NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Shaun O'Hara selects O-line units to watch heading into the week, breaking down what's on the line for each group, potential matchups and other significant factors. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all 32 teams and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week.
Tennessee is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since 2013. In the Titans' victory over the Lions in Week 2, they rushed for 139 yards on 24 carries, with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry leading the way. The rejuvenated Murray is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this season. (With the Eagles in 2015, Murray averaged 3.6 yards per carry. And while with the Cowboys in 2014 -- a year when he was the league's rushing leader -- he averaged 4.7 yards per carry.) Couple that with the fact that this hyped-up Raiders' defense -- featuring Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin -- has allowed 500-plus yards in each of its first two games, ranking last in the league.
This is a good matchup for Tennessee, even though it has not had a running back surpass 100 yards in a game since 2014. (Quarterback Marcus Mariota rushed for 112 yards vs. Jacksonville last season.) To do that, rookie right tackle Jack Conklin and athletic left tackle Taylor Lewan will need to win matchups against Mack, who has yet to record a sack in 2016, and Irvin.
The Broncos have a favorable matchup on paper this week, facing a Cincinnati defense that currently ranks dead last against the run. The ground game is especially crucial in coach Gary Kubiak's offense right now, because quarterback Trevor Siemian has only attempted two passes over 20 yards in two games, completing one. The 2-0 Broncos are averaging 141 yards per game on the ground, fourth best in the league, and are led by C.J. Anderson (40 carries for 166 yards and two rushing TDs in two games). Since Week 8 of the 2015 season, the fourth-year running back has averaged 5.7 yards per carry.
The Bengals' defense has allowed 100 yards rushing in both games this season. In addition, Cincinnati has just two sacks in two games, so this is another good opportunity for Denver's offensive line to prove its value. It's a unit that is overshadowed by a much sexier defense.
New York Giants
Things are looking up for this team. The Giants are 2-0 for the first time since 2009, and they've won four straight home games vs. Washington, which has the worst third-down defense in the NFL. Quarterback Eli Manning leads the league in completion percentage (73.9), but has been sacked four times. The Giants' offensive line has played much better than they showed in the preseason, but could be tested Sunday with a banged-up running back (Rashad Jennings).
Right tackle Marshall Newhouse strained his right calf in last week's win over the Saints, and it is uncertain if he'll play this weekend. If he can't go, either Bobby Hart of Will Beatty will fill the void. Hart struggled in the preseason, and Beatty missed all of 2015 due to injury. One of these players will be tasked with holding off linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, who had a pair of sacks against Dallas a week ago.
The Panthers are looking to make it 15 consecutive wins at home, but this weekend will be a huge test for the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense (33 points per game) as it welcomes Minnesota, which is led by a stingy defense. Through two weeks, the Vikings have allowed 15 points and 289.5 yards per game, recorded seven sacks and six takeaways, and scored two defensive touchdowns.
The Panthers' offense also has wreaked havoc on its opponents. Carolina leads the NFL in rushing yards per game (166.5), but will be without Jonathan Stewart (hamstring). Fozzy Whittaker, an undrafted fourth-year running back, appears poised to get the rock and attempt to repeat his 100-yard performance from last week. The Panthers have rushed for at least 100 yards in 34 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Mike Zimmer's "next man up" battle cry is being put to the test early and often this season, and it's hard to believe that Minnesota is 2-0 given the catastrophic injuries to quarterback Teddy Bridgewaterand now running back Adrian Peterson. This week, the offensive line is under the microscope, as the Vikings have really struggled to run the ball -- even before last year's rushing king went down. Peterson was averaging 1.6 yards per carry before his injury, and Minnesota is averaging 47.5 rushing yards per game. Peterson has accounted for 45.5 percent of the team's offensive touches since 2015, but now the Vikings must look to Jerick McKinnon to lead the way on the ground. Matt Asiata and newly-signed Ronnie Hillman will back up McKinnon.
With Matt Kalil (hip) placed on IR this week, second-year pro T.J. Clemmingswill get the start at left tackle. Clemmings was a defensive tackle in college at Pittsburgh before switching to the offensive line -- he didn't play left tackle until the Senior Bowl. Clemmings did however see some time at left tackle this preseason. Last season, he started all 16 games at right tackle becoming the third rookie in franchise history to start in all 16 games (Todd Steussie in 1994; Kalil in 2012). Clemmings is a very athletic player for his size (6-foot-5, 309 pounds) and looks improved this year. He can get himself into trouble when his base gets too wide in pass protection and he gets his face involved with his punch.
Others to keep an eye on:
» Detroit Lions(at Green Bay, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday): The Lions are a sneaky team that the Packers shouldn't look past this week. Last year, the Lions won at Lambeau Field for the first time since 1991, and I expect another battle Sunday. Under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, the Lions have produced more than 375 yards in each of their first two games -- only one of four teams to do that (along with Cincinnati, Oakland and Washington). This team has dramatically turned the run game around from a year ago, when it finished last in rushing yards per game. So far in 2016, Detroit has recorded more than 115 yards per game, averaging 5.4 yards per carry (third best in the NFL). However, the Packers boast the best run defense in the league right now, having given up just 39 rushing yards per game this season. Not to mention, they have superior pass rushers in Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, the active career sack leader with 137.5.
» Kansas City Chiefs(vs. New York Jets, 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday): The Chiefs need to get out of their first-half funk, as they have a minus-28 point differential in the opening 30 minutes (worst in the NFL). It appears they will still be without running back Jamaal Charles and will lean on their committee backfield, which is led by Spencer Ware. He has rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and hauled in nine receptions for 177 yards.
The Jets fly in well-rested after playing in "Thursday Night Football" in Week 2. The defense didn't have a sack against the Bills, but it had seven in Week 1. This contest will be a good test for the Chiefs against Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, who will match up against Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz.