Top Storylines for Sunday’s Week 2 NFL Matchups

niners

Here we are, Week 2 of the 2013 NFL season is about to begin in earnest. From the San Francisco 49ers traveling to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks to The Manning Bowl, there are a whole heck of a lot of storylines heading into the early games.

Let’s take a look at the top story for each and every matchup today, starting with the 1 PM ET kickoffs.

 

St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons: Running Back Steven Jackson Take on Old Team 

Jackson played nine seasons with the Rams and at times seemed like he was the only legitimate member of their offense. His 10,135 rushing yards is an all-time franchise record, besting that of Eric Dickerson from the Los Angeles Rams days. Jackson has now moved on to Atlanta in order to contend for a Super Bowl ring. He put up 77 rushing yards on just 11 attempts last week against the New Orleans Saints and will be looking to prove that getting rid of him wasn’t exactly the best decision for an up-and-coming Rams team.

 

Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills: Cam Newton and Co. Against Weak Run Defense

Buffalo finished second-to-last against the run last season, yielding a whopping 145.8 yards per game. During a ridiculous four-game stretch in 2012, Buffalo’s defense gave up an average of nearly 240 rushing yards per outing, including the most yards in a two-game stretch in the Super Bowl era. The Bills didn’t improve much last week in their lost to the New England Patriots, giving up 158 yards on the ground. They now go up against a Panthers team led by DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton, who combined to average 5.7 yards per rush last week against the Seattle Seahawks.

 

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: Could Christian Ponder’s Job be on the Line? 

We have now started to officially hear rumors that Ponder’s job may not be safe if he doesn’t perform up to level in the next three games leading up to Minnesota’s Week 5 bye. Its other option at the quarterback position Matt Cassel may leave a lot to be desired, but the Vikings simply cannot continue to waste Hall of Fame performances from Adrian Peterson, especially if they’re looking at making a second consecutive trip to the postseason. Ponder’s three-interception performance doomed them against the Detroit Lions last week. Another game like that and he might be riding the pine in lieu of Cassel.

 

1203_keene_630x420Washington Redskins at Green Bay Packers: One Team Set to Start 0-2

Both the Packers and Redskins earned trips to the postseason last year, but one will be facing difficult odds following today’s game. Since 1990, only 12 percent of the teams that have started 0-2 ended up making the playoffs that season. The odds are definitely stacked against Washington in this one. Quarterback Robert Griffin III seems to be less than 100 percent and struggled through the early stages of Washington’s Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. In addition, Green Bay is 22-1 in its last 23 home games with its only loss coming to San Francisco in Week 1 of the 2012 season.

 

Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts: Second-Year Quarterbacks Look to Shine

Miami’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill is coming off one of the best games of his career, a 24/38, 272-yard performance against the Cleveland Browns last week. The second-year player from Texas A&M seems to be on an upward trajectory at this early point in his career. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck has now won 12 of his first 17 regular-season starts as a member of the Colts and is looking to show exactly why he was the No. 1 overall pick in what has become the best quarterback draft class in over a quarter century.

 

Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs: Statement Game for Both Teams

Kansas City can match its entire 2012 win total with a victory against Andy Reid’s old NFC East nemesis. This could be a huge statement game for the new Chiefs’ head coach and his “star” pupil Alex Smith, who is also looking to prove that he can be the reason why a team wins. Coming off two consecutive stellar seasons in San Francisco, Smith is looking to make his mark in the midwest. Meanwhile, Tony Romo and the Cowboys are coming off a sloppy win over the New York Giants and are looking to start 2-0 for the first time since 2008.

 

San Diego Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles: Stopping Chip Kelly’s Offense

What we witnessed last Monday Night in the nation’s capital was nothing short of amazing. Under the leadership of first-year head coach Chip Kelly, Philadelphia racked up nearly 400 yards in the first half against the Washington Redskins, only to narrowly defeat RGIII and Co. The Chargers were up three touchdowns in the third quarter against the Houston Texans later that night, only to fall after yet another epic late-game collapse. Can San Diego find a way to stop Philadelphia’s offense? If not, just how much of a blowout will this be?

