GAME OF THE WEEK
San Diego Chargers (1-0) at New England Patriots (1-0)
Sunday, 4:15 ET, CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Last meeting: The Patriots won, 23-20, at San Diego on Oct. 24 last year.
Streaking: The Patriots have a nine-game regular-season winning streak and have won nine consecutive home openers, while QB Tom Brady has won an NFL-record 28 consecutive regular-season home games.
Reputation building: The Chargers want to create more offensive balance and be more physical this season, and no better time to assert both principles than on the road against a Patriots attack capable of wearing down any defense. RBs Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews combined for 36 touches last week. If they can approach that number, it will create more one-on-one for the wideouts downfield, where the Chargers will enjoy big mismatches.
Soften the underbelly: Brady is effectively using TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to attack the seams and underneath routes, creating more single coverage against his wideouts. The Chargers are counting on DEs Vaughn Martin and rookie Corey Liuget to take over for injured Luis Castillo on the right side.
Need to know: Chargers TE Antonio Gates needs five receptions to pass Kellen Winslow (541) for second-most in franchise history behind Charlie Joiner's 586. ... Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 14 rushing TDs since the start of last season is second in the NFL behind Arian Foster's 16.
Seattle Seahawks (0-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
Game plan: The Steelers are 6-0 at home in September under coach Mike Tomlin and are focusing on fundamentals after committing seven turnovers last week. QB Ben Roethlisberger accounted for five of them, and will have a chance at redemption with the Seahawks far stronger against the run and lacking an elite pass rush. Seattle's young offensive line played much better in the second half last week, but the Steelers' front seven varies its looks and will create significant confusion in blocking assignments.
Need to know: Bill Leavy, the referee who admitted missing multiple calls in Super Bowl XL between these teams, will work Sunday's game. ... The Seahawks are 1-10 in the Eastern time zone since 2007, with the losses coming by an average of 15.4 points.
Oakland Raiders (1-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
Game plan: Buffalo jumped out in front of another strong running team last week in Kansas City and prevented the Chiefs from really testing the league's reigning 32-ranked run defense. Oakland wants to impose its will on opponents, and will pound RBs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush as long as the score is close. Defensively, the Raiders will rotate up front and consistently push the Bills' offensive line. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has a firm grasp on coach Chan Gailey's system, though, and now has big-play weapons to counter over-aggressive defenses.
Need to know: The Raiders play AFC East teams Buffalo, the N.Y. Jets and New England the next three weeks. ... Bills WR Stevie Johnson has 11 touchdown catches in his past 15 games.
Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at Washington Redskins (1-0)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Chris Myers, Tim Ryan
Game plan: Redskins RB Tim Hightower said he needs to be more patient when he takes the field against his former team and allow cut-back lanes to develop. If he can be productive, QB Rex Grossman could be in store for a second consecutive strong outing against Arizona's injury-thinned secondary. The Cardinals need to establish RB Beanie Wells early to protect that defense on the road. With WR Larry Fitzgerald double-teamed most of Week 1, look for him to be put in motion more this week.
Need to know: The Cardinals had three completions of 40-plus yards last season; they had two last week alone. ... The Redskins are 7-0 against Arizona since Election Day 2000.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (0-1)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Dick Stockton, John Lynch
Game plan: RB Adrian Peterson wants more touches, which requires the Vikings sustaining more drives. The offensive line struggled with protection in San Diego and quarterback Donovan McNabb was under constant duress. Look for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to mix in more passes on first and second down and get the tight ends more involved in the passing game. The lack of a running game has been a growing concern for the Bucs since the preseason. They need to give RB LeGarrette Blount a legitimate chance to get untracked and help set up play-action.
Need to know: Bucs QB Josh Freeman has a 103.1 passer rating in five career starts indoors. ... The Vikings had two tight ends on 76.7 percent of their snaps last week, without any of them catching a pass.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
Game plan: The Jaguars acquired S Dawan Landry from the Jets on Sept. 3, and they'll pump him for information. But the Jets' approach isn't difficult to decode, and it's very similar to the Jaguars' - use the power ground game to set up the pass. Jacksonville's issue could be creating running lanes for Maurice Jones-Drew, and picking up the correct blocking assignments is always critical against Rex Ryan's crew. The Jaguars lack a dynamic passing attack, but like Mark Sanchez with the Jets, Luke McCown will be asked first and foremost not to lose the game.
Need to know: The Jaguars are 8-1 since the start of last season when Jones-Drew rushes for 90-plus yards. ... Jets' RBs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson each had 11 touches in Week 1.
Chicago Bears (1-0) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
Game plan: It will be a battle of wills, with the Saints' penchant for stretching the field going up against a Bears defense that doesn't blitz often and focuses on keeping completions in front of its defensive backs. The Saints will be without WR Marques Colston (broken collarbone), but hope to get Lance Moore (groin) back. The Bears also came out throwing last week, with QB Jay Cutler completing passes to nine different receivers. With the Saints' issues in coverage, it could be another week until Chicago rededicates itself to the ground game.
Need to know: The Bears' first three opponents this season won a combined 34 regular-season games in 2010. ... RB Darren Sproles had 250 all-purpose yards in his Saints debut.
Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-1)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Bill Macatee, Steve Tasker
Game plan: The Titans had six three-and-outs and RB Chris Johnson had just 15 touches in 11 possessions last week. Both figures must improve dramatically for Tennessee to be competitive. QB Matt Hasselbeck has developed quick chemistry with WR Kenny Britt, but the Titans lack other big weapons in the passing game and can't afford to be one-dimensional against the Ravens' swarming defense. Baltimore's offense stretched the field vertically more in Week 1, and the offensive line appears to be stronger with the addition of LT Bryant McKinnie.
