Biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 2

The season is just starting to shape up, but if we’re basing our opinions on what transpired in NFL Week 2 it’s safe to say there aren’t many good teams out there.

Some of the league’s most respected franchises are deeply flawed. We saw this big time when the Dallas Cowboys were lambasted by the Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon. We also saw it when the rebuilding San Francisco 49ers nearly took down the mighty Seattle Seahawks in Seattle.

Thankfully there’s enough of the spectacular happening around the league to keep our interest piqued. The Kansas City Chiefs have some of the most exciting offensive playmakers in the league, and they put on a show at home against Philadelphia early in the afternoon. The Oakland Raiders feature an offensive juggernaut, and now that Beast Mode is clearly back it’s even more fun to watch than it was last year.

Now, on to the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 2.

Winner: Deshaun Watson has the “it” teams look for 

The Houston Texans went into Paul Brown Stadium Thursday night and did what most road teams struggle to do on a short week. It wasn’t a pretty win, but it was an important one. In addition to the fact that it was rookie Deshaun Watson’s first NFL start, the Texans had to rebound after getting smoked by Jacksonville in Week 1.

The rookie was a big reason why Houston pulled out a win in this one. He wasn’t sharp passing the ball but never got rattled even after taking some insane hits (like this). And when it came down for the quarterback to make a play he did it, running in the game’s only touchdown — a 49-yard beauty.

Loser: Saints continue to feature NFL’s worst pass defense

For the second week in a row New Orleans was atrocious defending the pass. The Saints allowed Sam Bradford to set a new NFL record on Monday night. Six days later they allowed Tom Brady to achieve something in the first quarter he’s never before accomplished. In total, Brady finished with 447 yards on 30-of-39 passing with three touchdowns. The Patriots, despite some late hiccups offensively, blew out the Saints at home by the score of 36-20, totaling 555 yards and 29 first downs.

Winner: Kareem Hunt proves Week 1 was no fluke

Kareem Hunt continues to dominate early in his NFL career.

After setting fire to New England’s defense in Week 1, Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt once again was a huge factor in Week 2. The Philadelphia Eagles made life difficult on Alex Smith for much of the contest, sacking him four times and knocking him to the turf on a regular basis. Even in the face of Philadelphia’s dominant front seven, Hunt came through with 109 yards and two touchdowns on just 17 touches (four catches and 13 runs). That’ll get the job done, rook.

Loser: DeShone Kizer takes a few steps back

Kizer had a pretty nice first start against the Pittsburgh Steelers at home last week. The same cannot be said for his second career start as a second-round rookie out of Notre Dame. Kizer was awful Sunday on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. He threw three interceptions in the game, completed less than half his passes, led zero scoring drives (the 10 points scored occurred when Kevin Hogan was in the game) and was rattled for the first time in his career by Baltimore’s relentless defensive front.

Perhaps this poor showing was due in part to the migraine headache that forced Kizer from the game for a while. Or perhaps it’s just what we should expect as the young man takes his lumps in 2017.

Winner: J.J. Nelson keeps Cardinals afloat, sparks win

There wasn’t much to get excited about during Sunday’s Arizona Cardinals-Indianapolis Colts game. Both teams played some ugly football. But there was one player who made the game exciting. J.J. Nelson put on a show, catching five passes for 120 yards (24 yards per catch!). He also hauled in the game’s only touchdown through the air — a 45-yard bomb from Palmer that sparked the beginning of Arizona’s comeback, which the Cardinals completed in overtime following a Jacoby Brissett interception.

Loser: Panthers’ inability to protect Cam Newton is a problem

When the Carolina Panthers signed Matt Kalil to protect Cam Newton’s blind side this offseason, coffee was spit out and keyboards had to be wiped off. It was a maddening move by the organization, because anyone who has watched Kalil the past few seasons knows he’s awful. He routinely whiffs on blocks in pass protection and isn’t great in the run game, either.

This was seen in living color Sunday as the Panthers struggled to fend off the Buffalo Bills at home. Newton exited the game at one point following a horrible lapse by Kalil (watch here) and suffered an ankle injury, though he did come back into the game. All told, Carolina’s offensive line gave up six sacks for 50 yards. Newton won’t last the season if things keep up at this pace. Making matters worse, tight end Greg Olsen is out indefinitely after breaking his foot.

