Going into this weekend I mentioned that NFL fans should look for what teams look like they can be serious contenders, and what ones look like they will be pretenders. Football is a funny game because on any given Sunday anything can happen, and that point was proven this weekend. Here are my random thoughts on week two, starting with the New York teams.
Tampa Bay @ NY Giants – Wow what a game. Eli Manning does it again. What else can you say about this guy? With Eli at the helm he has proven that you can never count the Giants out of a game. Eli was awful in the first half throwing three interceptions, but he is quickly becoming to the Giants what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees…captain clutch.
Eli Manning went off in the fourth quarter throwing for 243 yards. Finishing the game with 510 total yards. To be clear how impressive that number is, the opposing quarterback Josh Freeman on Tampa Bay had 243 yard passing IN THE GAME…Eli Manning did that IN A QUARTER. Not to mention the Giants trailed by two touchdowns in the game and won by 7.
Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw left the game with a neck stinger and the Giants were also playing this game with cornerbacks coming off the practice squad, and in case you didn’t know the Bucs have some receivers who can catch. Those guys did catch, but it didn’t matter. Eli wasn’t going to let his early mistakes dictate this game. He was cool, calm, and collected, and his team has their first win of the season.
Now they go on the road to face Cam Newton in Carolina on short rest. The Panthers are coming off of an impressive home win against the New Orleans Saints. Both teams will have a lot of momentum going into this Thursday night matchup, and it should be fun to watch.
NY Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers – When Darrell Revis was officially ruled out of this game with a concussion of Friday the chances of the Jets getting a win on the road against a very tough AFC opponent looked slim. Still one player does not make up a team so there is no excuses. The problem is Revis does make up the Jets defense, and when the offense is going to play like they did on Sunday, the Jets need all the defense they could get. On the Steelers injury front they were without linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu, both big pieces to their defense so you can call it even with injuries.
On the offensive front the Jets came out rolling just like they did against Buffalo, putting up 10 points on their first two possessions. But, then suddenly Jets QB Mark Sanchez looked like the Sanchez of old. Some people will say that he took a helmet to helmet hit and never looked the same again. That is true, but the point is he stayed on the field and never complained of any concussion like symptoms to anyone on the coaching staff. Maybe he was hurt, but it cannot be used as an excuse when it goes unspoken of and the player is not sitting on the sideline.
No one can quite put their finger on exactly what happened to the Jets offense. Maybe the Steelers defense figured them out? Maybe Sanchez was hurt? The point is after playing five quarters of excellent football to start the season, the offense quickly reverted back to the offense of the preseason. They need to have it straightened out again by next Sunday.
The next opponent are the Dolphins in Miami. The Dolphins beat a bad Oakland team who traveled to the east coast for a 1pm game and are now tied for first at 1-1 with the Bills, Jets and Patriots in the division. Though this game should be a walk in the park for the Jets, the Dolphins always play the Jets tough so they must be taken seriously. This is a MUST WIN for the Jets and Mark Sanchez if he wants to keep his job, because after that the Jets go home for games against the 49ers and the Texans, two teams most people have as Superbowl contenders. If the Jets lose to the Dolphins and then at home to the Niners and Texans, then you may see Tim Tebow starting in week 6 against Indianapolis.
Kansas City @ Buffalo – Kansas City is a bad team, far over-hyped coming into the season. Buffalo is not a very good team, but looked like a much better team this week. One thing Buffalo does have is a star player in running back C.J. Spiller. Spiller, after going off for 169 rushing yards against the Jets in week one, tacked on 123 more and 2 touchdowns on 15 carries in week two. He also had 3 receptions on 3 targets for 47 yards. The Fred Jackson injury may have been a blessing for the Bills who have no other choice but to unleash Spiller on opponents now. If their defense can get it together, Spiller as the every down running back can be the perfect antidote for their offense.
Arizona @ New England – How can I not mention the biggest upset of the season so far in the NFL? I almost feel guilty taking the title away from RGIII one week after he went into to Superdome and beat the Saints. The Saints are 0-2 now and playing without their head coach. The Patriots were playing at home with full health which makes this upset much bigger.
The Cardinals come into this game having to start second string quarterback Kevin Kolb who is viewed in the league as nothing more then a game manager. He did nothing spectacular in this game but managed the offense well enough while the Cardinals defense was just outstanding. Cardinals superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was held to only one catch for 4 yards on 5 targets, and yet the Cardinals still managed the shocker.
The Patriots lost tight end Aaron Hernandez to an ankle injury, but that didn’t stop Tom Brady. Wes Welker came off the bench and led the team with 5 catches for 95 yards. The great Rob Gronkowski finished the game with 6 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in the 4th quarter. He did not however catch the pass on the 2 point conversion which was the difference in this game.
Both teams had chances to put the other team away and did not capitalize. Trying to run out the clock Cardinals second year running back Ryan Williams fumbled the football into the hands of Vince Wilfork. The Patriots now have the ball in field goal range with one of the best kickers in the game. Game over right?…Not so fast. After a Danny Woodhead rushing touchdown is called back because of blatant holding on Gronkowski, kicker Stpehen Gosktowksi misses a short field goal after previously going 4 for 4 earlier in the game and the Cardinals win. An incredible win by Arizona who moves to 2-0 on the season and has now won 9 of 11 dating back to last season. This just proves, anyone can win on any given Sunday.
Denver @ Atlanta – Peyton Manning was far from superior in this game throwing three interceptions in the first quarter. If Peyton looked like this is week one I wouldn’t have been surprised since he missed the entire 2011 season. This game proved that Peyton is human, he’s coming back from four neck surgeries and he will need some time before he will be himself again. What he did prove though is that though he is still shaking off some rust, he didn’t lose his smarts. Peyton didn’t throw a pick the rest of the game and with the help of the Broncos defense he actually got Denver back into this game.
The Broncos were trailing 27-7 in the fourth quarter and he would get them as close as 27-21. I would’ve loved to see what he could’ve done had he gotten the ball back in the final two minutes of the game. The most impressive play to me was on a 4 & Goal on the 3 yard line with the Broncos trailing 27-14, Peyton audibled to a running play and Willis McGahee ran it in for a score. He read the defense, knew they were playing for the pass and a quarterback of his caliber decided he was going to trust his running back and offensive line to get the team six points in that spot. I’ve never seen such a thing from a quarterback of his stature, but it was brilliantly executed all around.
On the Falcons side of the ball, I still don’t trust this team. The Broncos couldn’t have had a worse first quarter. They had four turnovers in total and gave the Falcons a 20 point lead. You never see a road team come back from something like this, but Atlanta let Denver right back in, and everyone in that stadium was sweating it out in the final five minutes of that game. Atlanta is 2-0 and first place in the division. Right now they look good enough to be a playoff team, but if you can’t put a team away and capitalize on all of those mistakes, then you’ll be one and done come playoff time.
Lots of big games to watch in week three starting with the Giants and Panthers on Thursday night, followed by Tampa Bay @ Dallas on Sunday, two teams coming off disappointing losses. Also on tap, Philadelphia @ Arizona, Atlanta @ San Diego, Houston @ Denver, and New England @ Baltimore. So as you’re dealing with the stresses of your work week, think about how your week is going to end with some great football matchups. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Brian C. Smith