1. Come for the King, you Best not Miss
Week 2 commenced with an AFC West showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and the LA Chargers on Thursday Night Football. The Bolts looked like the better team early, but failed to consistently convert drives into points (that pesky thing). Justin Herbert took a shot to the ribs that had the entire country feeling collective pain, essentially ending any realistic chance of a comeback. And then he delivered a strike on a deep pass down the field to at least cover the betting line - not that I was sweating it...
The more troubling takeaway from the game was that Brandon Staley seems to have lost his analytics swagger. He took a lot of heat last year for making correct mathematical decisions that happened to not work out on the field. With the cyborg at QB, you would hope that Staley would double down on his aggressiveness, but in the heat of a divisional game against the reigning kings, he flinched. The Chargers, who look wonderful on paper, have some soul searching to do in their mini-bye as they wait for the Jaguars to come to town.
2. Crazy Comeback #1
Sunday’s contests were highlighted by some amazing 4th quarter comebacks, none more impressive than the Miami Dolphins erasing a 35-14 advantage against the Baltimore Ravens. Tua Tagovailoa caught fire down the stretch, throwing for 469 yards and 6 TDs. That includes 11 grabs for 190 yards and 2 scores for Tyreek Hill while Jaylen Waddle added 11 catches of his own for 171 yards and 2 scores.
The Dolphins are off to a slick 2-0 start with a showdown at home against the Buffalo Bills this week. That has suddenly become must-see TV as the Dolphins very quickly look like they could be playoff contenders. The AFC will be wild and competitive all year and this comeback in Week 2 could have ramifications down the road. Regardless, Tua and his supporters have to feel good about this one.
3. Crazy Comeback #2
The Las Vegas Raiders took a 20-0 lead into the half against the Arizona Cardinals and the football world yawned and penciled in an easy win for the Raiders. Kyler Murray then took over, looking like a Madden video game simulation with a Super Scramble cheat code activated. Murray closed a 23-7 deficit with two 4th quarter TD drives with two of the craziest 2-point conversions you’ll ever see. In overtime, the Vegas defense held up their end of the bargain but the Cardinals defense forced a fumble for a walk-off scoop and score.
The win for the Cardinals provides an early reprieve to some potential awkward conversations in the desert for Kliff Kingsbury as they get ready for a Week 3 tilt against the Rams. The Raiders fall to 0-2 despite having ample opportunities in both games. They’ll take on the Titans, Broncos, and Chiefs before their Week 6 bye.
4. Crazy Comeback #3
What may have been the craziest of the crazy comebacks in Week 2 happened in Cleveland, as Joe Flacco’s Jets did the impossible. With 2:02 left on the clock, Nick Chubb scored a 12-yard TD to make the score 30-17 for the Browns. Kicker Cade York botched the PAT, but up 13 with just over 2 minutes left, this one was all but over. However, a 66-yard strike to Corey Davis, a successful onside kick, and a Flacco-to-Garrett Wilson TD gave the Jets one of the best comebacks ever.
The Jets looked lifeless against the Ravens in Week 1 but this is a fun, character-building win for a young football team. I’m not convinced they can be anything more than the occasional pest this year, but good for Robert Saleh as he tries to navigate through the Zach Wilson injury and steer the ship in the right direction.
5. The Yinzers are Restless
Mitchell Trubisky’s line on the young season should look familiar to Bears fans: 42/71 (59.2%), 362 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT through the first two games. The 76.1 passer rating is lower than his career mark with Chicago at 87.2. He’s taken 4 sacks, but only added 16 yards on the ground on 4 carries. In other words, the numbers look... okay-ish.
