News  

 

The Week 2 Wrap

Print
  • By Neil Reynolds NFL International
More Columns >

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE... It has been a massive Monday for quarterback news with Drew Brees, of the Saints, sidelined for up to six weeks and Ben Roethlisberger out for the season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Saints just need to survive the loss of Brees and make a playoff run down the stretch. Nobody is running away with the NFC South while number nine gets better. But am I the only one who would rather see Taysom Hill under center rather than Teddy Bridgewater? As for Big Ben, it is a damaging blow but let's be honest, he had not played great to start this season. This is an initial downer for the Steelers, but let’s have a look at what Mason Rudolph can do as the every-week starter. I certainly felt he got off to a solid start on Sunday.

I should know better by now because the NFL serves up weekly drama and entire seasons can shift on a single play or two - just ask the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers as they await injury updates on star quarterbacks Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.

It's only September and a lot can change as autumn turns to winter, but it doesn't half feel like a two-horse race to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. It already feels like we're down to the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm not sure who can knock those teams off course from meeting in the AFC Championship Game.

Let's start with the Patriots. They have certainly scored at an impressive rate in the first two weeks of the season, racking up 76 points in one-sided demolitions of Pittsburgh and Miami. That matches a club record set by the 2007 team that went 16-0 in the regular season before losing in the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady is in sublime form at quarterback, the banged-up line ever reliable and the rushing attack is rock solid. Who knows how long the Patriots will have Antonio Brown in the line-up but when he does play, he is going to have an impact as arguably the most talented receiver in the game.

But it is on the other side of the football where the Patriots are writing a really telling story. Their defense might be one of the best of the Bill Belichick era and this group has now gone three straight games without conceding a touchdown... last year's Super Bowl and the opening wins against Pittsburgh and Miami this year.

The Pats are especially strong in the secondary, which should make for a fascinating chess match when they meet Mahomes and the Chiefs in December and - as I am predicting - once again in the AFC playoffs, most likely at the Super Bowl semi-final stage.

And that leads me onto Mahomes, who looks every inch the early leader in the race for the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player Award. The rocket-armed passer is doing what all great sportsmen and women do - he is making those around him infinitely better.

On opening weekend, Mahomes hooked up time and again with Sammy Watkins. During Sunday's win over Oakland - and with star receiver Tyreek Hill sidelined through injury - Mahomes shone again, but this time with DeMarcus Robinson, Travis Kelce and rookie Mecole Hardman as his primary targets.

The Raiders jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Sunday and all they did was make Mahomes mad. He threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the second quarter alone and that was enough to see off the Silver and Black.

Mahomes could beat you with his receivers and then take your receivers and beat you again. He is that special a talent - he is always going to make those around him look even better and more dangerous.

There is a lot of football to be played in the coming months but it does feel like the AFC is going to come down to a couple of monumental clashes between Mahomes' Chiefs and Belichick's Patriots. Sign me up for some of that!

Who's Hot

Patrick Mahomes...What makes Mahomes so dangerous is that there is seemingly no limit to his passing range. He truly makes defensive backs have to cover every blade of grass on the field. In throwing for 443 yards and four touchdowns at Oakland, Mahomes showed that he might, in fact, be an even better player than he was a year ago. What a scary thought for the rest of the NFL given that Mahomes topped 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns in 2018. I also like the look of rookie receiver Mecole Hardman, who was drafted around the time Tyreek Hill appeared to be in a world of trouble. He can flat out fly and we know that Mahomes has the arm to get it to him, no matter how far the first-year receiver races downfield.

Dallas Cowboys offense...Through two games, the Cowboys have scored nine offensive touchdowns. It took them six contests to reach that total in 2018 and this appears to be a unit transformed with Kellen Moore calling the plays. Dak Prescott looks every inch a franchise quarterback worthy of getting paid big money in the near future. After throwing for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns in Week 1, Dak was the model of efficiency as he hit on 26 of 30 attempts for 269 yards and three scores. He completed his final 18 passes as Dallas ran out 31-21 winners in Washington. Ezekiel Elliott played a nice role in rushing for 111 yards and one touchdown, but he doesn't have to be /everything/ to this offense, at least not through two weeks.

Buffalo Bills...The Bills are one of this young season's pleasant surprises at 2-0. They already had a very good defense heading into 2019 and that side of the ball has shown up in back-to-back Big Apple wins over the Jets and Giants. But the offense - which underwent a major overhaul in the offseason - has also held up its end of the bargain. It's not been perfect but Josh Allen is throwing for an additional 80 yards per game and points per game is up from 16.8 in 2018 to 22.5 in 2019. While the additions of Frank Gore, John Brown and Cole Beasley may not be that exciting at first glance, all are producing regularly and the Bills look capable of mounting a wild card challenge.

