It was quite an ugly week for the NFL with the Ray Rice mess, and a new major off-the-field scandal involving one of the biggest stars in the league, Adrian Peterson, accused of beating his son with a switch.
“Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son,” said Peterson’s lawyer Rusty Hardin. “He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas.”
Expect this story to dominate the headlines all week.
From my experiences covering the league for 20 years, I find most of the players to be good guys, with a few bad apples mixed in–kind of like society as a whole. So let’s not paint the entire league with a broad brush.
With all the negativity swirling around the NFL, maybe some game action will be cathartic for the fans, and get the attention back on the field–at least for a couple of days.
Here is a preview of the Sunday and Monday action on tap for Week Two . . .
Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
This could be a good week for the Giants to get their act together.
A big problem for the Giants is their offensive line. Normally, this would be a major issue against the Arizona front. But the Cardinals’ talented front is ravaged right now. Pass rusher John Abraham is out with a concussion, and his backup, Alex Okafor is also out with a thigh injury. Talented defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is out for the year with an ACL tear, and his replacement, Frostee Rucker, won’t play due to a calf injury.
So the Giants have a chance this week, even with their patchwork line, to get something going on offense.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
True, the Eagles have a high-powered offense under Chip Kelly. But it’s hard to put up a lot of points when your offensive line is a mess. Philly’s got some major issues up front entering this game.
All Pro left guard Evan Mathis is out with a sprained MCL. Their talented right tackle, Lane Johnson, is suspended by the NFL for PEDs for the first four games, and his replacement, Alan Barbre, blew out his ankle last week, so journeyman Andrew Gardner gets the start.
Look for the Colts to really get after Eagles QB Nick Foles.
Atlanta Falcons (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
The Atlanta Falcons are on their third-string left tackle, which is never a good thing on the quarterback’s blindside. Gabe Carimi gets the start, and last week, he took over for Jake Matthews (ankle) in the second quarter. He gave up a sack, four hurries, and three penalties.
It’s going to be hard for the Falcons to duplicate their offensive explosion from last week against the New Orleans Saints. The Bengals are stout on defense, and very tough to beat in Paul Brown Stadium, where they went undefeated last year.
One factor that helps a beleaguered Falcons defense is that the Bengals are down two weapons. Starting WR Marvin Jones and TE Tyler Eifert are both out this week.
Tennessee Titans (1-0) at Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
The Titans will be without inside linebacker Zach Brown, who is very good at covering tight ends, so look for Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar to do some damage.
Tony Romo had three picks last week, and some wonder if back surgeries the last two offseasons have taken away some arm strength.
You can already see the impact Ken Whisenhunt, a top-shelf play-caller, has had on QB Jake Locker, who tossed two touchdown passes in the Titans win over Kansas City last week.
Detroit Lions (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-0)
Cam Newton returns from a rib injury after missing Week One, and will face a banged-up Lions secondary that lost starting corner Bill Bentley to an ACL injury last week, and will likely be without first-string safety James Ihedigbo, who has a neck injury.
Look for Newton to target freakish rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 243) early and often. Benjamin had a quite a debut last week with six receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay. Like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Benjamin is a matchup nightmare.
And Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will need his head on a swivel with starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle out against the ferocious Panthers pass rush led by Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.
Houston Texans (1-0) at Oakland Raiders (0-1)
If Raiders rookie QB Derek Carr is going to have a fighting chance to succeed, the Raiders need to get their running game going. Last week, they rushed for only 25 yards against the Jets.
And not helping matters is RB Maurice Jones-Drew out this week due to a hand injury. But Darrin McFadden and Marcel Reece are capable of carrying the load.
Surely Carr was happy to hear that the Texans talented rookie pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney will miss this game with a knee issue, but he shouldn’t get too excited because Houston has great depth behind him in former first-round pick Whitney Mercilus.
After watching the Raiders’ porous rushing defense last week against the Jets, Arian Foster must be licking his chops entering this game.
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) at Washington Redskins (0-1)
The Jaguars have an average secondary to start with, and they will be without one of their better defensive backs. Safety Jonathan Cyprien will miss this game due to a concussion. Also, starting CB Alan Ball is iffy with a groin injury.
On offense, Jaguars starting right tackle Austin Pasztor, and starting wide receiver Cecil Shorts, are out.
