Green Bay Packers (2-0)
Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur flexed their potential together for the first time early on in Week 2, hanging three touchdowns on the Minnesota Vikings in the first 15-plus minutes before hanging on for a 21-16 victory in their home opener.
While the offense barely resembled the one that managed only 213 yards against the Bears in Week 1, Mike Pettine’s ‘D’ carried over its ferocious start with four takeaways and mostly solid play vs. a dangerous Vikings attack.
Pettine’s ‘D’ has had early standouts at all three levels, but it’s the play of the secondary, where first-round S Darnell Savage forced a fumble and CB Kevin King played Adrian Amos’ Week 1 part with a late interception in Green Bay’s end zone, that was most notable Sunday.
Offensively, tailback Aaron Jones had a career afternoon with personal bests in touches (27) and yards from scrimmage (150), including the Packers’ decisive touchdown. The way the explosive Jones is being deployed creatively and consistently, and Rodgers' increasing comfort are positive early signs in the LafLeur offense.
Matchup to watch: When the Packers welcome Vic Fangio’s 0-2 Denver Broncos, much of the focus will be on Von Miller and Bradley Chubb vs. Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari — and with good reason after Denver’s bookend pass rush was neutralized by the Bears. But Davante Adams, who had seven catches for 106 yards in a tough matchup with Xavier Rhodes, battling Chris Harris, who shadowed Allen Robinson effectively a week ago, will also be appointment viewing.
Detroit Lions (1-0-1)
Their depth certainly showed up in the impressive 13-10 upset of the Los Angeles Chargers, from Tyrell Crosby acquitting himself vs. two electric rushers in place of an injured Taylor Decker in his starting blind-side debut, to rookie LB Jahlani Tavai stepping in seamlessly for another injured first-rounder, Jarrad Davis, with nine tackles and a forced fumble.
But Detroit notched its first home victory since last November because their stars shone brightest in crunch time. Matthew Stafford threaded the needle to Kenny Golladay for the game-winning 31-yard touchdown — one play after a crucial fourth-and-short conversion to Marvin Jones extended a razor-sharp series — to ultimately mitigate two earlier interceptions. Pro Bowl CB Darius Slay then sealed a sloppy win and an uneven individual performance with a diving end-zone pick of Philip Rivers, the Chargers’ final gift on a day they were particularly generous in missing two field goals and committing two of their own turnovers.
And after squandering an 18-point fourth quarter lead in the desert one week earlier, Matt Patricia’s club overcame its own errors — most of them self-inflicted — and showed the mental fortitude that was too often missing in his maiden Motown voyage.
Matchup to watch: The Lions ride high into Philadelphia, where the 1-1 Eagles are licking their wounds following a taxing Sunday-night loss in Atlanta. But Detroit’s high-priced pass rush must do more, beginning with $90 million man Trey Flowers, who’ll likely battle Eagles stud RT Lane Johnson after combining for only one QB hurry in his first two games. Carson Wentz took a beating Sunday night, and Flowers was paid to administer them.
Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
There’s much consternation over Mitch Trubisky locally, but imagine paying him $84 million to be third fiddle and and fail to maximize a Super Bowl-caliber defense. Vikings fans don’t have to imagine — the floundering Cousins’ $29 million cap hit this season is equal to Trubisky’s four-year, fully guaranteed contract.
Cousins’ 15.8 QBR is currently 31st in the NFL, trailing only the tanking Dolphins’ Ryan Fitzpatrick. After falling into a 21-point hole early Sunday, Minnesota couldn’t entirely hide its quarterback, like it did in Week 1, when Cousins was victorious despite attempting only 10 passes. He was inaccurate vs. the Packers and committed two inexcusable giveaways in the fourth quarter with his offense looking to take a lead. Not as advertised.
Dalvin Cook looks as dynamic as any back in the game right now, augmented by two killers in the WR corps, albeit both struggling Sunday with penalties. And after its brutal first quarter against the Packers, the Vikings’ defense returned closer to its dynamite Week 1 form. Heck, even the rebuilt O-line seems to be doing its part.
That thrusts under an intensifying spotlight Cousins, the quarterback being paid to mask his teammates’ deficiencies, whose own struggles are currently the team’s biggest issue. And the margin for error is even smaller right now than in Chicago, where the kicking vibes are currently very positive, unlike the ones emanating from Dan Bailey, who left four points on the field Sunday.
Matchup to watch: The 1-1 Oakland Raiders arrive in Minnesota after getting overwhelmed at home by Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs, and we’ll be focusing on the blue-chip matchup on the right edge between Vikings DE Danielle Hunter and RT Trent Brown, two of the NFL’s more imposing physical specimens.