Here’s a look at this weekend’s NFL slate, with games ranked from most to least interesting:
1. Denver (2-0) at Seattle (1-1), 4:25 p.m. (CBS): The meeting of the Broncos and Seahawks is a rarity. It marks only the sixth Super Bowl rematch in NFL history, and the first since 1997. The memories of Seattle’s 43-8 Super Bowl rout are still fresh for both teams, but the Broncos can remind the Seahawks that their championship means nothing this season. In fact, a Broncos win would put the Seahawks under .500 with back-to-back losses, something they haven’t experienced in almost two years. But winning in Seattle is notoriously difficult for road teams. The Seahawks have just two losses there since 2012.
2. San Francisco (1-1) at Arizona (2-0), 4:05 p.m. (Fox): Hard to predict how this game will turn out without knowing whether Arizona QB Carson Palmer (who has a nerve injury in his shoulder) will play. If he can’t, Drew Stanton will start again. Stanton didn’t make any mistakes and engineered a fourth-quarter comeback against the Giants last week. But he couldn’t finish drives with touchdowns (the Cardinals had four field goals last week), and he’ll need to play better against the stiffer opposition the 49ers bring to town. It’s the start of a tough stretch for the 49ers, with the Eagles up next. The winner here will have an early edge on playoff positioning in the NFC West.
3. Green Bay (1-1) at Detroit (1-1), 1 p.m. (Fox): The Packers had to rally from 18 points down to eke out their first win against the Jets at home last week. If they get off to a similar slow start in Detroit, their comeback magic probably won’t work against the more explosive Lions. The Packers and Lions have the NFL’s longest continuous rivalry, having played every year since 1932. The Packers have traditionally dominated the series (all-time they’re 94-66-7 against Detroit), and that’s especially been true since Mike McCarthy became coach in 2006. Green Bay is 14-2 against the Lions in the last eight seasons. The question now is can new coach Jim Caldwell change that for the Lions, who are coming off a brutal 24-7 loss in Carolina. A win for the Packers would make them the second franchise (Chicago) to reach 700 wins.
4. Washington (1-1) at Philadelphia (2-0) 1 p.m. (Fox): This marks the return of WR DeSean Jackson to Philadelphia, assuming Jackson’s ailing shoulder allows him to play. But it’s also the dawn of the Kirk Cousins at quarterback era for the Redskins. OK, that’s hyperbole, but it is the opening of a window for Cousins to prove that he can operate coach Jay Gruden’s offense better than the injured Robert Griffin III (and all of his upside the Redskins are still waiting to see). Cousins takes his first shot at an Eagles defense that has been soft at times in the first two weeks. The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to open 2-0 after falling behind by 14 points in each game. Coach Chip Kelly wants his team off to better starts, but this week he’ll have to do it against a Washington defense that is ranked first after two games.
5. San Diego (1-1) at Buffalo (2-0), 1 p.m. (CBS): Don’t snicker – it really is a big game involving the Bills. Buffalo has flashed a strong run game and, with an accurate QB E.J. Manuel and the deep threat of WR Sammy Watkins in tow, a surprising big-play ability in its 2-0 start. But the Chargers are confident coming off a win over the Seahawks, and San Diego doesn’t have trouble winning Eastern time zone games like some of the its western brethren. The Bills – who have seen other hot starts fizzle in recent years – have more to prove here than the Chargers.
6. Minnesota (1-1) at New Orleans (0-2), 1 p.m. (Fox): The deck is not stacked in the Vikings’ favor. They’re without their best player, RB Adrian Peterson, for the foreseeable future. At least this week they knew he’d be unavailable when they practiced, since they decided to deactivate him for the Week 2 loss to New England after installing their game plan. But they’re heading to the Superdome, where the Saints almost never lose, against a New Orleans team that has thrown away wins on the road in the final minute of the first two games. The Saints are too talented – and too hungry for a victory – to start 0-3.
7. Pittsburgh (1-1) at Carolina (2-0), 8:30 p.m. (NBC): The Panthers defense shut down a good Lions offense last week, and now will try to do the same to a Steelers unit that has been stuck in neutral for the past six quarters. Pittsburgh has been outscored 50-9 since taking a 27-3 lead on Cleveland at halftime in Week 1. They need to make better use of RB Le’Veon Bell, whose 304 yards from scrimmage are second in the NFL. The Panthers will be eager to put the Greg Hardy distraction behind them and get back to on-field business. Expect them to try to exploit a Steelers rushing defense that ranks 30th with 348 yards allowed.
