Each NFL Team's Biggest Sign of Hope for 2019 Entering Week 3

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2019

Each NFL Team's Biggest Sign of Hope for 2019 Entering Week 3

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    While every NFL team starts the regular season undefeated and with dreams of reaching the postseason, that time has passed. Ten franchises are winless after Week 2, and some have bigger reasons to worry than their records.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, have lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season after he suffered an injury to his right elbow. The New Orleans Saints will be without Drew Brees for a significant amount of time due to a torn ligament in his throwing thumb. The Cleveland Browns' heavily hyped offense has yet to find any semblance of rhythm.

    However, all is not lost for even the most troubled teams.

    No one has been eliminated from the playoffs yet, and each still has time to turn things around. Here, we'll examine their biggest reasons for hope in 2019, no matter how their first two weeks unfolded.

        

Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray

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    Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
    Cardinals QB Kyler MurrayPatrick Smith/Getty Images

    The Arizona Cardinals have yet to win a game—they do have a tie—but they knew rookie quarterback Kyler Murray's development would be a process.

    "It's his second game as an NFL player, so I think he's still figuring out what he can and can't get away with," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, per Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic. "That's going to be a year-long process as he figures out NFL defenses and the timing and things of that nature."

    Once Murray has adapted to the NFL, watch out. He's already proved himself a dangerous passer, throwing for 657 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

    Murray is playing well enough for the Cardinals to win games. Before long, he should actually win games for the Cardinals.

    That alone should have Arizona excited about what the rest of 2019 has in store.

Atlanta Falcons: The Defense

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    Falcons LB Deion Jones
    Falcons LB Deion JonesBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Things have been a little hit or miss offensively for the Atlanta Falcons so far this season. Quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown for 624 yards and five touchdowns. He's also thrown five picks. Ito Smith has averaged 6.3 yards per carry. As a team, the Falcons have only averaged 3.8.

    If Atlanta can find a little more consistency on offense, it's going to be a contender.

    Why? The defense, now healthy, has been excellent. Through two games, the Falcons have allowed just 555 total yards, 334 yards passing and 3.7 yards per carry on the ground.

    Everyone knows the Falcons have talent on offense. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are still there, after all. With the defense playing at a high level, Atlanta can be one of the league's most complete teams down the stretch.

Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson may be the league's most unstoppable offensive force in 2019. He certainly has been over the first two weeks of the season.

    The Baltimore Ravens signal-caller shined as a passer in Week 1. He threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. In Week 2, he was lethal with his legs, rushing for 120 yards on 16 carries while also throwing for 272 yards and two more scores.

    Jackson is progressing as an NFL passer, and that makes both him and the Ravens dangerous. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman can change the game plan on the fly, and Jackson will be able to execute.

    That should give Baltimore confidence it can beat any defense and defeat any team in any given week.

Buffalo Bills: The Maturation of Josh Allen

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    Bills QB Josh Allen
    Bills QB Josh AllenBill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The physical talent of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has never been in question. However, he came into the NFL as a raw prospect with accuracy and pocket-presence issues.

    So far in 2019, Allen has played like a much more polished passer.

    Is he perfect? No. He still makes mistakes and is prone to turnovers with four in two games. However, he's shown better touch with the ball and better decision-making.

    "He's understanding the game a little better within the game, and what he can and can't do," head coach Sean McDermott said, per John Wawrow of the Associated Press. "I think that in and of itself is a step."

    Overall, Allen has been a much better quarterback in 2019. He has 507 yards passing, 59 yards rushing and a quarterback rating of 84.6—up from 67.9 his rookie year. It's still a process, but Allen is growing. So are the undefeated Bills.

Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey

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    Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
    Panthers RB Christian McCaffreyBrian Blanco/Associated Press

    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has aggravated the foot injury he suffered during the preseason, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. There's a chance the Panthers, like several other teams, will be relying on their backup signal-caller in Week 3—and possibly longer.

    However, Carolina still has a chance to climb out of its 0-2 hole. Backup quarterback Kyle Allen has delivered a win before. More importantly, Carolina still has offensive centerpiece Christian McCaffrey.

    As long as McCaffrey remains healthy, the Panthers offense will be formidable. He didn't produce nearly 2,000 total yards by accident last season. Yes, teams will find ways to contain him, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in Week 2, but McCaffrey is still a player for whom opponents have to game-plan.

