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
Kansas City Chiefs 34, Houston Texans 20
The reigning Super Bowl champs proved early and often Thursday night why they are the favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy again this season. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked as talented as ever, completing 24 of 32 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire dazzled in his NFL debut, almost immediately proving the Chiefs right for drafting him with the final pick in the first round. The former LSU Tiger carried the ball 25 times for 138 yards and a score.
The Chiefs defense made things difficult for quarterback Deshaun Watson, who looked out of sorts at time in his first game without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Running back David Johnson, who the Texans acquired for Hopkins, was solid in his Texans debut, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown. Houston’s warts showed Thursday night, especially on the offensive line, as Watson was sacked four times.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m., KDKA-TV
While Steelers fans wait patiently for the Monday Night Football doubleheader, they will be treated to a battle of division rivals in the early slot on CBS this Sunday, as the Cleveland Browns visit the Baltimore Ravens.
Coming off a disappointing 2019 campaign that saw the Browns fail to meet expectations and ultimately fire first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, the Browns are starting over again with Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski is tasked with righting quarterback Bakery Mayfield, who threw nearly as many interceptions (21) as touchdowns (22) under Kitchens. Mayfield has thrown for 718 yards and four touchdowns in two career games at M&T Bank Stadium, but has also tossed four interceptions.
As for the Ravens, they are led by reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, who is attempting to duplicate his dominance from a season ago. Jackson accounted for 43 touchdowns a year ago, but the Ravens were stunned in the Divisional round by the Titans.
With the retirement of guard Marshal Yanda, Jackson and the Ravens offense may have trouble leading the league in rushing as they did in 2019. Still, the Browns had the third-worst rushing defense in the league last season, allowing 144.7 yards per game. Sunday’s matchup stacks up favorably for Jackson and Baltimore.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m. WPGH-TV
Two legends at the quarterback position will square off on Sunday afternoon, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit the New Orleans, pitting Tom Brady against fellow 40-year-old Drew Brees. Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (77,416) and touchdowns (547). Brady is second in both categories with 74,571 and 541, respectively. While Brady enters the 2020 season trying to prove he can win without his former head coach Bill Belichick, Brees and the Saints are once again motivated by a heartbreaking playoff loss the year prior.
Sunday’s matchup also marks the return of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who ended his brief retirement to reunite with Brady in the Sunshine State. Brady and Gronkowski have combined for 78 touchdowns. By adding their connection to an already potent receiving core that features Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Bucs should be explosive.
Expect a shootout in New Orleans.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos, 10:10 p.m. Monday, ESPN
Before the Steelers and Broncos meet at Heinz Field on Sept. 20, Denver will follow Pittsburgh on Monday night, taking on the Tennessee Titans in the second half of ESPNâ€™s annual doubleheader.
Quarterback Drew Lock is entering his first full season as the starter in Denver. The Missouri product put up solid numbers as a rookie a year ago, throwing for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns over just five games.
With the addition of explosive rookie wideouts Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler and Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon, expectation are high for Lock entering year two. He will get a favorable matchup to start his sophomore season, facing a Tennessee Titans defense that was 24th against the pass in 2019.
Fresh off an appearance in the AFC Championship last year, the Titans committed long-term to their workhorse Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Henry led the league with a career-high 1,540 yards last season, while Tannehill’s 2,742 yards and 22 touchdowns earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. WPGH-TV
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington, 1 p.m, FOX regional
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m., FOX regional
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m., CBS regional
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. CBS regional
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots, 1 p.m., CBS regional
Las Vegas Raiders at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., CBS regional
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. CBS regional
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals, 4:05 p.m., CBS regional
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m., FOX regional
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, 7:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN