By Nicholas Grunewald
Week two of the NFL season kicked off with the debut of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit on Amazon Prime, the new home for Thursday Night Football. Without question, this is the best duo in the booth broadcasting NFL games. The streaming service still has a few kinks to work out, but if they can get it right, this broadcast will be the best across all networks.
As for the game, it was exactly what we expected in an AFC West matchup.
The Chargers went into Arrowhead shorthanded with the absence of Keenan Allen. After Allen went out early in week one, Mike Williams was expected to step up in the absence of WR1. It was a disappointing outing, but Williams bounced back. Catching eight balls for 113 yards and a score, helping Los Angeles get out to a dominating start against Kansas City. But as the game progressed, the loaded Chargers offense couldn’t do enough to put the game out of reach. As many opportunities as the Chargers defense had to take the ball away from the Chiefs offense, Patrick Mahomes was able to escape with zero turnovers and did just enough to crawl out a win. Many people will take any opportunity to count out Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but they proved that if you let them hang around long enough they will make you pay.
Sunday’s 12 o’clock slate, which appeared to be a dreadful slate of games on paper, produced some of the most exciting games of the weekend.
The Cleveland Browns squandered a fourth quarter lead to the New York Jets. The final two possessions were WILD. A 76 yard bomb from 37 year old Joe Flacco, followed by an onside kick recovered by New York, which lead the “J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!” To take the lead with Garrett Wilson’s second touchdown of the day as the former Buckeye made his return to O-H-I-O. Wilson’s impressive performance helped solidify my take that he’s the best receiver in NYC. With the Browns botching this game, questions start to swirl again whether or not they can stay afloat until Deshaun Watson returns.
New Orleans and Tamp Bay met in an NFC South clash. Tom Brady’s frustration was on full display Sunday as he was seen throwing a tablet around on the sideline. The Saints, despite their beaten down quarterback Jameis Winston, showed once again that they are a relentless thorn in the side of the Brady led Bucs. New Orleans had won four straight regular season games heading into Sunday’s matchup. The Buccaneers defense put on a show for the second consecutive week as they were able to once again cover up the slow starts from Brady. Despite all the quarterback news surrounding this matchup, the biggest story line came from the Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore matchup. After a heated Brady and Leonard Fournette started chirping with Lattimore, Lattimore proceeded to shove Fournette (great heads up play to not touch Brady, would’ve earned himself a year long suspension). This led to Evans, who has a history of altercations with the saints defensive back, rushing in from the sideline to knock Lattimore onto the ground. This naturally leading to a massive, bench clearing brawl, earning Evans a one game suspension. In Evans’ defense, that is TOM BRADY who he’s rushing out to defend, Evans was even seen on camera pleading that same case with the officials. Look, Evans deserves the suspension, but Brady should at least take care of his fine, Evans is losing a game check afterall for covering his quarterback’s blind spot.
Lamar Jackson seemed like he was on his way, once again, to making everyone look silly who questioned his worth and asking price. In a near perfect game, Jackson missed only eight throws on his way to 437 total yards and four touchdowns. But it was late magic from the Dolphins that decided this game. Clawing their way back from a 14-35 deficit, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle proved too much for a young Baltimore secondary. The dynamic duo combined for 32 targets of Tua’s 50 pass attempts, and they delivered. Hill and Waddle each had 11 receptions each for 190 and 171 yards respectively. Both receivers added two touchdowns a piece to help rally to a 42-38 win. Give credit to Mike McDaniel, designing an offense simple for Tua, get the ball in your playmakers hands and let them do their thing.
The Jaguars went into week two 0-1 and came out atop their division. Trevor Lawrence followed up his less than stellar week one performance with a bounce back day at the office. The difference between Doug Pederson and Urban Meyer is massive. Trevor Lawrence has benefited exponentially with the offense Pederson has implemented, as most young quarterbacks would. Last season’s 3-14 record doesn’t match the talent this Jacksonville roster has. For the Colts, it hasn’t been the start they hoped for. After an embarrassing tie a week ago to the Texans, there are even more questions surrounding this team. Yes, they were short handed without Michael Pittman Jr., but nobody expected this type of performance. Jonathan Taylor and the offensive line couldn’t find a rhythm, though I expect that to change for how dominant those groups are. Matt Ryan hasn’t made the difference yet that the organization brought him in for. With the Colts slow start and the Jaguars impressive outing, I can confidently say Trevor Lawrence and Jacksonville will be alive for the post season late in the year.
The late window of games had a lot to live up to after an exciting end to the early slot.
