Top storylines for NFL Week 2

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 of the NFL season provided us with a ton of stories. Sixteen games taking place spanning three days of action. It was a whole lot of fun.

However, the second week of the season gives us even more stories to follow. Antonio Brown will likely make his New England Patriots debut Sunday despite some serious off-field allegations.

In Los Angeles, The Rams will host the New Orleans Saints in a rematch of last year’s controversial NFC Championship Game. Will the NFL find a way to screw this up again?

These are among the top storylines for Week 2 of the 2019 NFL season.

Antonio Brown makes his Patriots debut

Let’s start with the obvious one. Mere days after signing with the defending champs following his abrupt release from the Oakland Raiders, it was reported that Brown will make his Pats debut this week. It could not come at a better time for the embattled receiver with New England taking on that laughingstocks that are the Miami Dolphins.

The focus is obviously going to be on Brown’s off-field issues. A woman just recently filed a lawsuit against the star receiver claiming multiple instances of sexual assault. Whether that plays a role in Brown suiting up Sunday remains to be seen. The NFL is investigating said incident, which could lead to some news ahead of this weekend’s action.

Steelers looking to prove last week was a fluke

We go full circle here. Speaking of Brown, his former Steelers team looked like a shell of its former self Sunday night against the Patriots. Ben Roethlisberger was absolutely atrocious under center. Pittsburgh receivers dropped way too many passes. The game plan was out of whack in every possible way. It led to a 33-3 trouncing at the hands of the Pats.

It’s not ridiculous to wonder whether the Steelers miss Brown’s presence. JuJu Smith-Schuster put up his numbers, but there wasn’t a whole lot behind him. All of this is going to be tested comes Sunday against a Seattle Seahawks defense that wants to rebound after a horrible Week 1 performance in a narrow win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

New-look teams do battle at Lambeau

It was somewhat surprising to see Green Bay rely more on its defense than Aaron Rodgers and Co. in a Week 1 win over the Chicago Bears. New pass rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith showed out big time, putting consistent pressure on Mitchell Trubisky in the process. Meanwhile, Green Bay’s offense struggled big time. That was especially true in pass protection with Rodgers being sacked five times.

Enter into the equation a Vikings defense that put tremendous pressure on Matt Ryan and the Falcons last week. It’s a big matchup. The backdrop to this game is also interesting in that Kirk Cousins attempted a total of 10 passes in a blowout win over Atlanta. Could we be in for a rare defensive struggle between these two longtime NFC Norris rivals?

The Kellen Moore factor in Dallas

Dak Prescott looked like a changed quarterback in Moore’s debut calling plays for Dallas. Less then two years removed from retiring, the 30-year-old Moore is now seen as an up-and-coming coach around the NFL. The design he drew up against a bad New York Giants defense in Week 1 was nothing short of eye-opening.

We’re highly intrigued to see how this translates against a better Redskins defense. Specifically, is Prescott going to have all day to throw the ball like he did last week? It’s the misdirections and throwing receivers open that led to sustained success against New York. This will be a bit more difficult against what is a darn good Redskins front seven in Week 2. Is Moore up for the task, or can we expect some natural regression here?

Lofty expectations muted in Cleveland?

Wake-up call. That’s the best way to describe the Browns’ 43-13 drubbing at the hands of the Tennessee Titans last week. Head coach Freddie Kitchens might be looking to remain positive, but there’s a whole heck of a lot Cleveland needs to work on before it takes to the field Monday night against the Jets in New Jersey.

Lofty expectations were quickly replaced by reality last week. Cleveland lost the turnover battle by three with Baker Mayfield accounting for all three giveaways. The team was penalized 18 times for 182 yards. Its defense gave up big play after big play. Another horrible performance in front of a national television audience could set into motion the very same downward spiral we’ve seen from the Browns pretty much every season since their last playoff appearance back in 2002.

