Well, that was a fun start to the season.
We've seen upsets that nobody anticipated, we saw star players pull off some of their most iconic moments ever, and we witnessed some pre-season playoff contenders stumble out of the gate, among other things. Let's take a look at some of the biggest stories of the first two weeks in the new NFL season.
Ryan Fitz-magic and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It feels like Ryan Fitzpatrick has been around forever, and while he's been a back-up for basically his entire career, somehow he always finds a way to be a starter for whatever team he's on. Losing Jameis Winston due to suspension opened up the starting QB gig for Fitzpatrick (well, at least until Week 4) and Fitzpatrick seems to be taking a huge advantage of this situation. He statistically performed the best out of all the QB's in Week 1, recording 417 passing yards and 5 touchdowns, including one rushing, en route a 48-40 victory over the New Orleans Saints. He followed this up with 402 yards and 4 touchdowns in Week 2 and led Tampa Bay to another upset victory, this time over defending the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. The receiving trio of DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are decimating secondaries, and Tampa Bay seems to be realizing the expectations that were set a couple of years ago. There are still holes in this team, as the running game is almost non-existent and the defense can still use some work. It will be really interesting to see what the Bucs do when Jameis Winston is available to play again, as Fitzpatrick definitely has them in the right direction. For now, kudos to Dirk Koetter, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay offense for crushing two talented defensive teams in New Orleans and Philadelphia, and somehow they are sitting at the top of the NFC South.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Offense
Kansas City traded Alex Smith to Washington over the off-season and handed the QB reins to Patrick Mahomes, their 2017 first round pick. Mahomes exceeded expectations in his 2018 debut, totaling 256 passing yards and 4 touchdowns on just 15 completions. He had 2 touchdowns of over 30 yards including a 58-yarder to Tyreek Hill, who had a very impressive game as well. He finished with 7 catches for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns and a 91-yard punt return TD, proving why he is one of the most explosive players in the league. The real breakout game, however, was in Week 2 at Pittsburgh, where Mahomes exploded for 326 passing yards and a whopping 6 touchdowns, including 2 to Travis Kelce and another one to Hill. Sure, the performance was against a mediocre Pittsburgh defense, but to be carving up any defense at such a young age with little NFL experience is extraordinary. He had more touchdowns than incompletions. That is almost unheard of in today's game. Mahomes has taken the reins from Smith and led Kansas City to an impressive 2-0 start, but the Chiefs have had trouble on the other side of the ball in both games. The Chargers still put up 28 in the opening week, and Ben Roethlisberger had 452 yards and 3 scores through the air on Sunday. If the Chiefs can improve on defense and Mahomes continues to excel, Kansas City can once again be a threat once January rolls around.
Ties..... and Kickers
Let's be real, nobody likes ties. There's a winner and a loser of every game, and no one wants to put everything on the line for 70 minutes just to come away with a tie. Yet here we are, 2 weeks into the season, and we have two ties. Pittsburgh and Cleveland tied in Week 1 because kicking a field goal is very difficult to do nowadays, and Green Bay and Minnesota tied in Week 2 because of ......kickers. Green Bay gets an exception from this kicker crisis, as Green Bay would not have been in overtime this week if it wasn't for Mason Crosby, who had a career day on Sunday. Almost every other sport plays until there is a decided winner and loser, so why can't we add the same rule to the NFL? I'm fine with overtime and how it works now, but adopting something similar to the sudden death rule that college football has would be intriguing and beneficial for the league. Use the overtime period, and if it's still tied, use the sudden death method. As far as kickers go, it has been extremely brutal to watch. There were more missed kicks in Week 2 than any other week in NFL history. Yikes. Some of these missed kicks could give a dramatic effect to a team's record at the end of the year. Even the Cleveland freaking Browns could be 2-0 if they had a decent kicker. Hopefully it's early season jitters, but there are only 16 games in the regular season. You've got to make the most of them.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Drama-fest
For the record, not everything is bad in Pittsburgh. The offense looked great against Kansas City, with Big Ben torching the Chiefs' secondary for over 400 yards and 3 scores. JuJu Smith-Schuster is proving himself as an elite #2 receiver. James Conner is no Le'Veon Bell, but he is filling in his place very well. But, all of this is overshadowed by Pittsburgh's defense and drama caused by Bell's holdout. The defense made Patrick Mahomes look like he was playing on rookie mode in Madden 19 and he put up 42 points on them. It was a disastrous performance, one that made Week 1 look incredible (they gave up 21 points to Cleveland). Meanwhile, Le'Veon Bell is continuing his holdout, and his offensive line is extremely displeased with this. as two linemen called him out before Week 1. Star WR Antonio Brown has backed him up, but Brown received attention when this twitter encounter happened:
Brown also did not show up for practice the next day, which his absence was described as "family matters". The Steelers have always had drama around them, but not as much as what they have now. Their next game is Monday night against the surging Buccaneers, which will be an extremely interesting game that will if the Bucs are for real, or if the Steelers are back on track.
