And then there were SEVEN: NFL Week 2 Recap

Lamar+Jackson+%28in+black%29+greets+Patrick+Mahomes+%28in+white%29+after+the+game.+CREDIT%3A+USA+Today

Lamar Jackson (in black) greets Patrick Mahomes (in white) after the game. CREDIT: USA Today

Nicholas Neipert, Student Writer

We’re about 11.76% through the NFL’s regular season, and only 21.88% of the 32 NFL teams remain undefeated after week 2. And I must say… this season is NOT going how anyone thought it would. Who’s currently sitting at 2-0? Well, we have…

 

  • The Carolina Panthers (finished 5-11 in 2020, drafted 8th overall)
  • The Denver Broncos (finished 5-11 in 2020, drafted 9th overall)
  • The San Francisco 49ers (finished 6-10 in 2020, finished last in the NFC West)
  • The Las Vegas Raiders (finished 8-8 in 2020, missed playoffs)
  • The Arizona Cardinals (finished 8-8 in 2020, missed playoffs)

 

… and then you have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams, who SHOULD start 2-0, being 2020 playoff contenders. Oh, and the Bucs won the Super Bowl – if you missed that. 

 

Today, we’ll discuss the longevity of these 7 teams, as well as our highlight games of the week. Let’s get it moving.

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS:

 

Week 1 – (1-0) Panthers 19, (0-1) Jets 14 

Week 2 – (2-0) Panthers 26, Saints 7

 

Will the Panthers survive in a division with the reigning Super Bowl champs? YES! Just… barely. As a Panthers fan (yes, I know, feel free to invalidate everything I say after this), I have obviously been following Carolina’s off-season moves vigorously. Before this season began, I said that the Panthers would produce big numbers on defense, and end up in discussions as a top 8, maybe top 5 defense. And as of Week 2, the Panthers defense ranks #1 in the league, with 10 sacks, 3 interceptions, and the best lowest allowed passer rating across all defenses, thanks to star rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn (2.8 passer rating allowed with 5+ targets, according to PFF; #1 of all CB’s) and veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson (20.6 passer rating allowed with 5+ targets, according to PFF; #2 of all LB’s). While all of this sounds nice and all, these magical numbers have been inflated by rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, and Jameis Winston. While this might have helped the Panthers defense out a little bit, I still believe that this defense is the real deal. #1 in the league? Absolutely not. But I think with a front 7 consisting of Pro Bowl snub Brian Burns, Pro Bowl snub Haason Reddick, Derrick Brown, Daquan Jones, Morgan Fox, Shaq Thompson. I think it will be very hard for NFL analysts to keep the Panthers defense out of their top 5. The offense hasn’t looked like anything special across the first two weeks, outside of Christian McCaffrey (of course). Darnold and his crew did get things moving this week, scoring 26 points against the Saints. I just don’t think it will be enough against a defense like Tampa Bay’s, who the Panthers play twice a year. Outside of their divisional matchups, the Panthers have one of the easier schedules in the NFL. I almost want to call the Panthers a lock for a wild card spot this year, because I can see this team going 9-8 easily with their schedule advantage and tremendous defense. Long story not so short, the Panthers are here to stay.

 

DENVER BRONCOS: 

 

Week 1 – (1-0) Broncos 27, (0-1) Giants 13

Week 2 – (2-0) Broncos 23, (0-2) Jaguars 13

 

