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Questions for Week 2

WEEK TWO kicks off with the Browns and Bengals battling it out for Ohio supremacy. To get all of us in the mood, I would like to propose a question for every game, a matchup that I’m excited to see in each game, and a stat to keep in mind for each game. Let jump right in!!

Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Question: Is the clock ticking on Baker Mayfield if the Browns lose on Thursday Night?

All the signs point to YES. This will be a majorly consequential loss if the Browns lose and Baker has a bad game. Baker Mayfield has all the offensive help to help him thrive and there are no excuses now. A loss would have everyone speculating about the Browns tanking for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.

Matchup: Joe Mixon vs. Browns linebackers

Joe Mixon has been the best offensive player on the Bengals since he joined the team in 2017. Mixon is likely to be involved in all facets of the offense with a rookie quarterback Joe Burrow only starting his second game. The big matchup will be Joe Mixon against the Browns linebackers as Mixon will likely have a lot of carries and checkdown receptions in this game. The Browns linebackers will have to constantly cover Mixon to halt the Bengals offense.

Stat: The Browns lost their last 4 regular season games and have been outscored 140-68 in the process. Their last regular season win came at home against the Bengals.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

Question: Is this Steelers team the most complete roster we have seen since the AFC Championship team in the 2016 season?

It appears to be that way, the Steelers don’t have any weak links in their roster, with a balanced attack on offense, and a defense that can both stop a running game and passing attack alike. The Steelers were given an easy Week One matchup against the Giants and are facing an injury plagued Broncos team, but if they keep winning, they will have a legitimate chance of taking the division.

Matchup: Broncos Receivers vs. Steelers Secondary

The Broncos young receivers put on a show on Monday Night as rookie Jerry Jeudy proved that his route-running is going to be nearly impossible to defend and Courtland Sutton is returning after missing last week with an injury. The Steelers secondary has become one of the better groups in the league since they acquired safety Minkah Fitzpatrick last season. We will likely see the Broncos receivers doubled the entire game and we will find out if Jerry Jeudy will be able to break away from a lockdown corner like Joe Haden. This might be a game where we see the emergence of the Broncos second rookie receiver selection in KJ Hamler, the speed-threat can be the X-factor in a game that won’t see many passing lanes for Drew Lock.

Stat: The Broncos and Steelers have a historic rivalry, including many famous playoff games. The Steelers have split their previous 4 home games with the Broncos but have lost the last four games in Denver. Good thing this is a home game for the Steelers.

Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Question: Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going to find a rhythm on offense after a disappointing first game?

It’s likely, considering they play a Panthers defense that allowed 34 points and 372 yards to the Las Vegas Raiders. This is the ideal opponent for Tom Brady to remind the league that he can still play at an elite level. If he struggles against one of the worst defenses then we must be concerned.

Matchup: Christian McCaffrey vs. Devin White

Christian McCaffrey is regarded as one of the league's best running backs and one of the best offensive players as he can do anything the Panthers ask him to do. The defender that will likely have the grueling task of guarding him will be second-year linebacker Devin White, who is emerging as one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Devin White is one of the fastest linebackers in the NFL and with C-Mac being a receiving target out of the backfield, White will need to cover McCaffrey in order to keep the Panthers offense from scoring.

Stat: Tom Brady has lost the last three games as a starting quarterback. The last time he lost four games in a row was in 2002. Teddy Bridgewater was 10 years-old when that happened.

San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Jets

Question: Which team has more pressure to win this game, Jets or 49ers?

Both teams enter this game feeling the urgency to win this game. The 49ers were in the Super Bowl last year and are trying to avoid the common Super Bowl hangover that many teams suffer. The Jets are trying not to start 0-2 for the second time in the Adam gase era, something that would put Gase’s job security under much question. Both teams sense the urgency to win for different reasons and will thus make this a close and competitive game.

