5 NFL Facts to Know for Week 3
Two of the NFC's top teams - the Saints and Seahawks - were both upset in Week 2. Darren Sproles has more receiving yards than Dez Bryant. The Colts are winless. Jacksonville is, well, nevermind. They're still Jacksonville.
Two weeks into the season and nothing is going as expected - but isn't that what we should expect? Here are five more facts you should know heading into Week 3.
Five Clemson Connections
In the past four NFL drafts, Clemson University has produced quality NFL stars. In Week 2, four standout skill players provided a lot of entertainment for their fans. Sammy Watkins, C.J. Spiller, DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington combined to score three touchdowns and accumulate 420 all-purpose yards in their respective games over the weekend.
The two Clemson alum who performed the best happen to play for the Buffalo Bills. Watkins caught eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins while Spiller returned a kickoff for 102 yards to score a touchdown. The Cardinals' rookie kicker, Chandler Catanzaro, is from Clemson, too, and he joined the Clemson celebration by hitting all four of his field goals against the Giants.
Despite a (shocking) loss to the Cleveland Browns, there was a silver lining for the Drew Brees on Sunday. Brees threw for 237 yards to move past John Elway with the fourth most career passing yards in NFL history. Brees still has 9,710 yards to catch Dan Marino, but if he continues to throw for 325 yards per game through this and next season, he'll be third on the all-time list.
Is his eye on second place? I’m sure it is, but another sure-fire Hall of Famer is still playing. To reach Peyton Manning right now would take roughly three years. But Manning has at least one year left in him, and if he sticks around for 2015 to top Brett Favre, then Brees has his work cut out for him. Age wouldn’t be on his side, but that hasn’t Manning and never stopped Favre. If Brees does indeed pass Marino, second place on the all-time passing leaderboard wouldn’t be out of the question.
Home Sweet Home
Speaking of the Browns, it's been a long time coming. Looking at a home opener record of 2-14 never exudes hope from a team’s fan base. But when that second win comes at a time of transition for the Browns, hope is there at least momentarily. By upsetting the Saints in Week 2, the Browns are 1-0 at home for the first time in 10 years. Thanks to key plays from the defense and sharp passing from Brian Hoyer, who's been serviceable thus far, Browns fans have something to cheer about. It may be short-lived though, as a rested Ravens team comes to town in Week 3.
As an aside, our metrics still place the Saints as the sixth-best team in the league despite an 0-2 start. Losing two games by a combined five points and having Drew Brees slinging it around will do that for you. The draw our top defense in the league through two weeks, the Vikings, in their Week 3 matchup.
For the fifth straight season, the Houston Texans have started the season 2-0. But everyone's hoping the end result isn’t like the last two seasons.
J.J. Watt scored his first career offensive touchdown, while DeAndre Hopkins caught his second touchdown in two games. And thanks to the Titans losing to Dallas, the Texans find themselves all alone in the top spot of the AFC South (and a 53% chance to win it, according to our numbers).
The Texans face the Giants in Week 3, the 28th-best team in the league according to our metrics. They could easily be 3-0 after this weekend.
Seven Remaining Undefeated Teams
Speaking of undefeated teams, after two weeks of play, we have seven teams left with zero losses: Denver, Cincinnati, Carolina, Arizona, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Houston. Want to know one thing that six of these teams have in common with each other? Everyone except the Broncos has a defense that ranks in the top-13 in our Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Below is a snapshot of the next five weeks for each undefeated team.
|Wk 3 Opp||Wk 4 Opp||Wk 5 Opp||Wk 6 Opp||Wk 7 Opp|
Of each team’s next four or five opponents, the Bills may have the toughest stretch with three of their opponents ranked in the top 10 of our Adjusted Defensive NEP metric. The Bills are one of the two unlikeliest teams to still be undefeated, but even if they survive the next two weeks, Weeks 5-7 won't be a cakewalk either. If just looking at the defensive matchups each team has, the Cardinals and Eagles have the easiest stretch as they do not face a top-10 defense over the next five weeks.
So who stays undefeated the longest? If the schedule is any indicator, the Eagles might have the best shot, as the 49ers will be their toughest task before their bye week takes place. The Cardinals look to have the next easiest schedule, but will they have the offensive firepower to keep up with the 49ers and Broncos after relying on two fourth-quarter comebacks the past two weeks?
The Broncos won six in a row out of the gate last season, and the Chiefs were a surprise to all by winning nine straight before their first loss. Anything could happen, but the way this season has already started off, the undefeated streaks may not last very long this year.