The NFL’s 6 burning questions entering Week 2

If there’s one thing less reliable than making strong proclamations about the NFL before the season starts, it’s making those same statements after one week of play. Preconceived notions of who would be dominant and who would struggle were blown open by one of the wildest, least-predictable opening weekends in recent memory.

If there’s one prevailing thought I’m left with after Week 1 of the NFL is that I’m not confident any team that lost is as bad as they showed, and nobody won in a convincing enough way that I can confidently say they’re ready for a big run. That’s extremely exciting if you’re an NFL fan, so now’s the perfect time to dive into some of the burning questions we’re left with after Week 1, and see whether they can be answered yet.

What do we make of the NFC South?

Outside of the Falcons, who honestly look like one of the biggest dumpster fires in the NFL, it’s impossible to have any strong opinions about the rest of the NFC South. Obviously the Buccaneers should be regarded as the class of the division, a benefit of winning the Super Bowl — but they didn’t exactly look like world beaters in Week 1, slugging it out with the Cowboys.

Now, there’s definitely a chance Dallas really is that damn good, but giving up 451 yards of offense has to worry even the most die-hard Tampa Bay fans. There’s no reason for concern yet, obviously, but this is a trend to watch. In Week 2 the Buccaneers face the Falcons, a game they should handily, and easily demolish. If that doesn’t happen it might be time to start taking a serious look at whether this team has the power to compete.

Meanwhile in New Orleans, I can’t tell you what the hell the Saints are. Obviously they had a huge statement win against the Packers, but we all know that was in a game where Aaron Rodgers wasn’t just playing poorly, it was like he was barely playing football. I don’t believe the Saints have the firepower to demolish the NFC’s elite on a weekly basis … but maybe they do?

Which brings us to the most intriguing matchup in the division: Panthers vs. Saints. Here are two teams who, on paper, figured to be in the league’s lower-third this season. New Orleans shocked by destroying Green Bay, while the Panthers largely did as expected by handling the Jets.

Carolina’s long-term hopes entirely hinge on Sam Darnold and the Panthers offensive line. Darnold came out playing like a world-beater against the Jets, throwing for over 250 yards in the first half. It appeared the revenge game would be in full effect, then the offense went conservative and boring, allowing the Jets back in the game and Darnold’s afternoon to finish with a whimper, not a bang. He was still solid, just not as impressive as it appeared he would be, based on the first half.

Saints vs. Panthers could go a long way to answering questions about both teams moving forward.

How long are the Bears going to keep trying to make Andy Dalton a thing?

True to their infamous tweet, the Bears did indeed start the season with Andy Dalton. History will always show he was their QB1 for a week. Now let’s have this experiment end.

Dalton was atrocious against the Rams in Week 1, and it’s not just the 206 passing yards and one interception. It’s the fact it took him 38 ATTEMPTS to net 206 yards. I’m a strong believer in YPA being a key metric in quarterback success, because at the end of the day getting yards with opportunities is what football is all about.

The best QBs in the league can sustain a YPA of 8.0 or above. Solid NFL starters can routinely finish with over a 7.0. Against the Rams, Dalton averaged 5.4. That is pathetic, dink-and-dunk territory that won’t take the Bears back to the playoffs.

Just make the change already and see what you’ve got in Fields. The NFC North is enough of a mess that it’s worth the shot.

Are the Cardinals really this damn good?

I’ll be honest, I was absolutely blown away by the Cardinals in Week 1, and when I gushed about them I was immediately warned not to have faith. Arizona took their already potent offense, and paired it with a defense that shut the Titans down so convincingly that they looked like a JV team.

There’s no time off in the Cardinals schedule, who this week play the Vikings — a team that is far better than their Week 1 loss against the Bengals showed. This is another potent offense Arizona is facing, with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen being one of the better receiving tandems in the NFL. If Arizona can perform again, locking down on defense and letting their offense go wild, well, man, we might be seeing something special emerge.

Will the Jaguars implode?

I cannot believe we’re having this discussion. I really can’t. I honestly thought Trevor Lawrence would bring stability to Jacksonville and finally this franchise could turn the page — but we’re one week in and there are reports Urban Meyer is pissing people off, he’s already having to deny rumors about being interested in USC’s coaching vacancy, and it feels like we’re hurtling towards disaster.

The saving grace is that Trevor Lawrence looks good, really damn good. Ignore the raw stats for a second, because every rookie will have TD/INT parity as they adjust to the league. The important part is that this was not a fool’s gold 300 yard passing game. We saw legitimate flashes of brilliance from Lawrence that showed every bit of why he was the most heralded quarterback prospect in the NFL since Andrew Luck.

We need to see more progression here for sure, and Week 2 against Denver will be more difficult that Week 1 was against Houston (a game Jacksonville should have won), but I’m terrified that the off-field drama could consume this team unless they can get a win soon.

Are the New York Giants an established NFL football team, or two children in a trench coat playing pretend?

This is hyperbole of course. It would have to at least be 10 children in 5 trenchcoats, at least to establish the line of scrimmage.

Here’s the deal: This team is out of excuses. There has been a multi-year rebuild in place, a first round quarterback chosen to be the future, numerous receivers signed in free agency to give the offense spark, and an alleged transcendent running back to bring it all together.

The result was a two touchdown loss to the Broncos, a team who were struggling last season and basically on the same level as the Giants.

I just want to see if there’s any bark in this dog at all. In Week 2 the team has a divisional game against Washington, which they should be able to win — at least on paper. If there’s another big loss, gosh, I don’t know what to say anymore. It’s going to be a disaster.

Is Aaron Rodgers okay?

I just want to know if he’s alright. Based on how he played against the Saints I’m ready to assume he was replaced with an alien wearing an Aaron Rodgers suit. One who had never seen the game of football played before.

The Packers face the Lions this week. If Rodgers sucks again … man, I don’t even want to think about it.

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