Top Storylines to Watch in Week 2 and Beyond
Contrary to most opening weekends of NFL seasons, this year’s version showcased a heavy dose of the predictable. The Jets are the still the Jets. Patrick Mahomes is already in postseason, Hall of Fame form. Injuries are omnipresent.
Yet there are plenty of players and storylines that emerged and are worth following in Week 2 and beyond. Week 2 NFL point spreads are live, with the Bears & Titans heavy favorites. With the action soon approaching let’s look a few of those intriguing storylines to keep an eye on.
Is Tom Brady 43 going on 43?
Brady looked a 43-year-old quarterback in his much-awaited debut with Bucs – slow, immobile, and lacking zip on the ball. Brady threw two interceptions in the game, one a miscommunication with Mike Evans, the other a wrong decision that led to a pick six. Quite frankly, the performance itself wasn’t shocking given that Brady was not exactly a juggernaut under center last year. NFL training camps were tightened and more restrictive, and this was Brady’s first go with a new team and head coach in 20 years. But still, the Bucs signed Brady and paired him with an explosive offense to play for a Super Bowl now. Head coach Bruce Arians publicly and oddly expressed his displeasure with Brady’s Bucs debut. Whether Brady still has the tools and situation to add to his ring collection is already in doubt.
Minshew the Magnificent
So why did we question the Jaguars’ decision to roll with Gardner Minshew as their starting quarterback again? Minshew put on a quarterback clinic against the Colts, throwing three touchdowns and racking up only one incompletion (which was a drop by rookie WR Laviska Shenault, who was also sensational). Keeping up the efficiency against the Titans may be a more difficult task. Tennessee has owned Jacksonville in recent years, winning four of the last five matchups.
No Golden Touch for the 49ers
Week 1’s loss to Arizona was an utter disaster for the reigning NFC Champions. CB Emmanuel Moseley was smoked by DeAndre Hopkins all game, DeForest Buckner was heavily missed up front, and Jimmy Garoppolo looked as if he had regressed. To be fair, San Francisco was and is dealing with a plethora of injuries including to Richard Sherman, who was placed on IR this week and its entire receiver corp. But Garoppolo’s poor decision making and sheer inaccuracy, coupled with the defense’s inability to adjust to Kyler Murray on the run, should be worrisome for a team that is trying to defend the best division in football. A loss to the Jets and an 0-2 record would be a massive blow.
The Return of Cam
The Patriots on the decline? Yeah right. Cam Newton’s Pats debut went as well as could be expected. He showed no signs of lingering health issues coming off shoulder and foot surgeries, acting as another running back for New England with 75 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Newton was efficient and not overly flashy in the passing game, letting the Pats top notch defense control the action. A healthy Newton making smart decisions and moving with ease is the ideal gift for Bill Belichick in the post-Brady era. Now that Newton appears comfortable in the starter role, let’s focus on the far most important question: Will Newton and Belichick dress up like each other for Halloween?
Will Kicking Improve?
After an exhilarating but exhausting weekend of NFL action, Titans’ Stephen Gostkowski gave his team and the whole NFL world heart palpations Monday night as he trotted out to attempt a 25-yard game-winner after missing FOUR field goals. Gostkowski made it, the Titans won and he kept his job, but the journey to victory was not pleasant.
More misery was rooted in the state of miserable professional football known as Ohio. The Bengals’ Randy Bullock missed a 31-yd game-tying kick and then grabbed his leg insisting he had a cramp. Not everyone bought that excuse. Meanwhile in Cleveland, Austin Seibert missed all of kicks in Week 1 and quickly released. The Bengals picked up Seibert in case Bullock isn’t a go on Thursdays night and the Browns signed a familiar name who still brings a tear to another Midwest franchise – Cody Parkey.
The aforementioned kickers were not alone – all told there were 19 missed kicks in Week 1. It marked the worst collective performance by kickers in a decade.