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Week 2 Game Rankings: Ravens-Eagles, Broncos-Falcons not as tasty but still good

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The last time the 49ers and Lions met, their coaches had to be separated. (Getty Images)  
The last time the 49ers and Lions met, their coaches had to be separated. (Getty Images)  


On paper, I probably don't like this week's schedule as much as last week's. Not quite as sexy. A few fewer marquee games.

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But this is nothing to be ashamed of. Highlights of the week: Out-of-conference tilts like Ravens-Eagles and Broncos-Falcons. And it's an odd week in that there are only four divisional games over a full slate, and the best of the bunch likely comes Thursday night.

We still have five rookie quarterbacks starting -- though after Week 1 you have to wonder if all five retain that position all season -- and no one has even endured a two-game skid yet, so spirits and expectations remain high. It's still a crazy time of the year, when rookies like Robert Griffin III are being compared to Cam Newton, but with such a limited sample size to analyze anyone, these things will happen in September.

Time will tell the contenders from the pretenders.

  
 

New York Jets  at  Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, Sept. 16, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: Are the Jets for real? Will Mark Sanchez put up those kind of numbers with any regularity? Stephen Hill for rookie of the year? Oh, yeah, and the Steelers are still too old on defense, right? Even though we all said this a year ago and they were still ranked first. Sanchez will get a real test from Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau, and Steelers safety Ryan Clark -- a calming and settling influence -- is back this week. How many of us would have projected New York 2-0 and Pittsburgh 0-2? Well, that's what's at stake here.

What To Watch For: Pittsburgh already suffering a bunch of injuries to its offensive line, so some vulnerability there. Rashard Mendenhall might actually be able to go in this one, a good 10 weeks ahead of schedule, and James Harrison is likely to play as well ... Ben Roethlisberger generally has given Rex Ryan defenses fits, going back to Ryan's time in Baltimore ... Santonio Holmes will be mega-fired up to return to Pittsburgh ... Heath Miller will get a ton of balls thrown his way in this Todd Haley offense, and especially against this group of linebackers ... Austin Howard better not get too impressed with what he did against Mario Williams, because he's about to get swarmed with overload blitzes and guys like Troy Polamalu coming his way.

Denver Broncos  at  Atlanta Falcons

Monday, Sept. 17, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why to Watch: Peyton Manning turned back the clock in the opener -- and suddenly its euphoria time in the Rocky Mountains. Anything he does this season will be highly anticipated and watched, and this game is no different. He goes on the road for the first time in his return, and has a little more of a feel for being back at this level now, as he tries to find old friends like Brandon Stokley through the air again. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off a superb outing as well.

What To Watch For: How do the Falcons hold up with their top corner, Brent Grimes, now out for the season? It was already a position of need ... Will Michael Turner get more looks to try to keep Von Miller off of Ryan's back? Does Champ Bailey end up on Julio Jones or Roddy White? (My money is on Jones) ... If Atlanta can't muster a multi-faceted pass rush, and that's not really their nature right now, then the loss of Grimes will be compounded. Manning will be content to merely find the best matchup, so Dunta Robinson could get picked on quite a bit ... It's a homecoming for Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, who I think will have a monster game, as he played in college at Georgia Tech.

Baltimore Ravens  at  Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: Two out-of-conference teams -- separated by a mere 90-minute drive -- under the burden of lofty expectations meet, with Joe Flacco getting awfully close to his college stomping grounds at Delaware. Mike Vick badly needs to rebound and restore some faith, but may have to do so without Jeremy Maclin, and if so, the Ravens will find it easier to focus on DeSean Jackson and try to physically intimidate him. Ravens linebackers are leaner this season to cope with more slot action. Flacco, who was on the cusp of a meaty contract extension during camp, is uber-motivated to continue balling out ... If a raven and an eagle actually were to throw down, who would have the longer talons/claws, and who would have the advantage?

