Impressions from Week Two of the 2016 AFL Season

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Week Two provided a little more competitiveness between its matches, and even one surprisingly good outing from the Portland Steel. However, the dominant teams still outshone their inferior counterparts and some games were just downright ugly on all cylinders. Let’s not waste any more time dwelling.

TB @ CLE (AFL)

Tampa Bay at Cleveland

  • Did not watch.

Two weeks in a row when the Storm couldn’t even muster thirty points in a single game. That is downright embarrassing. To give them credit, they held the Gladiators to only 41 points. Then again, they were playing a quarterback who had two or three starts to his name. Despite the offensive struggles, the game was pretty back-and-forth, with no team playing any better than the other. Cleveland simply outlasted the Storm (I’m sorry).

One noticeable distinction to this game was that there were a lot of turnovers. The combination of Adam Kennedy and Jonathan Bane threw three interceptions to the Cleveland defense, two being picked by Joe Powell, who is making a nice case for Defensive Player of the Year thus far. Tampa Bay’s defense managed a pick and two forced fumble recoveries. That’s six total turnovers for the game. No wonder the score was a combined total of seventy.

I expected more out of Cleveland, but that’s what’s to be expected with a quarterback with as little experience as Dennis Havrilla. At least they have a dependable kicker, too. Tampa Bay’s Craig Peterson went 2 of 4 on extra points. Woe is the Storm this harrowing season.

PRT @ ORL

Portland at Orlando

  • Did not watch.

Well, last week Portland didn’t fare so well against the Rattlers. This week, they put up a valiant fight against one of the AFL’s better teams. I did not expect the Steel to be in a shoot-out with the Predators when I saw the match-up card. I didn’t even think the Steel would have anything to shoot, but lo and behold, they were a last minute interception away from pulling away with a win. That’s determination.

It certainly didn’t help that Orlando kicker Mark Lewis was 5 of 8 on extra point attempts. It also didn’t help that the only turnover for this game was the aforementioned interception with twenty seconds or so left in the game. Neither defense seemed to be capable of getting a stop whenever an offense was on the move. Surprising for both the Portland offense and the Orlando defense.

The quarterback play was also pretty uneven. No interceptions for Randy Hippeard, but a 50% completion percentage is pretty mediocre. Southwick, if not for the interception, would’ve been 25 of 37 for 223 yards and five touchdowns, which is a much better performance than he had last week. I would hazard a guess and say that Orlando wasn’t playing its best this game and Portland was smart enough to take advantage of it. If the Steel can continue to play smart like that, maybe they’ll have more than two wins this season.

ARI @ LA (AFL)

Arizona at Los Angeles

  • Did not watch.

Remember when the KISS played well against the Sharks last week? That KISS didn’t return this week.

Disparity between teams has never been so apparent since Tampa Bay went up against Orlando last week. By the third quarter, the Rattlers had this game in the palm of their hands with no chance of losing it; maybe even before then. Nick Davila, arguably the best quarterback in the league (and my personal pick on the matter), made a mockery out of the KISS defense without being flashy about it. The Rattlers even ran the ball nine times for 36 yards and three scores. Those numbers would be decent for a running back in the NFL, as opposed to a pass-happy league like the AFL.

Nathan Stanley had a much more sobering performance. Three touchdowns to three interceptions, only completing 21 of 44 passes. The offense did all it could, including another dazzling performance by receiver Donovan Morgan, but the Rattler defense continues to show its superiority. Three sacks and three interceptions. The Rattlers look like the team to beat this year, as is apparent just about every year. Consider them the New England Patriots of the AFL. The KISS can be the Los Angeles Rams.

JAX @ PHI (AFL)

Jacksonville at Philadelphia

  • Watched.

Before I say anything about the players on the field, I’d like to take a shot at the officiating of this game. It was fucking terrible. Numerous times they made decisions that go against the obvious, while other times they just make decisions that are completely off-base.

  • “Pass interference on the offense… and the defense.” Really? Just pick one, you dopes!
  • The ball bounces off the wall and into the defense’s hand. A whistle is blown calling the play dead before the defender has control of the ball, even though it shouldn’t have been blown in the first place. “By result of the play, the defense gets the ball.” No! You blew the whistle before it got into his hands! It has to stay with the offense! Why are you so brain-dead?!

