Week 3 is already in swing, with the Los Angeles Rams clipping the 49ers in a wild 41-39 shootout Thursday night in San Francisco.
The 49ers, behind a fairly impressive Brian Hoyer, nearly completed a late comeback, scoring two touchdowns in the last five minutes. Not surprisingly, the Niners are now 0-3 and the Rams bumped their early season record to 2-1 on a tidy effort from QB Jared Goff (22-for-28, 292 yards, 3 TD).
While the rest of the herd await their Week 3 match-ups, it bears looking back at the first two weeks of a season that has seen defences dominate, for the most part.
As expected, the teams we thought would be undefeated so far, are. Like Oakland, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Atlanta. Then, to our surprise, some unlikely squads have also yet to taste the bitterness of defeat, such as Baltimore, Carolina and Denver.
There have been plenty of good performances in what has transpired, coupled with some surprisingly bad.
Here are 15 things that surprised us, good and bad.
15. Trevor Siemian Is Leading The NFL In TD Passes – Good
OK, he’s tied with Matt Stafford, but Siemian is making 1/25th the salary of his more celebrated QB peer. At $615,000 for the year, the Denver Broncos have already gotten full value out of Siemian’s arm, with six TD passes in two games. After all the hand-wringing about who would be behind center and with the return of Brock Osweiler, Siemian took it all in stride and then went out and gunned the crap out of the ball. Nicknamed ‘Peter Parker’ by linebacker Von Miller, Siemian has also been careful in the press by downplaying his accomplishments so far. When asked about being a league leader he replied, “It’s good, it’s Week 2.” So far, the third-year man out of Northwestern has completed 39 out of 60 passes for 450 yards, the six TDs (two INTs) and the seventh best passer rating at 106.9.
14. Colin Kaepernick Still Isn’t On A NFL Roster – Bad
Like him, hate him, despise his politics or applaud his stance, Colin Kaepernick should be on someone’s depth chart and even throwing passes. What is most despicable about this NFL season is that owners and team executives — while doddering commish Roger Goodell dithers and turns a blind eye — have colluded to bar a still capable quarterback from playing. Heck, there are at least 10 teams he could start for, including Cincinnati and Arizona, where Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer, respectively, have not impressed anyone (more on them later). And get this, the Jacksonville Jaguars, looking for another back-up for mediocre pivot Blake Bortles, signed Ryan Nassib to be a third stringer instead of Kaepernick. A career clipboard holder on the sidelines, Nassib has thrown all of 10 passes in the NFL, the last in 2015 with the Giants. Not coincidentally, the guy who signed Nassib, Jags’ VP of football operations Tom Coughlin, coached Nassib when he threw his last official pass.
13. The Baltimore Ravens Are Undefeated – Good
The Baltimore Ravens haven’t cracked our Power Rankings yet, as their 2-0 start has come at the hands of two so-so clubs, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. And this weekend at Wembley Stadium the Ravens defence will probably lay waste to the Jacksonville Jaguars offence and bumble-prone QB Blake Bortles. Colin Kaepernick, anyone? Baltimore is tied atop the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers because their defence made life absolutely miserable for the Bengals in Week 1 (a 20-0 shutout) and the Browns in Week 2 (24-10). Veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs has led the charge, recording seven tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass defence. And the defence has gotten a yeoman’s performance from former Dallas Cowboy Brandon Carr, who is tied for the league lead with two interceptions and is first overall in pass defences with six. We also have to laud the effort from the offence, especially running backs Javorius Allen (172 combined yards) and Terrance West (125 combined yards, 2 TDs).
12. Ezekiel Elliott Wasted His Suspension Reprieve, For One Game At Least – Bad
The courts have kept the NFL and Roger Goodell from having Ezekiel Elliott serve a six-game suspension for allegations of domestic violence, which is a good thing. What is bad is that Elliott, who should be fired up because the league’s ham-handed way of doling out punishment, has laid an egg so far with a lack of effort. The second-year running back out of Ohio State was decent in Week 1, rolling up 104 yards against a terrible New York Giants defence. In Week 2 against Denver, there was a bewildering lack of hustle in his game. The reigning rushing champion rushed for all of eight yards on nine carries and was slagged by NFL commentator LaDainian Tomlinson for quitting on his team. That remark was in reference to Elliott’s indifference on an interception thrown by Dak Prescott during a 42-17 blowout loss to the Broncos. To his credit, he owned up to it and on Monday night he can make up for it with a better effort against Arizona.
