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Which 2-0 Teams Are for Real?

Chris TrapassoAnalyst ISeptember 18, 2013

Which 2-0 Teams Are for Real?

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    Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson's Seattle Seahawks look to be the league's most well-rounded teams, but two games do not make a season in the NFL.

    Heading into Week 3, eight clubs have stormed out to a 2-0 start. 

    While a variety of things can change over the next two or three months, let's try to project which undefeated teams are contenders in it for the long haul, and which teams are pretenders destined to eventually fall by the wayside.

Chicago Bears

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    The Bears are 2-0 thanks to a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives by quarterback Jay Cutler

    While the offense has carried the team to its perfect start, the defense is back to its turnover-creating ways. Chicago has forced either a fumble or intercepted a pass on 26.3 percent of possessions it's faced, the highest percentage in the NFL, per Football Outsiders

    Matt Forte has averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, but the offensive line's pass-protection has been fantastic. Cutler's been sacked one time. 

    With Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, the Bears have a trio of large targets out wide to intimidate just about any secondary. 

    Chicago isn't a super-sexy, high-octane team, but it has a talented quarterback, an improved offensive line, a frightening receiving corps and a turnover-happy defense.  

    Verdict: For Real

New Orleans Saints

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    Drew Brees didn't have his finest game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2, but as elite quarterbacks do, he instantly put the past behind him and orchestrated a brilliant game-winning drive in the final minute.

    We knew what we'd get from Brees, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Co. with Sean Payton back on the sidelines. But we weren't sure how the epically bad defense of 2012 would rebound with Rob Ryan calling the shots.  

    Per Football Outsiders, the Saints have allowed the fifth-fewest points per drive and the 12th-fewest yards per drive, a far cry from last season's abomination.

    Much of that has been due to the emergence of Cameron Jordan, who leads all 3-4 defensive ends with 11 quarterback hurries through two games, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required)

    On the back end, New Orleans cornerback Patrick Robinson was carted off against the Buccaneers, and has now been placed on injured reserve.

    If the defense continues to play well, the Saints could be a 12-to-13-win team, with help from the Brees factor. 

    However, it won't be easy for such an injury-riddled unit to keep up its current pace.

    Verdict: Fool's Gold

Denver Broncos

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    The Broncos lost left tackle Ryan Clady for the year to a Lisfranc injury. Peyton Manning gets the ball out quickly and is a master at drifting in the pocket to avoid pressure, but Denver gave Clady a monster extension in July for a reason. 

    The sky isn't falling, though. 

    Manning's offense will still hum with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Eric Decker, especially if Knowshon Moreno runs like he did against the New York Giants. 

    Even without Von Miller and Champ Bailey, Denver's defense has been stingy, allowing the 14th-fewest yards per drive and 11th-fewest touchdowns per drive.

    Denver could experience some growing pains without Clady, but the team should be ironed out come November and December. 

    Two games against the Oakland Raiders and one against the Jacksonville Jaguars will help.

    Verdict: For Real

     

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Many are high on the Chiefs, and with good reason. 

    They dismantled the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars 28-2 in Week 1. Against the Dallas Cowboys in the home opener, they took the lead in the third quarter and held on to win 17-16. 

    Kansas City's defense has been one of the NFL's best, but its impressive numbers are skewed by the season opener against the offensively inept Jaguars. 

    Alex Smith hasn't made any mistakes through two games with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, he's completing only 60 percent of his passes at 5.66 yards per attempt, the 4th-lowest in football.  

    Also, Jamaal Charles is averaging only 4.1 yards per carry. 

    With Dontari Poe, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali up front and Derrick Johnson at the middle linebacker spot, the defense will keep the Chiefs in games, but the offense won't be able to match the better offenses in the league. 

    Two of three against the Denver Broncos coming off the Week 10 bye could determine the season. 

    Verdict: Fool's Gold

     

Seattle Seahawks

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    Russell Wilson completed only eight passes against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, but his defense absolutely harassed Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and Co. en route to a message-sending 29-3 victory. 

    Though Marshawn Lynch ran at only a 3.5 yards-per-carry clip on Sunday night, he accounted for three touchdowns. Backup Robert Turbin toted the rock six times for 31 yards. 

    Seattle doesn't boast a dynamic passing game, but Wilson is smart and can create big plays with his arm and legs.

    On defense, every opponent will struggle to run the football against the Seahawks, and when Brandon Browner returns, it will be nearly impossible to throw on their secondary. 

    It could get ugly against the Jacksonville Jaguars this week.

    Verdict: For Real

Miami Dolphins

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    Thus far, all the money the Dolphins spent in the offseason has paid off.

    They weren't overly impressive against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, but going into Indianapolis and beating the Colts was extremely impressive.

    Ryan Tannehill has completed more than 65 percent of his passes and is averaging an explosive 8.25 yards per attempt. 

    Mike Wallace shook off a one-catch performance in his Dolphins debut and was a game-changer against Chuck Pagano's club, catching nine passes for 115 yards with a score. 

    Tannehill's development is encouraging, even if the offensive line protecting him is subpar, but the most important reason why Miami is "for real" is due to its defensive stoutness. 

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Dolphins have created pressure on 52 of its opponent's 109 dropbacks to begin the year. Cameron Wake is a downright stud off the edge, and the duo of Randy Starks and Paul Soliai on the interior of the defensive line is as disruptive as any.

    If Brent Grimes continues to play like he has heading into Week 3, the Dolphins will contend in just about every game.  

    We'll get a sense of how good Miami is very soon with games against the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints next on the schedule.

    Verdict: For Real

New England Patriots

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    What's up with the Patriots? 

    Well, Tom Brady's been without his top five pass-catchers of a season ago, and we've witnessed vast struggles with timing on routes through two games. 

    Injuries to Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen certainly haven't helped either, as Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson don't appear to be fully ready to play a significant amount of snaps as starters. 

    On defense, the Patriots have been fine and are creating turnovers once again. They've forced a turnover on nearly 21 percent of their opponent's drives. 

    When Amendola and especially Rob Gronkowski return, New England will be solid again. Maybe not dominant, but still in the race. 

    Verdict: For Real

Houston Texans

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    The 2-0 Texans will cruise to another AFC South crown, right? 

    Not so fast. 

    While they've done enough to win in consecutive weeks and something is to be said about the ability to come back, Houston was outplayed for most of the combined eight quarters against the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans. 

    Even with Brian Cushing back, the defense hasn't been able to stop teams from putting points on the board despite being rather stingy from a yards-allowed perspective. 

    If the Texans can't figure out the most efficient way to split carries between Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the passing game may suffer as a result—although DeAndre Hopkins looks like the real deal as the complement to Andre Johnson

    Houston isn't a bad team by any stretch, but they won't run away with the division. 

    After what could be a stern test against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, the Texans then get the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in back-to-back weeks. 

    Verdict: Fool's Gold

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