Broncos’ Miller will look to disrupt Cowboys
Von Miller has gone five games without a sack, but there’s little doubt about the threat the Denver Broncos’ star pass rusher still poses.
If anything, the drought might serve as a reminder of the lengths that opposing teams will endure to prevent Miller from bending a game to his will.
The double teams, chips and other tactics that Miller is likely to face should come as no surprise Sunday. But his presence still has far-reaching effects for a Denver defense looking to reassert itself against Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys’ formidable attack.
“He’s one of those guys who is a real difference-maker,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said last week. “He’s one of those guys who has affected games probably since he was growing up here in South Dallas. He’s an incredible athlete.”
Right tackle La’el Collins will have the primary responsibility of fending off Miller. Collins handled New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in Week 1, but shutting down a player with 381⁄2 sacks the past three seasons is an entirely different challenge.
Prescott might be forced to make quick decisions, especially with cornerback Aqib Talib set for a matchup with Dez Bryant and Chris Harris Jr. holding down the slot. But the secondyear standout is difficult to rattle.
The true test for Miller and Denver’s defense, however, might be in how it handles Elliott. Operating behind a line that Broncos coach Vance Joseph called “the best in football,” the NFL’s leading rusher in 2016 could dictate the tone of the game against a defense that finished 28th against the run last season.
Other matchups that will define Week 2 in the NFL:
Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman vs. Green Bay Packers DT Mike Daniels
Matt Ryan and the passing attack did the heavy lifting for Atlanta in each of last season’s wins against Green Bay, but scheme adjustments should yield a greater emphasis on the ground game on Sunday night.
The Packers’ new go-to “nitro” package — a nickel variation that uses just two defensive linemen and rolls safety Morgan Burnett to inside linebacker — yielded impressive results last week in a 17-9 win against the Seattle Seahawks. Designed to put speedier players on the field, the defense was still formidable against the run. Outside of two Russell Wilson runs for 40 yards, the Seahawks gained just 50 yards on 16 carries.
Atlanta’s shift in Week 1 didn’t go as smoothly, as last year’s topscoring offense never fully found its footing in coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s debut. Freeman and fellow running back Tevin Coleman combined for just 53 yards on 20 carries in a 23-17 win against the Chicago Bears. With the rest of the offense yet to click, expect Sarkisian to emphasize the ground game early to open up
Daniels is Green Bay’s key to running “nitro” without leaving the defense exposed up front. After racking up seven tackles, four quarterbacks hits and 11⁄2 sacks against the Seahawks, he’ll look to generate similar disruption against Freeman and Ryan. New England Patriots WR Brandin Cooks vs. New Orleans Saints’ secondary
Though Cooks’ return to New Orleans is a big story line, there are more pressing issues for New England after a stinging 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
With Danny Amendola sidelined by a concussion, the Patriots have three healthy receivers available in Cooks, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett. Though Rob Gronkowski and the running backs should figure prominently into the game plan, this is a chance for Tom Brady to attack on the outside after a 16-for-36 outing in the opener. Cooks hauled in a 54-yard reception against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he still has to establish himself as a reliable target.
New Orleans saw its defense undone in Week 1 by an overwhelmed secondary. Minnesota Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs combined for 250 yards and two touchdowns as
they outmaneuvered Saints cornerbacks in a 29-17 win.
Drew Brees holds a 3-1 record and 123.3 passer rating against the Patriots in his career. With the defense still looking vulnerable, Cooks and New England might need to provide a lot of firepower to make this game comfortable. Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt vs. Philadelphia Eagles’ front seven
The third-round rookie had a 246-yard debut against the Patriots. Keeping up such a pace is likely untenable, but Hunt remains a threat as the Chiefs’ featured back.
Known primarily as a between-the-tackles runner, Hunt surprised many with his 78-yard touchdown catch and 58-yard touchdown run in the opener.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Hunt was one of the players the team was considering in the draft. Now it’s up to Pederson and his defensive front to contain Hunt.
Defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham will give the Chiefs’ offensive line plenty to handle. But Kansas City thrives on balance, and continued success from Hunt could keep Philadelphia from unleashing the full wrath of its pass rush.
Broncos linebacker Von Miller will look to end a five-game streak without a sack.