Denver Broncos | NFL Picks: Interesting divisional matchups, rookie QBs squaring off and Aaron Rodgers’ devastating injury

Around the AFC

Hard Knock life: It’s difficult to imagine a more brutal letdown for the New York Jets than Aaron Rodgers rupturing his Achilles on the fourth play of his tenure there. Before he completed a pass. The Jets can still win games, but that’s the ultimate downer about Rodgers’ injury. Their defense looks elite. Running back Breece Hall is on the comeback trail, and receiver Garrett Wilson is special. But without Rodgers, what’s the ceiling?

KC’s road test: The start of Kansas City’s season is getting interesting in a hurry. The Chiefs dropped their opener against Detroit and now go to Jacksonville for a tough road test. An 0-2 start isn’t a disaster — Cincinnati did it last year and still had a great season — but it certainly wouldn’t be ideal even with the best quarterback on the planet running the show. Travis Kelce’s return will help, but Trevor Lawrence and company are no cakewalk.

Rookies clash: The Nos. 2 and 4 overall picks in the 2023 draft square off and three of the top four overall will be on the field when Houston and Indy play Sunday. Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud and Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson both lost in their debuts. Stroud threw for 242 yards on 44 attempts and rushed for 20, but Houston didn’t find the end zone. Richardson threw for 223, a TD and an INT and rushed 10 times for 40 and another score but was sacked four times.

Around the NFC

Love at first sight: Did the Packers do it again at quarterback? OK, it’s far too early to say that after back-to-back Hall of Famers, but Jordan Love settled in over the course of Week 1 and ended up throwing three touchdowns and playing turnover free in a rout of the rival Bears. Matt LaFleur’s team has a ton of young talent and a division that’s up for grabs amid Detroit’s resurgence and Minnesota’s potential regression. Love’s not going to throw three TDs every week, but if he plays well, the Packers should be in the NFC mix.

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Best in the West: San Francisco looked dominant in Week 1 — it was out-gaining Pittsburgh 200-1 at one point in the first half — and Joey Bosa played like he hadn’t just held out the entirety of the preseason. Now the 49ers open divisional play against Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams, who started the year with a surprising blowout win over Seattle. The 49ers’ only loss since the trade deadline last year was when they had to play with Josh Johnson as their quarterback in the NFC title game.

Carr’s fast start: Derek Carr doesn’t have Davante Adams anymore, but he does have second-year wide receiver Chris Olave. The former Ohio State star eclipsed 1,000 yards as a rookie and caught eight passes for 112 yards in New Orleans’ season-opening win against Tennessee. Carr threw for 305 yards and a touchdown in his first game for the franchise. In a very winnable NFC South, the Saints look well positioned to exceed expectations.

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Game of the Week

Baltimore at Cincinnati

Divisions aren’t won or lost in Week 2, but the Ravens have a chance to not only get to 2-0, but also drop their rival to 0-2. To do so, they’ll have to win on the road against a Bengals team that dropped a dud in their opener. Joe Burrow threw for 82 yards. Then again, Cincinnati started 0-2 last year before reeling off eight straight wins to close the regular season. This division’s going to be fun to watch all year.

Bengals 24, Ravens 23

Lock of the Week

Chicago at Tampa Bay

We’re not rolling with a big point spread this weekend. The Bears looked bad — really bad — against Green Bay in the season opener. They may not be particularly good, but they’ve got to have a little bit more than that in the tank, right? Right? Either way, there’s nothing easy about going to Florida in September and playing in that heat and humidity. Sunday in Tampa: high of 90, humidity 74%, chance of thunderstorms. And a great chance for Baker Mayfield and company to get the job done as 2.5-point favorites and get to 2-0.

Buccaneers 24, Bears 17

Upset of the Week

Cleveland at Pittsburgh

The Browns looked terrific in Week 1, rushing for 206 yards and dominating Cincinnati. The Steelers looked terrible in a blowout loss to San Francisco. A harbinger of things to come in the division or mostly Week 1 noise? Playing without injured defensive lineman Cam Heyward isn’t going to make life any easier for Mike Tomlin’s team, but they can still hold serve as 2.5-point home underdogs on Monday night.

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Steelers 21, Browns 20

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