Week 2 Stock Report: Defense Keeps the Bears Alive

By Thomas Willoughby

With Week Two done and dusted, Willo takes a look at what's on the rise, and who's plummeting, in the NFL.

Week Two is always a weird one. On one hand, the chances of putting together a successful season on the back of an 0-2 start are slim. 12.2% of all sides that have started 0-2 since 2007 have made the playoffs, and only one has put together a Super Bowl winning run from that. On the other hand, if you manage to win your first two, you’re feeling confident. You’re already looking at the schedule and wondering how you can put together the perfect season.

The important thing is to not panic. There are 14 games left to turn it around, and it isn’t the end of the world. We don’t operate like that, though. The league very much operates in a bubble, and, in this here column, it’s my job to pop it, and tell you the good and the bad that resides within. 

Literally none of that works as a Stock Market reference.

Invest heavily

While their offense is anything but dynamic right now, the Chicago Bears defense have well and truly put the hopes of the city on their backs. Their Week One performance looks even more impressive than it did at the time, given how the Packers moved on the Vikings. They came alive in Week Two.

Two sacks, 6 QB hits, an interception, and a thousand and one tackles, in high altitude, was enough to keep the Bears within touching distance of victory. While all looked lost after a last minute touchdown pass by the Denver Broncos, the score was such that a last gasp field goal was enough to get the win, and that is entirely thanks to the work by the defence.

The Bears might not be looking at a deep playoff run in 2019, but their defense should give them the opportunity to win every single week, even if their offense doesn’t take it.

Week 5, Raiders

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It may have taken two full seasons of hard, hard graft, but Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers are, finally, looking more like a side that could make some serious waves in the NFC. It took them a while to settle down in their Week One victory over the Buccaneers, and they can thank Jameis Winston’s incompetence for allowing them that time. But Week Two was a completely different beast.

The Bengals looked pretty good in the first week. A road game in Seattle is never easy, and they did well to stay in the game and give themselves a shot at the win, despite falling short. The 49ers came to Cincinnati and completely blew the foundations of the stadium away. Jimmy Garoppolo, playing in what seems like his fourth game as a starter, notched up three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards. The ground game was especially devastating, with Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida combining for over 200 ground yards in the absence of Tevin Coleman. And the defense looked *good*. Andy Dalton was given no to whatsoever. 

Most impressively? That’s two wins on the road in two weeks. Home ties to Pittsburgh and Cleveland are on the horizon, and they can feel legitimately good about their chances in both games. Before you know it, the 49ers could be 4-0. In a real tough division, that could be a real help in their push for the playoffs. 

Keep an eye on

When your All-Pro, former first overall Quarterback decides to hang up his pads at the age of 30, it’s possible a team might throw in the towel. It must feel like the world is collapsing around your young, seemingly ascending, team. And that was the scenario facing the Indianapolis Colts this season. 2018’s Comeback Player of the Year, Andrew Luck, decided the pains of professional football were taking too much of a toll on his body, and moved on. Which is absolutely fair.

Unfortunately for the Colts, it meant they faced a season, at least, with Jacoby Brissett at the helm. While Brissett isn’t a bad Quarterback by any stretch, the previous season he had as the Colts starter ended 4-12. Hardly inspiring, but this is a new Indianapolis, one with a competent offensive line. One that, in 2019, can actually win win games.

They played the Chargers close in their first game. Only overtime stood in the way from the Colts collecting a scalp they weren’t expected to on the road. In the second week, on the road again, they travelled to a divisional rival. One who had given a beat down to one of the leagues darlings in the Cleveland Browns. The Colts found themselves 17-13 down into the 4th quarter, and drove to victory thanks to a Brissett connection with the ever reliable T.Y. Hilton.

Adam Vinatieri may have missed two extra points, but it didn’t matter, ultimately. The Colts head into their first home game of the season 1-1, tied for the best record in the AFC South, and in with a real shout of competing, in spite of the hurdles faced in the weeks prior to the seasons start. They host the Falcons and the Raiders, and have a great opportunity to really take control of the division.

A slight dip

Week Two wasn’t kind to the leagues starting Quarterbacks. Arguably the most important position in the game, there’s a reason teams often give up the farm for a guy they think can elevate their team into the realms of contention. So, when they go down, plan b is, often times, damage limitation.

Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, who have been in the league forever, have both been on the receiving end of injuries that will require surgery. While Brees is slated for a return mid-season, Roethlisberger is officially done for the season, although he has committed to returning next season. Sam Darnold, now in his second year, could miss up to nine weeks with glandular fever. Cam Newton is in a walking boot, and doesn’t know if he can even suit up for Week 3. Hell, Carson Wentz, who managed to finish the game, missed time against the Atlanta Falcons with a possible concussion.

These injuries will obviously affect their teams in different ways. But, with Deshaun Watson getting slapped about like the Texans didn’t give up a first round pick for a Left Tackle, the Jets now onto their third string Quarterback, and Marcus Mariota perennially seconds away from missing weeks at a time, the next big Quarterback injury feels like it’s only just around the corner.

Invest everything you have in bubble wrap and cotton wool.

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Here’s a stat for you: between 2015 and 2016, the player with the most yards from scrimmage was Julio Jones. The second? Fellow Falcon Devonta Freeman. Freeman’s breakout season in 2015, and his contributions to a Super Bowl participating team in 2016, earned him a contract that named him the highest paid Running Back in the league at the time. Things hit a snag last season, when injury struck, limiting him to 14 attempts total. But, after a full summer of rehab, he went into 2019 looking to reclaim his seat among the top names in the position.

He has not done anything close to that as of yet. In a Week 1 showing that saw the Falcons fall to 28-0, abandoning the run game, he was limited to 22 yards. In Week 2, against a very good Eagles defence, only 19. That’s from more attempts than his entire 2018, by the way. 

The Vikings and Eagles are good against the run, there is no question about that. What should worry Freeman is how second string back Ito Smith is finding lanes easier than he currently. It’s not looking great for Freeman right now. With the Titans and Texans in his immediate sights, his production may fall to the point of no return for him in Atlanta.

Sell sell sell!

The Chiefs and Texans are as rough a start to the season as a team could possibly hope for. However, only a year removed from a trip to the AFC Championship game, the Jacksonville Jaguars felt good about their outlook in 2019. They’d finally seen the light, and moved from the disaster project that was Blake Bortles, and brought in a Super Bowl winner in Nike Foles. Leonard Fournette was finally healthy, and hoping to make good on his top of the class draft selection. AND the defense was looking as talented as ever. “Sacksonville” was on the path of redemption…until they weren’t.

Nick Foles survived less than a quarter before his left clavicle was broken, requiring surgery and putting him out for the majority of the season. While Gardner Minshew looks pretty good (23/33, 1 td vs Texans), the Jaguars are, seemingly, giving up. News of the team being open to trading generational Cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, has surfaced. At the time of writing, the side have yet to accept an offer, meaning Ramsey is still a Jaguar. However, assuming they do move on from the outspoken former first rounder, that, to me, suggests the tank is in full force. If I were you, I’d get off the Jaguars hype train before it’s too late.

Thomas Willoughby




Image credit: USA Today