3 Point Stance: Week 2 Review.
We’re back and with a snappier title! Week 2 brought, some serious injuries, excellent defensive performances and a few wake-up calls for teams that we maybe had high expectations for. Like last week (and as the name suggests), I’ll highlight 3 points in each game that I found interesting. Let’s take a look.
New York Jets 37 – Buffalo Bills 34
Greg Roman Isn’t the Issue: Okay so he was one of many issues, but really the systematic destruction of a playoff worthy team is where the issue lies with the Bills. Buffalo had one of the best defensive lines in the league. Since Rex Ryan took over as head coach they’ve taken a massive step back, with players like Mario Williams heading out to Miami and the remaining players looking a shadow of the unit they were a couple of years ago. That doesn’t matter though because in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby they’ve got 2 of the best corners in the league right? Well if they are they haven’t shown it so far this season, being burned 2 weeks in a row. So with a now average defence, their usual average offence and a fortune spent on new talent like LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay and Jerome Felton (who they released after 1 season, then re-signed), as well as players like Tyrod Taylor and Marcell Dareus due a massive payday next year (£31m combined), the Bills are nearing a top to bottom rebuild. A real shame for a team that got so close to pushing for an elusive Super bowl… rant over.
Jets need to Cure their Fumblitis: The Jets offence looks fantastic, with a stout offensive line, weapons coming out of the wazoo and QB that seems to be hitting his prime… well kinda. On the opening drive of this game the Jets put the ball on the ground 3 times and another which saw them lose the ball for a touchdown. This is a concern if you see the Jets as a playoff team. These are the kind of mistakes that playoff teams don’t recover from. That being said, this offence is dynamite.
Darrelle Revis: I have similar feelings about Derrelle Revis that I did about Peyton Manning. Yes, he’s begun to decline, but it doesn’t matter, he’s already earned our respect. In an age where the passing game is so prevalent, Revis has shut down some of the best receivers the game has to offer. AJ Green in week 1 had a great game matching up to Revis and I think he said it best: “That guy has nothing left to prove, he’s a 1st ballot Hall of Famer. I’m trying to get where he is”.
Miami Dolphins 24 – New England Patriots 31
Jimmy G: Before leaving the game with an injury, Garoppolo was playing a very Brady-esque game, showing he’s clearly been learning from the future 1st ballot hall of famer. Garoppolo showed exceptional pocket presence against one of the more aggressive defensive lines in the league, taking advantage of mismatches, making excellent decisions and managing to look off Rashad Jones, making him 2nd guess where he thought the Pats QB would throw. Garoppolo missing the Thursday night game against the Texans is a big loss, but even if they finish this stretch 2-2, they’re in good shape.
Ryan Tannehill: Ryan Tannehill deserves some credit for keeping the Dolphins in this game, with little to no help from his run game (Drake, Foster and Ajayi combined for 35 yards). Tannehill had to put the team on his back to drag them to within 1 score of this game and despite a couple of bad decisions (passes across the middle with no timeouts), was one decent pass away from taking this game to overtime. If tannehill can put together this type of play for 4 quarters, we could be seeing a very different Dolphins team in the future.
Patriots Defence Continues to Impress: I spoke about my love for this unit and despite a slight collapse in the 2nd half they still looked good. The front 7 is up there with any in the league in my opinion and the addition of Chris Long looks like a genius move. Where they might need to make a couple of tweaks is potentially in the secondary. Butler, Ryan and Chung were their top tacklers, but from Parker and Landry alone allowed nearly 60 yards after the catch. Not a huge concern, in a game against the Texans, where they’re starting their 3rd string QB, they might want to try and slow down Fuller and Hopkins to try and keep time of possession.
Cincinnati Bengals 16 – Pittsburgh Steelers 24
This Week’s Addition of I Was Wrong: I think I might be backing the wrong horse. My belief was that the Bengals had what it takes to not only lead the AFC North, but to win a Super bowl. Now I look at the division and I think the Steelers might be the best team not only in the Division, but the league. The Steelers seem to have got it together on defence, which was my biggest question mark and on offence can win games without Bell, Bryant and when Antonio Brown is marked out of the game. This in my opinion is the best team in the NFL right now and my 2 other points will be about what makes them so good.
