Best Snap Judgments from NFL Insiders After Week 2
One of the many things that makes football so great is its aftermath: sitting around on Sunday or Monday and completely overreacting to what just happened. Those snap judgments take place in your local bar, in your fantasy league group chat and also in the NFL.
This week we dive in with NFL insiders giving their thoughts on the most overrated and underrated performances from Week 2. You might not agree with every take—I definitely didn't—but it's fascinating to get inside the minds of those running the teams to see how and why they think the way they do.
Let's get started.
The Jaguars "Are the Team to Beat in the AFC"
"Write this down: The Jaguars are the team to beat in the AFC." - NFC coordinator
This isn't a surprise given the way Jacksonville physically dominated the New England Patriots in their Week 2 matchup. With the offensive and defensive lines both almost unstoppable, the Jaguars have an edge over most opponents. Throw in one of the league's best cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and a Blake Bortles who just keeps getting better, and you have an entire team that's ready to be considered a true Super Bowl contender.
From the coaches to the front office to the players, the Jaguars are a very well-built machine. Doug Marrone trusts his assistants—offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is going to get head-coaching calls soon—and has trusted his front office to find players to replace departed or injured stars. A key point to this franchise is that guys like Keelen Cole can step in and become the go-to weapon at wide receiver when just over one year ago no one knew who he was.
As long as they can stay healthy, the Jaguars should plan on playing late into the postseason.
Josh Gordon "Won't Catch 20 Passes in New England"
"Josh Gordon won't catch 20 passes in New England." - An AFC player personnel executive when asked about Josh Gordon being traded to the New England Patriots
Gordon was selected in the 2012 supplemental draft. Since that time, he's shown plenty of flashes but has failed to stay on the field—playing in just 41 games due to substance abuse issues. Gordon has amassed 180 catches in his limited time on the field, but this player personnel exec is right to be hesitant to proclaim that Gordon is the next Randy Moss.
If—and we can't print that "if" big enough to correctly emphasize it—Gordon is able to stay on track and work to learn the Patriots offense, he can be a dangerous player. Bill Belichick might see him as a deep threat with the skills to simply line up and keep defenses honest. It will be interesting to see what Belichick's plan is, but for now, Patriots fans can be cautiously optimistic.
Deshaun Watson "Got Anointed Too Soon"
"All summer we heard how great Watson was going to be. Well, he got anointed way too soon." - AFC pro scout
Deshaun Watson entered the Houston Texans lineup at halftime of Week 1 as a rookie last season and had the entire league excited before tearing his ACL after seven games. Before injury he had posted 19 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, but the Texans had a 3-3 record during that time. That didn't stop the hype for Watson this summer.
In just two games this year, Watson has looked timid. He's missing throws, hesitating to run and turning the ball over (two interceptions to three touchdowns). It could be that Watson is still shaking off the rust—physical and mental—from his second ACL injury, or it could be a disaster of an offensive line in front of him, but something is wrong.
This scout thinks maybe Watson was just anointed as great too soon, but conversely, it's also too soon to write him off. In a microwave society we want answers right away, but when evaluating quarterbacks, the only real answer is time.
Patrick Mahomes Is "Your MVP"
"If you guys voted right now, Patrick Mahomes is your MVP." - AFC defensive coordinator
Patrick Mahomes has been unstoppable. Even if there was a lot of hype surrounding him this summer, he's outperformed even the highest of expectations while carving up defenses to the tune of 10 touchdowns (the best in the league) and no interceptions.
What's most impressive is that Mahomes isn't just locking on to Tyreek Hill and throwing go routes. He's working the ball to Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. He's getting De'Anthony Thomas involved. Even fullback Anthony Sherman is getting touches.
The Chiefs offense is the closest thing to the old-school St. Louis Rams' "greatest show on turf" that this league has seen since Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk were outgunning teams. Mahomes, in just two starts, already has the entire league talking.
