Despite being only two weeks into the season, there have been quite a few surprises. These surprises include player injuries, upsets, personnel changes, and much more. But it’s never too early to start trying to figure out who the pretenders and contenders are in the NFL. Let’s take a look at the current 2-0 teams and dissect whether or not they are for real.
Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins are an interesting team to follow. They have opened up with both games on the road. In week one, they beat the Bills 15-10. For such a weak Bills defense, we expected more from Chad Henne and the Miami offense. 15 points? That’s frustrating when you have Brandon Marshall, Ricky Williams, and Ronnie Brown starting against the Bills. The Dolphins were an underdog to the Vikings who are coming off of an NFC Championship game appearance with Brett Favre, and ended up surprising the Vikings 14-10. The Vikings defense is no slouch, so 14 points is reasonable against a team that can shut down the run like the Vikings. The Miami Dolphins 3-4 defense has looked solid thus far, and is the biggest reason for the two opening victories, but I don’t think they can do it all season. They have 6 sacks in two games, but they really blew it against Adrian Peterson. I know he’s one of the best running back’s in the league, but you can’t expect to keep winning games by giving up rushing yards like that. The lack of offense for Miami is disappointing, and if they don’t start scoring more points, they will start losing games. Right now, I don’t think Miami is anything special. Verdict- Pretender
Pittsburgh Steelers- How about Pittsburgh rolling onto a 2-0 start without Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh opened up against a tough Atlanta team, and escaped with an overtime victory thanks to a late Rashard Mendenhall touchdown after a defensive stop. In week two, Pittsburgh traveled to Tennessee to face the best running back in the league in Chris Johnson, and a pretty solid defense. What happened? They held Chris Johnson to 34 yards on 16 rushes. How impressive is that? The fact of the matter is that despite an inconsistent offense, Pittsburgh is finding a way to win games, thanks to the defense. There’s no question that their defense will remain a top defense in the NFL, and with Big Ben coming back in week five, the Steelers should continue to roll. He may not be in the best game shape, but if Dennis Dixon/Charlie Batch can win, then it shouldn’t take him very long to start making plays. With Big Ben on the way back, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallce, and Hines Ward, the offense will start scoring more points, and the defense will remain tough. Verdict- Contender
Houston Texans- What a story the Texans are. They are still looking for their first playoff birth as a franchise, and are on the rise…. Offensively. The Texans are the exact opposite of how the Dolphins are playing right now. They are winning games with no defense, and all offense. They put up 34 points on the Indianapolis Colts, and another 30 on the Washington Redskins. They are getting it done in the air with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, as well as on the ground with 2nd year running back Arian Foster. But what’s going to hurt the Texans going forward is the secondary. Right now, the Texans are the worst passing defense in the league. They’ve given up over 800 yards in the air and four touchdowns. They have yet to intercept a pass. Granted they were going up against legendary Peyton Manning and veteran Donovan McNabb, they still have to fix that pass defense. With the Texans, it all starts up front with guys like Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye, and I believe they’ll start getting more pressure on the quarterback and stop giving up those yards. The Texans won’t be a Super Bowl contender, but they will finish no worse than 2nd in the AFC South, despite the Colts and Titans being in the same division. Verdict- Contender
Kansas City Chiefs- Kansas City opened the season on Monday Night Football against the talented San Diego Chargers. What a surprise as they pulled out the victory thanks to special teams and defense. Jamaal Charles had a nice game as well. However, their week two opponent was the lowly Browns who were just a field goal away from giving KC their first loss. Despite an improved defense, I’m not sold on Kansas City, and for 63 million reasons: Matt Cassel. Cassel is completing just 52% of his passes, and averaging barely 4.6 yards per attempt. He’s turned the ball over twice and has one touchdown on a rollout pass to rookie tight end Tony Moeaki. The biggest mystery is why the Chiefs are going away from explosive running back Jamaal Charles? They’ve been handing the ball off to Thomas Jones, and I can guarantee that opposing defenses would rather try and wrap him up. The Chiefs defense has stepped up quite a bit, but they are young, and will make a lot of mistakes. In a competitive AFC West, I don’t see them winning more than six games. Verdict- Pretender
Chicago Bears- After a disappointing 2009, the Bears have came out firing on all cylinders. Jay Cutler only has one turnover, and has five touchdowns to his name in his first two games against the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. What should be known, however, is that the Bears are one Calvin Johnson error from being 1-1. We all know about the Calvin Johnson “Catch” that was very controversial to end the week one matchup. However, a win is a win. Matt Forte has been more effective as a pass catcher for the Bears, amassing 188 yards receiving in two games. If the Bears want to keep winning, he’s going to have to step up in the running game. Cutler has a lot of “project” receivers right now, and I think that’s going to keep him from being consistent each week. The Bears feature Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Devin Aromashodu, and Earl Bennett as their top wide receivers, as well as a solid tight end in Greg Olsen. They all have a lot of talent, but are inexperienced. The bigger question mark is the defense. They are doing very well against the run as of this moment, but they have been suspect in the passing game. Even before Stafford went down with an injury, he was 11-15 for 88 yards. Tony Romo threw for 371 yards in the week two loss to the Bears. If the Bears want to win, Jay Cutler has to be on his A game, Forte needs to be able to rush the ball, and the Bears have to stop the pass. I’m not sure all of that will come together this season. Verdict- Pretender
Green Bay Packers- The Packers got to open up with a tough Philadelphia Eagles team, on the road. In the first half, they just dominated, forcing Kolb out of the game with a concussion. In the 2nd half, they struggled adjusting to the speed of Michael Vick as he started a comeback. The Packers ended up finishing the close game with a win, but it wasn’t easy. In week two, the Packers had Buffalo scheduled and obliterated them. They held the weak Bills to just 7 points and scored 34 on them. They did that without their stud halfback Ryan Grant who is done for the season. Losing Ryan Grant is going to hurt, big time, but if they can just run the ball effectively enough with John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson, Aaron Rodgers can do the rest. The Packers’ offense is about as prolific as they come, and they should be fine. A tough defense will only help their chances. There’s no reason for them not to win the NFC North. Verdict- Contender
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