Cheat Sheet: Rodgers, Brady continue to stand above the rest
Just as we in the media were getting ready to lobby the folks in Canton to make him the first active quarterback enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is off to his worst start of his professional career, netting a 58.9 QB rating through two weeks — the very worst in the league.
Any time the Broncos take the field this year, it’s going to be a test of Peyton Manning versus Father Time. Russell Wilson got a new contract and a new tight end this offseason. Jimmy Graham was supposed to be the big target Wilson’s never had, but for whatever reason he can’t seem to find him, driving Seahawks fans and fantasy football owners alike crazy.
Alex Smith, the consummate "game manager," managed to help give a game away in Week 2. Super Bowl MVPs Joe Flacco, Eli Manning and Drew Brees are a combined 0-6. Tony Romo is out, Sam Bradford is struggling and Matt Stafford has been on the ground more than in the end zone. The list of struggling quarterbacks goes on and on and on.
And then there’s Aaron and Tom.
At the top of the heap, yet again, sitting undefeated and putting up "Madden"-like numbers — there’s the two guys we sometimes take for granted.
How good has Rodgers been through two games? Consider that he’s without his top wide receiver (arguably the team’s Most Valuable Player aside from him), he lost his top running back against the defending two-time NFC champions, and his tight end — though coming along — is a second-year guy still finding his footing, it’s pretty amazing to see just how cool, calm and steady the 2014 league MVP has been. And at home, he might be the best to ever play the game. Rodgers has now thrown 451 passes and 38 touchdown strikes during the regular season without tossing an interception. The last time he threw a pick at Lambeau, the song "Somebody that I Used to Know" by that guy Gotye was No. 1 on the charts. Gotye! His 112.7 passer rating at home is the best all-time, besting Peyton Manning’s second place by 13 points. On the go-ahead drive last Sunday night, with all eyes on him, Rodgers went 9-for-9 for 78 yards and a touchdown, then converted the 2-point conversion. Game over.
Brady has been as good, if not, somehow, even better than his fellow No. 12. Prior to this season, quarterbacks had thrown for at least 750 passing yards and seven touchdowns through two games only four times. Brady joined the club Sunday, and he’s one of only two men to do it with no interceptions. Brady leads the NFL with 91 pass attempts, the most ever in the first two weeks by a player without an interception. His 466 passing yards Sunday in Buffalo were the most the Bills franchise had ever given up. And that came in a contest in which Vegas had the Patriots as 1.5-point underdogs. It’s comical to think that a shaky preseason, an offseason spent in court, having his emails mocked by Deadspin and fighting the NFL tooth and nail had anyone concerned. He’s 38, and he looks better than ever. Putting Brady’s torrid start into perspective is difficult. We’ve never seen anything like it.
All this talk of elite quarterbacks and tiers and whatever else you want to engage in is all good and well and makes for fun discussion. Just give me Aaron and Tom. The conversation starts and ends there.
Cheat Sheet Trivia Question of the Week
On Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger tied Terry Bradshaw for most regular-season wins (158) as a Steelers quarterback. Who’s No. 3 on the list?
This Week’s Podcast
Enjoy some discussion about the Eagles, Giants and Week 3 previews with former Giants Super Bowl champion Shaun O’Hara and Eagles beat writer Zach Berman.
On to the picks. Last week was an embarrassment. Now, like the Colts and Ravens, I’m digging out of an enormous hole. Great.
Week 2 record: 5-11
Overall record: 14-18
Washington at New York Giants: The Giants are the first team in NFL history to lose two games in which they led by 10 or more points in the fourth quarter to start the season. Eli Manning has taken a beating in the media. Tom Coughlin is getting crushed. And poor Preston Parker is no longer on the team. The truth is that the Giants have had zero pass rush through two games. Jason Pierre-Paul might not be the best player in the league, but he was at least someone opponents worried about. There’s been nothing there without him thus far. Injuries everywhere, little depth, and early-season struggles mean big trouble in the Big Apple.
The pick: Redskins 23, Giants 20. The result: Giants 32, Redskins 21
Atlanta at Dallas: Brandon Weeden, Lance Dunbar, Gavin Escobar, and Terrance Williams! Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 Dallas Cowboys! This wasn’t how it was drawn up, but as long as the offensive line and defense continue to play like they have through two games, the Cowboys could be alright in the short term. Lost in Sunday’s myriad headlines was the game linebacker Sean Lee had. Dominant and back to his old self. Atlanta’s bandwagon is full right now, and I love the way Dan Quinn’s team has rallied late. I just think the Cowboys find a way.
