Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.
THURSDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS
Cleveland Browns 35, Cincinnati Bengals 30
An AFC North rivalry kicked off Week Two on Thursday night, as the Cleveland Browns rode their power running game to a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt made their case as the league’s best rushing tandem, carrying for a combined 210 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Hunt also caught a score. The Bengals, who had the worst rush defense in the league last year, had no answer for Cleveland one-two punch, which looks even better with the addition of fullback Andy Janovich this offseason.
Success in the running game led to play-action opportunities for quarterback Baker Mayfield, which he and his receivers took full advantage of. Mayfield finally got on the same page with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., with the two connecting on a 43-yard score in the second quarter. Thursday showed that new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s system can work when the Browns are successful in the running game early and often.
The Browns defense battered quarterback Joe Burrow all night, sacking him three times and hitting on plenty more occasions. Still, Burrow was impressive in front of a national audience Thursday, remaining calm and collected under constant pressure from the ferocious Browns pass rush. He completed 37 of 61 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
Cleveland will host Washington next, and Cincinnati will travels to Philadelphia for their second-straight road game.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Los Angeles Rams at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. FOX regional
A week after allowing quarterback Carson Wentz to be sacked eight times by Washington, the Philadelphia Eagles will welcome the league’s most fearsome pass rusher to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams and defensive tackle Aaron Donald come to town.
Donald dominated the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football last week, recording a sack, a tackle-for-loss and four quarterback hits. His success opened up rush lanes for his teammates as well, as the Rams had three sacks, three tackles-for-loss and six hits as a team.
Luckily for the Eagles, reinforcements are on the way. Not only will they return tackle Lane Johnson, but they will also get back starting running back Miles Sanders. Both will have to provide a major boost in pass protection for Philadelphia to get back to their winning ways.
Also, former Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave will make his Philadelphia debut on Sunday as well after missing their season opener with both a pectoral and hamstring injury. He should provide a big boost to an Eagles defense that allowed two rushing touchdowns to Washington last week.
Washington at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., WPGH-TV
Following the Steelers’ home opener against the Broncos, fans in the Pittsburgh area will be treated to a duel of young quarterbacks in the late afternoon slot when Washington visits the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams are also coming off upset victories over division rivals.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2019 behind 3,722 passing yards and 24 total touchdowns. Murray was just as good kicking off 2020, posting 321 total yards and two touchdowns in Arizona’s shocking 24-20 win over San Francisco.
While his numbers may not be as eye-popping as Murray, Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins also led his squad to a Week 1 win behind 178 passing yards and a touchdown.
The two 2019 first rounders have been solid early, but both have struggled to protect the football throughout their short careers. Murray has 15 turnovers in 17 career games, Haskins has nine giveaways in ten.
As is often the case with young quarterbacks, success for Murray and Haskins on Sunday and going forward will be predicated on and determined by their ability to take care of the football.
Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, KDKA-TV
No team was dealt a tougher hand to start the season than the Houston Texans, who begin 2020 facing three AFC juggernauts. Sandwiched between their opening night loss to the Chiefs and a Week 3 visit to Pittsburgh, the Texans will battle reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.
Sunday’s matchup will be decided by which team dominates the redzone. The Ravens were phenomenal in the redzone offensively last season, scoring a league-leading 43 touchdowns. Houston was not as stellar defensively, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 71.4% of their trips, the highest rate in the league.
The story was the same for Houston last week against Kansas City, as they allowed the Chiefs to score on seven of their eight redzone trips.
Baltimore also continued their trend of success from last season, scoring in the redzone at an 83% clip against the Browns last Sunday.
The Texans may have to do the impossible this week to get their first win of the season, which means stopping Jackson and Baltimore’s abundancy of running backs from finding the goal line.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
New York Giants at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. CBS regional
Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m, FOX regional
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m., FOX regional
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m., CBS regional
Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m., FOX regional
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS regional
San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets 1 p.m., FOX regional
Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m., KDKA-TV
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m., FOX regional
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m., CBS regional
New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m., NBC
New Orleans Saints at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN