After two weeks of NFL action this season, one thing appears to be certain. Teams are as evenly matched as they’ve ever been. And it has already made for some extremely exciting football early on.
More often than not, fans have been treated to games where the result was far from a given late in the fourth quarter. A grand total of nine games have either gone to overtime, been decided by a score in the final two minutes, or come down to a made/missed field goal as time expired.
All in all, the average margin of victory through week two has been 8.72 points, compared to last year’s 10.47 points. Three quarters of the league’s teams already have notched their first win of the season. And there are only seven undefeated teams remaining including just three from the NFC.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest storylines from NFL week two.
Biggest Takeaways From NFL Week Two
The Buffalo Bills Are a Hot Mess
Expectations were high for the Buffalo Bills in 2016. As always, the overarching narrative with this team is can they erase a playoff drought that is now at 16 seasons. Head coach Rex Ryan is apparently under an ultimatum from owner Terry Pegula to get them to the postseason promised land.
Two games in and already that goal has taken a significant hit. The Bills are currently 0-2 after losses to the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets respectively. In week one, Buffalo’s defense turned in a respectable performance. But Tyrod Taylor managed just 111 passing yards while LeSean McCoy had a measly 58 on the ground in the 13-7 defeat.
A week later in the home opener on Thursday night against the Jets, the Bills showed marked improvement offensively. But they also had a paltry 20:48 in time of possession and didn’t reach the red zone until after the two minute warning in the fourth quarter. It led to Buffalo dropping their second straight, 37-31.
In the aftermath, it was offensive coordinator Greg Roman who was made the scapegoat. Ryan fired Roman on Friday, replacing him with assistant head coach/running backs coach Anthony Lynn. Given that the Bills led the league in rushing yards last year, Lynn certainly has a track record of success.
But ultimately, the pressure will be on Lynn, Ryan and the rest of the Bills coaching staff to right the ship. That will be easier said than done considering their next two games. Buffalo welcomes the Arizona Cardinals to Orchard Park in week three, then faces the New England Patriots in Foxborough the following Sunday.
The Minnesota Vikings Will Be Just Fine With Sam Bradford
When the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford in the wake of Teddy Bridgewater‘s season-ending knee injury, skepticism abounded. After all, Bradford hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire during his previous six seasons in the league. He’s also had his fair share of injury issues himself. And of course, how long would it take him to grasp the offense in Minnesota?
But if his first start for the Vikings was any indication, many of those concerns might have been overblown. With the team playing their first ever game in US Bank Stadium, Bradford turned in a hugely impressive performance. He completed nearly 71 percent of his passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Minnesota’s 17-14 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Bradford’s rapport with his wide receivers was particularly noteworthy given how little time he’s had to work with them. The most prominent player within that unit on Sunday night was undoubtedly Stefon Diggs. Bradford targeted him 11 times and he caught nine of them, totaling 186 receiving yards while adding a third quarter touchdown that ended up being the difference.
Going forward, though, his pass protection has to improve. What Bradford accomplished Sunday was done in spite of his offensive line for the most part. The fact that the Packers defense had four sacks and hit him ten times lends credence to that notion. And there was a bit of a scare in the first half when he sustained an injury to his non-throwing hand after a hit from Clay Matthews.
But for now, the Vikes are undefeated and atop the NFC North. Assuming Adrian Peterson doesn’t miss too much time as a result of a torn meniscus, this team should be in the thick of the postseason mix.
Jacksonville Jaguars Already Being Exposed
Perhaps no two teams were more hyped leading into the 2016 season as the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars. On paper, both teams appeared to have done a great job adding key pieces to the roster via free agency and the draft over the past two seasons. So it’s no surprise they’ve been tabbed by many to figure prominently in the playoff discussion.
Two weeks in and the jury’s still out on Oakland. But in the Jags case, it’s hard not to look at the first two games and say it may have been hyperbolae to anoint them as AFC South contenders. That sentiment became even more pronounced after they were the victims of a 38-14 blowout at the hands of the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
Where do we start to discuss what’s gone wrong? The Jaguars run game has been pretty much nonexistent, averaging 58.5 yards per game which is third worst in the NFL. Quarterback Blake Bortles, though fifth in the league with 649 passing yards, has a Total QBR of 48.7 which is 28th among players at the position. And only the Los Angeles Rams have a worse third down conversion percentage than their 23.1 percent.
On the other side of the ball, there have been a few bright spots (few being the key word). The Jags held Aaron Rodgers to under 200 yards passing in week one. Second-year defensive lineman Dante Fowler, Jr. had two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits against the Chargers. And they’re allowing 325.5 yards per game, good for 11th in the league. But they’ve also given up 65 points through two games which is tied for third worst among NFL teams.
An 0-2 start is not what Jags fans or owner Shad Khan had in mind. If things don’t improve, it may be fourth-year head coach Gus Bradley who becomes the object of their discontent.
Defense Reigning Supreme in Denver and Houston
The Denver Broncos rode their elite defense to a championship last season. And even the Houston Texans relied heavily on the unit late in the season to sneak into the playoffs as AFC South champions. In their final three games, all wins, Houston allowed just 7.33 points per game.
Fast forward to the present and not much has changed. Losing Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson to free agency doesn’t seem to have fazed the Broncos defense very much. Just look at what they did to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Von Miller sacked Andrew Luck three times. And both Aqib Talib and Shane Ray returned Luck turnovers (an interception and fumble) to the house in a 34-20 win that moved Denver to 2-0.
Houston is also undefeated through a pair of games due in large part to defensive prowess. The Texans currently lead the league in sacks (9.0), are tied for second in fumble recoveries (four) and are third in points allowed per game (13). In his first full game of the season, J.J. Watt recovered one of those fumbles and also tallied 1.5 sacks in Houston’s 19-12 win over the Chiefs Sunday.
These two teams both have relatively unproven quarterbacks in Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler. But if their respective defenses can continue to perform at a high level, expect the Broncos and Texans to be favorites to repeat as division champs.
All Aboard the Carson Wentz Hype Train
Earlier in this article, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford was discussed. But what team did Bradford play for before being dealt to Minnesota? The Philadelphia Eagles. Just think. If Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t get hurt, perhaps Carson Wentz isn’t the talk of the NFL two weeks into the season.
But instead, Wentz is raising eyebrows around the league after two performances that belie the fact he’s a rookie. Against the Cleveland Browns in week one, he threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-10 Eagles victory. But, of course, the skeptics will inevitably be unimpressed considering the opponent.
A week later, on Monday Night Football, in a hostile environment, Wentz delivered once more as Philly moved to 2-0 with a 29-14 win over the Chicago Bears. Though his 190 passing yards and single touchdown toss aren’t exactly jaw-dropping stats, it’s his mistake free play that has people excited about his potential. Not only is he undefeated in two starts, but he has yet to throw an interception in either game. No other quarterback in NFL history has achieved that feat.
And let’s not forget that his receivers dropped two catchable passes on the night that could’ve resulted in touchdowns. The first occurred late in the first half when Wentz targeted Jordan Matthews down the left who was unable to reel it in. The Eagles were forced to settle for a field goal before halftime. And on their first drive out of the locker room, Wentz threw an accurate deep ball towards Nelson Agholor on third and 20 that went right through his receiver’s hands.
Having said all that, it’s still early. Two games is too small a sample size to truly evaluate a rookie quarterback. But what Eagles fans have seen so far has them hopeful that Wentz and first-year head coach Doug Pederson will herald in a new era of success in Philadelphia.