Week 2 of the NFL season is in the books and we probably think we know a lot more than we actually do. But one thing is certain: there was carnage around the league in terms of injuries, with tons of star players leaving the field in ways you don't want to see. There are questions about good teams, there are questions about bad teams and there some things we need to ask about possible MVP candidates, even just two weeks into the season. Let's try and answer some of them below — if you've got more questions, we probably answered them on the Pick Six Podcast, our daily NFL pod, which you can listen to in the player below and subscribe to here.
1. Is Josh Allen a legitimate MVP candidate?
My talking point all offseason for the Bills was that they are a division contender no matter what, a potential playoff team if the status quo holds, and a Super Bowl contender if Allen makes a huge leap forward. Allen looks like he's making that leap through two weeks. The former Wyoming quarterback entered the year without a 300-yard passing game and through two weeks he checked that box and then some. In Week 1 Allen busted out for a 300-plus yard game against the Jets and he one-upped himself on Sunday against the Dolphins, making Bills history in becoming the first-ever Buffalo quarterback with 400-plus passing yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. (Yes, I was equally shocked to find out Jim Kelly only had one game with more than 400 passing yards; it says a lot about offense then versus now.)
With 417 passing yards on Sunday, Allen now has 729 passing yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's the fourth player in NFL history to throw for 700-plus yards with six-plus touchdowns and no picks through two weeks, joining Patrick Mahomes (2019), Tom Brady (2015) and Peyton Manning (2013). Using emojis in a story seems like a very childish thing to do, but 😳 absolutely applies here.
No one has ever doubted Allen's physical skillset. He can throw BOMBS. But would he be able to put everything together and complete a high percentage of his passes while becoming accurate down the field? So far, he's checked both boxes.
Allen is completing more than 70 percent of his passes through two games and he was outstanding down the field against the Dolphins on Sunday, going 7-of-8 for 246 yards and two touchdowns on passes of 20-plus yards.
The caveats of a) this being two weeks into the year and b) the Bills only playing the Jets and Dolphins absolutely applies here. Allen deserves the same scrutiny Lamar Jackson received last year when he came out of the gates scorching hot against Arizona and Miami last year in the first two weeks. But Allen appears less inclined to lean on his rushing ability, more willing to win from the pocket and he appears, through Week 2, to have dramatically improved on two of his biggest deficiencies. His catchable ball percentage on passes 10-plus yards down the field went from bottom five last year to top five through two weeks in 2020.
If this is a legitimate evolution of him as a quarterback, the Bills are probably going to be an elite team this season. Right now he's behind only Russell Wilson in the very, very, very early MVP race.
2. Can the Cardinals really contend in the NFC West?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Kyler Murray looks like he might be taking the second-year starter leap many people envisioned when they pounded his MVP odds down into the 20-1 range before the season, with Kyler getting plenty of hype following the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins via the much-scrutinized trade for David Johnson with Houston. Hopkins, who caught another eight passes for 68 yards and a score against the Washington Football Team in a 30-15 cruise-control win, now has the most receptions (22) of any player in NFL history in his first two games with a new team.
Murray made history of his own, becoming the first player ever to pass for 500 yards and rush for 150 yards in the first two weeks of the season. His second touchdown run of the afternoon looked like something out of a video game in terms of ankle-breaking potential.
But let's not act like Murray isn't a dual threat. Russell Wilson is the best deep-ball passer in the NFL, but Kyler is going to be a challenger in the next few years. He slings dimes down the field.
But I'm not even sure the biggest takeaway from the Cardinals' 2-0 start is Kyler + Nuk coming out of the gates scorching. What I like seeing is a dramatic dip in the sack percentage for Kyler this year -- in his first two games last year, Murray was sacked eight times and taken down 20 (!) times in the first four games of the season. He's "only" been sacked five times this year. Maybe we'd like to see an even lower number, but that's reasonably league average and it shows Kyler's more comfortable under center than his rookie season, while also displaying an improved Cardinals offensive line. Level of difficulty should come into play here too: Arizona has beaten the 49ers and WFT, each of whom have an elite defensive line.
I'm also optimistic about this Cardinals defense having taken a step forward in 2020. Let's caveat it with the level of difficulty here too, because San Fran and Washington look limited offensively early on, but the Cards are locking it down on third down -- 6 of 23, good for 26 percent -- and holding opponents to just 28.6 percent conversion in the red zone while giving up 5.6 yards per play on the season.
We might not definitely know whether the defense is breaking out until the middle of October, with the Lions, Panthers and Jets on tap over the next three weeks. But those games are pretty choice matchups for Kyler and the defense. 5-0 isn't off the table for this contender.
3. Is either Allen or Murray actually the MVP through two weeks?
Nope! That's because Russell Wilson is currently the leader in the clubhouse. Should we talk about the MVP in Week 2? Probably not, but that's the NFL in 2020. Not sure if you were aware, but Wilson actually has never received an MVP vote. It may have been mentioned once or twice on Sunday night as he was becoming just the third player to ever throw five passing touchdowns against a Bill Belichick defense.
