NFL RedZone: A championship revenge game, Mahomes' big test and everything else to look out for in week two

Alex Finnis
The Telegraph
Tom Brady throws a pass in New England's 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in last season's AFC Championship game - USA TODAY Sports
Tom Brady throws a pass in New England's 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in last season's AFC Championship game - USA TODAY Sports

When someone asks you what the best television show of all time is, how do you respond? The Sopranos? Breaking Bad? The Simpsons? All great shows. All the wrong answer.

No, the best television programme of all time is NFL RedZone. Seven hours of action, showing all the biggest plays as they happen, uninterrupted by adverts, accompanied by bagfuls of snacks and a cold drink if you're really well prepared - what better way is there to close out your weekend?

Week two is now upon us - the week which immediately dispels most of the snap judgements we make in week one. The Cincinnati Bengals already upset the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football, and on Sunday we'll find out whether the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Buccaneers truly are the real deal, Sam Darnold can hack the pressure of a big divisional matchup and the Jaguars can exact some revenge on the New England Patriots.

Here's everything you need to look out for during your Sunday night NFL marathon...

Five games to dial in on

An early battle for supremacy in the NFC North

<span>Will Aaron Rodgers be fit to take on the rival Vikings on Sunday after his heroics against the Bears?</span> <span>Credit: (AP Photo/Mike Roemer) </span>
Will Aaron Rodgers be fit to take on the rival Vikings on Sunday after his heroics against the Bears? Credit: (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

There's not really such thing as a must-win game in week two, but this is about as close as it gets. The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings are two very different teams with one identical ambition - hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February.

The Vikings looked assured, complete and like a team ready-made for a deep playoff run in their dismissal of Jimmy G's 49ers, while the Packers needed a miraculous Aaron Rodgers comeback - on one leg this time, because he's done it healthy so many times it's become cliché - to overcome the Chicago Bears.

This matchup will hinge on whether Rodgers is fit enough to play, because DeShone Kizer certainly isn't getting the job done against Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith and company.

Patrick Mahomes' chance to be crowned king of Kansas City

<span>Patrick Mahomes has got his NFL career off to the perfect start&nbsp;</span> <span>Credit: (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) </span>
Patrick Mahomes has got his NFL career off to the perfect start  Credit: (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have traditionally had Kansas City's number. The black and gold have won each of the last three meetings, and 23 of 34 in total, but all the signs in week one suggest they might be there for the taking.

While Pittsburgh were failing to put away the 1-31 Cleveland Browns, the Chiefs' offense was going ham in Los Angeles. Tyreek Hill might have been the best player in football last weekend - he looks like he's being controlled with a joystick at times - while second-year QB Patrick Mahomes could not have enjoyed a better beginning to his career as an NFL starter.

Mahomes is already being hailed as the man to guide this proud old football city back to the promised land, but beating the Steelers on their home turf could make him a king.

A banged up grudge match in Atlanta

<span>The Carolina Panthers lost tight end Greg Olsen to injury against Dallas</span> <span>Credit: (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today) </span>
The Carolina Panthers lost tight end Greg Olsen to injury against Dallas Credit: (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today)

The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers are two of the most injured teams in the league. The Falcons have lost two key parts of their defense in safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deon Jones, while Panthers star tight end Greg Olsen has refractured his foot and right tackle Daryl Williams now requires surgery to fix the right knee injury Carolina rushed him back from in time for week one.

This bitter divisional clash may come down to which team can best exploit the other's weakened spots. If Cam Newton can use his new weapons to pick apart the Falcons secondary he has a great chance of heading back to Charlotte 2-0, but if his ramshackle offensive line can't protect him we might be looking at the whole NFC South sat poised at 1-1 come Monday.

The AFC Championship revenge game

<span>All eyes will be on Jalen Ramsey and Rob Gronkowski as they go head to head on Sunday night</span> <span>Credit: (AP Photo/File) </span>
All eyes will be on Jalen Ramsey and Rob Gronkowski as they go head to head on Sunday night Credit: (AP Photo/File)

The Jacksonville Jaguars were mere minutes from the Super Bowl last season - and can feel a little aggrieved they didn't make it (Myles Jack wasn't down!) - but now they have a chance to exact some revenge on Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and co. down in Florida, where the Patriots have often struggled.

The big battle to watch here is Jalen Ramsey vs Rob Gronkowski - the Pro Bowl cornerback trash talked just about every other player in the NFL this offseason, but he took it too far when he labelled Gronk - objectively one of the best tight ends the league's ever seen - "not good".

The key with trash talking, of course, is that you've got to put your money where your mouth is. With the Patriots' wide receiver corps far from stellar, shutting down Gronkowski could be the key to Jacksonville sending the Pats back to Foxborough with an L.

