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Week 2 In The NFL Isn’t Nearly As Fluky As Week 1

If Week 1 is National Jump to Conclusions Week, then Week 2 is when we can begin to trend spot. For many, Week 2 is all about regression to the mean: For example, 1-0 teams had a losing record (4-5) against 0-1 teams on Sunday.1 But there are some units that have played at a notable level in both weeks, and for them, two’s a trend.

Broncos defense still looks super

Denver was a one-dimensional team last year, as the Broncos dominant defense overcame the team’s historically inept passing attack en route to a Super Bowl title. This year? The Denver defense looks just as fantastic. Consider:

  • In Week 1, Denver held Carolina to 333 yards and 20 points; in Week 2, Carolina gained 529 yards and scored 46 points (albeit with one touchdown coming on defense) while playing a 49ers defense that had recorded the only shutout on opening weekend.
  • In Week 2, Denver held Indianapolis to just 253 and 20 points, while the Broncos defense scored two touchdowns of its own! In Week 1, Indianapolis gained 450 yards and scored 35 points.

The Broncos defense definitively won battles against Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, just as the defense did against Newton, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger in last year’s playoffs. On Sunday, the Broncos recorded 11 hits and five sacks on Andrew Luck, including three of each by last year’s Super Bowl MVP, Von Miller. The rest of the NFL is on notice: The Broncos defense looks just as capable of carrying the offense to a title this year as it did last season.

Washington air strikes

In Week 1, Washington passed on 78 percent of its plays, while no other team was over 73 percent. In Week 2, Washington passed on 74 percent of its plays, with 48 pass plays (including two sacks) against just 17 runs. And two of those runs were Kirk Cousins scrambles (i.e., called pass plays); count those as passes, and the team called passes on 77 percent of its plays. And this came despite a close game with Dallas that Washington led in the fourth quarter.

This emphasis on the pass was not entirely unexpected, though: Washington has arguably the worst running back unit in the league, while the team has a deep and talented set of receivers (DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, first-round pick Josh Doctson, along with tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis). Cousins threw 43 times for 329 yards last week, and then topped both of those numbers (46, 364) this week. He is not necessarily playing well, but fantasy owners (and anyone else concerned with quantity over quality) should take note: Washington may be the most pass-happy team in the NFL this season.

Raiders, Jaguars defenses not living up to the hype

The Raiders and Jaguars were trendy sleeper picks this year, in part because of their big offseason upgrades on defense. Oakland made significant acquisitions in the secondary (signing Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph), while Jacksonville’s front seven was supposedly improved with three marquee signings (Malik Jackson, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler2), plus the addition of defensive back Jalen Ramsey with the fifth overall pick in the draft.

The early returns are not good in Jacksonville, and they are downright abysmal in Oakland. In Week 1, the Packers offense3 scored 27 points in nine drives (excluding the end-of-game kneel) and did not commit a turnover in a win in Jacksonville. In Week 2, San Diego scored 38 points on its first 10 drives, and embarrassed the Jaguars defense with three deep passes of over 40 yards.

Oakland allowed 507 yards and 34 points to the Saints in Week 1, and then 528 yards and 35 points to the Falcons in Week 2. That’s a total of 1,035 yards allowed, breaking a 65-year-old record for the most yards allowed in football history by any team in its first two games.

Patriots machine rolls

If two games are a trend, what do you call 15 years? This year was supposed to be the toughest task yet. But even without both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski — not to mention starting offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and all-purpose back Dion Lewis — the Patriots continue to play well, and the offensive remains effective.

In Week 1, backup Jimmy Garoppolo, thrust into the starting lineup due to Brady’s suspension, shined against a strong Cardinals defense. In Week 2, he was even better, as the Patriots drove 75, 75 and 76 yards for touchdowns on the team’s first three drives. Garoppolo went down with an injury late in the first half, after which the Patriots offense largely relied on running back LeGarrette Blount to melt the game away.

At 2-0, the Patriots are one game up on the Jets and two games up on the Bills and Dolphins in the AFC East. Even if the Garoppolo injury keeps him off the field, New England has already done enough to survive the Brady suspension. In two weeks, Brady and Gronk will be back, and judging by how the team has played in their absence, the Patriots should be favorites to go back to the AFC Championship Game for a sixth-straight season.

Seattle offensive struggles

Few teams have earned the benefit of the doubt like Seattle, arguably the most dominant team of the last four seasons. But Russell Wilson and the offense have looked miserable through two weeks, and the team can’t even blame the schedule makers.

In Week 1, the Seahawks hosted the Dolphins — the same unit torched by Garoppolo on Sunday — and was ineffective for most of the game. In the first 55 minutes, Seattle’s 11 drives resulted in six punts, three turnovers (interception, fumble and downs), and just two field goals. The Seahawks had just 277 yards on those 11 drives, before embarking on a 14-play, 75-yard drive — that needed two fourth-down conversions — to win the game, 12-10.

The Week 2 opponent was Los Angeles, a week after the Rams were embarrassed 28-0 by a mediocre 49ers offense in Week 1. Yet Seattle produced just 3 points on Sunday, against a Rams team that admittedly has had the Seahawks’ number in a peculiar way. For years, the Seattle offensive line has been the weak link of the team, and it was projected to be even worse this year, after losing Russell Okung to Denver and reshuffling the rest of the line. So far, those concerns have rung true. And with Wilson dealing with a sprained ankle, Marshawn Lynch retired (and his replacement, Thomas Rawls, also banged up), it’s officially time to worry about the offense in Seattle.

Footnotes

  1. The 0-1 Bears play the 1-0 Eagles on Monday Night.

  2. The third overall pick in 2015, Fowler missed his entire rookie season with an ACL injury.

  3. Which looked sluggish in a 17-14 loss Sunday night in Minnesota.

Chase Stuart writes about football statistics and history at FootballPerspective.com

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