We begin our look at Week 2’s Top 5 NFL storylines with a quick glance at what happened on Thursday night in Cincinnati.
One doesn’t need to monitor Twitter to know how much pressure Marvin Lewis is under this season with the Bengals. Coaching a team for 15 seasons without a playoff victory in only seven tries is more testimony to survival than success.
But the Bengals moved to 2-0 with a 34-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens, the same team that dismantled the Buffalo Bills by 44 points last Sunday. Andy Dalton threw for the four touchdowns in the first half, three to A.J. Green.
Still, there are question marks. They punted the next five times they had the ball which allowed the Ravens to bounce back from a three-touchdown deficit to move within five with less than 10 minutes to play.
“We still have one (improvement) we need to make, one we haven’t done a good job of in the first two games, which is making sure we close out football games,” Lewis said after the game. “When you get the lead, you want to be able to handle it and close it out.”
Hey, then again, it’s better than 0-2.
Now on to this weekend
Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)
Let’s check the Jon Gruden salary scoreboard. If he remains Oakland’s coach for the remainder of his 10-year, $100 million deal, he still has 159 regular season games left to lead.
After taking the Raiders to a 13-10 halftime lead in their Monday Night opener with the Chargers, Oakland’s abysmal second half led to a 33-13 loss and the immediate questioning of Gruden’s tactics and handle.
Gruden, the passing guru, presided over an offense that saw quarterback Derek Carr throw for over 300 yards, but feed top receiver Amari Cooper just three times, good for one catch and nine yards, with three interceptions.
And after trading Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, and watching him excel last Sunday night at Green Bay, the state of the defense is also easily questioned. If the Raiders lose again, the move to Las Vegas won’t come soon enough for the residents of the Black Hole.
Miami Dolphins (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)
It’s a wonder New York didn’t have a ticker-tape parade for its Jets after Monday night’s splendiferous wipeout of the Detroit Lions.
Every facet of the Jets roster performed above its pay grade, including rookie quarterback Sam Darnold (198 yards passing) who recovered with such poise after throwing a pick-six on his first attempt you could hardly believe he’s just 21.
The Jets will be greeted like conquering heroes by a frustrated fan base at MetLife Stadium and will naturally be expected to keep the momentum building in their first test against an AFC rival.
Still, the aspirations are just as high in Miami. Ryan Tannehill has been accessorized with new weapons like Frank Gore, Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson to complement Kenny Stills, who kicked things off last week against Tennessee with two touchdown receptions.
If there is a big fear in Jets World, it may be that the Lions are just be a woeful team, which would explain the outcome. Well, we’re about to find out.
Detroit Lions (0-1) at San Francisco 49ers (0-1)
Speaking of the Lions – and we might not be much longer – you have to wonder what’s swirling around in the mind of management who hired Matt Patricia as their next coach.
If you are looking for similarities between Patricia, the longtime defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, and his former boss, Bill Belichick, we point to the pencil that rested above the right ear on Monday.
Matt, you might jot this down: There was nothing else denoting the Patriot Way in how unprepared the Lions looked, especially after Darnold offered his quick gift on the game’s first play. The players are already griping about all the new rules. And Matthew Stafford looked lost throwing four interceptions.
Patricia’s next challenge comes with how disappointed the 49ers also were about their opening-week 24-16 loss at Minnesota. The franchise had grown accustomed to its late-season success in 2017 after the acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo from the Pats. And Garoppolo also seeks redemption after throwing three picks.
New England Patriots (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
As unlikely as it seemed last season, this was the matchup in the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium. And that’s exactly what makes this game so intriguing.
Taking the lead of Belichick, Tom Brady usually comes into games calm, certain and quiet. But this week, he deviated. He posted a video from the AFC title game that basically starred Jacksonville’s mouthy cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, who tried to pick a fight with Odell Beckham, Jr., before last week’s win over the New York Giants.
In the video, Brady can be seen in an animated chit-chat with Ramsey after he ran onto the field following his introduction. Brady is likely upset that Ramsey decided to pick on The Gronk this week.
The Jags certainly remember how they led the Pats 20-10 in the fourth quarter before Brady – always Brady – hit Amendola for the game-winning touchdown with 2:48 to play. The Patriots are in for a physical and verbal war.
New York Giants (0-1) at Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
This has become something of an annual primetime event with the NFL, accurately aware of the massive fanbase of couch potatoes eager to tune in.
And with the specter of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles hanging over them the NFC East, this is essentially a must-win for both teams and they likely know it.
The Giants got off to a disappointing start last week by losing 20-15 to the Jags, despite shutting down their offense in the second half and despite great chemistry between Eli Manning and OBJ, who combined for 11 receptions and 111 yards. And rookie back Saquon Barkley debuted with a nifty 68-yard touchdown run.
The Cowboys showed little flair by scoring only eight points in a 16-8 loss to the Carolina Panthers and those didn’t come until 10 minutes were left in the game on Zeke Elliott’s score and Dak Prescott’s two-point conversion.