Can the Broncos hang? I think so. I was very high on the Broncos entering the regular season. Like the Panthers, the defense will pave the way through the entire season. Also like the Panthers, the offense is average, with a ton of young talent on the outside in Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. Essentially, the Denver Broncos are the AFC’s Carolina Panthers. Oh, the irony. We’re approaching week 3, and the “Broncos are overrated” narrative is already spreading like wildfire. Sure, the Bronco’s opponents combine for 0-6 (including the Jets). That doesn’t discredit the defensive play that we’ve seen thus far. It’s a lot harder to scheme against a rookie QB than it seems. You have little to no film in an NFL offense on this guy. You don’t know how they will react to your personnel (Von Miller being the primary variable in the offensive equation). The Broncos did a phenomenal job of polarizing D. Dimes and TLaw through weeks 1 and 2. I don’t see how that will change drastically for a QB like Patrick Mahomes. A good portion of the Broncos schedule features a bottom 16 QB in the league (Zach Wilson, Week 3 – Ben Roethlisberger, Week 5 – Baker Mayfield, Week 7 – Taylor Heinicke, Week 8 – Jalen Hurts, Week 10 – Jared Goff, Week 14 – Joe Burrow, Week 15). If the defense can continue their dominant play in each of those weeks, the Broncos find themselves sitting at least 9 wins. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Broncos beat the Chiefs at least once, the Raiders at least once, most definitely the Chargers at least once. As long as Teddy Bridgewater continues to fill his role as a game manager, the defense continues to keep the points low, I think you’ll be seeing a 12-5 team in the playoffs this coming January. 

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS:

 

Week 1 –  (1-0) 49ers 41, (0-1) Lions 33

Week 2 – (2-0) 49ers 17, (1-0) Eagles 11

 

I want to start by saying this: It’s rare to see a team go to the Super Bowl one year, and then completely fall off the grid for the next few seasons. Unless you’re the Carolina Panthers. Or the Denver Broncos. Or the Atlanta Falcons. REGARDLESS, the 49ers team hasn’t changed very much since their historical Super Bowl run. Last year, just about half of the 49er’s starting roster suffered a season-ending injury at some point. This year, the Niners are BACK. So will they hang? No. The 49ers are great. Solid defense, solid receivers, a top 5 special teams front. They have a decent enough QB in Jimmy Garoppollo. He did lead them to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, after all. So why won’t they hang? Well, here’s how I look at it. The 49ers have one of the hardest schedules in the league. For perspective, the NFC West (the 49ers’ division) so far this season combines for a 7-1 record. The Rams look like the best team in the NFL and the Seahawks still look as good as they usually are. Kyler Murray is back in MVP form and is already the frontrunner to win the award, and it isn’t particularly close. Not to mention that the Cardinals defense also falls in the top 5. The 49ers have to play each of these teams twice – that’s 6 games against teams that are objectively better than the 49ers in every category. Maybe you beat Seattle once, but you still are losing a large number of your divisional games. That alone will keep the 49ers out of the playoffs, as they will be fighting for a wildcard spot, and their divisional losses will keep them from seeding. And on top of all of that? The 49ers face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 3, Russell Wilson in Week 4, Kyler Murray’s Cardinals in Week 5, and the list goes on. I would say that the 49ers are a 7 – 9 win team this year. It’s not really San Francisco’s fault, they’re just in schedule he11. 

 

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS:

 

Week 1 – (1-0) Raiders 33, (0-1) Ravens 27

Week 2 – (2-0) Raiders 26, (1-1) Steelers 17

 

I have always been a lowkey Raiders fan. Of course, I’m not one, but it’s great to see them win. The Raiders have put on a show through these first two weeks, unexpectedly. Not only did they come out in the opener and defeat Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in OT, but the following week they defeated the AFC North favorites, the Steelers. Derek Carr looks great, as always, and the defense looks surprisingly not bad. Will this Gruden-led team be able to find themselves in a playoff spot at the end of this season? I don’t think so. Here’s the deal with the Raiders: Every year, the Raiders start off hot. They look like a top 3 team in the league. Derek Carr is always in the MVP conversation. The Raiders start making early-season playoff brackets. And every year, something happens. Sometimes we don’t even know what the problem is, but the Raiders can NOT hang. In 2017, the Raiders easily should have gone deep into the playoffs, and Carr should’ve won the MVP over Matt Ryan. And that is history: Derek Carr goes down with a season-ending injury, and the Raiders miss the playoffs. The Raiders don’t have a particularly easy schedule, either, being in one of the best divisions in football. Here’s how the Raiders season will go: They’ll win a good few in a row, they’ll beat the Dolphins, Chargers, and so on. And then suddenly, they lose. And they lose again. And they keep losing, until they finish last in the AFC West. Las Vegas Frauders. Sorry!