Who's Not

Kirk Cousins...The knock on Cousins has long been that he cannot win the truly big games. He himself suggested in the offseason that he was a ".500 quarterback" until he can prove otherwise. Cousins' record as a starter is actually a little below that at 35-38-2 and he has not stood up big when the lights have been at their brightest. A big early season road game at Lambeau Field saw Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings come up short 21-16 to the Green Bay Packers. Cousins was up and down all day but was at his most disappointing on a first and goal at the Green Bay eight-yard line. After fighting back into contention and hanging around, the Vikings had a chance to take the game. But on first down, Cousins threw an ill-advised pass into double (and possibly triple) coverage. Kevin King made the leaping interception to all but end the game. Kirk has to be better in those situations. That is, after all, why the Vikings brought him on board.

The officials...The standard across the weekend was pretty sub-par (see the roughing the passer call on Denver's Bradley Chubb that set the Chicago Bears up for a late win against the Broncos, as well as the pass interference ruling against Dalvin Cook that wiped out a Stefon Diggs touchdown for Minnesota). But the absolute taking of the biscuit was in Los Angeles, where Sean Payton's Saints were stiffed once again by the men in stripes. In a low-scoring affair and with Drew Brees out injured, every touchdown would have been precious for the Saints and Cameron Jordan should have been allowed to run to the end zone without Walt Anderson's premature whistle after Jared Goff's fumble. Just let them play it out and overturn on replay, not stop them quickly and then realise you have made a massive mistake via replay that cannot be undone. Payton must be furious on this Monday and rightly so.

Miami Dolphins...The woeful and laughable Dolphins will be on this list every week. Here is how their drives ended on Sunday night at home to the Patriots... punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, interception (for TD), interception (for TD), turnover on downs, turnover on downs, interception. Through two games, the embarrassing Dolphins have shipped 102 points - that's tied for the most in the Super Bowl era with the 1973 Saints. This is shaping up to be an historically bad year in Miami and they've not even gone on the road yet. Things might actually get worse!

The Fast Five

  • Russell Wilson has been outstanding in leading Seattle to a 2-0 start and his game-winning touchdown pass to D.K. Metcalf in Pittsburgh was a thing of beauty. He is not far off MVP level at the moment.
  • Don't look now but the San Francisco 49ers are 2-0, winning with third and fourth-string running backs as well as a defense that has stepped up big time. Jimmy G is also not too shabby at QB.

  • In a losing cause at Lambeau, Dalvin Cook reminded us that he is a true superstar and that most of the Minnesota Vikings attack should run through him. Give him the football early and often.

  • Doug Marrone claimed he "couldn't recall" why he almost got into a fight with Jalen Ramsey on the sidelines in Jacksonville's 13-12 loss to Houston. I'm not having that. So just minutes after the head coach goes head to head with his star player, the coach doesn't remember what the fuss was all about? Utter rubbish.

  • Here is a worrying stat line through two weeks if you are the winless Denver Broncos. With defensive-minded head coach Vic Fangio calling the signals, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have been held without a sack. That pair combined for 26.5 sacks a year ago.

Fact of the Week

After Detroit trailed for the first 52:39 against the LA Chargers, Matthew Stafford fired a game-winning 31-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay. That gave Stafford his 28th fourth quarter comeback since 2009 - the most in the NFL during that span. Stafford went 11 of 13 in the second half.

Finish That Sentence

I asked readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...

  • From Rob George... Discipline at the Jacksonville Jaguars has...not existed for a few years now, which is stunning because, at first glance, Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin were brought on board to bring discipline to this team. From 2018';s repeated meltdowns to last week's Myles Jack ejection and Jalen Ramsey's sideline outburst on Sunday, these Jags are repeatedly out of control.

    • From Steve L... To avoid going 0-16 the Giants need to...hand over the reins of the offense to rookie passer Daniel Jones. Even then, he will need to hand the ball to Saquon Barkley as often as possible and he will still lose a lot of games because the defense is awful. It.s going to be a long season in the Big Apple but the Giants might as well see what they have in Jones because this offense is going nowhere with Eli at the helm.

  • From David... I've been thinking lately that the NFL would benefit from...no instant replay. At all. Im sure I would get frustrated at some big calls being missed, but at least there would be no danger of the passion being sucked out of the game. Much like in the Premier League now when a goal goes in (and we pause and wait for VAR intervention), I no longer live in the immediate joy of a touchdown without wondering if the play will be reviewed from New York. It will never happen, but I wonder what kind of game we would be watching if the NFL went old school from a replay point of view.

Final Thought

I may be biased but I think cancer survivors rock! So Tennessee Titans offensive lineman David Quessenberry is the overwhelming hero of Week 2, in my opinion. The former Houston Texan battled cancer for three and a half years and once he overcame lymphoma and a mass in his lungs, he spent the 2018 season on Tennessee's practice squad. Last night, he was active and he sneaked through the line on a tackle-eligible play to catch a one-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota. The Titans may have still lost the game, but Quessenberry is a winner in every sense of the word.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop