The first week of the NFL regular season has come and gone, replete with the surprises and excitement that fans have come to expect.
With its share of big plays and shocking outcomes, the NFL regular season kicked off in fine form. The Green Bay Packers opened their season with a loss for the first time in years, Robert Griffin III outplayed Drew Brees to carry the Redskins to victory, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ravaged Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers.
For the teams that took home victories, week two offers a chance to build on that momentum. For those teams that dropped their first games — like the Super Bowl favourites Green Bay and New Orleans, and the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants — it could be time for redemption.
Here are five games that should make for enjoyable viewing in the week ahead.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers, Thursday @ 8:20 p.m. EST, NFL Network
The latest match-up in one of the NFL's most storied rivalries, the Bears will visit the Packers at Lambeau in hopes of starting their season off on a two-game winning streak.
Players to Watch:
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has said his piece this week, calling out the Green Bay secondary and questioning their ability to cover his receivers. While smack-talk is certainly appreciated, fans should be watching to make sure Cutler can back it up.
Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are an effective one-two punch, but they'll have their work cut out for them this week.
Expect that chip on Aaron Rodgers's shoulder following his disappointing loss to the 49ers last week to force him back into form against the Bears, who gave up 21 points to a weaker Indianapolis offense last week.
With a retooled Green Bay defense rebounding off an ugly loss to the 49ers, this one will get messy. Chicago's defense was good against the Colts, but they will have a tougher opponent when they line up opposite the best quarterback in the game today. Packers win, 17-10.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants, Sunday @ 1 p.m. EST, FOX
The Bucs will visit the Super Bowl champions with an unexpected win under their belt, but Eli Manning's Giants are smarting from a loss to the Cowboys in their season opener.
Players to Watch:
Manning could have a tough game ahead of him against a defense that brought the hurt to the Carolina Panthers. His situation is complicated further by the fact that his old coach is now working for Tampa Bay.
All eyes should be on the Tampa Bay defense. If they can carry forward last week's stellar, 10-yards-rushing performance forward, it could wake up the offense, which was anemic last week, with the possible exception of rookie running back Doug Martin, who carried the load in Bucs's backfield with 118 all-purpose yards.
The Buccaneers could represent a real challenge for a Giants squad that is having trouble moving the ball on the ground, and the knowledge that Tampa Bay offensive co-ordinator Mike Sullivan gleaned during his time with the Giants could give his team the edge. Buccaneers win, 21-16.
Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts, Sunday @ 1 p.m. EST, FOX
Last week, Jacksonville fans and NFL experts learned to never, ever doubt Adrian Peterson, but there was plenty of doubting to be done about Indianapolis's new quarterback, Andrew Luck, following his soft performance against a tough Chicago defense.
Players to Watch:Peterson is one of the premier backs in the league for a reason. Take advantage of this opportunity to watch one of the best rushers in the league against a relatively soft defense.
Luck had the yardage, but not the touchdowns, to make last week a success. He also threw a few too many picks. Expect his line to improve against a weaker Minnesota secondary, and expect favourite target Reggie Wayne to be the chief beneficiary in the receiving corps.
Both teams have a star player chasing a big game on offense and a pliable defense, so this should be an exciting, high-scoring outing. Colts win, 35-28.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday @ 4:25 p.m. EST, CBS
The New York Jets pulled off a surprisingly big victory against the disappointing Buffalo Bills in week one, but they're running headlong at the Steel Curtain, a defense that's fresh off a loss to the new-look Broncos and expecting a few key players to return to the line-up.
We know, Mark. We were as surprised as you by last week's outcome.
Players to Watch:
If James Harrison is back, he'll be key to a Pittsburgh defense that needs him and well worth watching. Ryan Clark will also be back and spoiling for a big game after having to sit out on the team's trip to Denver.
The key to how this game falls will lie in the performance of Mark Sanchez, who was unexpectedly strong last week, and rookie Stephen Hill, who hauled in two of Sanchez's three touchdown passes.
The Steelers have a solid defense that will be bolstered by the return of at least one veteran. The Jets have Sanchez. This should be a no-brainer. Steelers win, 21-10.
Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons, Monday @ 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
The Broncos came on strong against Pittsburgh last week with their new offense under the guidance of veteran QB Peyton Manning, but the Atlanta Falcons also found considerable success in Kansas.
Players to Watch:Matt Ryan was fantastic against the Chiefs in week one, with three touchdowns and almost 300 yards to his name. He'll look to continue his success with the Falcons's new offense, but he'll be matching arms with arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game.
Atlanta running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers both had disappointing first games, but the running game should factor into the decision this week when the Falcons adjust for Tracy Porter, who had a massive first game against the Steelers.
It's hard to bet against Peyton, but the Falcons look good this year. With multiple weapons in both the ground and air game, and a fair defense, they could potentially be Super Bowl contenders. Falcons win, 21-17.
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