8. Indianapolis (0-2) at Jacksonville (0-2), 1 p.m. (CBS): The Colts, like the Saints, are buoyed by the NFL’s press releases touting the “success” of 0-2 teams reaching the playoffs. There have been 23 such teams since the 12-team playoff field debuted in 1990 - slightly less than one per year. But since 2009, there’s only been one team to go from 0-2 to the postseason - last year’s Panthers. The Colts are well-equipped to be the next though. The toughest part of their schedule, Denver and Philadelphia, is behind them. Now they can take out their frustrations on teams like the Jaguars.
9. Oakland (0-2) at New England (1-1), 1 p.m. (CBS): The walls seem to be closing in around Raiders coach Dennis Allen, who had to deflect questions about his job status this week. But things look rough for Oakland, which is beginning a road trip that starts in New England and then takes them to London for a “home” game against the Dolphins. This is just the second time the Raiders have been to New England since their snowy playoff loss in 2002. They’ve lost 14 straight games in the Eastern time zone and are an astonishing 5-32 in the East since Dec. 2002. Oh, and their current team is just not very good, which could make for a long day for the Raiders at the Patriots home opener.
10. Houston (2-0) at NY Giants (0-2), 1 p.m. (CBS): The undefeated Texans are one of the NFL’s big surprises after losing 14 straight to end last season. The Texans were so bad last year you might be surprised to learn that this is the fifth straight year they’ve started 2-0. They’re one of just six teams in NFL history to do that. (Three of the previous five won Super Bowls in those stretches.) They’ll likely remain a factor so long as they continue to get mistake-free performances from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Giants, on the other hand, are full of mistakes. They’ve committed five turnovers, but have yet to force a turnover. They need something positive to jump-start their season fast.
11. Chicago (1-1) at NY Jets (1-1), 8:30 p.m. Monday, (ESPN): The Bears will begin life without Charles Tillman, the standout cornerback lost for the season in last week’s win at San Francisco. It’s the second straight night game for Chicago, which used a wild comeback to secure a win over the 49ers last week. QB Jay Cutler will seek to exploit a soft Jets secondary, while the Jets have to hope they’ve straightened out the breakdowns that led them to give away a game last week in Green Bay where they led 21-3. The Jets likely practiced the calling of timeouts this week, so it’s unlikely they’ll call another that will negate a game-tying touchdown.
12. Baltimore (1-1) at Cleveland (1-1), 1 p.m. (CBS): The euphoria of last week’s comeback win over the Saints may not last if the Ravens arrive in the Dawg Pound and start bullying the Browns – as they usually do. QB Joe Flacco is 11-1 against Cleveland in his career, and Baltimore is coming off extra rest following their Thursday Week 2 win. But the Browns have proved they shouldn’t be counted out after their impressive comebacks the past two weeks.
13. Tennessee (1-1) at Cincinnati (2-0), 1 p.m. (CBS): The Bengals – and QB Andy Dalton specifically – have proved the doubters wrong through two weeks. Dalton has not thrown an interception and the Bengals scored impressive wins over the Ravens and Falcons. But WR A.J. Green may not be available for Dalton this week. We’ll see how long the Bengals’ place as a top-five offense will last. But are the Titans the team that will test them, a week after being embarrassed by the Cowboys in their home opener? They need to shore up a run defense that was gashed for 220 yards by Dallas.
14. Dallas (1-1) at St. Louis (1-1), 1 p.m. (Fox): Both of these teams exceeded expectations in Week 2, and each is probably eyeing the other as an easy place to pick up a win. The Cowboys defense was surprisingly stout in Tennessee last week, and could gain more confidence against an unproven Rams offense. But St. Louis QB Austin Davis can say the same thing about gaining confidence by playing the Dallas defense. Davis may be in line for another start in relief of Shaun Hill after leading a comeback win at Tampa.
15. Kansas City (0-2) at Miami (1-1), 4:25 p.m. (CBS): The Chiefs are one of three returning playoff teams (New Orleans, Indianapolis) who have started 0-2. But unlike the Saints and Colts, there’s not a lot of optimism Kansas City can re-route its season toward the postseason. The Dolphins started on a high note, but outside of their second-half comeback against the Patriots, they haven’t looked good this year. Both of these teams have struggled passing the ball, yet both will also probably be without their lead running backs (Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles and Miami’s Knowshon Moreno).
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter @leahysean