Two weeks into the season and the Super Bowl aspirations of a number of teams have taken big hits, and it isn’t the usual suspects in the line of fire.
Resident cellar-dwellers such as the Jets, Dolphins and Jaguars make up a group of 11 teams yet to win a game but it’s a handful of playoff hopefuls that would be most disheartened with what transpired in Week 2, as their dreams of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February took some serious body blows.
While the season may still be in its infancy and stranger things have happened than teams overcoming early-season injury woes, there were a handful of winners and losers from the second weekend of games, the most unfortunate of which are household names we’ll see very little of this season.
Veteran quarterbacks (losers)
It was a tough weekend for future hall of fame quarterbacks in the NFL.
Ben Roethlisberger once again found himself leaving the field with an injury, but unlike previous occasions on which he’d play up the theatre of the situation before making a dramatic return later in the game, the two-time Super Bowl champion is instead destined for season-ending elbow surgery.
Drew Brees is expected to miss six weeks after the New Orleans signal-caller collected a handful of Aaron Donald’s helmet while following through on a pass. The Saints have long thought to have an enviable backup situation with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill but with games against Seattle and the Cowboys in the next fortnight, New Orleans could well find themselves 1-3 and staring down the barrel of a lost season.
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
In New York, the less said about Eli Manning the better.
It’s at the stage where Manning is actively hurting his hall of fame credentials with his late-career struggles. Another inept offensive showing, another low yards per attempt average, another two interceptions and another reason to pull off the band-aid and bring in Daniel Jones sooner rather than later.
Kellen Moore (winner)
If things keep ticking along nicely in Dallas, offensive coordinator and highly regarded wunderkind Kellen Moore will be an NFL head coach in 2021.
In two games under Moore’s play-calling, the previously physically impressive but productively middling Dak Prescott has thrown for 674 yards and seven touchdowns with a completion rate of just over 82 per cent. These are ridiculous numbers and what makes it more impressive is that the Cowboys OC is getting this production while also unlocking the potential of often-maligned skill position players.
Michael Gallup is averaging more than 17 yards per reception, seven of Amari Cooper’s ten receptions have moved the sticks and even injury-ravaged former Ohio State standout Devon Smith scored his first touchdown since 2015 with a 51-yard strike against Washington.
Simply put, Moore is making everything better in Dallas and Jason Garrett should be sweating. Jerry Jones did to Garrett what he should be doing to Moore, that being looking for a way to keep him around because if he doesn’t, some other NFL team will jump at the chance to give the former Boise State standout the keys to the kingdom.
Kirk Cousins (loser)
No player left Week 2 of the season with more ire directed towards them than the Minnesota Vikings quarterback. The man who made “you like that” a famous catch cry is finally getting his response from the Vikings fans and it appears to be “nope”.
Cousins was brought in to bridge a quarterback gap that has existed between the Vikings and Packers for the better part of the last decade but has failed to do so since signing with the team at the start of last season.
With Dalvin Cook leading the league in rushing and the Vikes defence holding Aaron Rodgers to just 21 points, he needs to be better than the three-interception performance he put forward in Week 2.
As a Vikings fan, I believe in what Cousins brings to the table but the 84 million-dollar man must get these boneheaded turnovers out of his system before Mike Zimmer’s patience runs out.
Eddy Pineiro (winner)
It only seemed appropriate that Eddy Pineiro would use the national stage following his 53-yard game-winning kick to reaffirm the presence of his lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
After all, the Chicago kicker must seem like a gift from the gods for a Bears franchise that has had the ghost of Cody Parkey’s “Double Doink” looming ominously over them since last year’s playoffs.
Pineiro’s go-ahead field goal against the Broncos not only established him as a fan favourite (see: Eddy! Eddy! chants) but also injected the fan-base with some much needed confidence that they are able to pull off close wins, because unfortunately it doesn’t appear as if Mitchell Trubisky is going to be the one winning games for them any time soon.
Odell Beckham Jr (wide receiver, Cleveland)
Six receptions, 161 yards, one touchdown.
Granted, OBJ stands out regardless of what he achieves on the field but after a tumultuous week consisting of throwing barbs at Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and defending his god-given right to wear a six-figure watch while playing, Odell did what he does best – wreck opposition defences.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Beckham’s six reception, 161 yard performance on primetime against the Jets delivered exactly what the Browns were hoping to see from him and to cap off his New York homecoming with a near carbon copy one-handed reception than his famous catch of half a decade ago reiterated that OBJ – despite his character flaws – remains one of the best to ever do it.
Jamie Collins Sr (linebacker, New England)
Five tackles, two interceptions, 0.5 sacks, one touchdown.
In his first stint with the Patriots, Jamie Collins quickly garnered a reputation as one of the most athletically gifted linebackers in the league.
His ability to pressure up the middle and be disruptive in pass coverage landed him a big-money contract with Cleveland, and while he didn’t live up to his potential (like most Browns acquisitions of years past) he seems to be quite at home back in Foxboro.
With two interceptions, a touchdown and half a sack to go with his five tackles, Collins is once again a valuable tool at Bill Belichick’s disposal and he proved it against the Dolphins.
Big question remaining
Upon hearing of the Patriots signing of Antonio Brown, the league-wide consensus was one of “here we go again”.
New England were all but crowned AFC champions at the bare minimum upon AB’s signing and while his first game was an impressive, if not slightly modest showing, it remains to be seen just how much of ‘Mr Big Chest’ we’ll see this season.
A recent article by Robert Klemko in Sports Illustrated even further painted a picture of Brown’s alleged off-field indiscretions and sexual deviance, compound this with the NFL’s imminent meeting Brown’s accuser and his future at least for the upcoming season looks cloudy at best.
Only time will tell if he lands on the dreaded Commissioner’s Exempt List and doesn’t play a part in the Patriots’ back-to-back aspirations.
Call me crazy, but
New Orleans should start Taysom Hill over Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.
(Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via AP)
Sean Payton has expressed his affinity for Hill multiple times and he presents a dual threat that Bridgewater never had even before his debilitating knee injury. By this stage we know what Bridgewater is but there’s an intangible, Tim Tebow-like competitive quality possessed by Hill that could spark the Saints into a handful of wins to steady the ship.
Also, how can you not love a quarterback who lead blocks and returns kicks?
Teams should be
Seeking clarity on pass interference reviews. The new rule has not only butchered the flow of many games so far but also proven fickle in its execution – a total knee-jerk reaction to a blown call that has made the league worse instead of better.