Week two of the NFL offered plenty of fantastic finishes and close games. There were also some surprise team making the leap to stay in the undefeated column. Which ones are for real and which are phonies?
#1 – Denver Broncos – Peyton Manning allows defense to work out problems
Having Peyton Manning and a loaded offense has made life easier for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio who has adjusted his unit to life without Von Miller or Champ Bailey pretty well. Once they return, then it really gets scary.
#2 – Seattle Seahawks – Defense has Russell Wilson covered
Make no mistake. The Seattle Seahawks are a really, really good team but the reason they’re 2-0 is their defense. Russell Wilson has gotten sacked a lot and is missing a lot of throws. The running game can cover it up, but sooner or later they will need him.
#3 – San Francisco 49ers – Colin Kaepernick proving he’s not unshakeable
A mid-game blackout couldn’t rescue the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick this time. Once again he look positively mediocre in a hostile stadium against a good team. It also exposed how limited the 49ers receivers actually are without Michael Crabtree.
#4 – New England Patriots – Tom Brady getting by for the time being
Tom Brady has looked human through the first two weeks but his New England Patriots are still 2-0. Bill Belichick has kept his defense playing strong but the string of facing rookie quarterbacks is done for the time being. Now the real tests begin.
#5 – Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers showing no mercy to bad defenses
Aaron Rodgers victimized the Washington Redskins for a career day, proving once again he and the Green Bay Packers will show no mercy to teams who don’t play hard. The question now is he that good or were the Redskins that bad?
#6 – Houston Texans – Matt Schaub holding up his end
Good teams make the plays when they have to. The Houston Texans don’t look like a Super Bowl contender through two weeks but the outstanding play of Matt Schaub has them undefeated and on course for another division title.
#7 – Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler coming through for still ailing defense
Jay Cutler seemed to play well in the 4th quarter last year but no one took notice of it. Suddenly the Chicago Bears rally not once but twice thanks to two big touchdown drives from their quarterback. Given that the defense still isn’t healthy, it’s hard to imagine how good this team can get when they are clicking.
#8 – New Orleans Saints – Rob Ryan backing up Drew Brees
Drew Brees hasn’t looked like himself so far with Sean Payton back but he’s making enough plays to win tight games against two division rivals. A big assist comes from defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whose injury-plagued unit has yet to give up 20 points.
#9 – Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill quietly has offense going
Quiet teams that win are always the most dangerous. The Miami Dolphins have accomplished that thus far with a solid opening win over Cleveland and a big road victory over Indianapolis. Ryan Tannehill also seems to have his offense clicking.
#10 – Kansas City Chiefs – Defense setting the tone for Andy Reid
Andy Reid is an offensive coach but his greatest successes in the NFL came when he had tremendous defenses coached by Jim Johnson in Philadelphia. It seems he has another excellent one building with the Kansas City Chiefs.
#11 – Cincinnati Bengals – Andy Dalton starting utilize offense’s talent
Their Monday night victory over Pittsburgh was a huge boost and the Cincinnati Bengals appear back to their old ways. One added wrinkle is that Andy Dalton has begun to unlock the potential of the fresh talent on his offense.
#12 – Atlanta Falcons – Injuries piling up for offense
The deck continues to stack against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Though they won handily against St. Louis, they lost two key players in Steven Jackson and Sean Weatherspoon for the next few weeks. That could prove critical.
#13 – Baltimore Ravens – Defense rebounds but Joe Flacco still limited
The defending champion Baltimore Ravens got the bad taste of opening week out of their mouth by bullying Cleveland but problems still remain. The biggest is whether Joe Flacco can generate enough offense without his top receivers.
#14 – Arizona Cardinals – Bruce Arians renovating Carson Palmer
Their loss in week one was tough but it proved Bruce Arians knows what he’s doing with Carson Palmer at quarterback. That became clear when the Arizona Cardinals came back to beat the Detroit Lions. Are they a closet contender in the NFC West? Time will tell.
#15 – St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford actually carrying the defense
Perhaps the biggest enigma at present is the St. Louis Rams. Known for their defense almost entirely last season, it has been Sam Bradford and the offense that has kept the team out of a 0-2 hole by scoring 61 points in two games. They may have to keep it up.
#16 – Buffalo Bills – E.J. Manuel has Western New York believing
A few fans were skeptical of the Buffalo Bills taking E.J. Manuel in the first round of the draft. Through two weeks the talent and now the clutch factors have begun to appear. There is still growing pains ahead, but fans suddenly have reason to believe in this team.
