NFL Week 2 storylines: Packers, Bills, Titans facing get-right games

He didn’t quite spell it out for us this time, but Aaron Rodgers may as well have told us all to R-E-L-A-X during Thursday’s media availability in the wake of last Sunday’s dismal defeat to the New Orleans Saints.

“If we’re starting to freak out after one week, we’re in big trouble,” he told reporters.

It was the second time since the 38-3 loss that he stood at a microphone, appearing about as laid back as when he strolled into Green Bay in July wearing shades and flip-flops — as though all of Packers nation hadn’t just spent all summer fretting about their QB’s future with the franchise.

But, for those of us watching the stunning scene that unfolded Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville, it’s impossible not to fall into the overreaction trap (guilty!) considering just how poorly Rodgers and the entire offence performed. It’s not hyperbole to say it was the worst loss of the reigning MVP’s career.

The stats support the case: 15 completions on 28 attempts for 133 yards and no touchdowns, with two interceptions and a lowly 36.8 passer rating; the final score marked the largest margin of defeat in a game he’s started and finished.

In the words of Rodgers himself, it was just a single game. And, from a divisional standings perspective, it didn’t exactly say much: the NFC North’s other three clubs also lost their season-openers. So we’ve got a clean slate with 16 more to go, starting with this Monday’s get-right game against the Detroit Lions, whose defence just gave up 41 points to San Francisco and got even worse with the loss of cornerback Jeff Okudah to a ruptured Achilles.

Speaking of seeking a rebound… Lions running back Jamaal Williams, who spent the last four seasons in Green Bay, may have put up the quote of the week ahead of this matchup:

Of course, considering the many weird outcomes Week 1 brought, the Packers are far from the only team to enter the season with lofty goals and exit Week 1 in the loss column. That was certainly the case for Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills ahead of their game against Pittsburgh before getting bowled over by the Steelers’ strong defence to the tune of 23-16. Like Rodgers’, Allen’s message was, of course, extremely measured post-game and we can expect a stronger turnout against a weaker defence in Miami.

Of the teams looking to right the ship in Week 2, the Tennessee Titans have the toughest task ahead. They’re hoping their offence shows up (and their defence, too, for that matter) in Seattle after they got trampled by Chandler Jones and lit up by Kyler Murray 38-13 in Arizona. Starting the season with back-to-back NFC West matchups? Yikes.

ARE WE SEEING A CHANGED JAMEIS?

There was a lot to unpack in last week’s neutral-site blowout between Green Bay and New Orleans, and not just because of Rodgers’ bewilderingly bad output. Jameis Winston, the man playing opposite the reigning MVP last Sunday, will have plenty of eyes on him this weekend as the Saints take on the Carolina Panthers. Winston was the epitome of efficiency in Week 1, with a quarter of his 20 pass attempts resulting in touchdowns.

Buccaneers fans know well the roller-coaster that is Winston under centre. His high-risk, high-reward playing style… well, it featured significantly more of the former than the latter, as evidenced by his 30-interception season in 2019 and his departure from Tampa shortly after. His penchant for airing things out proved incredibly fruitful against Green Bay, and gave the New Orleans offence an element it hadn’t seen in a while.

We may never know what his trainer said to him, but we should soon find out whether this Winston is here to stay.

A few more quarterbacks we’re watching closely as we look to confirm suspicions of greatness or reel in our reactions following strong Week 1 starts:

• Jalen Hurts, who completed 27 of 35 passes for three touchdowns against Atlanta last week. Clearly, new head coach Nick Sirianni is shaping this offence — and his wardrobe — around the dual-threat QB.

• Kyler Murray, whose Cardinals had the winning formula against the Titans and could have another easy assignment against Minnesota after an unfortunate accident has left the Vikings without several starters.

• Sam Darnold, coming off a revenge game against the Jets. “Greatness” is a strong word here — he was solid in his first start with the Panthers, but will be put to the test plenty against the Saints, who have defeated Carolina in eight of their last nine meetings.

CAN MAHOMES STAY PERFECT IN SEPTEMBER?

Patrick Mahomes has never met a September start he hasn’t won. He kept that perfect streak alive in Week 1 with his late-game heroics (what else is new?) against Cleveland, and he now faces another AFC North foe in Baltimore.

But this Sunday’s showdown isn’t looking like a very fair fight, and that has less to do with how Lamar Jackson compares to Mahomes and more to do with the long list of injuries to Jackson’s teammates. The injury bug has hit the Ravens hard — particularly when it comes to the run game and the secondary.

Baltimore’s answer to stopping opposing offences has been to blitz early and often. It’s a very large part of this club’s identity. Only, as we all saw Monday night, it wasn’t effective against Derek Carr in Vegas, and we know it won’t work against Mahomes.

As we’ve seen time and time again, Mahomes is basically immune to the blitz — the very thing that Baltimore does best. Adding to the Ravens’ issues is the porous offensive line we saw struggle against the Raiders, forcing Jackson to scramble too often and try to do too much.

We know what Jackson can do — he can take a game into his own hands and run away with it. But in this prime-time matchup against this Chiefs squad… he’ll be running uphill the whole time.



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