The NFL season has a tendency of mirroring the draft process, which often takes on a life of its own after a majority of the work and the common knowledge has been established. While there are inevitably “late risers” in both respects, there are also stalwart teams and players who were always going to be among the best but, for some reason, we talk ourselves into discounting them or diminishing them for the sport of it.
Teams, especially, go through valleys inevitably during a long season, and we tend to punish them for not playing their best football in November and December, when, in reality, they may just be gearing up for a more consequential playoff push.
It’s important to keep in mind as we watch the Bills absolutely torch opponents as they have been doing over the first two weeks of the season. At some point, when Josh Allen has a handful of bad games and we start to wonder whether Buffalo has what it takes, let’s remember what happened Monday night and the Thursday before.
Barring any catastrophic injury, that version of the Bills isn’t going anywhere. It’s who they are.
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Last week: Win vs. Tennessee, 41–7 (Monday)
Next week: at Miami
It’s scary how routine the Bills are absolutely disposing of excellent NFL teams and really good opposing coordinators. The win over the Titans was another exclamation point. The challenge now is to evolve, for when someone finally figures out how to stop you.
Last week: Win vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 27–24 (Thursday)
Next week: at Indianapolis
Eight QB hits and six pass breakups against a very good quarterback in Justin Herbert, plus a balanced running attack that saw Clyde Edwards-Helaire gain 9.3 yards per carry on the ground and 11 yards per passing target. Balanced Chiefs is not sexy, but it’s sustainable.
Last week: Win at New Orleans, 20–10
Next week: vs. Green Bay
Tom Brady is the tide that lifts all boats, but having an opposing QB success rate of 35.4% on drop backs helps, too.
Last week: Win vs. Chicago, 27–10
Next week: at Tampa Bay
How terrifying are those versatile AJ Dillon/Aaron Jones backfields? Also, Quay Walker looks like he’s the missing piece this defense needs to steel themselves against another January heartbreak.
Last week: Win vs. Atlanta, 31–27
Next week: at Arizona
The Rams are 1–1 despite employing one of the least efficient offenses in the NFL, and least successful drop-back rates. In short, this won’t hold. Sean McVay will figure out a way to Sean McVay, and we’ll all be talking about some brainy evolution in November.
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Last Week: Win at Baltimore, 42–38
Next week: vs. Buffalo
Why the hell not? There isn’t a team in the NFL having more fun than the Miami Dolphins right now. There isn’t a defensive coordinator who can quite put a thumb on Mike McDaniel.
Last week: Loss at Kansas City, 27–24 (Thursday)
Next week: vs. Jacksonville
The defense started fast, but does anyone have a feeling that we haven’t seen anything close to Justin Herbert’s ceiling? Let’s see what happens if the playcalling meets him halfway.
Last week: Loss vs. Miami, 42–38
Next week: at New England
We’re not hating that Lamar Jackson MVP prediction at this point. And Rashod Bateman looks far more dangerous after the catch than I ever remember. Despite the loss to the red-hot Dolphins, this is the team I least want to see coming up next on the schedule.
Last week: Win vs. Minnesota, 24–7
Next week: at Washington
The thought was always that if Jalen Hurts didn’t peak a year ago, the sky would be the limit for this roster. Well, Monday night’s stomping of the Vikings leads us to believe that the Eagles might be in for some late January football this year.
Last week: Win vs. Seattle, 27–7
Next week: at Denver
Jimmy Garoppolo is back, which means so, too, is a more stable-but-not-quite-bullish take on this roster. Without Trey Lance, we won’t be able to see what’s next for Kyle Shanahan in his own personal evolution. But we will see a good-enough 49ers team that everyone hates to play.
Last week: Loss vs. New England, 17–14,
Next week: at Cleveland (Thursday)
We overranked them a bit this week as a kind of legacy award. What Mike Tomlin does with this roster every week is incredible. Without TJ Watt, the Steelers were a stunning Nelson Agholor touchdown away from moving to 2–0. They’ll still be a factor every week no matter what.
Last week: Win vs. Washington, 36–27
Next week: at Minnesota
The NFL’s best-kept secret—offensive coordinator Ben Johnson—is no longer a secret. Jared Goff is playing well. D’Andre Swift is constantly in open space. The Lions are for real.
Last week: Loss at Dallas, 20–17
Next week: at New York Jets
Call me a blind optimist (or just the guy scared to criticize the Bengals after picking them to win four games in 2021), but I think the Bengals are a few good meetings between coach and QB away from getting this right.
Last week: Loss vs. Tampa Bay, 20–10
Next week: at Carolina
The Saints’ defense is an institution at this point. So, too, unfortunately is the fact that sometimes Jameis Winston will leave this planet during football games and chuck a bunch of dangerous passes into harm’s way.
