NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 2: Key matchups and storylines for all 16 games

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

We talk for months during the NFL offseason about the same storylines, making it easy to overreact once the regular season arrives and provides new talking points. But not every Week 1 result is a precursor of things to come. Week 2 should give us a better idea of which surprising results from the opening slate carry weight.

Can the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills get back to 2020 form on offense? Will Arthur Smith get the offense off the ground in Atlanta, and will his replacement in Tennessee, Todd Downing, right the ship? Are the Houston Texans not the pushovers many expected them to be entering the year?

Those are several of the many storylines and matchups worth monitoring in the second week of NFL action.


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New York Giants @ Washington Football Team (-3.5)

Matchup to watch: LT Andrew Thomas vs. ED Montez Sweat

The Giants’ offensive line was far from perfect in Week 1 against Denver, but Thomas’ performance in pass protection was encouraging. The second-year tackle allowed just two hurries on 43 pass-blocking snaps after surrendering a league-high 57 pressures at left tackle as a rookie in 2020.

Thomas was going against the lesser Denver edge rusher (Malik Reed) with Bradley Chubb inactive for the contest, but he’ll have his hands full on Thursday night between Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Sweat — who lined up over left tackle on 32 of 50 snaps in Week 1 — was one of just six edge rushers to record at least 10 sacks and quarterback hits in 2020 when including the postseason. 

Biggest storyline: Can Taylor Heinicke recapture any of his postseason magic?

Heinicke played well enough in Washington’s wild-card loss to Tampa Bay last season to garner starting support from a section of the Football Team’s fan base entering 2021. And Ryan Fitzpatrick’s injury will thrust Heinicke into a featured role once more.

Heinicke’s 92.0 PFF grade against the Buccaneers was the sixth-highest single-game mark for any quarterback in a postseason game over the past five games, but he has recorded just a 58.8 overall grade and a 79.5 passer rating on 165 snaps outside of that game.

The current over/under for this game is 40.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5)

Matchup to watch: Raiders defensive line vs. Steelers offensive line 

Both of these units were perceived as weaknesses entering the season, but the edge tandem of Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby did everything in their power to change that perception in Las Vegas' Week 1 matchup against Baltimore. The two combined for 19 pressures in the win.

That performance came against tackles Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva, a duo that is considerably more experienced than Pittsburgh's Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor. The Steelers' ability to slow the Raiders' pass rush, particularly off the edge, will be a key to this game. 

Biggest storyline: Steelers pass rush could be even better in 2021 than it was in 2020

On the other side, Pittsburgh's pass rush was dominant in the team's Week 1 win over Buffalo. Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt combined for 19 pressures and three sacks, while free agent acquisition Melvin Ingram III generated an additional five pressures on 32 pass-rushing snaps. It's not unreasonable to think he can bring more to the pass rush than Bud Dupree. That's a scary thought given that Pittsburgh already led the NFL in pressure rate last season. 

The current over/under for this game is 47. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins (+3.5)

Matchup to watch: WR Stefon Diggs vs. CB Xavien Howard

It doesn’t get much better than one of the league’s best wide receivers facing off against one of the league’s best cornerbacks on a defense that runs man coverage at such a high rate.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool that you can use to help you set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage, or the individual defenders.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Diggs for a relatively even split between Byron Jones and Howard in this game. Diggs torched Noah Igbinoghene for six receptions, 139 receiving yards and a touchdown in Buffalo’s first 2020 matchup with Miami, leading to Howard lining up across from Diggs on 20 of 28 routes in their second meeting. 

Biggest storyline: Buffalo looks to rebound after poor offensive showing against Pittsburgh

After a 2020 season in which Buffalo’s offense ranked fourth in the NFL in expected points added (EPA) per play, the unit came out flat against Pittsburgh. The Bills finished Week 1 ranked 28th in EPA per play and 25th in average yards per play (4.7). 

Jon Feliciano, Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams were all charged with at least five pressures allowed. Miami doesn’t boast the same kind of individual pass-rushing talent as the Steelers, but Brian Flores has done a good job of scheming pressure. The Bills need a better performance up front to avoid an 0-2 start to the season.