11. Chargers Jatavis Brown Leads League In Tackles – Good
We love an underdog and in Los Angeles Chargers second-year linebacker Jatavis Brown, there is much to adore. A fifth round pick (175th overall in 2016) from the University of Akron Zips, Brown has been Mr. Everything so far for the 0-2 Chargers. Two weeks in, he leads all defenders with 26 tackles in two games, 17 of the solo variety. This, after a decent rookie campaign where he had 79 tackles in 12 games, along with 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and six pass defences. The athletic back comes by his talent honestly, having been named All-MAC First Team three years in a row at Akron and finishing his career as the team’s single season sacks leader (11.5 in 2015) and a total 340 tackles in 35 games.
10. Adrian Peterson Has Been No Help To New Orleans – Bad
One would have thought that given a second chance to revive his career, way down the mighty Mississippi in ‘Nawlins, that Adrian Peterson would have literally taken the ball and run with it. But, after two games, both losses, including one to his former Vikings’ team, Peterson has all of 44 yards rushing on 14 carries and no touchdowns. It wasn’t that long ago, before injuries took their toll in 2016, that seven-time All-Pro and 2012 MVP rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 TDs during the 2015 season with Minnesota. This season, his ineffective running hasn’t given Drew Brees an out, but the veteran QB has still been good, just not his usual great. What is particularly galling about Peterson’s early season returns was the fact he came up small in his return to Minnesota in the first Monday nighter, gaining just 18 yards on six carries. And, he showed an ugly individualistic side by glaring at coach Sean Payton when things weren’t going his way.
9. Unwanted Buffalo Receivers Sammy Watkins And Robert Woods Lighting It Up In L.A. – Good
The fact that wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are leading the L.A. in receiving yards is a good thing for the 2-1 Rams — and bad for their former team, the Buffalo Bills. The woeful Bills traded Watkins in the off-season and let Woods go to free agency. To second-year QB Jared Goff, Watkins and Woods have been his go-to guys in three games so far. Watkins leads the Rams in receiving yards with 194, including a 106-yard, two-TD effort in the Rams 41-39 triumph over San Francisco Thursday night. Fifth-year man Woods, who the Bills didn’t tender an offer to, is second with 169 yards on 10 receptions. He was also stellar on Thursday night, catching six passes for 108 yards. Buffalo can only look on with melancholic envy at what could have been.
8. Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton Is The Worst QB In The NFL – Bad
Again, we’ll revive our argument for Colin Kaepernick unjustifiably being punished by pointing to the early season returns from Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. Dalton, who was a Pro Bowler for the third time last year, hasn’t been able to hit the broad side of the ocean this season for the 0-2 Bengals. He has thrown no TD passes and has been intercepted four times (tying him with two others for most in the league), leading to a NFL worst 47.2 passer rating. In addition to his incompetence, those two losses came at home and things don’t get any easier with a visit to Green Bay this Sunday. The most humbling of Dalton’s two outings was the 20-0 Week 1 whitewash at the hands of division rival Baltimore. Dalton was 16-for-31 for 170 yards and was picked off four times, as well as being sacked five times and fumbling the ball once. We think the team should have Kaepernick on speed dial.
7. J.J.’s Brother T.J. Watt Ain’t Heavy – Good
We reported earlier this week that outstanding rookie linebacker T.J. Watt might not play due to a groin injury this Sunday in Chicago. But, the early Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate has pluck and might yet play against the Bears, even though he isn’t necessarily needed. What has made big brother J.J. proud, no doubt, is that T.J. has out-performed him so far this season for the 2-0 Steelers. Watt has done it all, combining nine tackles, with 2.0 sacks, two pass defences and an interception. What’s most surprising about the younger Watt’s effort so far is that his NCAA career with Wisconsin was relatively brief and included a position switch. Originally a tight end, Watt switched to linebacker in his sophomore season of 2015. He didn’t play much, but got his chance as a junior last year, racking up 63 tackles, 11.5 sacks and a pick-six interception for the Badgers. He is a keeper, T.J.
