Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS -


If a change of the guard in the AFC is im­mi­nent, to­day’s visit by the Pa­tri­ots and QB Tom Brady to Jack­sonville would seem an ap­pro­pri­ate time — un­til a check of the num­bers re­veals Brady doesn’t lose to the Jaguars. Ever. Jack­sonville had a 10-point lead at New Eng­land in the sec­ond half of the AFC cham­pi­onship game in Jan­uary when Brady worked his magic, helped might­ily by Jack­sonville’s dis­com­fort be­ing so close to mak­ing the Su­per Bowl. It shouldn’t have been a sur­prise: Brady now is 8-0 against the Jaguars, the only AFC team with­out a win against the five-time Su­per Bowl cham­pion and three-time league MVP. He has 19 touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions against them while com­plet­ing more than 70 per­cent of his passes for more than 1,800 yards. Jack­sonville could be short-handed in a key area: RB Leonard Four­nette was work­ing to re­cover from a strained right ham­string, and the Jaguars need a strong run­ning game to keep Brady on the side­line.


One rea­son the Ea­gles had the NFC’s best record in 2017 was a 6-2 road mark. They were sloppy yet vic­to­ri­ous in their opener at home against At­lanta and haven’t played since Sept. 6. Nick Foles gets the call at QB again with Car­son Wentz still not ready, though the Ea­gles’ run­ning game and strong de­fense could de­cide things. The Buccaneers come off an im­pres­sive up­set win at New Or­leans in which Ryan Fitz­patrick showed why he has been a qual­ity fill-in passer for years. He threw for a ca­reer-best 417 yards and four TDs with no in­ter­cep­tions and ran for another score.


This is a night­mare matchup for Kansas City. The Steelers have won seven of their past eight games against the Chiefs, who are 0-6 in Pitts­burgh since 1986. Pitts­burgh WR An­to­nio Brown and Kansas City coun­ter­part Tyreek Hill — who also re­turns kicks — are two of the league’s best, so watch them for big plays.


Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers (sprained knee) will be a game-time de­ci­sion. The Pack­ers are in mas­sive trou­ble if he can’t, as last week’s heroic per­for­mance by Rodgers in a come­back vic­tory over Chicago showed. The Vik­ings aren’t the Bears and likely won’t be play­ing pas­sively if they get a lead.

MI­AMI (1-0) AT N.Y. JETS (1-0)

It’s a sur­prise to see both of th­ese teams with a chance to be 2-0. The Dolphins are com­ing off the league’s long­est game since the 1970 AFLNFL merger, out­last­ing the Ten­nessee Ti­tans in 7 hours, 8 min­utes, in­clud­ing 3:59 in mul­ti­ple weather de­lays. Jets QB Sam Darnold’s first pro pass was in­ter­cepted and re­turned for a touch­down, but he re­versed things with aplomb in a rout of the Detroit Lions. His de­fen­sive team­mates de­serve the high­est ac­co­lades for mak­ing QB Matthew Stafford look like an in­ept rookie.


It’s im­pos­si­ble to fathom Stafford be­ing as aw­ful again as he was against the Jets, when he threw four in­ter­cep­tions and had one re­turned for a TD. Keep a watch out for 49ers DL DeFor­est Buck­ner, who had 2.5 sacks against Min­nesota in the opener, and LB Fred Warner, who forced a fum­ble and made 12 tack­les to lead all rook­ies last week.


Cleve­land open­ing by ty­ing ri­val Pitts­burgh is a mon­u­men­tal achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing the Browns were 1-31 over the past two sea­sons. They lead this se­ries 13-4 and have won five of the past six meet­ings. Saints WR Michael Thomas had a fran­chise sin­gle-game record 16 catches last week for 180 yards and a score, so QB Drew Brees will tar­get him of­ten.

ARI­ZONA (0-1) AT L.A. RAMS (1-0)

Sam Brad­ford, the top over­all draft choice by the Rams in 2010, is now the Cardinals’ start­ing QB and has an all-time great to throw to in Larry Fitzger­ald, yet his team was out­done in coach Steve Wilks’ de­but. There were no such prob­lems for the Rams, who looked strong in all phases while ru­in­ing Jon Gru­den’s re­turn as coach of the Oak­land Raiders on Mon­day night.

OAK­LAND (0-1) AT DEN­VER (1-0)

Oak­land strug­gled in the sec­ond half against the Rams, with TE Jared Cook, who fin­ished with nine catches for a ca­reer-best 180 yards, the only con­sis­tent pos­i­tive. The Raiders’ de­fense clearly missed Khalil Mack. Den­ver OLB Von Miller was a ter­ror last week in a 27-24 win against the Seat­tle Sea­hawks — he had three sacks, two forced fum­bles and a fum­ble re­cov­ery.


Colts QB An­drew Luck likes the look of Wash­ing­ton Red­skins bur­gundy: He threw for 370 yards, five TDs and one in­ter­cep­tion in his only pre­vi­ous game against them. Worth not­ing is that Wash­ing­ton’s cur­rent de­fense was stout in a 24-6 rout of the Cardinals last week and ranks sec­ond over­all.

L.A. CHARG­ERS (0-1) AT BUF­FALO (0-1)

First-round pick Josh Allen will start at QB for Buf­falo, which hopes to avoid another de­ba­cle af­ter its 47-3 de­feat at Bal­ti­more. He’ll have plenty of lee­way with the other op­tion Nathan Peter­man, who threw five first-half in­ter­cep­tions in his start against the Charg­ers last year and was just about as bad against the Ravens. The Charg­ers have won three straight in this se­ries by a com­bined score of 113-44.

N.Y. GI­ANTS (0-1) AT DAL­LAS (0-1)

Of prime in­ter­est in this prime-time matchup are each team’s top RB — sec­ond over­all pick Saquon Barkley, who ex­cited Gi­ants fans with his 68-yard TD burst in his pro de­but, and third-year Dal­las star Zeke El­liott.


Both teams lost close ones on the road to open, though the Bears blew a 20-point lead at Green Bay to a hob­bled Rodgers. Seat­tle gave up 475 yards at Den­ver, and the usu­ally slip­pery Russell Wil­son was sacked six times.

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