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The NFL’s Week 2 slate featured a miraculous return, disappointing performances by alleged contenders and a season-ending injury to 49ers quarterback Trey Lance. athleticTim Graham, Jeff Howe and Dan Pompeii break down what they learned from another surprising Sunday:
After starting the season with a tie against the Texans, the Colts’ recent struggle against the Jaguars continued with a 24–0 loss in Jacksonville. How worried should Colts fans be?
Graham: They should be ashamed. As much as Colts fans had to appreciate the switch from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan, the team’s veteran retread can’t get enough. As successful and respectable as Ryan is, he hasn’t been leading the Falcons to Super Bowl controversy in recent years because of his appearance alone. Colts require a holistic approach to overcoming the hump, and tying one laughing stock and getting shoved by another is a poor harbinger.
How to: Very concerned. The Colts have enough talent to change that, and I would expect them to be at least more competitive in future games. But with that in mind, it’s unforgivable to start so poorly against the Texans and Jaguars, and they are lucky to have a tie on their record under the circumstances. And it was supposed to be the easy part of his program. Now, he has to prepare for Chiefs, Titans and Broncos. The Colts will not win for five weeks if they continue to play like this.
Pompeii: A disappointment at the start of the season can be a fluke. Two disappointments at the start of the season constitute a trend. The Colts are clearly not in a good place. But they still have a talented team and a solid coaching staff. They are very capable of turning things around and competing for a place in the playoffs.
Since 2003 – a span of 361 regular season games – the Colts have been called off only three times.
All three have come up against the Jaguars.
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) 18 September 2022
Two other teams that traded for veteran quarterbacks this season, the Commanders and the Panthers, both lost in Week 2. With two games through, which team should feel better about its acquisition?
Graham: Gosh, I’m not a big fan of either, but I at least give Baker Mayfield the benefit of the doubt despite a 0-2 start. Carson Wentz had a stellar run of his own years ago and hasn’t resembled the player ever since. With Mayfield, I can point to the least amount of corrupt management and the fact that he is still on the upside. Mayfield is 27. Wentz is almost 30. Gimme Mayfield, but don’t schedule any more progressive ads.
How to: My initial inclination was to go with Mayfield, but over the course of two weeks Wentz has been the better player. I’m not sure this is even debatable. Of course, the concern is whether this pace is sustainable for Wentz, who fell out early with the Eagles and Colts. And Mayfield should theoretically improve the system over time after the summer trading. So it’s Wentz for now, but that could easily change later in the season.
Pompeii: If we’re basing this on a two-game model, commanders should feel better. Wentz has been better than Mayfield. And he has the potential to stay better than Mayfield. We’ve seen more of Wentz, and more of Wentz’s struggles, so the tendency is to dismiss him. But this could be a mistake.
Behind receivers Jaylen Waddle and Tyrek Hill, the Dolphins returned 21 points against the Ravens. What do you think of this 2-0 Miami team?
Graham: The Dolphins are a lot of fun to watch, and those who wondered whether the Dolphins could challenge the bills for the AFC East Crown leaned heavily on the idea that Hill and Waddell were dangerous weapons. Well, they have proven so against two quality strongholds. I’m not even remotely close to saying that the Dolphins can grab the Bills for division titles, but head coach Mike McDaniel’s offense could be powerful enough to score a run.
How to: They are fun! Hill and Waddle are a video-game combo, and it quickly came to be with McDaniel’s system. I was confident that McDaniel would successfully run his offense in Miami, but you never really know how a first-time head coach would handle other areas of work, including runs with adversity. The Dolphins had no final week against the Patriots, but a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter showed the team believed in itself. I’m really looking forward to his matchup with the Bills next week.
Pompeii: They are valid. McDaniel and his staff have been excellent. Their large game weapons mean they are never out of play in any way. And there is an element of patience and resourcefulness in it that may ultimately define them. Show me a team that can take a punch in the mouth early in the game, get up and keep fighting, and I’ll show you a team that’s going to win a lot of games.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddell are the first pair of teammates in NFL history to have 10+ receptions, 150+ receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in the same game
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) 18 September 2022
The Browns were up 13 points with less than two minutes to spare, but eventually blew up in a 31–30 home loss to the Jets. What are the chances of Cleveland remaining in playoff contention until the end of Deshon Watson’s 11-game suspension?
