By JOHN ZAKOUR
What have we learned?
Even though week two still falls comfortably under the header of “very early,” some teams’ seasons hang in the balance. Losses in week two are worth just as much as those in week 16 or 17. A win is precious, especially for the large middle class of the NFL. The vast majority of teams that start 0-2 don’t make the playoffs. And if history is any indicator, falling to 0-3 is essentially elimination. According to the NFL Network, teams that start 0-3 have less than a 3 percent of making the playoffs. Some teams’ seasons get late very early.
So what did we learn these past two weeks?
Peyton Manning is picking apart defenses like its 2009 agin. A methodical dismantling of the Giants proved the four-time MVP is playing at one of the highest levels of his career. If you think the Ravens’ and Giants’ defenses maybe aren’t all that great, you’re probably right, but they’re still very talented defenses capable of playing at high levels. And they both got lit up. After a slow start, each game turned into Peyton getting first after first while taking his shots down the field. This, combined with a defense as good or better than Peyton ever had in Indianapolis, make Denver the favorites in the AFC already.
Is there a clear hierarchy in the NFC West already?
Only a 5-0 game—yes, five to zero—at the half in Seattle, the Seahawks ran away from the 49ers, 29-3. A week after torching the Packers, the 49ers were simply stifled. To see the same 49ers offense that looked so dynamic last week look so frustrated by the Seattle defense this week bordered on cognitive dissonance. The Seahawks secondary (nicknamed the Legion of Boom, of course) locked down the 49ers’ receivers and bothered Kaepernick into four turnovers. Anquan Boldin torched Green Bay for 208 yards, and only managed seven against the best secondary in football. Frank Gore wasn’t even a factor and could only chip in 16 yards on the ground. Not to mention Marshawn Lynch, who showed us the true meaning of determination with his three touchdown runs for the Hawks.
The week 14 rematch of these two teams has huge implications on not just the division, but the rest of the NFC. The rematch is essentially a must win for the 49ers if they want to win the NFC West. If the road to the Super Bowl goes through Seattle, it’s going to going to be awfully tough on the rest of the NFC. The 49ers are tough at home and tough on the road. The Seahawks are near unbeatable at home, but they can look mortal on the road. The Seahawks securing the one seed is a nightmare for every playoff team in the NFC.
Just how bad are the Jaguars?
As quickly as the Seahawks and Broncos are establishing themselves as elite, the Jaguars are proving they are the worst team in the NFL. The Jaguars put up zero offensive points in Arrowhead and only managed nine against the Raiders. Now they go into the toughest place play for any offense, the thunder dome of Qwest Field in Seattle to meet the Legion of Boom. It’s going to be a long day for the Jaguars. With a 20-point spread and an under/over of 40, Vegas expects the Jaguars to score about 10 points. This seems very high. The Jags are at serious risk of getting shutout. Which brings up an interesting point—if the Jags secure the first pick of the draft, do they take the highest rated player in Jadaveon Clowney or draft a quarterback? In Jacksonville, it’s already time to think about the draft.
Can the Patriots win the AFC East playing like this?
The undefeated Patriots have issues. After squeaking by the Bills, they sputtered past the Jets, 13-10. The Patriots offense has issues, and their depleted receiving corps look, well… depleted. The assumption is that Brady will get his receiving corps in line, but there are no guarantees. The Dolphins are the only team in the AFC East with a resume-building win, going into Lucas Oil and toppling the Colts, and are actually playing like a first place team. We’ll learn a lot about the Dolphins next week when the Falcons visit Miami. The AFC East division is open for an upset for the first time since 2007. At the risk of underestimating the Bills, it looks like a two-team race already in the AFC East.
Is it time for a QB change in Minnesota?
Christian Ponder is killing the Vikings. Following a 31-30 loss to the Bears, it wouldn’t seem like offense is the problem. But quarterback play certainly is. The Vikings got 14 points off of a special teams play and defense, only scoring 16 points with Ponder leading their offense. The Vikings feature a talented offensive line, the best running back in football, a good tight end and dangerous receivers, yet Ponder is sandbagging them all down. The Vikings are so close to contending it hurts to watch Ponder make mistakes. The play action passes that are suppose to set up big passes end up in check downs. For a game manager, he throws too many interceptions. If the Vikings are going to get out of the NFC North and back into the playoffs, they need serious improvement from the quarterback position.