The current over/under for this game is 48.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers (+3.5)

Matchup to watch: Brian Burns vs. best tackle duo in NFL

The only edge rushers with a higher PFF pass-rushing grade than Burns in 2020 were Khalil Mack, T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett. Burns has already earned a reputation as one of the better pure pass-rushers in the league, but he managed just one pressure (a strip-sack against backup tackle James Hurst) on 31 pass-rushing snaps against the Saints last season. 

Burns should see both Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk in this game in one of the better strength-on-strength trench matchups of the week. Both Armstead and Ramczyk were top-five tackles in PFF's preseason rankings.

Biggest storyline: Jameis Winston looks to build on excellent debut vs. the Packers

The Saints played almost the entirety of last week's game against Green Bay with a lead, making life easier on Winston in his debut as the starter. He played mistake-free football with an 83% adjusted completion percentage and no turnover-worthy plays on 23 dropbacks. Winston also produced one of the more impressive throws of the week on a 55-yard touchdown pass that hit Deonte Harris in stride. 

Those kinds of performances at quarterback will make the Saints tough to beat in the NFC. 

The current over/under for this game is 44. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Houston Texans @ Cleveland Browns (-12.5)

Matchup to watch: LT Laremy Tunsil vs. ED Myles Garrett

Since joining Houston in 2019, no qualifying tackle has graded higher in pass protection on true pass sets than Tunsil. Garrett will be looking to change that, just one week after winning an impressive 26% of his pass-rushing snaps against Orlando Brown Jr. in Week 1.  

Garrett has been one of the better edge rushers in the league at converting his pressure into sacks, and that will likely be a point of emphasis for Cleveland in this matchup. Taylor was sacked on just one of his 18 pressured dropbacks in Week 1 against Jacksonville.

Biggest storyline: Browns offense should face little resistance in this matchup

The Browns put together an impressive effort on offense in Week 1, albeit in a losing effort. They ranked among the top five teams in the league in expected points added (EPA) per play, and they trailed only San Francisco in average yards per play (7.5) on offense. Their offensive line, which ranked first in PFF's offensive line rankings entering the season, should have a distinct advantage over Houston's 32nd-ranked defensive line

The current over/under for this game is 48. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Los Angeles Rams @ Indianapolis Colts (+4)

Matchup to watch: DI Aaron Donald vs. LG Quenton Nelson

Individual matchups in the trenches don’t get much better than this. Since Indianapolis drafted Nelson in 2018, he has been the highest-graded interior offensive lineman in the NFL, and Donald has been the highest-graded defender in the league over that same stretch. 

Donald played at least 10 snaps over both guard and tackle positions in Los Angeles’ opener against Chicago. There’s plenty of reason to expect the Rams to move him around to exploit favorable matchups, but we should at least get a few reps of Nelson against Donald. 

Biggest storyline: Rams will test Indianapolis’ deep coverage for the second straight week

The Colts were one of two defenses to allow two touchdown passes on throws 20 or more yards downfield in Week 1. The other team that fell into that category was Chicago, which happened to play Indianapolis’ Week 2 opponent in its opener. 

Los Angeles emphasized being more explosive on offense this offseason, bringing in Matthew Stafford at quarterback and speed at wide receiver with the additions of DeSean Jackson and Tutu Atwell. Stafford has recorded a 130.1 passer rating on throws 20 or more yards downfield since 2020 (third-highest in NFL).

The current over/under for this game is 47.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Chicago Bears (-2.5)

Matchup to watch: Bears defensive line vs. Bengals offensive line

The Bengals offensive line wasn't disastrous from a grading perspective against Minnesota last week, ranking 15th out of 32 units in overall grade (62.5). The task of pass protecting against Chicago is likely a step up in difficulty, however. 

Khalil Mack is a priority for every offensive line he faces, and Akiem Hicks gets an ideal matchup against a weak Cincinnati interior. Center Trey Hopkins is coming off a Week 1 performance where he was beaten badly for two sacks by Michael Pierce.

