NFL Network analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Shaun O'Hara selects offensive line units to watch heading into the week, breaking down what's on the line for each group, potential matchups and other significant factors. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all 32 teams and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week.
San Francisco 49ers
Coming off a Week 1 win over NFC West-rival Rams, the 49ers now have a chance to start 2-0, a feat they haven't accomplished since 2012. But to do that, San Francisco has to travel east to play a game with the dreaded (for West Coast teams) 1 p.m. kickoff time. The 49ers are 9-8 when playing the 1 p.m. game on the East Coast since 2010.
Looking back, the 49ers rushed for 150 yards (three touchdowns) and allowed zero sacks against the Rams on Monday night. A good performance, but the 49ers' O-line will have a great challenge as the Panthers boast one of the top defensive fronts in the NFL, which includes defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. The Niners must find a way to control the line of scrimmage and handle a top-tier linebacking corps -- Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson -- at the second level. Pass protection is always challenging against Carolina because of defensive coordinator Sean McDermott's pressure packages, which include add-on blitzers (or Green Dog) and constant A-gap mugging linebackers.
Both the Steelers and Bengals are coming off victories; however, the Bengals' offensive line had to wince and grimace while watching game film against the Jets, as quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked seven times. (Last season, the Bengals didn't give up their seventh sack until Week 8.) In addition, running back Jeremy Hill was held to 31 yards on nine carries (including a 12-yard TD run). The Steelers' D was not able to sack Kirk Cousins on Monday night, despite his 43 pass attempts, so this matchup might be just what Dr. Feelgood ordered for the Bengals' O-line. One of these teams will be off to a great start after Sunday's matchup, but for the Bengals to emerge as the frontrunner in the AFC North race, they must play better up front -- specifically, center Russell Bodine and guards Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling. I'm looking for this group to have a bounce-back game against Steelers defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs' slow start in Week 1 turned into a late rally that saw them score 17 points in the fourth quarter against the Chargers. While they went on to win in overtime, the Chiefs gave up three sacks and two came on inside twists. Center Mitch Morse and guards Parker Ehinger and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif need to improve cohesion and stay on the same level when passing twists. In addition, tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, who signed a lucrative extension this offseason, will have the unenviable task of shutting down superhero J.J. Watt, who is joined by disruptive sidekicks Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. Last week, the Texans recorded five sacks.
The Seahawks squeaked out a win vs. Miami, but it came at a price. Russell Wilson was hurried, sacked three times and suffered an injury (which greatly affected his elusive playing style) when Ndamukong Suh inadvertently stepped on Wilson's foot. With a gimpy Wilson and struggling run game -- which averaged 3.5 yards per carry last week -- the Seahawks' offensive line has its hands full this week with tough matchups. While the right side of the O-line struggled against Miami, left guard Mark Glowinski and center Justin Britt will be challenged by game-wrecker Aaron Donald, who had 11 sacks in 2015. Seattle's O-line surely would welcome an early exit from Donald this week.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers sweated out a victory in Jacksonville, but the offense was one of six teams to gain fewer than 300 yards in Week 1. Facing the reigning NFC North champions on "Sunday Night Football" will be another test. Last week, the Vikings' defense held DeMarco Murray and Co. to 2.9 yards per carry, had two sacks and forced three turnovers, two of which resulted in touchdowns. Green Bay's Lane Taylor will make his second start at left guard in place of Josh Sitton, and he will have a challenging matchup against Linval Joseph, arguably one of the toughest tackles in the league.
The Vikings undoubtedly will bring their A-game for the opening of their new home, U.S. Bank Stadium. It's going to be extremely loud and a tough atmosphere to play in for the Packers. I played in the old Metrodome, and when we watched film in preparation for the game, the camera shook when it was a third-down play. That's how loud it got in there. I'd expect the same commotion from the fans this weekend.
The others to keep an eye on:
» Pittsburgh Steelers(vs. Cincinnati, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday): Last week, DeAngelo Williams ran the ball at will (143 yards on 26 carries), and the Steelers will have a great chance to slow down the Bengals' offense by the running the ball again this week. This division is always very chippy, and when these two teams met last -- in the AFC Wild Card Round in January -- there were a combined 18 penalties for 221 yards.
» Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos(at Denver, 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday): The Colts have a tall task against a dominant pass rush, which includes Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. The Colts must keep Andrew Luck upright to have a chance at winning this game. On the flip side, nobody thought Denver's O-line was going to fare well against the Panthers in Week 1, but the Broncos ran the ball effectively and racked up 148 yards on the ground.