Oh Yes! Oh No! What the??? Week 2 Review

Week 2 saw a number of teams show their true colours. The good teams appeared to be very good and the bad teams… well they were awful. So let’s take a look at what stood out for us this week.

 

The Death of the Moral Victory

Coming out of week one the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears obtained just enough points to narrowly lose games and we’re awarded the dubious honour of gaining “moral victories”. The belief was that although they lost the games they had made clear and positive steps in the right direction.

The Browns lost by quite a margin, against a dominant Ravens defence. I think maybe it’s potentially a little harsh to call this necessarily the death of the moral victory, but never-the-less, the Browns looked rattled at QB. Whether it was DeShone Kizer or Kevin Hogan, outside of a couple of plays, both failed to look in control of the game. Kizer through 2 games has gained a couple of red marks to whether he can possibly be the answer at QB for the Browns. I don’t want this to look like I have no faith in the Browns extreme rebuild, far from it in fact. There has been a few players who’ve stepped up in a big way and a victory against the 2 best teams in their division is perhaps a little too much to expect at this point. Regardless though there is still an awful lot of work to be done in Cleveland.

As for the Bears and the major reason I started with this topic (yup the Bears fan in me couldn’t resist), it has to be said that it looks like there’s little change for the Bears we’ve seen last year and the year before. My hopes weren’t high for the team and the schedule is definitely not the easiest, but it would have been nice to see some kind of progress. Through turnovers and an inability to move the ball, the Bears defence spent the majority of the 1st half on the field and in awful field position. The Bears had come down to earth with a bump.A gassed defence saw the Bucs go up 26 pts in the blink of an eye and the Bears team whose strength was keeping scores low and wearing down the opposing team’s defence became redundant. So the game at this point is fully on a Mike Glennon with little to no help at receiver and zero confidence. Needless to say a comeback wasn’t on the cards and any points scored were obtained when the game was long over.

My biggest issue isn’t with the Bears losing games, which is something I’ve got quite used to, it’s how they lose them and the injuries that occur when we force the defence on the field for 2/3 of the game. The Bears lost Kevin White and defensive lynchpin Jerrell Freeman in-game 1. In game 2 it’s looking like they’ve lost Nick Kwiatkowski and Josh Sitton for some time. With Freeman and Kwiatkowski missing time the depth at inside linebacker disappears and they’re forced to rush back Danny Trevathan when he’s not ready. This is the point I want to hammer home. The Bears aren’t improving and it seems that this rebuild needs a rebuild.

Oh and I’m not going to even start on the whole Trubisky thing…

Patriots = MacGyver

Is anyone remotely surprised any more when Tom Brady comes back from an embarrassing loss to MacGyver his way to a convincing victory using just duct tape and other teams castoffs. Well it happened again.

Week 1 was supposed to be all about the Patriots. The build up was a heavily romanticized look at arguably the best dynasty of all time. They raised the banner shortly before the game and stuck a finger up to a Commissioner that 12 months before had been responsible for their beloved Tom Brady missing the 1st 4 games, by roundly booing him. This was supposed to be a celebration for the Patriots legacy. The Chiefs however had other ideas and made a team that everyone thought was a shoo in for another Superbowl look ordinary.

Cue the doubters. Maybe this time he was actually done? Could he move the ball without Julian Edelman? Where was the pass rush going to come from? All questions that were being asked. Well in week 2 the Patriots answered all of these questions and more. There is no question that a great deal of help came from Rob Gronkowski, but the Patriots can move the ball in a variety of ways. James White continues to be a favourite for the Patriots, predominantly as a pass catcher in this one. The Patriots versatility at running back is going to cause problems for defences, with no clear no. 1 back (although Gillislee probably looks like the most traditional style back). Then there’s the weapons they’ve got that were cast offs from other teams. Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan were unwanted pieces on their previous teams. Now the Patriots have MacGyvered them into flame throwers.

