|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
Get ready for some adjustments.
The opening week of the NFL season caught a lot of teams off guard. The Atlanta Falcons didn't expect the New Orleans Saints to use a three-safety scheme that allowed defenders to blitz and pressure Matt Ryan. Chip Kelly's fast-paced play calling made Washington Redskins defenders look as though they were trapped in a crazy video game.
Week 1 went to the offense. There were more passing yards and passing touchdowns than any week in NFL history. In Week 2, coaches will see whether they can rein in these offenses.
Here is what to look forward to in Week 2.
|Anquan Boldin may not be as effective against Seattle as he was against Green Bay.|
1. Heavyweight fight: The San Francisco visit to Seattle is the most anticipated game of the season. In most power rankings, they are the top two teams. This series has emerged as the best rivalry in football. Coach Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers has been a bitter rival of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll since their days as college head coaches in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12). The players don't like each other. And Seahawks fans should be in a frenzy. Seattle fans hope to register the loudest decibel reading at a sporting event. The game should be a classic. Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks have emerged as two of the best young quarterbacks in the game. Both teams have top-notch defenses. Both teams are physical and love to run. Don't expect 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin to be as big a factor as he was in the opener. He burned the Green Bay Packers for 13 catches for 208 yards. As we've seen in games against good man-coverage teams such as Cincinnati and Kansas City, Boldin's numbers drop because he doesn't separate from defenders as well. The Seahawks thrive on press man coverage. Stopping Vernon Davis will be the key for Seattle. Kaepernick should be able to handle the crowd noise. He struggled at Seattle last season, but he was new to the starting job. The Seahawks' offense might have to rely on Wilson's short passing and occasional play-action. The Seahawks struggled to run the ball against Carolina's front seven last week, and the 49ers come to town with a better front seven than the Panthers'.
2. The Manning Bowl: When he was with the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning won his only two meetings against his brother Eli. Sunday is probably the last time these brothers will meet, unless it's in a Super Bowl, because the next scheduled meeting for the Broncos and Giants isn't for four years, when Peyton might be retired. Both enter the game hot, coming off 400-plus-yard passing openers, but the pressure is on Eli. The Giants lost their opener to Dallas and don't want to get off to an 0-2 start. Winning the opener against Baltimore took a lot of pressure off the Broncos. The team realizes it will struggle to generate a pass rush during the six games Von Miller serves his suspension. The Broncos were hoping for at least a split in their first two games; after that, their schedule eases up. They play Oakland and Philadelphia the next two weeks and could be at least 5-1 by the time Miller is ready to return. The Giants have plenty of issues. Starting halfback David Wilson was benched after two fumbles, and Tom Coughlin is still trying to decide whether to start him this week. Tony Romo moved the Cowboys up and down the field against the Giants' secondary. The Giants still have injuries along the offensive line. Expect this game to be decided late in the fourth quarter.
3. Read-option only a limited option: Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent the entire offseason trying to fix the defense's problem stopping the read-option, which burned Green Bay in last year's playoff loss to San Francisco. As it turned out, the 49ers and Kaepernick beat the Packers last Sunday with Kaepernick's arm. Knowing that Robert Griffin III isn't likely to do much read-option coming off a knee reconstruction, Capers can work on stopping Griffin the quarterback. RG III called only two read-option runs for himself Monday night and gained only 6 yards. The timing of this game couldn't be better for the Packers. Were it later in the season, RG III might be a two-way threat like he was last year. But any quarterback coming off an injury who doesn't play in the preseason is expected to start slow. His footwork isn't where it needs to be for long throws. Last week, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Griffin III had 47 drop-backs from inside the pocket. He completed 27 of 44 passes for 301 yards, but his QBR was 24.5, fourth worst in the NFL in Week 1. RG III ventured outside the pocket for only five passes. At least Green Bay defenders will know where to find him. Their big job will be to contain him.
|Mike Wallace, Miami's biggest offseason acquisition, wasn't happy about his one reception in Week 1.|
4. The Big Money Bowl: The Miami Dolphins invested $146 million in contracts during the unrestricted free-agency period. The Indianapolis Colts wagered $132 million. Sunday's meeting will determine which team made the best investments. Free agency can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is spending money to fix roster problems. The curse is what it can do in the locker room, and the Dolphins are showing cracks of potential problems. Defensive tackle Paul Soliai isn't happy that the team has him only on a one-year contract. Franchise franchise-tag player Randy Starks is unhappy that the coaching staff has him as the No. 3 defensive tackle. Wide receiver Mike Wallace -- the Dolphins' $12 million-a-year deep threat -- wasn't happy getting only one catch for 15 yards in the opener. If things don't calm down, the Dolphins could be reliving the Dream Team problems of the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles. Low-priced veteran starters felt as though they weren't getting their fair share when outsiders came in with big contracts. The Eagles faded. The only way to make this work is to win. That's where the Colts have the better feel. There doesn't appear to be similar jealousies. And they went to the playoffs last year. It's vital that the Dolphins win this game. They have Atlanta, New Orleans and Baltimore coming up in their next three games. If the team starts 2-3 or 1-4, the Dolphins and their locker room could be in trouble.
