If an NFL season began without an officiating controversy, would it really be an NFL season?

In the first two weeks, there was considerable consternation over taunting penalties, with eight flags thrown last week and three in Week 1. Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll called the new emphasis on enforcing a long-standing rule “a good thought” in theory but added the reality is “a bit of a can of worms.” In its crackdown, the NFL instructed officials “to strictly enforce” the rule and reminded players that penalties can be stiff: ejection, fines or even suspensions.

It’s a discretionary call, which means it is difficult to apply uniformly. In Week 2, the Bears’ Tashaun Gipson drew a flag after he clapped in the face of the Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase after breaking up a pass. “I just clapped because it was a huge play on third down, pumping up my guys, and that is the type of energy that you are playing with these guys,” he said. “I don’t want to be out there if I can’t be happy for my guys when they are making big plays. That’s what this game is about, man. It’s just adrenaline.”

Texans tight end Jordan Akins spun the ball on the turf after a reception, an act that, while hardly unusual, was deemed to have been performed too close to a Browns defender. In Seattle, the Seahawks’ D.J. Reed committed a no-no by flexing in the direction of the Titans’ Julio Jones after breaking up a pass.

For now, there are no plans for the league to change its stance, and officiating issues tend to resolve themselves after a few weeks. Watch to see whether 2021 follows that pattern.

All times Eastern.

1
Colts (0-2) at Titans (1-1)
CBS
1
Falcons (0-2) at Giants (0-2)
Fox
1
Chargers (1-1) at Chiefs (1-1)
CBS
1
Bengals (1-1) at Steelers (1-1)
CBS
1
Bears (1-1) at Browns (1-1)
Fox
1
Ravens (1-1) at Lions (0-2)
CBS
1
Saints (1-1) at Patriots (1-1)
Fox
1
Cardinals (2-0) at Jaguars (0-2)
Fox
1
Washington (1-1) at Bills (1-1)
Fox
4:05
Jets (0-2) at Broncos (2-0)
CBS
4:05
Dolphins (1-1) at Raiders (2-0)
CBS
4:25
Seahawks (1-1) at Vikings (0-2)
Fox
4:25
Buccaneers (2-0) at Rams (2-0)
Fox
8:20
Packers (1-1) at 49ers (2-0)
NBC

1 p.m. games

Chargers at Chiefs: Among the early games, there is a glittering AFC West matchup with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert hoping to rebound from close losses in a division that is promising to be a black-and-blue fight for the title. Against the Chiefs as a rookie last year, Herbert completed 68.8 percent of his passes (with the second game meaningless) for a 113.6 passer rating. Against the Cowboys last week, he passed for 338 yards and a touchdown, completing 31 of 41 passes, but threw two interceptions before the Chargers lost on a 56-yard field goal in the final seconds. It was a tough loss compounded by touchdowns that were nullified by penalties on two consecutive drives. Mahomes probably could sympathize if division rivals were prone to such things. In the Chiefs’ one-point loss to the Ravens, Mahomes was 24 for 31 for 343 yards and three touchdowns along with an interception that was the first of his career in September. Tyrann Mathieu had two interceptions, including a pick-six on the game’s first drive.

Bengals at Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger is nursing a pectoral injury, a consequence of being hit more often over a two-game span than at any time since 2013. The Raiders hit him 10 times, and ballcarriers are faring no better behind the offensive line. Roethlisberger will play through the pain but could use some help on the ground; the Steelers rank last in the league in rushing yardage. His counterpart, Joe Burrow, is due for a big game, and this could be the one in which it happens, particularly with T.J. Watt ruled out because of a groin injury. The Bengals haven’t won at Heinz Field since 2015.

Late afternoon games

Buccaneers at Rams: Despite being 2-0 and having a quarterback who has nine touchdown passes, the Buccaneers are not happy with themselves. At least Tom Brady and Coach Bruce Arians are not. Brady thinks the team can play better, and Arians criticized him for a strip sack, saying he held on to the ball too long, a poor decision that left Arians “in a bad mood for the rest of the game” against the Falcons. The margin for error shrinks against the Rams’ defense, led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, and an offense in which Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp clicked for 163 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. Among players who haven’t yet participated in Week 3, Kupp is tied for the league lead with 16 catches. Tampa Bay’s passing defense has been the league’s second worst, giving up 684 yards in the air in two games. Brady is likely to be without Antonio Brown, who is in covid-19 protocol. Brady dare not look past this game to the Week 4 trip to New England.

Seahawks at Vikings: Minnesota has had more than its share of bad luck, losing its opener to Cincinnati on a field goal in overtime and falling by a measly point to Arizona. Last week, Greg Joseph missed his attempt at a game-winning field goal, and the Vikings are looking at the sobering possibility of a 0-3 start. The Seahawks are coming off a disappointing overtime loss in which they were unable to stop Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and gave up a 24-9 second-half lead. As Russell Wilson pursues his 100th victory, Seattle needs a win to keep pace in the NFC West, where the other three teams are 2-0. Wilson will be looking to Tyler Lockett, who caught eight passes for 178 yards and a touchdown last week.

Sunday night

Packers at 49ers: The juicy backstory, of course, concerns whether Aaron Rodgers might have been the 49ers’ quarterback this season. Coach Kyle Shanahan admitted San Francisco made a call to inquire about Rodgers just before the draft and the answer was a swift no. Rodgers addressed it with a smile. “There were points when I thought anything was possible, definitely, but [it was] not a strong possibility.” In two games, he has completed 37 of 55 passes for 388 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions, so enough already with the freakouts. Aaron Jones is coming off a four-touchdown game (three on passes from the “other” Aaron). Last season, the Packers won in San Francisco, beating a 49ers team that lost the equivalent of more than 166 games in injuries to starters. The 49ers are healthy now and have won close games in Detroit and Philadelphia. Against the Packers, the 49ers’ pass rush (led by Nick Bosa and Dee Ford) can make the difference if it pressures the offensive line (with David Bakhtiari out and Corey Linsley now with the Los Angeles Chargers) and shuts down the running game. 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s 282 receiving yards are tops among players through Week 2, and Jimmy Garoppolo is 26-8 in 34 career starts.