I prefer to refrain from making observations after week one of the NFL season because I don’t want to overreact. So naturally, I wait until after week two of the season when I have 100 percent more games to base my opinions on. Obviously, there is no way to overreact when teams have already played two games. It is impossible. It’s not like the New York Giants are 2-0 or anything crazy. Everything about the season already makes sense so here are some takeaways from this very simple and predictable start to the 2022 season.
The NFL is Doing its Best College Football Impersonation
Everyone has loved the chaos and absurdity that has been the first three weeks of the college football season (plus week zero so maybe it’s more like three-and-a-half weeks). There have been insane endings, big upsets, and unbelievable performances. The NFL saw what they were doing and thought they should try it out.
In week two the NFL looked a lot like college football in 2022. The showdown between the Ravens and the Dolphins looked like the classic high-scoring shootout we see every Saturday. From the 70-yard touchdowns to the 21-point come-from-behind victory, this was much more like Appalachian State versus North Carolina than most NFL matchups.
We also witnessed another college-like finish in a game between the Jets and the Browns. It looked like Cleveland had it in the bag before New York scored a late touchdown and recovered the subsequent onside kick. After a timeout-less drive, led by Joe Flacco no less, the Jets took the lead with 22 seconds left in the game and ultimately earned the victory.
We also had Arizona beating Las Vegas on a fumble return touchdown in overtime and the Seahawks doing their best Iowa impression by failing to score an offensive touchdown. The games on Sunday were exciting and entertaining which are two things you always want to hear when talking about football. More games like this would not be bad for the league so hopefully, they continue to deliver.
Lamar Jackson’s Price Tag Just Keeps Going Up
The Miami Dolphins are certainly going to be the big story coming out of that fantastic win against the Ravens but don’t let that distract you from what Jackson did on Sunday. The former MVP looked like the 2018 version of himself, completing 21 of his 29 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns while also running for 119 yards and a score. He accounted for more total yards than every other team this week except for the Ravens and Dolphins.
Jackson entered the season in an unusual predicament, representing himself in a big contract negotiation, which the two sides failed to agree on before the start of the season. Now, he is essentially a stock on the market, with each performance driving his future contract value either up or down. He is possibly under more pressure than any other quarterback right now because he is playing for something much more than just wins and losses.
Jackson has already been doubted too much over the course of his career and wants to ensure that he signs a contract that represents just how much value he brings to a football team. As evidenced on Sunday, that is a lot of value. For three quarters, the Ravens looked to be rolling over the Dolphins, and Jackson’s 79-yard touchdown run appeared to be the finishing blow. It is not his fault that Baltimore ultimately lost the game, that honor would probably go to the defense that left receivers open all over the field and allowed Tua Tagovailoa to throw for 462 yards and six touchdowns.
Jackson gave his team the lead with a drive for a field goal with a little over two minutes left. Yes, he could have done more to ice the game for his team but he already scored 35 points and racked up 437 yards, what more does a guy need to do to get a win? So even though Jackson and the Ravens lost, the quarterback is proving his immense worth week in and week out.
It Might Be Time to Panic in Tampa Bay
Don’t let the 2-0 record fool you, the Buccaneers are not playing well. Sure, the defense is as amazing as advertised but on offense, they are struggling big time. Tampa Bay has had 21 non-half-ending drives this season and has scored on two of them. This certainly does not seem like the same team that scored the second-most points in the league last season.
Some regression from the Buccaneers was expected, especially with the loss of talent on the interior offensive line, but this has been shocking. Tampa Bay has played two pretty good defenses so far in Dallas and New Orleans but they still should not be struggling this much. Tom Brady has thrown for 402 yards and two touchdowns after averaging 312 yards per game last year and throwing 43 touchdowns.
It would be a shame if this is really the level that the offense is going to play at this year because the defense has been so dominant, even accounting for one of the two touchdowns on Sunday. With a quarterback that is 45 years old, the Bucs’ window to win another Super Bowl is incredibly small so if they don’t figure out how to fix the offense soon they could be in big trouble.
The Bengals are Hungover
Some people believe in the Super Bowl hangover and some people don’t, and while there is no empirical evidence to suggest that the team that loses the Super Bowl is going to struggle the next season, the Bengals sure do seem to be believers.
They have started out their season 0-2 with losses to the Steelers and the Cowboys. I know what you’re thinking, ‘those are two of the most successful franchises in league history so those losses aren’t that bad.’ Well, the Steelers and the Cowboys were quarterbacked by Mitch Trubisky and Cooper Rush, respectively, so that is very bad.
The defense isn’t the problem, though. The Bengals have allowed just 20 points in regulation in each game. The offense has been the issue, which is surprising considering the talent on that side of the ball. But unlike the playoffs last year, Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, and Ja’Marr Chase can’t win behind a poor offensive line.
Cincinnati has allowed 13 sacks in the two games so far, which is absolutely horrendous. On paper, the offensive line got better with the free agent acquisitions of La’el Collins, Alex Cappa, and Ted Karras but so far that improvement has yet to show on the field. There are some other concerns, like Burrow’s 3-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio so far, but the Bengals are not going to come near the success they reached last year if they don’t figure out the offensive line immediately.
The Pack is Back
I feel like I think this exact though after every week two because Green Bay always starts the season with an absolute dud before proving that it was just a fluke with a dominant week two performance. They repeated that process again this year by losing to the Vikings to start the season and then beating the Bears in week two.
It was not only the score that looked different this week. The entire Packers team just seemed to be playing better. It is possible that the addition of Allen Lazard and Elgton Jenkins, both of whom missed the week one contest, made a big difference. Lazard especially was a welcome addition because it added a player that Aaron Rodgers was familiar with to a receiver position that relied a little too much on rookies last week.
Another big difference for the Packers this week was the involvement of the running backs, specifically Aaron Jones. He got 15 carries a week after tallying just five against Minnesota and he turned those touches into 132 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay used both him and A.J. Dillon all over the formation, sometimes even at the same time, which was evident when Jones came across the formation and caught a jet sweep pop pass for an eight-yard receiving touchdown, one of his three catches.
Dillon actually got more carries, 18 to Jones’s 15, but was less effective, rushing for just 61 yards. He also saw the same amount of targets as Jones, three, but turned it into just one catch for six yards. It is clear that Matt Lafleur and the offensive staff have a plan to use both backs heavily in the offense, and that is a good thing because the offense looks so much more dangerous with those two guys getting more touches. Not every concern about this team should be gone after beating a Bears’ team that probably won’t be very good this year, but Green Bay fans should regain some confidence in their team after seeing the way they played on Sunday.