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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

NFL Week 2 Recap 2015 (September 23rd)

Week 2 of the NFL is in the books and it has been a very important one with key injuries to some of the teams expecting to challenge for the Super Bowl and some surprising 0-2 teams.

Some things haven't changed in the NFL though, and I will discuss those soon, while I try and figure whether we are about to see some big changes in other franchises.

Without further ado, let's get on with my Week 2 Recap as well as the Power Rankings and Week 2 Picks breakdown.

New England Still the Team to Beat in the AFC East
I was really looking forward to seeing how the Buffalo Bills would do against the New England Patriots in Week 2 and genuinely believed the home team could lay down a marker and show this is going to be anything but the usual cakewalk for the Patriots in the AFC East this season.

Beating down the Indianapolis Colts and getting the game at home meant there was a lot of talking in Buffalo this week and many of the 'wiseguys' in Vegas were also backing the Bills to record a statement win.

I guess we all should have learned that you simply can't disregard New England while Tom Brady is Quarter Backing the team and Number 12 was pretty spectacular against a Defense that could be one of the best in the NFL. They didn't look that way on Sunday as New England tagged Buffalo for 42 points and once again highlighted that there is only so far you can go with a Quarter Back that has struggled for a home through his career in Tyrod Taylor.

The Pats have put a big rival in the AFC East in their place and they would have enjoyed seeing the Miami Dolphins lay an egg in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are issues with the coaching staff and the players in Miami and that looks a situation that could potentially get ugly very quickly despite some good moves in Free Agency and the Draft.

Even the 2-0 and New York Jets won't really worry New England because Ryan Fitzpatrick simply is never far away from bombing out and I do think the Patriots can dominate this Division again.

After the excitement of going into Week 2 with every team at 1-0 in the Division and Buffalo looking like a real contender to knock off New England, Week 3 looks to have a much more familiar feel for the fans in the AFC East.

Is the Drew Brees/Sean Payton Era over in New Orleans?
I am a big fan of Drew Brees and one of the biggest regrets has to be when my team the Dolphins passed him over in favour of Daunte Culpepper ten years ago because they believed the Quarter Back's shoulder was shot.

Brees proved he was far from done and found the perfect home in New Orleans along with Head Coach Sean Payton, a partnership that led to a Super Bowl win.

Father Time remains undefeated though and New Orleans have made some moves which suggested that they are perhaps rebooting things here, while some reports suggested they would try and move on from Brees at the end of the season. There is also a power struggle going on behind the scenes between Tom Benson and Rita Benson whereby the latter winning could see Sean Payton walk as Head Coach.

He might not need to walk if the 0-2 Saints can't turn things around after an embarrassing home defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, especially as Brees looked to have damaged his shoulder in that loss. The rumour mill believes Brees could be missing time on the field and that is only going to make the decision to reboot and move on from the Quarter Back that much easier especially if he is to miss extended time.

No one will ever doubt Brees' position at the franchise and he will never have to buy another drink in New Orleans, but I am starting to wonder if this is the beginning of the end of the Brees/Payton partnership. I wouldn't be surprised if New Orleans just take the hit on the Brees contract, because they are unlikely to find too many trading partners on his current deal, at the end of the season, but his departure could easily coincide with Payton's if the Saints can't pick themselves up and start winning games.

Can the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Key Injuries to Win the NFC East?
The Dallas Cowboys are up to 2-0 thanks to a second Divisional win in consecutive weeks, but losing one of the two pictured players would have been a blow... Losing both could make it very tough for Dallas to be in a position to win this Division by the time both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant return.

Bryant was lost after Week 1 and could miss up to 12 weeks with a foot injury according to some reports, while Romo broke his collarbone for the second time in his career in Week 2 and is likely to be out for up to 8 weeks.

Those are some huge losses for Dallas and I don't think there will be too many out there proclaiming their belief in Brandon Weedon as the starting Quarter Back as Jerry Jones did on Tuesday.

It only magnifies the decision to let DeMarco Murray walk in Free Agency (Dallas did offer him enough money to stay, but Murray ultimately felt unloved) as the Cowboys haven't been as effective running the ball without him. They need to establish a running game to give Weedon as much support as possible, while the Defense needs to keep up the play they have produced for much of the first two weeks.

Reinforcements on that unit look to return in the next few weeks so Dallas might be relying on Weedon to manage them through games, but the Arizona Cardinals showed how difficult that can be last season after losing Carson Palmer. The Dallas Offensive Line should be able to open more holes to at least run the ball and keep the team in third and manageable, but none of the Running Backs on the depth chart have looked capable of making up for Murray's loss.

The schedule isn't kind to Dallas in the coming weeks as they face the likes of Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, the New York Giants, the Seattle Seahawks and the Philadelphia Eagles without Romo and Bryant, while the game in New Orleans is always a tough test (well it was before New Orleans lost 6 in a row there).

Dallas could easily be 4-5 by the time Tony Romo is back, but the back end of the schedule is manageable and I don't doubt the Cowboys can make it back to the Play Offs.

One benefit for them has to be the Division and the fact the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles are both 0-2 and no one really believes in the Washington Redskins even at 1-1. It doesn't look a Division that would see anyone pull away from Dallas even if they are 4-5 going into Week 11 and so I still believe they can overcome injuries and get back to the Play Offs.

Chip Kelly Under Pressure to get Things Right in Philadelphia
When Chip Kelly won the battle behind the scenes to effectively take over as General Manager as well as Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles this off-season, he was automatically under more pressure to make sure he makes the right moves.

