Bears, Ravens among potential Week 2 road warriors

  • By Jason Feller
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It takes a lot to win on the road in the NFL, but there are four teams that possess the ingredients necessary to pull off the difficult feat in Week 2. These four are in a unique position to get a difficult road win based on trends, past history and surrounding circumstances entering this weekend's action.

The Bears, Steelers, Ravens and Patriots all appear to be in position to claim road victories. The Bears travel to Dallas to square off against the Cowboys, the Steelers are taking on the Titans, the Ravens face the rival Bengals and the Patriots will do battle vs. the hated Jets. Each matchup provides an opportunity for the visiting team to get a win.

Game: Chicago at Dallas (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Cowboys Stadium

Last time at site: Julius Jones rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cowboys past the Bears, 21-7, in Week 12 of the 2004 season.

Reason for road optimism: The Bears have not had great success at Dallas over the years. In fact, Chicago is just 3-7 on the road against the Cowboys. That said, all is not lost for Lovie Smith's squad this Sunday. They are coming off a thrilling Week 1 victory over the Lions, and should be able to ride that momentum into Dallas. Julius Peppers was a defensive force vs. Detroit, and should be able to exploit Dallas' offensive tackles, while Jay Cutler passed for 372 yards. Add in the fact Devin Hester is always a threat in the punt game, and Chicago has all the ingredients to stand toe-to-toe with Dallas.

Dallas typically performs very well in front of its fans, but you don't have to look back very far to find the last time it lost in its home-opener. The Cowboys lost a thriller to the Giants in the regular-season debut of their new stadium last year. Additionally, they are already under enormous pressure after a poor preseason and a dispiriting loss to the rival Redskins in Week 1. If the Cowboys struggle early, they might try too hard and continue to make the silly penalties and mental errors that doomed them last week, opening the door for the Bears.

Game: Pittsburgh at Tennessee (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: LP Field

Last time at site: The Titans forced four Ben Roethlisberger fumbles and picked him off twice en route to a 31-14 Week 16 victory in 2008.

Reason for road optimism: Pittsburgh's history in Tennessee has not been pretty. The Steelers are just 1-5 in six trips to the Volunteer State, including the playoffs. No need to fret, though, Steelers fans, there is still hope. In the teams' most recent meeting, Pittsburgh outlasted visiting Tennessee, 13-10 last season. That victory should give them confidence heading into this week's matchup, and by beating Atlanta last Sunday, backup QB Dennis Dixon showed his teammates he is capable of winning games.

While many of the historic trends favor the Titans, there are still some concerns. Despite Tennessee's success over the past few years, it is just 2-7 in Week 2 games. Even more alarming, the Titans are just 1-3 in Week 2 home games over that stretch. Also working against them is that they don't really match up well against the Steelers. Tennessee is primarily a running team, and Pittsburgh's biggest strength is its run defense. The onus could be on Vince Young to help the Titans avoid a setback after a rousing Week 1 victory over Oakland.

Game: Baltimore at Cincinnati (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Paul Brown Stadium

Last time at site: Cedric Benson rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown to help the Bengals knock off the Ravens, 17-7, in Week 9 of last season.

Reason for road optimism: The Ravens have been at their best in their second game over the past four seasons. Not only are they 4-0 in those contests, they have outscored their opponents 107-55. More importantly for this week's tilt, Baltimore is riding a huge wave of momentum after a big road victory in New York. That win gives the Ravens belief that they can go into a hostile environment and emerge victorious, and showed how well wide receiver additions Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh fit into the offense.

Cincinnati entered the season with Super Bowl expectations, but was humbled by another AFC contender in Week 1. Following that blowout loss to the Patriots, the Bengals are already in a somewhat precarious position. A loss to the Ravens on Sunday would drop them two games behind their division rival and set them back in the tiebreakers. Cincinnati has dropped its last two home-openers, and has not really been sharp since the middle of last season, going 1-5 in its last six regular and postseason games. Given those factors, the Bengals appear ripe for the picking.

Game: New England at N.Y. Jets (Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET)

Venue: New Meadowlands Stadium

Last time at site: Mark Sanchez took care of the ball and made plays when he had to as the Jets edged the Patriots, 16-9, in a defensive battle.

Reason for road optimism: The Patriots should come into this game with loads of confidence. First there is the history. Tom Brady, who recently said he hated the Jets, is 7-1 in September in his career, 7-1 against the Jets in his career and New England had won eight consecutive games at New York prior to last year's loss. Then there is the current situation. The Patriots had one of Week 1's most impressive victories, dismantling the Bengals in all three phases of the game, and star receiver Wes Welker showed he is recovered from offseason knee surgery. If it brings its A-game, New England should have a good chance at beating its rivals on the road.

The Jets made a series of high-profile offseason moves and placed even more spotlight on themselves by participating in the HBO Hard Knocks series. And that's not even to mention coach Rex Ryan, who put his team squarely in the crosshairs by proclaiming it would win the Super Bowl this year. The buzz was palpable going into last Monday night's game against the Ravens -- and then the ball was kicked off. The Jets' defense was as good as advertised, but Sanchez struggled mightily in a 10-9 loss. This tough matchup will put New York's resolve to the test, and it could be in trouble if it doesn't respond better than last week.



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