My frustrations with the zebras aside, this game was pretty back and forth, and undeniably sloppy. Dan Raudabaugh, the reigning MVP of the league, threw three interceptions against three touchdowns, and now has five interceptions in two games so far this season. That’s not the kind of resume a reigning MVP should have the following season. The Sharks also got a fourth turnover off a forced fumble. The Soul played very, very poorly this game, and incredibly unlike the Soul of the last couple of years. Raudabaugh in particular was throwing behind receivers left and right (which led to a few picks), while Grady on the other side wasn’t faring much better. The Soul never took advantage either, as I recall two chances where Soul defenders could’ve intercepted Grady’s passes, but dropped them.

Each team had a fourth-down stop near each other’s goal lines. The defense for both teams, for the most part, played well, with extra points going towards Jacksonville for being able to force turnovers. Grady played somewhat inconsistently, but didn’t turn it over and threw seven touchdowns throughout the game. Man, I would think the Sharks would play a lot better with how great a receiving core they have. Tiger Jones is a deep threat and Joe Hills might be the best receiver in the league right now. Still, they managed to squeeze this game out… though perhaps because of Philadelphia’s self-inflicted wounds than anything else.

Impressions from Week Two of the 2015 NFL Season

If I thought Week One was strange, Week Two was much, much stranger. Perennial losers beating teams with average, if not good, records. DeMarco Murray rushed 13 times for only 2 yards. Larry Fitzgerald caught three touchdown passes in a single game, when he only caught two touchdown passes all of last year. Blake Bortles didn’t throw an interception. Johnny Manziel won a game. Anthony Fasano led his team’s offense in receiving yards. Okay, that last one isn’t that surprising. Fasano is the best tight end in the league.

It all comes down to one conclusion: the NFL is insane… and everybody lost a shit-ton of money from betting on Baltimore to destroy Oakland.

(Note: My impressions for a majority of these games are based on stats and a few highlights. While I love stats and numbers when it comes to football, I know they don’t necessarily paint the whole picture, so take with that what you will. I will note the games I did watch below the game headers. I will also note whether or not my Pick ‘Em guess was accurate from my previous entry.)

[Denver @ Kansas City]

  • (Watched, incorrect)

Peyton Manning proved me wrong. He didn’t at first, as he had a horrible first quarter, but as the game went along, he said “Fuck it” to Gary Kubiak’s gameplan and took matters into his own hands. Wouldn’t you know it, Peyton Manning seems to do well when he isn’t being forced to abide by someone else’s philosophy. Maybe someone should tell that to RG3.

Kansas City, on the other hand, stuck to Andy Reid’s gameplan and lost the game. For the most part, they played well. However, Andy Reid seemed to get a little ahead of himself and picked out two of the most horrendously bad play calls I’ve seen in a long time. A minute to go until halftime with a lead, instead of running the ball with Jamaal Charles, they opt to fake the handoff and throw a short hitch towards Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib, who intercepted it like it was nothing. Good job. Then, with less than a minute to go until the end of regulation with the scored tied, Reid decides to run the ball up the middle with Jamaal Charles. Charles fumbles and cornerback Bradley Roby picks up the ball and runs into the endzone for a touchdown, winning the game. Good job. Why not throw the ball downfield? Or if you’re not comfortable with that, take a knee and play in overtime? Something else worth mentioning is that Jamaal Charles fumbled earlier in the first drive of the game, which inevitably cost Kansas City at least 3 points. 3 points they could’ve used to win the game. Kansas City threw this game away. Or should I say, ran the game away.

For what it was worth, aside from the few horrid mistakes, both of these teams played a great game. It took a while for Denver’s offense to pick up the pace, but they looked like Denver of old when they did. Kansas City looked like a complete team, too. They just need to stop getting ahead of themselves. Cut down on the mistakes and stupid play-calling and they could’ve been 2-0 right now. They just let this one get away from them.

[New England @ Buffalo]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Tom Brady’s completion percentage wasn’t amazing, but everything else was. But the real winner of this game was New England’s defense. Eight sacks. Three interceptions. They made Buffalo’s strong defense look pale in comparison. New England looks to be on pace to head straight back to the promised land, and damned if anyone can stop them.

Buffalo’s offense, which I questioned coming into the game, looked nice early on, then went dormant, then came roaring back in the second half. Tyrod Taylor is a new starting quarterback and it showed with his touchdown to interception ratio. Nevertheless, he managed to rack up 32 points and came within a single score of New England when everyone thought Buffalo’s chances were doomed. I wouldn’t be too worried about this loss. New England just has (debatably) the best team in the NFL.

And let me reiterate, too: Julian Edelman. Rob Gronkowski. If you can’t stop them, you can’t win games. That simple.

[Tennessee @ Cleveland]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Johnny Manziel has won his first game as a starting quarterback. Praise the high heavens and give him a $100 million contract now before it’s too late!

In all seriousness, though, with how impressive Manziel started off, one has to consider that by the end of the game, he was only 8/15 passing. Cleveland had a comfortable lead going into halftime, so they didn’t need to pass it a hundred times. Just run the ball until you inevitably win. That’s what Cleveland did and they won the game. If I recall correctly, Manziel was 7 for 7 to begin the game, which means afterwards, he was 1 for 8. That’s not very impressive. Who is impressive thus far is Travis Benjamin, who seems to have a thing for catching deep balls from the hands of Manziella.

I said in my Pick ‘Ems entry that Cleveland’s defense would be the first big test for Marcus Mariota. Though he didn’t win, he looked okay for the most part. He didn’t throw an interception and had an acceptable completion percentage. Dexter McCluster even had 90-something yards on ten rushing attempts. If only they could’ve turned those into points. Tennessee’s defense didn’t look too shabby, either. They only gave up 21 points, excluding the special teams touchdown by the aforementioned Benjamin. Granted, all of these points were during the first half, but I digress.

Also note: Fasanooooooooooooo!

[Houston @ Carolina]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

The quarterbacks in this game went for a combined 45 of 95 passing for 439 yards, with both quarterbacks finishing the game with under 50% pass completion and near 5 yards per attempt. Those are not the average numbers you want your starting quarterback to be posting.

You could credit the defense for an ugly offensive performance for both teams. I wouldn’t put it past Carolina. Houston on the other hand… outside of J.J. Watt, I don’t see much of a fire from their defense. I just don’t think Cam Newton has the weapons to really flourish. Either that or he’s starting to regress into the type of quarterback I think he is: mediocre. Regardless, his defense is good enough to take him to where he needs to be.

Houston really needs Arian Foster back. Their running game seems to be kaput without him. And when you can’t run the ball, you become one-dimensional. And when you become one-dimensional, it’s easier for the defense to predict what you’re going to do. Right, Philadelphia? There is no reason Ryan Mallett should be throwing the ball near 60 times a game. He’s not the guy who can withstand that.

[Arizona @ Chicago]

  • (Watched three quarters, correct)

It’s amazing how close this game was up until Cutler came out of the game. For a while, I was wondering if Chicago could actually pull off a victory. But then, Cutler became Cutler and threw a pick-six. On the same play, he hurt himself trying to launch head-first into the safety’s feet. Smart move. You couldn’t just push the guy out of bounds?

Chris Johnson had a good game for Arizona, which is surprising because he looked out of steam with New York last year. He gave enough of a push to let Arizona’s passing game flourish. Which, by the way, was thanks mostly to Larry Fitzgerald’s renaissance performance. Over a hundred yards receiving. Three touchdown grabs. He looked ten years younger out there.

While watching this game, I noticed something about Arizona’s defense: it allows yards. It has that cliche “bend, but down break” mentality that allows an offense to run down the field with near ease, but struggle in the redzone. I suppose this is good in the sense that you can give time for your offense to rest, but with Arians’ style of offense, they typically don’t need it. They hurl deep balls quite often.

