Monday, September 19, 2016

NFL 2016-17 Season Week Two Review

Thursday - NY Jets 37, Buffalo 31 - The Jets had to hang on against a determined Bills team to pull this one out, but Gang Green did indeed finally get it. They looked like they might let the Bills not only back into it, but even win it, although in the end, the Jets finally clinched the tough victory to snatch their first win of the season. In the process, they got some measure of revenge against Buffalo, the same team that eliminated the Jets from playoff contention in last season's regular season finale. 

New York Giants 16, New Orleans Saints 13 - The Giants probably got away with one here. For whatever the reason, the Saints, at least under Drew Brees, always seem to play the G-Men hard, and give them fits. The Giants always struggle against them, it seems. The kept losing to them in the late 2000's, including one game when the Saints ended New York's perfect 5-0 start with a loss that stung so badly, that it triggered a massive losing streak for the Giants, completely undoing their awesome early season start. Even last season, when the Giants scored 49 points on the Saints, it proved not to be enough, as the Giants lost that game. They had never scored so many points in a game and still fallen short before. 

Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 16 -Once again, the Steelers showed that they just seem to have Cincinnati's number. There was a time when the Bengals used to actually beat Pittsburgh in meaningful games, and times when they advanced well into the playoffs, even reaching the Super Bowl a couple of times. But not these Bengals. This game seemed to be a reminder of Cincinnati's limitations. They just do not beat the best teams, and just do not win those big games. It would be nice if they could make that change, but not if they systematically keep losing these kinds of games to these kinds of teams.

Baltimore 25, Cleveland 20 - Speaking of disappointing Ohio teams, the Browns raced out to a 20-0 lead, and I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, they were finally getting in gear. Perhaps they had enough of losing, were tired of all of the jokes, and tired of losing the kinds of games to the kinds of teams that they lost to last week. Clearly, they had come to this game ready to play. Then, of course, the Ravens took over the game and, somehow, the Browns gave up a 20-point lead at home, losing the game. Once I saw that score, the only thought that came to mind was this: same old Browns. The "Factory of Sadness" continued to produce efficiently.

Tennessee 16, Detroit 15 - Speaking of disappointing Midwestern teams, I thought that the Lions might just be turning over a new leaf after their impressive victory at Indianapolis last week. With the Tennessee Titans coming to Detroit, it looked like an excellent opportunity for the Lions to reach 2-0, which does not seem to happen often. For Detroit, 0-2 has unfortunately been far more common, so if they could just win this game, they would be off to a tremendously promising beginning to the season. The Lions defense was playing extremely well all day on Sunday, and it seemed that they were well on their way to sealing the deal on that 2-0 start. Then, Marcus Mariota did what he was hired to do, orchestrating an impressive 13-play drive, and leading the Titans 83 yards that was capped with Mariota finding Andre Johnson on 4th and goal for a 9-yard touchdown pass to put the Titans up, 16-15. Mariota completed 25 of 33 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He also had one interception. However, the times where he showed brilliance this time were more important than the mistakes, as the Titans pull off an impressive road win at the expense of the Lions.

Dallas 27, Washington 23 - Dallas might have found a serious running back that could bring this team back to contention! Alfred Morris managed to score the game winning touchdown against his former team, Or perhaps not, since he only was able to pick up seven yards in five carries during the course of the day, although his most important contribution was that winning touchdown, obviously. For Dallas, this was only their second win without Tony Romo at the helm since 2013, but it is a promising sign for them. It also marks their fourth straight victory at Washington. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott had a solid game for the 'Boys, completing 22 of 30 passes for 292 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass, although he did run in for one. The first victory for Dallas, while Washington is trying to remain positive after dropping to an 0-2 start on this new season.

New England 31, Miami 24 - The Patriots were rolling early, and despite the absence of Brady, this looked like it was going to be a cakewalk. Then, New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went out of the game with a shoulder injury, and rookie Jacoby Brissett had to fill in. The Dolphins were able to get back in it, even coming to within a touchdown, although ultimately, their comeback attempt fell short. Miami has to worry about their defense, which has looked vulnerable. As for the Pats, they seem to be rallying behind Brissett, who will be starting now against the Houston Texans for the Thursday night game. For now, the Patriots remain one of the remaining undefeated teams with their 2-0 start.

Houston 19, Kansas City 12 - Houston placekicker Nick Novak could probably get MVP for this game, as he kicked four crucial field goals to greatly help his Texans defeat the tough Kansas City Chiefs. Of course, the other side of that particular coin would be that Houston has not been able to produce touchdowns once they get in the red zone, and this could haunt them against the truly tough, elite teams, although they were able to get away with it this weekend against the Chiefs. For Kansas City, Cairo Santos helped to keep his team in it by kicking four field goals of his own, although the Chiefs never found the end zone in this game. Alex Smith had a bad game for KC, although Brock Osweiler was not much better for Houston. Both of these teams seem solid on defense so far, but they need to find a bit more on the offensive end.

