NFL Week Two Winners and Losers

It’s hard to have a spectacular follow-up week of games after the NFL’s regular season premiere, but week two didn’t disappoint. While there were no ties, there were comebacks and interesting storylines to keep in mind that will play out and progress the following months.

A lot stood out after the second week of the season, so here are week two’s noticeable winners and losers.

Winners: Tua Tagovailoa

Most quarterbacks won’t outperform Baltimore Ravens star Lamar Jackson but Sunday was the exception. Tagovailoa had the best and biggest game of his short career and should silence critics for the rest of the month.

Tagovailoa threw all six Miami Dolphins touchdowns. Those who watched him play since his college days know Tua is an accurate passer. Sunday showed he’s starting to expand his play past accuracy.

Miami’s trade for receiver Tyreek Hill and drafting of Jaylen Waddle is part of the change (they each caught two touchdowns and had over 150 yards receiving on eleven catches), but Tagovailoa’s throwing deeper passes, reading defenses better and having time to find the best options available without forcing throws.

The Dolphins are undefeated two games in due to playing great on all three sides of the football. However the offense is having the biggest improvement with a new head coach who’s understanding how to develop a franchise quarterback.

Doug Pederson and the Jacksonville Jaguars

The amount of talent the Jaguars have should propel the team to at least six wins…in theory. Achieving those victories as most fans and analysts know takes full focus each quarter. Jacksonville played their second best game in the Trevor Lawrence era Sunday.

The Jaguars led by coach Pederson recorded the first shutout of the season blanking the Indianapolis Colts 24-0. They took an early lead and scored all 24 points in the first three quarters (17 of which were in the first half). Jacksonville’s offensive line dominated the Colts defense. Lawrence wasn’t sacked and completed all but five passes. He threw two touchdowns and posted a 121.5 quarterback rating.

On defense the Jaguars manhandled Indianapolis’ offensive line, sacking veteran quarterback Matt Ryan five times while the secondary intercepted him three times. Ryan threw for under 200 yards and posted a 34 quarterback rating in one of his career worst games. Runningback Jonathan Taylor wasn’t comfortable carrying the ball and the Colts offense was out a key receiver in Michael Pittman Jr.

Jacksonville’s hiring of Doug Pederson wasn’t taken seriously this past offseason. Teams might want to re-think that approach. He almost led the team to a comeback win on the road against Washington week one. The Jaguars are the first team in the AFC South to win a game this season and could do a lot more damage if the offense is more consistent and defense plays sharper. Coaching’s finally molding a talented roster the right way and it will show later in the season. Both Indianapolis and Tennessee need some wins before a division both were favored in starts slipping away.

Cooper Rush

When starting quarterback and face of the franchise Dak Prescott injured his throwing hand week one, many wrote the Dallas Cowboys’ season off due to their schedule and how long the signal caller would be out. Cowboys fans can feel some relief even if it’s one week.

Backup Cooper Rush wasn’t expected to lead Dallas to many wins, much less a win over the current AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. Not only did Rush win a critical game, he outperformed Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

Rush found a good receiving option in Noah Brown early and often, throwing his lone touchdown to Brown on Dallas’ first possession. The Cowboys kept the game tied at worst. Cooper Rush’s best possession may have been the last of the game. Dallas’ defense forced a three (plays)-and-out possession for Cincinnati, leaving 57 seconds on the clock before the fourth quarter ended. Starting at their 35 yard line, Rush led a drive with a three yard run from Tony Pollard and completed passes to CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown. His clock management was almost perfect, using the final team timeout and spiking the ball (intentionally to stop the clock from winding down) to give kicker Brett Maher a good chance at making a 50 yard field goal.

Dallas’ schedule is still bumpy despite the quality win. It’s not just because the Los Angeles Rams or Detroit Lions are on the schedule, it’s also because…

The NFC East divisional race

…the NFC East has looked impressive the first two weeks of the season. Dallas’ win keeps them in a race that could have two undefeated teams after Monday night.

The Cowboys play all three of their division rivals once before November. It’s critical they stay relevant by the time Dak Prescott returns. Their next opponent is an undefeated New York Giants team that’s starting to look competent on offense thanks to new head coach Brian Daboll.

The other two teams are going to give both the league and each other problems. Despite a blowout loss in Detroit, Washington has a solid defense and a mediocre offense led by one of the best head coaches in the league. The Commanders almost completed a comeback before the Lions unleashed runningback D’Andre Swift to seal a win. Then there’s Philadelphia, which is still the favorite by many to win the division due to roster depth and improved coaching.

