The Playbook: Previewing Seahawks-Niners, Packers-Redskins, other Week 2 games
St. Louis (1-0) at Atlanta (0-1) 1 p.m. ET, FOX: As my Audibles compadre Chris Burke has pointed out, the Saints messed with Matt Ryan in Week 1, using variable pressure schemes.The Rams may not mix it up as much, but their estimable front four feasted on Carson Palmer last Sunday, and Atlanta’s line is a weakness. St. Louis will test Atlanta’s linebackers with tight end Jared Cook, and rookie receiver Tavon Austin will continue to grow as a movable chess piece. – DF
Miami (1-0) at Indianapolis (1-0) — 1 p.m. ET, CBS: If the Dolphins manage to steal this one, after opening the year by claiming victory in Cleveland, the AFC absolutely will take notice. And the Colts looked plenty beatable in their Week 1 win over Oakland, in which Indianapolis required a late Andrew Luck TD drive and a subsequent defensive stand. Chalk this one up as a barometer for Ryan Tannehill, too. Knocking off Andrew Luck on the road would do wonders for his confidence. – CB
Minnesota (0-1) at Chicago (1-0) – 1 p.m. ET, FOX: We saw something unusual from the Bears in their Week 1 win over the Bengals — an offensive line with a great understanding of protection. Jay Cutler was therefore able to use his arm talent without fear of constant pressure, which will be a problem for enemy defenses. Christian Ponder, Minnesota’s quarterback, is still struggling with basic passing concepts, and he’ll be tested by Chicago’s dynamic front seven and a cornerback (Charles Tillman) who can bait him into mistakes. – DF
San Diego (0-1) at Philadelphia (1-0) — 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Chargers coughed up 449 yards in Week 1. The Eagles racked up 443. Those numbers don’t appear to bode well for a San Diego team that’s already reeling from blowing a 21-point lead at home to Houston on Monday night. The Philadelphia crowd should be jacked up for its first full glimpse of Chip-ball, which opened plenty of eyes in an impressive victory — and, specifically, an impressive first half — at Washington. – CB
Dallas (1-0) at Kansas City (1-0) — 1 p.m. ET, FOX: It was a nice return to the NFL for Dallas defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin as the Cowboys got six turnovers from the Giants in a key win. But the Chiefs will be more careful with the ball. Alex Smith avoided deep threats in his first game under Andy Reid, and the major matchup might be KC running back Jamaal Charles versus Dallas linebacker Sean Lee. On offense, the Cowboys are trying to establish a balanced rushing attack and enough protection to keep Tony Romo out of harm’s way. – DF
Tennessee (1-0) at Houston (1-0) — 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Texans engineered a furious comeback against the Chargers on Monday night. Their reward? A meeting with an improved Titans defense. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams features his usual array of schemes, and Matt Schaub will be under pressure more often than he would like. Texans left tackle Duane Brown needs to move past a rough opener. Texans linebacker Brian Cushing will test Jake Locker’s ability to read coverage. – DF
Detroit (1-0) at Arizona (0-1) — 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX: In mid-December 2012, the Cardinals snapped an eight-game skid by embarrassing the Lions. That was a throwaway game for two teams whose playoff hopes had long perished. This rematch carries a little more weight. The matchup of Detroit’s explosive passing attack against Arizona’s underrated secondary (now with more Honey Badger!) is among the best of this weekend. – CB
New Orleans (1-0) at Tampa Bay (0-1) — 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX: The Buccaneers’ season might be on the verge of spiraling out of control already, with games against the Saints and Patriots following a Week 1 loss to the Jets. There are rumors of unrest within the Tampa locker room, too, adding more pressure on QB Josh Freeman to deliver a big performance. The Saints will not make that easy to do, especially if the revived defense they put on display Sunday against Atlanta is legit. — CB
Only For The Faithful
Cleveland (0-1) at Baltimore (0-1) — 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The main attraction here is that the defending champs get to make their home debut, one week late. Brandon Weeden is no Peyton Manning, as he proved again in an ugly 23-10 loss to Miami, so the Ravens’ D has a shot to get back on track after Manning shredded it in Week 1. — CB
Carolina (0-1) at Buffalo (0-1) — 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Cam Newton said this week that nobody should throw him a “bar mitzvah“ because he was at the forefront of the NFL’s new wave of black quarterbacks. On the other side of the ball, EJ Manuel starts his second NFL game, and he’ll be facing a more stern challenge than he did in the opener against New England. Advice for the young man: Keep an eye on linebacker Luke Kuechly at all times, because Kuechly looked like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate against Russell Wilson on Sunday. – DF
Jacksonville (0-1) at Oakland (0-1) — 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: Resistible force, meet moveable object. It’s Oakland’s iffy lines against Jacksonville’s ongoing quarterback quandary, and there’s no clear winner. At least those watching this game will be able to enjoy Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor running around like a guy who just stepped out of the 1930s. Sadly, Oakland’s passing game appears to be from the same era. – DF
(All stats are from our friends at Pro Football Focus, unless otherwise indicated.)