Last week: Lost at Philadelphia, 24–7
Next week: vs. Detroit
Kirk Cousins & Co. were stunned by a suddenly blitz-happy Eagles defense and a stellar coverage performance against Justin Jefferson. Was this the norm, or just a good learning experience for rookie coach Kevin O’Connell?
Last week: Win at Pittsburgh, 17–14,
Next week: vs. Baltimore
The Patriots aren’t doing anything particularly well right now and are still in the thick of it. Can Mac Jones master the mundane and make this offense run more efficiently?
Last week: Win vs. Carolina, 19–16, 21–20
Next week: vs. Dallas (Monday)
Brian Daboll has instilled some life in this franchise while helping it shed some old skin. There may still be hard times ahead, but with games against the Dak Prescott–less Cowboys and the Bears coming, could they start 4–0?
Last week: Win at Las Vegas, 29–23
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Cardinals aren’t going to get the opportunity to have Kyler Murray run track and field laps through a gassed defense every week until he can make a play, and they’re not going to get many more Hunter Renfrow fumbles, either. At some point, their struggles beneath the surface will become their reality.
Last week: Loss vs. Arizona, 29–23
Next week: at Tennessee
Two spirited performances by Las Vegas, albeit conservative ones. Will Josh McDaniels cut Derek Carr and Davante Adams loose?
Last week: Win vs. Houston, 16–9
Next week: vs. San Francisco
Coach Nathaniel Hackett said this week that he met with his coaching staff twice about streamlining communication efforts on the field. Sneakily, they have the 7th-best expected added points total per drop back this season. If they can tighten up the process, the system could shine.
Last week: Win vs. Cincinnati, 20–17
Next week: at New York Giants (Monday)
Kudos to Mike McCarthy, who let Cooper Rush rip on Sunday (relatively speaking) and stunned a reeling Bengals team. Micah Parsons should be dominating the defensive player of the year discussion.
Last week: Loss vs. New York Jets, 31–30
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh (Thursday)
A complete defensive and special teams breakdown in the waning moments of Sunday’s game gives us the Joe Flacco highlight we didn’t know we needed. The Browns barely beat the woeful Panthers and lost to the Jets, who are still finding their way. What kind of team is Deshaun Watson eventually inheriting?
Last week: Loss at Buffalo, 41–7 (Monday)
Next week: vs. Oakland
Monday’s loss to the Bills will force the Titans back to the drawing board. The run game is nonexistent, and, as a result, Ryan Tannehill looks human.
Last week: Win at Cleveland, 31–30
Next week: vs. Cincinnati
If nothing else, the Jets have shown that they aren’t laying down anymore. A strong half against the Ravens. A stunning comeback against the Browns. Once this 2022 draft class matures, the Jets will be a competitor.
Last week: Loss at Los Angeles Rams, 31–27
Next week: at Seattle
Arthur Smith has this team playing hard, and in two weeks, has gotten the ball to either Kyle Pitts or Drake London. He doesn’t care about your fantasy team, but he is displaying some creativity and highlighting his young stars.
Last week: Win vs. Indianapolis, 24–0
Next week: at Los Angeles Chargers
Trevor Lawrence finally looks comfortable, although I find my eyes drawn more to a talented young defense teeming with playmakers. Rookie Devin Lloyd has 17 tackles in two games and batted down three passes against the Colts on Sunday, in addition to his first career pick.
Last Week: Loss at Detroit, 36–27
Next week: vs. Philadelphia
If this was another middling year for the Commanders, but Carson Wentz finished the season as a top-10 quarterback and was amenable to some kind of affordable extension at the end of the season, do you consider that a victory as a fan of this franchise?
Last week: Lost at Jacksonville, 24–0
Next week: vs. Kansas City
The Colts look adrift right now. As we wrote Sunday, it’s time to start taking a critical look at a process we all assumed was successful.
Last week: Loss at Denver, 16–9
Next week: at Chicago
The Texans are not going to win a lot of games this year, but they will come awfully close to winning a respectable number of games this year against better opponents. That said, Davis Mills is currently operating at a -10 completion percentage over expectation, meaning that he’s completing 10% fewer passes than he should.
Last week: Lost at Green Bay, 27–10
Next week: vs. Houston
Justin Fields looks better in Year 2, although he keeps thudding against the hard ceiling created by this roster.
Last week: Loss at San Francisco, 27–7
Next week: vs. Atlanta
As podcast cohost Gary Gramling said on our Sunday review this week, the Seahawks have won their Super Bowl. We’ll check back in with them come draft time to see which quarterback they may be interested in.
Last week: Loss at New York Giants, 19–16
Next week: vs. New Orleans
With losses to the Browns and Giants on their ledger so far, we’ll see whether Matt Rhule can conjure some fight from this roster before the coaching hot seat becomes too much to bear.
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