Before the season, the consensus three best teams in the NFC were the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. They have combined to start 2-4 on the season.
The Saints' defense looks better on paper, but it's not better on the field yet. This is a team that could easily be 2-0, but they are 0-2 because they haven't been tough up front in two road games. And this is rarely a good road team under Sean Payton.
The Seahawkslost on the road to a quality team in scorching San Diego. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates helped lead a near-perfect performance by the Chargers' offense. San Diego beat Seattle by attacking them through the air. Not many teams could pull that off. The Packers scratched their way back to a 1-1 record, but it took a wild home comeback against the New York Jets to get there.
It's too early to even say that it's too early to panic. We still expect all three teams in the playoffs, and there were extenuating factors in some of the losses. But the first two weeks of the season were a great reminder how quickly offseason narratives can explode.
- One nugget from a wacky box score: The Bears were victorious despite just 21 yards from Matt Forte on the ground. Chicago's featured back was outrushed by Jay Cutler on a night when no Bears wideout crossed the 50-yard barrier through the air.
- Colin Kaepernick's turnover geyser helped Cutler toss four touchdown passes on the night, but it took the Bears starter nearly two quarters to get untracked. Chicago looked lost at the half, averaging 2.9 yards per play and showing no sustaining elements on offense before the comeback.
- On defense, the Bears loaded the box early and dared San Francisco to run. Countering with plenty of four-wide sets that saw Bruce Ellington replace Frank Gore on passing downs, Kaepernick threw eight balls before Gore attempted his second rush. On the ground, the 49ers confronted Chicago with a rich variety of formations and looks -- including a string of plays out of the diamond formation -- but the Bears successfully held Gore to just 63 yards on the night. Promising rookie Carlos Hyde was an afterthought with zero yards off four totes.
-- Marc Sessler and Dan Hanzus
- Mike Pettine's defense flexed its muscles early and often against Drew Brees and the Saints. Cleveland shut down passing lanes and punctured the pocket with a strong pass rush that generated two sacks and six quarterback hits. Three minutes before the half, the Saints' star passer was 7 of 13 for 23 yards with a pick six.
Relive the Cleveland Browns' 26-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
- New Orleans climbed back into the affair on the shoulders of Jimmy Graham. The Pro Bowl tight end caught fire in the second half with 10 grabs for 118 yards and a pairof scores. Even with Joe Haden all over him, Graham's dominant athleticism and freaky measurables allowed him to win that one-on-one matchup time and again.
- Cleveland's offense was shorthanded without Jordan Cameron in the lineup. Brian Hoyer struggled to develop chemistry with his remaining targets, throwing for just 5.0 yards per pass. Nobody in Cleveland will care about his numbers, though, after the widely dismissed starter led the Browns on a gutsy 14-play, 85-yard drive capped by Billy Cundiff's 29-yard game-winning field goal.
-- Marc Sessler
- The Bill Lazor hype train slowed to a crawl in Orchard Park. The Dolphins' offense didn't cross into Bills territory until the third quarter and finished with 290 yards overall. Ryan Tannehill was sacked four times and looked rattled behind an overwhelmed Dolphins offensive line.
- The Dolphins will have to make do without Knowshon Morenofor the next few weeks. The running back exited the game in the first half after suffering an ugly left elbow injury. It's a tough break for a Miami team that looked to have a nice backfield setup after Week 1. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Moreno is expected to miss around four weeks.
- C.J. Spiller provided a nice reminder of his expert playmaking ability. Spiller went untouched on a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He added a 47-yard run later in the game. Spiller is too good to continue to be locked in a committee setup.
-- Dan Hanzus
- The Giants led 14-13 with 11 minutes to play. Then it all fell apart. A Victor Cruz drop on third down was followed by Ted Ginn's 71-yard punt return for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Giants return man Quintin Demps lost a fumble. The Cardinals kicked another field goal. Finally, with the Giants driving into the red zone, Rashad Jennings lost his footing and fumbled without being touched. These are the types of mistakes bad teams make.
- Drew Stanton performed admirably in place of Carson Palmer, who was a late scratch with a nerve issue. Stanton didn't throw a touchdown pass (one scoring play to Larry Fitzgerald was overturned on review) and did not have a turnover, mostly staying out of the way as the defense and special teams took over. There will be no quarterback controversy in Arizona if Palmer is healthy.
- Lost in the team-wide meltdown was a very nice bounce-back performance by Eli Manning, who was excellent after an early interception. Manning got little help from his receivers, however, who had five more drops.
