Every NFL team likes to play at home, but those familiar boundaries will look particularly good for a handful of clubs that opened up the road and started the season as flat as a lonely stretch of freeway.
San Francisco belly flopped 19-10 in rainy Chicago.
Denver, where Russell Wilson made his Seattle debut, collapsed in the red zone and lost to the Seahawks 17-16.
Green Bay was humbled by Minnesota 23-7.
Las Vegas immediately fell behind in the AFC West with a 24-19 loss to the Chargers.
Each of these four 0-1 teams has a chance to make amends at home on Sunday. Not that it’s a ban every season, but last year no team that started the season 2-0 made it to the playoffs.
A look at their situation:
San Francisco (vs. Seattle)
The biggest problem with the 49ers is the quarterback, where Trey Lance is trying to gain a foothold and Jimmy Garoppolo is lurking over his shoulder. It would release a lot of pressure on Sunday if Lance picked up a win.
That’s no easy feat against Seattle, a franchise that’s had a history of playing well against the 49ers despite having a veteran Wilson at the helm over the years.
Kyle Shanahan’s offense relies on strong ground play, and that could be a problem for San Francisco, who lost top running back Elijah Mitchell in the opener. It was a throwback to last season as San Francisco’s Raheem Mostert lost to Detroit in Week 1.
So the spotlight swung to running back Jeff Wilson, and it’s uncertain if he’s the guy to carry the load. He doesn’t have the explosive potential of a healthy Mitchell or Mostert, now with Miami. The 49ers used Deebo Samuel as a running back rather than a receiver against Chicago, and maybe that’s the answer. They look at Samuel the way Seattle once looked at the multidimensional Percy Harvin.
Finally, there has been much talk about Chicago’s humid conditions, which don’t seem to be a problem in Santa Clara, which has suffered from the same drought problems as Southern California. However, in a strange twist, there is a high chance of rain for Sunday’s game. The 49ers can’t seem to get out from under that cloud.
Denver (vs. Houston)
Despite the result in Seattle, the Broncos were happy with many aspects of that opener. They rolled up 433 yards of offense, numbers more typical of the Peyton Manning era, and their defense held the Seahawks to 34 yards and five first downs in the second half.
There was crazy, too, including fumbling at the one-yard line on back-to-back possessions, possibly a first in NFL history. Then clock management ended up screwed up and the result bet on a 64-yard field goal attempt.
The Broncos only got three points from three drives inside the 10-yard line. It takes work to be that inefficient.
So coming back to Denver isn’t so much a complete fresh start as a welcome escape from the madness of Lumen Field, perhaps the loudest place in the NFL, and a chance at a fresh start.
Note that Denver is more balanced offensively than it was in the first set, when the Broncos ran the ball less than half as often as they threw it. The Broncos’ ground play should be more of a factor on Sunday against a Houston defense that gave up 177 yards on ground in the opener against Indianapolis.
Green Bay (vs Chicago)
Being on the wrong end of a one-sided opening game was particularly painful for the Packers because it was Minnesota that provided the beatdown. Luckily for Green Bay, it won’t face a Justin Jefferson-caliber receiver too often.
The Packers still feel good on their defense and have a running game that can set the pace. The problem with the opener was that they fell behind too quickly to keep up with the run, so the double strike from AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones became an afterthought.
With Davante Adams in Las Vegas, the Packers need to develop more reception skills. That fall of wide-open rookie Christian Watson on a game-opening bomb had to be excruciating.
It wasn’t a special Aaron Rodgers game, but he’s been here before. The Packers lost their opening game last season and ended up with the best record in the league. RELAX, remember?
(Only not too much, because after the Bears comes a trip to Tampa Bay.)
Las Vegas (vs. Arizona)
There’s no shame in losing to the Chargers, especially by less than a touchdown, so the Raiders were far from humiliated in their opener. Still, it was a division game, and Las Vegas has its share of unresolved issues.
Lack of protection for quarterback Derek Carr is a big problem. The Raiders are still trying to find the right side of their offensive line, rotating both guard and tackle on that side. Maybe that should have been worked out at training camp, but it didn’t help that promising rookie lineman Thayer Munford was injured in August and sat out the last two preseason games. He was well on his way to becoming the starting right guard, and coaches also like rookie lineman Dylan Parham.
Regardless, the right side played better than the left in the first set. Left tackle Kolton Miller struggled with the Chargers front and gave up a pair of sacks. He’s a good player who had a bad game and the Raiders as a team need to do better with blitz this season.
Las Vegas may not have the luxury of tinkering with the line in the short term, as starting center Andre James suffered a concussion in the opener and Parham may have to fill that role.
Carr was relentlessly pursued in the first set, ending with three interceptions, his most in a game since 2018.
For some, his performance added log to the fire of people who think starters in preseason games should at least snap some snaps. Might just be a statistical anomaly, but quarterbacks who didn’t play preseason saw their teams go 3-8 in Week 1.
While Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson were victorious, Carr, Rodgers, Wilson, the Rams’ Matthew Stafford, Arizona’s Kyler Murray, Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill, Dallas’ Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow were among the winners of Cincinnati among the rusty losers.
On the other hand, the Rams don’t put much stock in preseason starters playing. And they now have a ring that supports that argument.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-09-16/sam-farmer-on-week-2-nfl-season These four NFL teams can’t afford to go ‘uh-oh-and-2’