The 49ers lost quarterback Trey Lance late in the first quarter but came out of Seattle with their first win of the season, beating the Seahawks 27-7. Though the injury to Lance is devastating, 49er fans shouldn’t be hanging their heads too low. The truth is, the 49ers are better going into week three with Jimmy Garrarapo as QB1. We know what we are getting from the Niners when Garoppolo is on the field. They are a legit contender in the NFC, they’ve made the NFC Championship game two of the past three seasons. The plan for Lance was always the long game, he was meant to be the missing piece come the postseason. San Francisco is sitting just fine, if not better with Jimmy G managing the game and making a deep playoff run, but their goal is championships, and Garrapalo has proven he can’t take them over the top.
Issues in Denver are still lingering following Russ’ debut in Empower Field at Mile High. Following a questionable week one performance to say the least, this was the week the Broncos were supposed to figure it out. Hosting the always overlooked Houston Texans, Denver struggled from the get go. After keeping Russ under wraps for a majority of week one, Wilson came out cooking, attempting to at least. He was in the kitchen, but nothing was baking. Wilson completed only six of his first 20 passes for less than 100 yards and an interception. Luckily for Denver, they were only matched up against the Texans and were able to pull out their first win of the season. The downside? Nathaniel Hackett remains an obvious question mark. The concern, if his sketchy play calling was an issue during his tenure in Green Bay, it was covered up by Aaron Rodgers and Matt LeFleur. He’s the main guy in Denver and Russell Wilson has already deferred to him. Add on the fact that Hackett is now managing the clock as well as calling plays, it’s a lot to ask out of a first time head coach.
After declaring Dallas dead a week ago following the loss of Dak Prescott, I am back with an update, the Cowboys are alive and well. Cooper Rush stepped in and stepped up in the absence of Prescott. Rush threw for 235 yards and a touchdown, outplaying Joe Burrow along the way. In Burrows defense, he was under pressure from the league’s best defender, Micah Parsons, all day. Parsons upped his sack total to 4.0 on the year, with two sacks against a struggling Bengals offensive line. The Cowboys defense as a whole stepped up in a huge way, racking up six sacks on the day. Dallas put pressure on Joe Burrow all day making things uncomfortable, but late in the game Burrow was able to do enough to tie the game at 17 a piece. With less than a minute to play, Cooper Rush was able to drive Dallas downfield to set up Brett Maher with a chance to win the game. In what seems like a chip shot for the guy, Money Maher drilled a 50 yard game winning kick to help put the Cowboys in the win column for the first time this season.
Sunday’s slate of games capped off with a historic rivalry as the Bears headed north to Lambeau. A rivalry full of history, this matchup seemed to play out the same way we’ve come to expect in recent memory. Green Bay taking control, and never letting the game get too far in reach. Even as the score drew closer, it never felt like the Packers were in serious trouble of blowing their lead. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon were dominant as Green Bay relied on their backs all day. It was a far better performance defensively for the Packers, compared to what we saw week one in Minnesota. There was controversy towards the end as Bears quarterback Justin Fields attempted to rush in a late score. In a close call, the officials ruled Fields short on the field before going to replay. With no clear and definitive evidence the ball crossed the goal line, the officials were forced to stick with the call on the field. It would be the last opportunity Chicago would get as Fields would throw an interception on their next drive to close out the game. Did we really expect any other result? After all, Rodgers does still own the Bears, and I don’t see him selling anytime soon.
Week two capped off with a Monday Night Football double header as the Bills dominated last year’s number one seed in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs have become the best QB-WR duo in the NFL. Diggs went for 148 yards, dicing up the Titans defense for three touchdown grabs. The Bills defense looked incredible once again following their week one thrashing of the Rams, helping to solidify the Bills as favorites for this year’s title. On the flip side for Tennessee, their once small superbowl window looks completely closed at this point. Hopefully Malik Willis will show some flashes to earn the starting job away from Ryan Tannehill.
Minnesota went into Philadelphia at the top of their division after a week one win over the Packers. Justin Jefferson seemed on his way to a Cooper Kupp-esque season, but then he met Darius Slay. “Big Play Slay” put on an absolute defensive clinic. While Kirk Cousins (aka Prime Time Kirk), did nothing to help Jefferson, it wouldn’t have mattered the way Slay was playing. Cousins targeted Jefferson six times while he was covered by Slay, completing three of those passes. The issue? Two of the competitions were to Darius Slay, you know, the guy from the other team, the one you’re NOT supposed to throw the ball to. Prime Time Kirk doesn’t care much for that idea though, as he continuously tried forcing the ball in between two, or even three defenders. To sum up, Kirk Cousins did exactly what we should expect him to do while playing under the lights, underperform. The Eagles, on the other hand, looked phenomenal. Led by Slay, their defense really picked things up after an embarrassing week one performance where they let up 35 points to the Lions. Offensively, Jalen Hurts and AJ Brown continued their dominance from week one in another electric performance on their way to a 24-7 win. If the Eagles can stay consistent, which is a lot to ask, early on they are looking like the NFC’s best team.