By: Lucas Kochevar
I'm back after missing last week, but if we're being honest, there wasn't a ton of intriguing match-ups to highlight besides the primetime game on Sunday night. The difference between this week and last week is that we can actually see what teams are looking to contend and we can put to rest some of the week one anomalies. A handful of teams look to stay undefeated, while a number of teams look to find their first win. Kyler Murray continues his breakout tour in Jacksonville. Justin Fields may start in his first game against Cleveland. We also get to see what could be a fun division rivalry for the next decade with Mahomes and Herbert. Those are a few stories to watch and now I'll give you my five games to watch this week.
New Orleans Saints vs New England Patriots
In the early slate of games, we get this game between two 1-1 teams from different conferences. Both teams are in the new era of quarterbacks for their teams. The Saints came out of the gate hot and looked like they found the best replacement possible for Drew Brees with Jameis Winston. They throttled the Packers much to everyone's surprise. The next week, they came out and put up a dud against the Panthers. Their team is in a precarious position with their team identity. The Patriots had a slightly different road to 1-1 with a heartbreaking loss in week one to the Dolphins. Last week, they put on a defensive clinic and made Zach Wilson look like a bust with four interceptions. Mac Jones has impressed compared to his peers in the rookie class, but he hasn't really done anything noteworthy. Essentially, the game plan is to not let Mac make any crucial turnovers as he hardly makes big throws down the field. It's a formidable strategy, however, if they want to compete in the AFC, they'll have let the leash off.
In this game, I would imagine that the New Orleans passing attack against the New England secondary is the biggest battle. This could very well determine the tone of the game. The Saints rank dead last in Yards per Game, which is extremely uncharacteristic of a Sean Payton-led team. The Patriots, meanwhile, have lead the league in interceptions since 2019. JC Jackson is a stud on that defense and was tied for the lead league in interceptions last season. Jameis is the number one guy for throwing backbreaking interceptions. If he makes too many of those mistakes, Bill Belichick and co. will make him pay. If I had to guess, this won't be the Mac Jones breakout game. The Patriots offense has come from Damien Harris on the ground and I don't see that changing here. The Patriots will rely on the Alabama running back to keep up his stellar play and keep improving. This game is a major test for both teams and I think the Patriots keep their solid play rolling and get the win here.
New England Patriots 28, New Orleans Saints 24
Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings
The Seattle Seahawks will take on the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis in the afternoon. Russell Wilson looks to bounce back after a disappointing home opening loss against the Titans last week. The Seahawks started off the season on a strong note against the Colts and then the first half of the Titans game. Suddenly, Derrick Henry took over and the offense went cold. The Vikings have started 0-2 and have suffered back-to-back crushing losses. The first one in an overtime comeback effort against the Bengals and then a blown lead over the Cardinals, where kicker Greg Joseph missed the game winning kick by a few inches. Minnesota's offense has been strong with Kirk Cousins playing well. The defense has struggled mightily as the entire unit, besides Eric Kendricks, has been pretty horrid. I'm curious to see if the Vikings can earn their first win at home over Russell Wilson.
Like I said, Kirk Cousins has been brilliant so far this season. He's tossed for nearly 600 yards and 5 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. Dalvin Cook has been impressive as well, but he is dealing with a slight injury. Something that has plagued Cousins his entire career is his ability to win the big one. Most of these 'big one' games end up coming against the best of the best franchises. One that stands out to me is Kirk Cousins and the Vikings travelling to to Seattle for Sunday Night Football. The Vikings jumped out ahead 13-0 and ended up blowing the game. Cousins played well, but threw a pick. Those little mistakes like that are why he gets a bad rep among many fans. Cousins needs to attack the Seattle secondary. On the other side, Russell Wilson has played great on the road, especially in domes. Wilson has a knack for playing well in domes and should be able to air it out on a swiss cheese defense. This game has the potential for a fantastic shootout, but don't be surprised if Seattle runs away with this one.
Seattle Seahawks 41, Minnesota Vikings 31
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Los Angeles Rams
The game of the week will be happening in beautiful and sunny Los Angeles. The Rams and Bucs are both undefeated and look like the cream of the crop in the NFC. Tampa Bay went out and the offense looked as good as it did last year. Tom Brady looks like he can play at 50 years old and Rob Gronkowski looks like he found the fountain of youth. This is the first big test for them to see of they can really be Super Bowl contenders once again. The Rams are embracing the new era with brand new QB Matthew Stafford from Detroit. Stafford has looked really sharp and has been every bit of good as advertised. The defense continues to look dominate as well. They need games like this in order to separate themselves from the rest of their tough division. This also seems to be the first big challenge for them as well. The Rams need to win a big game like this to push themselves past the Jared Goff-era.
The key of this game to me will be the trenches. The Rams offensive line is held together by some average guys and older guys like future Hall of Famer LT Andrew Whitworth. The Bucs defensive line is one of the most ferocious fronts in all of football, especially with Vita Vea in the middle. The Rams will need to slow these guys down to give Stafford some time in the pocket. Part of me believes they can do it because Atlanta was moving the ball against this front. The secondary for Tampa is banged up so that also opens the door for the Rams' receivers to run free. On the other side, Tampa has one of the best offensive lines in football and give Tom Brady an eternity in the pocket. The Rams have the best defensive player from the past twenty years with Aaron Donald. The Rams have to get creative in pressuring Brady in order to move him off his spot. If the Rams can do that, I think the LA offense can generate enough points to win. For that reason, I will pick the Rams to win at home and solidify themselves as the NFC frontrunners.
Los Angeles Rams 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27