(Andy Dalton photo courtesy of Cincinnati Bengals)
(Ben Roethlisberger photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Steelers)
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
CINCINNATI @ PITTSBURGH, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Steelers by 3-1/2
The weather: Thunderstorms, high of 78.
The story: The last time these two met the Bengals snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, moving to 0-7 in the playoffs under Marvin Lewis. This is supposed to be payback time, but get real. It’s September. We measure teams in January, and January is when the Bengals turn into pumpkins. “Professional hatred” is how DeAngelo Williams describes the relationship between these two clubs, saying “it’s our will vs. their will.” Well, then, advantage, Pittsburgh. Reason? A) Nobody can cover Antonio Brown; B) the Bengals can’t pass protect Andy Dalton and C) I don’t trust the Bengals’ will, even though Vontaze Burfict is absent. Officials say they’re going to call this one closely, and they should.
Hall of Fame worthy: Since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the Steelers are 13-2 in home openers. Only Denver (15-1) has a better record during that time.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
(Alex Smith photo courtesy of Kansas City Chiefs)
KANSAS CITY @ HOUSTON, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Texans by 2
The weather: AM thunderstorms, high of 94 (retractable roof)
The story: Another playoff replay, this time with the Texans operating with Brock Osweiler and without Brian Hoyer – he of four interceptions vs. the Chiefs. K.C. got lucky last weekend and escaped a 21-point second-half deficit. But that won’t happen again, and here’s why: A) Bill O’Brien is no Mike McCoy, and B) the Texans D won’t take its foot off the gas. No, I don’t trust Osweiler, either, but the Chiefs are minus more than just a healthy Jamaal Charles. There’s no Justin Houston, and Tamba Hali is handicapped by a sore knee. This is a good team saddled with bad injuries.
Hall of Fame worthy: Andy Reid is 5-0 in his career vs. Houston.
TAMPA BAY @ ARIZONA, 4:05 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cardinals by 7
The weather: Sunny, high of 106 (retractable roof)
The story: So Tampa Bay is this year’s long-shot-waiting to happen, right? This is where we find out. We know Arizona is good. And we know Arizona is good at home, where it won 20 of its last 26 starts (including the playoffs) but lost last weekend. The Cards are supposed to be playoff worthy. Well, then show it. They couldn’t beat a backup quarterback in Week One. Now they must solve the league’s third-highest rated passer.
Hall of Fame worthy: Carson Palmer and Jameis Winston are among four active players (Sam Bradford and Cam Newton are the others) who won Heisman Trophies and were chosen No. 1 in the draft.
GREEN BAY @ MINNESOTA, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Packers by 2-1/2
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 80 (dome)
The story: This is more than a game. It’s an event, with Minnesota unveiling its U.S. Bank Stadium for a nationwide TV audience AND Sam Bradford making his first start for the home team. The Vikings won the NFC North a year ago, but that was then and this is now … and now Green Bay has Jordy Nelson, which makes life a lot easier on Aaron Rodgers. OK, so the Vikings counter with Adrian Peterson, but he had 31 yards rushing vs. Tennessee. Their defense won that game, but does anyone really think they keep Rodgers from finding open targets downfield? Maybe. But this isn’t Marcus Mariota. This is a guy who has two or more TDs in 12 of his last 13 starts against the Vikes.
Hall of Fame worthy: The Packers scored 30 or more points in seven of the past 11 regular-season games between these two and 20 or more in 18 of the past 20.
MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
PHILADELPHIA @ CHICAGO, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Bears by 3
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 83
The story: The Bears are weak, and the Eagles … we don’t know. They beat Cleveland in Week One, but that’s the equivalent of the U.S. vs. Grenada. This isn’t quite as bad, though the Bears rush the passer with the speed of the DMV … which means they don’t. Their hope: Find someone, anyone, to pressure Carson Wentz into mistakes. Otherwise, its Houston all over again.
Hall of Fame worthy: Wentz had the highest rating of any Eagles’ rookie quarterback in his debut since John Reaves in 1972.
OUR BEST BETS
Ron Borges: Arizona (– 7). After what happened vs. New England, and the reaming Bruce Arians gave his players, the Cards would be odds-on vs. the Fifth Infantry.
Clark Judge: San Diego (–3). Mike McCoy can’t beat many people, but he’s never lost to Jacksonville (he’s 3-0). And he won’t here.
Rick Gosselin: Jacksonville (+3). Philip Rivers may be the better quarterback on the field but without Keenan Allen the Jaguars have the better passing attack.
THE WATCH LIST
(Carson Palmer photo courtesy of Arizona Cards)
If Seattle wins Sunday it sets a franchise record for the most consecutive regular-season road wins (6).
With 245 yards passing, Carson Palmer passes Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana (40,551) for 16th place on the career yardage list. Palmer last week passed Johnny Unitas for the 17th spot.
Washington has not beaten Dallas at FedEx Field since the 2012 season finale.
With 36 yards passing, the Saints’ Drew Brees will pass Dan Marino (61.361) for third on the NFL career yardage list.
With nine more catches, the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. would become the fastest player to reach 200 career receptions (29 games). The current leader is Miami’s Jarvis Landry with 33.
THIS WEEKEND’S HALL OF FAMOUS
(Aaron Rodgers photo courtesy of Green Bay Packers)
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. In his last seven starts vs. Minnesota (including the playoffs), he has 15 touchdown passes and one interception.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco. He won 13 of his career 15 starts vs. Cleveland. His 19 TDs against the Browns are the most vs. any opponent.
Kansas City QB Alex Smith. He’s 4-0 lifetime vs. Houston and had a 110.6 passer rating in two wins over the Texans last year.
New England WR Julian Edelman. He has seven TDs in his last nine starts vs. Miami.
Jacksonville WR Allen Hurns. In his last seven road games he has seven TDs and four 100-yard games.
Cincinnati WR A.J. Green. He aims for his fourth straight game vs. Pittsburgh with a touchdown. In his past six against the Steelers he has 50 catches for 720 yards and four scores.
Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck. He’s 3-1 vs. Denver, with nine touchdown passes and two scoring runs.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
Including the playoffs, the Patriots won 26 of their last 28 at home and won their last seven there vs. Miami.
Home teams were 7-9 in Week One.
There were nine fourth-quarter comeback wins in Week One, the most in NFL history for the first week of the season. Eight teams that trailed at the end of the first quarter wound up winners.
Teams that win season openers are more than twice as likely as losers to reach the playoffs.
Since the beginning of 2015, Seattle’s Doug Baldwin has a league-best 15 receiving TDs.
Seattle has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 11 of 2014 (23 games).
Baltimore has allowed 14 points or fewer in 17 games under defensive coordinator Dean Pees. The Ravens are 17-0 in those games.
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald has more touchdowns (64) in the second and fourth quarters than any other active NFL player.
Only four rookie quarterbacks won their teams first two games of the season, with Mark Sanchez (2009) the most recent. Carson Wentz could become the fifth.
Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger is 19-7 vs. Cincinnati, and his 6,032 passing yards are the most vs. any opponent.
Of the past 28 regular-season meetings between Green Bay and Minnesota, 19 have been decided by seven or fewer points.
Aaron Rodgers has passer ratings of 100 or better in 10 of his last 14 games vs. Minnesota and won 10 of the last 12.
Since 2006, Green Bay is 19-11 when playing indoors.
The Seahawks are 0-2 vs. the Rams in Los Angeles.