Jets @ Bills (Thursday):
So, by now everyone knows that the Bills’ insanely reactionary answer to Thursday night’s embarrassment was to fire offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Many people have also (correctly) pointed out that it wasn’t Greg Roman’s offense that gave up 37 points and 500 yards. I’ve seen various reactions from the Bills’ Mafia calling for Rob or Rex Ryan’s head, but that really misses the bigger point: Doug Whaley is the worst GM in football. His player personnel blunders are well-documented and well-known: trading 2 first round picks to draft Sammy Watkins ahead of Odell Beckham Jr., trading for LeSean McCoy and giving him a massive extension when they had literally all of the leverage in those negotiations, giving Tyrod Taylor a big extension when the franchise tag was literally created for situations like that (anytime the Washington Redskins handle a similar situation better than you, it’s a bad sign). But his signing of Rex Ryan was possibly Whaley’s worst move as a GM. There are some of you who may say that Ryan wasn’t Whaley’s first choice as coach, to which I say: who cares? What does that say if you’re a GM who can’t even make his own personnel decisions? Firing Jim Schwartz (possibly the best defensive coordinator in football) to bring in Rex (whose defenses in NY leaned too heavily on Revis being able to take away half of the field) was a bad decision. Why not extend Schwartz and bring in an offensive-minded head coach?
Final takeaway: If the Bills ever want to contend and pretend to be a serious NFL team, they need to bring in a real GM, and I have the answer: The Browns brought in noted baseball front office man Paul DePodesta (of Moneyball fame), so the Pegulas need to throw as much money as humanly possible at Theo Epstein. If he can bring championships to Boston (go Sox) and Chicago (maybe), he may be the only man who can break the curse in Buffalo. Theo 2017.
Ravens @ Browns:
What exactly is Hue Jackson thinking bringing running a read-option with Josh McCown after McCown got hurt earlier in the game? Also- Mike Wallace can still ball. Everyone thought he lost a step the last few years, but really he had just been playing with terrible quarterbacks. Nice to see that guy stepping up again in a big way.
Final takeaway: The Browns look a lot more competent with McCown throwing the ball than they did last week with RG3; I don’t think they’re going to be good, but I also don’t think they’re going to be the doormat that other people think they are.
Dolphins @ Pats:
I had something snarky written here about how the Dolphins only had 17 yards at one point, but now Jimmy G is hurt and this is an even braver, newer world for us Pats fans. Next man up, do your job. In Belichick we trust. You know what? I think we are going to be just fine with Brissett. He was solid, going 6-9 for 92 yards in relief of Jimmy G. If Garoppolo is forced to miss any significant time, look for the Patriots to kick the tires on a few familiar faces in the trade market. Does trading a 4th or 5th round pick to the Bears for Brian Hoyer make sense for all parties involved? Probably.
Final Takeaway: Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in the history of the NFL. The Patriots are 2-0 without Brady, and we have 2 weeks until he comes back, as motivated as ever. Be afraid.
Titans @ Lions:
Anquan Boldin is ageless. Remember when that dude broke his face? Derrick Henry was this year’s most over-drafted fantasy player. DeMarco Murray can still play and Henry is nothing more than a backup. I’m sure someone drafted him in the 6th round of your fantasy league this year; I hope it wasn’t you. The Lions looked great last week in a thriller over the Colts, putting up 39 points. This week, they looked terrible. My big question is where is Golden Tate? I understand that Jim Bob Cooter’s offense calls for a balanced attack, but a huge part of NFL coaching is playing the hand you are dealt, and they have a pretty good receiver in Tate. He is an elite playmaker with the ball in his hands and needs to see more than the 7 targets he’s seen in each of their first two games.
Final takeaway: The Lions can be contenders, but they need to work Golden Tate into their offense in a much more significant role.
Chiefs @ Texans:
Full disclosure: I live in Houston. That being said, J.J. Watt is the best player in the NFL and it’s so encouraging to see that Rick Smith finally surrounded him with the talent to make this team a legitimate contender. Adding Osweiler, Fuller, Miller and Miller (Braxton and Lamar) turned this team’s offense into a competent unit that pairs well with their dominant defense. Fuller looks like a legitimate playmaker, especially since the questionable hands he was criticized for having in college seem not to be an issue in the NFL. Lamar Miller gives them a dimension on offense that was completely missing last year after Foster went down. It was definitely good to see the Texans get revenge over the Chiefs, who shut them out in the playoffs last year.
Final takeaway: I’m calling it right now: the Texans are the second best team in the AFC.
Cowboys @ Redskins:
Watched Kirk Cousins overthrow Jamison Crowder on one of the easiest touchdowns he’s going to get all year, and it begs the question as to whether or not the Redskins made the smartest move of the offseason by putting Cousins on the franchise tag or if Kirk Cousins made the dumbest move by passing up an Andy Dalton-type contract? I don’t understand teams that have a proven playmaker at a position and waste time giving the ball to lesser options at that position. A prime example of this would be the Redskins at tight end. Vernon Davis is so far beyond washed up that I don’t even have a second half of that metaphor, whereas Jordan Reed is one of the best tight ends in the game. I don’t think it’s rocket science here. They have a huge game with the Giants looming next week in East Rutherford. If they lose and fall to 0-3, I think their season may be over.
