From the Watchtower: NFL Week 2

As I said last week, Week 1 is usually a time for overstatements and hasty analysis over first impressions. Week 2 is a nice little palate cleanser in that regard, telling fans what might be real and what was just a bunch of hot air.

Opinions over how teams will fare should be mostly flexible until around the first month or so, but it’s still interesting to figure out which teams are looking strong. There are plenty of Super Bowl contenders that can be identified, and at least a few others that are investing in a shiny new tank.

For the interest of time and efficiency, the format of this segment will be changed, at least for this week. Instead of putting in the scores and giving an analysis of each team, I’ll make a list of the 32 teams, put their performance from last week in, and explain what I think about each team.

Let’s have some fun. Unless you’re a Dolphins fan. You deserve better than what you’re getting.

Arizona Cardinals (lost to Baltimore): There were obviously going to be kinks in the Cardinals offense, but their biggest one is alarming. The red zone efficiency for the Cardinals has been terrible, going 2-for-8 in two games. This week’s showing was especially damning, with three red zone drives ending in Zane Gonzalez chip shots. In a six-point game, those missed opportunities are that much harder to take. I think we’re starting to see the big problem with Kliff Kingsbury’s new scheme. Maybe try running the ball from time to time?

Atlanta Falcons (defeated Philadelphia): One word: clutch. That is the only way to describe a gutsy Sunday night performance. Matt Ryan saved an otherwise on-and-off day with a screen pass to Julio Jones that turned a fourth down into a touchdown. Isaiah Oliver stepped up and tackled Zach Ertz to prevent a first down. It was a nice bit of redemption after last week, where the Falcons struggled to get anything going. With the Saints dealing with issues (you already know what,) the Falcons suddenly have a real chance at the division.

Baltimore Ravens (defeated Arizona): It’s Week 2, and Lamar Jackson is still a top-two candidate for MVP. If last week’s game against Miami didn’t signify his improvement as a passed enough, this week showed his prowess as a dual threat. He threw for 272 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also getting 120 yards on 16 carries as a runner. Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews picked up right where they left off last week, and both have developed nice connections with Jackson. An offense that needed playmakers seems to be stocked with them now. For those asking about competition, Kansas City is this week. Get excited.

Buffalo Bills (defeated New York Giants): The Bills have been one of the more pleasant surprises of the league so far, dominating their in-state brethren to start. Josh Allen looked better, putting together a consistent game. The running game seems to be fine with Frank Gore and Devin Singletary, even if the carries should tilt more towards the latter. The defense got over an early hiccup to dominate the Giants for most of the game. This feels similar to the Panthers and the Dolphins last year, starting strong but tailing off before too long. At least they can beat up on the Dolphins and Jets like the Patriots?

Carolina Panthers (lost to Tampa Bay): The injury bug looks to have turned Super Cam into Clark Kent. Cam Newton, he of the banged-up throwing shoulder last year, has not looked right in these first two games. He’s in the negative for rushing yards this season, has been held without a touchdown in four straight games, and has dropped his last eight starts. Now with a foot injury from the preseason flaring up again, Newton is not a guarantee to make amends next week. This preseason saw one former number 1 pick retire due to injuries. I can’t help but feel we’re in for another shock sooner or later.

Chicago Bears (defeated Denver): Congratulations, Matt Nagy, you mad genius. You have found your kicker. After one of the more underrated and hilarious storylines of the offseason, it appears that the double-doink is slowly being erased. Eddy Pineiro has stepped in to his new role rather well, and proved it last week with three field goals in three tries. Even more crucial was his final kick, a 53-yard laser that gave the Bears the game. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Bears, as Mitch Trubisky will need more than 120 yards to get the Rex Grossman comparisons out of his ears. As we said with Nagy, get it together, man.

Cincinnati Bengals (lost to San Francisco): This was the team I expected to see in my predictions. The Bengals went from being a surprise to finding themselves back under fire. The culprit was undoubtedly the defense, who could not hold San Francisco on third down and got gashed for 259 yards by a team missing its top two running backs. This team gave Russell Wilson fits, but Jimmy Garoppolo and crew was too much? No matter where the real Bengals fit between these two extremes, the result likely isn’t very good.