What To Watch For: Ravens uncharacteristically unstable against the run last week (losing Jarrett Johnson in free agency could prove substantial), so can Andy Reid curb his pass-crazy tendencies -- especially in the red zone -- and try to pound Shady McCoy? ... Vick had better be much more careful with his decision making this week, or Ed Reed will make him look silly ... Baltimore flipped its offensive line just before the season. Can this younger unit hold up on the road against a stout Eagles pass rush after getting to face the Bengals' impotent thrust Monday? ... Young interior of Philly's offensive line will be tested by Haloti Ngata, who ravaged the Bengals last week.

Detroit Lions  at  San Francisco 49ers

Sunday, Sept. 16, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)

Why To Watch: Is it too much to ask that Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh go bonkers again and start talking trash and back slapping and damn near fight on the sidelines? Probably. But, man, I'm still hoping it somehow comes about. Alex Smith seems ready to slice up a Lions secondary that was auditioning help en masse this week. But as good as the 49ers have been the past two seasons, brawny defensive linemen have given them some trouble -- and the Lions have no shortage of those. And after throwing three picks last week, Matthew Stafford will be fired up to perform better.

What To Watch For: Do the Lions, stripped of so many running backs, even try to stick with the ground game against Justin Smith and these guys? ... How do the Lions find a way to deal with Vernon Davis? ... Sneaking suspicion that Randy Moss ends up making a few huge plays here ... Calvin Johnson nursing a foot injury, coupled with the 49ers' corners and ability of their linebackers to run, means this may be the rare team equipped to shut him down ... Field position, sans Ted Ginn, could be a problem for San Francisco.

  
 

New Orleans Saints  at  Carolina Panthers

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: Did you happen to see, or maybe even just hear about, what RG3 did to the Saints' defense in Week 1? Of course you did, and I'm sorry, but Cam Newton is going to present even more problems. He will be fired up after struggling against Tampa and Carolina knows that starting 0-2 within the NFC South could be damning. Drew Brees needs to take a deep breath and keep things a little more simple. Carolina must discover a run game and the Saints need to figure out some discernible strength defensively. Saints should be a little more stable emotionally after failing to adjust to the charged atmosphere at home a week ago.

What To Watch For: Does Will Smith, able to practice all of this week after having to sit out last week before his suspension was lifted Friday, perk up and help New Orleans get some pressure on Newton after Griffin got out unscathed? ... Is Panthers pass-rush specialist Charles Johnson ready to have a breakout game? Brandon LaFell could be in for a big outing for the Panthers. ... Jimmy Graham will be Brees' go-to guy in a time of need. ... If Cam decides to keep it and run, not sure the Saints linebackers can keep close, much less mug him.

Dallas Cowboys  at  Seattle Seahawks

Sunday, Sept. 16, 4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: Few teams get as high as the Cowboys and few get as low. They come in to this one riding a crest from beating the Giants, but Seattle is no joke on defense and the 12th Man is very real. So how will Tony Romo and a shaky offensive line handle that, to say nothing of Bruce Irvin on third down? Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson makes his first home start for Seattle.

What To Watch For: Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is still out for Dallas, and Marshawn Lynch wants to pound the ball between the tackles ... Seattle will have veteran guard John Moffitt back at right guard. Seattle needs much better play than what what it got from J.R. Sweezy at that spot against the Cardinals. Couple that with left tackle Russell Okung dealing with a bone bruise around his knee, and DeMarcus Ware could have a field day. Of course, look for Seattle to run the heck directly at him to neutralize that ... Romo had better be smart with the football against this secondary. These safeties will jump on the football.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers  at  New York Giants

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: Tampa coach Greg Schiano, former longtime coach at Rutgers, returns to New Jersey off an impressive win over the Panthers. And the Giants try to shake off the post-Super Bowl hangover that stalled them in the opener by giving the home fans a better performance. New York is still decimated by secondary injuries, though, which could mean Vincent Jackson has his first big game for the Bucs. All eyes will be on Giants receiver Victor Cruz, who is playing with a heavy heart after dropping pretty much everything thrown his way in Week 1 and then losing his grandmother, to whom he was very close.

