Here we are through two full weeks of the 2014 season. Nothing has been decided around the NFL, but there is a whole heck of a lot we can focus on heading into Week 3.
What happened to two of the best teams in the NFC in the form of the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers? Should we be worried about these teams moving forward? What about both the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts? at 0-2, these Super Bowl contenders are struggling big time.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals seem to be playing good football and could very well be prepared to take the next step from where they were last season.
Here are 10 takeaways from the second week of NFL action.
1. The New Orleans Saints are in Trouble
Losing an the road to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 wasn’t a big deal for Drew Brees and Co. Falling to the Cleveland Browns and Brian Hoyer on the road in Week 2 is a big deal. New Orleans now finds itself in a 0-2 hole through the first two weeks of the season. And its defense can very well be blamed for this poor start.
Rob Ryan’s unit ranks dead last in the NFL against the pass and is yielding an average of nearly 450 yards per game through two weeks. Going up against a Browns offense that was without Ben Tate and Jordan Cameron, the Saints defense gave up 23 first downs and 324 yards in route to a 26-24 for loss. The biggest meltdown from this unit came towards the end of the game when Cleveland ran off a 14-play, 85-yard drive that culminated in a game-winning field goal with three seconds left.
It seems that the Saints have regressed a great deal on that side of the ball from what was a stellar performance last seson. Without an uptick in production on defense, there is no reason to believe that the Saints can dig themselves out of a 0-2 hole and compete for not only a first-round bye, but a division title as well.
2. Parity May be the Theme of the 2014 Season
With the Philadelphia Eagles victory over Indianapolis on Monday night, there are three teams in the NFC over .500. The Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints are a combined 3-5 through two weeks. Just think about that for a second. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers (two perceived second-tier teams) are undefeated.
The idea that a team like the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos could run away with a dominating regular season record and home-field advantage in the playoffs seems a bit far-fetched at this point. While those two teams join a couple others above the rest of the NFL, Sunday’s action proved that the 2014 season will be one of parity.
3. The Seattle Seahawks will not go Undefeated
We already knew this was going to happen. Well at least most of us figured the Seahawks would lose a football game this season. It came on the road against a playoff team from a season ago. It came in a poor defensive performance in which Dan Quinn’s unit yielded 377 yards. And it came on the heels of a dominating Week 1 performance.
The one thing that we can take out of Seattle’s Week 2 loss is the fact that it simply isn’t unbeatable this season, especially on the road. As I indicated in the lead up to the game, a dominating victory for Seattle on the road in San Diego would have put the rest of the league on notice. That didn’t happen, which could very well mean that the Seahawks will be vulnerable away from the Pacific Northwest during the season. If so, the rest of the league can take a deep breath.
4. The Cincinnati Bengals are the Best Team in Football Right Now
Cincinnati has looked on a completely different level than its opponents through the first two weeks of the season. Following an impressive 24-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, there is little question that this is the best team in football. Andy Dalton completed 15-of-23 passes for 252 yards and a score in the impressive victory. Meanwhile, young running back Giovani Bernard added 169 total yards and a score on 32 touches. The game was pretty much over when Jeremy Hill crossed the goal line for a touchdown and a 24-3 Bengals lead in the third quarter. This is somewhat surprising considering how Atlanta played the previous week against the New Orleans Saints.
While the toe injury to A.J. Green hurts (could be out until Week 5), Cincinnati is among the most-talented teams in football. And Marvin Lewis’ squad is playing at the top of their game right now, which is scary for other AFC North teams. If Andy Dalton, who has posted a 66 percent completion rate without an interception through two games, continues to play at this level, the Bengals are going to be incredibly dangerous.
5. Something is Broken in Green Bay
Green Bay found itself in a 21-3 second quarter hole against the New York Jets at Lambeau on Sunday. It took Rex Ryan’s squad pretty much throwing the game away in order for the Packers to pull off the comeback. But this isn’t a sign that Aaron Rodgers and Co. are prepared to start some type of huge winning streak and get back on top in the ultra competitive NFC. There seemed to be major issues protecting Rodgers, who was sacked four times and hit numerous other times throughout the game. Eddie Lacy struggled, putting up just 43 yards on 13 attempts. And the team had to bench No. 3 wide receiver Jarrett Boykin in lieu of rookie Davante Adams.
All in all, Sunday’s win wasn’t incredibly impressive for a Packers team with playoff aspirations. If the offensive line cannot perform at a higher level in protection of Rodgers, we could very well see the quarterback go down with another injury. If so, Green Bay’s status as a clear Super Bowl contender is thrown out the window. Even if Rodgers remains “healthy” over the course of the season, the pass protection needs to step up in front of him if it the Packers are going to have a shot against the best that the NFL has to offer. Despite a solid front seven, the Jets aren’t one of those teams. And a close win in their home opener against this team doesn’t do a whole lot for the Packers.
