In Week 1, the Detroit Lions put the league on notice, Aaron Rodgers’ season lasted four plays and the New York Giants landed on the wrong side of franchise history. What could Week 2 bring?
The Athletic’s NFL writers Mike Sando, Jeff Howe and Kalyn Kahler discuss some of the upcoming week’s most interesting storylines and more.
Rodgers is out for the season, and Zach Wilson reassumes the starting role for the New York Jets. He’ll be greeted by a stingy Dallas Cowboys defense Sunday. What is the best-case scenario for Wilson on Sunday and beyond?
Sando: The best-case scenario would be for the Jets defense to control the game so Breece Hall and the Jets’ ground game can go to work against Dallas’ run defense, which is the Cowboys’ top vulnerability. If the Jets have to pass, they have no chance.
Howe: The Cowboys defense was shaping up to be as dominant as it showed Sunday night, so this is a brutal first test for Wilson. The best-case scenario would be a turnover-free game and an efficiently orchestrated offense that doesn’t put the burden on the passing game. I thought this needed to be a run-oriented offense even with Rodgers, but now it’s a must. Long term, the best-case scenario is the Jets learn how to grind out wins, come through in a couple of clutch passing situations and become a physical team that would make a postseason opponent work to earn everything it can get.
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Kahler: I am shocked the Jets have not added another quarterback yet. Did we not see this same season play out last year? An incredible defense wasted a great year because it didn’t have a quarterback! I understand the Jets are trying to instill confidence in Wilson, but I’m not sure I understand why. They should be doing everything possible to secure a better quarterback, and there are plenty of options! Randall Cobb is currently the QB3/emergency QB. … Applying basic logic and what we saw last season, and in Week 1, there is no best-case scenario with the current quarterback situation.
Two of the first-round quarterbacks from the 2023 NFL Draft are slated to meet Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts’ Anthony Richardson faces the Houston Texans’ C.J. Stroud (who is questionable with a shoulder injury). And Bryce Young’s Carolina Panthers face the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. What are your first impressions of each rookie QB?
Sando: Richardson looked the best of the three in Week 1. The game did not seem too fast for him. His size was an ally. The scheme seemed to fit him. Stroud had little chance for success. The Houston pass game looked like a fire drill against the Baltimore Ravens’ pressure, and as the score differential grew, this became a trial by pure-pass situation. Stroud had 59 pass plays, way too many. He showed off his arm on a risky downfield throw to the wide side of the field, and when he had time, he completed passes. Young was a little underwhelming — some nice anticipatory throws but a struggle overall.
Howe: Richardson had the best day and nearly pulled off a huge upset. The two injuries are a little concerning for a young QB who likes to throw his body around, so he has to be more cognizant of that. Young and Stroud were fairly effective but just need a lot more help around them. These teams were drafting high for a reason, and they’re not going to win games this season because of their rookie quarterbacks — they need to win around them.
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Kahler: Richardson is the most exciting of the three and seems best set up for success right now. Before the season, I thought Young would be the best of the three, but after just a one-week sample, it looks like Richardson. Richardson’s ceiling is the reason I put him on my fantasy team this year, and his performance in Week 1 didn’t disappoint.
The Lions haven’t started 2-0 since 2017 and host a Seattle Seahawks team coming off a loss to the Los Angeles Rams. What was most impressive about Detroit’s season-opening win over the Kansas City Chiefs?
Sando: Detroit was poised and showed it belonged on a big stage. That was most impressive. More specifically, the pick-six interception was the key to the game. Without that play, Kansas City might have won by a touchdown or more, even with its receivers having a rough game. The Lions’ ability to catch the ball on defense and score was exactly the type of play that had to be made to win this game on the road.
Howe: The defense finished hot last season and improved in the offseason, and it has maintained that trajectory. That’s a good group. Quarterback Jared Goff was efficient like usual, and the skill players all played their part. That’s the formula, and they know it. The Lions have a good chance to attack Geno Smith because of the Seahawks’ banged-up offensive tackles, so the hype in Detroit could be elevated yet again.
Kahler: This team is so much fun. The fake punt was exactly what I hoped to see more of out of the Lions this season: exciting and unexpected plays that show they are confident.
Speaking of the Chiefs, the Jacksonville Jaguars host them in an AFC divisional round rematch from last postseason. What does Jacksonville need to do to win and send Kansas City to 0-2?
Sando: September games in Jacksonville can be tough for road teams because of the hot, steamy weather (the forecast calls for mid-80s with rain likely). The Chiefs have practiced in hot weather all summer, but Florida can be different. Can the Jaguars bring more energy at home and sustain it better in hot weather?
Howe: It’s an absolute must to attack Patrick Mahomes. The Jaguars’ season ended in January because they couldn’t chase him down despite the ankle injury. And when it got to crunchtime, the Jags had two ugly turnovers. If they can take care of the ball, they have a shot. If they can take care of the ball and pressure Mahomes, the Jaguars will win.
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Kahler: Chris Jones and Travis Kelce are back! And with both playing, this is a different Chiefs team than we saw in Week 1. Detroit won the turnover battle against Kansas City thanks in part to receiver Kadarius Toney’s hands. If Jacksonville can pressure Mahomes and force a turnover, it could win this rematch.
Which team can least afford to start 0-2 and why: the Giants, Tennessee Titans or Los Angeles Chargers?
Sando: It’s the Giants because if they fall to 0-2, it means they lost to the Arizona Cardinals, which would be brutal following a 40-0 home defeat against Dallas. If the Chargers lose, that’s tough, but there are worse things than losing on the road to the Titans.
Howe: The Chargers have the highest ceiling among the three, so I wouldn’t be as worried about them — although a loss to the Titans would be concerning. The Titans visit the Cleveland Browns and host the Cincinnati Bengals in weeks 3 and 4, so they’re not just in danger of falling to 0-2. That said, if the Titans are a fringe playoff team, there’s a roadmap to make a run after the Week 7 bye. If the Giants fall to 0-2, that means they’ve lost to the Cardinals, and they’d face incredibly long odds to make up ground in that division. So I’d say the Giants can least afford to fall to 0-2 because of what it would mean this weekend, but the Titans are the most likely to fall to 0-2 and would have to reel off a bunch of wins over the final three months to climb back into playoff contention.
Kahler: Definitely the Giants, simply because of the nature of the opponent that could send them to 0-2. Losing to the Cardinals, a team without its starting quarterback that has been embarrassing itself on and off the field for the past two seasons, would be the worst kind of loss.
(Top photos of Justin Herbert and Daniel Jones: Tim Nwachukwu and Harry How / Getty Images)
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