NFL looks to avoid repeat of NFC Championship Game

It’s by now well known the drama that was created around the NFL after a bad non-call in the NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints last January. It led to multiple lawsuits off the field and the league changing its instant replay rules. Needless to say, Saints fans are still not over being stripped of a Super Bowl appearance.

Sunday afternoon’s game in Los Angeles is going to be big for the NFL. The league needs to show that the same issue we saw pop up in New Orleans earlier this year does not rear its ugly head again. There’s a reason the NFL didn’t schedule this championship game rematch on prime time. It wants to hide the drama. But we’re all going to be focused on what goes down in Southern California.

Rebounding in Atlanta

There’s really no other way to go about it. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is squarely on the hot seat following a blowout road loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. Coming off a surprising non-playoff 2018 campaign, it seems like the Falcons have regressed a great deal. They are no longer Super Bowl contenders. In fact, Atlanta has to be seen as a middle of the pack team in the NFC. At least, that’s the narrative being thrown around.

Taking on the Philadelphia Eagles at home on “Sunday Night Football”, Atlanta has an opportunity to throw this narrative out the window. Can Matt Ryan rebound from a horrible season opener? Will the Falcons’ defense find a way to stop the run after being gutted by Minnesota in Week 1? How these questions are answered will not only tell us about the Falcons moving forward this season, but Quinn’s viability as their head coach over the short term.

Just how good is this Ravens offense?

The Miami Dolphins are not a barometer of things to come for these Ravens as they navigate through the 2019 season. Even then, Lamar Jackson and company were on absolute fire in South Beach last week. Here’s a unit that put up 644 total yards, 59 points and 31 first downs. The Ravens could have dropped a cool 70 on Miami if they had not pulled their starters.

Set to take on the Arizona Cardinals in their home opener on Sunday, the Ravens have yet another opportunity against a below-average defense. Sure Arizona played well on that side of the ball against the Lions, but this is an entirely new ball game. Will Jackson and rookie receiver Marquise Brown continue to connect at a record pace? Will there be some regression here? We’re interested to see how things unfold in Week 2.

Protecting the quarterbacks

It’s not brain surgery. Invest on the offensive line and see your quarterback protected at a greater clip. Two teams in Northern California, the Raiders and 49ers, are prime examples of this. After exhausting high draft picks and cash on their lines over the past two years, the likes of Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo were hit a combined one time in Week 1. Once.

Unfortunately for other quarterbacks, that’s just not the case. After being sacked 62 times and hit 126 times last season, Deshaun Watson found himself sacked six times in Week 1. How will Laremy Tunsil and Co,. hold up in Week 2 against the Jaguars? We’re also worried about the health of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after he was hit seven times last week. Can Carolina’s offensive line hold up against a weak Buccaneers pass rusher in Week 2.

Melvin Gordon, who?

It might be getting to the point where the Chargers simply look to move on from this holdout running back and the drama he’s brought to the table. That’s magnified after what we saw from “backup” running backs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in Los Angeles’ Week 1 win over the Indianapolis Colts. This duo combined for 215 yards and three touchdowns on 25 touches. That’s about as good as it gets.

Should the Chargers have similar success on the road against a stout Detroit Lions run defense Sunday, it could very well expedite Gordon’s departure from Southern California. In fact, the Chargers might very well lower their asking price for the two-time Pro Bowler. It’s something to keep an eye on.

The Bills might just be good

Down 16-0 in the second half against the New York Jets last week, the Bills seemed to be at an absolute loss. Josh Allen was struggling passing the ball. The progression we expected heading into his second season wasn’t there. That’s when Buffalo flipped the switch in a way we have not seen from this team since the Marv Levy, Jim Kelly days. Allen turned it around. Buffalo’s defense was dominant in the second half. It led to a shocking 17-16 comeback win.

Buffalo now has an opportunity to start 2-0 for the first time since 2014 and just the third time this decade. It comes against a Giants team that was manhandled by the Dallas Cowboys last week. A convincing win in Jersey for the second consecutive game to open the season could ultimately be a harbinger of things to come for this up-and-coming squad.