Cleveland Browns (defeated New York Jets): Just what the doctor ordered. After last week’s embarrassment against the Titans, beating down a weakened Jets team felt like a stress reliever. While Mayfield didn’t play a perfect game, he showed flashes of last year when he turned a quick route to Odell Beckham Jr. into an 89-yard touchdown. The real number 1 pick that has been playing amazing so far has been Myles Garrett, who notched three sacks and looks to be a dark horse for Defensive Player of the Year. There’s still competition, but the Browns still have a good shot to break their league-leading streak of missing the playoffs.

Dallas Cowboys (defeated Washington): And the price tag just went up a little bit. Dak Prescott put together another strong performance against a divisional rival last week. To be fair, this week was a complete game from the team, with both sides of the ball looking solid. Prescott, however, was under scrutiny for how he would fare in a contract year. Needless to say, he’s been outperforming even the most optimistic of expectations so far. He’ll be licking his chops against Miami this week, which should serve to put at least another million in his pocket, at least. Anyone else want to feel bad for the Dolphins now?

Denver Broncos (lost to Chicago): There are reasons to be concerned in Denver right now. Joe Flacco being up and down as usual. Phillip Lindsay being outperformed by Royce Freeman again. Most shocking, however, has been the defense. Everyone was excited about what Vic Fangio would bring to the table defensively. So far, it has been nothing. Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and the pass rush have come up empty. The No-Fly Zone has come up with zero interceptions. If the Broncos want to make something out of this season, those numbers will have to come up soon.

Detroit Lions (defeated Los Angeles Chargers): Detroit fans had to enjoy being on the other end of the comeback for once. The plan continues to be turning Kenny Golladay into the new Megatron. While there’s no comparison at this point, the young receiver looks to be making good on becoming Matt Stafford’s new playmaking weapon. It wasn’t a perfect game, as the Lions benefited from the Chargers making too many mistakes. Either way, the Lions start out undefeated, so that’s at least something to celebrate.

Green Bay Packers (defeated Minnesota): Once again, Aaron Rodgers no longer will be asked to bail this team out. The defense pulled through, with Kevin King being the hero this time. Aaron Jones proved why he should be the bellcow for the Packers. Matt LaFleur’s offense looked nice to start before sputtering out. Consistency issues aside, the Packers are now gunning for the division. Now if only LaFleur can commit to making Aaron Jones like Derrick Henry. That man can ball.

Houston Texans (defeated Jacksonville): This time, the running game took center stage for the used car salesman. While Deshaun Watson and crew struggled, Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson came through. Hyde went from dead in the water in Kansas City to someone who might be a feature back in Houston, while Johnson continues to prove why he’s as underrated of a player as it gets. Despite J.J. Watt’s absence from the sack total, the Texans still came away with four total. The bad news is they also gave up four sacks, the eighth time they have given up that number or more. Don’t waste the first real franchise quarterback your team has had. Please?

Indianapolis Colts (defeated Tennessee): Another week of the Colts looking better than expected, except they end up with the win this time. Jacoby Brissett threw for three touchdowns, and the defense got 4 sacks against a helpless Marcus Mariota. Other than Derrick Henry, no Titan was able to have a productive day. The focus after the game, however, was on Adam Vinatieri. After missing two extra points this week, his status for the season was unclear. While he’ll play next week, continued struggles may see him follow Andrew Luck into the sunset. We’ll see what happens.

Jacksonville Jaguars (lost to Houston): While the legend of Gardner Minshew and that sweet, sweet mustache grows, the land of Duval received some troubling news. Jalen Ramsey, the star of the Jaguars secondary, has requested a trade. The writing was on the wall after an argument between Ramsey and coach Doug Marrone, but this feels like a move more akin to the NBA. Several teams have been linked to him, such as the Chiefs and Eagles, making it appear that Ramsey is a week-to-week proposition. Thursday could very well be his final game in a Jaguars uniform.