The pick: Cowboys 23, Falcons 21
Indianapolis at Tennessee: The situation in Indianapolis has reached red alert at 0-2. Luck is struggling. And the team didn’t draft an offensive lineman in the first round, opting to select a 5-foot-9 speed receiver over protection for the quarterback. A quote from coach Chuck Pagano’s presser after Monday night’s loss to the Jets: "You’re not going to beat ZIONSVILLE with five turnovers." Zionsville! Indianapolis benefits from playing in the NFL’s worst division. As long as the Colts are in the AFC South, they’ll be fine.
The pick: Colts 27, Titans 17
Oakland at Cleveland: The Raiders offense looked mighty impressive last weekend. I love what they’ve got at the receiver position in young superstar Amari Cooper, a rejuvenated Michael Crabtree and sparkplug Seth Roberts. They’re all performing, and they’re coached incredibly well. Fun offense. Fun team. 2-1 after their first road trip of the season.
The pick: Raiders 23, Browns 17
Cincinnati at Baltimore: The Ravens could be in some serious trouble, but I’d be patient on clicking the panic button. Not with this squad. Remember, for as much roster turnover as this team has experienced and as much adversity as its faced, Baltimore has missed the playoffs only once in the six years since Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh came to town. There is no speed threat on offense and a nonexistent pass rush, and it’s been frustrating two weeks of defensive lapses late – but I’m blocking that all out. The Ravens tend to win big games when they have to. This is one of those games.
The pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 17
Jacksonville at New England: Not enough was made of just how impressive last week’s Jaguars win in Miami was. Jacksonville was without Julius Thomas, Alan Branch, John Cyprien, Sen’Derrick Marks, Toby Gerhart, Dwayne Gratz and Luke Joeckel. And they still found a way. It won’t happen on Sunday, but there’s some sunlight over the clouds (and the cabanas) in Jacksonville.
The pick: Patriots 30, Jaguars 17
New Orleans at Carolina: With or without Drew Brees, I’m not even sure it matters. New Orleans has so many holes, leaky faucets and construction problems that it is a piece of real estate I wouldn’t go near. And for the heck of it, just imagine Cam Newton if had two weeks like Andrew Luck just had. What would the national reaction be? And trust me, he has a lot less on his offense to work with.
The pick: Panthers 26, Saints 13
Philadelphia at N.Y. Jets: I don’t think anyone saw this coming. After spending $51 million on running backs this offseason (and trading away a Pro Bowl back), Chip Kelly’s running attack is last in the league in rushing yards per game and rushing yards per carry. I had Shaun O’Hara on my podcast this week, and he said it’s less the guard play than it is DeMarco Murray — who rarely ran out of the shotgun in Dallas — being asked to operate primarily out of that formation. Whatever the issue, it better right itself quickly. The Eagles were my preseason Super Bowl pick out of the NFC. Can’t jump ship now. It won’t be pretty, but they’ll get a W on Sunday.
The pick: Eagles 27, Jets 24
Tampa Bay at Houston: Break up the Bucs! A week after they were written off as an 0-16 outfit with no capable talent, roster depth, competent coaches or front office members — the Bucs found a way to win. On the road. I think they keep it going. A name to watch? Defensive end Jacquies Smith. Who? The former Mizzou pass rusher leads the NFL in sacks with four, and had a forced fumble last week. Stud. I’m rolling with the young Bucs on a last-second field goal.
The pick: Buccaneers 23, Texans 21
San Diego at Minnesota: Regardless of whether Ragnar is on his motorcycle, the Vikings are going places this year. Week 1’s disaster versus the 49ers is out of their system, Adrian Peterson is back and the defense is downright awesome. If there’s anyone Norv Turner knows, it’s Philip Rivers. That intel should help on Sunday.
The pick: Vikings 28, Chargers 17
Pittsburgh at St. Louis: Welcome back, Le’Veon Bell. Big storyline there, sure, but I think we get Todd Gurley this week, too. I expect the latter to be the one having the bigger game Sunday. The Steelers were lights-out last week against a 49ers team traveling cross-country on a short week. The Rams will be better and should score enough to get the win.
