With President Donald J. Trump entering the anthem debate, expect player protests aplenty at NFL Stadiums around the country. Also expect some very good games, with the Atlanta Falcons-Detroit Lions game at the top of the list.
Here is a preview on this week’s NFL Sunday:
Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Detroit Lions (2-0)
Perhaps the best game on the schedule, featuring two of NFL’s best quarterbacks – Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.
Stafford has a 114.6 QB rating this season, and Ryan at 112.2. For the uninitiated, those are very good ratings.
Stafford gets a break with Atlanta’s great pass rusher, Vic Beasley (hamstring), set to miss the game with a hamstring injury.
This game is a toss-up.
Seattle Seahawks (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)
The Seahawks were considered Super Bowl contenders entering the season, but unless their offense gets going, a trip to the big game isn’t likely. Seattle averaged just 10.5 points in the first two games.
Bad offensive line play is a big reason for the Seahawks’ offensive struggles. Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will send a lot of exotic blitzes to take advantage of the Seattle’s weak offensive line.
The game could go either way.
New York Giants (0-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
There were high hopes for the Giants this year, but offensive line issues are dragging them down.
To make matters worse, this week they face the Eagles’ outstanding pass rush, which could be a big problem for Giants QB Eli Manning, who isn’t having a good season.
But that being said, the Giants are a desperate team trying to avoid 0-3, and the Eagles have three defensive backs out, and a fourth who is a game-time decision.
Even with a shaky line, Manning should be able make hay against the Eagles’ ravaged secondary and lead the Giants to a win.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (0-2)
Not many people give the Bears much of a chance in this game.
In order to have a shot, they need to get their running game going. The Bears talented tailback, Jordan Howard, has just 59 yards in two games. That has to change.
The Bears get two players back from the injury list who will make their 2017 debut – cornerback Prince Amukamara and wide receiver Markus Wheaton.
The Steelers should win this game, but it might not be as easy as some think.
New Orleans Saints (0-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-0)
The Saints defense has continued its atrocious play from last season, and having three cornerbacks out this week isn’t going to help.
However, the Panthers will be without their starting center, Ryan Kalil, and star tight end Greg Olson. Also, QB Cam Newton is pretty banged up with ankle and shoulder issues.
Look for QB Drew Brees and the Saints to figure out a way to avoid an 0-3 start.
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)
The Baltimore Ravens, who forced ten turnovers in their first two games, now face turnover-prone Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles.
The Ravens lost six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshall Yanda, and their patchwork line faces a pass rush that has registered 10 sacks in the first two games.
Both quarterbacks better have their heads on a swivel.
The Ravens should win a low-scoring game.
Miami Dolphins (1-0) at New York Jets (0-2)
Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi must be licking his chops, set to face the NFL’s worst run defense. The Jets gave up 190 yards to the Bills in Week 1 and 180 yards to the Oakland Raiders last Sunday.
Plus, the Jets’ pass defense isn’t much better. Last Sunday, Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught three touchdown passes against the Jets.
It’s hard to succeed in the NFL playing defense like this. Expect the Dolphins to win this game.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-2)
The Chargers play in StubHub Stadium, a good name for their venue since they have plenty of tickets available. The Chiefs have won 11 straight games in their division – the AFC West.
The Chargers lost a pair of close games to very good teams (Miami and Denver) in the first two weeks.
Don’t be surprised if the Chargers break through this week and pull the upset, buttressed by their superb pair of pass rushers – Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1)
The Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after just two games, and promoted QB coach Bill Lazor.
The Packers will be without four defensive starters due to injury, so that could help the Bengals’ offense get their act together.
But the Packers, behind their superstar QB Aaron Rodgers, should figure out a way to prevail, even with a ravaged defense.
Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
The Browns travel to Indianapolis without their two most talented defenders – linebacker Jamie Collins (concussion) and defensive end Myles Garrett (ankle).
The Colts are still without their franchise QB Andrew Luck, but his replacement, Jacoby Brissett, should be more comfortable in his second start.
The Browns start a rookie quarterback, DeShone Kizer, and first-year signal-callers usually struggle on the road.
This game could be ugly, but the Colts should prevail.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
The Vikings will be without starting quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) for the second straight week.
But his replacement, Case Keenum, isn’t terrible. Last year, Keenum went 4-5 as a starter for a bad Los Angeles Rams team.
The Buccaneers will be without two key defensive starters, nose tackle Chris Baker and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Expect a heavy dose of Vikings talented rookie tailback Dalvin Cook, and for the home-team to win a close game.
Oakland Raiders (2-0) at Washington Redskins (1-1)
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been superb so far this season, competing 75 percent of his passes, and throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Redskins are coming off an impressive road win at the Los Angeles Rams where they ran for 220 yards.
The struggling Jets were able to run on Oakland last week, so expect the Redskins to have a big day on the ground.
This game is a too close to call.
Denver Broncos (2-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-1)
According to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, several Bills are very upset after President Trump called out players who kneel during the national anthem.
“Sources tell me Bills locker room, for instance, has been very emotional today as some players consider several possibilities for protest,” Darlington tweeted on Saturday.
The Bills could be distracted and this could impact their performance.
What should also impact their performance is Denver’s great defense. The Broncos should win this game.
Houston Texans (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1)
Since 2000, rookie quarterbacks are 0-8 against Bill Belichick’s Patriots in Foxboro.
Expect the Patriots to make it 9-0 with a win over quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.