Week 2 of the NFL season confirmed our suspicions about a few good teams (Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and a few bad teams (Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons). It also saw some teams bounce back in a big way (Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans), and others did not live up to the Week 1 hype (Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles). In addition to these teams making moves, here are the true NFL Week 2 winners and losers.
Winner: Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers was a “loser” on this very list last week after a brutal Week 1 performance against the New Orleans Saints. After eight days of listening to media member after media member crush him for everything from his offseason drama to his demeanor on the sidelines in the loss, Rodgers finally got to deliver his response on the field during his Monday Night Football showdown with the Detroit Lions.
What was his response? The 37-year-old QB put on a show. He was 22-of-27 for 255 yards. The defending NFL MVP also threw four touchdowns (just like he has after every blowout loss of the Matt LeFleur Era).
The narrative around Rodgers changed more dramatically than any other storyline in the league between Week 1 and 2. Yes, the Lions aren’t great, but the Packers did what they needed to do. And now they seem like they are rounding back into form as the season starts to heat up.
The moral of this story is: be careful poking Aaron Rodgers.
Loser: Andy Dalton
The Andy Dalton Era in Chicago may have ended just two quarters into NFL Week 2. After coming up lame on a rare QB scramble for the 33-year-old veteran, rookie first-round draft pick Justin Fields came into the game a shepherded the Bears to a 20-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The former Ohio State signal-caller didn’t light the world on fire. However, he did enough to win during his unexpected cameo. The final stat line for Fields was 6-of-13 completions for 60 yards with an interception and no touchdowns. He also ran 10 times for 31 yards.
The statistics or even the win aren’t the reasons Dalton comes away a loser. It’s the fact that the injury (knee bone bruise) will keep him out of Week 3, and Fields will get his first start.
In 1983, David Woodley started the season under center for the Miami Dolphins. In 2004, Kurt Warner quarterbacked the New York Giants, and, in 2020, Tyrod Taylor started the Los Angeles Chargers Week 1 matchup. What do all these QBs have in common?
These three let Dan Marino, Eli Manning, and Justin Hebert, respectively, get a start during their rookie seasons, and the first-round picks never gave the job back. That is what Dalton is now looking at in the Windy City.
Winner: Curses in New York
Sports are filled with curses. There was the Curse of the Bambino in Boston, the Curse of the Billy Goat in Chicago, and the Madden Curse throughout the NFL.
Some other NFL curses are alive and well in Week 2 of 2021, while others may be falling by the wayside. The curses that won out this week are based in the Big Apple.
Whether the New York Giants curse is about Eli Manning’s benching or the Miami Boat picture in 2017, the team has won precious few games since. That trend continued with a wide-open dropped pass and a lineman jumping offside on a game-winning field goal attempt as the G-Men snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against the Washington Football Team during Week 2’s Thursday Night Football.
On the other side of MetLife Stadium, the New York Jets have a curse of their own. No Jets QB — from Ken O’Brien to Boomer Esiason to Mark Sanchez to Sam Darnold — has led the team to a Super Bowl since Joe Namath.
In Week 2, Zach Wilson looked like the latest in this dubious line. He threw four interceptions against the New England Patriots. They all came in his first 10 attempts, and picks one and two came on throw one and two of the game.
Curses were alive and well in NFL Week 2 for the New Jersey-based franchises.
Loser: The Patrick Mahomes Curse
Seventy-two hours after the Giants coughed it up to the WFT, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens broke a different NFL curse in a thrilling Sunday Night Football win against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Prior to this game, Patrick Mahomes had never lost to any of the QBs drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was 3-0 taking on Jackson and Baker Mayfield, 2-0 vs. Josh Allen, and 1-0 against both Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen.
That all changed when Jackson capped off a 239-yard passing, 107-yard rushing, three-touchdown game with a gutsy QB sneak on 4th-and-1 up by one point in the fourth quarter in Week 2.
The next shot a Class of 2018 signal-caller gets to join Jackson in breaking the Patrick Mahomes curse is in Week 5 when Allen and the Buffalo Bills visit Arrowhead.
Winner: Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders seemingly got a little lucky in Week 1. The team overcame a win that almost became a loss that eventually led to an overtime victory.
Jon Gruden’s team used the same basic formula in NFL Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers that won them the Baltimore game. The team played well on defense, and quarterback Derrek Carr (28-of-37, 382 yards, two touchdowns) spread it around. He connected on passes to eight receivers and hit some massive deep balls at opportune times.
The win puts them ahead of the 1-1 Chiefs and Chargers and ties them with the Denver Broncos at the top of the AFC West. The Raiders are in a tough division, but the 2-0 start is a significant step toward making the playoffs for the first time during Gruden’s second time around with the famed franchise.
Loser: New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints thoroughly dismantled the Packers in Week 1. A divisional battle against the Carolina Panthers could have established a true rival to the Buccaneers in the NFC South. Instead, a 26-7 blowout raised more questions than it answered.
The team was without eight assistant coaches because of COVID-19 protocols. That could explain some of the lackluster performance, but the issues just keep on coming for the Big Easy squad. Thanks to Hurricane Ida, the Saints already had to play Game 1 in Jacksonville. Now, after a fire at the Superdome on Tuesday. This could disrupt the franchise’s next home game on October 3 vs. the Giants, per ESPN.
This might just be an off weekend from Sean Payton’s crew. But, now there’s a legitimate question about which game was the mirage, Week 1 or Week 2’s.
That’s the beauty of NFL Week 2. We know more about what’s in store, but there is still a lot of mystery.
It’s why the real winners are football fans.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference