7 Up, 7 Down: A Perceptive Repeat?

Week 2 was full of intrigue as teams tried to shake the stark realities of Week 1 debuts or build upon progress. Which teams / players did the thing? Who needs some work as we look ahead to Week 3 of the young 2021 season?

Up

1. Micah Parsons is certified #good

– The former first round selection validated the Cowboys with a monster performance on Sunday. He was moved closer to the line due to injuries and showed well despite not playing EDGE since high school. PFF gave him an overall grade of 89.9, which was good for highest defensive rookie this week. He had eight pressures on the most promising young quarterbacks in the league. It looks like the pass rush moves he was working on with the legendary DeMarcus Ware on Hard Knocks paid off. The versatile linebacker was a freak athlete that played in a variety of roles while at Penn State. Certainly a good start to the young linebacker’s career. Could a permanent move to EDGE be in the cards after his initial performance? 

2. Late Game Window

– If the early slate was a bit of a dud (it wasn’t) but in comparison to the late slate, it was quaint. There was a period of a few minutes where multiple games came down to a game winning field goal attempt. Arizona survived the Vikings last dash attempt (in a candidate for game of the year) while Tennessee and Dallas made their field goals to sneak out road wins. Dallas kicker Greg Zuerlein delivered after a litany of coaching errors and his own demons from last week.  All of which served as delicious appetizers to the big showdown on Sunday Night Football. 

3. Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh’s “GUTS”

– Speaking of Sunday night action, there was plenty of it as Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes put on a show. Jackson, especially put on a show during the fourth quarter leading the Ravens to an upset win over the Chiefs. He struggled early on, throwing multiple interceptions to Tyrann Mathieu, including a pick six. It was a shootout until the very end when the Chiefs inexplicably took the ball out of Mahomes’ hands on a crucial drive. 

Lamar then took the ball on a game icing drive, which led to the now famous do you want to go for it question asked by Harbaugh. A fantastic preview for a potential rematch in January?

4. Carolina D fences in the Saints

The Panthers defense held the explosive Saints offense to a mere seven points and harried Jameis Winston into two interceptions and just 111 yards passing. They also kept the electrifying Alvin Kamara to just 30 yards on 12 touches while getting four sacks and 11 hits on Winston. DC Phil Snow’s men have been dominant through the first two games, leading the league in numerous categories. They get to face a largely untested rookie leading a dysfunctional Houston Texans team on Thursday night. Undoubtedly for which they will be salivating for.

5. Explosive Teddy Bridgewater

– The amiable Teddy Bridgewater has appeared to revamp his game into a more high powered attack with Denver it seems. He has looked downright aggressive compared to his reputation of being “safe”. He’s in the top ten in passing yardage, touchdowns, QB rating, and true to form, has no interceptions. Bridgewater has seized the starting job over Drew Lock and it appears that the Broncos are going to ride with him despite their dalliances with Aaron Rodgers. I’m excited what the future weeks portend for him armed with a much better offense and a stout defense. He deserves all the flowers as a veteran QB who has more than his paid dues. 

6. Houston being competitive 

– Everyone wrote off the Texans as the worst team in the league and yes it appears that way talent wise. HC David Culley has them fighting and competing early on, even if the competitive level isn’t the best. That’s admirable. They’re even in first place in the AFC South. Well, we’ll see how much of that competitive spirit is retained as the opposing teams’ talent level ratchets up. They’re about to face a brutal six game gauntlet of the Panthers, @ Bills, Patriots, @ Colts, and @ Cardinals. All this without the hot start of injured Tyrod Taylor and managing the tricky Deshaun Watson situation. Let’s hope for Culley’s sake that his team can win at least two of these games. 

7. Kyler Murray is FUN

– Murray is one of the most fun quarterbacks in the league right now. It just wasn’t the Titans that were bamboozled and mystified on how to cover him. Mike Zimmer’s Vikings defense was similarly flummoxed as well on Sunday afternoon. He was unstoppable uncorking passes from seemingly improbable locations like a mini-Mahomes all game. The clip below probably wasn’t even his best HOW??? throw of the game. When the Cardinals offense is truly clicking, it’s really entertaining for fans everywhere. Now that he has AJ Green, rookie Rondale Moore, along with the erstwhile superstar DeAndre Hopkins to go along with a solid line, they will be a tough out for anyone. I would go as far as to say that the Murray led Cardinals are everyone’s second favorite team and a Red Zone darling.  

