Wednesday, June 19, 2024

One thing we learned about each NFL team in Week 2: Dolphins have best WR duo; Steelers have a QB problem

The NFL has become the ultimate reality television show, highlighted by improbable comebacks in Week 2. NFL teams had lost 2,331 straight games when trailing by 13-plus points in the final two minutes (including playoffs), before the New York Jets managed to pull off their wild comeback against the Cleveland Browns.

The Arizona Cardinals had their biggest comeback win in 23 years, while the Miami Dolphins rallied from 21-point second half deficit to stun the Baltimore Ravens — part of a wild Week 2 in a league that seems to get more unpredictable each game. 

Each team is starting to paint a clearer picture of how they stack up after two games. Below we’ll unravel our takeaways from each team after the Week 2 slate of games.

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray deserved his contract: What Murray was able to do in Sunday’s comeback win over the Raiders showcased why the Cardinals gave him $189.5 million guaranteed. Murray had 252 yards in the second half and overtime to bring the Cardinals back from a 20-0 deficit, totaling two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and running and throwing for a two-point conversion, both of which came in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals would be 0-2 if it wasn’t for Murray’s heroics. Arizona has flaws, but Murray can mask them while wearing down a defense late in games. It’s better to have Kyler Murray on your team than not. 

Atlanta Falcons

Does Kyle Pitts exist?: Pitts has been nearly invisible through the first two games, which is the main topic of conversation for a Falcons team that has played hard. Marshon Lattimore was covering Pitts in Week 1, so it made sense Pitts didn’t light up the stat sheet.

What about Week 2? Pitts had just two catches for 19 yards and was only targeted three times. That’s unacceptable for one of the best pass catching tight ends in the league. Pitts has to be a bigger part of the offense if the Falcons want to win games. Four catches for 38 yards on just 10 targets isn’t good enough. 

Baltimore Ravens

The run offense needs to be better: Lamar Jackson is leading all Ravens rushers with 136 yards and averaging 9.1 yards per carry. That’s not surprising. Jackson, however, is getting very little help from any of the running backs on the roster. Kenyan Drake is the leading rusher at running back, with 17 carries for only 39 yards (2.3 yards per carry) — a huge reason why Baltimore was unable to close out the game in Sunday’s loss to Miami. 

Jackson can’t carry the entire offense, and the running game will significantly improve once J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards return. In the meantime, the running backs that are healthy have to be better. Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman did a significantly better job last year than what the Ravens have now. 

Buffalo Bills

Don’t forget how good Stefon Diggs is: Diggs is one of the best receivers in football, but he isn’t talked about enough when mentioning the top wideouts in the game. He banged down the door when entering that conversation Monday night, finishing with 12 catches for 148 yards and three touchdowns in a blowout victory over the Titans.

The Titans were down Kristian Fulton in the secondary, so Diggs took advantage in dominating the cornerback group from beginning to end. With no Gabe Davis, Diggs made the Titans defense die by 1,000 cuts before a 46-yard touchdown catch broke Tennessee’s back.

Diggs is one of just five players in the Super Bowl era to have three games with 140 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He’s an elite receiver and should be in the conversation for best in the league. 

Carolina Panthers

The offense is very uninspiring even with a better quarterback: The Panthers just can’t get out of their own way offensively, highlighted in Sunday’s loss to the Giants by two fumbles that set the tone for the paltry 275 yards of offense they put up. Baker Mayfield hasn’t been able to be a difference-maker, completing 14 of 29 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown in a helter-skelter performance. 

The Panthers went just 2 of 12 on third down with the most egregious failed conversion coming when Mayfield took a sack at the 46-yard line with 2:42 remaining in the fourth quarter of a three-point game. Even with Christian McCaffrey getting more involved, the Panthers looked lifeless on offense as they search for continuity. 

Carolina is only getting beat 13.2% of the time on the offensive line, seventh-best in the NFL. It’s on Matt Rhule and Ben McAdoo to inject life into this offense. 

Chicago Bears

The offense does nothing to help Justin Fields: New season, new coaches, same story. Chicago has a new offensive play caller in Luke Getsy, yet Fields looks as lost as ever. He went just 7 of 11 for 70 yards with no touchdowns and an interception (40.8 rating) as Chicago had twice as many punts (four) as completions of at least 10 yards.

None of the Bears playmakers are making plays in this offense. The offensive line is constantly changing and Fields has to improvise too much. The unit is a mess and it’s significantly hurting Fields’ development. 

Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow holds onto the ball too long: The Bengals offensive line wasn’t good again in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, but Burrow spent a majority of the game looking for the big play that just wasn’t there. Cincinnati needs to develop the short passing game to keep the quarterback upright and stop looking for the play of 20-plus air yards to get the offense clicking. 

