The Schein Nine  

 

Tony Romo, Patriots' D among those facing Week 2 pressure

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Even after an upset-filled, wild and unpredictable start to the 2014 NFL season, it's impossible to call any game a "must win" entering Week 2. But some contests and spots are simply bigger than others.

Yes, there's pressure, even in early September, some of it building off the way things developed on opening weekend.

So who's facing a "show me" spot in Week 2? Let's run through the list, Schein Nine style.

1) Tony Romo

Of course.

I am an unabashed Tony Romo defender. I think he's a top-10 NFL quarterback. Having said that, Romo's performance in the Dallas Cowboys' season-opening defeat to the San Francisco 49ers was dreadful. The three picks he threw were gruesome. Usually, there are others to blame for Dallas' mess, but Romo wears the goat horns for Week 1.

To be fair, Romo looked like what he is: a quarterback coming off back surgery who didn't get the requisite offseason and preseason reps. And the Cowboys do have plenty of other problems. Their defense will be dreadful all year and drag them down. The play-calling against the Niners, the lack of a commitment to the run, was counterproductive.

This Sunday, the 'Boys are in Tennessee. Yes, it's a road game, and yes, coach Ken Whisenhunt's Titans will be riding high coming off an upset special in Kansas City.

But this is a contest Romo has to play well in, no questions asked. 

2) Patriots' defense

We spent the offseason pumping up New England's defense, what with the addition of talent like Darrelle Revis and the return to health of key stars like Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. And then the unit was embarrassed in Week 1, yielding 360 net yards, including 191 on the ground, to the Miami Dolphins, whose offense will not be confused with that of Bill Walsh's 49ers. New England just couldn't tackle or cover. I loved the Revis signing, but he looked old and slow against Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace.

This week, the Patriots travel to Minnesota. While one would think Bill Belichick will know how to put the clamps on his old friend, Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, there's still the matter of stopping Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and Greg Jennings.

I still think New England will comfortably win the AFC East, but the Pats have to beat Minnesota -- and Revis and the D have to show us they have what it takes.

3) Washington's offense

To say this group was inept and punchless against the Texans in Week 1 would be kind.

Yes, Washington was on the road and facing a strong Houston defense. But quarterback Robert Griffin III looked poor. High-profile acquisition DeSean Jackson was a non-factor. There was no flow. And the team managed to score just six points.

I loved the offseason hire of Jay Gruden at coach. I thought he would maximize RGIII in what is a defining season for the quarterback following his knee injury in the 2012 playoffs and a drama-marred 2013 campaign. I still stand by it. Jackson, meanwhile, has to get started, right?

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Gus Bradley's Jacksonville Jaguars are well-coached and have a solid defense, but Washington should be able to post a few touchdowns against them on Sunday. And RGIII should look like an NFL quarterback. If he doesn't, it's going to get ugly.

4) Green Bay Packers

That was an underwhelming Week 1 performance by my projected Super Bowl XLIX champions. I still cannot believe Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy didn't challenge Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in last Thursday's blowout loss. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL!

Of course, playing the defending Super Bowl champions in Seattle is a daunting task. You have to believe that this week, with the Jets coming to Lambeau, the Packers will be much better. You have to believe Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will team up to pick apart the suspect cast of characters New York will be rolling out in the defensive backfield.

Ultimately, I still think the Packers are a Super Bowl team, and that Rodgers will have them up 14-0 early in the first quarter Sunday.

5) Bears' run defense

For all of the justifiable chatter about quarterback Jay Cutler being careless in Chicago's stunning overtime home loss to Buffalo -- he did throw two picks, after all -- I thought the big story was how the Bears' new-look defense was ripped apart by the Bills, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry in piling up 193 rushing yards. That's not good.

This Sunday night, the squad heads to San Francisco to face the Niners, who feature the ever-solid Frank Gore, strong young back Carlos Hyde and, of course, Colin Kaepernick, who is always a threat as a runner. Chicago must show some teeth on defense.

6) Buffalo Bills

Buffalo should be whipped into a frenzy when Miami visits Sunday, thanks to this week's news that the Bills will be staying in lovely Western New York under future owner Terry Pegula, who also owns the NHL's Buffalo Sabres. It's such a wonderful win for the amazing fan base. The team is so tied into the fabric and the community there.

The Bills have a great opportunity to improve to 2-0 and make a big statement that they should be taken seriously, and that Doug Marrone can coach. You know Pegula will be paying close attention. Suffering a loss at home to the rival Dolphins would not create the ideal first impression.

Buffalo should win this game.

7) Nick Foles

The Philadelphia Eagles' young quarterback turned it over early and often against the Jaguars in Week 1, recording one pick and giving up two fumbles before the offense settled down and got the win. This is especially noteworthy given that Foles committed just four turnovers total through 13 games in 2013.

I'm a big believer of Foles in Chip Kelly's offense, and I want to see him even out his play Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, the term "Colts' defense" could actually be considered an oxymoron, because they don't appear to have any. Still, Philly can't give Indy quarterback Andrew Luck extra opportunities.

8) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This year was supposed to be different, right? But then things kicked off with that debacle against the Panthers and their backup quarterback. I mean, a Greg Schiano-coached team could've lost to Derek Anderson!

I'm not jumping ship on the Bucs and new coach Lovie Smith at all. But if this group can't beat a St. Louis Rams squad led by Shaun Hill -- or someone named Austin Davis -- at quarterback in Tampa, there's a problem.

And the Bucs had better win this game on defense. St. Louis' defensive line is talented and, I'm sure, angry after last week's trouncing at the hands of the Vikings. And they match up well with Tampa Bay's offensive line.

9) Giants' defensive backfield

As we wrote and said many times leading up to the 2014 season, the Giants are one of the worst teams in the NFL because of their offense. The line is terrible. Eli Manning is careless with the ball. The team hasn't grasped new coordinator Ben McAdoo's scheme.

But perhaps because the offense is so alarmingly incompetent, Big Blue's defense doesn't get enough attention for being subpar. General manager Jerry Reese spent a lot of money this offseason to bring in cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. And DRC had a rough debut last Monday against Calvin Johnson -- who posted 164 receiving yards and two touchdowns -- and the Detroit Lions.

This weekend, the Giants host the Cardinals and quarterback Carson Palmer, who is known to play hot potato with the football and be susceptible to the turnover. But can New York create a pass rush? That's doubtful. Arizona receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown are going to be too hot to handle.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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