Two weeks deep into the 2020 NFL season, and every week brings its own bevy of stories, tragedies, and comedies. Some delicacies caught my eye, some did less so. Here’s my personalized recap of five of the most exciting things to happen during Week Two and five of the most depressing:
5. Justin Herbert Impressing in his Debut.
Man, did Justin Herbert have an exciting start! News of Tyrod Taylor’s inability to play didn’t hit head coach Anthony Lynn until right before kickoff, and Herbert was told within minutes of game time he’d be starting. Information on Taylor’s condition broke soon after the game, where it was understood that a doctor had punctured his ribs during a painkiller injection to his cracked ribs. Taylor reported to the hospital with difficulty breathing before the game yesterday, but has since been cleared. Anthony Lynn has stated that when Taylor is 100% again, he’ll be their starting quarterback, but when hasn’t been determined. This won’t happen by next week so we’ll be seeing more Justin Herbert action against the Carolina Panthers.
Herbert playing exceptionally for a quarterback that has been a noted raw prospect. Coming out of college, Herbert’s draft profile would make any offensive coordinator salivate: 6’ 6”, a cannon arm, ability to extend the play, speed and agility. All of these attributes had one large asterisk, however: inconsistent play. Houston’s own Brett Kollmann stated in his analysis of Herbert that he is one of the most difficult prospects to scout because of how wildly unpredictable his play is. One play will see Herbert extending the play and throwing a pinpoint pass 40 yards down the field that the majority of NFL quarterbacks couldn’t even accomplish, with the next play exhibiting a boneheaded interception that frankly will never fly in professional sports.
For this reason, many have compared him to Mitchell Trubisky and Josh Allen, both of whom have had moments where they played like MVPs and moments where they played like a backup. But, you can’t help rooting for these guys to figure it out and show off what their ceiling looks like when performing as advertised every Sunday. Herbert showed what that talent can do against Kansas City, throwing for 311 yards and a touchdown is quite the debut. But, that propensity to mistakes reared its head with a terrible interception letting everyone know that, yes, he is still a rookie. He’s certainly surrounded by a good coaching staff in Los Angeles, one can only hope that he will develop into a starter that can take care of the football while throwing multiple touchdowns every week. Hey, speaking of Josh Allen…
4. Josh Allen is COOKING!
Welcome to the new era of Buffalo Bills football! With the addition of deep threat Stefon Diggs in the offseason, Josh Allen has leapt to new heights and looks like a legitimate MVP candidate in the first two weeks of football. In both of his starts, Allen has thrown 300+ yards, 2+ touchdowns, completed an average of 70.4% of his passes, and has yet to throw an interception. Now, these stats come against the Jets and the Dolphins, but they’re still NFL teams, and the Dolphins invested heavily in their passing defense this offseason. Josh Allen still made some mistakes, fumbling the ball a few times and getting away with some pretty bad passes, but that leads me to the most important asset for a quarterback: luck. If Josh Allen has enough luck that his fumbles won’t lead to turnovers, or that his bad passes won’t lead to interceptions, he’ll be a top five quarterback by the end of this year. By the way, he served up some defenders on a platter when we went beast mode the other day:
3. Russel Wilson Made the Patriots’ Defense Look Silly.
#LetRussCook is working like a charm, so far. The Patriots’ pass defense has been touted as one of the best in the league and by far the strongest part of New England’s team, but it certainly didn’t look the part Sunday night. Wilson picked that defense apart with 288 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 75% completion percentage. Reigning defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore couldn’t contain D.K. Metcalf, and the Seahawks passing game was able hold off a resurgent Cam Newton, winning 35-30.