6. Jay Culter and Co. Have Guts
To go into Levi’s Stadium and overcome a 17-point second half deficit with two of your wide receivers banged up is rather impressive. Regardless of the officiating and San Francisco pretty much crapping all over itself in the final quarter, the Bears showed that they possess a ton of guts.
The season could very well have been on the line here. Chicago was coming off a horrendous Week 1 home loss to the Buffalo Bills and found itself facing an uphill battle against one of the best teams in football. Cutler took a pounding at times in the second half, but found a way to get up and hit Brandon Marshall for three touchdowns in the surprising 28-20 victory. This is the type of win that can help a team start something big early in the year. And for that, the Bears should be applauded.
7. Dennis Allen is Firmly on the Hot Seat in Oakland
This became readily apparent with Chris Mortensen’s report on ESPN Monday afternoon. At 0-2 this season and 8-26 in two-plus seasons with the Raiders, Allen could very well find himself out of a job following the Raiders Week 4 game against the Miami Dolphins.
No one expected Oakland to compete for a playoff spot this season, but that really isn’t the point right now. They need to show up and compete on a consistent basis in games against other mediocre teams. This did not happen at home against the Houston Texans on Sunday. Oakland fell down 27-0 heading into the fourth quarter, only to compile its two touchdowns in garbage time later in the game. It wasn’t stupid mistakes or a lot of penalties that did the Raiders in. They were simply outcoached by a better staff and didn’t show the passion that you expect for a team in a home opener. If Allen wants to keep his job, this simply can’t happen over the course of the next two weeks. It really is that simple.
8. Jim Harbaugh’s Squad isn’t Disciplined
You cannot turn the ball over four times and commit 16 penalties in the NFL and expect to win a football game. That’s exactly what the San Francisco 49ers did in a late-game meltdown against the Chicago Bears that rivaled the Mike Singletary era. The simple fact that I am even mentioning Harbaugh and Singletary (as coaches) in the same article tells you what you need to know about the 49ers performance.
Outside of what we see on the stat line, San Francisco simply didn’t show the discipline that we had seen from Harbaugh-led teams over the past three seasons. From Colin Kaepernick losing his cool after an interception to multiple personal foul penalties, it was readily apparent that the 49ers quickly became frustrated by the officiating in this game. And that seemed to spill over to the locker room and interviews following the game. This simply cannot happen to a team with Super Bowl aspirations. It’s not acceptable and must be addressed moving forward.
9. The Buffalo Bills are Pretty Good
Maybe Buffalo is just a good football team. After defeating Chicago in the season opener, Doug Marrone’s squad came out and absolutely destroyed a Miami Dolphins team that was coming off an impressive performance against the New England Patriots. Embattled young qurterback E.J. Manuel controlled the clock and made some plays without turning the ball over through the air. That enabled Buffalo to create balance on offense, which is something we are going to need to see moving forward.
Defensively, Buffalo put pressure on Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked four times and hit a total of five times in the Bills 29-10 victory.
While it’s too early to proclaim that Buffalo will earn its first playoff spot since the Clinton Administration, this team is off to an incredibly good start. The talent is most definitely there. And after two weeks, it appears that Marrone has a handle of what he’s doing from the sideline…something would couldn’t have said just a year ago.
10. The Indianapolis Colts are in Trouble
Let’s finish off this piece where we started, looking at a time that is in trouble. Following Indianapolis’ late-game meltdown at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, it is now 0-2 and two full games behind the Houston Texans in the AFC South. Considering that the Colts were projected to run away with the division prior to the start of the year, this has to be worrisome.
More than just these two games, there seem to be some major issues on both sides of the ball.
Trent Richardson is a complete dumpster fire at running back. While he put up some decent numbers on Monday night, the former first-round pick fumbled twice (including one that was nothing more than a high school mistake). Despite this, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton decided it made sense to keep Richardson in the game. That’s nothing more than catering to general manager Ryan Grigson, especially considering how well Ahmad Bradshaw was playing.
While the Colts defense played well, they simply couldn’t provide any pass rush against Nick Foles. With Robert Mathis lost for the season, this promises to be a major issue moving forward. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will have to dial up more blitzes as the season progresses, which will leave the Colts talent-stricken secondary vulnerable to the big play.
Indianapolis will still likely end the season as division champs, but that is not the goal that the organization has after two consecutive playoff appearances. Simply put, this doesn’t look like a team that has taken the next step after a pretty successful 2013 campaign. More so than anything else, that has to be worrisome to the brass in Indianapolis.