What To Watch For: Ronde Barber is a freak of nature. Two-hundred straight starts and still going strong. Now he gets to do it at the Meadowlands, where his brother played home games. The addition of Mark Barron makes that Bucs' secondary look deadly, and Eli Manning will have to be careful not to force things ... Josh Freeman has lost a lot of weight, but still didn't look free and easy to me in the opener ... If Bucs keep LaGerrette Blount on the sidelines, a trade request could be looming ... Gerald McCoy, a former top-five pick, is coming around -- his pressure on Eli Manning would be huge for the Bucs. ... Tampa has the kind of offensive line that should be able to hang tough with the Giants' potent rotation up front.

Tennessee Titans  at  San Diego Chargers

Sunday, Sept. 16, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: Jake Locker was doing quite alright a week ago before being forced out of the game because of a shoulder injury, but how will he respond if, in fact, he proves able to start here? Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips looks ready to rediscover his top gear and is coming off a big game. Chargers should be more dynamic and quicker along the front seven.

What To Watch For: Can Chris Johnson show the burst that made him historic? Some scouts believe he is over-running his holes and forcing things in pursuit of the home run ... If Ryan Mathews is able to play -- and it's highly doubtful he will be -- can he really provide much? And will he ever prove to be a dependable option? ... Kenny Britt is back from suspension and probably set for 30-some snaps in this one ... Titans offensive line looking a little sluggish, and needs to step up ... If Locker isn't comfortable he tends to sail the ball and put it up for grabs ... Johnson was at his best with Vince Young providing another run threat in the backfield, so a few designed runs for Locker early could end up being huge for the Titans' run game.

  
 

Washington Redskins  at  St. Louis Rams

Sunday, Sept. 16, 4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: RG3 is coming off a historical debut in the opener, so who wouldn't want to see what he can do after that? And Alfred Morris is the new featured back du jour for Team Shanahan -- and gets a second straight start. The Rams camethisclose to beating Detroit last week, and if not for a clock screw up they likely would have that W. Sam Bradford's suspect offensive line was ravaged by injuries last week, but Steven Jackson will set a physical tone and Bradford has enough smarts to catch former Rams coach Jim Haslett in some of those all-out blitzes. Should be a very interesting game, and Griffin gets a look at one of the more fearsome corner duos in the league this week (yeah, I think this kid Janoris Jenkins is that good).

What To Watch For: If Pierre Garcon (foot) does play, how effective is he? Clearly, he is Griffin's favorite receiver. Now that there is regular-season tape on Griffin, and he is more or less running his college offense from Baylor. How will the Rams adjust and what will Griffin do if quality corners like Cortland Finnegan and Jenkins squat on the bubble screens and underneath stuff? ... Hard to think Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan won't have some fun against this offensive line ... Have a hunch Steve Smith makes a big play or two in the slot for the Rams.

Cleveland Browns  at  Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: You will be hard-pressed to find two teams who looked worse in Week 1 getting together in Week 2. But it's the battle of Ohio, a divisional victory is at stake and perhaps the Browns can keep up the defensive tone they set last Sunday by creating more turnovers. The Bengals hope to have some bite to their defense after a debacle Monday night, and getting Carlos Dunlap back would go a long way. Andy Dalton should be much more effective and comfortable at home.

What To Watch For: With no Joe Haden for the Browns, good luck finding a way to slow down A.J. Green. And with the way Benjarvis Green Ellis ran on the Ravens, the Browns must be a little worried in that regard as well ... After all the missed time in the preseason, maybe another week of practice will get Trent Richardson going ... Look for the Bengals to challenge Cleveland's rookie right tackle ... Brandon Weeden can't be as bad as he was in the opener, right? And if he is, how long before Cleveland's young receiving corps gets frustrated?

Houston Texans  at  Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: Give Maurice Jones-Drew credit -- regardless of what you thought of his holdout, he came to play in Week 1 despite the long layoff. And as big a Blaine Gabbert skeptic as I was a year ago, his continued incremental progress in 2012 is impressive. So I'm trying to build a compelling case for the Jags having a chance here, though I don't really see it. Should be a nice setting for new owner Shahid Khan's first home game, though. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the Texans yet, who turned Miami over on four straight possessions at one point a week ago.