That revelation took too long for the Bengals to realize on Sunday and it cost the offense an opportunity to strike earlier. Perhaps the quick passes will be in the game plan Thursday against Pittsburgh. 

Cleveland Browns

The pass defense isn’t good: When a secondary gives up four touchdown passes to Joe Flacco, that’s all one needs to know about how poor the unit has been through two games. Coverage breakdowns have been the norm through two weeks, which contributed to the Jets’ comeback victory on Sunday and allowed the Panthers to rally back in Week 1. 

Cleveland is 25th in the league in pass yards allowed and the five touchdowns allowed through two games are also 25th. This is against Baker Mayfield and Joe Flacco. 

The source of the collapse is in the secondary, which Cleveland has to fix if it wants to compete in the AFC North. 

Dallas Cowboys

Micah Parsons is at his best as an edge rusher: Credit to Dan Quinn for exposing La’el Collins at right tackle in Sunday’s win, lining Parsons up on his edge and having his star pass rusher wreck the Bengals right tackle throughout the afternoon. Parsons was why the Bengals could get nothing going offensively, as he finished with eight pressures and two sacks.

Through two games, Parsons leads the league with 13 pressures and four sacks. He may be the best pass rusher in football already — a true game wrecker. 

Denver Broncos

Red zone offense is a major concern: The Broncos failed to give their fans any trust they can score in the red zone in Sunday’s less-than-convincing win over the Texans, finishing 0 for 2 on their two red zone and goal-to-go opportunities. 

Russell Wilson was 0 for 5 passing in goal-to-go chances as Nathaniel Hackett called just one running play in goal-to-go situations. Keep in mind Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams are on the Broncos. 

The Broncos need to run the football when they get inside the 10-yard line. Perhaps they’ll score touchdowns and help the quarterback out. 

Detroit Lions

The offense is legit: Detroit has scored 30-plus points in three straight games for the first time since 1997. D’Andre Swift is averaging 10 yards per carry and Amon-Ra St. Brown has an NFL record six straight games with eight-plus receptions and a receiving touchdown. 

Swift, St. Brown, and a very good offensive line is making life easy for Jared Goff, who has six touchdowns to just one interception after two games. Soon, Detroit will add Jameson Williams to this dynamic pass-catching unit. 

This Lions offense isn’t a mirage. Detroit is going to put up points with the offensive talent they have. They’re leading the NFC in points per game (35.5). 

Green Bay Packers

The running game can carry this offense: Green Bay does have Aaron Rodgers, but this offense can score points behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Matt LaFleur wanted to give both his backs the ball more and backed up that statement, as the two combined for 237 yards (193 rushing, 44 receiving) and Jones scored two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). 

The key for Green Bay was giving the ball to Jones 18 times — compared to eight the previous week. Jones can mask the inexperience of the Packers’ young receivers in the early portion of the season while Rodgers figures things out with his young pass catchers. It’s up to LaFleur to call his number. 

Houston Texans

Davis Mills‘ fourth quarter woes aren’t helping him look like the long-term answer: Mills is trying to prove he is the franchise quarterback in Houston, but the results late in games have significantly hurt his cause. In the fourth quarter of games thus far, Mills is 5 of 16 for 75 yards as the Texans have failed to score a single point.

Mills was sacked twice and fumbled twice as Houston was trying to get back in Sunday’s game and pull off the upset against Denver. The Texans just don’t have the offensive firepower to help Mills out, but his play late in games is less than encouraging as well. 

Indianapolis Colts

Veteran retread quarterbacks may not be the answer: Matt Ryan looked terrible in Sunday’s shutout loss to the Jaguars, going just 16 of 30 for 195 yards with three interceptions (34.0 rating).Through two games, Ryan has completed only 60% of his passes with a touchdown and four interceptions (63.9 rating) — not the spark the Colts offense needed when the front office decided to pin last year’s missed postseason appearance on Carson Wentz

The Colts don’t have much on offense besides Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman, which isn’t helping Ryan. Of course, Ryan looks like the same quarterback that wasn’t helping the Falcons win games over the past few years. 

Perhaps Indianapolis needs to look in the mirror and realize veteran quarterbacks aren’t the answer toward fixing the offense. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The defense has done an overnight turnaround: Jacksonville may have its best defense in years, thanks to the additions in the first round of the draft and the free agent money allocated on that side of the ball. The Jaguars had just nine takeaways all of last season — and already have six through just two games this year. 

Not only did Jacksonville earn its first shutout in four years, it has six sacks through two games and has allowed just 14 points per game. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 71.8 passer rating against the Jaguars, which ranks fifth in the NFL.

Give credit to Mike Caldwell for the quick turnaround. The Jaguars defense is giving Jacksonville an opportunity to compete for the AFC South. 

