Whoa! Week two is in the books and we’ve got some catching up to do! Several teams showed some pretty critical flaws, and a few notable milestones were eclipsed. If you think it’s too early to make broad, sweeping statements about the NFL landscape, then you don’t know me well enough yet…
Ten Things We Learned in the NFL This Week Week 2
1. Antonio Gates just keeps on ticking.
At least the 0-2 Chargers got to celebrate something this weekend. Thirty-seven-year-old TE Antonio Gates broke Tony Gonzalez’s All-Time NFL record for touchdown receptions by a tight end. The record of 114 TD’s also puts him in the top fifteen amongst all receivers in NFL history. It’s a record that will likely stand for a while, even with modern TE’s catching more and blocking less. That’s pretty amazing for a guy who played basketball in college instead of football.
2. Joe Thomas…just, wow.
The Cleveland Browns left tackle recorded his 10,000th consecutive snap on Sunday. Need a little perspective? That’s a ten year NFL career with literally NOT A SINGLE OFFENSIVE PLAY OFF. No injuries, no games off, no going off the field for one play to have your ankle looked at by the trainers. Not one. It’s amazing. Sadly, Thomas plays for the Browns, so he’s also never played a single playoff snap. Also, in that time he’s protected twenty…count them…twenty Cleveland Browns starting QB’s. It’s just a shame that such a remarkable achievement won’t get the shine it deserves because he played all ten years and all 10,000 of those snaps on one dreadfully bad team. Kinda underscores that working class AFC North reputation, though, doesn’t it?
3.Marshawn Lynch…Maybe too many Skittles?
Man, it’s good to see Beast Mode back. Everyone’s favorite non-interview giving, Skittles eating, Beast-quake starting, north-south runner scored his first TD in an Oakland uniform as the Raiders rolled the Jets by 25 points on Sunday. He won’t be an every down back in the Raiders’ scheme, but he can still punch it in when called upon. I expect to see his number called frequently on short yardage and red zone situations. He’ll add physicality to an already well-balanced Oakland offense. Just, maybe a little less sugar on the sidelines Coach Del Rio. If you missed Lynch’s Dancing with the Stars audition on the sideline, I’d take a moment to check it out now…
4. Seattle isn’t as good as we thought…
Week Three is usually when my personal mea culpa’s start to kick in, but I think we’ve seen enough to point out some obviously flawed teams. Seattle is the first. Russell Wilson and company scored a TD for the first time this weekend, which is good, because they came perilously close to losing to the 49ers, who are currently starting Brian Hoyer at QB. This isn’t about the Niners over performing though. This is about a Seattle team that got throttled by Green Bay last week and barely escaped with their skins on Sunday by coming from behind late in the fourth quarter. Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham recorded just a single catch for one yard. They haven’t had a reliable option at running back since the aforementioned Marshawn Lynch prematurely retired. If they can’t find a way to get some balance and move the chains on offense, the NFC West has the chance to become a really, really weird division. By weird, I mean the type of division that the LA Rams could win. Nothing about that sentence sounds right, does it? Well, they’re the only team in the division with a positive point differential, so anything can happen.
5. Neither are the Giants…
I’m not sure where to start here, but the NFC East isn’t very good right now. The Giants have scored thirteen total points so far this season. Want to know who has scored more points than that? Ten RB’s, nine WR’s and three TE’s. That’s twenty-two individual skill players who have produced more than a Giant’s offense which looked like a juggernaut on paper. Want to know who else? TWENTY of the league’s place kickers currently outperform the Giants. At 0-2 the G-men’s only hope might be that the rest of the division sits at 1-1 and it could be a long slow march into mediocrity.
6. Or the Cowboys…
As for the Cowboys, they simply unraveled against Denver at Mile High Stadium on Sunday. The Cowboy’s porous defense made Trevor Siemian look like the next coming of Joe Montana, while the Denver defense stifled any hopes Dez, Dak and Zeke might have had of running away with the division. Don’t get me wrong, Denver looks good on the defensive side of the ball, but not THIS good. Elliot in particular was woefully ineffective, managing only eight yards rushing. He was also widely criticized for giving up after an interception when he could have saved some yardage with an effort. He might be on the field pending his appeals, but he isn’t helping too much. At the end of the day, that Week 1 statement win against the Giants isn’t worth much if the Giants are the third worst offensive team in the league.