Many viewers will groan knowing there will be a lot of NFC East games televised nationally but none of the four will be eliminated without a long and determined fight.

Losers: John Harbaugh

Last season I made it a point to highlight why despite the many injuries to the Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh’s coaching cost the team a number of games and opportunities to get closer to and clinch a playoff spot. Sunday is another example of Harbaugh’s tenure being too long.

Despite the impressive stats from Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, at half-time the Ravens led 28-7. The game was an afterthought by many viewers. Miami’s offense was expected to start the second half throwing the ball nonstop to try and tie the score. Harbaugh apparently didn’t understand that part of their gameplan.

After both teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, Miami scored a whopping 28 points in the fourth and held their first lead of the game with 14 seconds left. Despite Lamar Jackson’s highlight reel day, Tagovailoa somehow outplayed him in almost every category.

It’s one thing if the Ravens secondary couldn’t make tackles at times. However the coaches had no answer, no adjustments and no reasons why there should’ve been a home loss early in the season where it could affect the playoff picture.

Trey Lance

NFL casual fans and media are absolutely ruthless to quarterbacks. The narrative that Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts are runningbacks, Tua Tagovailoa can’t throw deep passes and Mitchell Trubisky is a bust are some of the dumbest trends and storylines to discuss. Another example is how bad quarterback Trey Lance is that he hasn’t been/wasn’t ready to start for the 49ers.

Lance was named the starter after a bitter preseason and nasty discussions among both fans and media. San Francisco’s loss to Chicago in week one was due to many factors, but you wouldn’t know due to the rabid talk of his performance.

The 49ers’ win at home against Seattle should be the main talking point. Unfortunately Trey Lance suffered a season ending ankle injury early in the first quarter of the game. He looked ok the first two possessions and yes he could’ve made some better decisions (especially on the play where he fractured his right ankle).

There’s valid frustration due to him not starting many games going back to last season. The truth is nobody knows how he’ll progress because we don’t see him start every Sunday. Now that he’s out the rest of the season, we (including Lance) are all left guessing what happens next. Just know he’s not a bust…yet.

Denver Broncos

When the 2022 schedules were released many believed the Broncos would win at least one of their first two games. However, viewers expected Denver to look much better than how they’ve started the season.

The loss week one on Monday night to Seattle isn’t too bad due to new quarterback Russell Wilson’s ties to the Pacific Northwest. The Seahawks wanted to win that game more than Denver and played like it. Almost everyone following the NFL expected the Broncos to easily beat Houston the Sunday after.

Both head coach Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson’s home debut in Denver was a nightmare. Fans boo’d both early in the second quarter and didn’t let up until the Broncos scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Timeout management was atrocious. At one point in the second half a timeout was called because the special teams coach forgot to send a returner on the field to receive Houston’s punt. Both receiver Jerry Jeudy and cornerback Pat Surtain II left the game with injuries. The most embarrassing part was the offense forgetting the play clock ran and took multiple delay of game or false start penalties, prompting the crowd to do a loud countdown so Wilson would snap the ball.

The Denver Broncos have a lot of pressure not only because of the Russell Wilson trade and hiring a rookie coach but because the team hasn’t made the playoffs since the franchise’s last Super Bowl win. The AFC West is the most difficult and competitive division in the 2022 NFL season. Kansas City looks fine and Los Angeles is close behind. Nathaniel Hackett better find answers and fix things before they get uglier.

The New Orleans Saints’ twelve men fourth-and-one penalty to start the fourth quarter

If you ever want to know how slim a margin of victory in the NFL is, this penalty gives a good idea. Viewers of Sunday’s Tampa Bay-New Orleans game will say Saints quarterback Jameis Winston and the turnovers on offense cost New Orleans a win. It was more than just Jameis’ bad fourth quarter.

Tampa Bay and New Orleans started the quarter tied at three. The Saints forced a critical fourth and one for the Buccaneers. Earlier in the game, Tampa went for a fourth down conversion and failed. They weren’t going to take another chance especially in their own territory. They opted to punt.

New Orleans opted to put too many men on the field (you can only have eleven per side). Tampa’s offensive possession extended a few more minutes. When the Buccaneers did punt, it was deeper in Saints territory. New Orleans never recovered from the gaffe. Winston threw all three of his interceptions (one was returned for a touchdown by Mike Edwards) after Tampa’s elongated possession.

New Orleans’ defense played its best game against the Buccaneers knowing the offense was missing a star player. One penalty didn’t just turn the score around. It led to a massive fight and a breakdown for one team’s offense. There’s a massive what-if for the Saints if they don’t take that bad penalty.

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