With the baffling Monday Night Football programming decision, where ESPN put a game up against ESPN, and neither was particularly good, the second week of the NFL season is, mercifully over. The 49ers lost their quarterback, Tom Brady lost his cool, and the Giants just refuse to lose. You can’t predict football, as we all know, but you can get a pretty good idea of what might happen, and since knowing is half the battle, learning ahead of time to not panic might make the pain of what might happen a little bit more bearable. With that in mind, let’s take a look ahead to week three, and figure out what might happen (that we shouldn’t worry about).
Tua Tagovailoa Comes Crashing Back Down to Earth
Player A has 469 passing yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions on 50 pass attempts. Player B has 363 passing yards, one touchdown, and 5 interceptions on 65 pass attempts. Do you want Player A or Player B? Well, Player A was Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday against the Ravens, and player B was the combined output of Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis, and Matthew Stafford against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills lost multiple starting defenders, so they could take a slight step back, but they’re still a defensive buzzsaw, turning what should be normal NFL games into Alabama vs. Northwest Middle Idaho State blowouts, winning by a combined score of 72-17. Tua likely doesn’t replicate his massive game, and I’d even take the odds that he finishes outside the top-12 at the position this week. It’s going to be a rough landing for people who scoop Tua up off the waiver wire, but he gets the Bengals and the Jets in weeks four and five, and should perform well then.
Christian Kirk Looks Human
Christian Kirk currently ranks as WR8, with 12 receptions, 195 yards, and two touchdowns through the first two contests of the season. The Jags moved Kirk to the slot, where he’s played 82% of his snaps this season (up from 49% with the Cardinals in 2021). Now, they get the Chargers, who have locked down two of the better slot receivers in the league in the last two weeks, holding Hunter Renfrow and JuJu Smith-Schuster to a combined 6 receptions for 31 yards. In their other two games, JuJu and Renfrow combined for 13 receptions and 138 yards. So, we might see a bit more human Christian Kirk this week, as the Chargers focus on stopping what he does best: dominating opposing defenders out of the slot.
The Chargers Struggle on Offense
It’s been almost a week since Justin Herbert fractured his cartilage at the end of a gutsy Thursday Night Football loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It appears as though Herbert is in line to play in week three, but you can’t expect the guy to continue to play at a high level with that kind of injury. The Chargers simply don’t need him to sling the ball all over the field against a Jaguars team that looked good through the first two games but remains a unit that the Chargers’ defense should be able to thoroughly handle, meaning that there won’t be any late-game heroics out of Herbert necessary. The usual suspects remain starts, but we should lower our expectations for them. We should also pump the brakes on guys like Josh Palmer and DeAndre Carter, especially if Keenan Allen returns.
Mitchell Trubisky Has a Big Game
While Cleveland allowed only 235 passing yards and a touchdown in week one, that one touchdown was an absolute disaster 70+ yard bomb from Baker Mayfield to Robbie Anderson. Then, last week, they allowed 307 passing yards and four passing touchdowns to Joe Flacco and the New York Jets. Through two games, they struggle mightily to defend the deep ball, with Baker Mayfield completing 100% of his deep ball passes against the Browns, and Joe Flacco completing 50%. Both finishes would rank inside the top twelve in deep ball completion percentage on the season. The Browns also get beat up in the rest of the field, as well, as their 7.6 yards per attempt allowed ranks ninth in the league, between the Falcons and the Bears.
Then we get to Mitchell Trubisky, who actually ranks inside the top-ten in air yards per pass attempt on the season, but unfortunately, he’s struggled to connect deep, completing just 28.6% of his deep pass attempts (tied with Jared Goff for 25th in the league). So, a bleak deep pass defense for the Browns might just meet up with a downfield offense run by Mitchell Trubisky. But, styles make fights, and should Trubisky have a big game, don’t freak out, it’s just a case of right-place, right time for Troobs and the Steelers.
The Bengals Get Right
Through two games, the Bengals and Jets rank as #1 and #2 in total offensive plays run in the NFL, which was the big bugaboo for the Bengals last year (#31 in their pace of play). Unfortunately, that has not translated into on-field success for the reigning AFC champions, as the Bengals have 37 points through two games this year, a figure that ranks nineteenth among teams. Their new-look offensive line is yet to gel, and that means that the promised gains from Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon are yet to come to fruition. They just might in week three, going against a Jets squad that will want to play up-tempo with them, while allowing the seventh-most passing yards per attempt on the season, and the eighth-lowest pressure rate. Though their issues persist, the Bengals will have their get-right game this week.