Jared Allen made one good play. Who else made a good play for Chicago’s defense? I can’t remember. With Jimmy Clausen at quarterback, I don’t think Chicago’s gonna win a game anywhere in the near future. Unless they face Detroit or something. I don’t know.

[San Diego @ Cincinnati]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Stop it, Cincinnati. I mean it. You’re going to make me think you’re a good team heading into the playoffs and then I’m going to pick you to win your first playoff game since 1934 and you’ll get blown out like you always do. Stop. Andy Dalton has looked stellar thus far this season. Not many would have predicted it, but he’s doing very, very well. Better than some notable elite passers, even. He has weapons, though, so this is partially excused.

His counterpart, Philip Rivers, played well until he threw an arrant pass into the hands of Vincent Rey.

I was more impressed with San Diego’s defense, who held on just enough to keep the game close all the way through. Cincinnati’s defense had a lot of sacks, though, which is a major improvement from last year when they were at the bottom of the league in sacks. A.J. Green, after a circus catch in the endzone, was held without a catch for most of the game. Just between you and me, I don’t think A.J. Green is that good. But don’t tell anyone. They might think I’m stupid.

Nice to see Danny Woodcock have a solid game.

[Detroit @ Minnesota]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

Well. I guess I’m gonna have to stop picking for Detroit to win, because I’m 0-2 when picking in their favor thus far. What’s going on, guys? You were the defensive powerhouse of the NFC (aside from Carolina and Seattle, perhaps). Why are you letting the opponents score so many points against you? I guess Ndamukong Suh really was that important for your defense, huh?

Minnesota gets embarrassed by San Francisco last week. So, they took out their frustrations on Detroit, who looked a little lost in Week Two. They had a good game offensively (aside from an atrocious running game), they just couldn’t score points when it mattered. Adrian Peterson had his way with the ball. And his way typically leads to wins.

Like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater didn’t throw the ball more than twenty times. Perhaps he’s another one of those quarterbacks who seem to thrive when everything works well together. That’s basically vague talk for “game manager,” like what people believe Alex Smith or Russell Wilson is. Peterson was the offensive star this week, which is ironic because he contributed next to nothing last week, which caused Bridgewater to step up and… fail. Hmmm.

[Tampa Bay @ New Orleans]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

C’mon, New Orleans. C’mon. Get it together. Kumbaya and all that shit.

Tampa Bay? At home? Really? C’mon. It shouldn’t be this way. Drew Brees is elite. He’s degressing, yes, but he’s still better than most. He has weapons. He has capable running backs. His defense, for the most part, played alright.

Is Tampa Bay’s defense really that good? Or is it like St. Louis good, where sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s really bad? I’ll go with the latter. This week, though, it was really, really good.

Things do not look good for New Orleans. At all.

[Atlanta @ New York (Giants)]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Wooooooooo, this was close. I was on the edge of my seat looking at the update ticker at the bottom of the TV screen. When Atlanta’s offense was stalling, I wondered if New York could actually pull it off. Nevertheless, Atlanta pulled off another close win against a frail NFC East team. Should they be proud? Yes and no. They’ll take what they can get, but they’re in close games with what looks to be bottom-feeders.

Julio Jones had another great game. No surprise. Matt Ryan had a good game, too. No surprise.

Here’s my question: how’s Paul Worrilow? He’s been a sturdy constant for this defense and I feel he’s a guy who can energize the defense when it counts. He was injured during the game and is, for the moment, considered “day-by-day” by head coach Dan Quinn. If he doesn’t play, it’ll be a blow to their defense.

Odell Beckham, Jr. became the fastest player to catch 100 career receptions. Zippity doo-dah. I’m more impressed with the outcome of this game, looking like the OBJ of last season after a lackluster performance against Dallas last week. Eli Manning also looked pretty good this game. He could’ve looked even better had Preston Parker not dropped as many balls as he did. He paid the price for that.

If New York’s defense plays well, they may win a game this year.

[San Francisco @ Pittsburgh]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Antonio Brown is slowly becoming one of, if not the #1 receiver in the NFL. Week after week, he puts up godly numbers akin to Calvin Johnson a few years ago. What’s more impressive with Brown is that he’s only 5’10”. And constantly double-teamed.