DeAngelo Williams: Benefited from a near 50/50 split between run and pass, but against one of the best defensive fronts in the league, the ability to get 94 yards is an important factor in why this team won this game. On the flip side the Bengals only ran Hill and Bernard 16 times for 39 yards, forcing Dalton to throw 54 times. When teams move away from the run, they struggle and in this instance put the Bengals offensive line under immense pressure. Williams will undoubtedly be pushed to the backup position when LeVeon Bell comes back, but having a running back like Williams waiting in the wings means the team can put less pressure on an exceptionally talented Bell, who has had his share of injuries.
Steelers Defence: This was in my opinion, the best defensive performance we’ve seen from this team since they won a Super bowl, with a bend but don’t break attitude, whilst taking the run game out of the equation and forcing Dalton to make short throws to people not named AJ Green, in wet conditions and allowing zero touchdowns in red zone situations. The Steelers stifling defence are going to surprise a few people this year, with a secondary ready to cause a few problems. Look out for Ross Cockrell to have a big year.
Tennessee Titans 16 – Detroit Lions 15
Penalties: This was an ugly game, full of missed defensive assignments, dropped balls and most prevalent of all, penalties. Both teams combined for a total of 221 yards’ worth of penalties, with Detroit getting the Lions share (pun totally intended) with 138 yards’ worth. Whilst the referees called a tight game, there is no denying that a lot of this was down to sloppy play from both teams, with the Lions being marginally sloppier then the Titans. Both teams need to sit down and figure out what went wrong in a game that the only winner came in score alone.
Matt Stafford: Despite giving the game away with an interception in the dying moments of the game, Matt Stafford can have every right to be annoyed at his receiving corps for dropping 7 passes in a game where the run game simply couldn’t move the ball. I would imagine Stafford went home to stroke his well-worn picture of Calvin Johnson at the end of this one.
Titans Defence: After a great week 1, the Lions running back met a tougher challenge this week in the Titans front 7. Avery Williamson managed to stop the running backs for moving the ball on a number of game saving plays and frustrating Riddick fantasy owners everywhere. The pass defence wasn’t so good. Perrish Cox looked awful throughout the game, despite the game winning interception. The others just seemed non-existent. In a division with Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles and a Texans team with Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, they could be in for a short sharp shock.
Kansas City Chiefs 12 – Houston Texans 19
DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller: These 2 are shaping up to be one of the best receiver duos in the league right now. Marcus Peters is one of the best corners in the league. In this game he got his share too, with 2 interceptions. Despite his productions in interceptions, Peters got burned by both Hopkins and Fuller early on in this game. Despite an inevitable drop in production this year, I think it’s fair to say he still is very much a top 5 receiver.
Texans Secondary: The excellent play from the less talked about unit on this defence continued to quietly effect the game. The depth they have in this secondary is insane, with everyone seeming to be a play maker. There is no doubt that the pressure the front 7 gets helps them, but this unit deserves some credit, particularly Kevin Johnson and undrafted free agent AJ Bouye, who has had game changing plays in both games so far this season. The combination of having Fuller and Hopkins receiving and this secondary, makes this team easily the favourites for the AFC South.
Patience in this Chiefs Team: So far this team looks like a shadow of the team they were last year and there are some definite concerns. The offensive line has been man handled in the last 2 games forcing mistakes from both Alex Smith and favoured running back Spencer Ware. Turnovers were the difference in this game, which won’t happen with the alarming regularity we saw in this game, every week. I do however believe that this is still a decent Chiefs team and with players like Jamaal Charles and hopefully Justin Houston returning, you’d have to think they will improve, plus if last year has proved anything it’s that you can’t write off this team.
Baltimore Ravens 25 – Cleveland Browns 20
Was There Ever Any Doubt: The lack of faith in the Cleveland Browns is staggering. I would say I am higher on this team than anyone, yet with a 20-2 lead I still thought they’d lose and I know I wasn’t alone. What’s particularly sad about it however is that we were all right. The Browns weren’t helped by the Josh McCown injury, but still this team needs to learn how to close out a lead if they’re to improve at all this year.
