A giant comeback (pun intended), a moon-ball Hail Mary and a blunder at Bank Field highlight week 2 of the 2023 NFL season.
Vikings 28 - 34 Eagles
Other than one questionable misread from Jalen Hurts, the Eagles offense picked up the pace this week. D’Andre Swift stepped up to the plate following Kenneth Gainwell’s injury, and he knocked it out of the park - with 28 carries for 175 yards and a score, giving Philly a huge 65% of the total possession time.
WELCOME HOME D'ANDRE SWIFT— Barstool Philly (@BarstoolPhilly) September 15, 2023
But despite the Eagles controlling the clock, this was more about the Vikings falling short…
Firstly, the ground-game was non-existent, with only 28 yards from Alexander Mattison. I know Philly have a scary-good D-line, but it was the same story against the Bucs last week. Combine this with 4 fumbles - all resulting in a change of possession - I’m shocked this finished as a one-score game.
😬 Justin Jefferson's end zone fumble results in a touchback...— Sky Sports NFL (@SkySportsNFL) September 15, 2023
Huge moment in the game. pic.twitter.com/ctKR5Nxurd
Sure, Jefferson had another 150+ yard performance, but without a reliable run-game to turn to, there’s only so much he can do. They’ll face the Chargers next week and that could mean an 0-3 start for Minnesota…
Meanwhile, nothing has changed for Philly as they continue to win matchups by dominating the trenches. Minus a few deep shots to DeVonta Smith, the passing game was very inconsistent, but when you can outrush opponents by over 200 yards, who cares?
Ravens 27 - 24 Bengals
The whole league was hoping to see Lamar Jackson return to his MVP standards, and our wishes might just come true.
Jackson threw for 237 yards and 2 TDs, while rushing for another 57. He’s started to look like his old self again - calm and collected in the pocket, with impressive running to back it up. Keep your eye on Baltimore.
LAMAR JACKSON. CLUTCH FIRST DOWN. pic.twitter.com/KE8OCVvTi4— Kyle (@ImKyleMangum) September 17, 2023
Now, I poked fun at Joe Burrow’s calf injury last week, but something is seriously wrong. Whether it’s that or he’s simply lost his touch, I don’t care that it’s only week 2 - Bengals fans are on a long road of disappointment.
Burrow completed 27/41 for 222 yards, 2 scores and 1 INT. Doesn’t seem too bad right? Wrong. The offense struggled all day. Tee Higgins stepped in to provide a glimpse of hope late in the game, but Ja’Marr Chase was nowhere to be seen. Not to mention, 6 of the Bengals points came from a punt return TD. If Burrow continues to play like this, Cincy won’t see the postseason.
Seahawks 37 - 31 Lions (OT)
After an underwhelming opener from reigning Comeback Player of the Year, Geno Smith, the Hawks bounced back for an overtime win in Detroit.
There’s no doubt Smith improved on his week 1 performance, but the real difference-maker was Tyler Locket. After a measly two receptions on four targets against the Rams, Lockett hauled in 8 of 12 targets on Sunday, including the game-winning touchdown. Looks like Seattle have steadied the ship.
Meanwhile, the Lions offense remains as explosive as last year, but the issue for Detroit is the pass rush. Besides Aiden Hutchinson, there’s no real threat on the line. This led to just one sack on Geno Smith, which is somehow an improvement on last week’s statline. With so much time in the pocket, eventually someone gets open… Not sure how Dan Campbell will fix this.
Colts 31 - 20 Texans
Remember when we said last week that Anthony Richardson should follow the advice of Trevor Lawrence and protect himself? Well, Richardson is now in concussion protocol and it doesn’t look good.
Don’t let that take away from his performance though. The Colts QB had 2 impressive rushing touchdowns before he left the field. And thankfully, Indy have one of the better backups in the league in Gardner Minshew, who went 19/23 for 171 yards and a score.
That being said, it looks like running back Zack Moss will be the new focal point of this offense following a miserable Week 1 from Deon Jackson. The Colts should be okay until Richardson returns.