    With winnable games against the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans upcoming, Carolina can get back on track even without Newton.

Chicago Bears: The Defense

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    Bears LB Khalil Mack
    Bears LB Khalil MackDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    It took an ugly win over the Denver Broncos last week for the Chicago Bears to avoid an 0-2 start. Offensively, they have major issues—many of them at quarterback, where Mitchell Trubisky has been questionable at best.

    The Bears should still be confident in their ability to push back to the postseason because of their defense. So far, it's allowing an average of just 292.5 yards and 12.0 points per game. Chicago doesn't need to get a lot of production out of the offense to put together wins.

    Head coach Matt Nagy does need to get Trubisky and the offense back on track, of course. For now, though, Chicago should be able to lean on its defense and pick up some ugly wins along the way.

Cincinnati Bengals: Zac Taylor

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    Bengals head coach Zac Taylor
    Bengals head coach Zac TaylorGary Landers/Associated Press

    Is Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor the next Sean McVay? Probably not, but he has injected some new life into the Cincinnati offense.

    Growing pains were evident during the 41-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2. However, the offense as a whole has been more explosive and innovative than most of what the Bengals displayed under former head coach Marvin Lewis.

    Quarterback Andy Dalton has already passed for 729 yards and four touchdowns with one pick. One-time draft bust John Ross has finally arrived as an NFL receiver with 270 yards and three scores.

    If Cincinnati can get the running game on track—it's averaged just 1.8 yards per carry—and can get star wide receiver A.J. Green back in the lineup, it should be able to match points with just about any team in the league.

Cleveland Browns: The Mistakes Are Correctable

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    Browns QB Baker Mayfield
    Browns QB Baker MayfieldAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    The Browns are 1-1 on the season, and they've played a sloppy brand of football through two weeks. They had 18 penalties in Week 1 and another nine in Week 2. Second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield has tossed four interceptions, and the offensive line remains a big question mark.

    The good news is that most of Cleveland's issues are correctable. The offensive line isn't suddenly going to become a collection of All-Pros, but the rest of the mistakes can be fixed.

    For one, Cleveland can cut back on penalties, especially avoidable personal fouls; Myles Garrett had two more Monday night. Mayfield can stop forcing balls downfield, and the offense is going to jell at some point.

    It's easy to forget many offensive starters never saw the field together during the preseason.

    First-time head coach Freddie Kitchens should also improve as he gains experience. His play-calling hasn't been as fun or as fluid as it was in the second half of 2018, but that can change as players develop chemistry. Kitchens can also cut back on the unfortunate decisions like having Mayfield pass late in the fourth quarter with a 20-point lead.

    It's not a question of talent for Cleveland, which is why there's still plenty of hope for 2019.

Dallas Cowboys: Kellen Moore

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    Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore
    Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen MooreRon Jenkins/Associated Press

    Two seasons ago, Kellen Moore was a quarterback on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. Now, he's the Dallas offensive coordinator and among the biggest reasons the Cowboys can be title contenders in 2019.

    Dallas' offense is no longer a basic, run-oriented attack that stalls when opponents are able to contain Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is still a centerpiece, but Moore's offense is open, exciting and tough to defend.

    His scheme has been particularly beneficial for quarterback Dak Prescott. No longer a game-manager, Prescott has carved up the opposition to the tune of 674 yards passing, seven touchdowns, one interception and 81 yards rushing.

    Dallas has the second-best offense in the league right now, averaging 484 yards per game. Limiting Elliott will no longer be enough to stop the Cowboys.

Denver Broncos: Von Miller and Bradley Chubb

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    Broncos LB Von Miller
    Broncos LB Von MillerJack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos may have the league's best pass-rushing duo in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. So far, though, the pair has not produced a single sack. 

    That's actually a reason for hope. Denver's defense has been solid even without recording any sack numbers.

    Through two games, the Broncos rank 10th in total defense, allowing just 315 yards per contest. Once Miller and Chubb get going—and opponents are not going to stonewall them every week—the defense should be a playoff-caliber unit.

    Denver's defense was already good enough to get a win in Week 2. If not for a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Chubb that led to a late Chicago Bears field goal, it would have been.

Detroit Lions: Offensive Firepower

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    Lions WR Kenny Golladay
    Lions WR Kenny GolladayDuane Burleson/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions remain undefeated, thanks, in large part, to a defense that ranks 11th in scoring, allowing 18.5 points per game. Defense is the calling card of head coach Matt Patricia, so good performances on that side of the ball should be expected.