San Francisco did not fare too well away from home without their new cool, slick, black uniforms. Colin Kaepernick had a pretty good game, they were just outperformed offensively. Way, way outperformed. Pittsburgh’s offense is certainly better than Minnesota’s offense.

Another player to watch is Ryan Shazier. He racked up 15 total tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble against San Francisco. Those are number you want to see out of a Pittsburgh linebacker. Keep those up and Pittsburgh won’t struggle against top-tier teams like New England.

If only Minnesota knew how to exploit San Francisco’s defense the way Pittsburgh can.

[St. Louis @ Washington]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

The first of many games that have me scratching my scalp. St. Louis is notorious for being wildly inconsistent, and I was a fool for thinking a quarterback change would end that. Washington simply didn’t look like a good team heading into the regular season. With a win against St. Louis, those whispers may clear up some, but perhaps more realistically, not much at all. Kirk Cousins looked good. Washington’s defense looked good. A rookie in Matt Jones played amazingly. A solid overall win for Washington.

St. Louis, on the other hand, I would be concerned about. Entering the fourth year in Jeff Fisher’s reign, St. Louis still struggles with inconsistency through and through, whether it be from their offense, defense, or otherwise. I’m not ready to jump onto the “Fire Fisher” bandwagon just yet, but after a few more losses to mediocre teams, it may prove to be a better option.

Will Todd Gurley help at all? Maybe. Maybe not. With the NFC West the way it is, they better hope he does.

[Baltimore @ Oakland]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

The second of many games that have me scratching my scalp. This is Baltimore, right? The same Baltimore that’s had a .500 record or higher the last eight years, right? 0-2? What’s going on, dude?

One could make the case that they barely lost to a Denver team that had Peyton Manning strapped to Kubiak’s philosophy, and then barely lost to Oakland. These aren’t (or weren’t) good teams. Is Baltimore heading for a season of despair? Is one Harbaugh about to follow the other into the college ranks? This season is already proving to be very interesting.

Joe Flacco has played pretty flaccid. Whether it be his line or limited disposal of weapons, he just doesn’t look as comfortable as when Kubiak was calling the shots. Justin Forsett isn’t nearly as explosive as he was last year, either. I wouldn’t go into full panic mode yet, but the cracks have started to surface. Oh, and their defense—especially without Suggs—looks to be a mess.

Oakland, on the other hand, also looks like a mess defensively. Thank the Raider Nation they have good offensive weapons (for once). I don’t expect this team to go very far, but if they can beat Baltimore, they have a good shot at any other mid-tier team. Especially at home. Is Amari Cooper the long-awaited #1 receiver Oakland’s been searching for?

[Miami @ Jacksonville]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

The third of many games that have me scratching my scalp. Jacksonville. Jacksonville.

Miami lost to Jacksonville.

Here’s an interesting thing to notice: despite the fact that Ryan Tannehill is a pretty good quarterback and has a lot of good weapons around him and a defensive front that would make any quarterback change his pants, Miami has only scored 37 points in the first two games. That’s pretty underwhelming for the talent on the roster. Who did they face?

Washington and Jacksonville. Their records last season? 3-13 and 4-12. Their total defenses last year? 20th and 26th. Either they made some vast defensive improvements in the offseason or Miami is underperforming

Don’t get me wrong. The offense has played well enough, they just haven’t been putting up any points! Blake Bortles didn’t even play very well completion-wise and he still scored more points. Then again, Miami’s rungame was pretty bad. Gotta chalk it up to Posluszny and co. for being awesome.

I predicted that Miami would soar this season, but so far, they’ve been the same as they’ve been since Joe Philbin arrived there: eh. Put him up there with Jeff Fisher. If they aren’t above 8-8 this season, I think it’d be better to make the change.

[Dallas @ Philadelphia]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Oh, Philadelphia. How the offseason transactions have burdened your team. Chip Kelly’s offense, like RG3’s offense in 2013, has started to become predictable (to be fair, I thought it was pretty predictable all through the 2014 season). Sam Bradford doesn’t seem to be your savior at quarterback and Demarco Murray has 21 carries for 11 yards in the first two games this season. Even those unfamiliar with football can guess that that’s beyond pathetic, especially since he led the NFL in rushing yards the previous season with Dallas.