Biggest storyline: No explosive element to offense with Andy Dalton at quarterback

The rationale behind playing Dalton is that he's a veteran quarterback who will minimize the damage caused by one of the league's worst offensive lines. We saw that to an extent in the opener against the Rams, where Dalton was under pressure on only 10 of his 43 dropbacks. But he also recorded a 4.5-yard average depth of target with a 2.4-second average time to throw. There was no explosive element to the passing game. 

Justin Fields might take more negatives, but he also gives the offense a better chance with his ability to extend plays and deliver the ball accurately downfield. There's no reason he shouldn't be starting.

The current over/under for this game is 45. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5)

Matchup to watch: Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave vs. 49ers interior offensive line

Hargrave has been one of the more underrated interior pass-rushers in the league for several seasons now, and he couldn't be blocked in Philadelphia’s opener against the Falcons. His 47.8% pass-rush win rate led all defenders with at least 15 pass-rushing snaps this past week. 

Hargrave and Cox could create issues against San Francisco's interior offensive line — the weaker portion of the unit on paper. However, Laken Tomlinson, Daniel Brunskill and Alex Mack combined to allow just one pressure in the opener against Detroit.  

Biggest storyline: Jason Verrett injury leaves San Francisco thin at cornerback

Verrett’s impressive return from injury in 2020 (eighth-highest PFF grade at cornerback) came to a halt at the hands of yet another injury last weekend. His departure from the lineup leaves the 49ers dangerously thin at cornerback. They could be forced to rely on Deommodore Lenoir and Dontae Johnson to start outside if Emmanuel Moseley isn’t able to return from an injury of his own. 

Philadelphia’s receiving corps appears to be in better shape than it has been in recent seasons, as well. DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor caught six passes each in the opener against Atlanta, combining for 120 receiving yards.

The current over/under for this game is 50. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Denver Broncos @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+6)

Matchup to watch: Patrick Surtain II vs. Jacksonville’s wide receivers  

Denver’s cornerback depth is already paying off. Ronald Darby is heading to injured reserve with a hamstring injury, pushing the first-round rookie Surtain into the starting lineup. 

Surtain was beaten by Sterling Shepard for a 37-yard touchdown on his lone target in Week 1, but his three-year starting career at Alabama included very few big plays allowed. Just 10 of Surtain’s 157 targets from 2018 to 2020 with the Crimson Tide resulted in 20-yard gains. The Broncos will be relying on that to carry over against D.J. Chark Jr. and Marvin Jones Jr., both of whom are capable of winning downfield. 

Biggest storyline: Can Jacksonville clean things up after ugly opener vs. Houston?

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Jaguars against Houston. They were thoroughly outplayed by a Texans team that most projected to be the worst in the NFL in 2021. 

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence produced three turnover-worthy plays (tied for most), and the offensive line was charged with six penalties (tied for third-most). The defense gave up six gains of 20 or more yards (tied for third-most), getting beat downfield by Brandin Cooks on several occasions. Jacksonville putting that performance behind it starts with eliminating the unforced errors we saw in Week 1.

The current over/under for this game is 45.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

New England Patriots @ New York Jets (+6)

Matchup to watch: QB Mac Jones vs. QB Zach Wilson 

This intra-division matchup between New England and New York features two of the three rookie quarterbacks to win starting jobs this preseason. Jones and Wilson have been the two highest-graded quarterbacks at every step of the process since the start of their final college seasons in 2020.

Time Period Mac Jones PFF grade Zach Wilson PFF grade
2020 season 95.8 (1st) 95.4 (2nd)
2021 preseason 92.2 (1st by rookie) 85.7 (2nd by rookie)
2021 Week 1 78.3 (1st by rookie) 63.2 (2nd by rookie)

Jones has the better chance of continuing that trend in this matchup, given the strength of both defenses. The Jets allowed 7.8 yards per pass play in their opener against Carolina (25th in NFL).  

