Five things I’ll be looking at in the second week of the 2017 NFL season:
1. How will the Patriots respond?
You don’t want to overreact when the New England Patriots and Tom Brady have a bad game. In 2014, they lost at Kansas City 41-14 and coach Bill Belichick said it was on to Cincinnati. They routed the Bengals 43-17 and went on to win the Super Bowl. And the last three times they lost their opener, they won the Super Bowl.
Now they’ll try to bounce back against the Saints and Drew Brees.
The Patriots figure to win their division even if they lose this game, but it will raise some eyebrows if Brady plays the way he did against Kansas City and loses a shootout to Brees. The Patriots are favored by a touchdown.
2. Will the NFC Championship Game rematch be closer this time?
The Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers will play in the Falcons’ new stadium in a rematch of the NFC title game last year. It is the Sunday night attraction.
Both won their openers although not in resounding fashion. The duel between Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan could have home-field playoff ramifications later in the season. The Falcons are favored by 2.5 points. The Falcons won easily in the playoffs last year, 44-21, but this one figures to be much closer.
3. Are the Jaguars and Rams for real?
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams were two most surprising teams in the first week as they routed the Texans and Colts. Have the Jaguars and Rams improved that much — or are the Texans and Colts that bad?
They’re both at home this Sunday as the Jaguars host the Titans and the Rams host the Redskins. These games should show whether the Jaguars and Rams are for real. The Jaguars are 1.5-point underdogs, while and the Rams are favored by 2.5 points.
The Los Angeles Chargers are also home Sunday, and the last time both L.A. teams were at home on the same day was on Christmas Eve 1994 when the Rams and Raiders were home.
I covered the Rams game against the Washington Redskins in Anaheim. The crowd was announced at 25,705, the smallest ever to see the Rams in Anaheim where they played for 15 years, and the game showed the Rams had lost the fans in Los Angeles. The Raiders drew 64,130 fans at the Coliseum in a loss to the Chiefs. The Rams then moved to St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland the next season. Now the Rams are back and the Raiders are heading to Las Vegas.
4. Can Alex Smith keep it up?
Alex Smith was sensational against the Patriots, but he knows that doesn’t guarantee him a future in Kansas City. He knows the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round and that Mahomes is their quarterback of the future.
Smith admitted he doesn’t think he’s in the Chiefs plans for next year because they’re likely to decide to go with Mahomes. Smith wants to play so well this year that the Chiefs have to keep Mahones on the bench another year.
Next up is the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, where Andy Reid will coach against his former team. The Chiefs are favored by 4.5 points.
5. Can the Cowboys help solve the NFL’s ratings woes?
The late, great Beano Cook used to say, “When in doubt, show them the Cowboys.’’
The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1995, yet they remain one of the league’s best attractions.
Even with the hurricane, their TV ratings against the Giants last week were up about five percent. The Cowboys being a contender is good for the NFL. The Cowboys’ trip to Denver to face the Broncos figures to be a compelling game that will get good ratings.