The season is still early, but there are two teams facing their second divisional opponent following a loss in Week 1. Arizona and Cleveland can't afford to go 0-2 in the division this week, yet that is the reality they face. The other intriguing issue this week, from my perspective, is how the good teams that lost their opening games fare this weekend after being downright angry all week.
Chicago, New Orleans, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Philadelphia all will be very tough to beat after they dropped the ball last week. There isn't a player or coach with these franchises who can even imagine being 0-2. Last year, Denver, Dallas and the Giants were good teams that lost their openers -- all three came right back with a win the second week.
Here are 10 things that appear to define the second week of the NFL season:
1. The LJ factor ...
Larry Johnson was brought back slowly after his holdout, and that meant 17 touches in the first week. It also meant three points scored and a loss. This weekend, look for Herm Edwards to doubles LJ's opportunities and get him back to his customary 30-35 touches, which will put him on track for another 400-carry season. If he reaches 400, he'll better his previous two-year total of 752.
2. Will Josh McCown be ready to go?
It sounds like McCown is feeling better but might be relegated to the No. 2 spot while Daunte Culpepper takes the reps in practice. The presence of a healthy Culpepper has already paid big dividends this week as leverage to finally get JaMarcus Russell signed. It looks like one of the smart business decisions of the offseason to get Culpepper under contract.
3. Time for Detroit to play the game like the Colts and Bengals.
If Detroit learned anything from the Raiders' comeback last week, it was that they will struggle to hold a lead if teams feel they can still run the ball. It is time for the Lions to go no-huddle, keep throwing the ball and try to score as many points as they can with that high-powered passing attack. They shouldn't wait until they are in trouble or in a close game. Play to your strength -- that means Roy Williams, Mike Furrey and Calvin Johnson. Minnesota this week provides a great opportunity to consider a 40-pass day. The Vikings stop the run and they can run the ball. Spread them out like the Bengals do and go to the air early and often.
4. Brett Favre needs to fix his attempts-to-TD ratio …
… and this is the week to do it. Last year, Favre connected on a touchdown pass once every 34 attempts, which isn't very good when you consider that Ben Roethlisberger threw a TD pass once every 6 attempts last week. Peyton Manning tossed a touchdown pass every 18 passes last season. Favre threw 42 passes last week and no scores.
5. Look for the Bills to play with great emotion this weekend.
During my time with the Jets, I remember when Dennis Byrd was tragically injured in 1992. We had injuries in many places that season, and the game after Byrd's injury was on the road against the mighty Buffalo Bills. Not one player or coach took the field up in Orchard Park that day thinking about anything but winning and delivering the game ball to Dennis. Emotion is a big factor in football, and the Bills will have it against the mighty Steelers.
6. The Jacksonville defense had its worst day in franchise history last week.
The Jaguars might have overplayed the multi-dimensional Vince Young and wound up unsound against the run. An astounding 282 rushing yards later, the Titans had a win. Look for Jack Del Rio to have that defense back on track, especially against a more traditional quarterback like Joey Harrington. I would be surprised if the massive tackle tandem of Marcus Stroud and John Henderson doesn't have a big day stopping the run and collapsing the pocket.
7. Can Matt Leinart change the balance of power?
Seattle has dominated the NFC West for years, winning 10 of its last 13 division games. But last year, the Cardinals had the best division record at 4-2. Leinart is 3-1 against division teams as a starter, and after the tough loss in San Francisco, Arizona can't afford another one. Look for the Cardinals to trim down their offense and get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin more often. I would not be shocked if the two receivers don't haul in 15 receptions between them this week.
8. How will New England react on the field?
Well, the "spy-gate" case is over and the penalties have been handed out, but don't believe for a second that the distractions have kept Patriot players from preparing for Sunday night's game against San Diego. NFL players have a great ability to focus on what is important to them, and the Chargers coming to town is all that matters.
Because Randy Moss didn't play a snap in preseason, no one was sure what he would do in Week 1. All he did was lead the NFL in receiving yardage, which means coverages change now. The Chargers are going to have to consider more rolled coverage to Moss, like teams did against him back in his Viking days. The only problem is that Tom Brady will then go elsewhere with the ball. Moss the decoy will open up the opportunities for Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Ben Watson. It could easily be a 3-4 reception day for Moss and a big day for a guy like Watson. Brady knows the Chargers can't cover all of them.
9. Peyton Manning is a perfectionist.
He works hard on his game and targets areas that need improvement. Last year the world champion Colts went 0-3 on the road against division opponents. This weekend is their first road division game (at Tennessee). In those three road losses last season, he threw three interceptions, was sacked twice and only generated 58 points (19.3 per game). I'm expecting a big day from Manning and his offense, just because he attacks problems -- and the road division games were the Colts' biggest problem last year.
10. NFL players are very aware of their counterparts around the league.
Don't think for a second that Bruce Smith wouldn't look to see how many sacks Reggie White had every week. This week, 2006 top overall draft pick Mario Williams and the Texans visit Carolina. Williams had two sacks and a touchdown in Week 1 and has been the talk of the NFL. There's no chance that Julius Peppers -- who didn't record a sack last week -- isn't going to be ready for a big day in his home opener. Peppers, who had 13 sacks last year and 53.5 in his first five seasons, is going to make sure the young rising star takes notice.