NFL Week 2: The 15 Biggest Winners and Losers
Last week, with only one game in the books, nothing could be said with any certainty about any team in the NFL. One game is never enough to know anything for sure. Now, however, we've got two weeks down, and as the saying goes, once is luck, twice is a pattern and three times is a trend.
Some clear patterns appeared this weekend, and there were some pretty clear winners and losers from Sunday's games, including one big-name quarterback who has proved me wrong so far in 2011.
Who do I mean? Keep reading to find out.
Matthew Stafford: Winner
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Matt Stafford had a good year in 2010, but I wanted to see a little bit more out of the guy before I gave him a formal endorsement. The 48 points the Lions scored on Sunday was more than I needed.
It doesn't matter that his receivers always seem to make circus catches rather than easy ones. Stafford is really lighting up the scoreboard this season, and I'm on board.
The Lions as a whole really deserve a lot of credit for their performance this week, but it's always our tendency as sports fans to give a lot of the credit/blame to the quarterback. That's what I'm doing here.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Winner
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Ryan Fitzpatrick has turned himself from a decent starter in 2010 into an absolute stud in the first two weeks of the 2011 season.
Many expected the Bills to draft a quarterback and start over in 2011, but Fitzpatrick was given the keys to the team, and how did he respond?
He dropped over 40 points against the Chiefs in Week 1 and then led not one, not two, but three fourth-quarter touchdown drives, each to retake the lead, against the Raiders. The final one came in the two-minute drill. Fitzpatrick stared down a blitz and fired a pass into the end zone on 4th-and-1 with only 14 seconds remaining to win the game.
Fitzpatrick played like a total stud, and the Bills came away with a 2-0 record despite the defense giving up the lead twice in the fourth quarter.
That brings me to my next point...
Buffalo Bills Defense: Loser
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The Raiders' injury list this week looked pretty much like an offensive depth chart. Their three top receivers—Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and Jacoby Ford—were all out of the lineup, but the Bills secondary still allowed 323 passing yards.
Yup, the Bills allowed more than 300 yards to a team that not only has bad receivers, but whose bad receivers didn't even play. That is a sad, sad showing from the Bills.
The team lost potentially its two best defensive players (and over 260 tackles) in the form of Paul Posluszny and Donte Whitner this offseason, and it showed. The Bills defense is extremely lucky that Fitzpatrick bailed it out.
Jack Del Rio: Loser
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It's easy to second-guess a coach like the Jaguars' Jack Del Rio. He's the third-longest-tenured coach in the NFL but is easily on the hottest seat after cutting David Garrard for Luke McCown.
The move shocked even diehard fans, and McCown has done nothing to prove that he was the right man for the job. He did a fine job of handing the ball off to Maurice Jones-Drew against the Titans in Week 1 but came back and threw four ugly interceptions against the Jets before getting benched.
McCown clearly doesn't have the arm an NFL quarterback needs, yet he was somehow deemed a better option for the Jaguars than the quarterback who led a less talented team in 2010 to an 8-8 record. Decisions like that can get a coach fired...quickly.
Jamaal Charles: Loser
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Unless you've been living under a football rock, you've probably heard the news: Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs' star running back, is out for the season. The knee injury that forced him out of the Lions-Chiefs game is thought to be an ACL tear.
Per Adam Schefter on Twitter, "Jamaal Charles will undergo an MRI on Monday to confirm his torn ACL, but the initial diagnosis doesn't look good."
Not what Chief fans want to hear.
Something else Chief fans won't want to hear: There's plenty more bad news where that came from.
Chiefs Defense: Big Loser
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How do you win your division with Matt Cassel as your starting quarterback? You play good defense. After allowing more than 40 points in both of their games so far, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the Chiefs won't be winning many games this year.
Seriously, though, what happened? Tamba Hali was a sack machine last year, and Glenn Dorsey played better than he had at any time in his career. It doesn't help that Eric Berry is injured along with a few other players, but they've allowed 89 points in two games. Two games!
If their defense continues to play like it has so far, they might be in the running for Andrew Luck come next April.
Matt Cassel: Loser
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Are you sensing a trend here? The Chiefs are, for all intents and purposes, screwed. (That's the technical term, of course.)
It's one thing if your quarterback is Matt Cassel when you have a star running back and a strong defense. When you have no star running back and a defense that is giving up 44 points per game, you end up with a stat line like Cassel had this afternoon.
Cassel threw for a thoroughly unimpressive 133 yards with three interceptions. These are not good numbers; they are bad numbers, and at this point, things only get harder for the Chiefs quarterback.
See the hug Cassel is getting from Matt Stafford above? Cassel will be needing plenty more of those as the season rolls on.