Biggest storyline: Bill Belichick has historically made life difficult on rookie quarterbacks 

New England’s defense isn’t at full strength with top cornerback Stephon Gilmore on the physically unable to perform list to start the season, but there is still plenty of talent for Belichick to stymie Wilson in his second NFL start. Rookie quarterbacks have combined to throw 14 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions against the Patriots' defense since the start of the 2010 season, good for a 66.4 passer rating.

The loss of Mekhi Becton at left tackle creates a matchup for a deep New England defensive front to exploit on passing downs, potentially forcing Wilson into mistakes under pressure.

The current over/under for this game is 42.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

PFF's new Power Rankings Tool offers projections based on 10,000 season simulations, given Team Point Spread Ratings, Strength of Schedule and team records.

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-12.5)

Matchup to watch: WR Antonio Brown vs. CB A.J. Terrell

Brown has the highest target share of any wide receiver on Tampa Bay's offense (25%) since he joined the team in Week 9 last season, and he looked like the Buccaneers' best wide receiver in the opener against Dallas.

PFF's WR/CB matchup chart projects Brown to see Terrell, Atlanta's top cornerback, on the majority of his routes. Terrell allowed just 30 receiving yards on 38 coverage snaps in the Falcons' Week 1 matchup with Philadelphia.

Biggest storyline: Can Atlanta put up a better fight in the trenches than they did against Philadelphia?

This Atlanta roster contains plenty of holes, and a fair number of them show up along the offensive and defensive lines. The Falcons were thoroughly outmatched in the trenches against Philadelphia in Week 1, ranking 30th in the league in pressure rate allowed on offense and 29th in pressure rate generated on defense. 

Things don't get any easier in this matchup against Tampa Bay. Tristan Wirfs averaged 30 pass-blocking snaps per pressure allowed in 2020, the best mark for a rookie tackle in the past decade. And Vita Vea, Shaquil Barrett and company provide plenty of pass-rushing talent to throw at Atlanta's offensive line.

The current over/under for this game is 52. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Minnesota Vikings @ Arizona Cardinals (-4.5)

Matchup to watch: WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. CB Patrick Peterson

The static nature of Arizona's wide receiver alignments give us a pretty good idea of the matchups we'll see on a week-to-week basis, and Hopkins is slated to face Peterson often in this contest. Hopkins had a big performance against Tennessee, notching six receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns. This is an exploitable matchup against his 2020 teammate.

It was Bashaud Breeland — not Peterson — who struggled in Minnesota's opener against Cincinnati. Peterson allowed only 13 yards into his coverage compared to 107 for Breeland.

Biggest storyline: Dominant pass rush lessens concerns about Arizona’s secondary

The talk surrounding Arizona's defense entering Week 1 was how its secondary would hold up after the surprise retirement of Malcolm Butler. A pass rush as dominant as the Cardinals' against Tennessee, pressuring Ryan Tannehill on 40% of his dropbacks and generating six sacks, is one way to quell coverage concerns. 

Minnesota's wide receiver duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen is not an easy one to match up with, but the team's offensive line can be exploited. Arizona's pass rush, led by Chandler Jones, might once again be the secondary's best friend.

The current over/under for this game is 51. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Tennessee Titans @ Seattle Seahawks (-5.5)

Matchup to watch: Ryan Tannehill vs. Seahawks pass rush

Tannehill has been excellent since taking over as the Titans' starting quarterback in 2019, earning a 90.1 PFF passing grade that ranks fifth among all quarterbacks. His propensity to take sacks has been an issue, though. Tannehill has been sacked once every 4.6 pressured dropbacks since 2019 (fourth-worst in the league), and he took six sacks on 17 pressured dropbacks against Arizona. 

Seattle's defense is coming off an impressive Week 1 performance, pressuring Carson Wentz on 20 dropbacks of his 44 dropbacks.

