A surprising name sits at 0-1 heading into week two of the 2017 NFL season.
The New England Patriots, heavy favorites to reach, if not win, a third Super Bowl in four years, ran into a Kansas City–shaped wall in Foxborough last Thursday night and lost their opening game.
The Patriots are one of a clutch of notable story lines to watch in week two. Here are the best of them.
Will Tom Brady and the Patriots rebound?
Falling to 0-2 is surely unthinkable for the New England Patriots, who host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
And yet there are reasons to believe Tom Brady won’t be able to bounce back as springily as he has in the past.
ESPN notes wide receiver Danny Amendola is in concussion protocol following a hit on a punt return in last Thursday night’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots looked thin even before they lost Amendola, with Julian Edelman out for the season with a knee injury.
Of more concern, especially against the Saints in New Orleans, may be Bill Belichick’s defense. Torn apart for 42 points by Andy Reid’s methodical Chiefs, the Patriots could face Drew Brees without middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower missed practice on Wednesday with a sprained knee.
If the Patriots are seeking solace, then the Saints’ defense looked progressively worse against the Minnesota Vikings after a strong start. Plus, Sean Payton seemed to spend a lot of that game arguing with Adrian Peterson. Which is to say that even with identical records at this stage of the season, the Saints have more problems than the Patriots.
Who’s going to seize control of the AFC?
With the previously mentioned Patriots already a game back, a window has opened up for teams to steal a march in the AFC. The Chiefs host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, while the Pittsburgh Steelers entertain the Vikings and their dominant defense.
The surprising Jacksonville Jaguars, meanwhile, will look to their own defense and the power running of Leonard Fournette against the Tennessee Titans. The Oakland Raiders will surely move to 2-0 at home against the terrible New York Jets, while the Buffalo Bills travel to Carolina to face the Panthers. There could be some unexpected teams at 2-0 atop the AFC by the end of Sunday.
What’s happening with Ezekiel Elliott?
While Elliott’s temporary injunction against his suspension by the NFL remains in place, the star running back is free to play for the Dallas Cowboys.
The NFL is seeking a lifting of the injunction Elliott has been granted while his lawsuit against the suspension for allegedly violating the league’s domestic violence policy progresses through the courts. As reported by the Star-Telegram, on Wednesday the NFL asked Judge Amos Mazzant, the U.S. district judge who granted the injunction, to decide by Thursday whether the injunction should be lifted. If it is, Elliott will be suspended for the remainder of the season.
Either way, Elliott will play on Sunday when the Cowboys visit the Denver Broncos. Brilliant, controversial and crucial to the Cowboys, Elliott is one example of the NFL’s arm-wrestle with morality. His will be a story to follow all season long.
How will Jay Cutler perform on Dolphins debut?
Hurricane Irma prevented the Miami Dolphins from playing in week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game has been moved to November 19. Instead, Jay Cutler will make his Dolphins debut in Los Angeles against the Chargers.
Cutler enjoyed the best statistical season of his NFL career under Dolphins head coach Adam Gase while the two were together on the Chicago Bears, though he will only go as far as the Dolphins’ shaky offensive line can carry him. The Chargers, who lost a messy game 24-21 to the Broncos in week one, will look to test out Cutler’s toughness following a year out of the game with reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa.
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