The pick: Rams 27, Steelers 24
San Francisco at Arizona: Arizona rookie David Johnson is the odds-on early favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and rightfully so. He is the first player in NFL history to score receiving, rushing and kickoff return touchdowns in his first two career games. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has been even better. Bruce Arians’ team doesn’t lose much at home. Can’t pick against them.
The pick: Cardinals 24, 49ers 17
Buffalo at Miami: Both these teams suffered sobering upset losses last week. The Bills will bounce back, but the Dolphins I’m not sure about. I have a lot of questions about a team that everyone penciled in as a playoff contender this year. Buffalo’s defensive should own the line of scrimmage, and I’m not sure if or when the Dolphins offense will wake up this year.
The pick: Bills 17, Dolphins 14
Chicago at Seattle: The Seahawks miss Max Unger. Marshawn Lynch ran for fewer than 50 yards on Sunday, and B.J. Raji and Aaron Donald seemed to live in the Seahawks’ backfield the last two weeks. Fortunately, they play Chicago. I’m still not sure what the Bears were doing waiting until the week before the season to decide to move Kyle Long from guard to offensive tackle. He’s struggling a bit, yes, but why not give him an offseason, a training camp and a preseason to get comfortable in a new spot?
The pick: Seahawks 36, Bears 20
Denver at Detroit: The scheduling gods did Detroit no favors. Two road trips, the Broncos on Sunday night, then another road trip to Seattle. That could be 0-4. Hey, that’s how it goes sometimes. The Vikings defense annihilated Matthew Stafford last week. The Denver defense is much better than Minnesota’s. Good luck.
The pick: Broncos 20, Lions 16
Kansas City at Green Bay: I’m taking Green Bay, but not because of the Kansas City defense. It’s great. Justin Houston had 14 tackles and two sacks last week, Eric Berry and Marcus Peters have been superb and the defensive line has been stout. Rodgers might not be lights-out, but he’ll get the win. He doesn’t lose in that building anymore.
The pick: Packers 24, Chiefs 19
Reader Email of the Week
You’re Eagles look great. Way to go, there, idiot. NFC Champions, huh? They look like crap and my grandmother (still alive and well at 84) could do whatever DeMarco Murray’s done so far. Stop trying to predict things. Immediately. You’re horrible at it.
Brendan V., New Brunswick, New Jersey
Thanks for the note, Brendan. You’re a nice guy. What’s your Grandma’s 40 time? I’m doubling down on the Eagles. Reason to believe? Well, it’s certainly not anything to do with Philadelphia. It’s a Cowboys team without Tony Romo, a Giants team in distress, and a Redskins team with issues of its own. I may rue the day I got on the Chip Kelly/Sam Bradford bandwagon, but that day is not today. Lose Sunday and, well, that might be the day.
Week 3 Cheat Sheet Trivia Answer of the Week
Kordell Stewart, with 75 career regular-season wins, is third on the all-time list of Steelers QBs.
- Aaron Donald
- Alan Branch
- Alex Smith
- Alex Smith
- Amari Cooper
- Andrew Luck
- Arizona Cardinals
- B.J. Raji
- Baltimore Ravens
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Brandon Weeden
- Cam Newton
- Carolina Panthers
- Carson Palmer
- Chicago Bears
- Dallas Cowboys
- DeMarco Murray
- Denver Broncos
- Detroit Lions
- Drew Brees
- Dwayne Gratz
- Eli Manning
- Eric Berry
- Gavin Escobar
- Green Bay Packers
- Indianapolis Colts
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Jacquies Smith
- Jason Pierre-Paul
- Jimmy Graham
- Joe Flacco
- Julius Thomas
- Justin Houston
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Kyle Long
- Lance Dunbar
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Los Angeles Rams
- Luke Joeckel
- Marcus Peters
- Marshawn Lynch
- Matthew Stafford
- Max Unger
- Michael Crabtree
- New England Patriots
- New Orleans Saints
- New York Giants
- Peyton Manning
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Philip Rivers
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Preston Parker
- Russell Wilson
- Sam Bradford
- Sean Lee
- Seattle Seahawks
- Seth Roberts
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Terrance Williams
- Toby Gerhart
- Todd Gurley II
- Tony Romo