With two weeks in the books, there is an underlying theme of the 2017 season: Sloppy football.
Sloppy football is the trend right now in the NFL. Why is this the case?
The short answer is rhythm. The meticulated answer revolves around the lingering effects of a puzzling pre-season schedule.
NFL starters will play for one series in preseason week one. Week two, they will play for a quarter. Week three, an entire half. Week four, starters will sit for the entire game, to ensure their health for the start of the regular season. In turn, this limits the in-game reps a typical NFL starter needs to be physically and mentally prepared for battle come week one of the regular season.
The result: blow-outs and turnover-riddled games. In week two, the average margin of defeat was 12.2 points.The turnover number for week two was repellent: 31 total turnovers in 16 games, an average of about two turnovers a game. Eight of those games featured more than one turnover. Just three games were turnover-less. Fans are probably praying for better football.
Regardless of the lackluster performances displayed in week two, there were some positive trends that can help lay the template for the rest of the 2017 season.
1: The AFC West Is The Best Division In Football
Led by last year’s “Cinderella,” the Oakland Raiders, the AFC West promises to be the closest divisional-race the NFL has to offer in 2017. There are seven undefeated teams in the NFL, as of week two: The Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, Steelers, Ravens, Falcons and Panthers. Three out of seven undefeated teams reside in the AFC West.
These teams are no stranger to success. Just two years ago, The Peyton-Manning-led Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. After a mediocre 7-9 campaign a year ago, this team is poised to return to glory.
With the additions of Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson through free agency, Denver should continue to see a boost in their run-game and protection scheme for third year QB Trevor Siemian.
The Raiders won the AFC West in 2016. Since then, they added Beast Mode, Marshawn Lynch, to give them a swagger and power between the tackles they have lacked in previous years.
In two games this year, the Raiders have defeated opponents by an average of 17.5 points per game. The games haven’t been close. As QB Derek Carr adds another year of experience, this team could be dangerous come December.
Then we get to the 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs. Everyone and their cousin wrote off Alex Smith. Especially, after the Chiefs drafted rookie QB Patrick Mahomes in the first round of this year’s draft. Smith is now playing with an aggression that has yet to be seen in his twelve-year NFL career.
Kareem Hunt, rookie running back, has taken the league by storm. There isn’t much more that can be said about Hunt that hasn’t already been said. Watch him play on Sundays. His game speaks for itself.
Lastly, the 0-2 Los Angeles Chargers. Well, that’s a sad story for another time…
But you get the picture: The AFC West is really good.
2. The Atlanta Falcons Are the Favorites to Repeat as NFC Champions
Yeah, I said it…
The Packers are 0-3 in their last three match-ups against Atlanta. Most notably: last year’s NFC Championship game. The score was 44-21, in favor of the Atlanta Falcons. No need to deep-dive on the analytics and eye-test from that game, the score speaks for itself.
On Sunday night, it was more of the same. Atlanta defeated Green Bay by a final score of 34-23. In reality, it wasn’t as close as the score suggests. Atlanta dominated on both sides of the ball, sacking Aaron Rodgers three times and knocking him to the ground seven times.
The Falcon offense returns nearly all starters from last season’s Super Bowl run. So, why aren’t we considering the Falcons? After all, Matt Ryan is the defending MVP. Vic Beasley did lead the NFL in sacks last year.
With all of that being said, if this team stays healthy, they should be the NFC’s favorites. Put some respect on their name. They deserve it.