The Packers probably don’t need any extra incentive when facing the Seahawks, particularly with the memory of their fourth-quarter NFC championship collapse in Seattle still fresh and painful.
Yet, when they figure out that a win at Lambeau Field gives them a two-game lead over the two-time defending conference champions, they could be even more stoked. Even if they aren’t saying so.
“It’s early in the season, we’re both trying to figure it out,” league MVP Aaron Rodgers says. “They had a tough division one on the road, we had a tough one on the road, and now we’re playing Sunday night.
“We played them last year in the first game and the last game. It was definitely two different teams at that point, both of us. Teams change, they find their identity throughout the season, and there’s definitely motivating factors for each team as they start the year and look at their goals. The team kind of takes on their identity as the season progresses.”
Seattle’s ID has been as a defensive force. But the Seahawks rank an unflattering 20th after the loss to the Rams, and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman has been seeing time as a slot defender.
Like Rodgers, he downplays the significance of the weekend’s showcase game.
“I think it’s always too early to think about playoff ramifications, because you have to play the game, you have to deal with that, and so many things change,” Sherman says. “There are teams who start off undefeated and end up not in the playoffs. There are teams that start off .500 and end up with the No. 1 seed. … You can’t put too much into the early season.”
Green Bay comes off a solid enough win at longtime rival Chicago in its opener, while Seattle was stumbling at St. Louis. That makes the math easy heading into Week 2. No matter what each side says.
The weekend began with an AFC West showdown as visiting Denver scored two touchdowns in the final 36 seconds to stun Kansas City 31-24.
Denver cornerback Bradley Roby returned Jamaal Charles’ second fumble 21 yards for a touchdown with 27 seconds remaining for the winning score.
Peyton Manning threw a touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 36 seconds left as the Broncos (2-0) appeared headed for overtime. But on the next play by the Chiefs (1-1), Charles was stripped by Brandon Marshall and the ball bounced right into Roby’s hands.
New England (1-0) at Buffalo (1-0)
This was always a juicy confrontation when Rex Ryan was coaching the Jets. Nothing has changed with him moving to Western New York.
“If they beat us, they beat us, but we don’t concede anything,” says Ryan, whose new club was among the NFL’s best on opening weekend. “We’re not beat just because they get off the bus, like some teams.”
Still, getting off that bus will be Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the most dangerous pass-catch tandem in the league right now.
Dallas (1-0) at Philadelphia (0-1)
Yet another intriguing early season matchup, and a critical one for the Eagles after they blew their opener at Atlanta.
Look for RB Demarco Murray, the 2014 Offensive Player of the Year with Dallas who rode free agency in Philly, to carry a lot more than eight times for 9 yards.
“I think DeMarco’s a very grounded individual,” coach Chip Kelly says. “He’s pretty consistent in his approach every day that he’s here. We’ll monitor him just like we monitor all our players this week, but I haven’t seen any change in him because it’s Dallas week and he played for Dallas.”
With Murray gone, the Cowboys’ best offensive player is WR Dez Bryant. But he’s out with a broken right foot.
San Diego (1-0) at Cincinnati (1-0)
The Chargers won a first-round playoff game in their last visit and arrive having gained the most yards on offense (483) in opening week while beating Detroit. Philip Rivers completed his final 20 passes against the Lions to set a club record, four short of the league mark by Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb in 2004.
The Bengals dominated Oakland in every facet and unveiled a new weapon in tight end Tyler Eifert (9 catches, 104 yards, 2 TDs).
Arizona (1-0) at Chicago (0-1)
The Cardinals might have found a running game — they gained 120 yards against the Saints after posting the league’s worst rushing average in 2014. But RB Andre Ellington was carted off with a sprained right knee and they might have to turn to recent addition Chris Johnson.
Chicago showed some grit and potency against Green Bay, most notably versatile RB Matt Forte (141 yards rushing, one TD).
San Francisco (1-0) at Pittsburgh (0-1)
A homecoming of sorts for 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, a Pittsburgh native whose grandfather owned a restaurant near the old Forbes Field. In a romp past Minnesota, RB Carlos Hyde’s 168 yards were the most by a San Francisco back in his first start since 1970.