CJ Mosley: Big season for Mosley without Daryl Smith and he’s doing a pretty good job. Mosley has stepped up as a leader of this team and was instrumental in stopping the Browns scoring any points for 40 minutes in this game. Mosley also picked off an interception to close out the game. There is no comparison between Mosley and Ray Lewis, but it does appear the Ravens have finally found the inside line-backer they’ve been looking for.
Send in the Next Browns QB: The offensive line, an area that has consistently been a strength for the Browns has begun to look like a weakness after the loss of a number of key players over the years. This combined with a cavalier attitude from both the QB’s that have started games this season has meant that they’re already down to rookie 3rd stringer Cody Kessler, who by all accounts does not look ready. Enter QB for hire, clipboard Jesus himself, Charlie Whitehurst. Despite a different approach to the season it seems that it’s just going the same as every other recent Browns season.
New Orleans Saints 13 – New York Giants 16
Erm… Not what we expected. After the shootout we witnessed last year, this one looked set to be something similar, with 2 high powered offences. What we got was a low scoring defensive affair that was won by the team with the better defence.
Giants Secondary: This is shaping up to be a pretty darn good unit. 2 weeks in a row they’ve slowed down a decent group of receivers. This week they were particularly impressive, making life very difficult for Brees, forcing him to hold on to the ball longer than he’d like, setting up their opportunistic pass rush. According to PFF, when he did attempt throws outside the numbers further than 10 yards he only completed 2 out of 10. A unit like this, combined with an excellent pass rush means they can rush with 4, cover everyone downfield and not worry about the weak group of line-backers.
Sterling Shepard: Here in the gent’s clubhouse we had little doubt that Shepard joining the Giants was the perfect landing spot. Shepard, much like Will Fuller will reap the benefits of lining up with a legitimate top 5 wide receiver, who will undoubtedly draw safety attention. Shepard seems to be gaining the attention of Eli Manning as a go to player which, with Beckham and Cruz as game changers could be a great fit for this offence. Shepard will have to go some to beat Wentz or Fuller to pick up offensive rookie of the year, but currently he’d definitely worth a mention.
Dallas Cowboys 27 – Washington 23
A Tale of Rookie Cowboys: The story for Dallas in the latter part of the off season was that they’d be starting a rookie QB (Dak Prescott) and a rookie running back (Ezekiel Elliott). At that point there were question marks surrounding Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott was a shoe in for offensive rookie of the year. Now we’re 2 games in and I have to think, that out of the 2, Prescott is in the lead for the award. Elliott had some decent yardage, but it seems to have gone under the radar that the 1st round pick put the ball on the ground twice, which he’ll quickly need to work on if he’s to live up to expectation. Prescott however played a game that seemed like the natural progression from the safe performance last week, displaying excellent decision making and accuracy, putting the ball safely in the hands of his top weapons. Great play from the rookie QB, who has so far, shown no signs of nerves.
Cowboys Cornerbacks: It’s easy to forget how close Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr came to getting cut. Now combined with Orlando Scandrick, Barry Church and Byron Jones, they seem to be making up for any possible deficiencies on the defensive line. 2 weeks in a row, these guys have made game winning plays and are earning the faith that Rod Marinelli has put in them. This unit could be very good.
Bashaud Breeland: Not his greatest run so far after a great season last year. Breeland was a player that I put in my top 10 corners and currently he’s making me look very foolish. What I’d say is that I think this is a blip, with confidence being his biggest issue right now. I’ve got to think Breeland will pull his socks up and make the combination of Breeland and Norman a scary one.
San Francisco 49ers 27 – Carolina Panthers 46
Kelvin Benjamin: I feel like this is stating the obvious, but having Benjamin back in this offence makes them far more dangerous. The addition of Benjamin turns an average group of pass catchers into an elite group and means Olsen can be used as a more traditional tight end.
Luke Kuechly: I sound like a broken record, but I do genuinely believe this is a defensive player of the year, year for the talented inside line-backer. Kuechly finished this game with another interception and another 11 tackles. Kuechly is so far on 21 tackles and 2 interceptions for the season. I actually believe Kuechly could lead the league in interceptions this year. Yes, I know I have a man crush.