• If the Browns want to get their passing game going, a few more sure-handed moments from their receivers would help. Greg Little leads the league in Drop Rate through one week (two drops in eight targets), and Travis Benjamin is second with one drop in eight targets. San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin had 16 targets against the Packers — as many as Little and Benjamin combined — and he didn’t drop a single ball.
• Some more protection on the right side would be nice, too. Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz allowed three sacks and 10 total pressures against Cameron Wake and his merry band of Miami pass-rushers.
• How elusive was Philly’s LeSean McCoy in the season opener against Washington? He caused nine missed tackles on his 31 carries. So what you saw on the tape was exactly correct: There isn’t a more frustrating back in the league when it comes to functional speed in space. Tennessee’s Chris Johnson finished second with four missed tackles in 25 attempts.
• Philadelphia cornerback Cary Williams had a questionable offseason, mouthing off on various subjects and missing OTAs for all sorts of weird reasons, but the Eagles got their money’s worth when he lined up against Washington. Williams allowed one catch for nine yards in five targets on 46 coverage snaps.
• Remember last week, when we told you to keep an eye on Tennessee defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who picked up three sacks in the preseason? Well, he grabbed two more sacks — and six total pressures — against the Steelers’ struggling offensive line. We’ll see how Casey does against the Texans’ line before we put him on a higher floor, but things look pretty good so far.
• The Chiefs’ Brandon Flowers has been one of the league’s best cornerbacks over the last few seasons, and it’s time more people knew it. Against the Jaguars, who targeted him 11 times for whatever reason, Flowers allowed five catches for 49 yards (35 yards were after the catch), and he picked off a pass. He’ll face a bigger challenge against Dez Bryant this Sunday, but he’s up for it. – DF
• Matchup To Watch: Dallas’ receivers vs. Kansas City’s secondary.
Brandon Flowers said in the offseason that the Chiefs could have the best secondary in football. Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne hardly put that theory to the test in Week 1, but Tony Romo and Co. figure to do so Sunday.
Dez Bryant may be extra motivated to break loose following a disappointing four-catch, 22-yard showing against the Giants. Miles Austin helped pick up the slack in that game, reeling in 10 passes from Romo, while RB DeMarco Murray and TE Jason Witten each caught eight balls. This is a dangerous passing attack that could give the Chiefs trouble, if Dallas’ front can limit the home team’s impressive pass rush.
• This Week’s Sleeper: Harry Douglas, Atlanta.
Roddy White is hobbled by a high-ankle sprain, and Julio Jones is on the Falcons’ injury report with a knee ailment. Enter Douglas, who has held the title of “Atlanta’s other receiver” for several seasons now. Douglas had four grabs for 93 yards in Week 1, and Week 2 brings a matchup with a St. Louis defense that had issues corralling Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd.
• Pressure’s On …: Dom Capers, Green Bay.
Every matchup with a mobile quarterback — and especially every matchup with San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick — renews Cheesehead fears that the Packers’ defense is ill-equipped to win those battles. In a conference that features Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, that’s problematic for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Capers, the Packers’ defensive coordinator, gets another crack at an elusive QB Sunday when RGIII leads his Redskins into Lambeau Field. One factor possibly working in Capers’ favor: Griffin seemed a little hesitant in Week 1, at least early in his team’s loss to Philadelphia. Only on limited occasions did he break the pocket to scramble or adjust his passing lanes. Some of that may be attributable to rust (he didn’t play in the preseason), so defenses probably would prefer to see Griffin now as opposed to later.
• Rookie Spotlight: Matt Elam, Baltimore.
The Ravens’ secondary was ripped to shreds by Peyton Manning last week. Safety Michael Huff was the victim on at least a couple big plays, including one of Julius Thomas’ TDs. Could a meatier role for Elam, the team’s first-round pick, be in the near future? – CB
Green Bay: At least offensively, the Packers still have the look of a contender in the NFC. Lose to Washington on Sunday, though, and they could be staring 0-3 in the face next week with a trip to Cincinnati. – CB
N.Y. Giants: After that messy loss in Dallas, it’s the Manning Bowl versus the red-hot Broncos. If the G-Men can’t pull that one off, they must find their first win in a gauntlet of Carolina, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minnesota, and Philly again before their early November bye. – DF