Anyone else feel like David did coming home from the dentist when you stop to consider the NFL so far this season? Is this real life?
This past weekend saw a Jaguar team that looked remotely capable against Green Bay get run out of the stadium by one of the most underachieving quarterbacks in the NFL–Rivers is very talented, but he’s not accomplished anything. The bizarre whipsaw that is the NFL is in full swing, and we hit the ground running this season.
And no, that is not the permanent title of this series.
The 2016 NFL Season is only two weeks old, and already it can be called wild, unpredictable, and even surprising. It is certainly surprising that the number two pick from this year’s draft, Carson Wentz, not only started in Philadelphia, but also looked like a seasoned pro in the process. Meanwhile the number one pick, Jared Goff, has been riding the bench in Los Angeles and doesn’t seem to be the immediate answer for the Rams’ anemic offense. It’s been unpredictable in that we have 8 teams sitting at a record of 0-2, and at least 4 of those started the year with lofty expectations. It’s wild because the coaching hot seats are already scorching, with an offensive coordinator already having been fired (Buffalo’s Greg Roman) and fans calling for the heads of Rex Ryan, Gus Bradley, and Jay Gruden, among others.
What can possibly happen next?
That’s one of the things that many people (including myself) love about the NFL – 17 weeks of lunacy–that’s just the regular season. One of those 0-2 teams will probably make the playoffs, and several others will continue the descent to obscurity, passing mediocrity on the way down. One of the undefeated teams may experience a losing streak that dashes their playoff hopes, leaving them to wonder “what if” during the offseason. And maybe, just maybe, your favorite team will start squeaking out wins, gain confidence in themselves, and have that beautiful “Cinderella season.”
It’s the NFL, and it’s America’s (new) pastime.
Let’s take a look at the games coming up in Week 3:
Texans at Patriots
The Texans are sitting at the top of the AFC South right now (although honestly, that’s not a hard place to be at any given time) and they are getting by with a defense that is looking pretty decent and a wide receiving corps capable of reeling in passes and gashing defenses for yards after catch. Brock Osweiler has looked passable as their starting quarterback, but threw a couple of awful interceptions last week against the Chiefs. Although the Texans narrative is intriguing, the obvious story for this game is Jacoby Brissett. With Garropolo hurt, he assumes the thankless role of regent in New England until King Tom returns from exile in two weeks–note to self: call HBO about a Game of Thrones/Ballers crossover series. Osweiler beat the Pats last year while he was with the Broncos, but the Texans defense doesn’t come close to what he had in Denver–nor, quite frankly, does the offense. If anyone can make Osweiler pay for his mistakes, it’s Bill Belichick. The Hoodie will also do his best to prep his rookie QB for the prime time stage. I see this game being a close and entertaining one, but I’d call it for the Patriots at home.
Broncos at Bengals
This may be billed as a Tale of Two Defenses, but I think the guys in orange from out west will be able to take care of the guys in orange from the midwest. Aqib Talib should be able to keep a decent cover on AJ Green and, since the Bengals let Mohammed Sanu go to the Falcons in the offseason, Andy Dalton doesn’t have much in terms of a secondary weapon. The Denver defense has been dominant in the last two games and Trevor Siemian looks like he may indeed be The Guy–not to be confused with The Dude–for the Broncos. You have to think Elway is patting himself on the back for drafting his potential successor. The Bengals may be mad about their loss to the Steelers in week 2 but they should probably go ahead and steel (sorry) themselves for a loss in week 3 as well. Editor’s Note: *cringe*
Ravens at Jaguars
The Jaguars are maddeningly talented – maddeningly because they can’t seem to capitalize on all that talent on their roster. Last week, the players finally seemed to realize that, setting the table for a great schism that could potentially put the coaches out of work. The week between the Chargers game and the Ravens game is crucial. The Jags’ coaches lost credibility and player commitment in San Diego, and they have little time to make up ground. The players leading also cannot allow the milieu of losing to take over the locker room. Marqise Lee, who quarterback Blake Bortles is targeting over the middle a lot, cannot drop easy-to-catch passes. In a similar regard, Bortles cannot force plays–he is like the negative of Brett Favre with none of the lucky upside. Oh, and it’s probably a good idea for Bradley and Co. to have a gameplan that doesn’t include Posluszny, the middle linebacker, marking a vertical wide receiver. The Jaguars are heading into a winnable game, so long as they come out looking competent in front of a home crowd. The Ravens come into a game after having barely beaten the Browns (come on, man) by 5 points. Yes, the Ravens managed to make the Browns look good. They should probably figure out why that happened and stop it. Flacco wasn’t playing his best ball at the beginning of the game last week, and while I am sure he is still a little shaky after coming back from a significant knee injury, he needs to find his confidence in order to play consistently through the whole game and also be able to lead his team to victories over teams like the Browns. The Jags’ wideouts should not have a problem with the Baltimore secondary, so the onus falls on the Ravens offense to bring the win. I would predict the home team will win this game.