The Patriots are entering the season with the weakest team they’ve had in over a decade. Tom Brady few south for the winter, they lost numerous starters in free agency (many flocking to Detroit and Miami), and many more to COVID opt-outs. It’s not a comforting sign when your #1 receiver is 34-year old Julian Edelman either. The only part of their entire team that hasn’t been decimated by age, free agency, or opt-outs out is the passing defense, the crux that coach Belichick hopes to keep this team afloat game after game. Well, Russell’s culinary abilities proved even that part of the team can taste just like swiss cheese. The Patriots may be better off preparing for the 2021 draft, because boy are they gonna need to hit on every single pick. Belichick and Co. have flown under the radar as one of the worst drafting teams in the past few years (like...seriously bad), and that failure to accumulate talent is starting to show. Why not transition to a team that has drafted well in the past few years?
I bet you never would’ve guessed I’d be putting these teams in a positive light when comparing them to Patriots, huh? Both the Browns and Raiders have drafted significantly better than the Patriots in the past few years (the Raiders haven’t done much better, but at least they have a solid young core of players.) After spending nearly the entire 21st century in the basement, both of these teams have finally come out of their enclaves looking like they mean business. After signing Gruden for a 10-year, $100 million contract before the 2018 season and hiring analyst Mike Mayock to be their general manager, the Raiders subsequently traded nearly all of their best players away (Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, Gareon Conley) in an effort to tank and rebuild in Chucky’s image. Three seasons later, that model is really starting to ring to the tune of success as the Raiders handled the Saints on Monday Night Football. Young stars like Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, Maxx Crosby, Clelin Farrell, and Johnathan Abram look to carry the Raiders to the heights they experienced the last time Gruden coached their team. It makes me curious what this team would look like if Kyler Murray somehow fell to the No. 4 spot and Gruden got his wish of drafting him granted.
The Browns, on the other hand, unintentionally became the worst team in recent football history in 2017 by going 0-16. After accomplishing that legendary feat, they hit the reset button and accumulate picks to draft Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, and Nick Chubb. After a promising 2018 campaign led by those rookies, then a chaotic sophomore effort under Freddie Kitchens, the Browns are finally realizing the embarrassment of talent they absorbed under the brief management of John Dorsey. They have what may be considered the best backfield of any NFL team, two superstar receivers, an offensive scheme that plays to their quarterback’s strengths, and a monstrous defensive line. Who knows how long this will last, but both certainly look the part of a playoff team now. Let’s hope we see less of this team and more of that 2019 team come week ten.
1. Joe Burrow Looks Like a Veteran Already.
On the receiving end of that “Browns finding themselves” episode is the No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. They didn’t win that game, but the Bengals certainly put up a fight for a team that still has major holes on both offense and defense, and a lot of that can be attributed to their rookie quarterback playing less like a rookie and more like a veteran. Burrow showed tremendous poise, accuracy, and decision making in his second start in the NFL. One of the worst offensive lines in football couldn’t ruin his performance, finishing with 316 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a 60.7% completion percentage. All of this against what was thought to be one of the better defenses in the NFL, and with A. J. Green...not looking like A. J. Green, Burrow is already showing an ability to lift the team up around his talents. Their next game against Philadelphia will certainly to be interesting to watch. And now that I’ve mentioned Philadelphia, let’s move onto the five most somber notes of week two:
5. Carson Wentz is Currently Imploding.
How do you go from being the talk of the NFC East, winning the division with practice squad players, and improving your depth through the draft to 0-2 and looking worse than Nick Foles? Injuries on the offensive line and Carson Wentz losing his mind in the pocket is how. Since 2017, Carson Wentz has made a career out of extending the play, making miraculous throws, coming in the clutch when needed, and getting hurt right after winning the NFC East. The one consistency throughout all of his injuries has been exceptional quarterbacking, but since crumbling before the menacing and powerful Football Team (not the Football Team!), Wentz hasn’t been the same. Four costly interceptions, inconsistent pocket presence, and taking too many sacks have dashed their chances of victory thus far. I know his offensive line is currently a shell of its true form, but it’s still more than permissible and certainly not an excuse for his play. I’m sure the comparably tame defensive line of the Bengals will provide the opportunity for Wentz to bounce back, but it’s week two, and it’s time to overreact.