5. Road weary: The Minnesota Vikings are in a tough spot. They lost their opening road game to the Detroit Lions 34-24. Their remaining seven road games are against teams who were .500 or better in 2012, including the Chicago Bears on Sunday. If the Vikings can't win a road game, they will be doomed to a 6-10 season. The Vikings won 10 games least year even though Christian Ponder was 1-5 in road games against teams .500 or better. So far, Ponder hasn't shown the flair needed to win road games against winning teams. In Week 1, the Lions loaded the box to stop Adrian Peterson, putting the burden on Ponder to win the game. Ponder didn't make the schedule, but he has to find a way to conquer it.
6. A reunion: The St. Louis Rams made a nice gesture to the running back who tried to carry them for so many years. They honored a promise to give him the option to leave the team in free agency in 2013. Steven Jackson took them up on the offer and signed with the Falcons. On Sunday, the Rams will face Jackson in his home debut in the Georgia Dome. Jackson was signed to be the missing piece on a talented Falcons offense. Last season, the Falcons let too many opponents come back in the fourth quarter because Michael Turner lost his ability to close out games with successful runs. Jackson did well in his debut against the Saints, but he's still smarting from a dropped pass that could have helped the Falcons win.
7. The race is on: "With the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft ..." The voice of commissioner Roger Goodell should run in the background of the Jacksonville-Oakland game. The loser of this one could end up with the first pick in next May's draft. For talent, these franchises are at the bottom. The Raiders have $51.9 million of dead cap room, so they've had to sign a bunch of cheap free-agent starters to one-year contracts. The Jaguars are in complete rebuilding mode. They have 26 new players and already have issues at quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is out because of a hand injury, and Chad Henne is taking over. Terrelle Pryor ran for his life against the Colts last Sunday and made the Raiders competitive. If the Raiders don't win this game, though, winning opportunities might be hard to find the rest of the season.
|The Steelers, like the rest of the AFC North, look to rebound in Week 2.|
8. A north division that went south in Week 1: The Steelers never thought they would nearly be shut out by the Tennessee Titans at home. To make matters worse, an underachieving offensive line lost its best player, center Maurkice Pouncey, for the season. The Steelers head into Cincinnati trying to find an identity. The franchise would like to be a power-running team, but that doesn't seem to be happening. Big plays aren't coming from the offense or the defense. The game Monday night is considered a must-win. For the Bengals to be considered a Super Bowl contender, they need to beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Marvin Lewis has put together his most talented 53-man roster, but it's time to show it. In Baltimore, John Harbaugh has had a few extra days of preparation to fix what went wrong in the opening blowout loss to Denver. The Ravens face the Cleveland Browns. The Browns look better on paper than last year but are still trying to learn how to win games. Harbaugh's biggest challenge is find a No. 2 receiver and a tight end who can consistently catch the ball. Jacoby Jones had the No. 2 receiver job, but he's out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. Still, it's amazing to think the AFC North went 0-4 in Week 1.
9. More divisional matchups: The Saints confused the Falcons' offense by going "Big Nickel,'' using three safeties in a scheme that made rookie Kenny Vaccaro a first-week star. Unlike the Falcons, the Bucs will have a week to study video of the Saints' defense, but will they be able to beat the scheme? For whatever reason, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has hit an inconsistent stage of his career. He lost his captain status before the season, and the offense doesn't look fiery. An opening loss to the Jets was embarrassing. Since 2010, Freeman is 11-21 as a starter, and he's thrown almost as many interceptions as he has touchdowns. In the AFC South, the Titans will have a chance to show whether their offseason spending has made them a formidable match against the Houston Texans, the favorites to win the division. The Titans have lost seven of their last eight road games in the division.
10. Best of the rest: The San Diego Chargers must be mentally shaken after blowing a 21-point lead to Houston on Monday night. Flying cross-country and facing the Eagles could be a disaster. Having a short week to prepare for the Eagles' buzz-saw offense is the worst possible matchup. Chip Kelly's offense ran off 53 first-half plays against the Redskins on Monday. Expect a high-scoring game between the Arizona Cardinals and Lions. Matthew Stafford got the most out of his passing and Reggie Bush's running in a 34-24 win over Minnesota, and Carson Palmer instantly made the Cardinals' offense relevant again. The Panthers face a Buffalo Bills team that gave New England a battle last week, with quarterback EJ Manuel making an encouraging debut. The Panthers are still learning to win close games, so their best hope is to get out to a big lead.