That was quite the opening week wasn’t it? The Bears beat the Niners, the Bengals committed 5 turnovers and missed 2 chip-shot kicks (yet still had a chance to win!), and the Colts and Texans produced a tie. I would say that this week can’t be any more insane, but this is the NFL we’re talking about; of course it can! Isn’t that what we love about football? I’ll do my best to summarize the important points that we can draw from this week’s craziness, so buckle in and enjoy the ride! Here are my week 2 takeaways for the 2022 NFL season.
Thursday Night Clash: Chiefs Take Round 1 Over Chargers
We got an early-season clash between two AFC West Super Bowl contenders, and it did not disappoint. Surprisingly, the first half was a pure defensive struggle, with both teams refusing to give up big plays over the top en route to a 10-7 Bolts lead at the half. Each team reached the end zone in the third quarter, and KC added a surprising 19-yard FG (instead of going for a 4th-down conversion) to tie the game at 17. Two moments would then define this game. On the Chargers’ next drive, Justin Herbert threw a quick pass to a tired Gerald Everett at the goal line. Everett tried to call for a substitution after making a big play on the previous down, but he was ignored. That led to a miscommunication with Herbert, whose pass was picked off by Jaylen Watson and returned 99 yards for a TD. A few punts later, Herbert took a big shot to the ribs while attempting a pass, knocking him out of the game for a play. He took ANOTHER shot immediately upon his return, and he finished out the game in pain. To his credit, he fired a 35-yard dart to DeAndre Carter on 4th and 1 during the final 2 minutes, and then hit Joshua Palmer for a TD on the ensuing 4th and goal. The team failed to recover the onside kick though, leading to a 27-24 Chiefs win. Los Angeles showed that they have the talent and grit to compete with anyone, but a couple of lapses (either injury or mistake) can be the difference against a team like KC.
Colts STILL Cannot Win in Jacksonville
Multiple coaching and QB changes have not changed a surprising fact: Indy has now lost 8 consecutive games in Duval. If Carson Wentz hadn’t lost today himself, he’d be grinning about his old team getting shut out 24-0 by the Jags after basically being shipped out of town when his Colts lost to them in a must-win week 18 game last season. I don’t really know if this is one of those “team A just has team B’s number” or whether the Colts are simply not as good as we thought they were. Through 2 weeks against inferior opponents, the Colts have emerged 0-1-1. One theory is that the Colts haven’t had time to get in sync with their new QB, but we’re talking about a veteran stalwart in Matt Ryan. His lack of mobility has been striking this season, but that was never his strength. He didn’t seem in rhythm passing the ball from the pocket either, firing 3 INTs with no TDs and two failed 4th-down attempts in the red zone. The team abandoned the run extremely early, giving Jonathan Taylor just 9 carries. The Jaguars, on the other hand, looked completely in command. Trevor Lawrence completed 25 of 30 passes with 2 TDs and no turnovers, making life easier for a defense trying to preserve a shutout. As poor as the AFC South appears to be, the Colts need to start clicking soon or this season will spiral out of control.
Saints, Buccaneers Continue to Bring Out the Worst in Each Other
A lot like the Colts and Jaguars above, New Orleans seems to own TB12’s Bucs. The Saints had won all 4 regular-season matchups since Brady joined Tampa, and although that streak ended today with a 20-10 Buccaneers victory, the game was ugly on both sides. Tampa was shut out in the first half, but NO didn’t pull away because they could only muster 3 points of their own. Brady and his center had a poor snap exchange when they finally got into scoring range, losing a fumble. Things got no better in the 3rd quarter. TB finally got a field goal, but the score remained 3-3 for the rest of the quarter. At the start of the 4th, Brady started jawing with Saints CB Marshon Lattimore, and Leonard Fournette joined the trash talking session. WR Mike Evans, who has fought with Lattimore in previous meetings, ran in and clocked Lattimore, sparking a benches-clearing brawl. Evans and Lattimore were both ejected, which hurt TB more because Chris Godwin and Julio Jones were already inactive with injuries. Somehow, it was the Saints whose wheels came off. Brady led his team’s only TD drive of the game, and Jameis Winston threw INTs on 3 consecutive drives, one of which was returned for 6. After more punting and turnovers, Tampa held on, but I’m not sure either team is going to be proud of this effort (except maybe the defenses because they like this type of affair).