    What should have Detroit excited is the number of productive and healthy weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Matthew Stafford is still pulling the trigger, but he now has a cast of high-level targets that includes Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockenson.

    Jones is the only one of the aforementioned four who hasn't reached 100 yards receiving yet this season. He has 99.

    With a capable backfield workhorse in Kerryon Johnson, the Lions have the weapons needed to challenge even the stingiest defenses in 2019.

Green Bay Packers: Mike Pettine

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    Packers deensive coordinator Mike Pettine
    Packers deensive coordinator Mike PettineMike Roemer/Associated Press

    The story of the Green Bay Packers' season has been the defense. It's the biggest reason they remain undefeated after two weeks.

    So far, Green Bay has allowed just 675 yards of total offense. More importantly, it has allowed an average of 9.5 points per game, second-fewest in the NFL.

    The acquisitions of defensive players such as Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Darnell Savage certainly have a lot to do with the turnaround. So does the play-calling of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

    Pettine is in his second year as the Packers defensive coordinator, and this is his first under new head coach Matt LaFleur. He has the know-how—and now the players—needed to keep virtually every contest close.

    The Packers know Aaron Rodgers can produce enough offensive magic to win close games. Thanks to Pettine, the quarterback will have many opportunities to do just that in 2019.

Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson

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    Texans QB Deshaun Watson
    Texans QB Deshaun WatsonDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is capable of making a little on-field magic of his own. The dual-threat signal-caller has already amassed 427 yards passing, 45 yards rushing and five total touchdowns.

    So long as he remains healthy, the Texans will have a chance to win every single week.

    Of course, keeping Watson healthy has to be a concern. The Clemson product was sacked 62 times last season and has already been taken down 10 times in 2019. Head coach Bill O'Brien has to devise a better plan for keeping his quarterback upright.

    Leaning on new running backs Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr. whenever possible would be a good start. However, Watson is the one who makes the offense—and this team—run.

Indianapolis Colts: Frank Reich

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    Colts head coach Frank Reich
    Colts head coach Frank ReichJames Kenney/Associated Press

    The Indianapolis Colts lost star quarterback Andrew Luck to retirement during the preseason. That put a damper on their 2019 season, but it doesn't mean they can't still be a playoff team. The defense is aggressive, Indianapolis believes in new quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and head coach Frank Reich is still masterminding the offense.

    Through two weeks, Indianapolis ranks 14th in scoring, averaging 21.5 points per game. Marlon Mack has been tremendous at running back—he's racked up 225 yards and 5.0 yards per carry—and Brissett has been steady, if unspectacular, under center.

    Though Brissett has only passed for 336 yards, he's completed 69.1 percent of his attempts and has thrown five touchdowns with just one interception.

    With Reich putting the game plans together, the Colts offense will be competitive every time it takes the field.

Jacksonville Jaguars: DJ Chark Jr.

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    Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr.
    Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr.John Capella/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    The Jacksonville Jaguars have a few reasons to be down on the early part of 2019. Starting quarterback Nick Foles is on injured reserve with a broken clavicle, and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey has now requested a trade.

    One bright spot has been the emergence of second-year wideout DJ Chark Jr., who has racked up 11 receptions, 201 yards and two touchdowns so far this season. Chark is one of the biggest reasons to believe Jacksonville will be able to survive with rookie backup Gardner Minshew II under center.

    Minshew has been serviceable since he took over for Foles. He's gone 45-of-58 for 488 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. He may not provide the steady veteran presence Foles would, but Jacksonville can win with Minshew.

    Chark is a big reason why.

Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes

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    Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
    Chiefs QB Patrick MahomesThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the embodiment of a modern NFL quarterback. Smart, accurate, mobile and confident, he makes plays other quarterbacks wouldn't even think of attempting.

    Mahomes is also the reason the Chiefs will be able to overcome most adversity they may face in 2019. Just consider the fact they lost No. 1 receiver Tyreek Hill to a shoulder injury early in Week 1. They simply made Sammy Watkins the new No. 1 and kept rolling.

    Why? Because Mahomes is that talented.

    Through two weeks, the second-year starter has already racked up 821 yards passing with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's completed 71.4 percent of his passes and has hit 11 different receivers.

    With a questionable backfield and an inconsistent defense, the Chiefs will go as far as Mahomes can take them. That's probably going to be quite far.

Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson

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    Chargers RB Austin Ekeler
    Chargers RB Austin EkelerDuane Burleson/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers were one of the league's most complete teams a season ago. They remain one of the most talented squads from top to bottom, though there was some concern heading into 2019.

    Star running back Melvin Gordon III wants a new contract and decided to hold out into the regular season. That left L.A. with a fair amount of uncertainty at the position, though that uncertainty has since been erased.

    Through two weeks, running backs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson have shown they're more than capable of carrying the load. Ekeler has 124 yards rushing, 163 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Jackson has added 116 yards on the ground and two catches for nine yards.

    Combined, the two are responsible for 412 yards of offense. That's more than the Miami Dolphins (384) have produced as a team.

    The Chargers are going to be fine at running back, and they should be just as dangerous as they were a year ago.

Los Angeles Rams: Run Defense

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    Rams LB Cory Littleton
    Rams LB Cory LittletonJohn Cordes/Associated Press

    Last season, run defense was one of the Los Angeles Rams' few weaknesses. They ranked just 23rd against the run, allowing 122.3 yards per game on the ground. They also played last in the NFL by allowing 5.1 yards per carry.

    This year, the run defense is drastically improved, and it should help the Rams be a more complete team. Opponents are averaging just 4.3 yards per carry, and the defense has allowed only 92 yards per game, ninth-fewest in the NFL.

    It's not like the Rams have faced middle-tier running backs so far, either. They've already faced off against Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara, two of the most elusive runners in the game.

    Turning a weakness into a strength is an encouraging sign for a team that already made it to the Super Bowl last season.

Miami Dolphins: The Process

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    Dolphins GM Chris Grier
    Dolphins GM Chris GrierLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Let's be honest here. The Miami Dolphins are not trying to win games in 2019. They're tanking for a high pick in the 2020 draft, presumably to land a quarterback. In that respect, everything is going according to plan.

    Miami is not a competitive team. It's lost two games by the combined score of 102-10. There will be more painful afternoons to come. This is all about building for the future, though, and there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

    "We positioned ourselves to where we think the organization will be in a good place here shortly," general manager Chris Grier said, via the team's official website.

    The Dolphins have already acquired three first-round picks by trading Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Minkah Fitzpatrick. They'll have three first-round picks in the 2020 draft and should have more than $110 million in cap space next offseason. There will be an influx of talent in the spring.

    Miami will spend the rest of 2019 evaluating the players it currently has on the roster. Hopefully, several young ones emerge who are worth keeping around for the long haul.

Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings have several reasons to believe they can reach the playoffs in 2019. They have two dynamic receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. They have a defense that has allowed just 680 yards and 33 points through two weeks.

    The biggest reason for to be hopeful, though, is the presence of a healthy Dalvin Cook in the backfield. The 2017 second-round pick has been a star through the first two weeks, and he could be the missing piece of Minnesota's playoff puzzle.

    Cook has already rushed for 265 yards and three touchdowns. He's added 46 yards on five receptions. He could approach the 1,000-yard mark by midseason, and he's going to be one of the tougher running backs to game-plan for down the stretch.

    As long as Minnesota can get more consistent play out of quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings will contend in the NFC North.

New England Patriots: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

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    Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
    Tom Brady and Bill BelichickSteven Senne/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots have plenty of reasons to hope for the best in 2019.

    They have a stable of running backs that includes Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead. They have a defense that has allowed just three points in two games. They have Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown at wide receiver.

    Most importantly, though, New England has head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

    As long as the Patriots have those two future Hall of Famers, they should be contenders. They've advanced to the AFC Championship Game for eight straight seasons and haven't missed the playoffs since Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 of the 2008 season.

    If that track record doesn't provide hope, nothing will.

New Orleans Saints: Teddy Bridgewater

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    Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater
    Saints QB Teddy BridgewaterMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    For the New Orleans Saints, hope is going to rest on backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the immediate future. Drew Brees is out for several weeks with a thumb injury, so it will be Bridgewater's show moving forward.

    Actually, it will likely be some combination of Bridgewater and backup quarterback/gadget player Taysom Hill. Bridgewater is the one with starting experience, though—29 games of it, to be exact. He has also been a high-level starter before, making the Pro Bowl back in 2015.

    Bridgewater didn't look sharp in relief of Brees during Week 2, but coming in midway through a game isn't easy. With a full week of preparation as the starter, he should fare much better against the Seattle Seahawks this week.