Need to know: The Ravens are 18-1 against teams with a losing record under coach Jim Harbaugh. ... Hasselbeck needs 158 passing yards to reach 30,000 for his career.
Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) at Detroit Lions (1-0)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Don Criqui, Randy Cross
Game plan: The Chiefs fell behind quickly last week and were never able to establish the ground game. The Lions can rack up points in a hurry, so Kansas City can't afford another stumble out of the gate. As long as the Chiefs have the threat of the run, they can keep Detroit's talented front line from pinning its ears back and coming after QB Matt Cassel. Lions QB Matthew Stafford averaged 9.2 yards per completion last week while the Chiefs gave up 12.2 to Buffalo - and Stafford will attack vertically with SS Jon McGraw replacing injured playmaker Eric Berry.
Need to know: Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles is averaging 6.0 yards on 497 career carries. ... The Lions have at least one sack in 20 consecutive games.
Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
Game plan: RB Peyton Hillis had 23 touches last week, and the Browns need to get the ball into his hands to attack a Colts front seven likely to be minus LBs Gary Brackett and Ernie Sims. That will also keep QB Colt McCoy from facing the Colts' strong pass rush in dangerous down-and-distance situations. Indianapolis wants to get into the flow of the game after self destructing early last week. QB Kerry Collins must protect the ball, and the Colts would be wise to get RB Joseph Addai early touches after Cleveland struggled with the Bengals' Cedric Benson.
Need to know: Hillis' 67 receptions since the start of 2010 is tied for second among NFL running backs behind the Eagles' LeSean McCoy (80). ... The Colts have won seven of their past eight home openers.
Dallas Cowboys (0-1) at San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
Sunday, 4:05 ET, FOX, Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin
Game plan: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has firmly stood behind QB Alex Smith, and the seventh-year player will get an opportunity to attack a very beat-up secondary. RB Frank Gore is the centerpiece of the offense, but the Jets averaged just 2.8 yards per carry against Dallas in Week 1. Cowboys QB Tony Romo made a pair of critical mistakes late against the Jets, but he was also constantly flushed out of the pocket behind a young offensive line. Dallas needs to establish better balance with the ground game before pushing the ball downfield.
Need to know: The Cowboys are trying to avoid going 0-2 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2000-01. ... The 49ers were 1-for-12 in third-down conversions last week.
Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) at Denver Broncos (0-1)
Sunday, 4:15 ET, CBS, Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein
Game plan: Both offenses enter with serious question marks. The Bengals expect rookie QB Andy Dalton to play through a wrist injury, but RB Cedric Benson needs to be the focal point. While the Broncos have an athletic group of pass rushers, they have allowed eight 100-yard rushers since last Oct. 24. Broncos QB Kyle Orton needs a fast start to avoid hearing Tim Tebow chants at home for the second straight week. And with RB Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) ailing, the ground game could fall to Willis McGahee.
Need to know: The Bengals are 1-6 under coach Marvin Lewis in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. ... Broncos WR/PR Eric Decker had 181 total yards last week.
Houston Texans (1-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-1)
Sunday, 4:15 ET, CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Game plan: Things don't get easier for the Dolphins' secondary with QB Matt Schaub coming to town after Miami gave up 517 passing yards to Tom Brady. Houston isn't quite as explosive in the passing game, but is far more balanced and expects to get RB Arian Foster (hamstring) back in the lineup. Dolphins QB Chad Henne is coming off a strong outing and the Texans had the league's worst pass defense last season. Regardless, Miami must get RB Reggie Bush plenty of touches and sustain drives to help protect the defense. He doesn't run real well between the tackles but will be heavily involved in the passing attack.
Need to know: The Texans have won all five previous meetings, including two in Miami, although the five games have been decided by a total of 14 points. ... Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall has 15 career 100-yard receiving games.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
Sunday, 8:20 ET, NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Game plan: Eagles QB Michael Vick returns to Atlanta as a starter for the first time. After watching Bears QB Jay Cutler complete passes to nine different receivers last week, the Falcons have to be concerned about Vick's athleticism and arsenal of playmakers. Coach Mike Smith has his team practicing on taking proper angles against the Eagles' extremely fast skill position players. Philadelphia can rush the passer and has a strong secondary, but run defense remains a question mark. Atlanta needs to get RB Michael Turner running hard between the tackles early on in an effort to wear the Eagles down.
Need to know: Vick was the No. 1 overall pick by Atlanta in 2001. ... The Falcons are 20-4 at the Georgia Dome since 2008.
St. Louis Rams (0-1) at New York Giants (0-1)
Monday, 8:30 ET, ESPN, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, Suzy Kolber
Game plan: Rams QB Sam Bradford (finger) will play, but RB Steven Jackson could be sidelined by a quad injury. Backup Carnell Williams produced 150 total yards last week and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. A formidable ground game is important with the Giants hopeful that DE Justin Tuck (neck) can return and ratchet up the pass rush. The Giants' revamped offensive line struggled with communication last week and the Rams will aggressively pressure the gaps. New York does expect to have WR Hakeem Nicks (knee) in the lineup to help stretch the field against St. Louis' injury-thinned secondary.
Need to know: Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was the Giants' defensive coordinator from 2007-08. ... Giants WR Mario Manningham's 14 career TDs have averaged 36.4 yards.
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