Redskins at Giants
“You Like That” is over, and the Put Ben McAdoo In Charge And Back the Money Truck Up seems to be working. The Giants have their two big wideouts fully healthy again and seem to be enjoying their newfound status tied atop the NFC East. The Redskins can’t play defense, and while Jay Gruden does seem to have made the smart decision in sticking with Cousins over the rotting corpse of RG3–Braaaaaaaaaaains–offense alone isn’t enough to win games, especially when you’re playing against the likes of Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. (although Jennings may cough the ball up a time or two to keep the game interesting). While the media will be watching the rematch of Beckham and Josh Norman, the rest of us will be expecting the Giants win that will likely come.
Lions at Packers
Both of these teams are surprising so far this year. I thought once Megatron departed the team, they would return to form as the Thanksgiving patsy we all know and love. But, the team still has a solid group in Jones, Boldin, and Ebron, if you ask me. However, they can’t give up wins to Tennessee, who traded away one of their best wideouts and who has one of the most pathetic offensive lines in the NFL. The Packers have looked pedestrian to start the year, eking out a close one against the Jags and getting beat by Sam Bradford without AP in the backfield for much of the game. I think the Pack will recover from their Monday night defeat and take a confidence-boosting win against Detroit at what will surely be a loud Lambeau Field.
Browns at Dolphins
Oh, the Browns. You almost feel sorry for them, until you realize that they have made their own bed, and now they are sleeping in it. History shows what they have with RG3 and Josh McCown (and the other twentysomeodd starting quarterbacks in the past decade). They could have had a marketable, franchise QB that was NFL-ready… but they traded it away. Then again, they also left Terrelle Pryor on their team and made him a starting wideout–solid plan. The latest person quarterbacking the Puppies is Cody Kessler, who was okay at USC (editor’s note: not really), but also backed up Matt Barkley so you can kind of see where this is going. The Browns reached out in desperation to sign Charlie Whitehurst, whose primary benefit to the team is that his flowing locks match the uniform. Hue Jackson really didn’t know what he was getting into. Anyway, all that said about the Browns, the Dolphins look alright but Adam Gase is probably waiting out his chance to draft a quarterback. This game should give the Dolphins their first win.
Vikings at Panthers
Sam Bradford! Sam Bradford. He actually looked like he was worth the millions upon millions of dollars he has been paid on Sunday night, didn’t he? No, that wasn’t a rhetorical question – Sam Bradford learned the offense in like 2 weeks and played exceptionally against a Packers D with a strong secondary, AND he didn’t have much help out of the running game. This game may wind up being a shootout. The Panthers have Kelvin Benjamin back and he has opened up another aspect of their passing game. I think that this game has a great chance to be a shootout, and whoever has the ball last will win. In this case, I would go with the home team – the Panthers – although that’s no guarantee.
Cardinals at Bills
How bad did the Cardinals beat the Bucs last week? 40-7? Okay, so despite whatever happened against the Patriots in week 1 (c’mon, it WAS the Patriots, after all), the Cardinals should roll into Buffalo, run around the field for three hours or so, and head back to Phoenix with the win. The Bills are showing themselves more and more as a franchise in disarray. From firing an offensive coordinator in week 2, to the owners calling a players’ meeting without the coaches present, the Bills look like they are headed for an early pick in next year’s draft to find their quarterback of the future™. I’ll even excuse the nepotism, but when defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is blaming how bad the Saints’ defense stank on his former head coach, but he gets to Buffalo and his defense still stinks, there are a couple of brothers who play the blame game and not the accountability game. Call this one for the Cardinals.
Raiders at Titans
The Raiders head into the all red, rusted-out-lookin’, trucks all over the place home of the Titans–said the Jags fan–to most likely get the win. The Raiders have a great group of players on offense and can really stretch the field. The Titans were forced to do the same against the Lions, and they did an okay job, but they didn’t exactly pile on the points. As a Jaguars fan, to be somewhat impartial I am trying to hide my disdain for the Titans, but you have to admit, the wheels have to fall off at some point, right? They did a pretty good job of drafting Mariota but they are still coached by Mike Mularkey, they unexpectedly traded away one of their best wideouts, DeMarco Murray is bound to throw a temper tantrum at some point during the season, and their offensive line has more holes than my wife’s spaghetti strainer. I guess we’ll see what happens but I think the Raiders are too talented on both sides of the ball for the Titans to handle.
Rams at Bucs
The Rams have scored a grand total of 9 points this season and are somehow 1-1. Their defense also allowed over 40 points in week 1, and 3 in week 2. They are schizophrenic and that is not good for an NFL team – especially one traveling from the west coast all the way to the east of the country. I think that Jameis Winston, by far the better quarterback on either team, has a field day on the Rams defense and it doesn’t matter who Gregg Williams has to bribe, they won’t be able to get to Winston much. I don’t see this being the most entertaining game, but I also see the Bucs picking up the win.
