A second fresh start
The big news going into week one was all about Antonio Brown and his inevitable fall-out with the Raiders. Now, in week two, it’s going to be about how he now delivers for his new team, how he fits into the Patriots offense and how his presence lifts (or doesn’t) Bill Belichick’s ever-challenging team. With a heavily incentivized contract with $1.5m bonuses for 105 catches, 1,298 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns this year, expect him to be hungry for the ball, not just for the money but to make some football headlines for a change.
The good news for Brown will be a trip on Sunday to the woeful Miami Dolphins who gave up 59 points to the Ravens in week one. His quarterback Tom Brady does things his way, spreading the ball around and with a cast of Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Julien Edelman and others available to him. Brown might have to be patient in his second fresh start in a year, even if he and his new team will surely be feasting on the fish Sunday afternoon.
What now for the Raiders?
Back in Oakland where coach Jon Gruden is fresh from celebrating his 100th NFL victory, the Raiders will be hoping to take some of their momenta from the opening weekend into the next weekend as they host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Derek Carr completed 85% of his throws for 259 yards and one touchdown as the Raiders surprised the Broncos in front of the Black Hole but they now have to stop a different beast in the Chiefs offense. Mahomes threw for 378 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Jaguars in a 40-26 win on Sunday despite coming out of the game with an ankle problem.
If last Sunday took the football world a bit by surprise with the Raiders looking solid, cohesive and hard to beat after a turbulent few weeks, they will have to catch the Chiefs and that Mahomes led offense napping to start Gruden off on his second century of wins.
Lions need to start to roar
Standing out in a crowded NFC North was never going to be an easy proposition with the smart money being kept out of picking a winner in a division housing the Bears, Packers, and Vikings. But, the Lions need to prove themselves not to be also-rans in the division and, importantly for third-year coach Matt Patricia, continue an on an upward curve after last years 6-10 losing season.
Allowing the Cardinals back into the game when they were leading 24-6 to eventually tie the game in week one, the Lions now face the LA Chargers who looked solid in their opening weekend game beating the Colts and they need a result. With their schedule seeing games coming up against the Eagles, Chiefs, Packers, and Vikings after this, you get the feeling that they have to win to avoid coming out of this season worse than last time around and pressure mounting on Belichick disciple Patricia.
The Rams want to get back to the Super Bowl, the Saints believe they should have been there in the Rams’ place. The two played each other three times last year - once in pre-season, once in week nine, which the Saints won, and then the NFC championship game that saw the Rams take it with the whole of New Orleans. Let's not forget that non-call of such obvious pass-interference that the rules have been changed this year allowing coaches to challenge a non-call of interference.
One of the most anticipated match-ups of the season is already here. The Rams squeezed past Carolina in week one whilst the Saints needed a last-minute 58-yard field goal to get past Houston. They again found themselves on the wrong side of some unimpressive refereeing decisions which will surely add fuel to their vengeful fire.
The Rams are impressive going forward but leave too many points up for grabs. Maybe this will be a game for the Saints and the evergreen Drew Brees to right some wrongs.
Falling off the Hype Train in New Jersey
In a league desperate to unearth the next generation of superstar quarterbacks to pin the next a decade on, Sam Darnold of the Jets and Baker Mayfield of the Browns, both in their second year, are two such talents. The two teams have a lot in common as they go head to head in New Jersey for Monday Night Football. Aside from their talented second-year quarterbacks, they have both invested heavily in the offseason with the Jets coming up with Le’Veon Bell and the Browns with Odell Beckham Jr to serve their young stars. Both teams have been hyped heavily coming into the season and both fell flat in week one with the Browns getting well beaten by Tennessee and the Jets losing a 16-point lead to lose against Buffalo.
Something will have to give on Monday night and it is a golden opportunity for one of them to start their season again. Where that will leave the loser going into week three and beyond will be interesting with one of these two having well and truly fallen off the hype-train and staring down the barrel of another disappointing season, even after just 2 games.
Contributing Author - Rees Dale