As for the Texans, C.J. Stroud is thriving as a pocket passer, with 384 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions on the day. The difficulties come with the lack of a reliable run game - getting Dameon Pierce going is the next step for Houston.
Bears 17 - 27 Buccaneers
Has Baker Mayfield finally found his home? It’s early days, but I’m tempted to say yes.
The former No.1 pick was on the verge of becoming a journeyman, but he’s taken the Bucs to 2-0 behind some very impressive performances. He logged 317 yards and a touchdown vs the Bears, and is yet to throw an interception this year. If he can continue to play smart football while the defense remains solid, Tampa Bay has a shot in a wide open NFC South.
Meanwhile, the Bears offensive line still has a curse on Chicago. Despite adding Nate Davis and Darnell Wright in the offseason, Justin Fields was sacked six times on Sunday, and it could have been more. DJ Moore did what he could when Fields got him the ball, but if it’s not a quick slant, they can’t move the chains. Then again it doesn't help when your OC is doing this...
This is actually unbelievable… it would appear that the Bears called that same screen THREE plays in a row, not just 2. What. On. Earth. pic.twitter.com/nBvrGn1RL4— Harrison Graham (@HGrahamNFL) September 18, 2023
Chiefs 17 - 9 Jaguars
I won’t lie, I thought this would be a shootout between two of the best air-raid offenses in the league. But there’s one key reason it was such a low-scoring game, and its name is Chris Jones.
All props to a young Chiefs secondary for keeping one of the most precise passers out of the endzone, but it’s a much easier task when your D-line is doing this all game…
It may not be the 30+ points we’re used to, but with Jones and Kelce both back, the Chiefs could return to their old ways in no time. I was sceptical after week 1, but once again, KC has my attention.
As for the Jags, I may be biassed with Trevor Lawrence as my fantasy QB, but I’m taking this as an anomaly in what should be a solid season for Jacksonville. Next week, they’ll host Houston, who should provide enough of an ego-boost to move on from this tough loss.
Packers 24 - 25 Falcons
Atlanta deserved this win and the box score reflects that. The Falcons out-threw Green Bay 237-115 yards, and out-rushed them 211-84.
Bijan Robinson is looking like the generational talent he was touted to be. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry while logging 48 yards on 4 receptions. This guy is special.
Jordan Love may have thrown 3 touchdowns with 0 picks, but it’s clear that the Packers are going to suffer without Aaron Jones. A.J. stepped in as the RB1 and only had 55 yards on the ground. If Christian Watson returns anytime soon and Jones recovers quickly, Green Bay could be okay. But without them both, I don’t have high hopes.
Raiders 10 - 38 Bills
As we all expected, Josh Allen bounced back from his 3-interception performance vs the Jets. 31 of 37, 274 yards, 3 touchdowns and zero picks - exactly what Bills fans wanted to see. There’s no denying Allen & Co. played solid football, but the run-game was the difference in this matchup.
James Cook led Buffalo on the ground with 123 of the total 183 rushing yards, while their defense completely shut down the Raiders backfield.
Star running back Josh Jacobs - who led the league in rushing last season - logged a total of 9 yards on 4 carries. And without his usual game-breaking run on the cards, Jimmy Garoppolo was forced to put the ball in the air. His favourite target from Week 1, Jakobi Meyers was out with a concussion, leaving Devante Adams as the only viable downfield option.
Besides Adams, Jacobs caught 5 passes, but only 5 more receptions were made between the rest of the receiving corps.
This was a poor performance on all sides of the ball for Vegas, but the Bills defense looked particularly strong…
Chargers 24 - 27 Titans (OT)
The Chargers entered this matchup with the most effective run-game in the league after Week 1, but it looks like that was just Austin Ekeler.
Joshua Kelley took over the role and was held to just 39 yards, while Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears combined for 129 rushing yards for Tennessee. But this is just one part of the puzzle…
I’d love to give credit to Ryan Tannehill for going 20/24 for 246 yards and a score, but his passing game should never be hitting numbers like this. Something needs to change in the Chargers secondary if they want to stop blowing games by giving up plays like this to teams like the TItans.