Every year, there comes a week early in the season that unleashes a torrent of injuries upon unsuspecting NFL teams. This year, those that suffered the most are the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. San Francisco is experiencing the untimely departures of Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, and Solomon Thomas—Bosa and Thomas done for the season. These injuries for a team that is already banged up at wide receiver are likely the nails in the 49ers’ coffin for the 2020 season. I already predicted that the 49ers would not make the playoffs because of the division they occupy, but now it is almost a certainty.
In addition to losing Von Miller to kick off the season, Denver is now also without Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, A.J. Bouye, Dre’Mont Jones, Davontae Harris, and Drew Lock. Nearly all of their best players on both sides of the ball are either out for the season or for several weeks. It’s like the football gods looked at the top ten players on the Broncos’ roster and smote them all in an act of anger towards John Elway for not drafting another 6’ 6” quarterback. I originally predicted that the Broncos would make the NFL Playoffs as a Wildcard team, but with so many starters now unable to play for several weeks and some done for the year, that prediction is now a long shot. Players like Bradley Chubb, Jurrell Casey, Melvin Gordon, rookies Michael Ojemudia, KJ Hamler, Jerry Jeudy, and backup Jeff Driskel have to stay healthy and ball out every game in order to make it all the way into the postseason.
3. The Jets Continue to be The Jets, Darnold’s Future Uncertain.
Oh, the Jets. Even with the 49ers and Broncos seeing their seasons get put on life support because of injuries, I don’t think any team has had as much poor luck as the Jets thus far. After trading away Jamal Adams and losing C.J. Mosley to the COVID opt-out, the Jets lost Denzel Mims, Blake Cashman, and Le’Veon Bell in week 1, all are on IR. Not good. Week Two? Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Connor McGovern, and Chris Hogan are all on the injury report. Practically all of Sam Darnold’s weapons (except Chris Herndon) and the center of his offensive line are unavailable for their upcoming contest against the Colts.
You couldn’t ask for a worse scenario analyzing whether or not Sam Darnold can take the next step, whether or not Adam Gase should keep his job (hint: no), and whether or not the Jets should just blow up the season and rebuild. They will almost certainly be starting the season 0-3, and may have to wait even longer for their first victory if their receivers don’t get healthy very soon. Entering this season, the Jets had an outsider’s shot at challenging for a Wildcard spot if everyone stayed healthy and their rookies produced. But now, it feels like they really might be the worst team in professional football.
2. DeAndre Hopkins Looks Really Good.
Yeah, this one hurts. DeAndre Hopkins, former Houston Texans superstar wideout is now getting it done in a big way in Cardinal Red. In just two games, Nuk has tallied 22 receptions for 219 yards and a touchdown. After a lot of offseason talk from the fantasy football gurus that Hopkins was going to be drowned out in Kingsbury’s air raid system, Hopkins has proved them wrong in just two weeks. The Texans’ offense continues to be absolutely lost without Hopkins, while Kyler Murray christens an MVP campaign and 2-0 record. This isn’t really a bad thing, I’d never want to see Hopkins turn into a dud on another team. It just hurts to see him be everything he was here while we suffer away. And, boy have we been suffering!
1. The Texans Were…the Texans.
Yep, this one isn’t much of a surprise. Comparing one of our former players to our current offensive blob was definitely going to lead to some criticism. The Texans look bad. Like actually bad, on both sides of the ball. You can argue that it was against two Super Bowl teams and that we have to give the coordinators some time to acclimate to their positions, but we still looked bad. The Texans are supposed to be trying to win it all this year, so putting up performances like those against their greatest opposition in the AFC is unacceptable.
The offense has been completely flattened, and the defense is mediocre at best. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to do better than last year, let alone improve if this is as good as it gets. I still believe in the Texans to right the ship and look better in the coming weeks, but I couldn’t easily explain to you why that is. Blind trust, I guess? I do have confidence that an offense led by Deshaun Watson will figure itself out in due time, but it’s Week Three, and it’s time to overreact!
Give us your overreactions to the NFL landscape and the Texans in the comments below!
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