Week two brought about some much expected results and one big surprise. The Chicago Bears were able to defeat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football and at the 49ers’ inaugural game at Levi’s Stadium. Some will say they expected the Bears to win that game but the way Chicago dominated the fourth quarter was quite a spectacle. The Minnesota Vikings were also playing their first game in their new temporary home, TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings came up short against the visiting New England Patriots. The Detroit Lions fell to 1-1 after a loss to the Carolina Panthers on the road and the Green Bay Packers got their first win of the season against the New York Jets at Lambeau Field.
The NFL is all about momentum and from week to week, it changes. After a disappointing overtime loss at home last week, the Bears are now carrying the confidence of a big road win without several of their regulars. They head to New York to take on the Jets. The Lions will get set to host the Packers this week, in the first divisional game for either team this season. The Vikings will somehow try to rebound and head to New Orleans to take on the Saints.
With that, let’s take a look at the matchups.
Minnesota Vikings (1-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-2)
The Vikings scored first against the Patriots but were not able to muster any other type of production and were handed a 30-7 loss. Minnesota was also dealing with the controversy surrounding running back Adrian Peterson, who was not active against the Patriots. As of early Monday, the Vikings were allowing Peterson to practice with the team and play in Sunday’s game in New Orleans. Monday afternoon, reports emerged suggesting that Peterson might face additional charges of abuse towards another of his children. We’ll keep a close eye on that situation and any changes that may arise.
The Saints return home for the first time this season and they have to be saying “home sweet home” after suffering road losses in their first two games. The Saints duked it out with the Cleveland Browns this past week and were never able to deliver a knockout blow. Up 24-23 in the closing minutes, the Browns were able to drive down field and kick a game-winning field goal to drop New Orleans to 0-2. Teams who start 0-2 have about an 11% chance of making the postseason, according to the averages, but this Saints teams seems like they could be part of that 11%.
If the Vikings won’t have Peterson available to them, they’ll struggle to establish the run even though New Orleans has only the 21st-ranked rushing defense. Despite the addition of free agent safety Jairus Byrd during the offseason, the Saints rank last in passing yardage allowed. This week could offer an opportunity for that passing defense to improve if the Vikings stick with Matt Cassel and he plays like he did against New England. Cassel threw four interceptions to just one touchdown pass and many Vikings fans are wondering how quick head coach Mike Zimmer might be to replace him with rookie Teddy Bridgewater. It’s the Vikings, so who knows.
The Saints are ripe to get their first win of the season and the Vikings are dealing with many distractions and a lack of talent at quarterback. The Saints can’t possibly start 0-3, can they?
Chicago Bears (1-1) at New York Jets (1-1)
The Bears entered the fourth quarter against the 49ers down 20-7. Recievers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were both questionable coming into the game and both ended up playing. Great for the Bears, bad for the 9ers. Marshall had two touchdown catches in the fourth, one of which was a nice one-handed grab. The Bears also forced four turnover, including three interceptions of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman left the game early with an triceps injury and it was announced earlier this week that the team will place him on season-ending injured reserve. This could signal the end of a great career in Chicago for Tillman.
The Jets came out firing at Lambeau Field against the Packers and built up a 21-3 lead at one point. After recovering a fumbled snap by Aaron Rodgers, the Jets converted and continued to confuse the Packers defense enroute to two more scores. From there, the Jets would add only a field goal and let the Packers steal the win. This game reminded me of the game the Packers had against the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. Green Bay was also up 21-3 in that one before the Colts stormed back through the combo of Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne to steal the win. In this case, the quarterback was Rodgers and the receiver was Jordy Nelson, who had 209 yards (a career high) on nine catches.
Against a shaky Jets secondary and with the confidence the Bears will bring to New York, Chicago has a good opportunity to get a second-straight road win. If the Bears can grab four picks from Kaepernick, what might they do against Geno Smith? Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller had two interceptions against San Francisco and looks fairly polished for a rookie corner. The Bears may have hit it big with that pick and they have to hope so, as Fuller will take over for the departed Tillman. Chicago did struggle early on with the run so if the Jets can establish their ground game, it could slow things down and allow them to keep the Bears offense off the field.
A Bears win brings them back to Soldier Field for a showdown against the Packers in week four and riding high. A loss creates more questions than answers about which Bears team the Packers will see.
Green Bay Packers (1-1) at Detroit Lions (1-1)
The Lions continue to struggle on the road and saw the Panthers pull away in the fourth quarter enroute to an easy 24-7 win. The Lions offense stalled as they were only able to find the end zone once. Quarterback Matt Stafford had an interception to go along with his touchdown pass. Receiver Calvin Johnson was the Lions’ leading receiver with six grabs for 83 yards. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made his season debut and had 19 yards on four rushing attempts to go along with his touchdown pass to take the lead for good late in the third quarter. The Lions did sack Newton four times and Stafford was also sacked four times.
The Packers rallied to win from the largest deficit in Aaron Rodgers’ career and helped steady the ship a bit. After getting more adjusted to the hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense, Green Bay settled in and was able to make a few stops to secure the win. Wins like that can resonate with a team and remind them that they’re never out of a game until it’s over. This year’s team may need to get used to playing from behind if they continue to struggle the way they have in pockets over these first two games.
Green Bay is 4-2 against the Lions in Detroit since Rodgers became the starter and both of those losses were in games that he either didn’t play at all or left early. In 2010, Rodgers was knocked out with a concussion and last season, missed the Thanksgiving Day game with the broken collarbone. Rodgers and the Packers offense has seemed to fare well indoors so this could be a welcome environment for them.
Both the Packers and Lions have passing defenses in the NFL’s top 10. Green Bay is ranked 6th and is giving up 178 passing yards/game while the Lions are giving up 198 yards/game through the air. The Lions, however, are the second-ranked defense against the run, surrendering just 57 yards/game on the ground. This marks the second-straight week the Packers will see a stout run defense. Running back Eddie Lacy wasn’t able to establish any type of rhythm or production against the Jets behind an offensive line that had two backup’s in the lineup. Corey Linsley will start at center against Detroit while the team awaits the next update on tackle Bryan Bulaga and his sprained MCL. If Bulaga is healthy enough to play, it would be a big boost to the line in both the running and passing phases.
The Packers rank 31st in run defense and are giving up just shy of 200 yards per game. Six different Jets ball carriers racked up 146 yards against the Packers, who gave up 200 yards in week one to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. It’s just two weeks in, but the Packers don’t seem to have an answer for the opposition’s rushing attack. Detroit’s Reggie Bush and Joique Bell will be the tandem the Packers will need to prepare for. Neither are the type of back that should be doing major damage to a defense, but a porous front seven and poor tackling can help pad their stats in a hurry.
The Packers have had up and down defensive performances against receiver Calvin Johnson and now will have to account for newly acquired Golden Tate as well. Tight ends Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron will also test the middle of Green Bay’s defense. Expect to see another healthy dose of nickel coverage and will we see Julius Peppers going stride for stride with either of the tight ends? They’ll need a bigger body to cover the Lions bigger targets. Fauria has been run blocking well and that could spell more issues for Green Bay’s defensive front.
This one is a toss up right now so you’ll have to wait until our staff predictions later this week for my winner and score.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: