Seahawks-49ers, Manning Bowl III among Week 2 must attend games
It will take at least four weeks before you can get a real reading on your favorite team, so don't be quick to judge off its opening performance. More clues will be revealed in Week 2, which features some interesting divisional matches between undefeated teams and winless teams as well as the third installment of Brother vs. Brother.
Here are four must-see games.
San Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
While it may lack the rich history of Bears-Packers, Redskins-Cowboys or Steelers-Ravens, this NFC West rivalry is building a special intensity of its own. It starts with the head coaches. San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh and Seattle's Pete Carroll had some memorable college matchups when they coached Stanford and USC, respectively, and they brought their competitive juices with them to the NFL. Their teams each won 11 games last season and, after splitting the regular-season series, would have met in the NFC championship game had the Seahawks not lost by two points to Atlanta in a divisional playoff game.
You'll see two of the league's most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks on the field Sunday night. Colin Kaepernick became San Francisco's starter midway through his second NFL season in 2012 because of an injury to Alex Smith, and went on to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl. For an encore, he passed for a career-high 412 yards (and three touchdowns) in last week's season-opening 34-28 victory over Green Bay. Russell Wilson, who won Seattle's starting job from the start as a rookie last year, threw for 320 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse, in a 12-7 win at Carolina.
Thirteen of Kaepernick's 27 completions against the Packers went to veteran wideout Anquan Boldin, an offseason acquisition for a sixth-round draft pick who has become Kaepernick's new go-to guy. Tight end Vernon Davis, who had six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns last week, also is a favorite Kaepernick target.
But don't expect the quarterbacks to be offensive hogs in this game. Each team features a top 10 running back from last season. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards for the Seahawks (only Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Washington rookie Alfred Morris had more) and Frank Gore had 1,214 rushing yards for the 49ers.
Century Link Field is one of the most difficult NFL venues for a road team -- it's a raucous atmosphere with its 12th Man tradition -- and the Seahawks were the only team to go undefeated at home last season.
Denver Broncos (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
The first family of football's brothers are coming off impressive Week 1 passing performances as they get set to square off in Manning Bowl III. Peyton tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in Denver's victory over Baltimore. Eli tossed for four TDs and 450 yards -- the second most in his career -- although he was intercepted twice in the Giants' turnover-filled loss to Dallas.
Peyton, who bested his younger brother in their first two meetings (2006 and 2010), when he wore horseshoes on his helmet instead of horse heads, is surrounded by one of the best receiving groups in the league. If wide receivers Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker weren't troublesome enough, now opponents must be aware of third-year tight end Julius Thomas. After catching only one pass in his first two seasons, Thomas had a coming-out party in the Broncos' opener with five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
The Giants have running back issues, which is why they brought back Brandon Jacobs this week. Second-year man David Wilson was benched after fumbling twice against the Cowboys (one was returned for a touchdown). With backup Andre Brown on I.R. with a broken leg, the only two backs behind Wilson were the inexperienced Da'Rel Scott and seventh-round rookie Michael Cox.
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
It's way too early to panic -- after all, no AFC North team found the victory column in Week 1 -- but neither the Steelers nor the Bengals want to come out of Monday night's game in an 0-2 hole.
As if losing 16-0 to Tennessee at Heinz Field in a game where they could muster only 195 offensive yards (just 32 on the ground) wasn't painful enough, the Steelers lost three key players to injuries. Center Maurkice Pouncey (knee), linebacker Larry Foote (torn biceps) and running back-returner LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee) all are out for the season.
With quarterback Andy Dalton and wideout A.J. Green entering their third season together, the Bengals were a popular preseason pick to win the AFC North. But they have some issues of their own to work out after squandering a 21-10 lead and losing to the Bears in their opener.
Washington Redskins (0-1) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)
Pity the Packers, whose 2013 season began the same way their 2012 season ended: with a loss to San Francisco. After its defense was shredded through the air by Kaepernick last week, Green Bay draws another run-option quarterback, the Redskins' Robert Griffin III, in its home opener.
But these dual-threat wunderkinds caused more problems with their arms than their legs in Week 1. Kaepernick, who rushed for 181 yards (an NFL single-game record for a quarterback) in a playoff win over Green Bay last January, threw for a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns last week.
In his first appearance since suffering a horrific knee injury in last January's playoff loss to Seattle -- he sat out the entire preseason -- RGIII completed 30 of 49 passes for 329 yards and two TDs in a comeback rally against the Eagles that fell short.
The Redskins and Packers are defending division champs. Neither team wants to be staring at an 0-2 record after Sunday.