Kansas City Chiefs

Still some work to do with the new wide receivers: The Chiefs are much deeper on offense, but their new pieces weren’t much of a factor in Thursday’s win over the Chargers. Marquez Valdes-Scantling had just two catches for 14 yards and JuJu Smith-Schuster had only three catches for 10 yards. 

Patrick Mahomes went to Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman to carry the passing game, showcasing the familiarity with those two over the years. The new wideouts will get their opportunity — just like in Week 1 — but there’s still some work to be done to gain that continuity with Mahomes. 

Las Vegas Raiders

The vaunted pass rush may not be — vaunted: Las Vegas brought in Chandler Jones to make Maxx Crosby’s life easier. Through two games, Jones has been essentially a non-factor. When Kyler Murray was running around the Raiders defense and escaping Maxx Crosby, Jones wasn’t in the picture. 

The Raiders paid Jones to close out games and stop running quarterbacks like Murray. He has four pressures and three missed tackles through two games.

Crosby is getting to the quarterback (12 pressures), but not getting the sack — which is the biggest issue in Vegas. Through two games, Jones and Crosby have to carry the Raiders defense late in games. So far, that hasn’t happened. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Run game needs to be better: No this isn’t about the run defense! The Chargers run offense is averaging just 2.75 yards per carry after two weeks, second-worst in the NFL. In Thursday’s loss to the Chiefs, the Chargers averaged just 3.1 yards per carry (24 carries for 75 yards) — as Austin Ekeler had just 14 carries for 39 yards.

Clearly, Los Angeles needs a solid No. 2 running back to help Ekeler out — which may be where Sony Michel comes in. Ekeler has just 2.7 yards per carry through two games as the Chargers are battling injuries on the offensive line with Corey Linsley and Trey Pipkins

The Chargers can’t be one dimensional if they want to compete for a Super Bowl. 

Los Angeles Rams

Offensive line improved despite another crucial injury: The Rams offensive line is seriously banged up through two games, losing guard Tremayne Anchrum for the season with a fractured fibula. Anchrum was the backup guard Sunday to Coleman Shelton, who had to move to center with Brian Allen’s injury. 

A.J. Jackson ended up playing right guard — and the Rams offensive line still only allowed one sack in Sunday’s win over the Falcons. That’s an admirable performance given all the injuries to the unit, which did a good job at keeping Matthew Stafford upright. 

Offensive line may be a major concern over the course of the year, but the group passed the test this week. 

Miami Dolphins

Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are league’s best wide receiver duo: The NFL leaders in receiving yards after the Sunday slate of Week 2 games are Hill and Waddle, who made a huge impact in Sunday’s thrilling comeback win over the Ravens. Hill caught two touchdown passes of 40-plus yards in just 2:28 while Waddle snagged the game-winner with 14 seconds left. 

Both Hill and Waddle are going to be a problem for opposing secondaries all season long with their speed and their ability to add yards after the catch (Hill and Waddle have more yards after the catch than the Bears have receiving yards). The Dolphins offense is a force to be reckoned with because of what Hill and Waddle bring to the passing game. 

Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins still can’t slay the ‘Monday Night Football’ demons: Cousins is atrocious on Monday nights in his career, and his performance in Monday’s loss to the Eagles was a microcosm of his struggles. He finished 27 of 46 for 221 yards with three interceptions — all in the red zone.

Cousins was responsible for the Vikings not being able to get back in the game in Philadelphia, despite all the opportunities for Minnesota. He drops to 2-10 on “Monday Night Football,” as the .167 win percentage in the series is the worst in NFL history.

New England Patriots

Offensive line steps up after poor Week 1 performance: It’s more than fair to think New England would struggle up front facing a Pittsburgh pass rush that had seven sacks against Cincinnati in Week 1. The Patriots offensive line struggled against the Dolphins, but turned in a great performance against the Steelers. 

The Steelers didn’t record a single sack against the Patriots, finishing with only eight pressures on the afternoon. Mac Jones had enough time to make plays needed to gut out a close victory. 

The Patriots offense doesn’t look good, but they’ll have a change to grow if the offensive line keep turning in performances like Sunday. 

New Orleans Saints

Play-calling needs to dial back on the Jameis Winston dropbacks: Pete Carmichael is the play caller now that Sean Payton stepped down and is too pass happy with Winston. On 66 snaps, Winston dropped back 46 times — a formula for disaster.

Winston threw three interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers — including a pick-six that put the Saints in a 17-point hole they weren’t overcoming. He was also sacked six times, finishing 25 of 40 for 236 yards with just one touchdown pass (55.8 rating). 

New Orleans has to commit to the ground game more, especially with Winston’s turnover history. Of course, getting Alvin Kamara back next week will help. 