    The Saints paid Bridgewater more than $7 million this offseason for a reason. They believe he can win games when asked to start.

New York Giants: The Start of the Daniel Jones Era

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    Giants QB Daniel Jones
    Giants QB Daniel JonesMichael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The New York Giants have decided to call an end to the Eli Manning era. They have announced rookie Daniel Jones will start in Week 3, and there's little reason to believe he won't remain the starter for the rest of the season.

    Why is that a reason for hope? At the very least, this decision will give New York a good, long look at its future. Jones and second-year running back Saquon Barkley are likely to be the faces of the offense for the foreseeable future.

    The Giants already know they have a special player in Barkley. Now, its time to find out about Jones.

    There's also the possibility that Jones energizes the offense enough to put New York back into the NFC East race. He was terrific in the preseason, going 29-of-34 for 416 yards and two touchdowns. 

New York Jets: Le'Veon Bell

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    Jets RB Le'Veon Bell
    Jets RB Le'Veon BellBill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The quarterback position is a mess for the New York Jets right now. Starter Sam Darnold is out indefinitely with mononucleosis, and backup Trevor Siemian suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. That leaves the Jets to lean on third-stringer Luke Falk for the foreseeable future.

    Fortunately, Falk is going to have some help.

    The Jets still have prized free-agent acquisition Le'Veon Bell, who has proved his worth through two weeks. A year away from the game hasn't slowed him. So far, he has racked up 128 yards rushing, 93 yards receiving and a touchdown.

    Opponents are going to focus on stopping Bell, but he is a player around whom New York can center its scheme. As long as he remains healthy, the Jets should be able to generate enough offense to stay in games during Darnold's absence.

    At some point, the second-year quarterback will return, and the Jets will be able to start building on the promise he showed as a rookie.

Oakland Raiders: Josh Jacobs

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders have their own dynamic running back in rookie Josh Jacobs. The Alabama product has already racked up 184 yards rushing, 28 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He's averaged an impressive 5.3 yards per carry.

    Jacobs is the kind of physical back who can carry the Raiders offense when quarterback Derek Carr struggles, as he did in Week 2. When Carr plays well, as he did in Week 1, the Raiders are likely to win more often than they lose.

    Oakland may not have a high-powered offense that can trade blows with the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots, but it has a lot more talent than it did a year ago. Jacobs is one of this past offseason's biggest additions and among the leading reasons this team will remain relevant late into the campaign.

Philadelphia Eagles: A Healthy Carson Wentz

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    Eagles QB Carson Wentz
    Eagles QB Carson WentzJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles suffered a scare when quarterback Carson Wentz briefly exited Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons for concussion evaluation. He returned, though, and as long as he remains healthy and in the lineup, the Eagles should have hope.

    Wentz was a legitimate MVP candidate two seasons ago before he suffered a torn ACL. That's the kind of campaign he could have now.

    Through two weeks, Wentz has passed for 544 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. He also scored a rushing touchdown against the Falcons. He's going to give the Eagles a chance to win every single week.

    Of course, Philadelphia better hope Wentz does remain healthy. Former backup and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars and on injured reserve.

Pittsburgh Steelers: A Belief in Mason Rudolph

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    Steelers QB Mason Rudolph
    Steelers QB Mason RudolphDon Wright/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers' loss of Ben Roethlisberger for the season is a blow, but it doesn't end all hope for the playoffs. Some, like The Ringer's Rodger Sherman, believe the transition to Mason Rudolph at quarterback may actually be a blessing.

    "I actually think the Steelers are in better position to succeed with Rudolph than they were with an injured 37-year-old Roethlisberger at quarterback," Sherman wrote. "For starters, Big Ben was abysmal in his limited playing time this season."

    The Steelers clearly believe in Rudolph. Otherwise, they probably wouldn't have traded a first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for Minkah Fitzpatrick. If they expected Rudolph to fail, they would also have expected that pick to be a high one.

    Rudolph provides a lot to like, too. He passed for 4,904 yards with 37 touchdowns and nine picks for Oklahoma State in 2017, so the physical tools are obviously there. And though he took over midway through Week 2, the Steelers went on to lose by just two points to a talented Seattle Seahawks team.

    Plus, Rudolph has preexisting chemistry with wide receiver James Washington, who also played at Oklahoma State. His ascension may lead to better production from the second-year wideout—and perhaps better offense than Pittsburgh has played through two weeks of 2019.