Matchup: Mekhi Becton vs. Nick Bosa

The Jets offensive line was pitiful against the Bills menacing defense last week. However, Mekhi Becton lived up the hype that he was given before he was drafted. Becton was an absolute unit at left tackle last week, mauling edge rushers on run plays and standing his ground against those same pass-rushers on obvious passing downs. On Sunday, he will face one of the best defensive ends in the NFL in Nick Bosa. This should be exciting as this matchup will set the tone for each team throughout the game.

Stat: while the 49ers beat their playoff opponents handily, the last 6 regular season games they have played in have all been one-score games. They enter the Jets game as 6.5-point favorites

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans

Question: Are we overreacting to Garner Minshew and the Jacksonville Jaguars after their win against the Indianapolis Colts?

Likely, especially since we overestimated the Colts entering this season. The Jaguars played a great game last week but had a lot go right in the victory (Philip Rivers throwing errant passes helps). If the Jaguars are able to win against the Tennessee Titans, then we have to think of the Jaguars in a new lens.

Matchup: CJ Henderson vs. AJ Brown/Corey Davis

CJ Henderson had an incredible game last week and looks to be the best cornerback the Jaguars have on their defense since Jalen Ramsey (maybe the Jaguars just know how the draft cornerbacks?). CJ Henderson will likely shadow one receiver throughout the game whether it be the big, jump-ball receiver in AJ Brown or the quick and crafty receiver in Corey Davis. To assure that his first career start wasn’t a fluke, Henderson will have to eliminate one of Ryan Tannehill’s targets for most of the game.

Stat: The Titans kickers have made 9 field goals in their last 22 attempts (including only 8 last season).

New York Giants vs. Chicago Bears

Question: Are defenses starting to figure out Daniel Jones?

I personally am selling all stock on Daniel Jones. After his hot start in his rookie season, one where he beat two lowly defenses to give the Giants two early wins and Daniel Jones the nickname “Danny Dimes”, Jones has turned into a fumbling machine and we witnessed him throw two costly interceptions on Monday Night in another Giants loss. Jones can still develop but defenses have started to account for his ability to scramble and his inability to hit receivers on deep passes.

Matchup: Giants O-Line vs. Bears D-line

For rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas, this can be his “welcome to the NFL” moment. This looks like a complete mismatch as the Bears strength is their defensive line while the Giants weakness over the years has been their offensive line. If the Bears dominate in the trenches, the Giants offense will have trouble getting off the ground and will likely only manage a few points.

Stat: The Bears averaged 17.5 points per game last season, they scored 21 points last week in the fourth quarter. This likely doesn’t show the virtue of the Bears offense as they only scored 6 points in the first three quarters.

L.A. Rams vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Question: Was the Eagles offensive line struggles a fluke or is the struggle only going to be amplified against the Rams and All-Pro Aaron Donald?

The Eagles offensive line looked horrendous last week as they allowed Carson Wentz to be sacked 8 times. This week the Eagles offensive line has to try to stop one of the best defensive lineman the game has ever seen in Aaron Donald, who showcased his dominance on Sunday Night against an injury-clipped Dallas Cowboys offensive line. The Eagles will have to constantly double Donald and hope they can eliminate him from causing a menace or the Eagles offense will once again look embarrassing.

Matchup: Darius Slay/Avonte Maddux vs. Rams receivers

As much praise as I can give Aaron Donald, and as much as I can say that stopping Donald is the top priority for the Eagles, the Rams were most effective last Sunday on offense when Jared Goff was able to constantly find open receivers against a rebuilding Dallas secondary. The Eagles acquired Darius Slay in the off-season in hopes that he would provide a lockdown on top receivers. For the Eagles to stymie the Rams passing game, they will need their corners to step up.

Stat: Jared Goff is 34-21 in his career while Carson Wentz is 32-25 in his career both went 1 and 2 in the 2016 NFL draft. So was it worth it? It’s still too early to tell.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Indianapolis Colts

Question: Which team is more likely to rebound and save their season after opening the season with a disappointment?

Both teams entered this season with high expectations and both are off to 0-1 starts. The Vikings lost to one of the Super Bowl favorites in the Green Bay Packers while the Colts lost to a team that everyone expected to do poorly in the Jacksonville Jaguars. A second loss to start the season will likely crush any hopes of making the playoffs this year and will have the many players and coaches fighting for their jobs.

