#TWFSafeties, Andrew Luck, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys, Daniel Jones, Denver Broncos, Derek Carr, Detroit Lions, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Jameis Winston, Jared Goff, John Ross, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Miami Dolphins, Minkah Fitzpatrick, New England Patriots, New York Giants, NFL, Patrick Mahomes, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sam Darnold, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Teddy Bridgewater, Tom Brady, Trevor Siemian, Tyler Boyd, Washington
One of the things that makes the NFL such a spectacle week to week is that each team only plays sixteen games so every one matters and a teams prospects can change really quickly as several teams saw this weekend. Even a team with the roster depth of the Philadelphia Eagles can get undermined if too many injuries cluster around the same position, but I’ll cover that when I write up their game in the section, so let’s get started.
What I Saw
The week two Thursday night game saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers break my Thursday night line picking rule and win on the road against a Carolina Panthers team who have now fallen to 0-2. It was not a great spectacle that even started off looking strange as thanks to the weather the broadcasters only had two camera angles available and further lightening problems saw the game paused until it cleared. Neither team really shone, but for the Buccaneers Jameis Winston played without throwing an interception and didn’t get the Buccaneers into trouble while Cam Newton continued to look nothing like himself. It’s hard to evaluate from the outside what is going on with his shoulder and foot problems, but he is not effective at the moment and as good as Christian MaCaffrey has looked, he cannot carry the team when they are struggling in the red zone and Cam is missing so many consecutive passes. A trip to Arizona might help get the Panthers get back to winning ways, but they have not made things easy for themselves.
The final important part of this game to mention was that it was my first safety of the season – now this is actually the third of the year and I need to cover them properly at some point – but yes I am still tracking them! In this one the Bucs were pinned back to the three yard line by the Panthers punt team, and on second and eleven Luke Kuechly burst through the line to tackle Peyton Barber in the end zone and prevent him from getting the whole ball back across the goal line.
It was a slightly light week of watching for me thanks to work and things going on at the weekend so I only got through half of the coaching tape from the week one game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants but it was enough for me to be impressed. The Cowboys might have started off slowly, but their offence is transformed with the kind of pre-snap motion you see all over the league as well as plays where running backs split out, line up as receivers and run routes, which the Patriots used very effectively last season. The added benefit of this offensive transformation is the way Dak Prescott is playing. There were two throws that impressed me with their precision and timing, but Prescott has also amassed six hundred and seventy-four yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception in his opening two games. Right now the Cowboys look like one of the better teams in the NFL and if they can stay healthy then this could be a very good year indeed for them indeed.
I have watched two games from Sunday and I will start with the painful one from my perspective, as the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals very convincingly 41-17. The 49ers managed this whilst not so much looking spectacular on offence as benefitting from some truly awful tackling from the Bengals defence who looked so good in week one. The pass rush still looks good dangerous and it could just be a blip, but in a home opener it was a pretty dispiriting performance. The Bengals’ offence didn’t do much better barring a couple of flash plays. There are receivers in the passing game with John Ross looking good for a second week in a row and Tyler Boyd leading the team in receiving yards, but two one-hundred-yard receivers could not produce consistently enough for the Bengals to keep them in the game. More injuries hampered the offensive line and for a second week in a row the run game never got started. More worryingly the Bengals’ next game sees them travel to an unbeaten Buffalo Bill’s team who might not finish as the class of the AFC at the end of the season but look setup to be a difficult team for anyone to face. I have a nasty feeling I’ll be writing about an 0-3 team next week.
The final game I saw was the Atlanta Hawks hosting and beating the Philadelphia Eagles in a highly entertaining 24-20 contest. The Eagles really struggled with injuries in this game losing multiple offensive players early and Carson Wentz missed a series with a rib injury. It was an entertaining game but at times there was sloppy quarterback play for both teams and five interceptions were thrown between Wentz and Matt Ryan. That said the Falcons did flash on offence several times and sealed the game with a beautiful fourth and three play that saw the left tackle Jake Matthews get down field and block a poor DB to spring Julio Jones for fifty-four yards and the winning touchdown.
