Around The NFL's Week 2 winners and losers


NFL teams have mostly all adopted a pass-first policy. The conventional wisdom is that teams throw to take the lead and run the ball to finish the game out. Now the second part feels optional.

As the immortal Daniel Jeremiah pointed out, four teams won Sunday despite not even having a runner go over 45 yards. Jay Cutler led the Bears with 25 yards and Chicago pulled off a road upset in San Francisco. San Diego couldn't crack three yards per carry and the team still dominated the defending Super Bowl champions. Carolina's running backs had four yards combined until the final minutes against Detroit and only ended up with 62 yards. The Panthers still beat the Lions by 17 points.

Having a great running game is a nice bonus, but it's not always necessary to pull off convincing wins. And with that, let's take a look at some of the winners and losers from Week 2:

Going Up

Carolina's staying power: Each year, we make preseason predictions. We know that five to six teams from the previous year usually won't make it back to the playoffs. Practically everyone had the Panthers as one of the teams to fall out of the mix, but they have picked up right where they left off. Their defense flies around and tackles well. Their passing game has been better through two weeks. The Panthers' two-game head start over New Orleans in the NFC South is significant.

Redskins' offseason spending: No one has been able to block Washington defensive end Jason Hatcher through two weeks. The matchups have been easy thus far (Texans, Jaguars), but the Redskins' defense looks a lot more competent early this season. Speaking of which ...

Dallas Cowboys' defense: They aren't the worst defense in NFL history through two weeks. They aren't even ... below average?! The matchup (Tennessee) certainly helped in Week 2, but the Cowboys' defense has looked vaguely competent both weeks. Rolando McClain is two weeks into the most surprising Comeback Player of the Year campaign of all time.

New England Patriots' defense: The Patriots aren't explosive on offense thus far. One look at the roster shows that more playmakers now reside on the other side of the ball. Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Logan Ryan, Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty all made terrific individual plays against Minnesota

Larry Donnell: All offseason, we read about how the New York Giants didn't have a tight end. Through two weeks, Donnell might be the most consistent part of the offense.

Long, slow drives: It was a great week if you were a fan of never-ending, precise drives led by short passing attacks. The Ravens' offense had only three drives before halftime. Kansas City and Denver only had eight drives each in their game. The Broncos' and Seahawks' offenses could barely get on the field, combining for only 84 plays. San Diego had three double-digit play drives; the team only had three drives that didn't take at least eight plays. It was a near-perfect performance by Philip Rivers.

Steve Smith: It's like the Ravens immediately regretted trading Anquan Boldin, so they replaced him one year later with the most similar player they could find. Smith is a tackle-breaking machine, and he has more juice in his legs than Boldin despite being 35 years old. He's made to be a Raven.

Jim Schwartz: Remember him? Mike Pettine's replacement in Buffalo is quietly off to a nice start with the Bills. Schwartz has plenty of talent to work with up front, and the Bills have not missed Jairus Byrd and Kiko Alonso much yet.

Cleveland's running game: Terrance West is a blast to watch make jump cuts, and the Browns' offensive line has quickly picked up Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking system. Fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell tilts the field, always running downhill. He could be the back people think LeGarrette Blount is. The Browns barely need Ben Tate at this point.

Austin Davis: The Rams' win over Tampa wasn't fluky. The Bucs dared Davis to beat them, and he pulled it off with a lot of impressive throws in traffic. We want to see more.

Moving Down

Toby Gerhart fantasy owners: The Jaguars' interior offensive line is awful, and Gerhart doesn't look like the guy to overcome it.

Matt Cassel's bandwagon: New England pressured their old friend, and Cassel mostly didn't respond well. There were miscommunications with Vikings receivers and poor, frantic decisions from Cassel. We're not giving up on Cassel yet, but he has to stay around .500 or the Vikings should turn to Teddy Bridgewater.

New Orleans and Seattle's road chops: The Saints and Seahawks are great, but they just aren't the same teams away from their wild home settings. It's something to watch closely as teams fight for home-field advantage.

Andrew Luck's accuracy: In some ways, Luck mirrors Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. All three young quarterbacks can get in serious grooves, but they also fall victim to cold streaks. Russell Wilson is the steadiest young quarterback because he's not prone to bouts of wildness. If Tom Brady or Tony Romo played like Luck did the last two weeks, we'd call them erratic and wonder if they were in decline. Luck is still a blast to watch, but he's far from a finished product at 25 years old.

The latest "Around The NFL Podcast" recaps every Sunday game from an upset-heavy Week 2 in the NFL, and considers what RGIII's injury could mean for the Redskins.