Breakdowns

Mike Tannenbaum: Week 2 Matchups to Watch

Here are five Week 2 matchups we’ve got our eyes on:

Can Lamar Jackson finally beat Patrick Mahomes?

Baltimore and Kansas City have played one another in each of the last three seasons. In those games, Lamar Jackson is 50-for-95 for 511 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT; Patrick Mahomes is 93-for-132 for 1,136 yards, 9 TDs, 1 INT. Mahomes and the Chiefs have won all three matchups. Likewise, Mahomes has never lost in the month of September (he’s 11-0), so if Jackson and the Ravens are to pull off the upset, they will be overcoming recent history.

In Week 1, the Ravens’ offensive line had the worst Pass Blocking Grade of any team at 28.0. They will have to do a better job of protecting Jackson against Chris Jones and company, but they may be without starting LT Ronnie Stanley Jr. due to the same ankle injury that ended his 2020 season. Baltimore has been decimated by injuries thus far, and if Stanley is unable to play, it will be an uphill battle for them to avoid an 0-2 start.

Matthew Stafford vs. Colts secondary

Last week, the Colts’ secondary struggled to contain the Seahawks and Russell Wilson, who was 18 of 23 for 254 yards and 4 TDs. According to PFF, the Colts finished with the third-worst team coverage grade in Week 1 at 44.8. The worst team coverage grade of the week, however, belonged to the Bears (35.4), who had no answer for Matthew Stafford in his Rams debut. This week, Stafford faces the Colts. Look for him to build on an impressive Week 1 performance in which he was PFF’s highest-graded passer on play-action passes (94.8). Seattle’s new OC Shane Waldron called play-action early and often (41.4%), and I expect Sean McVay to follow the lead of his former Pass Game Coordinator as the Rams face the Colts this week.

Can the Cowboys run the football?

Against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys had 58 passing attempts versus 18 rushing. But that made sense, as the Buccaneers’ defense was in the top 3 in Defenders in the Box Over Expected (DBOE) in 2020 under DC Todd Bowles (per FiveThirtyEight). Bowles is known for loading the box, which is why his defenses are consistently among the best at stopping the run. Brandon Staley, on the other hand, makes it difficult for opposing teams to pass. The Rams were last in DBOE in 2020 under his leadership. The Cowboys therefore will not be able to rely solely on Dak Prescott to win this game; they must run the ball.

Rodgers rebound on MNF

In Week 1, the Saints held Aaron Rodgers to 133 yards passing, 2 INTs and no touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers also attempted the most difficult passes of the week. His expected completion percentage was only 57.8% (per NGS). This week, Rodgers returns to Lambeau, where he has been much better than on the road his career (56-51 on the road vs. 81-21-1 at Lambeau). Plus, he faces a team he has dominated: In 22 games against Detroit, Rodgers is 460 of 710 for 5,662 yards, 46 TDs, 8 INTs. His record is 17-5. It will not be any easier for Detroit, as they unfortunately lost starting CB and 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah for the season with a ruptured Achilles.

Big Ben vs. time/pressure

The Steelers’ offensive line did a better job than expected at protecting Roethlisberger in Week 1 (11th best pass blocking grade per PFF). Roethlisberger also had the shortest time to throw in Week 1 at 2.33 seconds. However, the Raiders had tremendous success pressuring Lamar Jackson in Week 1 (91.2 pass rush grade per PFF). If the Raiders are able to have similar success against Pittsburgh, Big Ben will have to continue getting the ball out quickly.

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