Carolina 46, San Francisco  27 - The Panthers were struggling against the 49ers in the first half a bit, but they came alive in the second half, looking a lot more like the same team that went 15-1 in last year's regular season. San Francisco looked like they were capable of at least keeping Carolina in check, but that did not last once Cam Newton fully got in gear. Newton completed 22 of 40 passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns, ultimately burying the 49ers as he recaptured last season's MVP form. Head Coach Ron Rivera said that part of the team's success this week rested on their ability to open up the running game more than they had in Denver. The Panthers actually made quite a few mistakes, including four turnovers, although Newton's brilliance and the team's overall toughness were able to overcome all of that for a convincing win.

Los Angeles 9, Seattle 3 - Now, this was a bit of a shock! Yes, the Rams wanted to get a win following the embarrassing opening week loss at San Francisco, where they were shut out. But to not only beat the Seahawks, but to hold them to a grand total of one field goal? There may be something wrong in Seattle, because this is not the same team that w have grown accustomed to them being. The Seahawks played tough defensively, but their offense simply has to be able to put more points on the board. For the Rams, however, this was a huge win at a great time, and with everyone else in the division nodded at 1-1, this actually places every team in a four-way tie for both first and last place in the wild, wild NFC West.

Arizona 40, Tampa Bay 7 - The Cardinals were obviously upset by last week's disappointing results against the Patriots, and it showed today with a blowout victory against the Bucs. Tamp Bay fell behind early and often, as this was the kind of game that was over by halftime, when Arizona took a 24-0 lead into the locker rooms. The Cardinals continued to dominate, and finally looked a bit more like the team that has serious hopes of reaching the Super Bowl at year's end. As for Tampa, they do appear to be making progress, but this shows that they are not going to be this big, huge success story overnight. They still have a long way to go, and this was the clearest reminder of that fact, serving as a wake-up call to any who were overconfident following last week's win at Atlanta. 

Atlanta 35, Oakland 28 - A shootout between two teams that really needed this victory. The Raiders were at home, and needed to keep up with the Denver Broncos, who also won again. Yet, the Raiders could not seem to stop a determined Falcons team that was trying to recover not only from a disappointing home opener last weekend against Tampa, but is also bracing for a stretch of very tough games that includes both Super Bowl teams from last season, as well as Seattle. So, they needed this win, and they got it. Somehow, the Raiders defense simply could not keep the Falcons out of the end zone, and the final play, with a play filled with the Raiders lateral passing the ball to try and keep their very slim hopes alive, fell short. It was not a repeat of the Cal game of the 1980's, when the band famously marched onto the field, assuming the game was over, when it really was not. Atlanta pulled off the victory, and raised their record to 1-1, keeping pace with Tampa Bay and Carolina for a first place tie in the NFC South. For the Raiders, a very disappointing loss.

San Diego 38, Jacksonville 14 - The Jaguars probably did not see this coming. Just a week after the Chargers nearly pulled off a stunning win against Kansas City, San Diego never really left any doubt against a seemingly still weak Jacksonville team. The Jaguars looked to come into the season with a new promise, although the first two games have shown anything but. They were completely dismantled in this one from early on, and never seriously had a chance thereafter. A solid first win for San Diego, in what seems like a good start for that team, while the Jaguars have to dig themselves out of the 0-2 start that they now find themselves in.

Denver 34, Indianapolis 20 - If you are a Colts fan right now, you probably cannot help, but think, "Uh-oh!" The Colts have an 0-2 start for a second season in a row, and remember that they never fully recovered from the miserable start they had last season. Of course, having to play the defending Super Bowl champions at Mile High is perhaps a little much for most teams, understandably. And there were promising signs for Colts fans, including a late rally that was capped by a brilliant touchdown run from Frank Gore, who stayed inbound after a near tackle and just got the ball into the corner of the end zone, bringing the Colts to within 23-20. However, the Broncos were able to get a field goal in the next drive, and with very little time left, an offensive miscue led to a brilliant touchdown by - who else? - Von Miller, and the Broncos clinched the victory to remain undefeated. For the Colts, another loss sees them fall still farther behind the Texans in the race for the division title.

Minnesota 17, Green Bay 14 - Now, this was surprising! I, for one, will admit to expecting the Packers to take this contest, seeing as though the Vikings did not have their original starting quarterback, while Green Bay's offense is very dangerous. Then again, the Packers always seem to struggle when they have to go up to Minnesota. Adrian Petersen did leave the game with a knee injury, although the diagnosis of how much this will affect him remains unclear. Bradford was indeed the starter for the Vikings, and he did an incredible job,  completing 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards against a Green Bay defense that particularly honed in on Petersen's running. That worked for this day, but with Petersen possibly out for a while, will Bradford be as effective as he proved to be against Green Bay? Time will tell. 

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