Kansas City Chiefs (defeated Oakland): Patrick Mahomes is already one of the most dominant quarterbacks of his generation, and he just turned 24. Including this game, Mahomes has now played four games where he has thrown for more than 350 yards and four touchdowns. Even more concerning? The Chiefs defense held their own and stopped the Raiders from scoring in the final three quarters. This is the only team that can hold a candle to New England right now.

Los Angeles Chargers (lost to Houston): Ty Long went from hero to zero just like that. After a game where he performed admirably in double duty, he melted down and missed two field goals that would have put the Chargers in the win column. His mistakes weren’t the only ones that hurt the team, but they have to be highlighted. With no word on kicker Michael Badgley’s status, the Chargers may be forced to play more special teams shenanigans again. The Spanos curse is alive and well.

Los Angeles Rams (defeated New Orleans): This wasn’t a true rematch, given the injury to Drew Brees. Still, Rams fans will be more than happy with a convincing performance. The offense showed signs of progress, but they still have yet to really hit their full potential. Meanwhile, Aaron Donald still has yet to produce a sack this year, something that should be expected to change soon. Once everything clicks, the Rams will be right back to the team that went to the Super Bowl.

Miami Dolphins (lost to New England): Fitting how history can be made in the league’s 100th season. Let’s put some things in perspective. The 1981 Baltimore Colts hold the record for the most points given up at 533. The 2012 New Orleans Saints gave up the most yards with 7,042. At the current pace, the Dolphins are expected to shatter both. Forget 0-16 being a very real possibility. This may actually be the worst team in NFL history. And again, Dolphins fans deserve much better. If you want to jump on any bandwagon, I understand. P.S.: Want to pull the plug on Devante Parker now?

Minnesota Vikings (lost to Green Bay): Kirk Cousins is on his way to becoming one of the most hated sports figures in Minnesota. A quarterback expected to be the final piece of the puzzle for the Vikings, he failed to reach the playoffs last year and struggled in a key divisional matchup. Three turnovers, including a game-sealing interception, is not a way to endear yourself to a long-suffering fanbase. If the Vikings fail to reach the playoffs once again, expect Rick Spielman to look long and hard for a potential replacement in next year’s draft.

New England Patriots (defeated Miami): No one’s going to say this win meant more than last week, but it goes to show the divisional dominance the Patriots have had throughout this century. The only real storylines here are Antonio Brown and Chase Winovich. Brown’s Patriots debut went as planned, grabbing four receptions for a team-high 56 yards and a touchdown. Preseason star Winovich also had a big day against a ransacked Miami offense, leading the team with 1.5 sacks. There will be comparisons to the almost-undefeated 2007 squad, which are a bit overblown…for now.

New Orleans Saints (lost to Los Angeles Rams): Even in the Big Easy, life comes at you fast. With just one injury, the Saints went from Super Bowl contender to a team in pure survival mode. Drew Brees will be gone for the rest of the first half of the season, so it will be up to Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill to salvage whatever hope there is left. At this point, the season hinges on how well one or both do at keeping the ship afloat. That said, is the Saints’ biggest rival the Rams or the referees? Your call.

New York Giants (lost to Buffalo): Well, Shurmur, you did it. A move that was met with ire from Giants fans last year has suddenly been accepted with a cold reality: Eli Manning was no longer starter material. Some may question the suddenness of the move, but let’s be real. Shurmur has one of the hottest seats in the league right now, and he has to show development at the most important position. Daniel Jones has Shurmur’s coaching life in his hands. The formerly-maligned sixth overall pick suddenly has a chance to make things right. Worked out for a certain Latvian unicorn that got flak from the New York faithful, so why not make it double or nothing?

New York Jets (lost to Cleveland): The Jets are one of the few teams that can safely press the panic button. Sam Darnold is out indefinitely with a case of mononucleosis. Backup Trevor Siemian is now out for the season with a broken leg. Luke Falk was respectable, but is he really a guy who can navigate a team out of trouble? $72 million cornerback Trumaine Johnson has now been benched. Star safety Jamal Adams looks like he wants out. The next games on the schedule are two against the Patriots, the Eagles, and the Cowboys. And the team gave up on third-rounder Jachai Polite before the season even began. This season has already been a butt fumble out of 10.

