In any event, Prescott and the ‘Boys have yet another difficult matchup on the road in Mile High in Week 2. How the young quarterback performs will play a huge role in the outcome of what promises to be a great game.

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: Who will score for touchdown?

That’s a real question. San Francisco and Seattle combined for four field goals, 25 first downs and 442 total yards of offense in Week 1 losses. To put this into perspective, both Kansas City and Minnesota put up more yards than these two offenses combined. For both of these division rivals, it’s a crying shame. Their defenses more than came ready to play against Carolina and Green Bay respectively. It was the offenses that just couldn’t do anything of substance.

We can point to both Brian Hoyer and Russell Wilson struggling from a statistical standpoint. That’s fine. But the offensive lines were a complete mess. Going up against a Packers pass defense that ranked 31st in the NFL last season, Wilson was pressured on 44 percent of his drop backs. Meanwhile, Hoyer faced continued pressure behind the interior of his line to the tune of four sacks.

There’s even worse news for both offenses heading into Week 1. Seattle and San Francisco boast two potentially dominant defensive line. How will the 49ers fend off the likes of Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark? Do the Seahawks have any sort of an answer for DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and Elvis Dumervil? Yeah, this is going to be one ugly offensive football game.

Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams: Sean McVay to prove Rams aren’t a mirage

Set to take on his former Redskins team following a 46-9 blowout win over Indy in his Rams head coaching debut, McVay will be attempting to prove two things here. First off, he’s going to want to show Jay Gruden and the Skins that Kirk Cousins’ success over the past couple seasons were primarily due to his presence as the team’s offensive coordinator. After all, Cousins struggled something horrible in Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Secondly, it’s now time for the Rams to prove that last week’s dominating performance over the hapless Colts wasn’t a mirage. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff completed 21-of-29 passes for 300-plus yards without an interception — by far the best performance of his young career. Should Goff and the Rams keep this up against vastly better competition in Week 2, it might be time for the rest of a mediocre NFC West to take this team seriously.

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons: NFC Championship Game rematch

One could easily conclude that Green Bay was much more impressive against better competition in Week 1 than the defending NFC champion Falcons. Whether that translates into a win on Sunday Night in the Falcons’ first game in their new digs remains to be seen. But we absolutely love the pressure Green Bay’s front seven, Nick Perry and Mike Daniels included, brought to the face of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in Week 1. Should that continue against reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ offense could very well stall here.

On the other hand, it also wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude that Week 1’s win in Lambeau had more to do with an anemic Seahawks offensive line. Remember, Green Bay yielded the second-most passing yards and an absurd 95.9 rating to quarterbacks last season. Without much improvement in terms of personnel, is this pass defense really that much better? How it performs against Atlanta on Sunday night could very well dictate whether the Packers are true contenders to knock off the defending conference champs in January.

Detroit Lions at New York Giants: Lions defense for real?

Detroit’s defense handed it to Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals in a big way this past Sunday. Palmer threw three interceptions, including a pick-six, as the Cardinals turned it over a total of four times in the game. This came after a 2016 campaign in which the Lions forced a grand total of 14 turnovers.

One week of action is not enough of a sample size for us to determine if the Lions’ defense is improved or if Arizona’s offense is just that bad.

What we do know is that the Giants’ offense did absolutely nothing of substance against a Cowboys defense that was considered a weak point heading into the year. In Week 1, Eli Manning and Co. scored a grand total of three points. They didn’t cross their 35-yard line until midway through the third quarter. Sure missing Odell Beckham Jr. hurt big time here, but their offense simply needs to perform better. It will definitely be a good test for both squads in Week 2.