What to make of the NFL after Week 2

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Week 2 of the NFL season has come and gone, and despite having to suffer through watching the Panthers’ offense week after week, I have thoroughly enjoyed having professional football completely take over my life each Sunday.

The slate of games this past Sunday was downright bonkers, featuring a 13-point comeback with under two minutes to go by the New York Jets, a 60-yard game-winning fumble return in overtime by the Arizona Cardinals and a brawl between the Saints and Bucs that resulted in the ejections of Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore.

While those were some of the highlights of the week, they don’t tell the whole story of Sunday’s action. Here are three observations I had from three games, and a look at how things might unfold over the next several weeks.

Is Tua legit?

Arguably the team that grabbed the most headlines this offseason was the Miami Dolphins, as they went out and traded for Tyreek Hill, added offensive linemen Connor Williams and Terron Armstead in free agency and hired new coach Mike McDaniels to oversee the team’s transition from rebuilding to contending.

The biggest question mark entering the year for Miami was whether quarterback Tua Tagovaiola could lead the team to the next level. In his first two years, there had been questions about his durability, pocket presence, arm strength and much more, but Tagovailoa seemingly put a lot of his critics to bed Sunday with his performance in Miami’s 21-point comeback over Baltimore — completing 36 of 50 passes for 469 yards and six touchdowns against two interceptions.

As a vocal Tua doubter entering the year, I was impressed by some of what I saw Sunday, particularly his performance on Miami’s final drive. After finding Hill for a gain of 21 yards, the Dolphins broke into the red zone on a 28-yard run by Chase Edmonds with less than 30 seconds remaining. On 2nd-and-goal from the 7-yard line, Tagovailoa evaded the Baltimore pressure and threw a perfect pass to Jaylen Waddle for the game-winning score.

While his fourth-quarter performance was phenomenal, Tagovailoa didn’t play a perfect game Sunday. He threw two interceptions to Baltimore defensive back Marcus Williams in the first half, both coming on plays where he forced the ball into double coverage deep down the field.

At one point Miami trailed the Ravens, 35-14, partly due to Tagovailoa’s lapses in judgment. I’m not sure he’ll be able to get away with those same mistakes over the team’s next four games, which include matchups against Buffalo, Cincinnati and Minnesota. I’ll wait to see how he does in those games before I jump on the bandwagon.

Bengals … do something …

I really thought the Bengals would be the one to overcome the cursed “Super Bowl Hangover.”

Since the start of the 2012 season, three teams that lost in the Super Bowl the previous season didn’t make the playoffs — the 2016 Panthers, the 2019 Rams and the 2020 49ers. In fact, only one team since the 1972 Dolphins — the 2018 New England Patriots — has managed to win a Super Bowl after losing the game the previous season.

The Bengals made all the right moves over the summer, adding offensive line depth, shoring up the defensive side of the ball and selling the naming rights to their stadium to get prepared to pay Joe Burrow a massive contract in the future. But the Bengals are now 0-2 after two weeks. They haven’t played powerhouses, either, losing in Week 1 to the Steelers and Week 2 to the Cowboys.

So are the Bengals cooked? I think that’s probably premature to say. The biggest issue for Cincinnati so far this season has been its offensive line, which has allowed Burrow to get sacked a league-high 13 times through the first two weeks of the season. The Bengals completely revamped the right side of their line, bringing in center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’El Collins, but all three have struggled playing with their new teams.

I personally think Cincinnati will figure things out, and that its likely just taking the offensive line some game time to figure out exactly how they jel together. What has been encouraging is the play of Burrow — who led a drive in the closing minutes to tie the game at 17 — and the team’s defense, which held All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott in check most of the game.

Week 3 presents the perfect get-right opportunity for Cincinnati, as it plays the lowly New York Jets on the road. With a strong performance in this game, the Bengals’ O-line could build a ton of needed confidence, which will come in handy in their next three games against the Dolphins, Ravens and Saints.

Someone check on Jonathan Taylor

Boy, oh boy. The Indianapolis Colts stink.

In Week 2, the Colts hit an early-season low by losing the Jaguars, 24-0, on the road. Dropping a game against a divisional opponent was bad enough, but the way Indy played for the entirety of Sunday’s game left no signs of encouragement to point to.

Indianapolis was second in the league in rushing (2,540 yards) in 2021, but the Colts only managed 54 yards on 13 carries, all of which came from Jonathan Taylor, who is the team’s best offensive player.

The Colts opened the game with an interception by Matt Ryan — who threw three on the day — and Jacksonville immediately capitalized with a 15-play touchdown drive. Indianapolis went three-and-out on its next three drives, while Jacksonville added another touchdown and a field goal to make it 17-0 right before halftime. Facing a three-score deficit, the Colts completely abandoned the running game and only had seven total attempts in the second half. Two of the Colts’ final three drives ended with interceptions, including two in a two-play stretch by Ryan that put the game away.

The Colts were the favorite to win the AFC South entering the year, which isn’t saying much considering the other teams in the division are Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee. But with a 0-1-1 start to the season, Indy looks nowhere close to competing, and perhaps closer to starting a full rebuild and moving on from head coach Frank Reich.

Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at jeremy@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.

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