#17 – Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck still adjusting to new offense
Narrowly beating Oakland was bad enough but losing a tight game to Miami, a team they beat last year is bothersome for the Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck looks like he’s still adjusting to the new offense. Hopefully Indy can manage until that happens.
#18 – Dallas Cowboys – Team still hasn’t dropped the 8-8 look
If ever there was a microcosm of the Dallas Cowboys over the past couple years it’s their first two games. They win a shootout over the Giants and then get edged in a defensive scrap with the Chiefs. Consistency is still lacking, which reeks of an 8-8 team.
#19 – Detroit Lions – Reggie Bush loss exposed how thin Lions are
It looked like things were turning around for the Detroit Lions when they got Reggie Bush. After thumping Minnesota in week one, that belief took a downturn when he got hurt and they failed to hold off Arizona, proving how thin they are for playmakers.
#20 – New York Giants – Eli Manning must stop surge of turnovers
Nobody is pushing the panic button yet on the New York Giants. Here’s a question. Why not? Yes, Eli Manning must stop turning the football over, but even if he curbs that problem, it won’t compensate for how bad his defense is in 2013.
#21 – Tennessee Titans – Jake Locker still waiting for breakout game
Winning because of the quarterback is the key to winning in the playoffs. The Tennessee Titans must hope they can buck that trend because Jake Locker, while efficient hasn’t done much to prove he’s ready to take the next step. That is not encouraging.
#22 – Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder not answering the bell
Adrian Peterson isn’t on pace to break his own record, which for the Minnesota Vikings is a bad thing. That has forced them to lean more on quarterback Christian Ponder, which has produced two ugly losses to division rivals.
#23 – San Diego Chargers – Manti Te’o about to hold center stage
Mike McCoy appears to have solved the Philip Rivers puzzle. The quarterback has looked like his old Pro Bowl self through two games. The problem is he has few answers for the San Diego Chargers defense. Can Manti Te’o help stop the bleeding? Doubtful.
#24 – Philadelphia Eagles – Chip Kelly can’t ignore his defense
Chip Kelly is a mastermind at creating offense. That’s all well and good, but the job of a head coach in the NFL is much more than that. The Philadelphia Eagles need him to manage the clock and not ignore his defense, two problems that have already appeared.
#25 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger low on options
No pass protection. No running game. No pass rush. No way to win. That is what Ben Roethlisberger faces with the Pittsburgh Steelers as they start 0-2 for the first time in over ten years. Unless somebody on offense steps up soon, the black and gold are in trouble.
#26 – New York Jets – Geno Smith proving why he fell in draft
Rex Ryan deserves loads of credit for his consistent defensive success every year. What he can’t seem to solve is the New York Jets quarterback situation. Though talented, through two games, Geno Smith has only proven why he dropped so far in the draft.
#27 – Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III can’t hide the rust
Slow starts can kill teams. After winning Rookie of the Year perhaps expectations for Robert Griffin III were too high coming off a torn ACL. He has clearly looked rusty for the Washington Redskins and no amount of garbage time success can cover it up.
#28 – Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton and defense taking turns failing
In week one it was a seven-point dud by Cam Newton and the offense that doomed the Carolina Panthers. In week two it was a 4th quarter collapse by the defense against a rookie quarterback. Those kinds of breakdowns all lead to one problem: coaching.
#29 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Greg Schiano losing control of his team
Speaking of which, it seems the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some controversies to work through. Greg Schiano is not Mr. Popular among some of his players, which may or may not include Darrelle Revis. It doesn’t matter. The team is 0-2 and face the Patriots next.
#30 – Oakland Raiders – Terrelle Pryor not making many mistakes
Normally a win would push a team higher up the list but it was a win against Jacksonville so there is no major bump for the Oakland Raiders. Terrelle Pryor deserves credit for playing well under tough circumstances. If he keeps improving, he may just secure the starting job for the future.
#31 – Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden under siege
Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner were supposed to enhance and help Brandon Weeden. Instead they’ve subjected him to repeated poundings as the Cleveland Browns offense has done next to nothing through two weeks. Something better change, fast.
#32 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Gus Bradley has no solutions on offense
Surprise, surprise. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-2, have scored the fewest point of any offense in the NFL and been beaten by double digits in both their games. Gus Bradley inherited a mess, but his oversight at quarterback may have doomed their 2013 season.