San Francisco 49ers: Kyle Shanahan's Play-Calling

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    49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan
    49ers head coach Kyle ShanahanFrank Victores/Associated Press

    Don't look now, but the San Francisco 49ers look like legitimate challengers in the NFC West. They've won two games by the combined score of 72-34, and they've racked up a whopping 828 yards of offense.

    The return of a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo has certainly helped, but San Francisco's offensive resurgence has had more to do with the play-calling of head coach Kyle Shanahan.

    Garoppolo has been decent—he has 463 yards, four touchdowns and two picks—but it's Shanahan who continues to scheme open receivers and create positive opportunities for running backs.

    Even while an ankle injury sidelined Tevin Coleman, the Cincinnati Bengals didn't have an answer for San Francisco's rushing attack in Week 2. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert combined for 204 yards on the ground in the blowout 41-17 win.

    The 49ers no longer lack skill players. They have Mostert, Breida, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Marquise Goodwin, among others.

    As long as Shanahan is dialing up plays, the 49ers are going to put up points.

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson

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    Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
    Seahawks QB Russell WilsonGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Will 2019 finally be the year in which Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson wins the NFL MVP award? It certainly could be. He's been that good through two weeks.

    Wilson was particularly incredible in Week 2, going 29-of-35 for 300 yards and three touchdowns. So far, he has 495 yards passing, five touchdowns, zero interceptions and 30 yards rushing.

    The quarterback is good enough to cover up many of Seattle's offensive blemishes.

    The Seahawks are lacking in premier and proven receiver talent, but Wilson makes players better. Rookie DK Metcalf, for example, was considered a talented but raw prospect heading into the draft. He already has seven catches for 150 yards and a touchdown.

    As long as Wilson is under center, the Seahawks cannot be counted out of games—or out of the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bruce Arians

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    Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians
    Buccaneers head coach Bruce AriansBrian Blanco/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't yet know if Jameis Winston is truly a franchise quarterback. They should know after two weeks, however, that Bruce Arians is the right coach to lead the franchise.

    The Buccaneers team we saw during the Week 2 win over Carolina was determined and physical on both sides of the ball. It outplayed the Panthers for all four quarters, and a lot of credit has to go to Arians.

    The two-time Coach of the Year knows what it takes to be successful, and he's instilling a winning attitude in his team. He's also challenging his players to be better.

    "He's got so much talent, and he can play a heck of a lot better than he's playing," Arians said of tight end O.J. Howard, who had 997 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons and is one of the better players on Tampa's offense.

    Arians is going to motivate the Buccaneers to be their best, and that will go a long way toward a successful season.

Tennessee Titans: Derrick Henry

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    Titans RB Derrick Henry
    Titans RB Derrick HenryJames Kenney/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans proved in Week 1 they can win and win big by leaning on their defense and the running game. They shellacked the Cleveland Browns 43-13 in the opener, but they deviated from the plan a bit in Week 2.

    Tennessee lost by just two points to the Indianapolis Colts, and a stronger commitment to running back Derrick Henry might have changed the outcome. Though he averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per carry, he only ran the ball 15 times. Marcus Mariota averaged just 5.5 yards per passing attempt but threw it 28 times.

    The Titans need to get back to leaning on Henry. Fortunately, the 247-pound back is built to handle a heavy workload.

    By utilizing Henry as the centerpiece of its offense, Tennessee should be able to out-physical many opponents this season. It may not be the prettiest way to win, but style points don't exist in the NFL.

Washington Redskins: The Passing Attack

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    Redskins QB Case Keenum
    Redskins QB Case KeenumScott Taetsch/Getty Images

    The Washington Redskins' passing game wasn't expected to excel this season.

    First-round rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins is on the bench, and journeyman Case Keenum started the season under center. The Redskins were going to get what production they could out of Keenum and win with the running game and defense.

    That hasn't happened, though.

    Starting tailback Derrius Guice suffered a knee injury in Week 1, while the defense has surrendered 910 yards through two games. The passing game, meanwhile, has been steady, if unspectacular.

    Keenum has passed for 601 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Rookie receiver Terry McLaurin has emerged as a legitimate weapon, catching 10 passes for 187 yards and two scores.

    If Washington can tighten things up on defense and get the ground game going, it has more than enough passing potency to start winning games and making noise in the NFC East.