Here are some more players that made headlines over the last 2 weeks:
Josh Gordon- He caught a crucial touchdown in Week 1 against Pittsburgh, then was benched in Week 2 in New Orleans. The Browns placed him on trade waivers, and he was eventually traded to the New England Patriots for a 4th-rd draft pick and is expected to suit up this week against Detroit. This gives Gordon a brand new start with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, and Tom Brady inherits his most talented receiver since Randy Moss. Keep an eye out for Gordon and the Pats' passing game, as he is likely to make this offense more lethal than it already is.
Michael Thomas- Thomas has put up stellar numbers and progressed each of his two years in the NFL, and this year looks no different. Thomas has already recorded 28 catches for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns over his first two games, including 16 catches, 180 yards and a score against Cleveland last week. Thomas was in top five contention among wide receivers heading into this year, and if he keeps performing like this, fans may need to put his name in the running for best wide receiver in the entire league by the end of the year.
Blake Bortles- Throughout his career, Blake Bortles has been fairly mediocre and disappointing, although his play at the end of 2017 left Jacksonville hopeful for the 2018 season, and they gave him a contract extension. So far, this decision is paying off, and he is coming off of his best game in the NFL against New England, which is easily one of Jacksonville's toughest opponents. He threw for 376 yards and 4 touchdowns, and no one expected Jacksonville to win this game because of their offense. If Bortles can be consistent and lead the offense the way he did on Sunday, I believe that Jacksonville will be the favorites in the AFC. Another Jaguar to look out for: Keelan Cole. He had an incredible game as well and made a sick one-handed grab in an impressive second quarter. Look for him to be Bortles' top target over the course of the season and the prime replacement for Allen Robinson.
Other teams that are making headlines:
Buffalo Bills- When you have a player retire at halftime, you know your team is awful. The Bills were shell-shocked in Week 1 by the Ravens, who won 47-3, and then were beaten by San Diego in Week 2, 31-20. Nathan Peterman is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, and Josh Allen is getting the same treatment DeShone Kizer got last year for the Browns. The difference is, Allen doesn't have an offensive line to give him help, and his receiving core is very subpar as well. LeSean McCoy hasn't been able to produce, and he also got hurt in Week 2. While the defense has good individual players in Lorenzo Alexander and Micah Hyde, they can't mesh together as a group. And then there's the Vontae Davis situation. It's going to be a long year in Buffalo.
Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals- I had the Rams as my Super Bowl favorites heading into this year, and so far they look like the best team in the league. Both of their games so far have been blowouts, as they beat Oakland by 20 and shutout Arizona 34-0. Their offense can do it all, as Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks are off to a hot start, and Todd Gurley is continuing his electric play from a year ago. Their defensive acquisitions are paying off very well, especially Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh. The opposite can be said for the Arizona Cardinals, who have only scored one time through their first 8 quarters. Sam Bradford is off to a putrid start, and fans are already pleading for Josh Rosen to be the starter. David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and the entire team can't get anything going for them right now, and with a tough schedule this year, things are not looking bright in the desert.