Niners/Packers Reverse Week 1 Woes, Raiders/Bengals Don’t
I’m not including the Rams, Cardinals and Broncos here despite their wins and statuses as projected contenders, as all three teams continued to show serious flaws despite escaping with victories against weaker foes.
I am fully aware of how mean it sounds to say that the 49ers got back on track after their 2nd-year QB fractured his ankle. I assure you that I don’t mean it that way, and if there’s a silver lining for Trey Lance, it’s that I’ve long held that as a raw prospect with 1 year of FCS experience, he needed to sit for an Aaron Rodgers-type period to have the best chance at long-term success. You never want a player to get injured, but Lance’s career could have a better chance to blossom as a result. In the short term, SF is a more competitive team with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. He’s taken this team to a Super Bowl and an NFC Championship game, and HC Kyle Shanahan has a much better record with him than he does with all other QBs. As witnessed today against Seattle, his presence allowed the Niners to control the ball, build off their running game, and play good defense. This will allow them to avoid clunkers like last week’s game against the Bears. Garoppolo’s numbers will never blow you away, but he wins.
Green Bay’s easy win over the Bears was expected. As I mentioned last week, first-game dumpster fires are a surprisingly common occurrence for Rodgers-led Packers teams. We’re used to #12 adjusting to a new supporting cast, going through a couple growing pains, and then morphing into a well-oiled machine. The Bears were the perfect opponent for the Packers to use to get right and iron out the kinks. Rodgers himself has pointed out how he owns the Bears, and tonight was no different. The defense needs some work stopping the run, and a healthy David Bakhtiari would do wonders for the offensive line, but Green Bay is trending in the right direction going into week 3, just as we thought.
On the flip side, the Raiders should be absolutely embarrassed for allowing a 20-0 2nd-half lead against a poor Cardinals team to evaporate. Davante Adams did not seem to be a part of the offensive game plan, with just 2 catches for 12 yards. That’s not going to work. Both sides of the ball collapsed down the stretch, with LV surrendering 16 unanswered 4th-quarter points. The offense only scored 3 points in 2 quarters, and the defense forgot how to tackle a tiny QB. Arizona tried to lose this game; they exhibited poor game management, faced numerous must-make 4th downs, and dropped an easy completion in OT that led to a punt. The Raiders simply tried harder to taste defeat, with Hunter Renfrow fumbling TWICE IN 3 PLAYS in OT, with the second being returned by Byron Murphy for the game-winning TD. There were some positives, but not nearly enough. In a brutal AFC West, 0-2 isn’t going to be easy to overcome, and 0-3 might be curtains.
Cincinnati is just about in panic mode. Dropping a second game to a Dak-lead Cowboys team wouldn’t be great, but it would be understandable. Losing to the Cooper Rush Cowboys because of another game full of self-inflicted errors? That’s inexcusable. The kicking game was back on track after a new long snapper was signed, but Joe Burrow did not look right again. He took 6 more sacks, not all of which were the fault of the offensive line, and only reached 199 yards passing. The defense gave up chunk plays repeatedly to an uninspiring cast of WRs, and a slow start led to a 17-3 deficit. As with last week, not everything was bad: Burrow engineered another game-tying comeback in the 4th quarter, and this time there were no turnovers. But the defense imploded one more time to give Dallas a walkoff FG. A loss to the Jets next week would set off all possible alarms.
Since the playoffs expanded in 2020, no 0-2 team has gone on to make the playoffs. That’s bound to change at some point of course, but have either of these teams given you proof that they’re the ones to break that streak?
Tua, Flacco Star in Dramatic Comebacks for Dolphins and Jets
We had two INCREDIBLE games in the early window of Sunday’s games. One witnessed the birth of a star, and the other told us that an old veteran isn’t done quite yet.