Winner: Derrick Henry is the wave of the future for Titans

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry

In a game in which yards and points were difficult to come by through one half of play, Henry helped spark a second-half tidal wave of offense for the Tennessee Titans. Carrying the ball just twice for five yards in the first half, Henry busted out with 87 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in the second half. His score was the first touchdown of the game. The Titans rattled off three more consecutive touchdown-scoring drives following his 17-yard touchdown run to blow out the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars 37-16.

Loser: Rams, Jared Goff choke at home

After playing a near-perfect game last weekend against the Indianapolis Colts, the Los Angeles Rams found themselves in a dogfight at home in Week 2. The Washington Redskins looked like a totally different team that got handled in Week 1 by Philly and led by 10 points at the half. Thanks to some excellent play by Todd Gurley and Jared Goff, they scrapped their way back into it with a third-quarter touchdown. Then rookie head coach Sean McVay made a gutsy call for a fake punt in the fourth quarter, which Johnny Hekker converted for 28 yards (watch here). The Rams tied the game up on that drive, and it looked like maybe they’d have the momentum to finish off the Redskins.

That wasn’t the case. Kirk Cousins led a methodical 10-play, 70-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Ryan Grant. Then on Los Angeles’ next possession with under two minutes left to play — plenty of time to engineer a game-tying drive — Goff stared down his first read on the first play and was picked off by linebacker Mason Foster. Game over. It was a choke job the Rams won’t soon forget. They had a chance to win and completely fell apart.

Winner: Michael Crabtree goes for hat trick in blowout win

The Oakland Raiders romped at home over the New York Jets, winning 45-20. Derek Carr and Co. had their way with the Jets for much of the afternoon. The young quarterback threw three touchdowns. All three of them were hauled in by San Francisco 49ers cast-off, Michael Crabtree, who led the Raiders with six catches for 80 yards. Through two games, Crabtree has proved to be Carr’s favorite weapon in the passing game, and he now has 12 receptions for 163 yards on the season.

Loser: Youngshoe Koo blows it for Chargers … again

The Los Angeles Chargers had a chance to tie last week against the Denver Broncos. Kicker Younshoe Koo got iced by Vance Joseph and botched his 44-yard field goal (low kick that was blocked), which would have tied the game. Then on Sunday he had an opportunity to redeem himself and could not do it. The Chargers drove down the field in the final minute of the fourth quarter, putting the ball on the Miami Dolphins’ 26-yard line. He pushed the 44-yard attempt wide right for the second time on Sunday.

As a result, Miami walked out of StubHub Stadium with a win it really did not deserve. Philip Rivers completed 31-of-39 passes in this game for 331 yards, helping Antonio Gates break an NFL record in the process, and Los Angeles’ defense held Miami to just one touchdown all game. But because their kicker missed two chip shots on Sunday, the Chargers are 0-2 to start the season.

Winner: Washington finds a running game in a major way

One week ago, we lamented the fact that Washington running backs could only manage 34 yards on 13 carries at home against Philadelphia. The offensive line was bullied in a big way in that game, leading us to believe the team could be in trouble long term. Well, what a difference a week makes. Washington ran over, around and through the vaunted defensive front of the Los Angeles Rams. Utilizing a committee approach — Samaje Perine as the workhorse, Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson as the impact backs — the Redskins finished with 229 yards and two touchdowns, averaging nearly six yards per carry in the big road win.

Loser: Bills’ offense put up a stinker 

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy

The Buffalo Bills managed to scrounge together one first down in the first half Sunday on the road against the Carolina Panthers. Tyrod Taylor went into halftime with 15 yards passing, LeSean McCoy had no yards on three carries and the offense had just 39 yards total at this point in the game. As Carolina’s defense loosened up a bit in the second half Taylor made some plays, but he ended up finishing with just 125 yards passing. McCoy gained just nine yards on 12 carries.

Buffalo was lucky to score three points in the fourth quarter. Sure, the Panthers feature a tremendous defense. But through two games this year it’s clear the offense is LeSean McCoy or bust. Today, he was shut down, and so were the Bills.

Winner: Martavis Bryant makes his presence felt

Martavis Bryant barely registered as a blip on the radar last week in his first game back since being reinstated following a year-long suspension. That wasn’t the case Sunday at home against the Sam Bradford-less Minnesota Vikings, however. Bryant broke through with a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter that got the scoring started in this game. He added a 51-yard reception and finished with 91 yards on three catches. You have to imagine we’ll see more of these explosive plays from Bryant as the season wears on and defenses attempt to slow down Antonio Bryant.