What To Watch For: Is Jags tackle Eugene Monroe ready to make a leap this season after a stellar outing in Week 1? He's going to have to be if Gabbert is going to stand tall against this Texans pass rush ... Arian Foster got better as the game went on in Week 1, and if the Texans get up early look for them to take the air out of the ball with Foster and Ben Tate ... Have a feeling Andre Johnson goes off ... Matt Schaub couldn't be in a better place mentally after bouncing back from his 2011 foot injury in Week 1, then getting a four-year contract extension after the game. Could be a very big week, and year, for him ... Look for Gabbert to target Justin Blackmon a ton early ... J.J. Watt good for knocking down at least two passes a game.

  
 

Arizona Cardinals  at  New England Patriots

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: Cards have been much better on defense since the middle of the 2011 season, and defensive coordinator Ray Horton knows the Pats well from his time in Pittsburgh, but still have to wonder if Arizona can even keep this close. Have a feeling after all the crazy speculation about Wes Welker -- given his limited role in Week 1 -- that he ends up being featured prominently in the slot. The Patriots, with their reworked front seven, have the chance to be truly smothering against the run and change their entire identity this season.

What To Watch For: Darnell Dockett is coming off a massive game and New England is vulnerable, particularly at guard. And Tom Brady already had his nose bloodied and smashed by the Titans last week ... Brandon Lloyd should see a lot of Patrick Peterson trying to dissuade him from getting deep, and Peterson on either of the Pats young tight ends is a matchup worth paying to see ... New England will retain its commitment to the run, I believe ... Chandler Jones is going to have some fun with Arizona's patched-together offensive line.

Oakland Raiders  at  Miami Dolphins

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: There must be a drinking game in here somewhere -- count the empty seats? Multiply the number of Dolphins incompletions times the numbers of balls caught by its starting receivers (all of three a week ago) and see if it surpasses Chad Johnson's old jersey number? Set an over/under for the number of in-game camera shots that find their way to whatever suite Ryan Tannehill's wife is occupying?

What To Watch For: I have been hearing and reporting since before his trade to Oakland that there are no shortage of people in the league convinced that Carson Palmer's shoulder, accuracy and throwing velocity never will be the same, and he is in steep decline. Yet to see much evidence to the contrary since he got there, but draw your own conclusions from this one. Dolphins' undermanned secondary actually could make Palmer look good Sunday, and Oakland's speed will prevent problems. ... The size of Oakland's defensive front could cause problems here ... Wonder if we see Terrelle Pryor in a Wildcat-type formation?

Kansas City Chiefs  at  Buffalo Bills

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: Are you a fan of truly inept defensive coverage? Can't get enough wayward passes or gifted interceptions? Have a thing for popular preseason bandwagon teams that probably don't have the chops to warrant raised expectations? Then this is the game for you.

What To Watch For: Tamba Hali comes back off his one-game suspension and is being looked at as something of a savior to establish a pass rush for a Chiefs team that was gashed by the Falcons at will ... With Fred Jackson out, C.J. Spiller figures to see a ton of action after ripping some explosive plays last week ... Would tend to think Bills coach Chan Gailey still isn't real comfortable with the fact he was whacked as offensive coordinator in K.C. a few years ago, just before the season began. Tends to motivate you. And along those lines, could Ryan Fitzpatrick implode to the point where Tyler Thigpen gets to enact some revenge of his own against the Chiefs?

Minnesota Vikings  at  Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: Andrew Luck makes his home debut in what I suspect will be a successful campaign to eventually make Colts fans stop pining for Peyton Manning. A.P. ended up leading to the Vikings to a victory in Week 1 in his return from knee surgery and surpassed the 10-15 carries projected for him. Coach Leslie Frazier will have a hard time holding him back after that. And the Colts truly have issues against the run. Always good to see a superstar like Adrian Peterson back in the game.

What To Watch For: Jared Allen needs a bounce back performance after another AFC South team with a less-than-elite offensive line -- the Jaguars -- held him in check aweek ago ... Colts, thin to begin with, already getting crushed by the injury bug, which will be a problem, especially if Dwight Freeney can't go. Indianapolis signing more offensive linemen this week, not a good sign for young Mr. Luck ... Christian Ponder showing signs of being capable under center and Vikes rookie kicker Blair Walsh should have a few big kicks in him back in a dome again this week.


Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday during the season on The NFL Today.
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