Looking ahead to Week 2 in the NFL

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Looking ahead to Week 2 in the NFL

 Patrick Mahomes (15) of the Kansas City Chiefs attempts a pass during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Sept. 8  in Jacksonville, Florida.

Patrick Mahomes (15) of the Kansas City Chiefs attempts a pass during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Sept. 8 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/TNS

Patrick Mahomes (15) of the Kansas City Chiefs attempts a pass during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Sept. 8 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/TNS

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/TNS

Patrick Mahomes (15) of the Kansas City Chiefs attempts a pass during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Sept. 8 in Jacksonville, Florida.

By Nick Carlisano, Senior Staff Writer

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The first week of the National Football League regular season was quite a wild ride. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and the new-look Cleveland Browns got off to a rough start, while fellow second-year quarterback and division rival Lamar Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens to an absolute dismantling of the lowly Miami Dolphins. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray started slow, but an impressive fourth quarter allowed the Cardinals to tie the Lions. And the Monday night doubleheader saw a nail-biter, as the Saints edged out Deshaun Watson of the Texans on a last-second field goal in the Superdome.

There’s just as much excitement in store for Week 2 now that the world has gotten a taste of how this season may pan out. What follows are some matchups to look forward to, as well as players and stories to keep an eye on for this weekend’s slate of games.

Matchups to watch

Cardinals at Ravens, Sunday at 1 p.m.

This contest will be a battle as the young quarterbacks attempt to prove their doubters wrong. Lamar Jackson embarrassed the Dolphins last Sunday with five touchdowns while only running three times. His throws looked accurate, especially the deep ball, and his post-game comments prove he’s on a mission to silence the critics, specifically those that recommended he choose another position in the pros. Jackson connected with rookie wideout Marquise “Hollywood” Brown — Antonio Brown’s cousin — for four catches, 147 yards and two touchdowns. Their chemistry might be instrumental to Baltimore’s offensive success.

Kyler Murray had a rough preseason after joining a historically bad Arizona offense from a year ago, and the first three quarters against the Lions were much of the same. But Murray turned it on in the fourth, erasing a two-touchdown deficit and forcing overtime. Did Murray earn himself the “clutch” moniker after one game? Certainly not, but it was a much-needed start for a player that many have deemed too small to play football. A much tougher outing against the Ravens’ defense will be a better benchmark on which to judge Murray.

Saints at Rams, Sunday at 4:25 p.m.

This is the big one. A rematch of last year’s NFC championship game pits two of the best teams in the league against each other. Everyone remembers how last year’s game ended, and the Saints will be out for revenge this time around.

The Rams eked out a victory against the Panthers on Sunday. Christian McCaffrey torched their defense for over 200 yards and two scores with defensive MVP Aaron Donald held in check. It appears head coach Sean McVay intends to use Todd Gurley sparingly — Gurley’s 14 carries were only a few more than Malcolm Brown’s 11, and Brown received the bulk of the goal line work en route to two end zone visits. 

The Saints barely survived a barn-burner against the visiting Texans. Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and the offense looked as sharp as ever and should produce again against the Rams’ defense. While the Saints’ defense managed six sacks against Houston’s impressive offense, a Sean McVay-led team is a different story. Facing weapons at every single position, they’ll be in for another battle. This is a game even the most casual NFL viewer won’t want to miss.

Players to keep an eye on

QB Baker Mayfield and WR Odell Beckham Jr., Browns: There was talk of Super Bowl expectations for Cleveland this season, but that came crashing down after the Tennessee Titans shellacked them on Sunday. Baker looked crisp at times, but also threw three picks and absorbed five sacks behind a line that may be the weak link of the team. Beckham posted a respectable seven-catch, 70-yard game that was hindered due to game flow. The Mayfield-Beckham duo has a great shot to get going this week against the Jets, as Josh Allen and John Brown hooked up for seven catches, more than 100 yards and a score on New York in Week 1. Don’t give up on the Browns after one bad outing, as Monday night’s game gives them a great chance to right the ship.

QB Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs: He just keeps making it look easy. Mahomes had 300 yards and two scores on Sunday — at halftime. He added another score after the break. It appeared Mahomes injured his ankle but finished out the game just fine. The big question is, how will Mahomes fare with top weapon Tyreek Hill (clavicle) out for over a month? Considering last year’s MVP is still surrounded by tight end Travis Kelce, receiver Sammy Watkins and running backs Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy, odds are he’ll be fine.

WR Antonio Brown, Patriots: If you haven’t been following the Antonio Brown saga, here’s a quick rundown. From freezing his feet to the helmet debacle to reported social media self-sabotage, the former Steelers wideout got his wish as the Raiders released him last Saturday. A frenzy of Twitter jokes became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the reigning Super Bowl champ Patriots signed the much-maligned superstar.

Now Brown is being accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer, Britney Taylor, before even playing a snap for his new team. Taylor is set to meet with the NFL next week, and there are reports Brown may be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. Only time will tell where things go from here as the roller-coaster ride that started at the end of last season continues.

QB Nick Foles, Jaguars: The former Super Bowl MVP delivered a perfect touchdown pass against the Chiefs on Sunday, but took a hit that broke his clavicle on the same play. The Jags have now placed Foles on injured reserve, and he’ll be out for at least two months. It may be too late for Jacksonville by then. After an appearance in the AFC Championship just two seasons ago, it appears the team might have to wait until next year to get back on track — though backup Gardner Minshew was quite respectable as a replacement.

RB Melvin Gordon, Chargers: The Dallas Cowboys made Ezekiel Elliott the highest-paid back in the game last week. Gordon has had no such luck with his holdout. Talks have been suspended until after the season and it’s apparent that Gordon will miss multiple games or even the entire season. The Chargers backfield plowed on without him — Austin Ekeler stole the show with nearly 100 yards receiving and the game-winning touchdown run in overtime.

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