What I Heard
There has been much discussion of quarterbacks with two of the elite tier going down injured and the announcement finally coming that Eli Manning will be benched for Daniel Jones. Unusually, Sam Darnold did not even make the start of the week two game having been ruled out with mononucleosis, but has been cleared to return to the facility and is aiming for a week five return. What state the team will be in by then is anyone’s guess as poor Trevor Siemian was lost for the season to an ankle early in the game. The former Denver Broncos quarterback has played well when healthy but was not able to stay that way in Denver and on a one year deal this is pretty much the worse case for him.
The Cleveland Browns did what they should have done and won 23-3 but they are still sloppy. You also have to wonder about the game management when a running back comes out of the medical tent after a concussion check and gets thrown back into the game despite it being the fourth quarter with the game well and truly in hand.
What I Think
Whilst picking games on Sunday I mentioned that there would be more 1-1 teams than 2-0 or 0-2 teams, which is my way of reminding myself that we can’t take too much as set in stone from one game for each team. Unfortunately, I promptly forgot that as I actually made my selections and that partially accounts for me having such a poor week, but it also feels like that the ratio of records is different than in previous years. What I ought to do is go look at the numbers, but it’s my birthday tomorrow so things are a little all over the place and I don’t have time today, but I might well have a look at some point.
What I can tell you is that there are nine teams that have gone 2-0 to keep an unbeaten record and matching nine who have lost both of their games. Thanks to the Detroit Lions’ tie with the Arizona Cardinals we have a team with a 1-0-1 record and a corresponding 0-1-1 record while twelve teams have gone 1-1.
The teams that are really in trouble are those like Washington who have lost two divisional games already and the Pittsburgh Steelers who have lost both games and their starting quarterback. The New Orleans Saints have also lost a starting quarterback and will need Teddy Bridgwater to play well if they hope to keep themselves in contention until Drew Brees can return form surgery on his torn thumb ligament. There are some teams that may well right themselves from a solitary loss but I’m finding it hard to see turn arounds for the 0-2 teams which is a worry. The Steelers have tried to strengthen this year’s team despite Roethlisberger being done for the season with his elbow injury by trading next year’s first round pick for Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, which is a brave move and if any team can turn it round it might be the Steelers but the defence needs to come together as well as the offence.
What I Know
This is going to be one of those ones that is going to haunt me for a while, as I know that Lamar Jackson is really good and he is going to torture my Bengals for a long time. He is rapidly becoming one of my favourites of the young quarterbacks and we are beginning to amass quite a list: Patrick Mahomes (who somehow is possibly playing better this year), Jackson, Jarred Goff who has been to a Super Bowl, Josh Allen has got the Bills to 2-0 whilst Kyler Murray has already show flashes in a couple of games. I may not be too keen on the way Baker Mayfield conducts himself at times but he was good enough to give the Browns hope whilst Sam Darnold has shown flashes and people were excited by Daniel Jones in pre-season despite him being picked too high. Still, I haven’t had to work hard to find this quarterbacks, and whilst I’m certainly not wish the end of the careers of the likes of Brees, Brady (the Patriots were scary good again on both offence and defence), or Roethlisberger – the quarterbacks that follow them are suddenly looking a lot better than it was only a couple of years ago despite the retirement of Andrew Luck and the stalling of careers like Derek Carr. I’ll finish by saying that Dak Prescott has looked really good through two games so one to keep an eye on as he approaches getting his second contact.
What I Hope
I want the Dolphins to do something in week three that brings Dan joy and the Bengals surprise us all with a win up in Buffalo. Failing that, I hope the Ravens @ Chiefs lives up to the expectations I have them because I think this has the potential to be the best game we’ve seen yet.