Dive a little deeper though and Trubisky is mostly dumping the ball off, with a 3.3 air yards per attempt number that ranks at the bottom of the league. They’re an opponent long-snapper injury away from an 0-2 start and their best player sustained an injury that will dampen their defensive ferocity. All eyes should be on this week’s Thursday Night Football game against the Cleveland Browns. If the Steelers drop to 1-2, the “mini-bye” may be a good time to make a move to Kenny Pickett for a home game against the Jets in Week 4. However, the schedule after the Jets sure looks daunting, with games against the Bills, Bucs, Dolphins, and Eagles before they get to their bye. My bet is they give Trubisky until the bye week to figure it out.
6. Lions Look Lively
This may be tough to stomach for Bears fans, but a competitive Lions team appears to be a reality. Amon-Ra St. Brown picked up where he left off last season with 240 yards from scrimmage and 3 scores on the young season. Top pick Aidan Hutchinson picked up the first three sacks of his career on Sunday to take the early lead in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race as the Lions held onto a 36-27 victory over the Commanders.
I think the Lions are worth watching as Bears fans because they are a year ahead of the Bears in their rebuild. Ultimately, an average Lions team this year may price themselves out of range for a long-term answer at QB, ultimately limiting their ceiling. So, the tracks are different, yes, but the Lions played hard last year, finishing the season strong and heading into 2022 with a full head of steam. The Bears are clearly still trying to figure it all out but don’t discount the little victories along the way this season as the Bears look to build their narrative for 2023.
7. Eagles Step into the Spotlight
A rare Monday Night Football double header allowed ABC to carry the Eagles-Vikings game, shining a national spotlight on one of my favorite preseason bets in the Eagles. With one of the most talented rosters in the league, the Eagles added one of the best WRs in the game with AJ Brown to give Jalen Hurts an impressive array of weaponry. So far, so good. Through two games, the Eagles have dismantled NFC North foes through the air and on the ground. Hurts looks like he can sling it effectively in addition to continuing his ground attack from last season.
With Dak Prescott’s Week 1 injury, the Eagles stepped in as favorites for the NFC East. With their soft schedule and early returns, they could quickly become the NFC conference favorites.
8. Bully Bills
The Buffalo Bills entered Week 2 as 10 point favorites at home against the Tennessee Titans, last year’s #1 seed in the AFC. Granted, the Titans aren’t going to be as good this year, but a ten point spread opened up a lot of eyes.
Turns out, it wasn’t nearly enough.
The game was over with an explosive 24-point 3rd quarter, with Stefon Diggs collecting his second and third TDs of the game and Matt Milano delivering the coup de grâce with a 43-yard pick six. The Titans waved the white flag as the 4th quarter featured backups from both squads. I have a feeling that won’t be the last blowout we’ll see this season from the Bills.
9. Jimmy G Returns
Trey Lance suffered an ankle injury on Sunday, ending his season. The 49ers shifted back to their former QB, Jimmy G, who stepped in to provide stability for a comfortable win, thus halting the Trey Lance experiment. The 49ers now seem incredibly smart for not trading Jimmy G away as a team with big playoff aspirations gets a steady hand back on the wheel.
This, of course, sets the stage for another offseason of intrigue, particularly if the 49ers do well again this season. Do you bring Jimmy G back again, cut ties with Lance, or recommit to the young signal caller? Off-season stories already locked in loaded in the Bay area.
10. Fields Report
Tough to gauge a game where the quarterback only throws eleven passes. I just can’t square what I saw with my own eyes at training camp and in the preseason with the first two weeks. I could write off the performance against the 49ers because of the monsoon-like conditions, but I have no explanation for the game plan against the Packers. To be clear, the running game was fantastic and we need to tip our caps to that, but the passing game was essentially non-existent.
Let’s hope the true offense reveals itself on Sunday against the Texans. Lovie Smith’s defense has been competitive through two weeks but it should be a familiar look for Fields who practices against a version of that defense every day. The Texans lack the talent the 49ers and Packers boast on that side of the ball and let’s hope Luke Getsy can get his quarterback into a rhythm.
What were your takeaways this week? Hit up the comments below or find me on Twitter @gridironborn.