What To Watch For: NFL Week 2
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The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals set the bar high with a surprisingly entertaining Thursday night game to open Week 2 of the NFL regular season. Here are the top five games to watch for the rest of the weekend:
- Falcons at Cowboys (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT): If you like watching explosive passing attacks, it doesn't get much better than this. Last week three Falcons receivers, including Alabama alumni Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, had 9 catches for more than 100 yards, and Dallas also boasts a strong trio with Alabama alum Amari Cooper, the underrated Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan threw the ball 54 times for 450 yards, both the second-most of his career. Todd Gurley got off to a respectable start in his debut for the Falcons with 10 carries on their first four drives, but he only had four more carries for the rest of the game. The Cowboys generated just four pressures in last week's loss to the L.A. Rams; they'll need to get after Ryan more than that to avoid starting 0-2.
- Washington at Cardinals (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT): Washington sacked Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz eight times last week in its comeback win. But Wentz isn't Kyler Murray, and the Eagles don't have a receiver anywhere close to the caliber of DeAndre Hopkins. Those two carried the Cardinals' offense in last week's upset of defending NFC champion San Francisco, with Hopkins catching 14 of his 16 targets for 151 yards and Murray adding 91 yards on scrambles. Aside from Hopkins targets and Murray scrambles, Arizona averaged less than 4 yards per play. Washington's game plan should be to keep Murray in the pocket to limit the damage he can do with his legs. They need more offensive production too, as all five of their scoring drives last week began in Eagles territory.
- Ravens at Texans (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT): This game features two of the most promising young quarterbacks in the sport. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was pressured at the highest rate of any quarterback in Week 1 against Kansas City, so the fearsome Ravens defense will likely win the line of scrimmage. He still managed to find receiver Will Fuller V 8 times for 112 yards, but no other receiver had more than 25 yards. Resurgent running back David Johnson was a nice surprise as well, amassing more than 100 total yards after a few lackluster seasons in Arizona. The Ravens' run defense was its biggest struggle in last week's 38-6 win (allowed 5.1 yards per carry), but the team as a whole just appears to be on another level. Quarterback Lamar Jackson had one of the best passing performances of his career, and the defense only allowed Cleveland to reach the red zone once.
- Chiefs at Chargers (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT): If someone told you that Patrick Mahomes and Tyrod Taylor were No. 2 and No. 29 in average depth of throw last week, you'd probably guess that Mahomes was chucking it deep and Taylor was throwing safe checkdowns. But it was actually vice versa. Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill and Chargers do-it-all running back Austin Ekeler were less impactful than expected. It worked out fine for Mahomes and the Chiefs, who won 34-20, but the Chargers narrowly escaped with a 16-13 win over Cincinnati, the worst team in the league last year, despite outgaining the Bengals by nearly 70 yards and forcing two turnovers. Perhaps dialing up some higher-percentage passes for Taylor and getting Ekeler more involved in the passing game can help L.A. keep this one close.
- Patriots at Seahawks (Sunday, 7:20 p.m. CT): Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is probably the MVP of the league through one week, courtesy of his 31-for-35 performance last week. His connection with wide receiver Tyler Lockett was especially lethal; Lockett caught all 8 of his targets for 92 yards. Running back Chris Carson had two receiving touchdowns for the first time in his career, but Seattle totaled only 43 yards on 16 carries by its running backs. New England, on the other hand, had no problem running the ball with new quarterback Cam Newton. He had 75 yards on 15 carries in addition to completing more than 75% of his passes in the new-look Patriots scheme. New England's defense can find a way to defend Seattle's passing attack, but the Patriots' offense might be too one-dimensional without a true receiving threat on the outside. The Seahawks will be able to deploy safety Jamal Adams, whose 12 tackles in Week 1 tied for the most in the league, in the box to help contain Newton.
The top Alabama alum to watch this week is Julio Jones. He could be the choice here on any given week, but he gets the nod for Week 2 because he's just two receptions shy of the Falcons franchise record of 808 catches. He saw 12 targets last week, so the probability is high that he snags at least two catches on Sunday against Dallas. It will also be interesting to see how often he lines up against Cowboys rookie Trevon Diggs, a second-round pick out of Alabama.