Once, the Ravens at Chiefs would have been looked at as one of those old-fashioned strong defense vs. dangerous offense matchups.
You know: “Here’s what we do, try to stop us” against “Here’s what we do, try to move us.”
The weekend’s best game has evolved quite a bit this year.
Baltimore has been among the most balanced teams, ranking second in overall defense and first in yards gained. The Ravens are leading the NFL with 21 quarterback hits, six of them sacks, and allowing only 41 yards on the ground. Of course, they played Miami and Arizona, which also were vulnerable defensively. Boosting the Ravens to the top in yards gained is an average of 541.5 yards, led by Lamar Jackson’s superb passing and running. Jackson is tied with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, the reigning league MVP, and Dallas QB Dak Prescott with seven TD tosses.
KC is first in passing offense and third overall, but this is a major test.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” Mahomes said. “We got to play last year once and seeing Lamar’s progression and understanding the offense — I understand going from Year 1 to Year 2, there’s a huge switch where you start understanding the offense at a different level. Then with his running ability, he can still do that. It’s a great challenge for our whole team.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has 209 wins, tied with Chuck Noll for sixth in NFL history. Curly Lambeau is fifth with 229.
The weekend began with Jacksonville’s 20-7 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night. Gardner Minshew had an efficient night for the Jaguars (1-2), who dominated the Titans (1-2) up front and sacked Marcus Mariota nine times.
Pittsburgh (0-2) at San Francisco (2-0)
The Steelers have lost in their last six trips to the Bay Area — four times in Oakland, twice at San Francisco. Their last win was 27-6 at the 49ers in 1999. Pittsburgh is looking to avoid only its second 0-3 start since 2000 with Mason Rudolph making his first career start in place of injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Rudolph threw for 112 yards and two touchdown vs. Seattle last week after Roethlisberger left with a season-ending elbow injury. Pittsburgh ominously is 4-19-1 with a first-time starting QB. It will have safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, acquired from the Dolphins on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the 49ers seek their first 3-0 start since 1998 and seventh since the 1970 merger. San Francisco made the playoffs following five of the previous six 3-0 starts, missing only in 1980. The Niners come off back-to-back road victories to open a season for the first time since 1989.
New Orleans (1-1) at Seattle (2-0)
Like Pittsburgh, New Orleans is without its starting quarterback, Drew Brees (thumb surgery), but at least he is expected back this season. Coach Sean Payton says he will play both of Brees’ backups, Teddy Bridgewater and versatile Taysom Hill, a special teams regular and frequent offensive contributor in the wildcat and as a running back or receiver.
The Saints stayed on the West Coast and practiced in Seattle following last week’s loss to the Rams. This matchup is just as difficult: The Seahawks are 15-0 in September home games under Pete Carroll. Russell Wilson is 6-0 with 12 touchdowns and two picks in his past six home contests.
Houston (1-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-1)
Family affair: Chargers coach Anthony Lynn’s son, Danton Lynn, is the Texans’ assistant secondary coach. He has helped as the Texans have forced a turnover in 15 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus has been a stud so far while edge rusher J.J Watt is off to a relatively slow start.
Chargers RB Austin Ekeler leads the NFL with four TDs and his 287 yards from scrimmage are the most by a Chargers running back through the first two games in franchise history. Think they miss holdout Melvin Gordon?
Los Angeles Rams (2-0) at Cleveland (1-1)
The Rams used to live in Cleveland before moving to LA, to Anaheim, to St. Louis, and back to LA. And no, it’s not true they were the last franchise from the Ohio city to make the playoffs.
The Browns have designs on being a postseason qualifier for the first time since 2002, and this would be a major proving ground. Rams coach Sean McKay returns to the state where he played college ball at Miami. His 26-8 record is the best through 34 games for any coach hired in the 21st century, and his Rams are 8-0 vs. AFC teams, scoring nearly 35 points per game and winning by an average of 14.3 while racking up more than 400 yards of offense on average.
Cleveland plays a second straight prime-time game, and its first on Sunday night since 2008. Myles Garrett had a career-high three sacks against the Jets, but was called for five penalties, two for roughing. Garrett leads the league with five sacks in two games.
“I know who I am and the guys within these walls know who I am, and that’s not me,” Garrett said. “I’m not going to do anything to try and hurt this team or take out any player outside the rule book. I’m just going to keep playing this game the way it’s supposed to be played, and that’s violently but passionately.”
Chicago (1-1) at Washington (0-2), Monday night
Neither team has shown much on offense, so if the Bears are going to break a seven-game slide against Washington, they’ll need Mitchell Trubisky to find the range and get his receivers more involved. Comforting for Chicago is finally finding an accurate kicker: Eddy Pineiro is 4 for 4 on field goals this season after making all three last week, including the winning 53-yarder in the final second at Denver.
RB Adrian Peterson was a forgotten man in Week 1 when he was benched, but he’s now the main guy with Derrius Guice injured. Peterson has averaged 111 yards rushing and scored 14 TDs in 14 games vs. the Bears, most of that while with Minnesota.
Oakland (1-1) at Minnesota (1-1)
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was the linebackers coach in Cincinnati when Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was the defensive coordinator there. Guenther took over that role when Zimmer was hired by the Vikings in 2014.