Final takeaway: Two games into Ezekiel Elliott’s career, he looks like he may be Just A Guy. He hasn’t impressed me in either of his two starts.
Bengals @ Steelers:
The rain ruined what should have been a great game here. I can’t wait until Eifert is back and we can see this Bengals offense at full strength. Besides Giants/Saints, no game ruined more weeks for more fantasy players.
Final takeaway: This game sucked.
49ers @ Panthers:
I think Cam Newton is still feeling some of the effects of the beating he took in Denver. I also don’t think the Panthers are good. Last year, they were the third luckiest team in the NFL, in terms of outperforming their Pythagorean Win Expectation. That doesn’t mean they were bad in 2015, but they certainly weren’t as good as their 15-1 record would suggest. They did just about everything they did to let San Francisco back into this game, seemingly playing not to lose for most of the second half. Chip Kelly having this terrible roster playing relatively adequate football may be the most impressive coaching job of this young season.
Final takeaway: I think Carolina got a lot worse over the offseason by letting Norman go and replacing him with replacement-level talent, and them beating an atrocious 49ers team isn’t going to change my mind about this. Cam Newton also has retained his title as the king of garbage time stats.
Saints @ Giants:
The Giants have the best defensive line in the NFL. I’ve seen all I need between this week and last to make that declaration. This group is as good, if not better, than the group that beat my Patriots in 07-08. Also, been noticing Vereen getting a lot of carries, which means the Giants are the latest team to fall victim to one of the NFL’s longest-running traps: signing a Patriots player and moving him into a bigger role. Bill Belichick knows exactly what he is doing. His backup quarterback isn’t going to become your starting quarterback, and his receiving running back shouldn’t be getting carries in your offense. I can’t believe that the Giants are in the driver’s seat in the NFC East, but here we are. Those offseason moves for Jerry Reese paid off in a big way and probably saved his job.
Final takeaway: All is not well in East Rutherford, however: After two ineffective games, I’m ready to declare that Odell Beckham was a two year wonder and is washed up.
Buccaneers @ Cardinals
I like Jameis Winston but he needs to stop throwing interceptions. My pal Jim brought up the Eli Manning comparison earlier in the week to me, and I can see that in terms of the arm talent and the interceptions. The difference is that Tampa Bay has surrounded Jameis with better pass-catching talent than Eli had early in his career. Winston needs to learn to take what the defense gives him, and be a little more accurate. I just watched Patrick Peterson drop a pick that was thrown pretty much directly to him. That play doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but if you’re grading Winston’s performance, it jumps off the page.
Final takeaway: While the Cardinals probably weren’t going to go 0-2 at home to start the year, Jameis Winston made this victory all the easier for them, and his offense needs to improve if he is going to be taken seriously as an upper-echelon quarterback.
Seahawks @ Rams:
So the Rams have historically played the Seahawks close in the Russell Wilson era and this game was no different. Much like the Broncos, I don’t understand the Rams leaving their rookie quarterback on the bench. If this is going to be a lost season in LA (and by the looks of it, it is), and they don’t even have their first round pick next year, what do they stand to lose by keeping Goff on the bench? Jeff Fisher somehow working on an extension with the Rams should give hope to everyone who is shitty at their job that they may be employed forever. The dude’s professional brand is mediocrity and he keeps convincing real NFL executives to say “yeah this is the guy we think can lead us to glory, even though his entire track record is bad”. Great mustache, though. The Seahawks made the same mistake Chip Kelly made last year: totally neglecting their offensive line. Forcing Russell Wilson to play behind what could be the worst offensive line in football may have done damage to this team that no defense can fix.
Final takeaway: With a depleted offensive line and a punchless offense, the Seahawks now suck and look to be contenders for a top-10 pick. The Rams still have not scored a touchdown.
Jaguars @ Chargers:
Jacksonville is one of the three teams (the others being the Giants and Texans) that were said to have “won” free agency this offseason. Unlike the other two teams, that victory hasn’t translated into real victories. It’s unfortunate the Chargers collapsed last week because they looked like an elite team for half of their first game and all of their second game. Blake Bortles is in the same boat as Jameis Winston in that he needs to improve his accuracy if he wants to be taken seriously as an upper-echelon quarterback. His first interception of the day led directly to the touchdown that put the Chargers up 14-0, and the game was never that close again.
I’m not saying that the Jaguars were ever going to win this game, but Bortles dug his team into a hole that no quarterback could have dug out of. If the Chargers play like they did in 6/8 quarters of football they’ve played this year, they will earn a playoff spot. You can’t sleep on a team with an elite quarterback and serviceable defense, and that’s exactly what San Diego is. Let’s go back to the Jaguars, though: As noted earlier, this is a team that spent heavily in free agency, but take a look at their current GM’s drafts. Since 2013, they’ve whiffed on 1 top 3 pick, and possibly a second if Bortles never develops. Unless Bortles has a Kirk Cousins-type improvement this year, it may be time to admit that Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley have run their course in Jacksonville and start over with a new coach and GM.