Blaine Gabbert: Of all the options the Niners had to play QB this year, outside of paying way over the odds for Carson Wentz, I believe that Blaine Gabbert was the best option. Where other QBs have failed in a Chip Kelly offence, Gabbert is excelling, playing to his strengths with short quick passes, keeping the offence on the field. Where it failed this week however was with the 3rd down conversions, which the Niners only managed to complete 4 of, out of 14, giving the Panthers the lion’s share of possession. If the Niners can convert at 3rd down, they can win games… that’s easier said than done however. Regardless, I think he’s done an okay job considering the lack of talent surrounding him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7 – Arizona Cardinals 40
Overreaction: Like a number of people I began to buy the Bucs hype and although I didn’t have them winning this game, I did think they’d keep it close. I was wrong. Like a number of people who watched All or Nothing, I should have seen this coming. That there was no way the Cards would fall to 2-0 and make an example of a team like the Buccaneers, which is what happened. I do believe the Bucs have the bones for a pretty special team, but right now it appears there’s a clear pecking order.
Cardinals Secondary: An area that was highlighted as a concern coming into this game after a disappointing pre-season and week 1, came up as one of the top units in this game. This was much more of the Cardinals we’d seen the previous couple of years with defensive backs making up the majority of the defensive line-up. Marcus Cooper made it difficult for Jameis Winston, taking over from Brandon Williams who had struggled on the opposite side to Patrick Peterson. Despite the turnovers being a big part of the game, the ability to shut down the run that Tony Jefferson and Tyvon Branch brought cannot be underestimated. With players stepping up at corner and safety, it certainly appears that the Cards might be back on track.
David Johnson: With Bell side-lined, Johnson is taking the opportunity to make the most of at least looking like the most talented running back in the league. Johnson gets yards in the run and pass and opens up a ton of opportunities to the rest of this team.
Seattle Seahawks 3 – LA Rams 9
Seahawks Truly Offensive, Offensive Line: The Seahawks offensive line has been poor now for 3 seasons, with Wilson’s ability to extend plays through boot legs, designed runs and pocket presence, covering a multitude of sins. Well now he’s playing hurt and it’s becoming obvious that they can’t wins with him in this state against good defensive lines. If ever you wondered just how good a healthy Russell Wilson is, this should hammer home the point.
Alec Ogletree: I’ve been a fan of Ogletree for a while and after spending the last month watching Hard Knocks, it has become pretty evident how important Ogletree is to this team as a leader. Whereas in the game against the Niners the Rams defence looked like a disorganised rabble, in this one they looked like a cohesive unit that knew exactly what they were doing. Ogletree picking up the game winning fumble is a fitting end to an excellently led defensive performance.
A Game to Keep the LA Fans Happy? The Rams forced their way into LA with Stanley Kroenke buying up land long before they were given the go ahead. As a result, we now have the most boring NFL team in the notoriously fickle Los Angeles. It’s possible that unless there’s a serious ethos change with the Rams, this might actually hurt support of the NFL in LA. Rant over.
Atlanta Falcons 35 – Oakland Raiders 28
Don’t Believe the Hype: Part 1 of this weeks don’t believe the hype segment belongs to the Oakland Raiders who struggled on defence in a game where it became crushingly evident that they still can’t cover the tight end. The Falcons regularly lined up in 2 tight end sets, which caused the Raiders defence fits. Giving up 190 yards to Jacob Tamme and Austin Hooper.
Derek Carr: I don’t want to be over critical of the Raiders, who have definitely improved on offence, particularly the play of Derek Carr has been very impressive, with a beaten up offensive line not stopping him throw for 3 touchdowns to 3 different receivers. If the Raiders defence can improve even slightly, I believe Carr has enough talent to keep them in games.
Marquette King: I am not one to bring up the play of punters usually, but what Marquette King is doing unreal. In a fairly average game for King, he averaged 53.8 yards, with the longest being 64 and 3 of them dropping behind the 20. King is far and away the best punter in the league and deserves some love.
Indianapolis Colts 20 – Denver Broncos 34
Colts Secondary Continue to Struggle: Injuries to the weakest unit on this Colts team continues to cause big problems to this Colts team with Darius Butler and Clayton Geathers set to miss time after leaving this game. The Colts defence is the latest deficiency to put a ton of pressure on QB Andrew Luck, I would be very surprised if the Colts win any games that aren’t a shootout.