Kenny Golladay Is "A Future Star with WR1 Potential"
"Kenny Golladay. In that offense and with his tools, he's a future star with WR1 potential." - NFC pro scout when asked for an underrated NFL player
It's only two weeks into the 2018 season, but Kenny Golladay is already showing the tools to be a special talent. He's posting the stats, too, that show he deserves more attention, with 13 catches for over 200 yards and one score for the struggling Lions.
As the offense evolves—and hopefully the defense catches up to them—Golladay could be a Michael Thomas-like physical talent on short and intermediate routes. Look for him to become an even bigger part of the offense in his second season once the run game and offensive line in Detroit get rolling.
"The Bengals Are Legit"
"I don't know if they'll win the division, but the Bengals are legit." - AFC defensive coach
A 2-0 start, with wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, has shown that the Bengals have both the offensive firepower and defensive playmaking to win ballgames. Oddly enough, in both wins, the Bengals have scored 34 points and held opponents to 23. If nothing else, they're consistent.
What we're seeing early this year is that Andy Dalton has weapons and the offensive line is playing better. A.J. Green has been going off—his first three catches went for three touchdowns in Week 1—and second-year running back Joe Mixon looks like a true bell-cow back when healthy. He's currently recovering from knee surgery and should return in 2-4 weeks, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The defense is also a little faster and nastier with more pressure being applied from Michael Johnson, Geno Atkins and the defensive line.
The schedule looks tough on paper, but with the Steelers struggling defensively and the Browns still winless, the Bengals just might be the favorites in the North.
"Don't Trust the Broncos"
"The [Kansas City] Chiefs look great, but don't trust the Broncos. They're not as good as their record." - AFC head coach
The Denver Broncos are off to a surprising 2-0 start thanks to a very good defense and some luck in the second half of games against the folding Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders. Two games in, they're tied with the Chiefs for first in the AFC West and have a key divisional win over the Raiders. But proceed with caution, says a rival coach.
The Broncos will get a test soon—the schedule features Baltimore, Kansas City, the New York Jets and then the Los Angeles Rams in the next four weeks. We will know by the end of that stretch whether the Broncos can be trusted.
The Giants OL "Is the Worst in the League"
"There are a lot of bad offensive lines, but the Giants' OL is the worst in the league." - NFC defensive coach
Through two games, the New York line has allowed eight sacks and 14 hits, per NFL.com, on veteran quarterback Eli Manning. The addition of running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft was an effort to take pressure off Manning. With the offensive line struggling, that hasn't happened. Manning is incredibly uncomfortable on nearly every drop back.
Consequently, they are 0-2.
The signing of Nate Solder and use of a second-round pick on guard Will Hernandez hasn't resulted—yet—in an improvement on the line. That might come as they have more time to jell, but currently there is a major problem across the front five.
Darius Leonard "Is Defensive Rookie of the Year"
"Have you seen Darius Leonard yet? He's my Defensive Rookie of the Year right now" - AFC director of scouting
Darius Leonard has been going off. Sure, stats aren't the end-all in analysis, but his 27 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble in two games are notable—especially when many postseason awards and honors are handed out based on stats.
Leonard, a second-round pick by the Colts, has been the type of fast, athletic presence the defense needed so desperately. Against the Washington Redskins, he was a leading force for the defense, posting 18 tackles and showing an ability to stop the run or play in coverage. He also had a forced fumble and a sack in that game, which led this scout to declare him an early favorite for postseason hardware.
"Put the Buffalo Bills on the Clock"
From an AFC team executive: "Put the Buffalo Bills on the clock."
He means for the NFL draft—which insinuates the Bills would be the NFL's worst team and selecting first overall. After two weeks of games, it's hard to disagree. And now, with rookie quarterback Josh Allen starting behind a hapless offensive line and with no threats in the passing game, the Bills' chances for a win anytime soon look bleak.
It's not just the offense, either. The Bills made a surprise playoff run last season thanks to a stout defense. But this year the Bills have surrendered a league-worst 78 points, tying with the Detroit Lions.
Making the playoffs last season may have raised expectations too high for 2018. With Tyrod Taylor in Cleveland, the offensive line hit by retirements and the defense now falling apart, the Bills just might be leading the Nick Bosa sweepstakes.