The key this weekend is how many teams can avoid an 0-2 start, which is a big hole to climb out of.
Carolina became the first 0-2 team Thursday night, and the other teams that lost their openers – the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals played to a tie – will be trying to avoid that fate. Miami is almost certainly destined to fall to 0-2. They appear to be tanking and/or rebuilding and are hosting the New England Patriots.
Three of the games — Jacksonville at Houston, Chicago at Denver and Cleveland at the New York Jets on Monday night — feature a pair of 0-1 teams, so that will result in at least three more 0-2 teams unless they end in ties.
The Jaguars and Jets are without their starting quarterbacks, so they are prime 0-2 candidates. Of course, an 0-2 start doesn’t doom a team. The Texans started out 0-3 and won nine in a row last year. But they were the first team to start off 0-3 and win a division title since the 1992 San Diego Chargers.
Only three teams – Houston and Seattle last year and New Orleans in 2017 — started off 0-2 and made the playoffs the last two years.
Game of the Week
How many times will we see the non-call in the New Orleans Saints-Los Angeles Rams playoff game in the pregame shows Sunday, when the Saints host the Rams?
The Saints won’t have the homefield advantage this time and have to play outdoors while Rams quarterback Jared Goff struggled in the opener and will be looking to rebound. Wouldn’t it be poetic justice if the Rams lost on an interference penalty that set up the Saints’ winning touchdown? Not likely to happen, but it would be a good story.
Game of the Weak
It now looks like the Browns were wildly overhyped and the Jets lost their quarterback, Sam Darnold, for several weeks with mono.
The Browns figure to win with the Jets starting Trevor Siemian. And what was supposed to be a Baker Mayfield-Darnold lmatchup is now a lackluster affair, even though it is a primetime MNF game.
The interesting thing to watch in this game is whether the Jets go after Odell Beckham, who claims that Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was once suspended for a year for bountygate in New Orleans, had his players target him when he played against for the New York Giants against Williams’ Browns in an exhibition game. He said a low hit almost wrecked his career.
Five Things to Watch
–This is the first time two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks will start against each other in two games in the same week. Jameis Winston, the 2013 winner, beat Cam Newton, the 2010 winner, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers topped the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. On Sunday, Kyler Murray, last year’s winner, will start against Lamar Jackson, the 2016 winner when the Arizona Cardinals play the Baltimore Ravens.
—Adam Vinatieri is coming off the worst game of his career as he missed two field goal attempts and an extra point in the same game for the first time in his career as the Indianapolis Colts lost to the L.A. Chargers. Will he rebound Sunday against Tennessee, or is age starting to catch up to him?
–Last season only two of the seven teams that started out 2-0, Kansas City Chiefs and the Rams, made the playoffs. But that is an aberration. Since the current playoff format went into effect in 1990, 144 of 236 (61.3 percent) of teams that started off 2-0 made the playoffs. We’ll see how many get to 2-0 this weekend.
–The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t make the playoffs last year and got off to a horrid start in New England in the Sunday night game. Are the Steelers in a rebuilding mode or can they bounce back at home against the Seahawks? The Seahawks were actually outplayed by the surprising Cincinnati Bengals but pulled out a victory. This is a measuring stick game for the Steelers. A loss would leave them 9-8-1 since the start of last season and 2-6 in their last eight games after finishing 2-4 at the end last season. A loss will raise a lot of questions about the direction of the franchise.
–The Minnesota Vikings haven’t gotten much out of their their investment in Kirk Cousins last year as they finished 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs. They beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-12 in their opener but did it on the ground with 172 rushing yards. In the past decade, teams have thrown the ball 10 or fewer times just twice. Cousins only threw it 10 times against the Falcons. But this week Cousins will duel Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field. He will have to throw more if the Vikings are to pull off an upset.