Von Miller: Currently my prediction of Luke Kuechly winning defensive player of the year has one contender, Von Miller. Miller is easily the most productive pass rusher in the league at the moment and added 3 sacks to his total in this one. That sack record could go this year.
The Dirty Hits: I don’t want to labour the point, but they keep coming. The league need to step in sooner rather than later, before someone gets seriously hurt or the Broncos gain a reputation. I love the Broncos defence, but think they can be every bit as effective without some of the more questionable hits.
Jacksonville Jaguars 14 – San Diego Chargers 38
Is This the Real Jaguars? After months of Off Season hype, it’s possible that the inevitable has happened. The Jags still aren’t great. I don’t want to read too much into the 1st 2 games, but surely after several years of disappointment we should have our default setting be sceptical. I want to clarify…I want this team to do well, I like Bortles a lot, but so far we’ve seen some disappointing decision making from the QB, lack lustre performances from the receivers and a defence that despite decent play from Jalen Ramsey, still struggles in the secondary. I will be hoping this team goes on to become division challengers, but after years of writing for the Gents I’ve learnt to take off season hype with a pinch of salt.
Danny Woodhead: As if the loss of Keenan Allen last week wasn’t enough, the loss of the most prolific pass catching back in the league will be just as huge. The loss of Woodhead will force Rivers to throw downfield more to Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams.
Melvin Gordon: Melvin Gordon makes any offensive losses a lot more palatable. Gordon is looking like the running back the Chargers had been promised in last season’s draft. Gordon takes a ton of pressure off of Rivers who was the sole bearer of offensive productivity last year. Also Melvin Gordon’s mum is a legitimate superstar!
Green Bay Packers 14 – Minnesota Vikings 17
The Packers Receiving Corps: Aaron Rodgers could very well be the best QB in the league, depending on your own personal opinions. Currently though the Green Bay Packers are making his life incredibly hard by surrounding him with questionable weapons. Jordy Nelson’s touchdown was a bright spot on an otherwise questionable performance, for the 2nd week in the row. Davante Adams is completely unreliable and Randall Cobb’s production has continued from last year’s disappointment. For a team that prides itself on its ability to draft playmakers and generally has stays out of free agent moves, they’ve failed to put their QB in the best place to win games.
Sam Bradford: It’s not up against a great deal, but this was unquestionably the best I’ve seen him play, showing exceptional pocket awareness and decision making. With Adrian Peterson undoubtedly set to miss some time, Bradford could prove to be the difference maker this team needs, admittedly with a decent amount of help from Stephon Diggs, who looks fantastic. If I’m to look at a potential negative, against a decent secondary they might need someone to step up, especially with a half strength Peterson.
Vikings Defence: If I was to flirt with a line-backer group that doesn’t include Luke Kuechly, it would be with the fantastic Vikings pairing of Kendricks and Barr. This defence continues to impress, with Danielle Hunter joining the endless list of household names on this defence. If they were a film, they’d be the Avengers.
Philadelphia Eagles 29 – Chicago Bears 14
Carson Wentz: I don’t think anyone could argue that he is currently in the lead for offensive rookie of the year, with another exceptional performance in this game. Wentz took some giant hits, but still managed to move the ball down field as well as making plays with his legs. I would say that these hits are a concern and I would think that showing Wentz some of RG3’s rookie season footage should be a must for the Eagles. If he keeps taking hits like this, he won’t last long.
Huge Injuries for the Bears: The Bears defence was decimated after spending nearly 2/3 of the game on the field, thanks in no small part the secondary’s inability to stop the Eagles converting 3rd downs. Eddie Goldman, Adrian Amos and Lamar Houston all missed most of the 2nd half, huge losses forcing the Bears paper thin depth to be exposed. On offence Jay Cutler went out with a hand injury, forcing Brian Hoyer into the starting line-up.
What Were Bears Fans Expecting? Okay… homer rant coming about my fellow Bears fans. This, is a giant rebuild and it’s going to take time. I’m sorry to say this guys, but we’re going to have to endure these games as part of eventual improvement. There has been some improvement on the team, with the line-backer group looking decent and when fully healthy the interior of the offensive line should improve the play of the running backs. This is going to hurt and I’d be lying if I was to say that I didn’t go to sleep angry, but this is going to take some time.
And that’s that! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to listen to the pod for our weekly predictions.