NFL 2015 week two preview: What to look out for this week

PREVIEW

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The Independent Online

Last week the NFL showed just why it’s missed so dearly during the off-season. The Indianapolis Colts were stunned by the Buffalo Bills, the St. Louis Rams overcame the Seattle Seahawks in overtime and the Dallas Cowboys recorded an astonishing comeback win against the New York Giants. 

There are plenty of storylines to look out for in Week Two, including a clash of two cunning coaches, a possible NFC Championship preview and a match that pits the two most successful teams in NFL history against each other.

Rex Ryan vs. Bill Belichick, Episode 14

Ryan’s Bills carried the pre-season hype into the regular season with an impressive 27-14 win over the Colts on Sunday. Indianapolis, equipped with Andrew Luck, TY Hilton, Frank Gore and Donte Moncrief, scored their first points with 54 seconds of the third quarter remaining, implying that the Bills defence might be even better this season than it was in 2014.

Ryan must do it all again on Sunday when he faces a head coach he relishes pitting wits against. Belichick leads the head-to-head 9-4 but it hasn’t always been easy for the New England Patriots head coach. Five of the last six games between Belichick and Ryan have been decided by three points or fewer.

Those encounters occurred when Ryan was head coach of the New York Jets, in an era when the Jets were plagued with quarterback problems. It's early days but Ryan doesn’t appear to have that issue in Buffalo. Tyrod Taylor completed 14 of 19 pass attempts and rushed for 41 yards against the Colts.

The Bills will clarify their status, which currently stands as potential playoff contenders, if they defeat the Patriots. 

Four more enticing divisional matchups

The Patriots trip to Buffalo isn’t the only exciting divisional contest in Week Two. On Sunday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the New Orleans Saints, the Minnesota Vikings host the Detroit Lions and one of the most passionate rivalries in the NFL is resumed when the Dallas Cowboys travel to Philadelphia.

The Eagles lost three of their last four games in 2014, including a 27-38 loss to the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field, to hand the NFC East title to Dallas. All eyes will be on the Eagles running back DeMarco Murray, who takes on his former team for the first time since departing in free agency.

Will Hoyer or Mallett start for Houston?

Brian Hoyer’s status as the Texans’ starting quarterback lasted just one game, according to NFL media insider Ian Rapoport. Hoyer’s first pass of the 2015 season was an interception and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Ryan Mallett in the fourth quarter.

Mallett led two scoring drives and, according to Rapoport, will start in Week Two against the Carolina Panthers. In what must be the shortest reign for a starting quarterback, it proves the difficult situation head coach Bill O’Brien finds himself in - the offseason and preseason have passed and yet he’s still unsure on who the best quarterback for his team is.

NFC Championship preview in Green Bay?

Nine months have passed and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will still be wondering how his team didn’t reach Super Bowl XLIX. The fake field-goal; the onside kick; the two-point conversion. It was an extraordinary collapse.

The focus has turned to 2015 yet the target remains the Super Bowl for McCarthy. To get there they must beat the NFC’s best and they get that chance on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in a repeat of last season’s NFC Championship game.

It will surprise nobody if this fixture is repeated in January but the Seahawks must recover from an opening day loss to the St. Louis Rams before they can look ahead to the postseason. The Packers, eager to extract revenge, will hope to inflict another loss on the Seahawks record.

The most successful teams in the NFL meet

The San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers have won 11 Super Bowls between them. The 49ers’ dominated the league in the 80s, winning four of their five Super Bowls during this period, while the Steelers won four of their six a decade before the 49ers’ rise.

The days of Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw are unfortunately no more but both teams have maintained the ability to repeatedly compete for the Lombardi Trophy.

It’s certainly the aim for Mike Tomlin’s Steelers this season. As for the 49ers, expectations are low after an offseason from hell but after their fine Week One win over the Minnesota Vikings those expectations may need readjusting.

The 49ers racked up 230 rushing yards against the Vikings, while Ben Roethlisberger threw for 351 yards against the Patriots. This Week Two encounter should be a fine clash between two teams synonymous with success.

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