The Raiders have begun a stretch of no home games in a 48-day span, due to a “home game” in London and a bye week sandwiched between two straight road games on each end. Derek Carr broke Ken Stabler’s Raiders record for career passing yards last week. He has 19,196. But Minnesota’s defense will be a challenge. DE Danielle Hunter tied a career high with nine tackles at Green Bay. In his past seven home games, Hunter has 8½ sacks.
The Vikings seek the franchise’s 500th victory, including playoffs. They are 499-427-11 in 59 seasons, but have no NFL titles, including a Super Bowl loss to the Riders.
Cincinnati (0-2) at Buffalo (2-0)
The Bengals have won four of the past five meetings, including past two on the road, dating to 2011 since snapping a 10-game skid spanning 1989-2010. Their QB, Andy Dalton, is a local hero. His final-minute 49-yard TD pass to Tyler Boyd to beat Baltimore in 2017 clinched Buffalo’s first playoff berth in 17 years and led to Bills fans donating more than $450,000 to Dalton’s charitable foundation.
Don’t expect him to get cheers once the action begins.
The Bills have scored nine touchdowns in their past nine drives inside opponents’ 20-yard line dating to last season.
Atlanta (1-1) at Indianapolis (1-1)
Indy leads this series 14-2 and has won four of the last five, but took the only home defeat in the series when the Falcons last visited in 2011. The game will be the Colts’ first at Lucas Oil Stadium since Andrew Luck announced his retirement in the preseason. The Colts’ defense is second in the league with eight sacks and hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 20 consecutive regular-season games, second-longest streak behind New Orleans (24).
But Indy might be missing top CB Pierre Desir (knee), which would be good news for Julio Jones. The Falcons’ star receiver has three TDs this season and at least one in a league-high six consecutive games. QB Matt Ryan needs 10 completions to pass John Elway (4,123) for No. 9 in league history. Ryan’s next TD also will break a tie with Elway (300) for No. 11 in that category.
Detroit (1-0-1) at Philadelphia (1-1)
Lions QB Matthew Stafford feasts on the Eagles’ defense. Stafford has thrown eight TDs without an interception in two meetings, winning by one point in 2016 and 31 in 2015. WR Kenny Golladay matched a career high with eight receptions last week, had 117 yards receiving and scored for a second straight game.
Philly is banged up on both sides of the ball. WRs DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are unlikely to play because of injuries. That puts the onus on tight end Zach Ertz and wideout Nelson Agholor and a deep running game that needs to keep the ball and clock moving.
Denver (0-2) at Green Bay (2-0)
Green Bay is 5-0-1 against the Broncos at home. And has scored 30-plus points in all five home wins against Denver.
Somehow, the clock didn’t run out on the Bears on the drive to the winning field goal. Of course, the Broncos played far too conservatively on the third-down desperation pass that set up Peinero’s kick.
Denver is 0-2 for the first time since 1999. The Broncos would become the 14th team to reach 500 overall wins with a victory.
Denver beat Green Bay in the 1998 Super Bowl for its first NFL championship after four defeats.
New York Jets (0-2) at New England (2-0)
Third-string QB Luke Falk vs. six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, both the 199th pick in their drafts and both getting their opportunity through injury.
The comparisons stop there, as do the chances for the three-TD underdog Jets. And we know, as seen last week in Miami, that New England’s coach will show no mercy.
Miami (0-2) at Dallas (2-0)
While the fire sale continues in Miami, with DB Fitzpatrick now in Pittsburgh, there is more speculation on the Dolphins going 0-16 than there is on who will be left on the roster by the end of the schedule. Some say it doesn’t much matter given the dearth of talent already.
Dallas, on the other hand, is looking like a true championship contender, even if the wins are over weaklings in the division, the Giants and Redskins. The Cowboys are seeking a first 3-0 start since 2008, when they lost their last two and missed the playoffs at 9-7.
Prescott’s seven touchdown passes, tying Don Meredith (1966) for the club record through two games, are complemented by completing his last 18 passes against Washington. Eighteen in a row might be easy against Miami.
New York Giants (0-2) at Tampa Bay (2-0)
All that positive talk about Daniel Jones’ preseason performances had Giants fans salivating. Now they get to see the sixth overall draft pick behind center in place of Eli Manning in games that count, against starters, not third-stringers and camp fodder players. The Giants do lead this series 15-7.
Bucs RB Peyton Barber is coming off rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win at Carolina. One of his two career 100-yard performances (106 yards, TD) was against the Giants last season. LB Shaquil Barrett had three sacks vs. the Panthers, the most in one game by a Tampa Bay linebacker since Broderick Thomas in 1992. .
Carolina (0-2) at Arizona (0-1-1)
While offensive star Cam Newton struggles with injuries — a foot sprain could keep him out, meaning inexperienced Kyle Allen starts — standout LB Luke Kuechly leads the Panthers’ defense with 25 tackles. He had 17 in Week 2, including two tackles for loss, one that resulted in a safety.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald needs 10 catches to pass Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez for second on the NFL’s all-time receptions list. Fitzgerald has 1,316, Gonzalez has 1,325. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is the leader with 1,549.
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