We’re now through the first two weeks of the NFL season. While it is a smaller sample size, it certainly is big enough to look at some major surprises and disappointments around the league.
Quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson are playing completely out of their minds at this early stage of the season. Both the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers are undefeated after coming off stirring Week 2 performances.
On the other end of the ledger, it seems that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears are in line for major regression from a season ago.
These are among the biggest surprises and disappointments through the first two weeks of the NFL season.
Surprise: Dak Prescott
Game manager. Reliant on Ezekiel Elliott. Not worth of the money. Throw any narrative out there surrounding Prescott heading into the 2019 season and none of them were positive. Well, the fourth-year quarterback has answered his critics in a big way through the first two weeks of the season.
Prescott heads into a beautiful Week 3 matchup with the Miami Dolphins having completed 51-of-62 passes for 674 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. He’s leading the Cowboys to an average of 33 points per game and has this team looking like an absolute juggernaut. It really is amazing how much Prescott has improved this season.
Disappointment: Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ offense
Some believed that Bears head coach Matt Nagy needed to get this third-year quarterback some preseason play. Trubisky had not proven worthy of sitting meaningless exhibition games based solely on his team believing that the quarterback would produce come Week 1. Thus far this season those skeptics have proven to be right.
Despite an ugly win against the Broncos in Denver last week, the Bears’ offense is a complete and utter mess. Here’s a unit that’s averaging 9.5 points to go with less than 280 total yards of offense per game. Trubisky has put up a total of 348 passing yards without a touchdown. This must improve if Chicago is going to have any shot in the NFC North moving forward.
Surprise: San Francisco 49ers
A 2-0 start for the first time since 2013. The first time San Francisco has started with consecutive road wins to open a season since 1989. The league’s third-best scoring offense and eighth-best scoring defense. What we’ve seen from Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers thus far is pretty darn remarkable. Even if it’s come against two lackluster teams, this is a major step in the right direction.
Will this lead to contention with the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West? Only time will tell on that front. What we do know is that this team is uber talented. It has two Pro Bowlers and a stud rookie in Nick Bosa along the defensive line, another Pro Bowler in Kwon Alexander at linebacker and an improving secondary. Offensively, the 49ers boast some tremendous young talent. Watch out for this team.
Disappointment: Cam Newton
If the first two weeks of the 2019 season are any indication, Newton’s best days are behind him. Simply put, the former NFL MVP has nowhere near the arm strength that made him one of the most-talented quarterbacks in modern league history. His recent shoulder surgeries coupled with other issues has Newton as a shell of his former self.
We’re going to go ahead and blame the Panthers’ previous front office for wasting Newton’s prime. Led by former general manager David Gettleman this organization failed to invest in the offensive line. It’s come home to roost early in 2019 with Newton being hit 11 times and sacked another six times. Sadly, we don’t envision this changing any time soon.
Surprise: Packers defense
Led by the combination of free-agent pass rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, the Packers have found a way to get a consistent pass rush through the first two games. They’ve also received plus-level play from cornerbacks Kevin King and Jaire Alexander, helping elevate the Packers’ defense to elite status.
Green Bay heads into Week 3 ranked 13th in total defense and yielding the second-fewest points in the NFL. It has also allowed an absurdly low 58.3 passer rating through two games. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has this up-and-coming group playing some of the best defense we’ve seen from a Packers team in ages. And it has Green Bay as a dangerous squad moving forward on the season.
Disappointment: Cleveland Browns
How do you lose by 30 points at home to a Titans team that just lost against an Andrew Luck-less Colts squad? That’s the question head coach Freddie Kitchens and Co. have to be asking themselves after an offseason of hype in Cleveland. The Browns might have responded Monday night against an injury-plagued Jets squad, but it’s not good enough. Too many mistakes. Too many penalties. Too many turnovers.
It’s not going to get much easier for the Browns moving forward, either. They host the Rams on “Sunday Night Football” this week before two tough road dates against the Ravens and 49ers. Cleveland then has consecutive outings against Seattle and New England. Ouch!
Surprise: Lamar Jackson
Historical. That’s by far the best way to describe what we’ve seen from Jackson in his first two starts as a sophomore. In fact, he’s done something we’ve only seen from Colin Kaepernick in the history of the NFL. It really has been something to behold.
Jackson is completing nearly 72 percent of his passes for 596 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. He leads all NFL quarterbacks with a 145.2 passer rating and just put up 120 yards on the ground against Arizona last week. All of this has the Ravens ranked first in total offense and second in scoring offense. Yeah, Patrick Mahomes has an early-season MVP counterpart in that of this other young signal caller.
Disappointment: Kirk Cousins
About that fully-guaranteed $84 million contract. It’s not looking too great for the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins is coming off the worst performance of his Vikings career, turning the ball over three times in a brutal overall performance. It was made worst by the fact that Cousins’ final interception came in the end zone with Minnesota in position to take a late-game lead.
Through the first two games of the season, Cousins has put up just 328 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Remember, he attempted 10 passes in Minnesota’s season-opening blowout win over the Falcons. An $84 million game manager shouldn’t sound too enticing for the Vikings moving forward. As of right now, that’s Cousins at his best.
Surprise: Buffalo Bills
It seems like eons ago that the Bills found themselves down 16-0 late in the third quarter against the New York Jets back in Week 1. Since then, Buffalo has outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 45-14. That included a comeback win over the Jets and last week’s double-digit victory against the New York Giants.
We know this team has not played the greatest of competition. That’s fine. But it’s the Bills we’re talking about here. Given the lack of success this organization has seen over the past two decades, it’s a step in the right direction. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen has taken that next step. Buffalo’s defense is something opposing AFC wild card contenders should be concerned about. All in all, head coach Sean McDermott has this team playing some tremendous football through two weeks.
Disappointment: Pittsburgh Steelers
Losing in incompetent fashion to the Patriots at home in front of a national audience in Week 1 lent credence to the idea that these Steelers miss both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. A home loss to the Seattle Seahawks this past week in which Ben Roethlisberger suffered an elbow injury only added to that. Now at 0-2 and with Big Ben out for the season, it already seems to be a lost year for Mike Tomlin and Co.
Pittsburgh must now travel to Santa Clara to take on a much-improved 49ers team this week without Big Ben in the mix. An 0-3 start is a real possibility. After that, Pittsburgh takes on the Ravens and Chargers. There’s no telling how far into the abyss this team will fall before things hopefully turn around.