Week 1 provided fans with a very dissatisfactory start to the season—and even that is being generous. A few teams stood out—the Chiefs, Jaguars, Ravens and Rams all dominated in their respective games—but for the most part, the rest of the league just looked bad. Defenses were not in sync, quarterbacks and receivers were not on the same page, and offensive lines look they hadn’t ever blocked a defensive lineman.
Now of course, there were good and bad moments in every game, but I think sloppy is the best word to describe Week One. This week, you’ll see offenses cut back on turnovers as they have another week of practice, and defenses will improve as coordinators start to figure out which personnel works best where. So without further ado, here’s what to watch for in week 2.
Offense vs. Defense:
One of the league’s best offenses squares off with an elite defense this week as the Vikings travel to Heinz field to take on the Steelers in what could prove to be one of the better matchups in week 2—especially if Sam Bradford played the way he did last week.
Save for Antonio Brown, the Steelers’ offense was somewhat stagnant against the Browns, recording only 21 points, 7 of which came on a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown. Le’Veon Bell was a non-factor, rushing for a mere 32 yards and hauling in only 3 receptions—whether it was a result of the Browns defense or lack of preseason work remains to be seen, but Bell has a tall task ahead of him against the Vikings. Nonetheless, look for him to be more involved this week as the high-powered Pittsburgh offense looks to get back on track.
The Vikings should be very pleased with their performance last week. They have one of the top defensive units in the league, and will be the hardest defense the Steelers will face this season. Mike Zimmer and his defense stifled Drew Brees on Monday night, holding the Saints offense to four field goals and a garbage-time touchdown. The key to this game is defensive end Everson Griffin vs. left tackle Alejandro Villanueva—the winner of this matchup wins this game. Mark this down as a must-watch for the 1:00 EST slot.
Elite QB Battles:
Two games featuring arguably the top four quarterbacks in the game right now, these are fantastic matchups for week 2.
First comes the matchup of the old timers (yes, ages 38 and 40 is not old in real life, but it’s over the hill in football)—Brady and Brees have met twice in their careers, splitting the series 1-1, so in all likelihood this will be the final contest to break the tie.
Many expect the Patriots to have their way with a weak Saints defense, but Bill Belicheck had better get his defensive troops in line—if they gave up 42 points to Alex Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt at home, can you imagine what Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson are capable of in the Superdome? The Patriots will get it together and get in the win column, but it will be a lot closer than people might think.
Secondly, we are graced with an NFC Championship rematch. Preseason, I gave the Packers almost no chance to win this game—the home opener of Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the high-flying Falcons seemed a task too great to overcome. But after week 1, I have more faith in the Green and Gold—especially the defense. Although it’s only been one week, and the success against the Seattle offense is not exactly indicative of an elite defensive performance, the fire with which this team flew to the ball was something Green Bay hasn’t seen in a while. The offense will perform, can the defense follow suit?
A major concern from the Falcons game was their inability to cover rookie Tarik Cohen—the Packers have a guy in Ty Montgomery that can hurt you in the run and pass—if Atlanta is able to contain Montgomery, I like the Falcons to win this one. If not, it’s 2-0 for the Pack.
Will top fantasy player bounce back?
If you have one of the players listed below, it’s likely your team disappointed this week, unless you made a brilliant fantasy move and started a sleeper who scored high. Below are top fantasy players that underwhelmed in week 1, and whether or not they will bounce back this week.
Le’Veon Bell: As stated earlier, Bell was a sparse contributor in the Steelers offense last week. Against a stout Vikings defense, Bell will have to be huge. Expect nothing less. Verdict: Bounce Back
Julio Jones: He’s playing the Packers—even though Ladarius Gunter is no longer a Packer, they’re still young in the secondary, and the experienced Jones will take full advantage. Verdict: Bounce Back
Dez Bryant: Bryant only caught two passes for 43 yards against a very good Giants defense—Denver’s defense is even better. Verdict: Still Slumping
Rob Gronkowski: Gronk is going to play angry this week. The Saints’ defense is porous. Verdict: Bounce Back
DeMarco Murray: You’ll begin to see a lot more of Derrick Henry over the next few weeks. That combined with a tough Jaguars defense spells trouble. Verdict: Still Slumping
Tom Brady: If Gronk is bouncing back, so is Brady. The Saints gave up 346 yards to Sam Bradford, and this is Tom Brady. Verdict: Bounce Back.