Pittsburgh lost by seven points at New England, yet was outplayed in nearly every facet. RB Le’Veon Bell finishes his two-game suspension, but veteran DeAngelo Williams ran for 127 yards against the Patriots.
Tennessee (1-0) at Cleveland (0-1)
Yet another Heisman Trophy quarterback confrontation as Johnny Manziel (2012) starts for concussed Josh McCown. Last week, Tennessee rookie Marcus Mariota (2014) overwhelmed Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston (2013), throwing for four TDs in the first half.
Cleveland had five giveaways in its opening defeat to the Jets.
Tampa Bay (0-1) at New Orleans (0-1)
Both teams come off rough opening defeats, and top overall draft pick Winston needs to be sharper. He does have a strong array of targets in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and emerging TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had a career-high 110 yards receiving and two TDs last week.
New Orleans, which has won seven straight against Tampa Bay, rushed for only 54 yards at Arizona. Several Saints rookies looked like defensive playmakers, though, particularly CB Damian Swann.
Houston (0-1) at Carolina (1-0)
After one week, Texans coach Bill O’Brien is switching quarterbacks, from Brian Hoyer to Ryan Mallett. But Houston might need to win with defense, and it has the league’s best player in end J.J. Watt. The unanimous Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 had six tackles for a loss and two sacks against the Chiefs.
The Panthers’ star defender, LB Luke Kuechly, suffered a concussion vs. the Jaguars. If Kuechly doesn’t play, A.J. Klein starts in the middle and rookie Shaq Thompson starts on the strong side.
St. Louis (1-0) at Washington (0-1)
After their upset of Seattle, the Rams look like real comers, especially with a devastating pass rush (six sacks) and some speed on offense and special teams. But they were sloppy with the ball, losing three fumbles to Seattle.
The soap opera in DC won’t calm down as long as the Redskins play so inconsistently. Now they are without a key to the offense in WR DeSean Jackson (partial hamstring tear), who somewhat blames his injury on a lack of playing time in the preseason.
New York Jets (1-0) at Indianapolis (0-1), Monday night
After struggling mightily against Buffalo’s assertive defense, the Colts get another one, albeit at home, in the Jets. Unless Indy finds some balance with a running game to aid Andrew Luck’s passing — it got 64 yards against the Bills — New York could be a difficult obstacle.
The opportunistic Jets recovered four Cleveland fumbles, added an interception and won Todd Bowles’ debut as head coach in the Meadowlands.
Detroit (0-1) at Minnesota (0-1)
Adrian Peterson had all of 10 carries for 31 yards in his return from missing 15 games while on the commissioner’s exempt list over child abuse charges last season. He might get that many rushes in the first quarter against a Lions defense that clearly missed departed tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in a loss at San Diego.
Also vastly underused last week: Lions star wideout Calvin Johnson, who had a career-low two receptions for 39 yards.
Atlanta (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)
Two teams whose games came down to the wire last week with different results.
Atlanta’s Julio Jones victimized Philadelphia for 141 yards on nine catches and a touchdown. Matt Bryant made all four field goal attempts, including a decisive kick.
Everyone except owner John Mara has taken responsibility for the Giants’ mismanagement of the clock in their loss at Dallas. The Falcons could be the right tonic: New York has won four of the last five meetings.
Baltimore (0-1) at Oakland (0-1)
The Ravens headed further west after their loss in Denver and next face an opponent they have routed in the last four meetings, outscoring Oakland 133-49. Baltimore’s defense allowed no TDs in the opening loss.
Oakland allowed lots of touchdowns — two rushing and two passing in a 33-13 wipeout. QB Derek Carr missed much of that loss with a hand problem, but was back practicing this week.
Miami (1-0) at Jacksonville (0-1)
The battle for the Sunshine State? It won’t be much of a skirmish if the Jaguars can’t protect Blake Bortles, who was sacked five times by Carolina, or protect the ball (three turnovers, including a pick-six).
Miami didn’t show a lot on offense, either, at Washington. But Jarvis Landry broke a punt return 69 yards to make the difference.
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