 

Joe+Flacco+Cleveland+Browns+v+Baltimore+Ravens+LmK48q3ouCJlCleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: Must Win For Both AFC North Teams

As I indicated before, only 12 percent of the teams to start 0-2 since 1990 have made the playoffs. This is a situation that both Cleveland and Baltimore are faced with this afternoon. For Baltimore, an 0-2 start would seem to suggest that the losses of Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis were just as big as we originally thought. A vastly improved Browns’ team is also setting out to prove that they are different than they cellar-dwelling teams we have seen in the past. Another 0-2 start won’t do them any favors when it comes to this.

 

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans: Arian Foster vs Chris Johnson

In what has to be considered an interesting fantasy football matchup, these two running backs are looking to prove that recent questions about their ability to play at elite levels moving forward are overblown. We already know what has happened with CJ2K since his record-breaking performance in 2009. He has put up just 400 more yards over the course of the past two seasons than he did in 2009 alone. That being said, Tennessee added a ton of help along its offensive line for the former Pro Bowl running back. As it relates to Foster, most of the questions are about his workload. The talented running back has touched the ball 1,139 times in his last 46 games for an average of 25 touches per outing. That’s just not sustainable moving forward.

 

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Johnson vs Patrick Peterson

If you look at this matchup and tingles don’t go down your spine, you are doing it wrong. Billed by some as the best young defensive back in the NFL, Peterson will face the toughest test of his young career today against Megatron, who has been putting up Madden-like numbers since Peterson was shutting down receivers in The Bayou. Can Peterson prove that Johnson is containable or will the stud wide receiver show us why he is still the best in the game? Get your popcorn ready, people.

 

Drew+Brees+Josh+Freeman+Tampa+Bay+Buccaneers+-smx3Eh_OQrlNew Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Saints Look to Prove Their Back 

Fresh off a statement win against the defending division champion Atlanta Falcons, Sean Payton and Co. look to make it two straight wins in the NFC South to start the season. They will have to go up against Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers in what has to be considered a must-win for the veteran quarterback. Freeman looked lost once again last week against the New York Jets, a game that raised more questions about his ability to be Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback. Freeman has now thrown the most interceptions in the NFL since the start of the 2011 season.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders: Terrelle Pryor

Once I signed up for The Sunday Ticket a couple years ago, I was so pleased to find out that I didn’t have to sit through a three-hour Raiders’ game here locally in Northern California. Since, I have made it a point to tune into the ticket to avoid what has been some horrendous football in the east bay. For the first time since signing up for that amazing package, I am making the conscious decision to view a Raiders game because…Terrelle Pryor. The young quarterback dazzled onlookers last week in a narrow loss to the Indianapolis Colts and has given Oakland reason for optimism moving forward. A blowout win against a Jaguars team that pretends to be an actual part of the NFL could go a long way in cementing Pryor’s status as the Raiders’ quarterback of the future.

 

Denver Broncos at New York Giants: The “Manning” Bowl

This has to be overblown, right? First off, Eli Manning is nowhere near the level of his older brother at this point in his career. Despite two Super Bowl victories, Eli still has that monkey on his back, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Peyton Manning‘s record-breaking seven-touchdown performance against the Baltimore Ravens last week notwithstanding, look for him to eat apart a lackluster New York Giants secondary. Will Eli respond with an equally solid performance against the Denver Broncos? That’s the only question here.

 

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: Statement Game for Both Teams

While junior varsity games are being played earlier in the day, the real showcase matchup comes on Sunday Night Football when two of the best teams in the NFL take on one another on national television. Are Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers heads and shoulders above the rest of the NFC or will Russell Wilson show that Seattle has what it take to knock off the defending conference champions in one of the most hostile environments in the sports world? The answer will come tonight and go a long way in determining who the early-season favorites to win the Super Bowl are.

 

Vincent is the head sports editor at eDraft, co-host of eDraft Sports Radio (which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. ET) and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus. He’s also the news director here at PFC and co-host of Football Debate Central with Ryan Riddle every Friday. He’s also a former league-wide featured columnist at Bleacher Report.