NFL Week 2 Winners & Losers
By Lee Wakefield & Peter Mann
And just like that, we are through six weeks of the NFL season already. With team’s fortunes beginning to take shape, Lee and Peter bring you their weekly winners and losers:
Winners - Lee Wakefield
Cleveland Browns Defense
If you’ve not already begun to pay attention, it is time that you start recognising the Cleveland Brown’s defense for what it is.
This unit is by far the best defense in football.
The Browns are allowing just 143.8 passing yards per game so far this season. They’ve held the Titans, the Bengals, and the 49ers to their lowest total points outputs in their matchups. And they only allow their opponents to score on 17.6% of their offensive drives.
These are insane numbers.
It took until week 3 against the Titans for a team to even enter the red zone against them.
Last night against the offensive juggernaut that is the San Francisco 49ers, the Browns held the Niners to 215 total yards, which is the lowest yardage total since Kyle Shanahan became the Head Coach, which is 104 games. And finally, by holding San Francisco to under 30 points, that broke an eight-game streak of the 49ers scoring 30 in a game.
The 49ers were red hot, they’ve been destroying everyone in their path and the Browns defense had the antidote.
Yeah, the rain helped and the Niners lost key guys during the game but don’t let that take away from how good this Cleveland defense is.
Greg Olsen is correct, this defense is Super Bowl calibre.
We have talked about the Dolphins on the podcast a lot this year and with good reason! Miami’s offense is a death machine.
Lethal speed everywhere, a play-caller who always appears to be a couple of steps ahead of his opponent, and a diversity of run and pass that means that they can beat you with either method.
Tyreek Hill seems to be at the centre of it all and on a personal level, is on pace for by far the greatest season that we have ever seen by an offensive player in NFL history.
It is week 6 and Hill has 814 receiving yards. That is 135.7 yards per game and he’s accumulated that on just 42 catches, so he’s going at 19.4 yards per reception.
For context, Calvin Johnson averaged 122.8 yards per game in his 1,946-yard season in 2012 (which is the current record for receiving yards in a season).
If we extrapolate Hill’s current numbers and extend this over the remainder of the season, we hit 2,306 receiving yards. Even in a 16-game regular season, which is what Johnson achieved his numbers in, Hill still easily clears Megatron’s feat.
No wonder he’s doing backflips.
New York Jets
The Jets overcame the Eagles on Sunday but they didn’t win entry to this column solely for that reason.
The Jets are somehow still relevant in the AFC despite losing Aaron Rodgers after 4 snaps (well, 5 if we include his Achilles tendon (too soon?)) and will likely serve as a thorn in the side of many a good team who have to face off against them the remainder of the way.
Robert Saleh is pleased with the form of his defense, which is the reason why the Jets are hanging around this year.
After losing Rodgers they could have felt sorry for themselves, especially after the PR tour that they and Rodgers carried out throughout the offseason and the hype that it drummed up.
I don’t know if the Jets will make the playoffs, they almost certainly won’t make a deep run if they do with Zach Wilson as their QB. But what they will do is be an acid test that a number of would-be AFC contenders have to navigate on their way to the postseason.
If his squad doesn’t make the dance themselves, I have a feeling that Robert Saleh will enjoy being the reason why some other guys didn’t make it either.
Losers - Peter Mann
The Two Undefeateds
Every franchise this season has now lost a game, following defeats this past weekend by the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. The Miami Dolphins’ unparallelled, undefeated season from 1972 remains intact.
The Eagles fell to a 20-14 loss at the MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets. And although it was a narrow loss, the Eagles failed to soar in a second half which saw them register, well, nothing – they were actually leading 14-9 at that point.
Jalen Hurts was a standout for the Eagles. Butwhilst he totalled more than 350 yards and a couple of TDs, he also threw three INT – for just the second time in his pro football career. Meanwhile, four of the Jets’ scores came from the boot of Greg Zuerlein.
Over in NorthEast Ohio, the Niners lost their unbeaten record against a somewhat unfancied, Cleveland outfit, the Browns sneaking a 19-17 win at the death – again, due to a handful of field goals from kicker Dustin Hopkins.
Kyle Shanahan’s previously unbeaten San Francisco franchise saw injuries befall that of Christian McCaffrey (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (shoulder), whilst QB Brock Purdy had the worst game of the his career to date.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots are now all but out of the race for the play-offs following another defeat the weekend, slipping to 1-5 in the AFC East (behind the 3-3 Jets). This time they fell to the Las Vegas Raiders, who moved to 3-3 – themselves enduring a rather hit-and-miss, on, and off the field of play this season.
Already labelled as being the worst team Belichick has coached, the 2023 Patriots are certainly not feeling it these days. Reaching the end zone alone has been an issue this season, with Ezekiel Elliott’s run-in against the Raiders the first since week three for the Pats.
A third straight loss for Belichick’s once dominant franchise is also not being helped by the inability of their QB, Mac Jones. Jones had a torrid night at the hands of Raiders’ powerhouse edge rusher Maxx Crosby, sacking Jones in the closing minutes which, ultimately, spelled the end of the Pats’ chances for victory.
It was a result that saw Belichick and the Patriots slip to their worst start in the curmdgeon Head Coach’s 24 year in charge at Foxboro.
New York Giants
How did the New York Giants lose to the Buffalo Bills in October 2023? It’s a question that will now be asked throughout the ages after what happened in the Bills Stadium, when all the Giants had to do, was step forward.
Instead, they failed to score a TD, from the Bills’ 1-yard line, on the games’ final play – and lost 14-9. In the end Graham Gano’s boot registered the only points for Brian Daboll’s franchise.
And yet here’s the kicker (pardon the pun, Graham); the Giants finished the game against the Bills having registered more passing yards, more rushing yards, fewer fumbles, fewer interceptions, and even fewer missed field goals, than their opponents – and STILL ended up losing.
The Giants became the first franchise in 135 different games, not to succeed when in that kind of scenario (the record is now 134-1). Big Blue sit at 1-5 and prop up the NFC East – arnd perhaps, based on performances, they’re worthy of that position.
Feature Image Credit: NewYorkJets.com
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Lee Wakefield IS A defensive line enthusiast, Chargers Sufferer, and LONG-TIME writer and podcaster with a number of publications. Find his Chargers content over at Bolt Beat. @Wakefield90 on twitter