Click here to read ten things we learned about the NFL in week 1.
1. The San Francisco 49ers are the best team in the league.
I don’t think anyone could possibly dispute the claim that the San Francisco 49ers are the best team in the league. They began their season by taking down the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, two of the top offensive teams from last year. They’re essentially a flawless team. They don’t turn the football over. They’re high-powered on offense when they need to be. They have a dominant defense. And their have arguably a top three coach in the league.
2. The Philadelphia Eagles have found the clutch play that they lacked in 2011.
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles lost five games because of blown leads in the fourth quarter. This year, they’re doing the exact opposite. The Eagles overcame six-point deficits with a touchdown on their final drive, followed by a defensive stop, to defeat the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in the season’s first two games.
3. Forget about the Kansas City Chiefs as a surprise AFC West champion.
Many picked the Kansas City Chiefs to emerge as a surprise champion in the AFC West. After all, the Chiefs will have Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and Eric Berry for the full season, after losing all three to ACL tears in week one of the 2011 season. But the Chiefs have been brutal so far this season, losing a shootout to the Atlanta Falcons and suffering a blowout at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. The Chiefs will likely need to finish 10-4 to make the playoffs.
4. The New Orleans Saints are in big trouble without Sean Payton.
I wouldn’t call the New Orleans Saints one of the worst teams in the league. But they’re definitely a below average team, and you can blame their struggles squarely on the loss of head coach Sean Payton for the season after his role in Bountygate. The Saints showed that their loss to the Washington Redskins in week one wasn’t a fluke, losing to the Carolina Panthers in week two. They’re in a must-win situation against the Chiefs in week three.
5. The fourth quarter again belongs to Eli Manning.
Say what you want about Eli Manning, but the New York Giants quarterback is one of the best fourth quarter comeback artists in league history. He threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Giants to 25 points in a must-win game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is one fourth quarter comeback away from tying the most ever by a player in his first nine seasons (23).
6. The Miami Dolphins’ run defense is the most underrated unit in the league.
Before the season, I picked the Miami Dolphins to win about two games. But with their unbelievable run defense, they could win six or seven games. This season, they have allowed 49 carries for 106 rushing yards, a ridiculous total of 2.2 yards per attempt. Darren McFadden ran 11 times for 22 yards, and Arian Foster carried 26 times for 79 yards. Over their 12 games, the Dolphins have allowed 912 rushing yards, an average of just 76 per game, with their best performance a 27-carry, 38-yard effort by LeSean McCoy last season.
7. Nobody knows what to expect from the Dallas Cowboys, as usual.
The Dallas Cowboys’ blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks in week two really shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. This is a team that has to rank among the most inconsistent we’ve seen in recent memory. One game they’ll beat the defending champions and the next week they’ll get blown out by a rookie quarterback. Through two games, it’s looking like the Cowboys will turn in their typical 8-8 season. Some games they’ll be unbeatable and some games they’ll destroy themselves.
8. Chris Johnson is one of the worst starting running backs in the league.
I don’t know what it is with this guy but he’s gone from having one of the best single-seasons by a running back in the history of the league to being one of the worst (and most boring) starting running backs in the league. Through two games, Chris Johnson has rushed 19 times for 21 yards. That’s an average of 1.2 yards per carry. One. Point. Two. It’s not surprising that the Tennessee Titans have scored just 23 points, the fewest in the NFL.
9. Contrary to their week one performances, the five rookie quarterbacks won’t all turn into busts.
A record five rookie starting quarterbacks made their NFL debuts in week one. They combined to win one game and throw for four touchdown passes against 11 interceptions (two touchdowns and 11 picks if you take out Robert Griffin III, who also got the win). But don’t count the other four as busts because of just one game.
Three of the five emerged as winning quarterbacks in week two (Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson), and RGIII and Brandon Weeden both turned in impressive performances in a loss. I’d expect Luck and RGIII to end the year as above average quarterbacks, but don’t count out any of the five this season. They might surprise you.
10. A record 20 teams with 1-1 records leave playoff chases wide open.
Never before has the NFL seen so many 1-1 teams through two weeks of a season. With only six perfect teams this year, there are already some big names with a loss: New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers. I wouldn’t expect to see any team run off a 7-0 or 8-0 stretch to begin the season.