Richard Martin

Going Into Week 2, Here's What We Know

Created on Sept. 13, 2013 9:11 AM EST

What do we know for certain about the NFL?

That’s not an idle question. Every weekend, every game, we all struggle to figure what’s up with the league we love. 

That whole dilemma crystallized Monday, on a wacky night with a pair of great games. And they were thrillers, full of twists and turns and one last-second victory. 

Going into the first game, we thought we knew that RGIII was a game-changing player and would dominate. The unknown was what effect Chip Kelly would have as a coach of an Eagles team that was awful last year. After the first half of an incredible Eagle offensive performance, the reaction had to be holy $@%^&. Wow. Kelly’s spread offense worked wonders, racking up 322 yards as the team led 26-7. 

The plain fact is the Redskins were lucky to be in the game at all. At the start, the Eagles were driving and a bizarre play (a great play by the lone Redskins’ defensive stud, Ryan Kerrigan, who batted a ball) resulted in a Washington touchdown. 

It was a huge play, but it barely disguised Eagle dominance, and ended up only making the score closer. In keeping with the screwups that marked the first week, the Eagles made enough mistakes to make it close. And RGIII, back after an ACL injury and no work in the preseason, was awful in the first half but better in the second. Now, you have to say that by the time he played well, it was nearly garbage time.

Still, the real story was that the Eagles were pretty damn good, not that the Redskins weren’t. If you screw up and win, as Philly did, your mistakes will be forgotten. The game was much closer than it should’ve been, very much like the Lions and Vikings.

The nightcap was [fill in your own cliche here]. It’s why we love to watch the NFL.

The Chargers were electrifying at the start, as Jarret Johnson batted a Matt Schaub pass into the air, and it was intercepted. The Bolts scored one play later, a grand total of 15 seconds into the game.

Philip Rivers had a fine first half, throwing for three touchdowns and looking like the guy who was once considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league. ESPN was showing stats of the trouble the Texans have had with the likes of Brady and Manning, currently some of the best QBs in the league. 

Fate had seemed to be against the Texans from the start. But they overcame all their troubles and dominated the second half from the moment they were down 28-7. And particularly the Texans defense stepped it up. In fact, replays revealed that  stud defensive lineman J.J. Watt was being held regularly. The no-calls were a big factor in the Chargers’ great first half. 

The Texans were the better team in the second half. They gave up no first downs on the Bolts’ final five possessions. What more can you say?

And Schaub was great, finishing 34-of-45 for 346 yards with three touchdowns and the one interception, which wasn’t his fault. I think San Diego gave it their best shot. The Texans proved something in this game, winning a tough one on the road. I wouldn’t necessarily say the game showed the Chargers are doomed. Rivers looked good. But they’re not an elite team. Houston was better on both lines.

The Texans proved their mettle. They came from behind on the road, which didn’t seem to be in their DNA and Schaub looked like a winner. That defense stiffened in the second half.

Compare this game to Patriots-Bills. There are plenty of similarities, though the Patriots faced a divisional opponent. And, let’s face it, that team is more of a known quantity. There are plenty of parallels. Both the Patriots and Texans faced adversity on the road. Both had to come from behind. Both faced effective quarterbacks. Both made field goals to win at the end.

But we all knew the Patriots were good. Houston is relatively untested.

So let’s ask the same question again. What do we know for certain?

  • The Jaguars and Steelers have a long way to go. The Jags are just plain awful. The Steelers, playing at home, couldn’t move the ball against the Titans, who had a sieve for a defense last year. Pittsburgh faces a tough game against the Bengals and need to step it up to even be in the game. The AFC North used to be good. But all four teams in the division lost. Cincinnati might be the best of the bunch, but Andy Dalton had a tough time in Chicago.
  • The Texans made a decisive statement. That was a great comeback for a team that supposedly couldn’t come from behind. Very impressive. 
  • The Eagles appear to be a lot better ... except that Michael Vick was limping in the second half. How would the exotic offense do without Vick?
  • Detroit dominated Minnesota, which might mean either that the Lions are good or the Vikings are awful. We don’t know if either is true. Reggie Bush might well have provided the Lions with the means of easing the pressure on stud receiver Calvin Johnson. We already knew Matthew Stafford was good. As for the Vikings, the clock is ticking on Christian Ponder. He needs to produce or get out of the way. I think he’ll be on the pine by game six, if not earlier. The loss to the Lions was only partially on him, after all; the defense was terrible. But there’s another possibility: Coach Leslie Frazier sticks with Ponder through thick and thin, and loses his job too. Frazier is one of those guys who doesn’t like to make a change. Hope that works for you, coach.
  • Oh yeah, the Broncos and 49ers are very, very good. If there are any questions about Denver, they have to be on the defensive side of the ball. The 49ers are just plain loaded. It’s hard to see any weaknesses in San Francisco. The Packers played a strong game and lost. 
  • The NFC West, despite the Niners’ talent, is still up for grabs. Seattle won a tough game on the road against the Panthers, who some think are a team on the upswing. The Rams managed to win against the Cardinals, but Arizona appears to be improved. Carson Palmer played well, and the Cards had a great chance to win. That’s a tough division, probably the best in the league. At least two teams will make the playoffs, it appears. I see one team from the NFC East in the playoffs. The NFC Central, well, it’s still murky.
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