NFL 2011 Season – Week Two Preview
After players used week one of the 2011 NFL season to reward the football faithful with NFL records for passing yards, special-team return touchdowns and sacks, week two brings several early season games that could be future playoff, or, perhaps, conference championship previews. With temperatures turning fall-like in the east, fans will likely be treated to great football in near-perfect football weather.
NFL schedule for Sunday, September 18 (all times eastern)
Kansas City Chiefs at Detroit Lions – 1 p.m.
After a season-opening win in Tampa Bay last week, the Lions hope to show their fans at Ford Field in Detroit that the 2011 season will be different for this perennially-losing franchise. The Lions defense is young, talented and aggressive and will look to force Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel into mistakes. Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson is tied for the most receiving touchdowns in the NFL since the start of 2008, including two last weekend against the Buccaneers. Johnson will look to feast on a Kansas City defense that was hammered by Buffalo in week one. The Chiefs defense is even more vulnerable after losing safety Eric Berry to a torn ACL in his left knee.
Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills – 1 p.m.
In recent years, the Bills and Raiders are often 0-1 in week two, but both teams won last week to set up this match-up at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium. Oakland defensive end Richard Seymour hopes to put pressure on Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw four touchdowns last week and is evolving into an offensive weapon. Meanwhile, the Bills defense, led by linebacker Shawne Merriman, has to stop the Raiders’ ground game, led by Darren McFadden. The NFL’s West Coast teams often have a difficult time winning early games in the eastern time zone, so the Raiders are at a disadvantage, despite their superior special teams play.
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans – 1 p.m.
Baltimore wants to stick to the successful script of having its strong defense force opponents into turnovers, while Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco builds a lead by using controlled passes and runs by running back Ray Rice. Titans star running back Chris Johnson is fast enough to change any game, but Tennessee’s other weapons are limited. They must take some of the pressure off of Johnson for the Titans to succeed. The Tennessee defense is underrated and if they can create a few turnovers, they can make the Ravens defense, led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, defend a short field.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets – 1 p.m.
The New York Jets defense must stop Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who had 97 yards and a touchdown versus Tennessee last week. Inexperienced Jacksonville quarterback Luke McCown must avoid Jet cornerback Darrelle Revis, who can turn mistakes into points for New York. Meanwhile, the Jaguars defense held Tennessee running back Chris Johnson to 24 rushing yards last week, so the Jets may need to pass to win. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will throw frequently to receivers Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes to free up his running game.
Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts – 1 p.m.
This is Cleveland’s first trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana, and no one is as happy to see injured Colts quarterback Peyton Manning out of the lineup as the Browns, who haven’t beaten Indianapolis since Manning joined the team. The Browns will use their own Peyton, running back Peyton Hillis, to take the offensive burden off quarterback Colt McCoy. The Indianapolis defense is opportunistic and likes to force turnovers and rush the passer. The Colts offense, which was ineffective in a loss to Houston last week, must give its own defense a chance to rest by rolling up first downs on the Browns weak rushing defense.
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints – 1 p.m.
The Bears and Saints game features two quarterbacks who had 300 yards passing last week. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees will have to contend with a solid Bears defense led by linebacker Brian Urlacher, who rejoined the team Thursday after the death of his mother earlier this week. The big question is whether Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears offense can duplicate their week one success against Atlanta versus the Saints defense.
Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers – 1 p.m.
Still smarting from a decisive loss to division rival Baltimore last week, Pittsburgh hopes to record their first win in 2011 against Seattle. The Seahawks defense may give up a lot of passing yardage. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger loves to throw deep to wide receiver Mike Wallace, who has 100 receiving yards in each of his last five regular season games. Worse, Seattle’s offense may struggle against an experienced, and angry, Steel Curtain defense. Even more bad news for Pete Carroll’s young Seahawks: Bill Leavy, the oft-criticized referee in the Steelers contentious Super Bowl win over Seattle in 2006, will work this game, too.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings – 1 p.m.
Both teams got off to disappointing starts with losses last week. Tampa yielded 125 yards rushing to the Lions in week one, and now the Bucs have to chase Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson around the field. Tampa must hope its offense can control the time of possession and keep the Vikings offense from taking over the game. The game marks the home debut for new Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb, who only had 39 passing yards.
Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers – 1 p.m.
Fresh off setting a rookie passing yardage record last week, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton runs into the defending Super Bowl champions and an experienced secondary and linebacking corps, led by A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews. Expect the Packers defense to challenge Newton with blitzes, while Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers passes often against a Panthers defense that had trouble defending Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb last week.
Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins – 1 p.m.
Washington has defeated Arizona in the last seven meetings between these two teams. The Redskins will look to extend that streak by using a big pass rush to harass Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb and alter the game plan. Kolb often looks to locate receiver Larry Fitzgerald downfield and on third downs, but the quarterback is not mobile and needs time in the pocket. Washington running back Tim Hightower faces his former team. He hopes to pair with Washington quarterback Rex Grossman to attack the shaky Cardinals defense.
Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers – 4 p.m.
These teams, who have played one another in six NFC championship games, may combine for a high-scoring contest. Dallas heads to San Francisco after losing to the Jets last week when the Cowboys couldn’t hold a 14-point 4th quarter lead. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo must avoid turnovers and allow his team’s offensive talent to wear down the 49ers defense. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh wants running back Frank Gore carrying the ball more effectively to assist his developing passing game. The Niners hope to keep the Dallas defense guessing and convert points off turnovers while on defense.
San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots – 4:15 p.m.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will each look to pass and score at will against their opponent’s defense in this match-up of Super Bowl favorites. The Chargers defense will struggle to cover the Patriot receivers, all of whom can get multiple catches per game. The Patriots defense will be tested as well, as the Chargers receivers, led by tight end Antonio Gates, create match-up problems. In a game that may come down to a field goal, Nick Novak makes his debut at kicker for San Diego, which lost Nate Kaeding to a knee injury on the season’s opening kickoff.
Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins – 4:15 p.m.
Led by Mario Williams, Houston’s defense can force mistakes and dominate a game, as they did last week against the Colts. The Dolphins running game is weak, so the Texans hope to make Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne uncomfortable enough not to throw for more than 400 yards, like he did last week. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub hopes to exploit the Dolphins questionable passing defense. He will target receiver Andre Johnson, a Miami native who played for the University of Miami. Special teams may play a role as Houston’s Brett Hartmann has a strong enough leg to neutralize the Miami kickoff return game.
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos – 4:15 p.m.
Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton looks to running back Cedric Benson to lead the offense, while he learns the NFL game and avoids the Broncos strong secondary. Denver may be without defensive end Elvis Dumervil and cornerback Champ Bailey on defense and receiver Brandon Lloyd and running back Knowshon Moreno on offense. Missing those weapons will make Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton’s job difficult. While Cincinnati’s defense is vulnerable, the injuries to the Broncos may make this a long day for the home team if back-ups don’t step up to fill the vacated roles.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons – 8:20 p.m.
A potential NFC championship preview, this primetime game features former Falcon Michael Vick returning to Atlanta as the Eagles starting quarterback. While he often scrambles out of the pocket effectively, Vick hasn’t shown he can pass over blitzes consistently, so expect to see Atlanta use the blitz often to apply pressure. Speedy Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson often requires double-coverage, so that means more chances for teammate Jeremy Maclin. The Falcons need quarterback — and Philly-area native — Matt Ryan to limit mistakes against a great Eagles secondary, led by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Atlanta will use running back Michael Turner to test Philadelphia’s suspect rushing defense. Eagles coach Andy Reid is 8-1 against the Falcons during his career.
St. Louis Rams at New York Giants
Monday, Sept. 19th 8:30 p.m.
Both teams are beset by injuries, with St. Louis minus running back Steven Jackson and receiver Danny Amendola. Sore-fingered Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is expected to play hurt, which means running back Cadillac Williams and wideout Brandon Gibson must produce against a New York defense that is without starting cornerback Terrell Thomas and defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Giants defensive end Justin Tuck hopes to play. New York quarterback Eli Manning must find a way to exploit the St. Louis defense, which is without several key players, as well. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw should help in that cause.
Story filed by Joe Student. Follow Joe on Twitter.