Matchup: Adam Thielen vs. Xavier Rhodes

Call it a revenge game for Xavier Rhodes, as he was released by the Minnesota Vikings this off-season after years of being their best cornerback. Rhodes and the rest of the Colts secondary will have to guard the explosive Adam Thielen, who gashed the Packers secondary for 110 yards and two touchdowns last week.

Stat: Philip Rivers is 1-3 in his career against the Vikings, take it as you wish.

Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

Question: If the Lions gave up 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against the Bears, how do they plan to stop Aaron Rodgers and a Packers offense that scored 43 points last week?

The Lions have to be incredibly concerned with their defense right now as there were little positive notes from Sunday’s game. Matt Patricia was a defensive-minded coach before coming to Detroit but has proven anything but that as the Lions have displayed one of the worst defenses in the league since his hiring. If I’m Patricia, I force the Packers running game to beat me. I know that the Packers have a great running game but we saw what happened to a hapless Vikings defense when they let Devante Adams make plays and Aaron Rodgers was given a clean pocket. The Lions have to dare the Packers to keep running the ball even if it is working.

Matchup: Taylor Decker/Tyrell Crosby vs. Za'Darius Smith/Preston Smith

This is gonna be exciting, especially if the Lions enter obvious passing downs. The Packers defense feasted on these situations as both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith would be able to get to the quarterback and close out games. Both Decker and Crosby will have their word cut out for them and if they can hold the two pass-rushers, they will keep the Lions in the game.

Stat: Jim Caldwell went 9-7 the year the Lions fired him, meanwhile Matt Patricia has 9 total wins in his tenure in Detroit (this will remain a stat as long as Patricia keeps losing).

Atlanta Falcons vs. Dallas Cowboys

Question: Which defense will be able to find the right formula to halt the opposing offense?

This game has the highest Over/Under entering this week’s action with a 51.5 total. Both defenses were exposed last week and will have to make massive adjustments in hopes of winning. I see the Cowboys taking advantage of the star power they have on defense and figuring out how to use the defensive line as a strength and utilizing Jaylon Smith in multiple packages.

Matchup: Julio Jones/Calvin Ridley vs. Cowboys Secondary

Atlanta might have the best receiving duo in the NFL. If the Falcons are going to win on Sunday, they need to find their two receiving threats in Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones. The Cowboys secondary looked young and inexperienced on Sunday Night as the Rams wideouts carved them. The Cowboys have the talent on the backend of their defense but need to take advantage.

Stat: In the past two seasons, the Atlanta Falcons are 5-12 in the first half of the season (first 8 games), including a 1-7 start to last season.

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

Question: Are the Dolphins going to consider bringing in rookie Tua Tagovailoa if Ryan Fitzpatrick struggles again?

It will be discussed but it’s unlikely the Dolphins will rush Tua out if they know they can’t compete this season. A healthy Tua would be ideal but in an unusual season, there doesn’t appear to be any urgency to have Tua play this year or at least any time soon.

Matchup: Josh Allen vs. Dolphins Linebackers

This one is intriguing since Josh Allen is going to attack the defense depending on what the Dolphins linebackers do one defense. If the Dolphins linebackers are in man coverage and don’t have a spy on Allen then expect Allen to have a big game on the ground. Likewise, if the linebackers are in zone coverage then Allen will be able to find creases to hit his receivers and tight ends.

Stat: Josh Allen has a 102.8 passer rating against the Dolphins and a 10-3 touchdown to interception ratio.

Washington Football Team vs. Arizona Cardinals

Question: Is it time to buy into the hype if either team wins on Sunday?

Absolutely! It is time to believe that the winner of this game will not only make the playoffs but can be a serious contender in the NFC. The Cardinals were deemed a team that could burst onto the scene before the season but nobody thought that Washington would be good this year. After this game, we have to talk about whether the Cardinals offense is unstoppable or if the Washington defense can halt any offense.

