SportsPulse: Lorenzo Reyes and Trysta Krick give us some insight into some hard-to-predict weekend games.
For the Jacksonville Jaguars, the path to AFC legitimacy has always been through Tom Brady.
The Jaguars are the only AFC team that has never defeated the quarterback of New England Patriots in his 19-year career, now 0-8 (including the playoffs) against him. In the last game of the AFC Championship last season, this ramp was almost over, but Brady made a comeback from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to bring the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.
With a loaded defense returning and the Patriots steering a handful of offensive changes, Jacksonville has its best shot to overthrow Brady when it receives New England on Sunday. However, this still requires a confluence of events that tilt in favor of the Jaguars.
The most intriguing showdown in the game is without question Jalen Ramsey's upcoming face-off with Rob Gronkowski, after the Jaguar cornerback has ridiculed the Patriot's final score in the offseason. And while Ramsey said Gronkowski would have to face him, the Jaguars could use a variety of players – including the linebackers Myles Jack and Telvin Smith and the security Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church – to face the four-time All-Pro.
But even as a recognized focal point of the Patriots' temporary attack, Gronkowski poses a special problem for Jacksonville, which gives Brady the willingness to even throw him in double cover.
More: Nine questions for NFL Week 2: Will Packers properly call on Aaron Rodgers?
With New England's new receivers recording only nine catches last week, it seems unlikely that Brady will often test the Jaguars outdoors. While James White and Rex Burkhead work frequently in the running backs, Jack and Smith's Jaguars' linebacker tandem may be the league's best-equipped duo to take on such an assignment.
Brady will also have to use a quick draw against a strong Jacksonville pass rush that seems to have an advantage over the Patriots' offensive front. While the left-hand Trent Brown did well in the early stages, Yannick Ngakoue's speed over the edge could be difficult for the 6-8, 380-pounder.
Here are four more matchups that will mark Week 2:
Panther RB Christian McCaffrey vs Hawk linebacker
Maybe in the first week no two teams were more injured than the Panthers and Falcons. Carolina now has both startups (Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams) in injured reserve and will be without Pro Bowl Guard Trai Turner (concussion) and tight end Greg Olsen (broken foot). Atlanta, however, lost after the season opener against Keanu Neal (cruciate ligament tear) and linebacker Deion Jones (foot injury).
The losses of the Panthers seem to give McCaffrey, especially against the Falcons, a heavier burden. Ron Rivera said this week he hopes the second year will run back from 15 to 20 and get six to 10 catches of each game. But with the loss of Olsen and Norv Turner, who continue to emphasize a quick attack on Cam Newton, he could take on a larger workload as a receiver.
This could be a problem for the Falcons, who have relied heavily on Jones and Neal to run with their backs and chase them if the defense allows short throws among them. Linebacker Duke Riley has to make a difference for Jones, while Damontae Kazee will also play a prominent role.
Packer's receiver vs. Vikings secondary
All eyes are on Aaron Rodgers as the two-time MVP joins an important rivalry game that is considered questionable after a week's heavy heroic action against the Bears with a knee injury. But even if Rodgers gets his chance for revenge against the same Vikings team that broke his collarbone last season, his recipients will have to play their part in last season's top defense.
Rodgers and the Packers found success against the bears as they neutralized the pass rush by making too fast connections. A similar strategy might be needed against the Vikings as the defensive faces Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. And since top-catcher Davante Adams is considered questionable with a shoulder injury, Green Bay will likely need at least one of his rookie goals (J & # 39; Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown) to join Randall Cobb support and Geronimo Allison.
However, Minnesota's defense allowed the few yards after catching a group in 2017 and provided some simple answers to each opponent. The best approach for the Packers could be attacking Mackensie Alexander and rookie Mike Hughes in the slot. But even that can be dangerous as Hughes put in a 28-yard interception last week for a touchdown against the 49ers.
Cowboys offensive line against Giants DT Damon Harrison
The problems Dallas had with the passing game in the final round were fully visible last week, as Dak Prescott was unable to click with a new receiving corps. For the foreseeable future, the Cowboys and their opponents know an incontrovertible truth: this offensive is completely Ezekiel Elliott's show.
But a 341-pound problem awaits Elliott in the middle of the defense of the Giants in Harrison. With New York's defensive team moving to 3-4 under new coach Pat Shurmur and coordinator James Bettcher, "snacks" has remained stable. His ability to clog traffic lanes and create a push-up was seen last week against the Jaguars, who had the NFL's biggest attack last year but failed to break the 100-yard mark, if not a 41 -Yard-keeper quarterback Blake Bortles.
Center Joe Looney, who replaces Travis Frederick for the still-offside, will need a lot of support from right-sided guard Zack Martin. Nevertheless, the cowboys must concentrate on attacking the edges of the giants' defense.
Steelers RB James Conner vs. Chiefs – Front seven
With Le Veon Bell still missing, Pittsburgh again turns to Conner as the centerpiece of his running game. And though the Chiefs may have been relieved not to face a two-time all-pro that has torn them apart in the past (Bell averaged 126.8 yards in four regular season games against Kansas City and 170 yards in a division -Playoff victory in 2017), the second year in a row could still pose significant problems.
Conner looked great in the opening role in the opener as he recorded 192 yards from Scrimmage and two touchdowns on 36 touchdowns against the Browns. With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger coping with an elbow injury, Conner should again see a large amount of carriers as Pittsburgh tries to rest his defense and keep off the field against Kansas City's charged attack.
The Chiefs ranked only 25th last season but now have two downhillers in linebacks Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens. However, one area of concern could be to stop Conner in the passing game after the Kansas City defense left 189 yards to the Chargers, who ran last week Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz,