NFL 2015 Week 2: Back to Earth and Attack of the 0-2 Heavyweights
As with most years, the second week of the National Football League season this year is concerned with the lowering of expectations. After the first week, there is no end of enthusiasm. Super Bowl fever explodes across the League; after all, 16 teams are undefeated after Week 1. When down-and-out NFL towns such as Buffalo, St. Louis, Nashville and Cincinnati are excited it’s difficult to point out that the odds are against their teams. After all, there have been Super Bowls between teams who both had losing records the previous season.
After Week 2, most of these championship dreams may be on hold for now. Rex Ryan‘s firing by the (typically-clueless) New York Jets and quick hiring by the Bills excited Buffalo fans about the defensive improvements likely to follow. While these were on display last week in a win over Indianapolis, no such luck against the divisional rival/steamroller known as the New England Patriots. The defending champs’ 40-32 win reintroduced more rational hopes to the Buffalo fanbase.
As for the St. Louis Rams, the immense likelihood that they will be moving back to their origins in Los Angeles next season has left the city yawning (it is a huge baseball town, after all, and the Cardinals are great this year). An opening victory over Seattle rekindled some of the old feelings. This week’s 24-10 loss to Washington (the team that shall not speak its offensive nickname here) made sure people in St. Louis will again be ready and willing to help the Rams load the moving vans in December.
All of Nashville spent the summer raving (and for plenty of young women, swooning) over the Tennessee Titans‘ first-round draft choice, 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. Their exuberance was rewarded with an opening win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another lowly team last season. Mariota (and his new hometown) were brought down to earth with a thud in a 28-14 loss to another doormat, the Cleveland Browns. Mariota’s future still looks shiny and bright but he will have to wait for a better team than this year’s Titans to achieve his destiny.
Which brings us to Cincinnati (as with St. Louis, more of a baseball than football town). The Bengals, often known even to their fans as the Bungles, usually miss no opportunity to lose in embarrassing fashion. The past three seasons has seen a reversal of this fortune. The team has made playoff appearances after each of those years. In spite of that, locals booed Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton when he made an appearance in this year’s Baseball All-Star Game, played in Cincy. Spoiled by their recent success, the fans have turned on Dalton because he has yet to win a playoff game. Facing the San Diego Chargers (another frequent playoff team in recent years) should expose his flaws again. The Bengals’ 24-19 victory dashed those hopes. Cincinnati may have to get used to the possibility that their team may be a real Super Bowl threat this year.
The most shocking aspect of this season after two weeks is the teams who have yet to win a game. No one is surprised by the presence of the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions in that group. Much more shocking is the presence of the Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts there. These teams have all played in the Super Bowl; all but one have won multiple championships. The Colts’ fall from grace has been particularly sharp and sudden; after all, it was their loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in January set off the Case of the Deflated Footballs that sucked all the oxygen out of the NFL this summer. After their Monday-night loss the the Jets, the team seems to be seriously considering letting Coach Chuck Pagano go even though he has led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three years (the first despite a long absence to deal with his cancer diagnosis). As of this post, none of this group of once-distinguished two-loss teams looks likely to return to the postseason in 2015.
The Seattle Seahawks are another potential entrant to this collection of losers with much recent playoff success. After a Super Bowl win and the last- minute loss to the Patriots in last season’s championship game, the Seahawks lost their season opener in St. Louis. This was not a shocker; the team has gone 1-3 there in the past four years despite their great success. Week 2 brought a much greater challenge: a rematch of the NFC Championship Game with the Green Bay Packers. Seattle trailed for the entire game until the very end and escaped with an overtime win in spite of a generally uninspired performance. The rematch had the added difficulty of being played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay (the playoff game was in the Pacific Northwest).
The ever-loyal Packers fans were not disappointed by their team’s 27-17 win. The game exhibited some of the same seesaw quality of last year’s playoff contest. The Packers held a 13-3 lead at halftime but fell behind 17-16 by the end of the third quarter. In the fourth, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers showed the form that has won him an MVP award (and may bring another this year) by leading the Packers on an 80-yard touchdown drive followed by a two-point conversion. On the Seahawks’ subsequent possession, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was intercepted. This led to the Packers’ field goal with two minutes left. After the game, Rodgers, rankled (as was much of Green Bay) by Wilson’s comments after the playoff game crediting God with helping Seattle, told a reporter that the Almighty must have been a Packers fan that night. Expect plenty of fireworks if these teams meet in the playoffs again.
A ten-point Packer lead with two minutes left should not have been an insurmountable deficit for the Seahawks of the past few years. This year Seattle seems to be missing some element of those teams. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn left after the Super Bowl to become head coach of the Atlanta Falcons; his absence seems to be hurting the team’s defenders this year. Other key players have left for free-agent riches. Then there’s Kam Chancellor, a safety for the Seahawks. There is nothing physically wrong with Chancellor. He could play at any time. He is still under contract to the team. As one of the best safeties in the League, he would have been a great help in shutting down Rodgers’ passing attack. Kam Chancellor is not playing for one reason – he’s staging a holdout. Finding (or at least believing) he is not being paid what he is worth, he refused to show up for training camp.
The Seattle front office, fearing more holdouts if they give in the Chancellor, decided to refuse to negotiate and has fined him $2 million for his absence to date. This episode feels like so much posing. Both sides want Chancellor back ASAP. Now that the team has lost its first two games his holdout will likely end quickly and on the safety’s terms. This entirely avoidable situation has left the team in a hole that did not have to happen. Fans do not always understand the business of sports but there are times when their frustration is justified. For the Chancellor impasse this page names Seattle General Manager John Schneider the winner of our highest and most dubious award, the NFL Weasel of the Week (WOW). Don’t worry, John; you won’t have to pay a cent for this well-earned honor.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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