Must wins in Week 2? Maybe not, but close
It's way too early to talk about must-win situations, although three highly rated teams - New England, Green Bay and Indianapolis - go into Week 2 off losses.
The Patriots, Packers and Colts all are division favorites, and only Indy represented itself particularly well in the openers. Still, panic isn't going to be settling in where Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck are employed.
''We're a long ways from the team we're going to be,'' Brady said as he prepared for Sunday's trip to Minnesota. ''We hate losing ... it's a terrible feeling around here. It's a quality of life issue I think we all face when we lose, and hopefully it motivates us to go out there and have a great week of practice and be prepared for this game, go out there and try to beat a very good team.''
While New England heads to Minnesota, Green Bay hosts the New York Jets and the Colts are home Monday night for Philadelphia - both visitors coming off opening wins.
''We can't think about last week. That's gone, so now we're getting ready for the Jets,'' Packers safety Morgan Burnett said.
''Unfortunately almost doesn't count in professional sports,'' Luck said of a 31-24 defeat at Denver.
Also Sunday, it's Chicago at San Francisco, Seattle at San Diego, Detroit at Carolina, Kansas City at Denver, New Orleans at Cleveland, Atlanta at Cincinnati, Miami at Buffalo, Dallas at Tennessee, Arizona at the New York Giants, Jacksonville at Washington, St. Louis at Tampa Bay, and Houston at Oakland.
The week's action began in Baltimore, where the Ravens (1-1) pushed aside the turmoil of Ray Rice being released - and suspended indefinitely by the team - with a 26-6 rout of the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers. Owen Daniels caught two TD passes, Justin Tucker kicked four field goals, and a stingy defense didn't allow the Steelers (1-1) into the end zone.
New England (0-1) at Minnesota (1-0)
Brady will see an old friend, former backup Matt Cassel, on the other side, starting for the Vikings. But with star running back Adrian Peterson not playing, New England's biggest worry will be slowing down wideout Cordarrelle Patterson, who had a huge game rushing and receiving at St. Louis.
New York Jets (1-0) at Green Bay (0-1)
The Packers have had plenty of time to prepare for the Jets, but also lots of time - since Sept. 4 - to stew about how poorly they performed at Seattle. Now, they get an opponent whose defense can play tricks on anyone.
Philadelphia (1-0) at Indianapolis (0-1), Monday
Don't stray from the TV set for too long on this one, the way both teams move the ball and stress a quick tempo.
Philly has won five straight road openers. But Indy has not lost back-to-back regular-season games since coach Chuck Pagano and Luck arrived in 2012.
Chicago (0-1) at San Francisco (1-0)
The biggest bust of the opening weekend had to be the Bears, who fell at home to Buffalo. To avoid an 0-2 start and a severe drop in the optimism they carried into the season, the Bears need to take better care of the ball.
Santa Clara gets to host its first real NFL game at the new $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium. The hosts assure everyone the grass field will be playable after twice being replaced.
Seattle (1-0) at San Diego (0-1)
How good did the Seahawks look against a seemingly solid Green Bay team? For now, there's little discussion who is the NFL's best.
The defending champions haven't been in San Diego in nearly 12 years. And they haven't played since that opener against the Packers on Sept. 4, while the Chargers come off an 18-17 loss at Arizona on Monday night. Doesn't quite seem equitable.
Detroit (1-0) at Carolina (1-0)
Two teams that looked superior on defense, albeit against weak offenses.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly, last year's top defensive player in the league, was everywhere in the win at Tampa Bay. The Bucs had little chance to test Carolina's supposedly poor secondary because of the Panthers' front seven.
Kansas City (0-1) at Denver (1-0)
Speaking of tough guys to cover, Broncos tight end Julius Thomas picked up where he left off last season with three TD catches against the Colts. Peyton Manning, who has beaten all 32 teams now, loves seeing KC: He is 11-1 with 3,530 yards passing and 24 TDs.
Kansas City already has been ravaged by injuries, but it gets back wideout Dwayne Bowe from a one-game suspension.
New Orleans (0-1) at Cleveland (0-1)
The Saints seemed in control in Atlanta before flopping late. They gained 477 yards and Drew Brees passed for 333. He has 51,414 and needs 62 yards to pass John Elway for fourth on the career yardage list.
Rookie WR Brandin Cooks made quite a debut with seven catches for 77 yards and a score, while he also handled punt returns.
Cleveland made a stirring comeback at Pittsburgh, then fell on the final play, 30-27. The Browns lost starting RB Ben Tate (knee) and have dropped eight consecutive home openers.
Atlanta (1-0) at Cincinnati (1-0)
Miami (1-0) at Buffalo (1-0)
If you predicted these two would be spotless after their openers, please buy us some lottery tickets.
Miami displayed a fierce pass rush that dumped Brady four times in the second half. Just as impressive was a rushing attack that overpowered the Patriots.
Buffalo stunned everyone in Chicago, and a whole lot of folks back in western New York, with its overtime win. The victory offset all kinds of preseason turmoil for the Bills, and then there was more good news when the franchise was purchased by the Terry and Kim Pegula. They plan to keep it in Buffalo.
Jacksonville (0-1) at Washington (0-1)
No one can blame the Jaguars for wanting to remember the first half they played at Philadelphia, leading 17-0. As for the second half and the Eagles' 34 straight points, they're not erasing those thoughts - as painful as they were - coach Gus Bradley said.
''I think our players sense it,'' Bradley noted. ''It did sting them, but I think that the biggest point that I made to our team is after being our best, and we saw what being our best looks like in the first half, now it's just got to be done for 60 minutes.''
Washington didn't come close to a 60-minute performance in Houston.
Arizona (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
So the Cardinals have a short week and need to make a cross-country trip for an early Sunday kickoff. Often that spells failure, but the Giants also played a Monday night opener. And New York's new offense was, well, offensive - to the tune of being inept or invisible at Detroit.
New York got off to an 0-6 start in 2013 and there already are rumblings in the Big Apple about another long season. In the Valley of the Sun, though, there are bright thoughts following a comeback victory against San Diego.
Dallas (0-1) at Tennessee (1-0)
What a nice debut for Ken Whisenhunt as coach of the Titans, who dominated the Chiefs in Kansas City. Jason McCourty had two interceptions, and the way Tony Romo was getting picked in the Cowboys' dismal opener, McCourty and friends surely are thinking about more takeaways.
Dallas was the only team with four giveaways in its opener.
St. Louis (0-1) at Tampa Bay (0-1)
The Rams have been devastated by injuries on both sides of the ball. They lost quarterback Sam Bradshaw to a repeat knee injury in the preseason, and now star defensive end Chris Long is gone for at least six weeks, requiring left leg surgery.
Tampa sleepwalked through much of its opening loss to Carolina, and flopping here would make it 0-2 at home with a trip to Atlanta next Thursday night.
Houston (1-0) at Oakland (0-1)
Already, the Raiders are at the bottom of the offense rankings. Yes, they played a pretty staunch defense in the Jets, managing a meager 25 yards on the ground and 176 overall with a rookie quarterback. Now, Derek Carr faces a better pass rush, led by end J.J. Watt, who already is off to a terrific start.
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