6. The New York Jets Defence Is The Worst In Football – Bad
With an average 33 points against (worst in the NFL) and having surrendered 818 yards in two games, the 0-2 Jets marginally beat out New Orleans for the worst defensive unit in the league. We bestow this dishonor on them not for the fact they were shredded for 45 points and 410 yards by offensive powerhouse Oakland, but for giving up 408 yards and three TDs to Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo Bills in a 21-12 Week 1 loss. Now, we can’t lay total blame on the D, as the offence hasn’t given them much of a reprieve under Josh McCown’s guidance (did we mention that Colin Kaepernick is still available?). The Jets haven’t gotten a whole lot of mileage, yet, from their highest paid player, DE Muhammad Wilkerson. Yes, he is dealing with a shoulder injury, but the two-time All-Pro has just seven tackles and no sacks thus far. He’s not alone, as several Jets D-men have underwhelmed.
5. The Carolina Panthers Defence Is The Best In Football – Good
The Carolina Panthers (2-0) have yet to give up a touchdown this season, which takes a lot of pressure off QB Cam Newton and the offence. They haven’t had to be that sharp in two early season wins and that bodes well down the road when they do get rolling. We will temper our enthusiasm a bit, in that the Panthers’ defence only had to shut down the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills’ offensive units. They sacked Brian Hoyer four times in a week 1 victory over the Niners (23-3 final), limiting San Fran to 217 net yards. Then in a lacklustre 9-3 win over Buffalo last Sunday, the Panthers defensive unit punished Tyrod Taylor and the Bills all day long, sacking him three times and allowing just 176 net yards.
4. Arizona’s Carson Palmer Should Just Call It Quits, Like Yesterday – Bad
To say that veteran pivot Carson Palmer has had a slow start to his 14th season would be a severe understatement. A Pro Bowler as recent as 2015, Palmer has stumbled out of the gate and is tied with the man who succeeded him in Cincinnati, Andy Dalton, with a league worst four interceptions. Unlike Dalton, he has thrown two TD passes, so there is that. He has completed 46 of 84 passes for 600 yards but has a fourth worst passer rating of 65.6, which is nearly 12 points below his lowest mark of 77.3 during his rookie season. He’ll face a sterner test than the Indianapolis Colts, who he beat last week, when a fired up and humbled Dallas Cowboys team rolls into town for the Monday nighter next week. We’ll see if he’s still as composed as he is letting on to be in the face of media criticism.
3. Bills Safety Jordan Poyer Thriving In Buffalo – Good
Even more surprising than tackles leader Jatavis Brown of the Chargers is the season Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer is having with the Bills. For five seasons in Cleveland, the 2013 seventh round pick (218th overall by Philadelphia out of Oregon State) got few starts and no doubt waited for a chance to shine. The Browns didn’t tender him in the off-season and the Bills snapped him up. He has responded, in a big way, being an all-around nuisance to opponents in the backfield. He has 14 tackles, 2.0 sacks, a team high five pass defences and an interception already in 2017. Despite the Bills scoring woes in a 9-3 loss to Carolina last Sunday, Poyer had his best game, recording 11 tackles, three passes defended and a sack.
2. The New York Giants Have A Real Shot At Going 0-16 – Bad
With just 13 offensive points in two losses this season and a team in disarray, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the New York Giants to go 0-for-the-season. They’ve taken it on the chin from division rival Dallas and the Detroit Lions, whose 2008 edition would have some company in 0-16 infamy. A look at the Giants schedule for the remaining 16 games only has one game we could call a possible win, against the winless 49ers in San Francisco on Nov. 12. Otherwise, they still have five games against NFC East opponents and tough crossover tilts with Tampa Bay (Oct. 1), Denver (Oct. 15), Seattle (Oct. 22), Kansas City (Nov. 19), and Oakland (Dec. 3). No one big name has clicked for the Giants from Eli Manning (459 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT), to Odell Beckham Jr. (four receptions, 36 yards) and a defence that has just four sacks and four passes defended successfully.
1. Kareem Hunt Looks Like A Rookie Of The Year And MVP Candidate
The Kansas City Chiefs sure found a gamer in the third round of the 2017 draft when they plucked Toledo running back Kareem Hunt at no. 86. He came out with a big bang Week 1, running for 148 yards and a TD and catching five passes for 98 yards and two more scores as the Chiefs shocked the defending champion New England Patriots 42-27. His Week 2 effort against a tough Philadelphia Eagles squad wasn’t as prolific, but the freshman still piled up 81 more yards on the ground with two touchdowns and caught three passes for 28 yards. His 355 all-purpose yards from scrimmage are second best to the L.A. Rams Todd Gurley (381), but Gurley has played one more game already. He is third in rushing behind Gurley and San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde (who has also played three games) and his yards per attempt of 7.6 is best overall. If he keeps it up, he might cop dual honors.