The Christmas morning feel of Week 1 has come and gone, but the second full slate of NFL action offers its own set of intrigue. Division matchups, rivalry games and stylistic clashes fill the schedule in Week 2, with a heavyweight throwdown in the NFC West acting as the perfect night cap.
Here's a rundown of what to watch for in Week 2.
Steven Jackson will reunite with the Rams at the Georgia Dome in what is sure to be an awkward affair for everyone. Jackson was held in check by the Saints in Week 1 outside of a 50-yard rush, and the Rams ostensibly have a stronger front. Regardless of how he performs, it will be nice to see Jackson back with his old teammates ... sort of.
E.J. Manuel handled himself well in his career debut against the New England Patriots, going 18-for-27 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers should be a stiffer challenge. Russell Wilson eventually got loose in Carolina in Week 1, but not before a slow first half. He had to be good after Marshawn Lynch and Co. were held to 70 yards in the running game. Manuel may be forced to will the Bills' offense on his own.
If Adrian Peterson wants to hit 2,000 yards this season, he will have to do much better than he did last Sunday. After rushing 78 yards to the end zone on his first carry against the Detroit Lions, he was held to 15 yards on 17 carries for the rest of the game. The Bears have a strong defensive front, but being great means performing well against your toughest opponents.
Two wounded playoff contenders going head-to-head always makes for compelling viewing, especially when the quarterback are as prideful as Robert Griffin III and Aaron Rodgers. The Packers' success will once again depend on how well the offensive line stands up. The Redskins' success hinges, of course, on Griffin's knee.
The Dolphins thoroughly harassed Brandon Weeden last week to the tune of four sacks and three interceptions. Andrew Luck is just an eensy bit better at quarterback, but Sunday's game should still be a big challenge for the second-year quarterback. The same goes for the Dolphins' revamped front seven, which also faces a higher degree of difficulty in Week 2.
The Chiefs are feeling mighty good about themselves after thoroughly defeating the Jaguars in Week 1. The Cowboys are too after beating the division-rival Giants. Both have playoff hopes in 2013. Recent history suggests that something will go horribly wrong at some point for one or both teams. Sunday's game will be a good schadenfreude opportunity one way or another. Plus, Jamaal Charles vs. DeMarco Murray could be a lot of fun to watch.
The AFC North has been one the strongest divisions in football in recent years, but after a 0-4 Week 1 it is suddenly scrambling to save face. The division will go 2-2 in Week 2, with the Steelers playing the Bengals on Monday night, but it will be interesting to see if any team actually looks impressive. As of now, the Bengals appear to be the division's best team on the strength of their 3-point loss to the Bears on the road.
Arian Foster was frustrated he didn't get more touches during the Texans' comeback win over the Chargers on Monday night, even when the Texans understandably entered throw-first mode. Unless the Titans find an offense, he should get plenty of chances to shine against the Titans. The Titans' best bet is to turn Sunday's game into defensive battle. Fans should be ready for a slog.
Chargers vs. Eagles (1 p.m., CBS)
Poor damn Chargers. They finally did away with Norv Turner and revamped their offense, but the team can't hide from the fourth quarter. The Texans scored 24 straight on Monday night to shock the Chargers in San Diego and sour fans on the season. A win in Philadelphia would give the team a much needed shot of momentum, but the Eagles appear to have actually made meaningful improvement under their new head coach.
Lions vs. Cardinals (4:05 p.m., Fox)
People seemed to be surprised that Reggie Bush went off in Week 1, but he had plenty of success early in the 2012 season with the Dolphins, too. In Week 1, he had 115 total yards against the Texans, and followed that performance with 172 yards rushing and 197 total yards in Week 2 against the Raiders. His numbers declined steadily from there before rising again late, but the point still stands that big performances aren't out of the ordinary for Bush. If the mold holds, he should torch the Cardinals.
Saints vs. Buccaneers (4:05 p.m., Fox)
Poor damn Josh Freeman. Fans are once again down on the quarterback after a 15-for-31 performance against the Jets. The man's inconsistency has pushed the Bucs to the brink of insanity. To finish the job, it'd only be fitting for him to torch the Saints this week. He threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting between the teams last season, then threw for 279 yards and four interceptions in game No. 2.
Jaguars vs. Raiders (4:25 p.m., CBS)
The Jaguars and the Raiders are arguably the two worst teams in the NFL at the moment, which is reason enough to watch this game. Besides that, fans will get to see one of the weirdest quarterback duels of the season. Terrelle Pryor is electric, and erratic. Chad Henne is cement-footed, and obnoxiously safe. The game should reveal once and for all what's worse: Death by interceptions, or death by four-yard completions. Everybody loses.
Broncos vs. Giants (4:25 p.m., CBS)
The Broncos couldn't quite nab the top spot on SB Nation's power rankings this week after dismantling last year's Super Bowl champs, but if you want to call them best team in football I won't tell anyone. Peyton Manning hopefully has something fun in store as an encore to his seven-touchdown performance. Eli Manning hopefully doesn't need over a half of football to get warmed up.
You shouldn't need anyone to tell you why this game is a must-watch. The Seahawks and the 49ers are division rivals, arguably the two best teams in football, and they dislike each other. Russell Wilson is really good. So is Colin Kaepernick. The loser may have to shave an eyebrow. Huzzah!