49ers at Seahawks
The fact that both of these teams are 1-1 is a shock; more of a shock is the thinking that this might be an actual ball game, with the 49ers having played competent ball against the Rams in week 1, but not so much against the Panthers last week. A team quarterbacked by Russell Wilson should be able to run up and down the field against San Francisco, but the Niners are not going to go quietly to the bottom of the NFC West this year – at least not early. Don’t let the fact they lost to the Panthers fool you – the Panthers are looking legit so far this year – they kept the score close for about three and a half quarters. The Seahawks should win this on paper, but it depends on how Wilson is feeling.
Steelers at Eagles
I am picking this as my GAME OF THE WEEK. Usually, teams with first-year head coaches with no coaching experience and a rookie quarterback are given that period of “break-in” time or “development” time – but that doesn’t seem to have been the case in Philadelphia. Carson Wentz has absolutely blown me away. Take a look at any of his highlights from the last two games and you will see a quarterback looking like it’s his 3rd or 4th year in the league, not his first. Or, if you’ll allow me – I’m reminded of Andrew Luck in his rookie season (gasp!). Great poise and good football smarts, and no interceptions so far. The rest of the team, naturally, seems to support him as well. On the other side of the field, Pittsburgh once again appears to be stacked with talent. They just straight up Handled the Redskins, and they did well in a fight against the Bengals as well. As long as Roethlisberger stays healthy, the Steelers will be a favorite to head to the Super Bowl. This Pennsylvania matchup will be entertaining and is going to be a great gauge for both teams – I honestly do not know who will win (exciting!) but I think the Steelers may pull it out.
Jets at Chiefs
Look, I know it, you know it, and the whole world knows that Brandon Marshall went to the locker room to get a painkiller (and then some, I’m sure) shot before coming back out to help the Jets beat the Bills last Thursday. He is in the twilight of his career, sure, but after the twist of that knee it just isn’t good sense to keep playing on it. That being said, the Jets are looking about like the Jets of last year, with a couple of caveats: people are figuring out head coach Todd Bowles’ defensive schemes, and Darrelle Revis hasn’t woken up from his offseason nap yet. As long as Fitzpatrick has Marshall to throw downfield to and Decker to be his possession receiver, they should be okay – but the Chiefs’ defense is nothing to sneeze at and as much as they got burned by DeAndre Hopkins last week, the Jets do not have anyone like Hopkins on their team. If the Chiefs can play competent football and stay away from the mistakes they made against the Texans, they should win this.
Chargers at Colts
The Colts are 0-2 and need a bounce-back game, and this seems to be as good a candidate as any. The Chargers have been ravaged with injuries offensively. One of their biggest potential difference-makers on defense, Joey Bosa, has been held out of game action so far this season. I suppose that if the Colts play as soft as the Jaguars did in week 2 then the Chargers do have a chance to win, and Phil Rivers will keep them in a game more often than not, but Andrew Luck has nearly his full complement of offensive weapons, and it seems that the Colts are angry. I would imagine that Luck and his teammates looking for their first W, and ready to bring their home fans a win.
Bears at Cowboys
Their Monday night game sealed it – the Bears are awful. If this were a “Power Ranking” column, they would be near the bottom. It doesn’t help that Jay Cutler is out indefinitely and their backup is Brian “Concussion Effects Poster Boy” Hoyer. The Bears also may have lost one of their best defensive players, Lamarr Houston, for several games. On the other side of the field, you have the Cowboys who are coming off a win against the Redskins, and while I am liking number two pick Wentz on the Eagles, Dak Prescott seems to be growing in his confidence. He sells the play-action very well and appears to have the wherewithal to make smart decisions. With a little over 2 minutes left in the 1st quarter against the Redskins, Prescott had a Washington defender coming right at him and he smartly dumped it off to his TE, Geoff Swaim, who had the room to make a great play. Whether that was designed or not some rookies do have problems with pressure in their faces and it’s good to see that Prescott is making good calls during game action. The Cowboys should win this handily.
Falcons at Saints
Both of the Falcons’ games have been decided by a touchdown, and they are 1-1. Both of the Saints’ games have been decided by three points or fewer, and they are 0-2. Why is that significant? Because winning a game that close, versus losing games that are that close, says a lot about the team and its culture, and especially its star players. Drew Brees is the figurehead of a roster that is mired in salary cap woes, and the writing seems to be on the wall for head coach Sean Payton as well. They seem to sort of know the end is near and while yes, those losses were close ones, they tend to eat at you more. Especially as the organization gets ready for a rebuild, the Saints should be trying to go all-out and try for that “one more ring,” but it doesn’t seem like it is going to happen. The Falcons are slowly finding their footing, and Matt Ryan along with the rest of the offense seems to be getting on the same page with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. They seem to be on their way to besting their record of 8-8 last year. The team who loses this game, however, may find themselves on the bottom of the NFC South for the remainder of the season.