7. Carolina is the worst 2-0 team in the league
Yeah. 2-0 is 2-0, except when it’s not. The Panthers have thus far beaten the 49’ers and the Bills. If you ask me which of those two teams is better, I’m not sure I could answer effectively. In the words of David Spade in P.C.U. “It doesn’t matter who wins, because they’re all losers.” To make it worse, the Panthers almost choked away the game against Buffalo. If not for a stalled TD drive late in the fourth quarter, the Bills would be 2-0 (Before you ask, yes, they would then be my “Worst 2-0 Team”). The Panthers are in a tough division and despite starting the season with a cupcake schedule, Cam Newton hasn’t looked right so far this year. He looks jumpy in the pocket and is overthrowing open receivers. Sure the defense has looked stout, not allowing a TD over the first two games. The QB’s the Panthers have shut down? Brian Hoyer and Tyrod Taylor. ‘Nuff said.
8. The AFC West is Scary
If it’s possible to be mediocre at 2-0, the same is true of 0-2 teams. In this case, the Chargers have my vote for best 0-2 team. It’s not close either. They’ve lost two consecutive very winnable games including a three-point affair with the Broncos.
Their -5 point differential is the best among last place teams in the entire league. It’s just the curse of Phillip Rivers. It won’t mean much if/when they get up off the mat, as every other team in the absolutely brutal AFC West is off to a 2-0 start. The Chiefs, Raiders and Broncos each have legit wins under their belt and can contend for the AFC title. I could easily make an argument for all three teams, but right now, my money is still on the Chiefs, since Trevor Siemian has yet to make me a believer in Denver and Oakland’s wins have been more or less in line with expectations. Until someone wins a couple of divisional road games, this thing is way up in the air. Come playoff time, someone’s gonna be really unhappy.
9. Falcons Soar
Back to the Mea Culpas. Maybe. IF Green Bay is still as good as we thought they were (That Seattle win looks less amazing now, doesn’t it?), then the Falcons’ Sunday night demolition of the Packers looks like a signature win. One thing, at a minimum, that we know, is that Green Bay got worse this week with the loss of Jordy Nelson. Admittedly, Matt Ryan isn’t crumbling after that Super Bowl shocker (Sorry Matt). Before I’m totally sold on the Falcons, though, I’ll need them to go on the road against a contender and win a close game. They’ll get their chance on October 22nd in New England. Get your popcorn ready.
10. Father Time might be undefeated, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a few shots in…
In addition to Antonio Gates, Joe Thomas and Marshawn Lynch making waves this week, several other veterans are performing at a very high level. Tom Brady threw for three TD’s in the first quarter of the Patriot’s lopsided win over the Saints, and it’s the first time in his career that he’s gotten off to that kind of a start in a game in his entire G.O.A.T career. The Raven’s Terrell Suggs has three sacks already this season, and has thus far terrorized opposing QB’s, just as he has for over a decade. I’m convinced he’s sticking around for the sole purpose of making Tom Brady think twice about returning each offseason. We’ll see who flinches first.
Question of the week:
“So, how about them Eagles? You haven’t mentioned them much, but they’re a contender right?” -G. Hall, Kennett Square, PA.
Only in so much as anyone could win the NFC East. Their +6 point differential doesn’t exactly inspire, does it? Neither does the offense. Here’s everything you need to know about that. Carson Wentz, after two whole games, is the team’s leading rusher. Ouch. I’ve never actually seen the “recipe for disaster”, but I’m pretty sure that having your QB be your leading rusher might work. Especially when Nick Foles is nursing a sore throwing elbow, and your third option is Matt McGloin. If they can’t get LaGarrette Blount going, they are in trouble.
Got a burning question? Disagree with me? Want more proof? Want to know my thoughts on your rookie that I didn’t mention? Hit me in the comments and I’ll answer the week’s best question (or questions) in next week’s edition.
Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.