The Cincinnati Bengals’ victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night made them the first team to get to a 2-0 record. Numerous other teams can join them on Sunday, while another set of franchises is facing the nervy prospect of sliding to 0-2.
Here’s a look at three of this weekend’s biggest games:
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers can hardly be excited about seeing this relentless Vikings defense a week after limping his way to a thrilling comeback win against the Chicago Bears. Despite the knee injury, the assumption is that Rodgers will play. Minnesota will make life tough for him, with the playmakers they have at all levels of the defense. The Xavier Rhodes-Davonte Adams matchup will be worth watching, and it will be interesting to see whether Green Bay’s running game gets much traction.
On the other side of the ball, Kirk Cousins had some impressive moments in Week 1 but running back Dalvin Cook was quiet (40 rushing yards). Look for Cook to bounce back and the Vikings to lean more on the running game in this one. The Packers’ defense was excellent in the second half last Sunday and will need a repeat of that intensity. This will be a good early test of both teams’ Super Bowl credentials.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers
There is still no Le’Veon Bell for the Steelers but this offense is more than capable of putting up points without him, assuming Ben Roethlisberger can put a rough Week 1 outing (four interceptions) behind him. James Conner will again see plenty of carries and Antonio Brown should thrive against a shaky Chiefs secondary.
The Pittsburgh defense played solidly in Cleveland last weekend but will need to be ready for the far more explosive Kansas City offense. The Chiefs use Tyreek Hill in so many creative ways but if the Steelers overcommit on Hill, then Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins can do damage, as can Kareem Hunt out of the backfield. This has all the signs of being a high-scoring contest that comes down to the final drive.
New England Patriots @ Jacksonville Jaguars
This rematch of last season’s dramatic AFC Championship Game promises to be just as compelling. As it so often the case, it will be up to the Jaguars’ defense to provide the spark here and create turnovers, especially if running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is ruled out. They should be able to get pressure on Tom Brady and limit the Patriots to short gains.
As always, Rob Gronkowski will be the matchup nightmare, though the Jaguars have size and athleticism in their linebacker group. Still, the defense cannot do it all. In Week 1, Blake Bortles struggled to put the New York Giants away. If New England can score 24 points or more, it is hard to see Bortles keeping pace against a Patriots defense that already looks stronger than the leaky 2017 unit.