Graham: Brown is not good. Even if they had won, we were talking about a 2–0 record with wins over the Panthers and Jets, neither of whom were considered world-winners. . Cleveland pitted against the freaking Jets, and if that isn’t classic Brownstown, I don’t know what is. The Bengals are AFC champions, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson played like an MVP candidate on Sunday despite losing to Miami, and you can never count a Mike Tomlin-coached team (maybe it’s time to flip to Kenny Pickett). ). Cleveland’s approach is questionable.
How to: There is little room for error because the AFC is so deep. Brown stole against the Panthers last week and gave one to the Jets on Sunday. The opening stretch isn’t that tough with their next few games against the Steelers and Falcons, but the Browns have been so up and down through two games that it’s not certain they’ll be 3-1 through week four. And as the schedule gets more difficult from there, it will be harder to remain in contention over Watson’s return. He may have to run up the table in Watson’s six to reach the playoffs.
Pompeii: It was a disappointing defeat for the Browns, but only one. They could remain in contention for a playoff spot through Watson’s suspension, but only if they make it through with their running game, and if their defense plays much better than the Jets’. If their defense can’t keep up with the game on the line, they have no chance of struggling.
How Does Trey Lance’s Season-Ending Broken Ankle Change the 49ers’ 2022 Outlook and the NFC West?
Graham: Coach Kyle Shanahan looks like a lucky man as the NFL’s best backup emerged in Week 2 to declare his qualifications, helping the 49ers beat the Seahawks 27-7. With Garoppolo to start the rest of the season, the Niners are still in the same shape as they have been in recent years against the Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams.
How to: Even if you think highly of Lance, which I do, there’s always an element of the unknown with a young, unproven quarterback. It is widely believed that the 49ers had a roster that could once again contend for the NFC Championship, but their true potential was up to Lance. We know exactly who Jimmy Garoppolo is, and he was a key component during his playoff run last season, when he was playing through a tremendous pain. The 49ers are still contenders with Garoppolo in charge of the offense.
Pompeii: That means the 49ers are definitely a contender for NFC West, a division that may not stack up as many people believe. Garoppolo is a more efficient, consistent quarterback than Lance at this point in Lance’s career. Lance may have more potential to be a great quarterback than Garoppolo—the 49ers clearly believe in it—but it’s going to take time, maybe years, maybe never, before we know that Lance. He can do what Garoppolo cannot.
Which coach has had the worst performance so far this season?
Graham: Zack Taylor has a problem. Joe Burrow is an MVP-caliber quarterback, but the 0-2 Bengals have either failed or refused to make a save. The rescue operation has begun against Burrow, who took six sacks in Cincinnati’s 20-17 loss to the Duck Prescott-Les Cowboys on Sunday. You’d be surprised what offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, offensive line coach Frank Pollack and two O-line assistants — hell, how many teams have an assistant O-line coach — have to say? Let’s name them: assistant offensive line coaches Derek Frazier and Ben Martin. happy times.
How to: Nathaniel Hackett is experiencing some growing pains. The decision to kick on “Monday Night Football” is well covered, and indecision in similar situations resulted in penalties and early times in Denver’s 16–9 win over the Texans on Sunday. Calling play near the goal line led the Broncos to victory in their season opener against the Seahawks, and issues against the Texans continued. The Broncos are 0-of-6 in the red zone, which includes 0-of-5 (three field goals, two fumbles) in goal-to-go situations.
Pompeii: It is almost unheard of for a coach to survive without a winning record in any of his first three seasons. In a 19-16 loss to the Giants on Sunday, Panthers coach Matt Roulette is 0-2 after leading 5-11 and 5-12 in his first two years. If the Panthers don’t change things, a coaching change will be inevitable.
9 straight losses to Matt Roulette. 10-25 in total. While allowing 17+ points under 1-25 roulette. Led in 17 of the last 19 games, 5-12 in those games.
— Julian Council (@JulianCouncil) 18 September 2022
Who Receives Your Week 2 Game Ball?
Graham: Tua Tagovailoa completed six touchdowns for 469 yards with 36 of his 50 passes and two interceptions. The Dolphins, entering the fourth quarter, trailed 35-14, but Tagovailoa would not die. Gotchasm.
How to: I’m splitting it in half and passing it to Tyrek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who combined for 22 catches, 361 yards, and four touchdowns. The duo made some incredible plays during their return in the fourth quarter.
Pompeii: You deserve it. But since he’s already getting Tim Graham’s game ball, I’ll pass my game ball to Joe Flacco, who led the Jets to two touchdowns in the final 1:22 to clear the 13-point deficit to the Browns . Blow coverage helped him a bit, but what matters was that he got the job done. Flaco has an 18-3 record against Cleveland.
(Top Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)