The defence is still a concern, with a number of injuries, but there is definite improvement. Stephon Gilmore already looks pretty solid when going up against more traditional receivers and concerns about pass rush may be slightly lessened with the emergence of Dietrich Wise as a solid potential talent, leaving the real question being whether they can keep the score low or will the Patriots be asked to outscore teams in constant shootouts?

The truth is, I don’t know. It definitely seems like a tall order. What i do know however is, that I will never write them off again.

Defence (Probably) Wins Championships (This Year)

I think last week I waxed lyrical about my love of defensive coordinators and how teams are going to win big if they have talent on defence. Well week 2 continued to show that. The simple fact is that there is more talent than we’ve seen in a long team on the defensive line. 2016’s draft provided teams with a wealth of talent at defensive tackle. Look back at it and see how many teams drafted starting players in the 2nd round + at the position. The 2017 draft gave the league an insanely deep draft at defensive end. Players that in other years would be going top 10, were going in the 2nd round. The point that I’m going round every house to make, is that teams have had the opportunity to retool on the defensive line, a luxury that we haven’t seen on the offensive side of the trenches.

Anyway this is evident when you see the teams that remain unbeaten and although there are teams with decent defences who are struggling (I’m looking in your direction Giants), it tends to be teams that haven’t upgraded their offensive line, which I went into last week and don’t particularly feel like – that particularly bumpy ground again.

The Ravens defence might be one of the finest units in the league right now and it shows in both points allowed and the win column. The Ravens have allowed just 10 points, which coincidently is the same amount of turnovers they’ve recovered, including a staggering 8 interceptions in 2 games. It’s safe to say that a combination of solid players coming into their own, like Mosley and Williams and some exceptional pickups in free agency, like Jefferson and Carr, have seen the Ravens take the next step at defence. Right now they look unbeatable and I’d fancy their chances against any offence.

Where the Chiefs have always excelled is their strength in-depth, which is evident on both offence and defence. In terms of defence the rotation of the defensive front 7 seems to cause offences fits. Chris Jones from nowhere has stepped up as a defensive player of the year candidate with his performance against the Eagles with 3 sacks, 2 of which leading to fumbles. My final point is that this team lost arguably their best player in Eric Berry and yet still they’re a dominant defence. The Chiefs look set to continue their regular season dominance.

There is less tape on the Bucs than any of the other teams mentioned, but in one game they’ve created a heck of a buzz. Yes it was against a dreadful Bears offence, but the fact is they capitalised on it, forcing 4 turnovers in the 1st half, giving their offence short field position against a gassed Bears defence. The Bucs are a definite “watch this space”.

I can’t finish this without mentioning both the Panthers and Broncos, both of which seem to be back to their defensive best. The Panthers have got a pass rush going, taking pressure of Kuechly and Davis and the Broncos defence front to back looks solid, with the secondary perhaps being the best in the league. The Broncos are a sneaky bet along with the Chiefs and the Ravens for the AFC Championship game. The Panthers and Bucs still have a little way to go, but might prove to be a challenge for last years NFC Champions, the Falcons.

Quick Takes

Oakland Raiders: Too much to talk about this week, but I can’t not mention the most fun in the league. Crabtree is looking good, Lynch looks like a handful and Carr is already on MVP form. Oh and the secondary looks much better than advertised. Gareon Conley looks like a great pick up in the draft.

New York Giants & Cincinnati Bengals: 2 Teams that should be good but simply aren’t thanks to woeful offensive line play. What’s the point in having shiny new weapons if you haven’t got time to get the ball off. This can only mean one thing…

The Hot Seat: So many coaches on the hot seat already including the head coaches of the above teams in Ben McAdoo and Marvin Lewis. Joining them though are Bill O’Brien, John Fox, Chuck Pagano and rather surprisingly Bruce Arians.

There’s plenty more to talk about, but let’s leave it there, I’ve already whinged far too much. See you all at the International Series!