Cam Newton: Winner (Sort Of)
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When the Panthers drafted Cam Newton No. 1 overall, I was more than skeptical. I thought the Panthers had made a bad choice and was not shy about it. Cam Newton has not been shy about making me eat my words either.
Newton is the first quarterback to start his career with two straight 400-yard games and only the sixth player to accomplish that feat in NFL history. Without Newton, the Panthers would still be light years away from their first win of 2011. With Newton, they're 0-2. Wait...
I can't fully call Newton a winner, because his efforts have come in losses that were not as close as they seemed in both cases. Still, it's hard to dispute that Newton has done an excellent job of establishing himself as the right man for the No. 1 overall pick.
I tip my hat to you, sir.
Ben Roethlisberger: Winner
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The Steelers were possibly the biggest losers of Week 1 after their horrific offensive performance. The Ben Roethlisberger-led team turned the ball over seven times last week but rebounded with a 24-0 shutout of the Seattle Seahawks.
It's not that the win was much of a surprise; it's more that a lot of people needed to see proof that the magic hadn't dried up for last year's Super Bowl runner-up.
Big Ben threw for just under 300 yards and one TD to prove that last week was nothing more than a fluke. That's a big win for the Steelers.
Rex Grossman/Tim Hightower: Winner
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If I told you that Rex Grossman and Tim Hightower would lead the Washington Redskins to a 2-0 start in 2011, I'm sure many of you would not have believed me. Heck, I know I wouldn't have believed it. Yet here we are.
Grossman threw for 291 yards with two TDs and two interceptions Sunday, and Hightower rushed for 90 yards as the team's starting running back. The Redskins offense put up 455 yards on the depleted Cardinals defense and has had a strong start this year.
Grossman and Hightower were both considered busts and rejects by their original teams. Grossman has done well for himself, and Hightower got the chance to show his former team why it should not have traded him in the offseason.
Vincent Jackson: Winner
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The Chargers may not have beaten the Patriots Sunday afternoon, but Vincent Jackson was definitely a big winner from the game.
After a long holdout last year, Jackson has proved his value early and often in 2011. Against the smaller Patriots secondary, Jackson caught 10 passes for 172 yards and two touchdown grabs.
There is no question that Jackson was a strong target for quarterback Philip Rivers and looked like the star receiver he claimed to be last year on a big stage.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Indianapolis Colts: Losers
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Fans in the AFC South have long hated the Colts' dominance. The most common gripe was, "Without Peyton Manning, the Colts would be nothing." Of course, since Manning had yet to miss a single game before the 2011 season, there had never been a chance to test that theory.
Now that Manning is out, it's become pretty clear that the Colts are nothing without him. They lost yesterday to the Browns. That would be unheard of in most years. This year, it was expected.
It's a shame the Colts didn't do a better job of filling their roster with talented players instead of paying a king's ransom for Peyton Manning and first-round skill players Joseph Addai (who isn't very talented), Anthony Gonzalez (who's constantly injured) and Donald Brown, who couldn't even win the running back job from Addai after being drafted in the first round. If they had spent those picks on defense, the team might not be in the situation it is in now.
All of the Colts' past mistakes are coming back to haunt the team now, and they could easily wind up winless well into the season.
New England Patriots Defense: Winner
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The Patriots were not the most dominant defense this week, but they played well in their win over the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers' high-powered offense moved the ball well, as was expected of Philip Rivers' team, but the Patriots kept the Chargers off the scoreboard. The Chargers crossed the 50 in every one of their first-half drives and came away with only seven points.
More importantly, the Patriots defense forced four turnovers.
If you have Tom Brady on offense, you don't have to play spectacular defense. All you have to do is play "bend but not break," and the Pats did better than that—they got Brady the ball back four times.
Falcons Fans: Winners
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Michael Vick's arrest and subsequent disappearance from Atlanta really hurt the city a lot when it happened. There are actually factions among Atlanta fans, and while some support Vick because of what he did for the city, others hate him to the extreme.
For the slighted Falcons fans who saw their new franchise quarterback win a hard-fought game against Vick's new team, revenge is sweet.
The Eagles were seen in the media as the best team in the NFC for most of the offseason. The Falcons and their fans must feel great after beating the Eagles on national TV.
Eagles Fans: Losers
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How's it feel, bandwagon Eagles fans? I bet it's getting pretty toasty after the Falcons turned up the flames with their win Sunday.
Vick went out with an injury in the third quarter and was diagnosed with a slight concussion. It's probably the type of thing a player would have played through even a few years ago, but it could keep Vick out for the next week or two.
It always hurts to lose a game you should have won, and Eagle fans probably felt like the game was in the bag when they were up 31-21 in the fourth quarter. Tough luck, Eagle fans; you can't win 'em all.