In Baltimore, if you make Lamar Jackson beat you fron the pocket, he won’t. The Ravens jumped out to a 28-7 lead over the Dolphins with their college offense and much help from the officials (8 penalties on Miami vs. just 1 for BAL). Then Tua Tagovailoa took over. He threw a career-high 6 TDs in this game, tying a franchise record. Four of them came in the 4th quarter alone as Miami erased their deficit and finally took the lead with under 15 seconds remaining. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle combined for 361 yards and 4 TDs (2 each), putting the league on notice about what this duo is capable of. Though Tua did throw 2 INTs (only one was his fault), he passed for 469 yards on 50 attempts. You know a QB is good if you’re winning when he throws 50+ times; losses in those cases imply garbage time production. As a result of this wild game, the Dolphins leave Maryland 2-0, while the Ravens are left searching what went wrong.
In Cleveland, Browns fans learned about the pitfalls of relying on Jacoby Brissett to save the day. Cleveland was carried by their rushing attack, with Nick Chubb tallying 3 rushing scores. Both teams played reasonably well on offense, but the Jets did not go down by 2 scores in this game until 1:55 remained in the 4th and CLE led 30-17 (not 31 because of a missed PAT by last week’s hero Cade York). On the ensuing drive, Flacco hit Corey Davis for a 66-yard TD, and the Jets recovered the subsequent onside kick. With 1:18 left and no timeouts, Flacco calmly led a stellar drive, hitting first-round rookie Garrett Wilson for a 15-yard TD with 22 seconds to go. Critically, Greg Zurlein hit his PAT, giving the Jets a 31-30 lead. Looking for a miracle, Brissett was picked off within 2 plays, allowing the Jets to leave Ohio with the victory. It’s going to be a rocky road for the Browns while Deshaun Watson is suspended, but for NYJ, they might be in better hands now than they will be when Zach Wilson returns.
Monday Night Double-Header: Bills/Eagles Make Statements, Vikings Fall Back to Earth, and Titans Implode
We got two Monday night games for a change, but they weren’t all that competitive. One in particular was an absolute blowout, with Buffalo making mincemeat out of Tennessee. The Bills look like a complete team, with a strong aerial assault and a stingy defense that forced 4 turnovers. If I had to nitpick, I’d say that Buffalo could do better running the ball, but when you win 41-7, nobody’s really complaining. The problem for the Titans is that they didn’t merely get outclassed by a superior team; they looked completely incompetent. LT Taylor Lewan got hurt early, and the line never recovered. Buffalo stacked the box to stop Derrick Henry, limiting him to just 25 yards on 13 carries. They dared Ryan Tannehill to throw, and their wish came true. Tannehill completed just 11/20 passes for 117 yards and 2 INTs, the second of which was returned for a TD and ended Tannehill’s night. The defense fared no better, getting continually shredded by Stefon Diggs. The AFC South looks incredibly poor, and through 2 weeks, Jacksonville is leading it at 1-1. I am dead serious.
In the other game, the Vikings didn’t fare much better. They made a few plays here and there, such as a blocked FG and an INT, but they were mostly devoid of positive production. The secondary, seemingly a perennial problem, looked abysmal, giving up 333 yards to Jalen Hurts on 26/31 passing. Philly had a nearly perfect first half, taking a 24-7 lead and making almost zero mistakes. The second half wasn’t nearly as pretty, as neither team scored a point, but even though the offense didn’t score again, they controlled the clock and allowed their defense to wreak havoc. Kirk Cousins was pressured into 3 INTs, 2 in the end zone, and Darius Slay had a terrific night covering Justin Jefferson (2 INTs, 5 PBUs). Dalvin Cook had just 17 yards on 6 carries before Minnesota abandoned the run. The Vikings aren’t as good as they looked in their mirage throttling of Green Bay, but they aren’t as bad as they looked tonight. Cousins has weird problems in primetime games, and his team will probably rebound in the weeks to come. The Eagles, meanwhile, have an extremely favorable schedule coming up, so despite the fact that they’re going to be overrated, they could stack up several more wins in the short term.