New York Giants

Kenny Golladay is a $21 million afterthought: Golladay played just two snaps in Sunday’s win over the Panthers, as Brian Daboll is backing up his words regarding earning playing time in practice. Kadarius Toney saw his snaps up from seven to 28, while Golladay is getting outplayed (in snap counts) by the likes of Richie James and David Sills

Golladay has just two catches for 22 yards in two games and carries a $21.15 million cap hit this year. The Giants would owe $14.45 million in salary cap space just to get rid of Golladay’s contract this year. New York likely won’t take the dead cap hit, but it’s clear the Giants are ready to move on from the Golladay experiment. 

New York Jets

Rookies carrying offense: Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall are part of an impressive draft class the Jets put together this year, leading New York to a September victory for the first time since 2018. Wilson finished with eight catches for 102 yards and a touchdown — including the game-winner with 22 seconds left.

While Wilson has been impressive, Hall is starting to find his stride at running back. He finished with seven carries for 50 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown catch that tied the game up at halftime. 

Wilson and Hall are explosive players in an offense that has the makings of a dangerous unit. The Jets may have two cornerstones with these players. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Darius Slay is still one of the game’s elite cornerbacks: Slay shut down the Vikings wide receivers Monday night, allowing just two catches for 19 yards and finished with two crucial red zone interceptions in the Eagles’ convincing victory over the Vikings. When covering Justin Jefferson, Slay allowed just one completion on five targets with two interceptions — taking one of the game’s best receivers out of the contest. 

Kirk Cousins had a 0.0 passer rating targeting Slay. The veteran cornerback is still one of the best at his position, far from being an afterthought amongst the game’s elite. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Mitch Trubisky may be on the hot seat: Trubisky isn’t been impressive enough through two games to be the long-term starting quarterback in Pittsburgh. He’s completing just 59.2% of his passes for 362 yards with two touchdowns and an interception (76.2 rating), as the Steelers offense is 30th in yards per game (255.0) with just two offensive touchdowns in two games. 

Trubisky may be the starter for now, but the clock is ticking for Kenny Pickett to provide a spark. Pittsburgh’s offense just hasn’t been good enough to give Trubisky the benefit of the doubt. 

San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo makes this team Super Bowl contenders: With Trey Lance lost for the season, Garoppolo will lead the 49ers offense once again — just weeks after the team couldn’t find a trade partner for him. The 49ers passing game looked fluent with Garoppolo back under center, as Garoppolo finished 13 of 21 for 154 yards with a touchdown in relief duty.

Imagine how the pass offense will be when Garoppolo gets a  game plan installed for him? There was more Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel involved in the passing game — allowing tight end Ross Dwelley to make plays (and catch a long touchdown). Once George Kittle returns, the offense will be even more dangerous. 

For 2022, it’s a good thing for the 49ers Garoppolo is back at quarterback. 

Seattle Seahawks

Running game has to be better: On a sloppy day in Santa Clara, Rashaad penny and Kenneth Walker were massive disappointments. Penny had just six carries for 15 yards to lead the Seahawks in rushing while Walker finished with just four carries for 10 yards in his NFL debut. 

Seattle had just 36 rushing yards as a team and were outmanned on the offensive line. Geno Smith just isn’t a good enough quarterback to make up for the running game struggling. 

The Seahawks have to get Penny going and control the time of possession battle, or many games will be like the one they played Sunday. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady got the protection he needed: Tampa Bay had to protect its biggest asset against the Saints pass rush and did just that. Brady was sacked just once and hit only three times as Tristan Wirfs made sure to keep Cam Jordan at bay (Jordan didn’t have a single pressure). 

The Saints had just six pressures on the day, giving Brady enough time to make the plays needed to escape with a win. Tampa Bay’s revamped offensive line may be a lot better than anticipated, with the Dallas game being an outlier. 

Tennessee Titans

Is Derrick Henry cooked?: The Titans have an offense that goes through Henry, yet he doesn’t have a 100-yard rushing game in his last five games. After finishing with just 25 yards on just 13 carries, Henry has 34 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown in two games (3.1 yards per carry).

Henry has been mediocre over the past five games, raising even more concern if the foot injury from last season has slowed him down. He has just 169 yards on 54 carries since the injury, averaging 3.1 yards per carry. 

If the Titans are going to compete in the weak AFC South, Henry has to get back to his dominant self. The offense has nothing else going. 

Washington Commanders

A gaping hole at linebacker: The Commanders have a head coach and defensive coordinator who both played linebacker in the NFL — and decided not to address the position in the offseason. That decision is not looking good right now, as Washington was picked apart by the Detroit offense Sunday. Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis look out of their element, consistently being out of position and providing inconsistent play that is hindering the entire defense. 

This linebacking group is horrific in coverage and continues to get picked apart. Even though Carson Wentz is playing well, the offense appears to have to score 30 every week to win. That’s not ideal in Washington. 

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