Herbert will no doubt lead a great offense moving forward. Mike Williams and Keenan Allen look as explosive as ever, and with Ekeler back, they should find the win column soon.
And the downfall of the Titans is inevitable. Trust me.
49ers 30 - 23 Rams
What is there to say about the 49ers? Brock Purdy is still silencing the haters. The defense is still stacked. And Christian McCaffrey is still Christian McCaffrey…
That being said, the Rams kept this one close and it’s all down to Kyren Williams’ strong running and Matthew Stafford playing nearly flawless football with his new favourite target, Puka Nacua.
The 177th pick in the 2023 draft, is now the first rookie in NFL history with at least 10 receptions and 100 receiving yards in each of his first two games. On Sunday, he caught a whopping 15 of 20 targets for 147 yards…
Wanna see all of Puka’s catches against the Niners?— Daily Universe Sports (@DailyUnivSports) September 18, 2023
HERE YOU GO! pic.twitter.com/6ZmUCBXQrL
The Rams are for real this year. They kept things very close with one of the best teams in the league and they already have postseason potential. When Kupp returns to the lineup (expected Week 5), the offense could take things to a whole new level.
Giants 31 - 26 Cardinals
In the story of the week, the Giants began the season with an 0-60 scoreline across the first six quarters, but bounced back last night to tie their biggest comeback win in franchise history.
Sure, this is a headline-hitting game, but we need to put that aside for a second.
It’s Arizona - the team ranked dead last in Super Bowl odds. It’s great that New York found a good rhythm after the half, but take that with a pinch of salt… They still failed to score a single point in 90 minutes of football, which hasn’t happened since 1934. Yes. The last time that happened was before World War II. Save your money. Don’t bet on Big Blue
Now, what did we say last week? “Even if the Cardinals play at their best, they’ll still lose to mediocre teams.” Well, Joshua Dobbs cut the fumbles down from 3 to 0, while leading a fairly solid passing game, and James Connor bullied the Giants all day, tallying 106 yards and a TD.
But still they managed to blow a 20-0 lead. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, tanking for Caleb Williams is the way…
Jets 10 - 30 Cowboys
We all knew the Jets were in trouble with Rodgers out for the season, but I didn’t know just how bad Zach Wilson would be. Somehow, with so many top-tier weapons at his disposal, he still managed to log a QB rating of 38.1…
This roster is far too talented to have Wilson at the helm. Robert Salah needs to look elsewhere and the free agent market is the place to go. Carson Wentz, Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan (who said he's not officially retired) and Nick Foles are just a few names that could take the Jets where they deserve to be - the playoffs.
Zach Wilson’s THIRD INT of the day 😬 pic.twitter.com/qHLYqhWqsM— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) September 17, 2023
In other news, this Cowboys defense is for real. Sure, it was Zach Wilson they were intercepting, but they also had 3 sacks, 5 QB hits and a forced fumble. Breece Hall only getting 9 yards may look like a win, but for some reason Salah only gave him 4 carries. But to be fair, I’d be just as scared to run the ball with Micah Parsons making plays like this...
TD didn't count but Micah Parsons forced and recovered the fumble.— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2023
The 🦁 never ceases to amaze. @MicahhParsons11
📺: #NYJvsDAL on CBS⁰📱: Stream on #NFLPlus https://t.co/FhXtx7w3wW pic.twitter.com/rRZB7oz0BV
Meanwhile, Dak Prescott, Tony Pollard and Ceedee Lamb continue to lead this offense in style. I know it’s early days, but I’m calling it now. Dallas will go 13-4 and win the NFC Championship. Sorry San Francisco.
