NFL 2011: 10 Things We Learned from Week 2
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Week 2 was pretty much as crazy as everyone expected. There were some surprising wins, some incredible comebacks and some gut wrenching injuries.
Meanwhile, the Patriots looked exactly as good on the field as they do on paper.
Week 3 looks to be just as exciting as the previous two weeks.
The Eagles Will Go as Far as Michael Vick Can Take Them
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The Eagles are easily a top 5 team on paper. They have what looks like an improving defense with a beastly defensive line and three of the best cornerbacks in the game. Their run game looks to be very good while utilizing LeSean McCoy. Their passing game is explosive—when Michael Vick is healthy.
Vick has looked good even if he does seem to be reverting to his Falcons run first pass second style. On Sunday night the worst thing that could happen to the Eagles did. Vick got banged up. To be more exact he got his head smashed in to Todd Herremans helmet and was spitting up blood. This is a really bad thing for the Eagles.
Mike Kafka seems like a pretty good starter but he is no Michael Vick. The Eagles have built their offense around Vick. If he can't stay healthy this team is no better than 9-7 and hoping for a wild card spot.
Cam Newton Is the Real Deal
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Yes, I know the Panthers are 0-2. Yes, I am also aware that Cam threw three picks against the Packers. But how many rookies have you seen throw for over 400 yards in each of their first two games?
Like him, love him or hate him, you can not deny that Newton is talented.
You will often hear draft and football analysts talk about the "it" factor that quarterbacks need to be successful—it's the intangibles that no one can quite describe.
Whatever it is, Cam Newton has it.
You can tell that the Panthers offense goes as he goes. The run game got shut down by the Packers and Newton did his best to put the Panthers on his back and win the game.
He seems to have the same fire and determination that he had at Auburn as he led them to their national championship. I'm not saying Cam Newton is a future MVP or even a top 5 quarterback, but he won't be a bust.
Christian Ponder Time Is Fast Approaching for the Vikings
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Whose always one of the most popular guys on a losing franchise?
The backup quarterback. Rookie backups are even more popular. Vikings fans will soon be screaming for Christian Ponder.
Donovan McNabb once again failed to impress. He put up 228 yards with no picks but also threw no touchdowns. The Vikings lead late in the game against the Buccaneers was largely due to Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart.
McNabb was never more than a stop gap solution until Ponder was ready but his lackluster performances are speeding up the process. The Christian Ponder era will begin very soon.
Ryan Fitzpatrick IS the Bills Quarterback of the Future
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People thought Chan Gailey was nuts for not drafting a quarterback in any of the seven rounds of the 2011 NFL draft. All along Gailey was confident that Fitzpatrick was his guy. I wouldn't go as far as to say that matching Gailey and Fitzpatrick is like Sean Payton and Drew Brees, but Gailey is looking smart after Week 2.
Fitzpatrick has a lot of guts and showed poise leading the Bills in a major comeback after a slow start. It helps that Fred Jackson ran for over a 100 yards but Fitzpatrick is the clear leader of this team.
I believe Fitzpatrick will only get better and the Bills likely will not be looking at drafting Landry Jones, Matt Barkley or Andrew Luck. Fitzpatrick is only 28 and there is no rush to replace him as he continues to improve.
The Chiefs Are in for a Very Long Season
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Chiefs fans cringed when they lost up and coming tight end Tony Moeaki for the year, cried a little when Eric Berry went on IR and probably started bawling when Jamaal Charles was lost for the season.
However, the Chiefs offense was stagnant before the loss of Charles and in the preseason when Moeaki was there.
The Chiefs lost three of the most talented young players in the league but good teams overcome adversity. The Chiefs have not and it might cost Todd Haley his job. The Chiefs have been blown out 41-7 against the Bills and 48-3 against the Lions. They are quickly becoming a hot candidate for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
There is still time for the Chiefs to get it together but this is embarrassing. Never has a division winner looked this horrible the next year. To make matters worse the Chiefs have to deal with the Chargers next week in San Diego. This is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
Jack Del Rio Is on a Very Hot Seat
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Jack Del Rio has a short leash right now. He's had a decade to make this team a consistent competitor and it hasn't happened. After Garrard got cut he chose to go with Luke McCown instead of Blaine Gabbert.
