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Last week, I explained that the first NFL Sunday of the season is the biggest “overreaction” day on the sports calendar. Week 2 represents another example, though we do have more information.
Still, let’s revisit what I wrote one week ago:
Every NFL team plays a 17-game schedule. That means that Week 1 accounts for less than 6% of the entire season.
People in the sports media are going to arrive at wild conclusions based on that small amount of information. What if you walked into a used car dealership and the salesperson said, “Hey, here’s 5.9% of the total information about this car. You ready to buy?”
Or if you met a future spouse and got to know 5.9% of their personality? Ready to slap on — or accept — a ring? Of course not. That would be incredibly irresponsible.
But here we are, every season, making decisions based on 5.9% of the information. Nonsense.
With Week 2 nearly in the books, we now have 11.8% of the information on 28 NFL teams. That’s still a small picture of how the season is going to go.
So, with that backdrop, let’s take a look at some overreactions from NFL Sunday #2.
Los Angeles Chargers need to fire Brandon Staley
This is the story that never goes away. The Los Angeles Chargers have everything but a competent head coach, the narrative says. I am a Brandon Staley defender, admittedly. There are some issues, sure. In fact, I liked Staley because he actually used analytics to make decisions, something many NFL coaches refused to embrace.
However, he is starting to punt in situations that don’t call for punts. Perhaps it’s because he’s afraid for his job, which makes sense since the media wants him out badly. Coaching scared is not how to win in the NFL.
All that said, the Chargers lost to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 — a team that everyone suddenly believes is among the best in the NFL, so why is that a bad loss? — and to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. Many are down on the Titans, but I expect them to win the AFC South.
They lost both games by one score. One score games are fickle. Most people projected the Minnesota Vikings to regress this year because of their record in one-score games last season. The Chargers have lost two games by five combined points to two teams likely to make the playoffs. And, three of their next four games are against playoff teams from last season.
The schedule-makers didn’t do the Chargers any favors, but if they can win three of the next four — which is definitely possible — against the Vikings, Cowboys, Raiders and Chiefs then the noise will quiet down. Although, an 0-6 or 1-5 start likely costs Staley his job. I’m not there yet, though.
Miami Dolphins are the class of the AFC
These first two go hand-in-hand and crack me up. This is the most “sports media” thing ever. So, Brandon Staley is a terrible head coach who can’t win games and needs to be fired. The Miami Dolphins, who have two wins with one coming against Staley and the Chargers, are the best team in the AFC.
Miami beat the Chargers, which shouldn’t count as a good win since Brandon Staley stinks, right? If that is a good win, then why is Staley getting dinged so badly?
Miami’s other win came against the New England Patriots, who aren’t very good. And, the Dolphins offense didn’t look nearly as explosive with Bill Belichick scheming around stopping Tyreek Hill.
This isn’t to say that Miami isn’t good. I had them missing the playoffs this season, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Part of the reason is that the Jets lost Aaron Rodgers. I admit I was too low on the Dolphins and specifically head coach Mike McDaniel.
The Dolphins offense runs some really exotic motion and puts Tua Tagovailoa — an average (perhaps slightly above) NFL QB — in a great position to succeed. But to say after two games that they’re ahead of the Chiefs, Bills and Bengals — the three teams responsible for all six of the past three AFC Championship Game appearances — is jumping the gun.
Cincinnati Bengals in danger of missing the 2023-24 NFL Playoffs
No, they aren’t.
Joe Burrow’s calf injury is a definite concern. However, there’s actually a good example of a quarterback getting “healthier” just last season. Justin Herbert suffered a rib injury early last year and the Chargers struggled. But Herbert got healthier as the season went along and the team won five of six games from Week 12 to Week 17 to make the playoffs.
The Bengals need Burrow to get healthy to have a chance, everyone understands that. That’s still in play this season. Remember that the Bengals are a second-half team. In each of the past two seasons, when Cincinnati reached the AFC Championship (winning one), they played their best late in the season.
This is a team that’s 10-3 from Week 10 on over the past two seasons (and one of the losses came in a meaningless Week 18 game that Burrow didn’t start). They started 0-2 last season and went 12-4. No need to panic, unless Burrow’s calf is much worse than the team is telling everyone. Which, right now, we cannot assume.
Atlanta Falcons are actually good
Atlanta started the season 2-0 with wins over the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers. The two quarterbacks they faced were making their NFL debut (Bryce Young) and third career NFL start (Jordan Love).
Though, I guess this reaction depends on the definition of “good.” Atlanta plays a very easy schedule and might have the opportunity to win the NFC South. But, the Falcons are nowhere near the caliber of the better teams in the league. Arthur Smith’s offense is ridiculously slow and boring. Desmond Ridder is not a great NFL quarterback. Their defense benefitted from playing inexperienced quarterbacks.
Look, wins in the NFL are not easy to obtain even against lesser opponents. Credit to them for starting 2-0, especially with the come-from-behind victory in Week 2 over the Packers. If they go into Detroit and win in Week 3, I might change my tune. But I don’t think that’s happening.
NFL Quick Hits
Those were some of the extreme takes out there that I wanted to address. But there are some smaller ones that I want to hit quickly.
NFL media finally coming around on Justin Fields?
I have waited patiently for this day for three seasons. I never understood the Justin Fields hype. He wasn’t a particularly accurate passer in college. All of his highlight plays in the NFL are with his legs. Plus, his bad plays are REALLY bad. He makes mistakes that NFL quarterbacks just can’t make.
The Bears are 0-2 and Fields has as many passing touchdowns to his own team (2) as he does to his opponents (2 pick-sixes). Finally, other people are starting to realize it. It’s not too late, guys, the water is very warm over here.
Nathaniel Hackett had a better record through two games as Denver Broncos head coach than Sean Payton does
This isn’t so much a takeaway as just a hilarious stat to me. I’ve made my case about Sean Payton before, so no need to rehash that. He’s an OK NFL coach, but not a genius worthy of a first-round pick. It’s really funny that he absolutely obliterated former head coach Nathaniel Hackett publicly and he actually has a worse record through two games.
In fact, Hackett started his career 2-1, so Payton’s record is going to be worse through three games, too. The Broncos travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins this week where Denver is a touchdown underdog. An 0-3 start is very much in the cards.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on X – formerly known as Twitter: @RealDanZak