5 NFL Overreactions: What Week 2 Taught Us
There are few bigger traditions in the NFL than jumping to conclusions after Week 1.
We wait so long during the offseason for football to return that we don’t just want the season’s opening week to mean something -- we want it to mean everything.
Rarely does that ever work out, though. By Week 2, half the things we thought we knew after Week 1 turn out to be completely wrong.
Others, though, have some staying power. What that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the leading thoughts coming out of Week 1 and how they held up in the second week of the season.
Jameis Winston Is an MVP Candidate
This idea of Jameis Winston as a sleeper MVP candidate was floated around through a few media outlets, and then backed up by Winston’s teammate Mike Evans during the week. As far as overreactions go, this one was silly, yet somewhat -- barely -- defensible.
By our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- which measures the value of each play on the field based on how an average team would be expected to perform, according to historical data -- Winston had one of the best Week 1 performances as he tore up the Atlanta Falcons for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns. Winston’s 0.55 Passing NEP per drop back was the second-best of the week behind Matthew Stafford's 0.58.
Everything reversed course in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals. Winston put up the worst performance of any quarterback on a per drop back basis as he threw 4 interceptions and just 1 touchdown on 52 drop backs. His -0.34 Passing NEP per drop back is the second-worst of the season so far, worse than only Case Keenum’s outstanding -0.42 performance in the late Monday night game in Week 1.
Verdict: No one should be an MVP candidate after Week 1. Winston should be much further down that list after Week 2.
The Chargers' Offense Is Doomed
Midway through their Week 1 game, the San Diego Chargers lost receiver Keenan Allen to a torn ACL and eventually lost a big lead to the Kansas City Chiefs. Without Allen, the team’s clear number-one receiver, it was decided the Chargers were already doomed on offense for the rest of the season.
The Chargers proceeded to put up 38 points on their Week 2 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Philip Rivers was seventh in Passing NEP per drop back in Week 2, and carrying an injury depleted offense is not a new project for the quarterback. Last season, Rivers was 14th in Passing NEP per drop back in a half season without Allen, no running game to speak of, and a rotating cast blocking along the offensive line.
Injuries didn’t stop for the Chargers, though. Running back Danny Woodhead was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Woodhead played a big part of the San Diego offense last season, but the Chargers did score 31 of their 38 points in the second quarter and beyond on Sunday, without Woodhead.
Verdict: If there’s a quarterback who can carry and offense through these injuries, it’s Philip Rivers.
Oakland’s Defense Is a Concern
The Oakland Raiders opened the season with a shocking win against the New Orleans Saints but, in the process, let New Orleans throw all over them on defense. Drew Brees had the third-best passing day of any quarterback by Passing NEP per drop back in Week 1, which included 423 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions.
In Week 2, Oakland took on Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan finished the day with the second-best quarterback performance by Passing NEP per drop back at 0.61. He threw for nearly 400 yards, had 3 touchdowns, and 1 really bad interception in the end zone in a 38-25 Atlanta win.
Oakland spent the offseason bringing in a swarm of new players to improve the defense, but early on, this has been one of the worst defenses in the league.
Verdict: It’s a long season, but early returns do have to be slightly concerning.
The Giants' Defense Might Be Onto Something
Another team that spent the offseason bringing in new pieces to improve the defense was the New York Giants. In Week 1, the New York defense held the Dallas Cowboys’ running game in check -- Ezekiel Elliott’s -0.13 Rushing NEP per attempt was the third-worst among nine running backs with at least 20 carries in Week 1 -- and Dez Bryant caught just 1 pass for 8 yards.
The Week 2 test was much tougher in the Saints, who spent Week 1 terrorizing the Raiders. But again, the defense was impressive. The Giants held Brees to the 12th-lowest Passing NEP per drop back of the week, allowed just 1 touchdown, and gave up no big plays through the air. The longest was a 23-yard play to Michael Thomas, which is the longest gain the Giants have allowed through two games. Brees was held to just 5.98 yards per attempt against the Giants after averaging 10.07 against the Raiders in Week 1.
Verdict: The Giants' defense actually might be onto something.
The Seahawks Are in Trouble
Against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, the Seattle Seahawks did not look good, but they were able to pull out a win. Against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2, the Seahawks looked worse and took a 9-3 loss. All the signs were there for this to happen. The Seahawks tend to start slow, and for some reason, Jeff Fisher and the Rams have played the Seahawks tougher than any other opponent. But still a 9-3 loss is slightly embarrassing for a team that started the year number one in our power rankings.
The offense was limited against the Rams, and some of that was due to injury. Russell Wilson was dealing with an ankle sprain, and his limited mobility did not help in the passing game behind Seattle’s porous offensive line. Wilson finished with 0.00 Passing NEP per drop back, which was 23rd among quarterbacks in Week 2.
Seattle also allowed some plays on defense in the passing game. After Case Keenum was by far the worst starter in Week 1, he finished 21st in Passing NEP per drop back in Week 2. That’s still not great, but it’s a significant improvement from whatever happened last Monday. Most of Keenum’s good plays went to Kenny Britt, who had 94 yards on 6 catches had the 10th-highest Reception NEP among receivers for Week 2.
Seattle is a better team than this when healthy, but health appears to be a growing question mark. Wilson played with his ankle injury but was clearly not 100 percent. The Seahawks also lost Tyler Lockett and Thomas Rawls for much of the second half against Los Angeles, and the extent of those injuries is yet to be known, though neither appears to be serious. Seattle has a home game against the San Francisco 49ers next week, which might turn out to be the best time for this team to have a home game against the 49ers.
Verdict: It’s still too early to panic about the Seahawks, but next week might become very important to this discussion.