-- Dan Hanzus
- This was a costly win for Cincinnati. With Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert already sidelined, the Bengals lost offensive focal point A.J. Green to an injury that NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports is turf toe. Four more players, including Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict (stinger) and starting guard Kevin Zeitler (calf), were also forced from the game.
- The Bengals haven't missed Mike Zimmer. After putting Joe Flacco through one of the longest afternoons of his career last week, the Bengals defense did the same to Matt Ryan on Sunday. If the NFL's best defense calls Seattle home, the second-best might reside on the banks of the Ohio River.
- After playing a key role in four-wide sets versus the Saintslast week, Devin Hester was an afterthought in Cincinnati. His playing time will vary depending on game momentum and matchups.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Jake Locker's box score is misleading. Battling ball-placement issues, he had a 7.6 passer rating at halftime. Outside of a fluky 61-yard touchdown to Delanie Walker, the Titans offense was practically nonexistent before garbage time.
- Middle linebacker Rolando McClain was the Cowboys' best defensive player in Week 1. He led the charge again on Sunday, generating one sack and turning in one of the day's best plays on a circus catch that would have gone for a pick-six had it been called correctly.
- DeMarco Murray has thrown his hat in the ring for the honor of the NFL's best running back. He leads all starters in yards per carry since the start of the 2013 season. He was a tackle-breaking monster against the Titans on Sunday, bringing his two-game total to 316 yards from scrimmage on 55 touches. Play-caller Scott Linehan has made good on his promise to run the ball with authority and consistency this season.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Cam Newton looked excellent in his return. He didn't lose any of the velocity on his fastball, which he displayed often (22-of-34 passing for 281 yards and a TD). Newton showed some rust early, but spread the ball around to his receivers and picked apart the Lions' D. SuperCam isn't going to change the way he plays. He still got out and ran and looked mobile in space. The only question is the initial burst off the surgically repaired ankle. He got tackled on some plays he generally bounces out of.
- The Panthers reminded us how tough-minded they are as a team. The offseason questions were answered: Carolina remains a legit playoff contender. The Panthers defense slowed down a high-powered offense and got pressure without Greg Hardy. This is still a very, very good defense without the pass rusher.
- Some of the luster fell off Matthew Stafford following his glowing Week 1. The quarterback reverted to forcing passes to Calvin Johnson too often and woefully underthrew Megatron on a ball that was picked off. Stafford still looks much more in control of the offense and displayed that improved footwork. However, the 26-year-old quarterback's improvement under Jim Caldwell is clearly a process.
-- Kevin Patra
- The Patriots barely needed Tom Brady. They won this game because of defense, special teams and a running game that helped to kill the clock in the second half. Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower took turns making huge plays for New England. (Jones' came on a terrific field goal block and return for a touchdown.) New England now has more playmakers on defense than offense. Really.
- Vikings fans started chanting "We want Teddy!" in the second quarter. Mr. Bridgewater might only be a loss or two away from starting. Matt Cassel was pickedofffourtimes in the game. While the mistakes weren't all Cassel's fault, he struggled when not checking the ball down. Cassel isn't built to carry an offense, and that's what he'll have to do as long as Adrian Peterson is out of the lineup. For the time being, Cassel is the starter as coach Mike Zimmer gave him a vote of confidence for next Sunday.
- Minnesota's running game was just as vanilla as you'd expect without Peterson. If you don't count Cassel's runs, the Vikings had 38 yards on 16 carries. Matt Asiata was generic and Jerick McKinnon was barely involved.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
- Stephen King couldn't have authored a more horrific start to Sunday's Redskins outing. After losing starting quarterback Robert Griffin III to a dislocated left ankle, deep threat DeSean Jackson was ruled out with an AC joint sprain.
- With Kirk Cousins taking over, the Redskins didn't skip a beat. Griffin's reliable backup immediately pegged fullback Darrel Young for a 20-yard touchdown strike en route to completing his first 12 passes, a career best. The sample size is minor, but Cousins -- tossing for 250 yards on the day with two scores and no picks -- looks no less comfortable in Jay Gruden's offense than Griffin.
- Washington's pass rush dropped a mega-ton hammer. Ryan Kerrigan dialed up a career-best four sacks, while Perry Riley, Brian Orakpo and Jason Hatcher ate up Jacksonville's line and Chad Henne all afternoon. Washington tied a franchise record with 10 sacks and unleashed a whopping 18 quarterback hits. With the second quarter ticking away, the Redskins had outgained the Jaguars 257 yards to one.
-- Marc Sessler
- Suggesting that he might be an ethereal being from another solar system, J.J. Watt drew first blood with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Suggesting that he's human, the defensive terror didn't record a sack.
- Arian Foster is back. The Texans star runner had his way with Oakland's defense en route to 138 yards at 4.9 yards per attempt. Showing speed and power, Foster's resurgent play contributed to Fitzpatrick's hot start against the Raiders.
- One week after his ugly debut against Rex Ryan's Gang Green defense, Raiders rookie passer Derek Carr showed hints of progress on Sunday. Throwing for 263 yards with a pair of picks and a late touchdown, Carr did what little he could with Oakland's talent-poor offense. It's challenging to get a read on the newbie passer with so little surrounding him.
-- Marc Sessler
- Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers should send this game film to Canton. Their performance encapsulated everything that has made them one of the best duos in the league since Rivers took over nine years ago. All seven targets thrown to Gates were caught, for 96 yards and three touchdowns. Rivers kept dodging defenders and throwing improbable passes from uncomfortable platforms. No one throws a touch pass quite like Rivers.
Gates, meanwhile, made a handful of incredible grabs. Ladarius Green was nowhere to be seen. So much for Gates' decline.
- This looked just like the Chargers' 2013 offense at its best. Death by 1,000 five-yard runs and eight-yard catches. The Chargers controlled the game with the temperature over 90 degrees with three straight drives of at least nine plays to open the game. They scored in their first four possessions. They held the ball for 42 minutes. Seattle's running backs had only eight carries.
- It's rare the see the Seahawks pass defense so thoroughly dominated. They missed a lot of tackles and struggled with short crossing patterns. Rivers wasn't afraid of throwing at Richard Sherman. They completed their first four passes towards Sherman for 56 yards.
-- Marc Sessler
- Jordy Nelson deserves to be recognized as one of the NFL's best wide receivers. He was a beast on Sunday, finishing with nine receptions for a career-high 209 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 16 times by Aaron Rodgers, which tells you how much the quarterback trusts his No. 1.
- A potential game-tying 36-yard touchdown catch by Jeremy Kerley was wiped away in the fourth quarter when officials ruled the Jets had called timeout on the sideline before the snap. Replays appeared to show offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg gesturing for a time out.
- You can safely assume Jets coaches won't be thrilled with the CBS footage of Muhammad Wilkerson waving his arms to the Lambeau Field crowd and smiling broadly as he walked to the locker room after his ejection for fighting. It was selfish behavior by Wilkerson, the defensive player the Jets could least afford to lose at that moment.
-- Dan Hanzus
Relive the Denver Broncos' 24-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
- The Chiefs took Denver to the brink with an edgy final drive that crumbled on the Denver 2 after Alex Smith's fourth-down pass to Dwayne Bowe fell incomplete with just 18 seconds left. Kansas City hung around all afternoon despite losing their offensive centerpiece, Jamaal Charles, to an ankle sprain.
- Smith did his best to keep the offense afloat, but the Chiefs -- despite Sunday's noble effort -- aren't built to keep pace with a fast-flowing offense like Denver's. Kansas City's issues peaked with a 19-play drive that ate more than 10 minutes out of the third quarter only to end with a botched field goal attempt by Cairo Santos:
- Denver's offense was held in check, but Broncos running back Montee Ball put together some of his best work to date, piling up 60 yards on the ground and another 29 through the air. I wasn't thrilled with his Week 1 showing, but the second-year back showed quickness and moves against Kansas City's defense.
-- Marc Sessler
- The Bucs got a big dose of bad fortune to end this game. Josh McCown connected on a long pass to Mike Evans to the Rams' 32-yard line with time winding down. There should have been enough time to run up, spike the ball and attempt a game-winning 50-yard field goal. But Evans was hurt on the play and Tampa was out of timeouts. So the officials had to call an injury timeout, and there was a 10 second run-off that ended the game.
It's a tricky, necessary and somewhat murky rule. Evans was hurt well before 10 seconds were left, but the officials didn't call the timeout until it was clear he couldn't continue. It was bad luck more than anything.
- Rams quarterback Austin Davis deserves a ton of credit. He threw for more than 8 yards per attempt and directed a terrific late drive to take the lead. His late throw to Austin Pettis was legitimately one of the plays of the day in the NFL. Davis had a lot of nice throws in the game. Coach Jeff Fisher said Shaun Hill, however, will remain the starter if he gets healthy again.
- The Buccaneers have lost five of their 11 defensive starters since Week 1 started. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy broke his hand during the game; the team was already missing its two starting defensive ends. It's unclear if McCoy will be able to play through the injury in future weeks, but he was knocked out of this one early.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
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.