Loser: Big D gets smoked at Mile High

Nobody predicted the Denver Broncos would blow out the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2. Not like they did, winning 42-17 while completely exposing every weak link in Dallas’ chain. Trevor Siemian surgically attacked the Cowboys through the air, passing for 221 yards with four touchdowns while distributing the ball to eight different pass catchers. Denver’s running backs romped for 164 yards on 34 carries. Denver’s front seven held Ezekiel Elliott to just eight yards on nine carries and forced Dak Prescott into throwing two interceptions. In total, Dallas’ mighty offense gained just 4.19 yards per play. That’s pure domination by Denver.

Winner: Falcons’ Super Bowl hangover short lived

When the Atlanta Falcons struggled to beat the Chicago Bears last week, it looked like they might be suffering from the dreaded Super Bowl hangover. Teams that get to the Super Bowl and lose often struggle the next year, just like we saw from the Carolina Panthers last year. Consider the hangover (if it existed) a thing of the past.

Right out of the gate on Sunday Night Football it became clear the Falcons meant business. Matt Ryan and Co. marched right down the field on a nine-play, 86-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. After allowing Aaron Rodgers to match that effort, Atlanta’s defense put the clamps down for the rest of the first half. By the time Mike McCarthy’s sideline meltdown got the meme treatment on Twitter, the game was already over.

Aaron Rodgers did his thing late in the game to bring the Packers back in it (including this insane touchdown) but it was too little, too late.

Loser: Blake Bortles is bad, and the Jaguars should know this

The Jacksonville Jaguars had a great gameplan going into Week 1. Leonard Fournette touched the ball 29 times and Blake Bortles only threw 21 passes. We wrote after the game that was the only formula that would keep the Jags in the win column. Head coach Doug Marrone didn’t get the memo. At home against the Tennessee Titans, Bortles attempted 34 passes and Fournette ran the ball just 14 times. Predictably, Bortles threw two interceptions and the Jags got blown out at home.

It’s not rocket science, people. Bortles is a bad quarterback. Fournette is an amazing, perhaps generational talent at running back. Do the math.

Winner: Carlos Hyde, Niners nearly upset Seahawks in Seattle

San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde gets around Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman

Brian Hoyer and the San Francisco 49ers passing offense was a liability on Sunday in Seattle. But Carlos Hyde and the team’s defense was almost good enough to win. As it was, it took a late touchdown pass by Russell Wilson for the Seahawks to pull out a 12-9 win over their NFC West rivals. Hyde rushed for 124 yards on 15 carries and totaled 153 yards in the game. San Francisco’s defense harassed Wilson all game long. Though he was only sacked three times, the 49ers defenders registered 10 hits on the elusive quarterback. Even though Kyle Shanahan said after the loss he isn’t happy, there was a lot to be happy about from his team’s effort.

Loser: Comedy of errors by Bears fuels blowout loss

If not for a garbage-time touchdown pass, the Chicago Bears would have been shutout by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mike Glennon threw two awful interceptions (the second being a truly nauseating pick-six) and lost a fumble. Tarik Cohen lost a fumble. Bears receivers dropped what seemed like a baker’s dozen of Glennon’s passes. Chicago’s defense did a decent job of containing Tampa Bay’s running game but had no answer for Mike Evans. It was a good, old-fashioned butt whooping in which everyone can share the blame.

Winner: Justin Houston is back with a vengeance

After missing 11 games as he recovered from knee surgery last year, Justin Houston is back to being one of the best edge rushers in the NFL in 2017. The first two games of 2017 have seen Houston already register nine solo tackles, five tackles for a loss and three sacks. He was a force off the edge Sunday terrorizing Carson Wentz, sacking him once, hitting him another time, hurrying the quarterback, batting down a pass and registering five stops, per PFF.

The Chiefs sacked Wentz a total of six times for 34 yards, and the pressure Houston provided allowed Chris Jones to dominate inside, leading to three sacks by the big man.

Loser: Bengals = Bungles

Back when Hue Jackson was set to run Cincinnati’s offense for his second season in 2015, he made it clear he was there to help the Bengals shed the “Bungles” label. He did just that. Cincinnati went 12-4 that year to claim the AFC North before losing in the playoffs (per the usual). Now he’s in Cleveland and the Bengals are once again the Bungles. Following a truly embarrassing Week 1 performance by Andy Dalton and the offense, the Bengals once again imploded. The offense has failed to score a touchdown in two games and the offensive coordinator has been fired — a move that will have zero bearing on the rest of the season.

This team is destined to flounder all year long, thanks to poor drafting, poor decisions in free agency and an unwillingness to fire Marvin Lewis.