Fall is in the air, and football is in full swing. Despite the lack of, or in some cases complete nonexistence, of fans, it still felt great to have football back.
After some exciting matchups in Week 1, we get to start it all over again this Thursday. Here’s a preview of what to watch for in Week 2.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns - Thu, 9/17 8:20 ET
This matchup between the Browns and Bengals may not jump off the page to you as must watch TV, but there is a lot at play in this game that makes it particularly intriguing. First, you have the matchup of the two number one picks at quarterback. Rookie Joe Burrow vs third-year-man, Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield’s season, once again, got off to an extremely rocky start. The former Oklahoma Sooner was 21 for 39 for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Mayfield finished with a quarterback rating of 65, and the Browns were dismantled by the Ravens, 38-6.
Burrow, the top pick in April, got off to a much better start. Despite losing on a last second blown field goal, the former LSU Tiger played pretty well against a tough Chargers defense. Burrow went 23 of 36 for 193 yards and one pick. The numbers don’t pop off the page, but watching the game you could see Burrow’s athletic and natural playmaking ability. He drove his team down the field, setting up a potential game- tying field goal in the final seconds. Not something easy to do in your first NFL start.
On Thursday when the two matchup, the Browns and Mayfield desperately need a win. With how poorly things went in Cleveland last season, if they get off to an 0-2 start it will be extremely hard to recover from. After this Thursday against the Bengals and 9/27 against the Football Team, Cleveland has to face Dallas, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in a row. Those are three very tough games and the Browns easily could be the underdog in all three. Thursday night is one of the biggest games of Baker Mayfield’s short NFL career. His team needs him to outshine his counterpart Burrow and lead Cleveland to their first victory.
Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys - Sun, 9/20 - 1:00 ET
Now despite what it may look like, this matchup is not only on here because it’s a Cowboys game. This game on Sunday carries tons of weight for both sides. It could quite possibly be the game with the biggest chain reaction for the losing team out of the entire slate in Week 2.
For Atlanta, rough starts to seasons have become a trend. After beginning the season 1-7 in 2019, the Falcons dropped their first game against the Seattle Seahawks in 2020. It really was more of the same for Atlanta. Matt Ryan moved the football, Julio Jones was great, but their dreadful defense, particularly the secondary, gave up 38 points losing them the game.
For Dallas, the Mike McCarthy era got off to a rocky start. The Cowboys fell to the Rams 20-17 in a game that looked like a carbon copy of what we saw in 2019. To make matters worse, Dallas lost two key players, Blake Jarwin and Leighton Vander Esch, to injury in the loss. Despite the poor performance, Dallas had a shot to set up a game-tying field goal in the final minute, but an OPI call negated a huge catch from Michael Gallup.
The game-changing OPI call on Michael Gallup that negated a MASSIVE pickup pic.twitter.com/MjqBh4KNer— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) September 14, 2020
When the two teams meet on Sunday, the loser is going to be in big trouble. Atlanta follows up the Dallas matchup by taking on the Bears, Packers, Panthers and Vikings in their next four. Dallas follows it up with Seattle, Cleveland, New York and Arizona. There’s a real chance whoever loses this game Sunday could be starting at an 0-3 record at the end of September.
Dallas, in particular, desperately needs this game before heading into CenturyLink Field to take on a tough Seahawks team. It will likely be a high-scoring shootout, and whatever team comes away with the win might have just saved their season.
New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks - Sun, 9/20 8:20 ET
This matchup may not have a ton of juice from the outside, but it’s the game I am most intrigued by in Week 2. The simple reason is we get to see what Cam Newton really is going to be. Newton was pretty impressive in his first Patriots start Sunday, leading New England to a 21-11 win. Not to discredit Cam, but it’s hard to put tons of weight on what he did against a pretty bad Dolphins team.
Sunday night he faces a true contender in the Seattle Seahawks. The Seattle defense did not get off to a good start, allowing 25 points and over 500 yards of total offense to Atlanta in the opener, but the Patriots have far fewer weapons.
This will be a true test for Newton and New England. Can the former MVP elevate the Patriots enough to make them Super Bowl contenders, or will they be competing in the QB sweepstakes next offseason? We’ll get our first look at this answer Sunday night.
Five Picks to Click
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB Green Bay Packers
Rodgers looked like his old self against the Vikings in Week 1 and faces a favorable matchup against Detroit this Sunday.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers signal-caller should bounce back nicely against a dreadful Jets defense.
3. Julio Jones, WR Atlanta Falcons
Dallas has no one in their secondary who can contain Jones, setting him up for a big day.
4. The Buffalo Bills Defense
5. The Chicago Bears Defense
If you saw how poor the Giants offense was Monday Night, Chicago should have no problem handling them on a short week.