Oakland Raiders (lost to Kansas City): It was always going to be a tough ask for the Raiders to beat Kansas City. They did get a 10-0 lead before Patrick Mahomes remembered he was last year’s MVP. It hasn’t been a complete mess for the Raiders, which is a nice sign after the drama-filled offseason they had. It won’t be much easier, however. Five of the next six games for the Raiders are on the road, with one game in jolly old London and all five teams being at least .500. This is “the stretch” that determines whether teams are for real or nothing but poseurs. Good luck.

Philadelphia Eagles (lost to Atlanta): Some losses are hard to swallow. After coming back to almost surprise the Falcons, the Eagles just couldn’t come through in the clutch situations. Nelson Agholor dropped a surefire touchdown. Zach Ertz couldn’t get the first down. The team was ravaged with injuries. The good news is that the Eagles possess one of the best depth charts in the league, and Wentz is still the talented quarterback that Philly fans expected. They should still be okay, but this hiccup puts them a bit behind Dallas in the division.

Pittsburgh Steelers (lost to Seattle): The Triple B’s era is truly dead now. After parting ways with Bell and Brown in the offseason, Big Ben became a casualty of this year’s QB injuries. Unfortunately, the elbow injury suffered by Roethlisberger will end his season. With an 0-2 start and relying on Mason Rudolph to save the season, Pittsburgh has reached the nuclear winter. Minkah Fitzpatrick should help, but he can only add so much. A team that had hopes of the playoffs suddenly finds themselves in dire straits.

San Francisco 49ers (defeated Cincinnati): Similar to the Bills, an undefeated start was not something the 49ers were expected to have. Jimmy Garoppolo shook off a tough Week 1 by torching the Bengals defense. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert made Jerick McKinnon look obsolete. Deebo Samuel may have had his breakout moment. Chances are Dante Pettis will be traded if he remains underused. After a summer of questions, Kyle Shanahan can breathe a bit easier, at least for now. The NFC West looks competitive this year, so there’s no time to rest on his laurels.

Seattle Seahawks (defeated Pittsburgh): Russell Wilson proved why he was worth the extension he was given. 300 yards and three touchdowns on the day is nothing to sneeze at. It helps that Will Dissly popped up with one of his signature games out of nowhere. There are a couple hiccups, such as the two lost fumbles and the four sacks taken. So far, though, the Seahawks look like a team aiming for the playoffs. I get this feeling Pete Carroll is the new Jim Harbaugh, where he makes the team better than it probably is. That’s a scenario for another time, however.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (defeated Carolina): Who would have thought the savior of the Bucs would be Todd Bowles? His defensive work has gone unnoticed, and has taken the spotlight off a below-average tenure as the head coach of the Jets. Shaquil Barrett, in particular, has looked like a star with four sacks in the first two weeks. Bowles’ defense has only let go of one touchdown so far, and absolutely dominated Christian McCaffrey in this primetime game. The offense did at least see the Chris Godwin that was hyped by fantasy gurus alike, so it’s not a total one-sided effort. As long as it produces results, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Tennessee Titans (lost to Indianapolis): Hey, Titans, you do realize the used car salesman role is taken, right? After a dominant performance against the much-hyped Browns, the momentum skidded to a dead stop with the Colts. Derrick Henry was the only offensive player who looked good for Tennessee. Marcus Mariota got nothing going, no receiver topped 40 yards in the game, and Adam Humphries’s face is close to being put on milk cartons on every grocery store in Nashville. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have found our first cut candidate from this free agent class.

Washington Redskins (lost to Dallas): Two straight division losses to start the season. Ouch. The Redskins never got any pressure against Dak Prescott, and the running game was as bad for them as it was good for Big D. Trent Williams is only proving why his value is justified with each wall of defenders Derrius Guice or Adrian Peterson hit. With Jay Gruden’s job on the line, you have to wonder when he pulls the same move as the Giants and gets Dwayne Haskins in the starting lineup. Case Keenum’s been doing just fine, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

May the next week bring kinder fortunes. Good luck.


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