Down

1. The Dolphins OL

– Yeesh. That wasn’t the best effort in the world against the stingy #BillsMafia defense, getting shutout, 35-0. The biggest part, the unit was responsible for franchise QB Tua Tagovailoa getting injured by a virtually free oncoming pass rusher. It remains to be seen how long Tua will be out for due to this latest setback but it appears grim. The line gave up six sacks and 11 hits on the QB overall. The line needs major upgrades in the worst way possible. They need to get right in a hurry for Brian Flores’ men to compete for the playoffs. 

2. Taunting rules

Let the great Field Yates surmise everyone’s thoughts on this needlessly obtuse and useless rule:

Also, a compilation to further outline this outlandishly farcical rule that NO ONE wants:

3. Wentz is Cooked?

– Russ is cooking while Carson Wentz might be officially cooked as a starting level quarterback after Sunday’s tough minded performance that resulted in a spectacular shovel pass interception and an injury. The trade that brought him to Indianapolis may be a bust but it’s early yet. The Colts are currently projected to have a top five selection but they owe it to the Eagles should Wentz play 75% of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs. If their record gets worse in a downtrodden AFC South similar to last year’s NFC East, they might be inclined to sit Wentz to avoid paying the premium cost. 

4. The Chiefs defense merits banishment from the Kingdom 

The KC defense just has to be league average to complement an all world offense yet they are failing to do just that. By most metrics, they are in the bottom tier. It’s not like they are not chock full of talent, either. There is too much talent on the defense for it to be this bad. Patrick Mahomes can’t continually save the day even if he’s capable of it every game. It’s early but DC Steve Spagnuolo has proven to be capable of fixing defenses. #ChiefsKingdom surely expects the defense to be better, it has to be, right? 

5. Welcome to the League, Rook QBs

– Week 2 was a mixed bag for the much ballyhooed class of 2021 rookie quarterbacks as they have had several welcome to the big leagues moments between them. Zach Wilson in particular had a rough go against the wizard Bill Belichick, throwing for four interceptions and 0 scores. Trevor Lawrence is continuing to throw interceptions like the cookie monster devours cookies, throwing two against Denver. Trey Lance sat. Justin Fields got a lot of time after Andy Dalton was injured, throwing a hideous interception in a crucial moment against the Bengals and was just 6-13 and 60 yards. In more positive news, Mac Jones was effective, leading the aforementioned Patriots to a dominant win. Davis Mills of Houston will get the start on Thursday after subbing in for an injured Tyrod Taylor on Sunday. This was expected growing pains for a rookie class.

6. Injuries are the worst

– It was a brutal week for injuries as a litany of stars were hurt enough to get knocked out of the game or had to sit out a few plays. Most notably, Andy Dalton, Tua, Carson Wentz, Bradley Chubb, TJ Watt, and Tyrod Taylor left and did not return. Baker Mayfield was injured trying to make a tackle on the player who intercepted his pass, dislocating his shoulder. Speaking of Cleveland, Jarvis Landry exited the game and subsequently placed on IR. Big Ben and Eagles OL Brandon Brooks are dealing with pectoral injuries. Eagles EDGE rusher Brandon Graham has a reported torn Achilles. Chubb underwent ankle surgery and is expected to miss significant time and may have ended his time in Denver. It’s only week three of a long 17 game season and it’s going to be a slog with all these injuries to key players already.

7. Zac Taylor is not a good head coach nor OC

– Taylor has proven repeatedly that he isn’t ready for the big time yet. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t call the offense more aggressively than he has. An example that is none more glaring was Sunday when he refused to unleash Joe Burrow until it was too late. The Bengals don’t have the greatest talent along the offensive line, sure but the play calling has been way too conservative. He has to be more mindful that he has a franchise quarterback that needs to be let loose. The Bengals have drafted well over the years but I don’t think he’s that dude that can maximize the short window of contention that a rookie QB contract provides. Perhaps he isn’t ready for a head coaching job just yet and went too far ahead of his skis riding the McVay wave.

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