Yahoo Sports NFL senior writers Terez Paylor, Kimberley A. Martin and Charles Robinson select games this weekend that will leave us buzzing heading into Monday.
Obviously Jags-Pats is the game of the weekend, and is worth checking out just to see what Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey might say afterward. But don’t sleep on Lions-49ers, and yes, I’m serious.
Both teams entered this year with decent expectations, with some even picking the 49ers as a dark-horse candidate to win the NFC West. But both these teams lost in Week 1, which means someone is about to be in an 0-2 hole.
Chances are it will be the Lions, who have a day less than the 49ers to prepare after getting routed by the maybe-not-so-hapless New York Jets on Monday night. Matt Patricia’s head coaching debut was a disaster, and Lions fans are already recognizing that oh-too-familiar feeling of angst, dread and sorrow rising in their souls. If the Lions get routed again by the 49ers, it will only get worse, both for their fans — and Patricia.
Of course, there’s always a chance the Lions topple the 49ers. While everyone crowned Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason — myself included, as I predicted he would be the NFL’s first $200 million man — the truth is, he looked bad in the 49ers’ 24-16 loss to Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, tossing three interceptions.
The good news for Garoppolo is that the Lions’ defense isn’t anywhere near as good as the Vikings, and the Lions haven’t won in San Francisco since 1985. They’re 0-10 on the road against the 49ers since their last win there.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, 8:20 p.m. ET
(AKA, not me.)
Barkley, the Giants’ rookie, will return to AT&T Stadium for the first time since he was selected No. 2 overall in this year’s NFL draft and Elliott will look to run over a Giants defense that allowed Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles to rush for 42 yards on only four carries.
While Barkley broke out for 106 rushing yards (including a 68-yarder) against the Jaguars in his Week 1 debut, Elliott provided the only spark for Dallas’ anemic offense against Carolina: 69 yards on 15 carries, including a touchdown.
The Giants and Cowboys have major offensive line issues to correct (See: Ereck Flowers), and Dallas still thinks it can make do without a true No. 1 receiver. But expect both Barkley and Elliott to provide some in-game electricity, just like they did in college.
New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:25 p.m., ET
There’s no need to overthink this. It’s the rematch of the AFC title game, albeit with a New England offense that has some different components and a Jacksonville offense that may go without centerpiece running back Leonard Fournette. Not having Fournette could take some luster off, but let’s be real here: This is about the Patriots’ offense versus a Jaguars defense that may be the best in the NFL.
It’s about Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady getting their chance to shut up Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who has made a point to poke a finger in New England’s eye since last season’s playoff loss. And more than anything, it’s about sending a message to the rest of the AFC.
Whoever comes out of this one with a win will be laying the foundation for a conference title game that runs through their city. For the Patriots, it’s a must to show that they’re still king, regardless of who might be missing from the offense. But for the Jaguars, it’s the chance to show that the defense has taken a necessary step forward in experience since the AFC title loss. We know Jacksonville’s D is talented. Now it just has to show the grit to achieve a measure of vengeance for a playoff loss that left such a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
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