Our Monday Night Football doubleheaders are in the books, so now let’s take a look at what everyone’s talking about heading into Week 3.
9 TEAMS OPEN 2-0, BUT NOT ALL ARE MAKING THE PLAYOFFS
We’re two weeks in and nine NFL squads currently have spotless records, but not all of these teams will be playing late into January. The Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers are all 2-0.
Now, the math is in their favor. Teams that open the year 2-0 have a 63.8 percent chance to make the playoffs. But not every 2-0 start is the same.
The good news for the three NFC South teams that opened undefeated is that one of them has to win the division, so somebody’s definitely going to be in that 68.3 percent. But I can’t see two or more of them making it in.
I’m confident that the Dolphins, Ravens, Cowboys and Eagles can go ahead and make whatever long term plans for the end of January that they want. But the Commanders? There’s no way in the world that’s sustainable and all you can do is look at their schedule and the fact that they have a great coach in Ron Rivera to explain how they got here. It’s why I thought, in spite of actively tanking via their QB room, they’d probably still put up too good a record to draft Caleb Williams without making a monster trade like I’m sure their ownership would love.
9 TEAMS OPEN 0-2, BUT AT LEAST ONE OF THEM WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS
On the flip side of this equation, we have nine teams sitting at 0-2, which means they’re all looking at a 41.8 percent chance of making the postseason. That crew includes the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals.
Some of those are shockers. Three of them, the Vikings, Bengals and Chargers, all made the playoffs last season and Cincinnati made it all the way to the AFC Championship. Like their 2-0 counterparts, these 0-fors are not the same. Los Angeles can’t even blame its schedule. Sure, the Dolphins are great and that was an epic shootout and instant classic in Week 1, but there is no excuse at all to lose to a Tennessee Titans team dying to bench its quarterback and sim to next season.
Cincinnati has played two tough teams, both potential playoff participants, and have obviously rushed quarterback Joe Burrow back too quickly from his preseason calf injury. Now there’s some serious talk about pulling Burrow for the next couple of games to try to get his calf right. But, considering his back up, rookie Jake Browning has attempted one single pass (an incompletion), that’s pretty much a white flag. Especially with a Monday Night Football game coming up against the Rams before a trip to Tennessee to take on the aforementioned Titans. While the Rams are good and the Titans, well, we don’t know yet, one thing is for sure. Both those teams can get after the quarterback and the last thing Cincy wants to see is Burrow’s Achilles pop with Aaron Donald or Jeffery Simmons riding him to the ground. I would rather start 0-4 knowing I’ll get a full-go Joe Burrow later on than to lose him for the year.
As for the other 0-2 squads? The Broncos might be able to turn it around. You’d hope that Minnesota could, considering the talent they have on their roster. The NFC North still looks very winnable after both the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions took surprising losses Sunday.
The Patriots already have a date with HBO’s Hard Knocks next season and the Texans, Bears, Panthers and Cardinals are all looking at landing Top 5 draft picks.
RAMS ROOKIE PUKA NACUA OFF TO HISTORIC START
Sometimes an injury to a star player (as long as it’s not that serious) can be a good thing, opening up an opportunity for another guy. For the Los Angeles Rams, that other guy is rookie Puka Nacua and he has done nothing short of make history in his two games playing in replacement of All-Universe wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Nacua’s 25 receptions over his first two games is a new NFL record for a rookie. He’s piled up 266 yards along the way and spent all last week being snapped up from fantasy football waiver wires all over the country. All of us that landed him (yes, I did) were pretty happy about it Sunday night, even though the Rams fell a touchdown short of the 49ers.
Nacua’s 25 receptions over two contests destroys the old record of 19 from San Francisco 1980 rookie Earl Cooper. Nacua is just the third rookie since 1970 with 10 or more receptions in his first two games and is the fifth player with 10 or more catches and 100-plus yards the first two times he’s put on the horns.
In fact, the only player that’s caught more yards in his first two games was Anquan Bolden, who hauled in 279 in 2003 for the Arizona Cardinals and was the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Nacua, who I’m pretty sure didn’t even have odds for that when the season began, now has the third best (+500) behind only Bijan Robinson (+190) of the Falcons and Anthony Richardson (+350) of the Indianapolis Colts.
Of course Bolden, Robinson and Richardson were all first round picks. Nacua was selected by LA in the fifth round of April’s draft.
What’s been very interesting, and good for the Rams with Kupp returning, is that Tutu Atwell has also emerged as a legit receiver and flirting with bust status after being selected in the second round of the 2021 draft. Atwell’s healthy, running all the routes and has 13 catches for 196 yards.