 

ARIZONA CARDINALS:

 

Week 1 – (1-0) Cardinals 38, (0-1) Titans 13

Week 2 – (2-0) Cardinals 34, (0-2) Vikings 33

 

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES. The Cardinals won’t hang, they will THRIVE. The Cardinals were my Super Bowl favorites last year, and I still can’t believe they missed the playoffs. Of course, it doesn’t help that they are in such a stacked division, but I think this year they will definitely fight for the first-round bye. Kyler Murray is the best quarterback in football currently, and I don’t think teams can slow him down. It’s not like teams can scheme against him. Play two-deep? He’s gonna torch you underneath with his overbearing speed. Play pinch? He’ll find his All-Pro WR Deandre Hopkins down the seam. There’s no stopping this AZ offense. The defense also seems to have greatly improved since last year. Budda Baker is playing his best football, Chandler Jones had 6 sacks in the opener against Tennessee. Isaiah Simmons finally found his footing in the NFL. Who’s gonna stop the Cards? Sure, they probably should’ve lost to the Vikings, but the Vikings are competitive in every game. If the Cardinals don’t get at least 10 wins this year, sue me. I have so much confidence in this team, I’m willing to bet anything on a 10 win season. 

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS:

 

Week 1 – (1-0) Buccaneers 31, (0-1) Cowboys 29

Week 2 – (2-0) Buccaneers 48, (0-2) Falcons 25

 

Yes.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS:

 

Week 1 – (1-0) Rams 34, (0-1) Bears 14

Week 2 – (2-0) Rams 27, (0-2) Colts 24

 

Duh. This is (in my opinion) the best team in the NFL.

 

Let’s talk about the games:

 

The Eagles fell short to the undefeated 49ers 17-11. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game end with a score like that, but hey, it happened. Nothing looked great for the birds. Hurts didn’t look awful but definitely didn’t look incredible. The O-Line had a hard time protecting the pass, and the D-Line had a hard time applying constant pressure. The Niners didn’t look very good either. Overall just a sloppy game. 

 

The Steelers were manhandled this week. 26-17, Raiders take it. If you’re a Steelers fan, you’re gonna want to forget this game. Derek Carr just picked apart your “top 5” defense. Big Ben essentially sat on his aging bottom all game, and Najee Harris had 94% of the play share. That’s unreal. It’s time to panic for the Steelers.

 

In the game of the week, Lamar Jackson led a game-winning drive to defeat the ever so great Patrick Mahomes, 36-35. The Chiefs were the obvious favorite to win this game, but the Ravens played some of the best football I have ever seen. The game looked like it was over on several occasions, but the defense kept fighting. Eventually, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of the Kansas City Chiefs fumbled the ball, giving Lamar decent field position, and time to take the game back. And that he did. This game was incredible, and if you didn’t watch it live, watch the highlights. Incredible. 

 

Other notable games would include the Cardinals sneaking in a win against the Vikings, 34-33. The Titans defeated the Seahawks in a nail-biter overtime win, 33-30. Rookie QB Zach Wilson threw 4 interceptions to the Patriots, losing 25-6. The Packers are back! Aaron Jones scores 4 touchdowns in the Monday night manslaughter of the Lions, 35-17. The Bills shut out the Dolphins 35-0. Washington defeated the Giants on Thursday night with a game-winning field goal. Sam Darnold dethroned Jameis Winston, with the Panthers defeating the Saints 26-7. And the rest are your routine games!

 

Could Stafford finally get his ring? Is Brady in his prime at 44 years old? Are the Raiders for real? It’s only week 3. To next week!