Looking ahead to Week 2 matchups

Well, it’s time again to take a stroll through the schedule and make a case for why each game is compelling. It will be hard for Week 2 to measure up to the opening weekend in terms of wild finishes, great games and individual brilliance, but who knows?  Maybe it will be more of the same. Either way, there are a bunch of divisional rivalries, again, and several games likely to have a say in playoff tiebreakers down the road.

Let’s have a look:

New England at N.Y. Jets:   You’ve got the stud QB of the division (Tom Brady) taking on the up-and-comer who can match him with the Handsome Boy Modeling School looks, the grace in front of the media, and, seemingly, a similar air of confidence and poise in the pocket (Mark Sanchez). Sanchez had an outstanding debut last week, and duplicating that against a Patriots team that nearly blew it to the Bills won’t be easy. Add in a dash of Rex Ryan bluster (he isn’t about to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings, if you recall), and you’ve got the makings of an early-season classic. (I expect to see Bart Scott deployed as a torso-seeking missile, by the way).

New Orleans at Philadelphia: Philly had 31 points at halftime last week; New Orleans came a half-ending missed field goal from doing the same. Drew Brees threw six TDs, Donovan McNabb probably will sit this one out, I imagine, so the Kevin Kolb factor makes things interesting. Saints had better get their special teams blunders out of their system. This could be a playoff precursor. Both teams have new defensive coordinators as well, who will be looking to make statements against a high-powered attack.

 Baltimore at San Diego:   Whether or not LaDainian Tomlinson plays, I don’t think the Chargers will be able to move the ball on the ground. And I’m not sure the Ravens will be able to duplicate their aerial theatrics from Week 1. Shawne Merriman doesn’t look right to me, but they’ll need him to distract Joe Flacco. Another game that could easily be a playoff sneak peek.

Giants at Dallas: Finally, the first regular-season game in Jerry Jones’ Football Taj Mahal. How long before a punt hits the scoreboard? Yet another game that could resonate throughout the season. If the Giants open up 2-0, with two divisional wins, look out for them to get on a roll. This seems like a situation where maybe Tony Romo tries to do a little too much and gets burned. I like the Giants to focus on long drives by sustaining a multi-back run game, and I like the matchup of New York’s speed getting to the passer against Dallas’ more-beefy and less-athletic offensive line.

Pittsburgh at Chicago: How will the Bears fare without Brian Urlacher? Can Ben Roethlisberger continue to defy logic behind that porous offensive line? Will Jay Cutler throw four more interceptions and then find a way to never look directly in a camera post-game again, all the while tapping out tribal rhythms with his thumb on the dais loud enough for all to hear? I actually see the Bears establishing a run game – or at least sticking with it against a ravenous Pittsburgh D – and making this game pretty interesting. What the heck, it’s early in the week but I’ll call upset here, especially with no Troy Polamalu in the Steeler secondary.

Seattle at San Francisco: I like Seattle to win the NFC West, and a victory would make them 2-0 against the division. A 49ers win would give them wins over their two toughest division opponents. San Fran has to run the ball better, and given the injuries to the Seahawks’ linebackers, maybe they get that shot. The Seahawks have been home-dominant for a long time, but need to take care of business on the road.

Indianapolis at Miami: The Dolphins’ Wildcat lacked claws last week, while Peyton Manning put up yards, but not many points. Any team Bill Parcells is associated with is going to try to get after you on the edges, and whether or not Joey Porter and Jason Taylor can defy time, will play a big outcome in this game, and the Dolphins’ season.

Houston at Tennessee: I didn’t like the Texans’ lack of fight against a physical Jets team, and now they face an even brawnier foe. The Titans deserved to beat Pittsburgh and I can’t see Rob Bironas having another rough day. I predict a whole lotta Chris Johnson and LenDale White, and not a whole lot the Texans can do about it. Maybe a game where Vince Young gets a look-see in garbage time against his hometown team?

Minnesota at Detroit: Adrian Peterson could set the single-game rushing record at Ford Field. That’s reason enough to keep an eye on it. Seriously. The Lions are patently bad on D right now, and the Vikings are all about nursing Brett Favre along.

Cincinnati at Green Bay: I thought the Bengals would have hung a bunch more than seven points on the Broncos. That was the only game last week in which the team I thought would win did not.  I still think the Bengals will be able to get in some shootouts, and while their defense is better, this could be a high-scoring affair. Aaron Rodgers has to feel good about his game-winning heroics against the Bears, and I need to see Carson Palmer playing a little more free-and-easy.

Arizona at Jacksonville: Whenever the Cardinals travel East you have to wonder if they’ll show up. And I’ve had my doubts for a long time now about them looking like the team that went on that playoff run. Kurt Warner is getting dinged up. Cards may have to look to a lot of check-downs again. If the Jaguars can keep Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby in check, I like their chances to make this into an ugly game and squeak out a win. I also have a feeling Maurice Jones-Drew ends up with 20-plus carries and seven or more receptions.

St. Louis at Washington: A year ago, the Rams came to Fed Ex Field in Week 6, winless, and stunned the Redskins. Can’t see that happening again. But Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo knows the Redskins well from his Giants days, and generally shuts down that anemic offense. If Steven Jackson has the kind of day in the screen game I think he’s capable of, this game could be close. Rams must eliminate the massive special teams blunders that haunted them last week.

Carolina at Atlanta: Another stinker from Jake Delhomme and recently-signed backup A.J. Feeley might be asked to take a crash-course in this system. The Panthers are already facing probing questions and I look for them to unleash their running backs with great regularity and try to keep Atlanta’s offense off the field. Don’t think that will be enough, though, and I like Michael Turner to see much more open space than he did in the opener against Miami.

Tampa Bay at Buffalo: Both of these teams are short on personnel at some spots, but played with passion against superior opponents a week ago. The Bills’ young offensive line showed a fury and punch sorely missed last season –- I can’t overstate how well they held it together again the Patriots –- and Alex Van Pelt called a nice game, using Fred Jackson well as a receiver. Not sure we’ll see a whole lot of T.O. contributing much again -– his combustible pout-o-meter could be a week or two away from critical mass -– but the Bills could win this by making Jackson, Shawn Nelson and Lee Evans focal points. I like the Bills’ young and dynamic secondary to create turnovers here, as well.

Cleveland at Denver: Josh McDaniels gets the two worst teams in the AFC North to open up with, and just might beat them both. The Browns don’t have much going for them right now other than Josh Cribbs .

Oakland at Kansas City: Somebody has to win! Well, okay, so they could possibly tie, like 9-9, in one mess of a game. Actually, I’m not going to lie, this game is listed last for a reason, and unless you’re a fan of either team, or had the misfortune of loading up on players from either squad on your fantasy team, it could be a very long three hours here. But hey, it’s Week 2, so no one is out of it. Not sure either team will be able to replicate the “A” games they brought last week in defeat. Perhaps Matt Cassel makes his debut.  I like the Raiders to move the ball on the ground and persevere.

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