Final takeaway: The Jaguars are going to be mediocre barring a massive improvement from their quarterback, and the Chargers look like contenders.
Colts @ Broncos:
Trevor Siemian does not have the look of an NFL quarterback to me, which makes me wonder where Paxton Lynch is in his development. They traded back into the first round to draft Lynch, and I would have to think that if he was of similar talent to Siemian, they would be giving him the reps to aid in his development. This Broncos team is pretty much the exact same as last year’s in that they’re going to try to ride an elite defense and adequately conservative quarterback play to the promised land. The difference is that the AFC West is better this year than it was last year. The gameplan for the Broncos is simple this year: beat the teams they should beat and hope that their defense can make plays when their offense stalls.
Looking at the Colts, I believe that they are another team that could use a change at the top. Every year since Luck has been their quarterback, it’s been the same story: explosive offense, no defense. This year may be the worst example of this yet. Forget for a second that Grigson traded a first round pick for Trent Richardson; take a look at their defensive depth chart. Who are any of these people? How have they had the same needs every year since Luck has been in town and they haven’t addressed them yet? They got lucky the year they tanked and got Luck. Since then, they have done nothing to get better and, worst of all, wasted all the years they had Luck on a rookie contract and could have surrounded him with talent (a blueprint the Seahawks used with Russell Wilson to go to 2 straight Super Bowls, winning 1). Ryan Grigson is the worst GM in football and needs to go if the Colts want to have any chance of building a real Super Bowl contender around Andrew Luck.
Final takeaway: The Broncos are about as good as they were last year, and the Colts are worse and probably headed for a top-10 draft pick.
Falcons @ Raiders:
Julio Jones is not at full strength and it’s painfully obvious for anyone watching him or depending on him in one of their many fantasy leagues (me). Blackjack Del Rio is probably the worst nickname in the NFL. The Raiders are yet another team that spent heavily in free agency this offseason, in their case it was to shore up their defense. 2 games through the season, it seems like they still have work to do on that side of the ball. This is one of the only games of the week where I don’t really think I saw either team do anything really poorly besides defend. Carr played a great game, throwing 3 touchdowns to no interceptions. Ryan was almost as good, matching with the 3 touchdowns but adding an interception. Julio Jones finally made his presence known late, recording his first hundred-yard game of the year on just 5 catches.
Going forward, the Falcons are going to need to get Julio the ball with much greater volume; 5 receptions is 7-10 fewer receptions than a player of Julio Jones’ caliber should record. The Raiders need to figure out their rushing attack for the rest of the season. They are employing a true committee, but could probably trim it down to a 2 back system. Jalen Richard made a splash last week in his debut with a big run, but he was ineffective in this game. Washington and Murray were both over 7 yards a carry, which is encouraging.
Final takeaway: The Falcons identity is going to be their offense, for better or worse. The Raiders need to figure out their identity going forward, but this is a talented football team that simply got outscored today.
Packers @ Vikings:
After what the Broncos did last year, the new name of the game for quarterbacking is competency. You don’t need a superstar, franchise quarterback to win the Super Bowl anymore, as long as you have a lockdown defense. Well, the Vikings have a lockdown defense and now, with Sam Bradford, they have the ultimate in quarterback competence. When I saw Bradford in the night game, all I could think was that this is a guy who is completely and totally adequate to lead an NFL offense, and that’s exactly what this Vikings team needed. This game got a lot more interesting in the 4th quarter than it had been for the first 3. Stefon Diggs is an elite talent that should see increased workload, he has elite playmaking skills and is a budding star.
Couple things really stand out to me about this game. One is that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t look right this year. I don’t know if he’s hurt or if he’s lost something the last few years, but this isn’t the same Aaron Rodgers from that ’10-’13 run where he was the undisputed second-best QB in football (Tom Brady exists, remember). Second, the playcalling from Green Bay leaves a lot to be desired from my point of view. They need to work Eddie Lacy into the game more, if only to diversify the offense. Third, the Minnesota offensive line looked horrendous at times. Bradford was under duress on a ton of snaps, and really succeeded in spite of his line. But really, I’ll remember this as the Trae Waynes game. After being unfairly targeted by the officials during the second half, you could have forgiven a second year player like Waynes (who was only starting because of an injury to Xavier Rhodes) for playing scared in anticipation of being called for more penalties. You could even make the case that the penalties on Waynes were what was keeping a Packers team that looked out of sync in the game in the first place. Waynes making the game-sealing interception was pure vindication, and that’s why we love football this week. As Rasheed Wallace once said, “Ball don’t lie.”
Final takeaway: The Vikings are for real, the Bradford trade was a success and Rodgers/Green Bay’s days as an elite team are over.
So that’s what I saw this weekend. Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section. Want to make me look bad? Come find me in Madden (billmatic12 on the PS4).
– Bill Annechino (Twitter)