Five Wide: 2022 Week Two

By Thomas Willoughby

Redzone is stunning, isn’t it? Weird place to start, but having watched an iteration of BT Sports’ European Goals Show, which attempts to bring a “Redzone” style format to our football, I’m amazed all over again.

No slight on what they do on Champions League nights, but when you see Scott Hanson hold down a whole league for seven hours straight, you can’t help but get engrossed. Here, instead of moving around which terrestrial channel gets to show highlights, put Redzone on ITV4 or something. The ultimate way of getting people into the sport, guaranteed.

What a week for Redzone, by the way. Basically, every game felt like it could be a classic in any other year. And how blessed we were that it all happened in one night. Anyway, let’s have a quick scan over week two, and get a lay of the land!

Arizona Scarred-inals

I don’t think this Sunday could have gone any better for the Arizona Cardinals. Hang on, stop booing me, let me explain! The Arizona Cardinals lost 31-28 against a New York Giants side that hadn’t scored any points for 6 quarters this season, and were 20-0 up at halftime. “What a disaster!” I hear you cry. Well, hear me out.

The Arizona Cardinals have decided to rebuild, again. Feels like we’re only a few years removed from them doing the same thing in pursuit of Kyler Murray (we are), but THIS time Caleb Williams is going to work out. What the Cardinals need from 2023 is to know what works, to know who’s worth keeping around, and to look good enough that good players can see themselves in this setting in the coming years. With that in mind, mission accomplished?

In one evening, they embarrassed the Giants a bit, looked pretty clean offensively, but maintained their tank in the process. Arizona fans ought to strap in, because things are going to get pretty bumpy in 2023. But the future might be a bit smoother. And, by future, I mean a period of about 3 years starting in 2025.

Felisa Cardenas-Arizona Sports

Comeback szn

Silly one this, but I committed to the campaign on this week’s podcast, and it would bring me an immense amount of joy if we could get this to catch on. Bjian Robinson is really good, isn’t he? Every time he has the ball in his hands, something massive feels like it’s going to happen. He was almost the sole reason for the Falcons winning on Sunday afternoon. That 4th down conversion at the end? A thing of beauty. We need to talk about this brand of his, though.

Like a touchdown in your mouth, is it? Not sure about that. We don’t really do mustard here. I mean, we do, but I’d say it’s a solid 3rd (at best) in terms of the nation’s favourite condiments. We (I) love a roast dinner, though. So, I’m taking over your branding ahead of your trip to London, Bijan. With all of the above in mind, we’re now calling him Bisto Robinson. Because this man is different gravy.

Come on, that’s something isn’t it. #BistoRobinson please, folks. And, when he scores a touchdown at Wembley next week, we need to commit to a stadium-wide “ahhhh, Biiiiiiiiiijaaaaaaaaaan”.

We talked about it on this podcast this week, it’s a whole thing.

Know your Bienemy

One of the more bizarre situations in the NFL over the past few years has been that of Eric Bienemy. The long-time offensive coordinator has multiple Super Bowl rings, on an offense that has soared to record-breaking heights under his watch. And yet, despite less decorated coaches being hired into the main gig. The reason? Anyone can succeed as an OC when you’ve got Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes! So what does Bienemy actually do?

Not my sentiment, I need to stress. In an attempt to kick start his run on a head coaching role, he’s taking the same path that current Packers head, Matt LaFleur, took. He broke out of Sean McVey’s shadow with a year coordinating the Titans, before getting the Packers job. Bienemy has gone to the Washington Commanders, to coordinate Sam Howell, and an offense that doesn’t feel like it has many expectations. The results? Things aren’t looking bad, you know. 

It’s early days, yet. But I was super impressed with the Commanders offense this weekend. Down big fairly early, they could have simply folded. Instead, they figured the Broncos out. Bienemy did an exceptional job of putting Howell into positive scenarios. And Howell, to his credit, looked good! Calm, and composed, and the touch on some of his passed was to die for. This was not a game the Broncos lost, but one the Commanders won.

Look I don’t know where this season ends up for the Commanders. They’re 2-0, but they’ve played two not-great sides in the process. I don’t even know if we’ll know that much about them this weekend (vs Buffalo Bills). What I do know is that Bienemy might actually have it. And a few times that passed on him previously might be calling him back in a few month’s time.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings is Vikings

Winning in the NFL is hard. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be teams on a decade-long playoff drought. One thing the Minnesota Vikings are good at, historically, is winning. Just as an aside, you can learn more about the Vikings’ incredible (and I mean incredible) history on SecretBase’s exceptional History of the Minnesota Vikings documentary series. It’s long, but it’s so, so good.

Back to the modern-day Vikings, and winning became a habit for them last season. 13-4, a division title; yes they lost in the playoffs, but that’s a very impressive first season for a rookie head coach. So, why did it never feel like they were going to replicate that this season? Look beyond the record. A -3 points differential with a 13-4 record is almost impressive. When they won, they squeaked it. When they lost, however. They lost BADLY. 

Therein lies the issue. 11 of their 13 regular season wins were by one score or less. A toss of the coin or a bounce of the ball, and things could be very different. We’re two seasons in, and the Vikings are 0-2, having lost both games by, you guessed it, less than a touchdown. Welcome to the regression, Vikings fans.

I’ve been in this game long enough to know you can win games the way the Vikings did last season and expect to run it back a year later without significant fundamental changes to your team. I don’t think the Vikings made those changes. Might be a tough one for Vikings fans this season. 4-13, maybe. But they might get a positive points differential and become the anti-Vikings.

Strongest division in the NFL

Two games isn’t a massive sample size, as I’ve kind of alluded to already. But it’s useful to give you a bit of an indication so to which direction a team is likely to be heading this season. One thing I think we all suspected was just how dominant the NFC South would be this season, and that’s backed up with 3 2-0 sides, accounting for 33.3% of all remaining unbeaten teams. Sorry, none of us suspected that. 

Yes, it would appear the NFC South is a powerhouse. Ignore the teams the Falcons, Saints, and Buccaneers have played. And the fact that only one of these teams has a win that was by more than a touchdown. Oh and the fact that two of these 6 wins came against the Panthers. Everything else is legit. Honestly.

Look, I don’t expect the NFC South to provide 3 playoff teams this season. I barely expect them to supply one. But, for now at least, these maligned outfits are objectively better than Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Buffalo. Like we all predicted.

Features Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox-Getty Images

Thomas Willoughby