If the Redskins can’t beat a beat-up, rebuilding Jaguars team at FedEx Field, this is going to be a long season for them.
Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)
The Denver front seven foams at the mouth today.
The Chiefs offensive line is a mess. Right tackle Jeff Allen was hurt in the opener, and won’t be returning anytime soon. Rookie right guard Zach Fulton is learning on the job, and the team starts a journeyman left guard, Mike McGlynn. Denver is loaded up front with players such as DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, and should make mince-meat out of this line.
Also, Peyton Manning should have his way against a Chiefs defense that lost two key starters to torn Achilles tendons in the opener, defensive end Mike DeVito and linebacker Derrick Johnson.
This one could get ugly.
Miami Dolphins (1-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)
Based on what he did in Week One, in Miami’s upset of New England, running back Knowshon Moreno looks like one of the true steals in free agency. He was kind of an afterthought in the marketplace, and signed a one-year deal for $3 million with Miami. Moreno, a former Denver Bronco, ran all over the Patriots last week, finishing with 134 yards.
It could be tougher sledding for Moreno this week, considering the Dolphins are starting a backup center, and Buffalo is loaded up the middle with defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.
Ralph Wilson Stadium should be rocking this week with the news that Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is buying the team, and they are staying put in Western New York.
New England Patriots (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
The Patriots reeling rush defense gets a huge break with the de-activation of perhaps the NFL’s best running back, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, after being accused of corporal punishment.
Another possible break for New England is that the Vikings might be without starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who is battling a hamstring injury. You need all hands on deck at cornerback to deal with Tom Brady and all the Patriots’ weapons.
It’s really hard seeing the Patriots leaving the Twin Cities at 0-2, but they need to protect Brady better than they did last week, when he was sacked three times, and was hit on six other plays.
New Orleans Saints (0-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-1)
New Orleans comes in healthy to battle a pretty banged-up Browns team, with starting tailback Ben Tate out with a knee injury, and talented tight end Jordan Cameron unlikely to play with a shoulder issue.
The Browns didn’t get very good cornerback play in their opener against Pittsburgh, so that isn’t a good sign with Drew Brees coming to town, desperate for a win.
New York Jets (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)
You talk about a 180-degree turn. Last week the Jets faced rookie quarterback Derek Carr at home in his first start, and the kid’s head was spinning. This week, they travel to Lambeau to face one of the true greats at the position, Aaron Rodgers, who has the highest quarterback rating in NFL history.
The Jets aren’t going to win a shootout between Rodgers and Geno Smith, so they need to keep the score down, and run the ball like they did last week against Oakland (212 yards), so they keep #12 off the field, and take the crowd out of the game.
Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at San Diego Chargers (0-1)
San Diego will have to deal with Seattle’s talented coterie of pass rushers with a backup center, Rich Ornberger, having lost their talented starter, Nick Hardwick, likely sidelined for the season with a neck injury.
Seattle’s cornerback situation bears watching as well against a very good Chargers passing offense. We all know how great Richard Sherman is, but he only covers one guy, and Green Bay targeted the other starter, Byron Maxwell, quite a bit last week, with some success. On top of that, the Seahawks will be without their nickel back Jeremy Lane, who got hurt last week.
One positive sign for San Diego is that seven of out of Russell Wilson’s eight losses in his career were away from Century Link Field.
St. Louis Rams (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
The Rams injury woes at quarterback continue. Sam Bradford is out for the year, and his replacement, Shaun Hill (calf), is game-time decision. So we might see Austin Davis.
One positive for this beleaguered Rams passing attack was the breakout performance from WR Brian Quick last week, with seven catches for 99 yards. They have been waiting for him to realize his enormous potential.
One factor that should help whoever is under center for the Rams is how thin the Bucs are at defensive end–both starters Adrian Clayborn (elbow) and Michael Johnson (ankle) are out.
Chicago Bears (0-1) at San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
The Bears travel to the Bay Area, not only coming off a devastating loss to the Buffalo Bills at home, but, as one of the most injured teams in the league. They will be without two starting offensive lineman–C Roberto Garza (ankle) and G Matt Slauson (ankle).
They also have major medical issues at wide receiver. Both starting receivers are questionable with WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Brandon Marshall (ankle). On top of that, key reserve WR Josh Morgan is doubtful.
It’s hard seeing this going well for the Bears.