Matchup: Kyler Murray vs. Washington’s D-Line

I’m most excited for this matchup! Kyler Murray is one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the NFL while the Washington Football Team has a deep and athletic defensive line. The Football Team will likely have to pressure Kyler Murray and sack him to keep the Cardinal offense from exploding but also keep Murray from making plays with his legs.

Stat: The last time the Cardinals started 2-0 was 2015, they ended up playing in the NFC Championship Game.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Houston Texans

Question: Who will emerge as the Texans top offensive weapon with the loss of De’Andre Hopkins?

There are a few players that come to mind when one thinks of the Texans offensive production. Of course David Johnson can have a bounceback year and return to his 2016 form. It’s also possible that Brandin Cooks or Randall Cobb prove why the Texans acquired them and emerge as constant threats. At the end of the day, I think Deshaun Watson has to become the top threat of the Texans offense as a passer and as a runner, which he is more than capable of.

Matchup: Lamar Jackson vs. Deshaun Watson

This is the only matchup that the two don’t square off directly. At the same time, this is the battle that we are all pumped up for. The two young quarterbacks have been highlight reels and are emerging as the future of the league. While the QB rivalry might be one-sided at the time, we should expect Watson to get his revenge at some point in his career.

Stat: While the Ravens have been recognized for their offense, their defense was the third best scoring defense last season (17.6 points per game).

Kansas City Chiefs vs. L.A. Chargers

Question: How do the Chargers stop Patrick Mahomes?

It seems every defense is trying to find the perfect solution to stopping Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs high powered offense. The Chargers defense isn’t great but their best players are Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, both need to constantly harass Patrick Mahomes if the Chargers are going to have a chance.

Matchup: Travis Kelce vs. Chargers Linebackers and Safeties

Travis Kelce is one of the most unguardable players in the NFL. Too big for Safeties, too fast for linebackers. The Chargers have hybrid defenders on the backend of their defense that can defend tight ends but Kelce is considered the best in the league. If the Chargers can stop Kelce in addition to pressuring Mahomes, then they will be able to keep the game close.

Stat: Philip Rivers threw 6 interceptions in the two games against the Chiefs, something tells me that Tyrod Taylor won’t throw nearly as many interceptions.

New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks

Question: Can the Patriots stick to a running game if they trail early?

It will be a difficult decision if the Patriots trail early, especially since it looks like their running game is going to be unlike any we have ever seen. At the same time, the Seahawks will likely dare Cam Newton to pass the ball, putting 8 defenders in the box and having either Jamal Adams or Bobby Wagner spy Newton throughout the game. The Patriots will try to shorten the game with the running attack but if they trail they will have to start entering obvious passing downs.

Matchup: Stephon Gilmore vs. DK Metcalf/Tyler Lockett

Stephon Gilmore is the best cover corner in the NFL and can shadow any receiver in the game. Gilmore will have the daunting task of either covering the speedy Tyler Lockett or the big, emerging DK Metcalf. Gilmore taking away one of Russell Wilson’s top targets is going to effectively stymie the Seahawks offense, it will force Wilson to beat the Patriots with one of his tight ends or slot receivers.

Stat: Russell Wilson is one of the few quarterbacks that has a winning record against Bill Belichick with 2-1 career record, although the one win was that Super Bowl victory where Wilson threw the ball at the one-yard line.

New Orleans Saints vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Question: Will the Saints offense falter without Michael Thomas?

Michael Thomas is going to the I.R. and it leaves the Saints offense without one of the best receivers in the game. The Saints still have a multitude of weapons on offense, with Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, and Emmanuel Sanders still at the side of Drew Brees. Most importantly, the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL which is what will ultimately give the Saints offense success.

Matchup: Josh Jacobs & Raiders run blocking vs. Saints front-seven

The Saints defense is shaping up as one of the best in the NFL. The defensive line is anchored by Cameron Jordan and the linebackers are led by Damario Davis. They will have to stop one of the best running backs in the game in Josh Jacobs, who scored three touchdowns on Sunday against the Panthers.

Stat: Both Sean Peyton and Jon Gruden are two of the nine current head coaches that have won a Super Bowl.

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