Kelly is clearly very confident in his system, but to jettison names like LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, as well as making big changes on the Offensive Line and trade away Nick Foles for Sam Bradford meant he couldn't afford a poor start to the season.

A 0-2 type start.

The kind of start the Eagles have made.

It was an ugly loss to the Dallas Cowboys at home in Week 2 as DeMarco Murray continues to struggle to find the running lanes that the Dallas Cowboys opened for him last season, while Bradford was horrible at Quarter Back. The Defense tried to play their part, but it is the Offense that Kelly has been come to known for and their failure is a reflection on the Head Coach/General Manager.

Troy Aikman made the point on Sunday that the Eagles have only played two good Quarters out of the eight they have competed in this season and the pressure is going to come down on Kelly.

Missing the Play Offs last season was a big disappointment, but when you make the moves Kelly did in chasing some big names out of town you can't afford a poor season. The Philadelphia fans have been known for being an impatient bunch who are quick to voice their displeasure and returning back to Lincoln Financial Field at less than 2-2 might see Kelly hear it all from the stands.

Which 0-2 Team is Best Placed to Make the Play Offs?
There is a statistic that says that only 12% of teams who start the season 0-2 will go on and make the Play Offs (since 1990) and there are a number of pre-season favourites that have fallen into that hole.

The Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks have all lost their first two games.

Four of those teams made the Play Offs last season, while the Colts and Seahawks was a favourite Super Bowl pick of many.

Baltimore have regularly been a Play Off team in recent seasons and many expected the New Orleans Saints to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 season, but it simply hasn't worked out for these teams.

So which has the best chance to overcome the odds and join the 12% who have made the Play Offs?

I'd have to go with the Indianapolis Colts to overcome some real conflicts behind the scenes between Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pegano because of the terrible Division they play in. Andrew Luck has feasted on the AFC South teams since coming into the NFL and no team has won both games in the Division so they look to have the best chance of turning things around.

The Seattle Seahawks will find it tough to beat out the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West if Carson Palmer remains healthy, while the Baltimore Ravens have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals this week, although both can fight back for Wild Card spots.

Philadelphia and the New York Giants will have seen Dallas hurt badly by injuries so are also far from finished, but I would pick the Indianapolis Colts if I was told that only one of the nine teams at 0-2 will be making the Play Offs at the end of the season.

Top Ten
1) Green Bay Packers (2-0): They only beat the NFC Champions from last season which gives them the confidence to go on and earn the Number 1 Seed in the NFC this time around.

2) Arizona Cardinals (2-0): I think the Cardinals are still severely under-rated in some circles and this is a team that can win it all if they have better health than last season.

3) New England Patriots (2-0): I almost put them up to Number 2 after an impressive beat down of the Buffalo Bills on the road, but the New England Patriots remain in this spot as the team to beat in the AFC.

4) Denver Broncos (2-0): Peyton Manning looked so much more comfortable running his own Offense out of the shotgun, but will Gary Kubiak change his mind about his own system.

5) Atlanta Falcons (2-0): Matt Ryan's Offensive Line needs to be a little more solid, but the Falcons have looked better on both sides of the ball compared with 2014.

6) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0): Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals seem to be a dark horse at this stage of the season, but they will have to prove themselves going forward to remain as high as I have them.

7) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1): The Offense looks like it is about to get more dangerous with Le'Veon Bell returning to team duties, but it is the Defense that will hold back Pittsburgh.

8) Dallas Cowboys (2-0): Injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant means I had to drop them down the Rankings, but the Dallas Cowboys could still be the team to beat in the NFC East.

9) Indianapolis Colts (0-2): I can't see the Colts playing as badly as they have in the first couple of games, but they need to prove it on the field with a Divisional game at Tennessee this week.

10) Seattle Seahawks (0-2): There were signs that the Seahawks are still going to be amongst the contenders in their loss to the Packers, but I would be worried by another Fourth Quarter lead given up.

Bottom Five
32) Chicago Bears (0-2): Two home losses, albeit to the teams I consider amongst the best in the NFL, and an injury to Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery means the Chicago Bears might take some turning around.

31) New Orleans Saints (0-2): The Saints still can't get off the field on the Defensive side of the ball, while Drew Brees is hurt and the Offense has been too inconsistent.

30) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1): Jameis Winston was a lot better in Week 2 than he was in Week 1 and winning in the SuperDome is not easy, but I am not sold on the Buccaneers just yet.

29) Tennessee Titans (1-1): Marcus Mariota was brought back down to earth by the Cleveland Browns and the Titans suffered a couple of key injuries.

28) Miami Dolphins (1-1): This might be frustration on my part, but the Miami Dolphins look a mess with reports of discord between the coaching staff and players and a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars was just ugly.

Week 2 Picks Recap
The picks went into the final two games of Week 2 in a decent position to come out with a winning record, but the three points on the Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts didn't work out to produce a small loss.

A couple of the picks were just plain ugly and didn't stand much of a chance after the early stages, the worst of which might have been the Buffalo Bills being outplayed by the New England Patriots.

It could have been different if Seattle hadn't thrown an Interception in the Fourth Quarter of the loss to the Green Bay Packers as they looked to be driving effectively for what would have been a tying score.

Even so, I can't complain too much as I am still up through the first two weeks and I will continue to try and keep focused and get Week 3 back into the positive.

As always, you can read my Week 3 Picks on the dedicated post which should be up on Thursday with picks being made through Saturday and I will have updated the season totals on that page too.

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