Biggest storyline: Titans looked susceptible to the deep ball against Arizona

Tennessee allowed the most completions on passes 20 or more yards downfield in the league last week against Arizona (four). That's not an ideal way to enter a matchup with arguably the NFL's best deep-ball passer (Russell Wilson) and two of the better downfield threats in the league (D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett). Wilson's 167 completions and 60 touchdown passes on throws 20 or more yards downfield since 2016 rank first among quarterbacks. 

The current over/under for this game is 54. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

PFF's Player Props Tool leverages PFF's Fantasy Football Projections to reveal betting opportunities within player prop markets.

Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Chargers (-3)

Matchup to watch: ED Joey Bosa vs. RT Terence steele

There was never going to be a good time for La'el Collins to get hit with a suspension, but right before an impending matchup with Bosa is particularly poor timing.

Bosa is coming off a dismantling of rookie right tackle Samuel Cosmi, winning 35% of his pass-rushing snaps against Washington. Now, he'll likely get Steele in this matchup. Steele was one of four right tackles to allow a pressure rate above 8.0% on 250 or more pass-blocking snaps in 2020. 

Biggest storyline: Chargers offensive line looking to build on excellent first game vs. WAS

The new-look Los Angeles offensive line was thrown into the fire against one of the better defensive lines in the NFL in Week 1, and it held up well. Justin Herbert was pressured on just six of his 49 dropbacks in the game. First-round rookie selection Rashawn Slater was a big part of that effort, blanking Chase Young and Montez Sweat with zero pressures allowed.

In theory, the Cowboys' defensive front poses less of a challenge, particularly with Demarcus Lawrence sidelined due to injury. Lawrence was coming off a 91.4 PFF grade in the season opener against Tampa Bay.

The current over/under for this game is 55. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens (+3.5)

Matchup to watch: Patrick Mahomes vs. Baltimore blitz

Few teams have blitzed more often or more effectively than the Ravens since 2018. Mahomes has been one of the few quarterbacks who has consistently beaten that blitz. In their three matchups over the past three years, Mahomes has thrown for six touchdowns and zero interceptions against Baltimore's blitz with a 134.0 passer rating. All other quarterbacks have combined for a 74.5 passer rating against the Ravens' blitz over that time frame. 

Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale's defense will hope for more success in this matchup, though few defenses find it against Kansas City.

Biggest storyline: Baltimore’s offensive line could hold this team back

The Ravens dropped from seventh in pressure rate allowed in 2019 to 27th in 2020, and their pass protection unit continued to trend in the wrong direction in Week 1 against a Las Vegas defensive line that wasn't all that well regarded entering the season. Lamar Jackson was under pressure on 46% of his dropbacks against the Raiders, and Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva led all tackles in pressures allowed last week. 

It's an issue that will need to be corrected if Baltimore hopes to make any noise in this game or in the AFC.

The current over/under for this game is 55. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (-11)

Matchup to watch: WR Davante adams vs. detroit cornerbacks

Adams has the highest “matchup advantage” score of any wide receiver in the NFL this week, according to PFF's WR/CB matchup tool.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool that you can use to help you set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage, or the individual defenders.

With Jeff Okudah heading to injured reserve, Detroit is left with Amani Oruwariye, Ifeatu Melifonwu and A.J. Parker as the top options to defend Adams, who led all wide receivers in PFF receiving grade last season. That's far from an ideal situation, even if Detroit isn't leaving their cornerbacks on quite as many man coverage islands this year.

Biggest storyline: this is a get-right spot for Aaron rodgers and the green Bay offense

No team allowed more yards per play than Detroit in Week 1 (8.0). Jimmy Garoppolo averaged 12.6 yards per pass attempt and recorded a 124.2 passer rating against the Lions after a thoroughly uninspiring preseason. Things are set up well for Rodgers and Green Bay's offense to put a dismal effort against New Orleans behind them.

Rodgers earned a 90.6 passing grade against the Lions in 2020, and it would be far from a shock if he looked closer to that player in Week 2 than the one who earned a 44.0 passing grade with a lowly 36.8 passer rating against the Saints in Green Bay's opener.

The current over/under for this game is 48. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

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