But all is not lost for Philadelphia, for one other key event happened that should affect the entirety of the NFL: Tony Romo got injured. An injury that should sideline him for as much as eight weeks. Now Dallas has to start either Brandon Weeden or recently traded Matt Cassel, two veterans that have shown that neither of them will lead a team to the Super Bowl, much less a winning season. The whole of the NFC East is in trouble, and can debatably be labeled as the worst division in the NFL, as of now.

The biggest question here is, which team, if any, will make the playoffs with a winning record? None of these teams, now that Romo is out, look to be dangerous in any regard. Anyone aside from Dallas will need an apocalyptic turnaround if they want to save their season. And with the top dog in the division now hurting, this would be as good a chance to do it.

[Seattle @ Green Bay]

  • (Watched latter half, correct)

Never doubt Aaron Rodgers at home. Ever.

Russell Wilson can run around as much as he wants to. It won’t always win him games. Jimmy Graham is proving to be a bad pick-up and the receiving corp is still lacking, as it has been for a few years now. However, now Seattle’s defense is starting to take some blows. Should that continue, now that Chancellor is back with the team? The future will tell.

Green Bay looks to be a complete team. The NFC’s New England Patriots, if you will. They have depth at a wide range of positions and a defense that isn’t great, but good enough to compliment a still very competent offensive powerhouse. The loss of Eddie Lacy may hurt Green Bay some, but even James Starks has proven to be a good stand-in if need-be. That seems to be Green Bay’s mantra: even without the starters, they’ll get by. It’s hard not to like them in any aspect.

Is Marshawn Lynch okay, though? He hasn’t been fantastic thus far. Bad offensive line, maybe? It’s always been an issue there.

[New York (Jets) @ Indianapolis]

  • (Watched final quarter, incorrect)

Never doubt FitzMagic with a great defense. Ever. Except maybe against Green Bay. Or New England.

Call me crazy, but I think New York’s going to be good this year. They have certainly looked the part defensively. Offensively, they could be better, but they made points when they had to. Brandon Marshall is looking to be a good pick-up, as he always seems to be starting off, and Eric Decker is contributing well, too. There are a lot of jokes thrown around about Geno Smith’s offseason situation, but in this case, it may have been a necessary evil. I was shocked when Houston traded Fitzpatrick away last offseason, as I thought he performed rather well with what he was given. Now, he’s starting for New York and he’s 2-0, including a royal stomping of the reigning AFC Finalists, Indianapolis Colts.

Indianapolis. Wow. I don’t know who’s under more pressure right now, them or Philadelphia. They’ve just looked bad in both games to start the season. Now the media is starting to draw their swords against the legitimacy of Andrew Luck’s “elite” status, and Indianapolis’s legitimacy as an AFC contender.

It’s almost ironic. I started off the picking season predicting that New England would suffer from all the stress Deflategate and whatever else had caused them. It’s actually reversed; the teams that initially accused New England of Deflategate are the ones who are suffering! Baltimore and Indianapolis are both 0-2, and both look to be incredibly, well, deflated.

To be fair, Andrew Luck has had to face two good defenses in his first two games. Next week, he gets a bit of an easier challenge with Tennessee. However, I’m actually not sure how it’ll fair for Luck and his offense. Can they bounce back from sloppy play? Or will they surge down into the mediocrity that (everyone assumes) their general manager has steered them into? Maybe Indianapolis has to clean house.

Yearly winners are becoming losers. Perennials losers are becoming off-kilter winners. The state of the NFL is in disarray due to an offseason circus of witchhunts and trials by fire. This can be the only reason why Jacksonville, Washington, and Oakland have won in the same week. It’s insane. I said it last week, I’ll say it this week, and I’ll probably say it next week. The NFL is insanely unpredictable. I love it.

(There is a link underneath “notable elite passers” in the San Diego @ Cincinnati entry)

  • Week Two Pick ‘Em record: 9-7
  • Overall Pick ‘Em record: 18-14