Luke McCown was a decent game manager in Week 1 but was shockingly bad in Week 2. He threw four picks and gave the defense nothing but a lot of time on the field and a short field to defend. Jacksonville didn't just get outperformed by the Jets, they were thoroughly out-coached.
Del Rio's best chance of keeping his job is inserting Blaine Gabbert into the starting job and hoping he shows enough promise that Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver will decide to keep him around to develop Gabbert.
The Colts Are Mailing It in
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Before the Peyton Manning neck injury saga Colts fans would've looked at the first two weeks of their schedule, laughed and said "2-0. Easy." Not so easy now. Despite claims from Colts owner Jim Irsay that the Colts will be competitive this year, it isn't going to happen.
The Colts don't seem to believe in themselves without Peyton Manning and Jim Caldwell is not inspirational or a fiery enough coach to get these guys motivated.
It also doesn't help that this team is built completely around Peyton Manning.
The threat of Manning's arm opens up running lanes. Manning's accuracy makes a mediocre receiving crew a very good one. Manning racks up the points and forces offenses to throw more. When offenses throw more, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis pin their ears back and absolutely destroy the passer. Oh, did I mention the Colts offensive line looks better than it is with Manning's quick release?
Kerry Collins can not lead this team the way Manning does. The Colts won't do better than 6-10 in this incredibly down year for them. They are already looking ahead to the return of Peyton Manning and the drafting of his successor.
The Detroit Lions Are a True Playoff Contender
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The Lions have been a playoff sleeper for a number of years but this looks like the year that they are really going to make things happen.
The defense is stellar mostly because of Ndamukong Suh. He is similar to "Mean" Joe Greene from the Steelers' Steel Curtain defense in that he brings a nastiness and high level of violence to that defense.
Many thought the potential for Matt Stafford was high if he could stay healthy and he has done nothing but prove everyone right. He threw for four touchdowns against the hapless Chiefs and was pulled out of the game at the end.
The Lions have lots of weapons on offense and playmakers on defense. How much better do they get when Nick Fairley is healthy and ready to contribute?
The sky is the limit for this team.
The Baltimore Ravens Are Not Consistent
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One week ago the Ravens were on top of the world. Their defense was dominant, their run game was stellar and their passing game was proficient. After this week, the sky is falling in Baltimore. This is an overstatement—but the Ravens had a serious letdown game after pulverizing the Steelers.
The Titans harassed Joe Flacco all day. The offensive line that looked like a solid wall last week looked like a jail break this weekend in Tennessee. Lee Evans continues to be a non factor and the defense let ancient Matt Hasselbeck pass all over them. Kenny Britt owned the Ravens secondary.
Despite beating up the Steelers in Week 1 they have to become more consistent week to week in order to take over as AFC North champions. This mostly relies on Joe Flacco staying consistent.
The New England Patriots Are Spectacular but They Have an Achilles Heel
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Is anyone going to be able to beat the Patriots this year?
Tom Brady seems to score every time he touches the ball. He has a ridiculous amount of targets in Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and to a lesser extent Chad Ochocinco. God help everyone if they start throwing to Dan Gronkowski too. Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis continue to be productive in the run game.
Now that I've fawned over the Patriots enough, let's point out one glaring deficiency.
That defense has some major holes. The Pats continue to have a problem generating a pass rush despite their shift from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 front. Vince Wilfork and his immense body and talent cover up a lot of blemishes.
The Pats were able to neutralize the incredibly gifted Antonio Gates by covering him all day with Patrick Chung. That part worked brilliantly but they let Vincent Jackson have a monster day. Despite all that, the Pats defense does seem to be good when it counts—against the Chargers and the Dolphins. What happens when they face extremely mobile quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger?
Regardless of this Achilles heel, Tom Terrific will keep them in every single game. It won't be surprising if the Pats still go 14-2 despite their defense.