So week 2 is in the bag. A number of sides are off to a flyer at 2-0 (some maybe unexpectedly) while others are already staring down the barrel of another barren season. The results from last weekend have also resulted in a number of consequences, mainly for some high profile veteran QBs. Although it is early days, week 2 may have a huge impact on who makes the playoffs this year. There is only one place to start.
Changing of the guard in NY
After a third consecutive 0-2 start to the season the New York Giants have taken the ‘nuclear option’ and decided to bench veteran 2-time Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning. Stepping in to his shoes will be the rookie 1st round draft pick out of Duke, Daniel Jones. The Giants top brass had seen enough in two insipid offensive performances against Dallas and, more surpassingly, Buffalo. Nothing appeared to have changed about the Giants offense from last season. Despite improvements to the O-line in Remmers and Zeitler it is still appears to be a case of Barkley or bust. Defenders of Manning will point to the trade of OBJ and a decimated wide receiver corps. The playbook can also be brought into question with the Giants time and again checking down to small gains and a reluctance or an inability to stretch the field.
Is it the right decision to bench Manning so early? In my view, hard though this is to say. I think the answer is yes. NYG desperately needs to change the narrative on offense. Defenses know Manning, his strengths, his weaknesses. They don’t know Daniel Jones. There becomes an unknown quantity which may help him. His performances in pre-season were encouraging but the Giants will have to hope that this one change reignites others on that side of the ball to up their game. The G-men now have to stick with the new guy, they cannot flip-flop between QBs. This has to be Jones’ gig for the season. As an aside, might this mean a trade for Manning – particularly in view of my next point.
Rough times at QB
Nick Foles, Ben Rothlisberger and Drew Brees. All 3 are either out for the season or will miss the majority of it. In each case the injury is devastating for their franchise’s chance of success this year. There is no doubt that the Jaguars and Steelers will have gone into this season with high hopes of playoff places, and the Saints will have had at least one eye on a potential Super Bowl berth as their aim.
How will each side cope with the loss? The Jags have the most intriguing back up in Gardner Minshew. A 6th round draft pick out of Washington State he has already hit the ground running following the week 1 injury to Foles. His confidence and poise has already been noted and he almost helped the Jags to what would have been a divisional upset against the Texans. There are other issues in Jacksonville (this week its Jalen Ramsey) but in the next 3 games, home to the Titans then away at Denver and Carolina, give Minshew a great opportunity to show he can lead the Jags to wins in this league.
In Pittsburgh the job will fall to Mason Rudolph, which will be a big set of boots to fill. This comes on top of the 2018 circus that ended with the exits of Bell and Brown. It is a huge loss for the Steelers and it could not have come at a worse time with the Browns (led by Baker Mayfield) and Ravens (led by Lamar Jackson) poised to compete for the AFC North. The Steelers could now get left behind very quickly.
The position for the Saints may be the brightest of all. Brees’ injury is not season ending but he is likely to be out until New Orleans return from their bye week in November. Teddy Bridgewater has experience and looked the real deal in Minnesota before the injury which threatened his entire career. It is true that the Saints have tough fixtures ahead – away in Seattle then home to Dallas for starters. However, if Bridgewater can get the Saints to the bye week at around .500 (4-4) then Brees could return to navigate his side through to the playoffs. None of their NFC South divisional rivals look strong enough to be out of sight by then.
A quick look at two sides where even their own die-hard fans may be surprised to be 2-0. Both the 49ers and the Bills are sitting pretty. For the Bills they are now home to the Bengals before a key divisional clash against the all-conquering Patriots. In a division where both the Jets and Dolphins are languishing the Bills have a great opportunity to position themselves for a run to the playoffs. The 49ers have stiff competition, as always, from the Seahawks and Rams but they are off to a flyer behind Jimmy G and co. Tougher test lie ahead and, in particular, the clashes against the divisional rivals will be a better barometer as to whether the 49ers can sustain a challenge.
Performance of the week
I know it was against the Dolphins but the all round performance of the New England Patriots with a 43-0 shut out was immense. The first signs of harmony between Brady and Brown coupled with a dominant defensive showing should fire a major warning to the rest of the league that Belichick, Brady et al are once again the team to beat in the NFL.
Look ahead to week 3 match ups – my 4 to watch
Last week I was 2 of 4 (thank you Chiefs and Falcons) with one result spot on (Falcons by 4). See how we do this time.
Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs – two undefeated side meet at Arrowhead. Two dangerous, mobile QBs who have started the season in tremendous form. I think this is a shootout and both defenses will need to step up to secure the victory. Chiefs win out by 6.
New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks – the first big test for Teddy Bridgewater and it could not be more severe than up in Seattle. The Seahawks have stuttered a bit in gaining their opening victories. Expect them to grind out a third here as Seattle win by 4.
LA Rams @ Cleveland Browns – okay Cleveland here is your test to see how far you have come and possibly how far you can go this season. The Rams remain the real deal from the NFC and I think they will have too much for Mayfield, Landry and OBJ. Rams by 7.
NY Giants @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – now Daniel Jones’ regular season NFL debut. The Bucs defense has started strong and their containment of Christian McCaffrey last week was key to beating Carolina. Saquon Barkley will be a different challenge and the introduction of Daniel Jones may throw them off balance but I think it is asking too much for a debut victory. Giants will be better, at least on offense, but Bucs win by 3.
Same time next week!