Commanders 35 - 33 Broncos
If you’ve read any other recap of mine, you’ll know I just want to spend this section laughing at Russell Wilson, but despite the loss, there’s no avoiding this play…
So, we’ll give Wilson his props for still being able to throw a 60-yard moon ball, but the Broncos still blew a 21-3 lead…
They started with 3 consecutive touchdown drives, then came: punt, fumble, punt, punt, interception, field goal, punt, field goal. We can talk about the hail mary all day long, but they missed the 2pt conversion and lost the game. Consistency is the big issue in Denver, and it’s here to stay.
Meanwhile, if Washington doesn’t miss two field goals, they find points on 8/11 drives and this is nowhere near as close as it should have been. Forget the triple-tipped hail mary, pretend the Commanders have a good kicker, and suddenly it’s 41-27…
I’m always going to find a way to make Russell Wilson look bad, if he doesn’t do it himself.
Dolphins 24 - 17 Patriots
Despite the Pats looking good for the most part, they’re now 0-2. Last week, what looked like a game-winning drive was cut short as Kayshon Boutte caught a 4th&11 pass inside the 10, but was just a foot out of bounds. This week, it came down to a matter of inches…
With the Jets and Cowboys up next in the schedule, Mac Jones will be facing two of the toughest defenses in the league. It could be 0-4 for New England…
Mike McDaniels’ air-raid offense was certainly slowed down with some Bill Belichick’s defensive scheming (let’s not talk about him benching Demario Douglas the entire game for fumbling once). But while the Pats held Tyreek Hill to just 40 yards, they failed to account for Raheem Mostert, who tallied 121 rushing yards on 18 carries with 2 touchdowns.
Miami seem to have an answer for everything right now. Then again, it’s only week 2.
Saints 20 - 17 Panthers
Exactly what we expected - an offensive disaster. 6-3 at the half and one touchdown on the board with 3 minutes left. But despite the field-goal fest, Taysom Hill will always have me watching Saints game. The human swiss army knife led New Orleans with 75 rushing yards on 9 carries. There's a reason the game was on his shoulders in the final seconds - Carolina just couldn't stop him and Derrick Carr was about as patchy as it gets.
Derek Carr with the throw into triple coverage pic.twitter.com/fo0pLSzsze— CJSSports (@CJSSports_) September 19, 2023
Besides Adam Theilen, the Panthers didn't have much going for them. Bryce Young struggled all night and had to rely on the 10-year vet for a third of his completions and his only touchdown of the night, not to mention saving Young from an interception. It'll be a few years before the Panthers can compete in the NFC.
Steelers 26 - 22 Browns
Now, this is the Steelers defense we all wanted to see - 4 forced fumbles, 1 interception, 9 TFLs, 6 sacks and 2 touchdowns... The secondary may have given up 235 passing yards, but that's on a 55% completion rate - defensive coordinators will take that any day. Meanwhile, the D-line started as they meant to go on, with a pick six from Highsmith on the first play of the game, followed by a TJ Watt scoop and score that turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
But the issue is stopping the run. Even without Nick Chubb - who is now out for the year following a gruesome knee injury - the Browns ran all over Pittsburgh. Chubb had 64 yards to his name on just 10 carries before being carted off, then Jerome Ford took over and tacked on another 106. With the Raiders on the schedule next week, Josh Jacobs will test them on the ground yet again.
As for the Browns, the return of Amari Cooper was certainly a big plus, but the inconsistency of Deshaun Watson is hurting this offense. We already mentioned the 55% completion rate and the pick six wasn't exactly his fault, but we saw constant overthrows and misreads last night, and without Chubb things will only get worse for the passing game. Watson will need his O-line to deliver more time in the pocket, or he'll be doing his best running back impression for the rest of the year.
So, I'm buying into the Steelers defense, but Kenny Pickett & Co. haven't won my vote yet. And I'll need to see more of Jerome Ford before I know where this Browns offense will go, but it doesn't look half bad...
So, do you still have hope for the Giants? Will Zach Wilson be replaced? And is it all over for Cincinnati?
Sadly, I'm away next week, so no recap. But I'll be back for Week 4 for yet another round of bullying Russell Wilson.
(Header Image Credit: Joe Camporeale - USA TODAY Sports)