Aaron Rodgers flips the switch early in the season
By: Andy Davies
The NFL season is underway and there have already been two weeks completed. There have been some high-scoring games, with 10 of the 32 games so far totaling 55 total points or more.
We already have an idea who will be good and who may not be as good this season. Here are four takeaways from the opening two weekends of action.
Week 1 Is Always An Overreaction
Plenty of people were quick to either write off a team or praise them to death after the opening weekend. This also goes for certain players and coaches. There are 18 teams who are 1-1. This is over half of the league.
People were quick to criticize the Green Bay Packers during their 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints and also crown Saints QB Jameis Winston a ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ favorite after his five touchdowns in week one. Fast forward to week two and the Packers came back from a 17-14 deficit to thump the Lions 35-17. Aaron Rodgers threw for 255 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Aaron Jones recorded 3 receiving touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown and over 100 combined yards. Meanwhile, the Saints lost 26-7 to the Carolina Panthers with Winston throwing for just 111 passing yards and 0 passing touchdowns, with 1 rushing touchdown.
The Miami Dolphins edged a divisional win over the New England Patriots in Week One but were humbled 35-0 by the Buffalo Bills in Week Two, who themselves suffered an opening day defeat. People had Buffalo down as a team in trouble after the 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers but they got back to winning ways on Sunday.
The Titans were embarrassed by the Cardinals 38-13 in week one and many questioned Tennessee considering they lost their offensive and defensive coordinators. However, they earned a spirited comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks in week two. Titans running back Derrick Henry only recorded 58 rushing yards in week one but was a monster in week two. Against the Seahawks, Henry recorded 55 receiving yards as well as 182 yards on the ground and 3 rushing touchdowns.
Is it easy to write off a team after just one loss? With the increasing loss of interest from teams in preseason games where starters don’t often see the field, the opening weekend is now seen by many to be like a preseason game. It is often the case in Week One that those who played starters in preseason will beat the team who didn’t. This is why you should not read too much into opening weekend results, especially with an extra game this season.
The Cardinals and Raiders Can Surprise A Few
Talking of crowning awards too early, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is already hearing people calling him the early favourite for MVP. It should be a new rule that it is illegal to crown an MVP before week 8 or 9. Last season was a great example of how Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson started it. He was projected to beat all sorts of passing records before both his and Seattle’s seasons slowed down.
These talks of Murray winning the award have come after the impressive start from the Cardinals QB. So far this season, he has thrown for 7 touchdowns and 689 yards as Arizona have a 2-0 record at time of writing.
Murray has been helped by a brilliant offensive cast around him and an excellent defense. Rookie wideout Rondale Moore topped his 68 receiving yards from week one with 114 yards and one touchdown in week two. Both Deandre Hopkins (3) and Christian Kirk (2) have helped themselves to multiple touchdowns. Defensive end Chandler Jones had 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in week one and the defense may have slacked off in week two, but still managed two further forced fumbles as well as a sack from linebacker Markus Golden.
Arizona was criticized by myself for their two biggest offseason additions being two players past their best. J.J Watt has been quiet but A.J Green has had his moments, with the touchdown and 44 yards from 3 receptions on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. However, the performance of rookie Rondale Moore and the encouraging start to the season for Isaiah Simmons has fans excited. Arizona has plenty of talent on either side of the ball along with the aforementioned Hopkins, Jones, Murray and safety Budda Baker. They can be a legitimate darkhorse, as can the Las Vegas Raiders, who have won their opening two games against playoff teams from last season, something that has never been done in the history of this Raiders franchise.
Raiders fans know more than anyone else these past few seasons not to get carried away with their team’s performances after how the 2019 and 2020 seasons have ended. However, quarterback Derek Carr seems far more confident in himself this season, as does wide receiver Henry Ruggs who has 159 yards and 1 touchdown so far. This has him projected to record 1,352 yards and 8.5 touchdowns come the end of the regular season.
This would be a massive upgrade on the two touchdowns and 452 yards he posted in 13 games during his 2020 rookie campaign. He seems far more of a factor in this offense. Their defense seems much improved, with multiple forced fumbles and fumble recoveries, 5 sacks and 1 interception across the opening two gameweeks. They have conceded a total of 44 points so far this season, ten less than the 54 they allowed in the opening two weekends of 2020.
Head coach Jon Gruden will be aware of their recent season collapses but he has never seemed more trusting of Carr than he does at the moment.
Expect more big results this campaign from the Cardinals and Raiders.
Tom Brady Is Still Tom Brady
At the age of 44, most athletes are either retired or massively declining in their performances. Not Tom Brady. He looks every bit as good as he did when he was 26 and 32. He shares similar traits with Cristiano Ronaldo in that he takes such good care of himself that he has the body of someone ten to fifteen years his junior. He threw for 5 touchdowns, 276 yards and 0 interceptions during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 48-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Along with Kyler Murray, he is also someone that is being crowned a way too early MVP. With 9 touchdowns, 655 yards and 2 interceptions so far this season, it would not shock many if he goes on to win his fourth MVP. With the talent on this team, he may even go on to win his sixth Super Bowl MVP award and subsequently his eighth ring.
The Joy Of Returning Fans
How good is it to have fans back? During last season, some stadiums allowed limited capacity which was good but there was something missing. We are now seeing stadiums with full capacity and it is for the better. You can once again hear true fan emotion. Fans are also being treated to some excellent games.
The Thursday Night Football season opener between the Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, fans were met by a 30-29 game that saw 782 combined passing yards. The Monday Night Football in week one saw the Raiders beat the Baltimore Ravens 33-27 in overtime, the first game with fans at the new Allegiant Stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Cleveland Browns 33-29 and there was almost an insane comeback as the San Francisco 49ers beat the Detroit Lions 41-33.
Week Two followed a similar trajectory. The Washington Football Team beat the New York Giants 30-29 on Thursday Night Football and the Tennessee Titans beat the Seattle Seahawks 33-30 in overtime despite being 24-9 down at half time. The Cardinals beat the Minnesota Vikings 34-33 after a last gasp missed field goal by kicker Greg Joseph, a game that featured excellent commentary by Gus Johnson and former NFL player and Super Bowl winner in Aqib Talib. Week Two also saw the Ravens beat the Chiefs 36-35 as Lamar Jackson finally beat his self proclaimed “kryptonite”.
The NFL is never short of drama and this season appears no different. Television networks repeatedly refer to this campaign as the “biggest season ever”. With an extra game, this has all the makings of being the best ever NFL season.