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NFL Week 2 Recap: Five Overreactions

There are only eight unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL after two weeks, with just two of them residing in the AFC. Is it parity or parody? Meanwhile, nine teams are still in search of their first victory, with five of them coming from the AFC. So it might be the latter.

Three of the unbeatens are in the NFC South. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers are looking around with their shiny new No. 1 overall pick at quarterback wondering how long the rebuilding process might take in the wake of Matt Rhule’s reign of terrifying incompetence in Charlotte.

The Cleveland Browns may have suffered the biggest loss in Week 2. Not only did the Browns lose at Pittsburgh on Monday night, they also likely lost All-Pro running back Nick Chubb for the season with a horrific-looking knee injury.

In all, there is a lot to overreact to after NFL Week 2, so let’s get started.

5. The Cincinnati Bengals are all but out of playoff contention

The Cincinnati Bengals fell to 0-2 with a loss at home to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Not only are the Bengals 0-2, but they are 0-2 in the AFC North. Historically, that slams the door on playoff contention.

Since the NFL realigned in 2002 with the addition of the Houston Texans, six teams have started 0-2 with two divisional losses. None of those teams reached the playoffs.

Then there’s Joe Burrow, who hobbled off the field at the end of Cincinnati’s last offensive possession after “tweaking” the injured right calf he sustained early in training camp. Burrow has been pedestrian so far — 304 yards on 56.9% passing with two touchdowns and an interception through two games.

The backup is 27-year-old rookie Jake Browning, whose four snaps in Week 1 constitute his entire career highlight reel.

Reality: Here’s the thing about stuff that has never been done in sports. Someone invariably comes along and does it. Cincinnati made a Super Bowl run two seasons ago and reached the AFC Championship last season. That puts them in a very good position to figure it out.

4. Russell Wilson is officially out of excuses in Denver

For much of his career with the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson was either in the group of elite NFL quarterbacks or just adjacent to it. New coach Sean Payton brought up the dreaded wristband topic after the Denver Broncos blew an 18-point first-half lead and couldn’t come back at home against the Washington Commanders.

Payton pointed out that the Broncos were slow out of the huddle throughout the game and lamented having to use timeouts in the first half as a result.

Wilson’s numbers don’t look terrible (five touchdowns to one interception on 68.2% efficiency for 485 yards). But the bottom line is the bottom line and Denver is 0-2 with two losses at home. The only thing Russ cooks now is the play clock.

Reality: Wilson will be 35 in December and he’s clearly not as athletic as he was in his heyday with the ‘Hawks. The comparisons with Payton’s former quarterback, Drew Brees, were always flawed because of this.

Yes, Brees and Wilson are small quarterbacks. But Brees didn’t rely on athleticism — he ran for 752 yards in 287 career games. On the other hand, Wilson had 849 yards in 2014 alone and is over the 5,000-yard mark in his 11-plus seasons.

Wilson hasn’t necessarily lost his wheels — he has scrambled for 57 yards on seven attempts this season. But whatever the question may be in Denver, it’s becoming more apparent Wilson is not the answer to it.

3. The Dallas Cowboys are for real

The Dallas Cowboys are off to a 2-0 start, outscoring their first two opponents 70-10. Their defense already has 10 sacks, seven takeaways and has allowed 386 yards in two games. Dak Prescott is turnover-free. Everything is falling into place for Dallas to make a deep run for the first time since the glory days of the 1990s.

More on the defense. The New York Giants and New York Jets only managed to reach the red zone three times combined and the Cowboys have yet to allow a red-zone touchdown. The one touchdown allowed was on a deep slant into traffic with no weak-side help, a high-risk, high-reward throw by Zach Wilson of the Jets that turned out his way.

With the defense playing at the level it’s shown through two weeks, Prescott doesn’t need to be great for Dallas to be very good.

Reality: While it is true that the Cowboys have clinched the New Jersey state championship, it’s still early and Dallas will be judged by what it does down the stretch and in the playoffs. The early signs are encouraging but this franchise has shown an ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when the stakes are at their highest. Stay tuned.

2. The New York Giants saved their season in Arizona

The building now known as State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, will always hold a special place in the hearts of New York Giants’ fans. It was there that a miraculous escape, throw and catch helped the Giants end the perfect season of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on an early February night in 2008.

New York was pummeled by Dallas 40-0 in a prime-time embarrassment in Week 1 and trailed 20-0 against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The 60 unanswered points to open a season is the second-most since the merger in 1970, topped only by the 86 allowed by the 1978 Baltimore Colts, who finished 5-11.

Daniel Jones had a monster second half and the Giants came back to win 31-28 on Graham Gano’s 34-yard field goal with 19 seconds left. Instead of being two games down to three teams in the NFC East two weeks into the season, New York is 1-1 and still in the race.

Reality: It was a nice victory. But Jones has already been sacked 10 times, the offensive line still looks shaky. Jones has nearly as many interceptions (three) in 65 attempts this season as he did in 2022 (five) in 472 throws.

It’s going to take more than one giant comeback to determine if last year’s playoff run was a one-off.

1. The Patriot Way has lost its way

Since Tom Brady left Foxborough for Tampa after the 2019 season, the New England Patriots are 25-27 and lost their lone playoff game at Buffalo by 30 points. Coach Bill Belichick drafted Mac Jones in 2020 to replace Brady but has yet to take the training wheels off the offense.

Jones is completing 68.8 percent of his passes but is averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt and 8.3 yards a completion. No receiver is averaging more than 9.8 yards per catch and the running game is producing just 3.5 yards an attempt.

The running game is understandable considering teams can safely put all 11 guys in the box while waiting for Jones to throw the ball three yards in the air.

Belichick is 71 years old and it’s possible he’s lost his fastball. He remains 30 wins behind Don Shula’s record 328 and 20 in back of second-place George Halas’ 318. The record six Super Bowl wins and nine conference championships speak to his legacy.

But the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-us-lately league and Belichick’s Patriots fall short since Brady left town.

Reality: The Patriots aren’t a great team. The pieces might be there to be a decent one but, much like the Broncos, the Pats are 0-2 with two losses at home. The next two weeks include a rivalry game in New Jersey against the Jets and a trip to Dallas. If New England is 0-4 when they return home on Oct. 8 to face the Saints, we’ll have our answer.

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