Fitzmagic vs the Philly Special

<span>Ryan Fitzpatrick had the game of his life against New Orleans in week one</span> <span>Credit: (Chuck Cook/USA Today) </span>
Ryan Fitzpatrick had the game of his life against New Orleans in week one Credit: (Chuck Cook/USA Today)

It's not week one without at least one shock result, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided just that when their journeyman backup quarterback ripped apart the New Orleans defense and left it strewn across their home turf in bloody, tattered pieces.

Ryan Fitzpatrick can't be relied on to produce that kind of performance week after week, but then Nick Foles clearly can't be relied on to reproduce his Super Bowl heroics either. 

The Bucs' firepower on offense was definitely underestimated coming into the season, but the Eagles defense is a different prospect to what the Saints put out last week. Fitzpatrick won't have as much time to find his targets this Sunday, and Fletcher Cox's merry men should have enough to bring Tampa crashing back down to earth. If they don't? Well, we'll have no choice but to start taking Tampa Bay seriously.

Five players to keep an eye on

Sam Darnold (New York Jets)

<span>Is Darnold the Jets' saviour?&nbsp;</span> <span>Credit: (Joe Robbins/Getty Images) </span>
Is Darnold the Jets' saviour?  Credit: (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Have the Jets finally - finally - found their man? Head coach Todd Bowles says he won't know if Sam Darnold is a franchise quarterback until he's seen him play 100 games, but fans of Gang Green will be ready to crown him after just two if he pulls apart the Miami Dolphins in the same way he did Detroit.

The most impressive part of Darnold's debut was how he shrugged off throwing a pick six on his very first throw. There is literally no worse way for a quarterback to start their NFL career, but Darnold looked anything but a raw 21-year-old as he brushed it aside and strode into a commanding, confident performance.

Myles Garrett (Cleveland Browns)

<span>Garrett is emerging as one of the NFL's best defensive players</span> <span>Credit: (AP Photo/David Richard) </span>
Garrett is emerging as one of the NFL's best defensive players Credit: (AP Photo/David Richard)

I can't tell you how high I am on Myles Garrett this season. The 2017 number one pick already looks like a multiple Pro Bowl-calibre talent with Defensive Player of the Year and even Hall of Fame potential.

Garrett is one of those rare defensive linemen who draws your eye on every snap. He's the type of talent that opposing quarterbacks can't shrug from the back of their minds. When he's not putting QBs on the floor, he's occupying two men and making it easier for his teammates to. Drew Brees, you're next.

Adrian Peterson (Washington Redskins)

<span>Peterson celebrates scoring his first Washington Redskins touchdown</span> <span>Credit: (Matt Kartozian/USA Today) </span>
Peterson celebrates scoring his first Washington Redskins touchdown Credit: (Matt Kartozian/USA Today)

All those who insisted Adrian Peterson was done? Egg. Egg all over your faces. The Vikings legend rushed 26 times for 96 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for a further 70 yards on his Redskins debut, and now gets to face a Colts defense he should be able to make hay against.

Rookie Derrius Guice going down with a torn ACL was one of the biggest blows of the preseason, but even in his twilight years Peterson may well turn it into a blessing in disguise (dis-Guice? Sorry, I'll stop).

Keenan Allen (Los Angeles Chargers)

<span>Keenan Allen stiff-arms Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller during the LA Chargers' week one defeat</span> <span>Credit: (Jake Roth/USA Today) </span>
Keenan Allen stiff-arms Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller during the LA Chargers' week one defeat Credit: (Jake Roth/USA Today)

I feel like I've already written enough about the Bills this season, and we're only one game in. All we need to say is that the Bills are terrible, and everything is set up for Chargers wideout Keenan Allen to have a monster game on Sunday.

Despite losing to the Chiefs Philip Rivers threw for 424 yards in week one - 108 of those going to Allen. The sixth-year receiver could make his fantasy owners very, very happy this weekend.

Fred Warner (San Francisco 49ers)

<span>Fred Warner made 11 tackles in his NFL debut against the Vikings</span> <span>Credit: (AP Photo/Jim Mone) </span>
Fred Warner made 11 tackles in his NFL debut against the Vikings Credit: (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Sam Darnold and Saquon Barkley took most of the headlines (playing in New York has its perks...) but third-round linebacker Fred Warner might have been the NFL's most impressive rookie in week one.

Warner racked up 11 tackles and an assist on debut, and with Matt Stafford looking anything but well protected against the Jets on Monday night, he has a chance to make a top drawer start to life in the big leagues.

Five bold predictions

  • The Patriots beat the Jags by more than the four-point margin which separated them in January.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick throws at least two picks in a Bucs defeat to the Eagles.

  • Sam Bradford once again fails to find the endzone as the Rams comfortable handle the Cardinals.

  • Julio Jones has more than 120 receiving yards against the Panthers, but ends up on the losing side.

  • The Steelers, Redskins, Texans, Broncos and Bears all win.

Got your own predictions for how week two plays out? Share them in the comments below.

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