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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What We've Learned So Far

2 games into the 2013 season and some teams are looking like a shoe-in for Super Bowl XLVIII, while others should already be planning for the draft in April. Some perennial contenders look to be falling back but others have come out of re-building phases looking strong.

So, what conclusions are we making after 2 games? Find out after the jump!

Denver Are The Real Deal

If you didn't know already, Peyton Manning is pretty good at football. And more importantly he's got perhaps the best weapons around him that he's ever had. Sure, the ground game looks a little iffy, but Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas are simply an uncoverable group of receivers. The Broncos passing game is going at 9 yards per attempt, it's found the end zone 9 times and has now played the last 2 Super Bowl champions, destroying them each in turn. Oh, and Von Miller will be back in 4 games to make their defense all the better.

There will be tests to come; how will they cope against Chip Kelly & his offense? Can they replace Ryan Clady? A rejuvenated Phil Rivers and a tougher Kansas City will provide some competition in the division, and New England? We'll get to them in a bit, but Denver are very much in the drivers seat as far as the AFC is concerned.

Joe Thomas Must Have Broken A Mirror While Walking Under A Ladder

In our Top 100 we covered the list of horrible QB's he's had to protect, but in the off-season there were signs that it would turn around. For all his short-comings as a head coach there's no doubt that Norv Turner is a very good offensive co-ordinator, and in the pre-season there were signs that he'd worked some magic with Brandon Weeden (30/50, 323 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT). With the Cleveland defense looked strong on paper and the AFC becoming weaker and weaker the Browns were even getting some sleeper love as an outside playoff contender. Well, not so much any more.

0-2, just 16 points scored and a massive 11 sacks & 28 QB Hits on Weeden along with 3 picks and that sleeper talk has quickly vanished. Joe Thomas just goes about his job to the best of his ability (which is very, very good) and has to put up with the utter terribleness of the guys he's paid to look after. And now it's been announced that Brian Hoyer will be the starter in week 3.... Poor Joe Thomas.

No One Likes Greg Schiano

His call last year to attack the kneel-down in just his 2nd game as an NFL head coach was controversial as it went against one of the "unwritten rules" of football, but it was also a sign of an aggressive coach who wanted to win. Sure, it turned some against him, but others liked the call. Since then Schiano's supporters have dwindled massively. Some times teams can rally round an embattled coach, but this doesn't look like happening. The Bucs have been an incredibly ill-disciplined during his tenure, his shouting, angry coach nature hasn't endeared him to any of his players, and now he's started throwing his starting QB under the bus and annoying the teams best player. It's not been a very happy year for the Bucs, who were another team getting a lot of playoff consideration in the pre-season. Their roster has a lot of talent on it, but they'll be feeling sorry for themselves after 2 tough losses and the animosity between Schiano, Freeman and the rest of the team will do little to help turn things around.

New England Are Not Contenders... Yet

Thursday nights game against the Jets was the most frustrated Tom Brady has ever been. He completed just 19 of his 39 passes as rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins made multiple mistakes and misreads. Balls were sliding through their hands well before the heavens opened in the 2nd half and they were breaking off routes when the coverage meant they should have carried on. Several times Brady threw the ball into a wide open part of the field where a receiver should have been, only for there to be no one anywhere near it.

But, thinks will get better. Rob Gronkowski is 50/50 to play in week 3, Julian Edelman is a super-reliable target for Brady and the rookies should get better with more reps under their belts (well they can't get any worse). The Patriots are also blessed with a relatively weak division and both their wins have come against division rivals. They could easily win the division with 9 or 10 wins and by the time the playoffs come around they will have Shane Vereen back, the young receivers will have more experience and maybe Amendola and Gronkowski will be fit too. They might not look too strong right now, but don't count them out.

Pittsburgh Aren't What They Used To Be

One team you can count out though is the Pittsburgh Steelers. They've looked utterly horrible so far, scoring just 2 touchdowns against Tennessee and Cincinnati. They've got nothing on the ground, and that looks unlikely to change at least until Le'Veon Bell returns. The Pittsburgh OL Curse has already struck Maurkice Pouncey who is done for the year and more than likely it isn't done for 2013. Oh, and the defense looks far from the fearsome unit it used to be.

There are bright spots; Cam Heyward and David DeCastro are looking very good, Troy Polamalu is healthy (for now) and Ike Taylor can still bring it, but elsewhere there just isn't must to get excited about. The schedule isn't very nice either, having to play the super-competitive NFC North, New England, a feisty Miami team and two games against Baltimore. 6-10 is a real possibility for the Steelers, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2003.

The Eagles Are The Most Entertaining Team In Football

When Chip Kelly signed up to replace Andy Reid everyone was dreaming about how much of the "Blur" offense he would bring with him from Oregon. Would it even work in the NFL? Would Vick and the others be able to run an offense at that speed?

Well through two games the Eagles have scored 63 points, good for 3rd in the NFL behind Denver and Green Bay. I think it's safe to say that Michael Vick hasn't suddenly become as good as Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, so it must have something to do with Chip Kelly's offense. The pace they set week 1 against Washington was insane, running 40+ plays in the first quarter alone. Obviously it's not all been smooth sailing, it never will in the NFL when Vick is your quarterback, but LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson are absolutely thriving in this offense so far and the Eagles defense is so bad that every game they're going to need 30+ points to win. Every game has become a must-watch now, which is far more than Eagles fans could have hoped for during last season.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter and Facebook

- Toby Durant (@TDOnSport)
- The Pulling Linemen

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