Week two in the NFL kicks-off Thursday night, and it’s already rivalry week. Here’s a look at the best games on the schedule.
N.Y. JETS @ N.E. PATRIOTS (Thursday, 8pm)
Rookie Geno Smith was decent in his first start at quarterback (24/38, 256 yards with a touchdown and interception.) Still, the Jets needed a bone head play by Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Lavonte David and a 48 yard field goal by Nick Folk to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The matchup with the Pats will be the first true test for Smith. Coach Bill Belichick is known for dominating and confusing rookie QBs, yet in week one, Buffalo Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel was able to throw for 2 touchdowns with no turnovers against “The Hoodie’s” schemes. It took a late Stephen Gostkowski field goal to slip by the Bills.
Both teams are dealing with uncertainty on offense with injuries and new faces. The Pats will be without their leading rusher from week one, Shane Vereen (14 carries for 101 yards). The Jets are still trying to figure everything out. They have lost the last 5 to the Pats including a 49-19 beat down last Thanksgiving night that gave us, “The Butt Fumble.”
The Pats have swept the season series the last two seasons. Yet, if the Jets can pull off the upset, they’ll be in at least a tie for first place in the AFC East come Sunday night. Who saw that coming?
DENVER BRONCOS @ N.Y. GIANTS (Sunday, 4:25pm)
There are those who say Eli Manning is better than Peyton Manning because he has two Super Bowl rings and has been more clutch when it counts, in the postseason. I’m not one of them. After what I saw from Peyton against Baltimore – 462 yards passing and 7 TDs – in the opener and the abysmal Giants defense on Sunday night in Dallas – who will probably be without their best cornerback Prince Amukamura (concussion), I see Big Brother Peyton riding his “Fearsome Foursome” (Welker, DeMaryius Thomas, Decker & Julius Thomas ) of receiving threats to another win in the Manning bowl to move to 3-0 against his little brother.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (Sunday, 8:30 pm)
Anquan Boldin vs. Richard Sherman. Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson. Jim Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll. While the other two match ups should decide who will win, the Harbaugh-Carroll match up is a cantankerous one that goes back to Stanford vs. USC. I just want to see the pre-game and post game handshakes.
On the field, I don’t expect Kaepernick to throw for 400 plus yards against the Seahawks tall, physical, athletic defensive backs, but I see him gaining more than 22 yards rushing (his totals from week 1.) I do expect Russell Wilson to be as efficient at home as he was against Carolina, which is saying alot since he was 25 of 33 for 320 yards and a touchdown.
In their last meeting (SEA 42-13; 12/23/12) Wilson threw a career-high four touchdown passes and Marshawn Lynch scored two first-quarter TDs. Don’t expect Lynch to be bundled up two weeks in a row – he gained only 43 yards on 17 carries against the Panthers – he’s rushed for 100+ yards in his last three meetings against the Niners. This is meeting one of two in what could be a preview of the NFC Championship game.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS (Monday 8:40 pm)
I was hard on the AFC North division after week one, so was the national media and rightfully so. They are the only winless division in pro football. That will end this week with these two teams meeting and Cleveland playing at Baltimore, unless there are two ties (If you watched these teams play last week that could happen.) Cincinnati is the favorite to win this division by many, present company included. In order to do so, they have to beat the big boys of the division in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, who have controlled the AFC North for almost two decades. Their first crack is the Steelers.
New Bengal and former Steeler linebacker James Harrison will be looking for payback since the Black & Gold didn’t resign him in the offseason. The Steelers have been taking it on the chin all week after looking like their game was drowned in the Three Rivers outside of Heinz Field. There is little doubt Head Coach Mike Tomlin will have his team ready to bounce back.
The two teams split the season series in 2012, with each winning on the other’s home field (PIT 24-17, 10/21/12; CIN 13-10; 12/23/12.) This early season matchup will have a playoff feel, neither team wants to fall in an 0-2 hole. Even though I think 8-8 will win this division, a two game deficit will not bode well for either to make a legit run in January.