Wilson is the best deep ball passer in football, as noted above, and it was on full display on Sunday night. New England probably has the best secondary in all of football and Mr. Unlimited just didn't care one bit, lobbing bombs into breadbaskets over everyone and anyone on the field for the Pats.
Wilson now has nine touchdowns and just 11 incompletions, a completely preposterous ratio in terms of efficiency. I was adamant the Seahawks would not #LetRussCook against a defense like the Patriots, but they didn't get scared and let Russ keep firing down the field in critical situations.
You could maybe complain about letting him do it on the third-and-1 with the game on the line -- that seems like an overkill shot more than anything, but with the results Wilson is producing, who can be mad?
Given how questionable the Seahawks defense looks -- Jamal Adams has been a welcome addition but he can't change it by himself -- Seattle might need Russ to put the team on his back and win games by himself. Kudos to Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer for being aggressive about letting him do so early in games, rather than forcing him to stage wild comebacks.
4. Was this the worst injury week in NFL history and why did it happen?
Off the top of my head it certainly does feel like an abnormality in terms of injuries to star players. Here's a quick rundown of some of the injuries we saw in Week 2:
- Saquon Barkley: Torn ACL - out for season
- Christian McCaffrey: Ankle injury - likely out 4-6 weeks
- Nick Bosa: Torn ACL - out for season
- Jimmy Garoppolo: High ankle sprain - TBD absence
- Raheem Mostert: Sprained MCL - TBD absence
- Drew Lock: Injured rotator cuff - out multiple weeks
- Courtland Sutton: Knee injury - out for season
- Davante Adams: Hamstring - TBD
- Tyrod Taylor: Chest - ???
And those are just the bigger names in terms of injuries that we saw suffered on Sunday during Week 2. Parris Campbell, Cam Akers, Malik Hooker, Breshad Perriman, Byron Jones, Sterling Shephard, Kaleb McGary and Solomon Thomas all suffered injuries as well. We're not downplaying anyone's pain here, there's just not enough room to fit everyone in.
These injuries STINK. Seeing star players go down, especially star young players, is awful. Barkley and CMC are two of the most exciting players in the entire league and they're going to miss significant time. While those injuries might not derail promising seasons for the Giants and Panthers, they're still bad.
CMC and Saquon were also the consensus top two picks in fantasy drafts this season. Add in Adams and you have three first-round picks who suffered significant injuries on Sunday. I don't write that because anyone cares about injuries as it relates to fantasy -- no one should -- but because I at least wonder if the high-profile nature of the injuries in question causes the concerns over guys getting hurt.
But as my colleague Jonathan Jones wrote on Sunday, it does feel like this could be a direct correlation with the lack of a preseason and ramp up to the 2020 NFL season. It's the equivalent of trying to run a race and not warming up ahead of time. Not everyone is going to get hurt, but without building up to the brutal workload of a regular NFL game thanks to the pandemic-reduced offseason and zero preseason, it does feel as if we're seeing cluster injuries at a higher rate.
It's also worth noting two more things here. One, we didn't have a lot of training camp injuries or any preseason injuries that added up leading to the season, so it's possible that spreading the number of injuries out over a longer period of time would make it look less impactful. The 49ers currently have an issue with the turf in MetLife Stadium -- they've complained publicly and to the league about the quality of the field, since they're coming right back to play the Giants in Week 3 in the exact same stadium where they saw multiple players rack up lower body injuries.
Week 2 was brutal and Week 3 will be telling. If there's another rash of superstar injuries, the league might face a crisis of sorts when it comes to handling the health of players
5. What was the worst coaching decision of Week 2?
This would be an easy answer if you asked me which game featured the worst coaching, but if we're trying to decide between Mike McCarthy and Dan Quinn it's going to be pretty difficult to determine who made the worst decisions.
McCarthy is apparently operating under the assumption that "analytics" are just "whatever Jason Garrett wouldn't do," because how else can you explain running multiple fake punts from your own side of the field, including one late in the fourth quarter when you're trailing by multiple scores? You've got a $200 million offense -- use it to get the first down.
But Quinn burned himself worse than anyone else on Sunday with one rough decision and one embarrassing gaffe by his team. Quinn decided to go for two up 26-7 in the second quarter against Dallas. Why? No clue. I get that makes it a 21-point game, but it's early in the contest. Just keep piling up points. When you lose by one that sticks out a little bit.
Much worse for Quinn was his team's lack of preparedness when it came to the onside kick. Multiple Falcons players appeared unaware they could leap onto the ball before it went 10 yards when they were the receiving team on the Cowboys' late-game attempt, allowing Dallas players to snag the ball and set up a game-winning field goal during the middle of Dallas' wild come-from-behind victory.
Players have to execute, but when something like that happens, the coach is going to deservedly get the blame for a lack of preparation.
Honorable mention goes to Anthony Lynn for punting in overtime against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs with the Chargers facing a 4th-and-1. You've played these guys before, you know what they can do, don't give Mahomes the ball back and risk losing. Roll the dice that your offense can pick up a yard and try to go win the game. Los Angeles had played SO well prior to that decision, it hurt to see them give the ball up and watch Harrison Butker bang down 169 yards worth of game-winning field goals.