Time to Press the Panic Button? NFL Week 2 is Pivotal for Many Playoff Hopefuls
I know what you’re thinking. Starting 0-2 and declaring your season is over is a bit of an overreaction isn’t it?
Well, no. No, it’s not. Especially when my team is one of them. Along with the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and even the Seattle Seahawks find themselves in a precarious position heading in to Week 2.
Since 2007, 83 teams have started the season 0-2 and only nine have gone on to make the playoffs. So you don’t need to put your jerseys away and write the season off if you’re team falls to 0-2, but the outlook would be downgraded to doubtful.
15 teams will be trying to avoid that fate in Week 2. Before we get to those pivotal matchups lets discuss the Week 2 opener.
If you tuned in to Thursday Night Football, it quickly switched to the A.J. Green Show. Although his first three catches only went for 43 yards, all of them were touchdown receptions.
Andy Dalton looked like an All-Pro quarterback as the Bengals raced out to a 21-0 lead.
As for the Ravens, Joe Flacco had to look over his shoulder at Lamar Jackson. Figuratively, because Flacco threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, and literally because Lamar Jackson took snaps at quarterback while Flacco lined up at wide receiver.
The lack of rhythm doomed the Ravens, but they were able to end the first half with a touchdown to remain in striking distance.
However, the second half resembled much more of an AFC North brawl between the two divisional opponents. The Bengals only mustered six points in the second half, but it was enough to hang on for a 34-23 win.
At their best, the Bengals looked like a team that could finally take control of the AFC North from the Pittsburgh Steelers. At their worst, they reminded everyone of why they have lost in the first round of the playoffs five of the last seven seasons.
Just when you think they have it figured out, they revert to ineptitude. Starting 2-0 is nothing to scoff at, but the verdict is still out on how good the Bengals can truly be.
Let’s get to the Sunday showdowns that have teams on high-alert to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start.
New Orleans Saints (0-1) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-0-1), 1 PM at Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Many analysts had the New Orleans Saints representing the NFC in the Super Bowl this season. Nearly all of them projected that the Saints’ explosive offense would handle business in Week 1 at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The script was flipped once Fitzmagic took the field. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick toyed with the Saints last Sunday and led the Bucs to a 48-40 win over New Orleans.
Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas all had impressive days, but it wasn’t enough.
A stout defensive performance is a must for New Orleans. The Saints can’t afford to lose to the basement-dwelling Cleveland Browns and start the season at 0-2.
The Browns come in after ending their 17-game losing streak dating back to 2016. However, the result was a tie, not exactly what they had in mind.
Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry are looking to put some respect on the Browns’ name, and a win against the Saints would do just that.
Drew Brees is a cool customer. I don’t see him letting his season slip at the hands of the Cleveland Browns. The Saints will look to pour it on early and often and the Browns will look for their first win of the season elsewhere.
Prediction: Saints, 38-17
Atlanta Falcons (0-1) vs. Carolina Panthers (1-0), 1 PM at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Another NFC South-Super Bowl hopeful also started their campaign with a deflating loss. The Atlanta Falcons were on the doorstep of upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles, but lost 18-12.
They return home to face a confident Carolina Panthers team that won with a running game and solid defense against the Dallas Cowboys.
Matt Ryan is the key that starts the Atlanta Falcons’ engine. He did not perform at the highest level, or anywhere near it for that matter, and the Falcons were stuck in neutral Week 1. Julio Jones was the main bright spot for Atlanta’s offense, but he was kept out of the end zone when it mattered most.
Red zone efficiency is one of the factors that separates a great team from a mediocre one.
Matt Ryan and Cam Newton will be a battle of former NFL MVPs, and whichever one can return to that form on Sunday will lead their team to a win.
The injury bug is another thing to look out for, as Devonta Freeman is out for the Falcons. On top of that, their two most talented defensive players are out for the season. Deion Jones and Keanu Neal both suffered heartbreaking injuries Week 1 and will not suit up for the rest of the year.
This will lead Cam Newton being more confident in taking shots down the field and utilizing himself and Christian McCaffrey in the running game. The Falcons are on upset alert.
Prediction: Panthers, 24-20
Dallas Cowboys (0-1) vs. New York Giants (0-1), 8:20 PM at AT&T Stadium
I saved the best for last. This matchup is everything you want on Sunday Night Football. Nate Zielinski vs. Nick Rizner for The Disorderly bragging rights until the two teams meet again.
All jokes aside, both team will be locked in Sunday night. The Giants and Cowboys usually play hard-hitting, low-scoring affairs in which the team that makes the least mistakes comes out on top.
The Cowboys didn’t score until the fourth quarter in Week 1, and the Giants squandered a few opportunities to knock off the Jags on their home turf as well.
Both teams now find themselves in a position where a Week 2 divisional match-up means a lot more than it normally does.
In my humble opinion, the Cowboys just don’t have the talent this year. Besides Ezekiel Elliott a few players on the defensive end, the Giants should have favorable match-ups across the board.
Odell looks to have come back from his injury completely healthy, and Saquon Barkely impressed in his NFL debut.
The bugaboo for the Giants are the mistakes. They might have more talent than Dallas, but they are also prone to committing more penalties and turnovers. Yes, Eli Manning and Ereck Flowers, we’re talking about you.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott can control the clock, but can they score. Eli Manning can make the big play but can also make the big mistake. The team that flinches first will come out on the losing end.
Prediction: Giants, 17-10
Josh Gordon fantasy owners are on high alert. The enigmatic wide receiver was ruled out for the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 and then promptly released. His value will dip for a few weeks but depending on what team picks him up this could be a blessing in disguise.
Investing in a back-up if you have Aaron Rodgers might not be a bad idea this week. The hobbled quarterback is taking on one of the most vicious defenses in the league in the Minnesota Vikings. They know he’s hurt as well and won’t play dirty but know every time they hit him or sack him he’ll feel it.
The Chargers defense is worth a look this week. Quarterback Josh Allen is getting his first career start for the Buffalo Bills, a team that lost their opener 47-3. Los Angeles invested a lot of money in their defense and looking to avoid an 0-2 start will have them firing on all cylinders.
James White seems to be the last man standing in a depleted New England backfield. Look for him to be involved often this weekend.
Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly did not disappoint. The former defensive end set a Seahawk record for most receiving yards (105) for a Seahawk in their first career game. He added a touchdown as well and looks like a player Russell Wilson will trust this season.