Week two offers some obvious must-see football–the battle of the brothers Manning, the brewing rivalry of Seattle versus San Francisco, and if Chip Kelly can turn his offense up to 11. However there are some other interesting storylines flying below the radar.
-Can RGIII get the best of the Packers’ linebacking corps?
Robert Griffin III was a shell of his explosive 2012 form last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and it may be another few weeks before he’s back to 100 percent. Simply put, he’s going to find it very difficult to beat OLB Clay Matthews and ILB Brad Jones if he’s forced to run; both were instrumental in suppressing the San Francisco 49ers running game and held Colin Kaepernick to 3.1 yards per carry. Kaepernick adjusted and was able to beat Green Bay with his arm, and RGIII may have no choice but to (attempt to) do the same. That’s disconcerting because Washington’s wideouts had a drop rate of 12.2% last week, the bulk of which happened while Griffin was under pressure (30% Comp). Green Bay’s secondary was dreadful against the pass but without the serious option threat, they may be more prepared to play tighter coverage.
-The Browns OLine versus Baltimore’s front seven
Cleveland had the worst-performing offensive line last week during their 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The right side of the Browns’ line–Oniel Cousins and Mitchell Schwartz–were completely overpowered by Cameron Wake and Paul Soliai, allowing a total of 15 pressure situations on Brandon Weeden. Things don’t get much easier having to deal with Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody, both of whom are particularly strong against the run. Cleveland’s wideouts don’t match up well with the Ravens’ secondary, so their best chance to move the ball will be to hitch their wagon to Trent Richardson. If Cleveland can’t consistently block and create space for Richardson to maneuver–on the ground or through the air–they’ve got no shot to compete. Cleveland is considered an AFC Wild Card sleeper this year and this will be their first big step to transcend that expectation.
-Lucas Oil Stadium shows off the young guns
Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck don’t always get the recognition they deserve as part of the new regime of NFL quarterbacks. Sunday they (unfairly) play second fiddle to the matchup between Russell Wilson and Kaepernick. Tannehill was decent against the Browns in week one (82.1 QB rating), while Luck–despite a 127.8 rating–underwhelmed (albeit playing with sky-high expectations). Both have nearly identical yards per attempt (~7.5) as well as having just over 65% of their passing yards coming prior to YAC. Tannehill needs to find a way to get the ball to Mike Wallace a lot more (favorable matchup vs. the Colts’ corners), which will force extra coverage thereby freeing up Brian Hartline and opening up the run game for Lamar Miller. Tannehill should know that LaRon Landry will make that plan difficult to execute. As for Luck, he’ll be dealing with Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson, who were able to keep Brandon Weeden to a sub-50 QB rating when thrown at. Luck is a much more polished passer and has better weapons to work with but will to need ample protection from Cameron Wake and the Dolphins’ pass rush. Also watch for Luck to make some plays with his feet–an overlooked skill he is capable of flashing
-The New Orleans Saints’ invasion of Revis Island
Last week against the New York Jets, Darrelle Revis showed flares of his healthier days at times but was on the field for just 55 snaps. Will he be ready for the onslaught of passing coming his way from Drew Brees? A 75% healthy Revis is still better than the majority of corners in the league but he’ll be forced to bear the brunt of covering the likes of Marques Colston, who (along with Brees) torched the corners of the Atlanta Falcons. Brees had a 74.3% completion rate with over 10 yards gained per passing attempt in week one. Historically, Revis has done well against the Saints when fully healthy and this week may require extra support (I’m looking at you Dashon Goldson). For Tampa to hang with New Orleans, they’ll need to get everything out of Revis they possibly can but even that might not be enough.
-The ‘Bottom Bowl’
The Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars are considered the two worst teams in the NFL. The difference between the two is fairly sizable as Oakland showed a lot against Indianapolis last week, while Jacksonville showed nothing against the Kansas City Chiefs. Oakland doesn’t have the same amount of talent that the Chiefs possess, but third year quarterback Terrelle Pryor is going to give them fits throughout the day. Last week against Indianapolis, Pryor passed for over 217 yards and was the second leading rusher in the league. Its that latter stat that is going to be the issue with the Jags, not only will they need to worry about controlling Darren McFadden but keeping Pryor from taking off as well. If contain on the outside breaks down for the Jags, forget about it; they were dreadful against the mediocre Colts running game. Oakland played very well against an above-average Colts offense but they shouldn’t rest on those laurels; Jacksonville still has an explosive running back in Maurice Jones-Drew who can change a game with one carry.
BY MICHAEL AUGUSTINE ON SEPTEMBER 15, 2013
Follow Michael @AugieSports on Twitter.