Monday, September 21, 2015

NFL Week Two - Order And Chaos Restored

For the second week of the NFL's 2015 season it was restoration of order in some circles and restoration of chaos in others.   A look at both -

The Chiefs still are not ready for prime time - The immediate cause of Kansas City's 31-24 collapse to the Broncos is Jamal Charles and his bookend fumbles, especially the pick-up six scored by the Broncos barely seconds after their tying touchdown.    But longer term this game showed that Alex Smith can never get it done; his red zone INT was the most graphic recent example that Smith needs to be replaced; whenever the next sureshot quarterback prospect shows up in the draft, the Chiefs need to go get him.

The Broncos thus survived a bit of a scare from Peyton Manning after his terrible throwing in Week One; they seemed to let him go back to his old offense and the result was three touchdowns and touch throws; the arm strength remains an issue to keep an eye on down the road, but there's obviously been an adjustment.  

The Colts aren't, either - Andew Luck is now 2-8 against AFC East teams; his last win over an AFC East team was against Buffalo in 2012, a Bills team led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, thus making the Jets' win Monday Night all the more ironic.   Of Luck's 36 wins (counting playoffs) 16 of them have come against the AFC South, but that division isn't as weak now as it was before, especially with the Titans and what appears to be the keeper in Marcus Mariota, the first of three straight division games for a Colts team that's clearly in disarray.

Patriots manhandle Sexy Rexy in a wild one - The week was dominated by trash talk from the Buffalo Bills and Rex Ryan, while Aaron Williams was especially angry in pregame trash talk and then with three personal fouls during the game, then got his comeuppance in a scary incident trying to stop a Julian Edelman touchdown; he hit face first and was taken in an ambulance for a neck injury; he was released Sunday night.   Tom Brady meanwhile demonstrated how to beat defense - with fast throws; the Bills couldn't particularly stop Brady despite scoring 19 fourth-quarter points and thus making it a 40-32 game from a 37-13 Patriots lead.

If you thought you'd already seen close high-scoring Patriots-Bills games recently, it's because you have - 38-30 Patriots win in 2010 in Randy Moss' final Foxboro game (with his final two touchdowns) with the Patriots; 2011's 34-31 Bills comeback win, their first over the Patriots in fifteen games; 2011's 49-21 Patriots comeback win; 2012's two games, first New England's 52-28 comeback in Buffalo after trailing 21-7 in the third, then New England's 37-31 win in Foxboro on a late Ryan Fitzpatrick INT; even 2014's 37-22 Patriots win in Buffalo was a taut game, the Pegula family's first home game after assuming ownership of the team from the Ralph Wilson estate. 

The plethora of Bills penalties demonstrate anew the sloppy approach of Rex Ryan to football and why Ryan will never be anything beyond what he is as a coach - his anger about Dion Lewis was especially illustrative as he dismissively reinterated that "I don't know who he is, just run the ball," as though stopping the run - this as the Patriots put up 507 yards, 466 of them in the air - was some kind of accomplishment.  

Also noteworthy is the Patriots were one of three teams - Pittsburgh and Arizona were the others - to break 40 points scored on this day.

Don't overestimate Tony Romo or Jay Cutler's absences - The reality remains both are stiffs as quarterbacks.  Jimmy Clausen wasn't anything worth a damn for the Panthers under John Fox in 2010, but after all these years of Jay Cutler, a change for the Bears has been overdue.   The same is true of Tony Romo and the Cowboys; when Jon Kitna had to take over for injured Romo in 2010, the Cowboys wound up salvaging a respectable season.

Winston and Mariota, game two - Marcus Mariota came back to earth with a 28-14 Browns win over the Titans, the first win for Johnny Fumbles - aka Manziel.   Manziel's undisciplined style of quarterbacking was still in evidence (he completed only eight passes and most of them were just desperation bombs that connected), and Mariota gave the Titans real fight in trying to come back from down 21-0, so long term the Titans are in a lot better shape with their quarterback than the Browns are.  

Meanwhile Jameis Winston got his first win in a 26-19 Bucs win at New Orleans; the collapse of the Saints can no longer be denied, and suddenly Sean Payton and Drew Brees no longer look like a credible pairing.   Winston's rebound from a dismal first game is encouraging especially in getting a Bucs win over a Saints team that had won six straight over the Bucs. 

Bill O'Brien still has a problem  Ryan Mallett showed some good form for the Houston Texans but in the end he didn't get it done in a Panthers 24-17 win, and Bill O'Brien will have to get a lot more out of whoever his starter is to get something going in an AFC South that has started upside down.

Speaking of upside down, there's the AFC North - The Bengals beat the Chargers, a bit of a surprise after San Diego's spectacular comeback win over the Lions, but also common for the Bengals of recent in the regular season; the Bengals are thus 2-0.   The Steelers rebounded to 1-1 by a 43-18 massacre of the Niners, while the Browns got to 1-1 as well.   The shocker here is the 0-2 Ravens, losers in a wild 37-33 game at the Oakland Raiders.  That the Raiders are actually getting better should be understood; that they're not good enough yet that winning is the norm is also obvious, which makes Baltimore's loss all the more disturbing.

Yet another Giant collapse - for the Eagles as well - The Giants are a clown show, that's obvious now.   They have now lost two straight games in which they blew two-touchdown leads, and losing to an overrated Falcons team is all the more galling.   The Giants thus fall to 0-2, but a fellow cellar dweller in the NFC East is the Eagles, whose explosive offense of the preseason didn't show up in Philly's home opener.   Despite losing Tony Romo the Cowboys manhandled the Eagles and now Chip Kelly looks not like a future champion but like a coach in serious trouble.  

The Lions still can't beat good teams on the road - The Vikings staged their own rebound by downing the Lions 26-16, a game that illustrated a galling historical failure for Matthew Stafford - he entered 2015 0-18 lifetime in road games against quality opponents and now has an 0-2 start to this season.

Other reality checks - The Rams crashed and burned against the Deadskins and thus fell to 1-1, one of fourteen teams at 1-1 (curiously, nine of them are AFC teams while six of nine 0-2 teams are NFC teams); the Panthers are 2-0 but need to score more, having scored just 44 points in the first two games; the Seahawks are definitely not the same anymore after their first loss to the overrated Packers since December 2009.

So it goes as we count down to Week Three.

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