After a spectacular opening week in the NFL, week 2 tried its best to bring the same level of excitement. Here is a round-up from the NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons v Oakland Raiders
Without doubt, the biggest result of all four NFC South teams was the Falcons winning on road against a Raiders team coming of a memorable win in New Orleans. The pressure was on Atlanta after losing their home opener against the Bucs but they managed to squeeze out a big win.
One of the big factors in the Falcons win was the return to form of Devonta Freeman After being shutdown in week 1, Freeman racked up the yards on the ground against an Oakland defense who struggled to stop the run and weren’t too successful stopping the pass either. Matt Ryan also performed, however, with the Raiders struggling to get to the QB, Ryan had plenty time to find his receivers.
A baffling decision by Oakland to go for a 4th and short near midfield in the 4th quarter when only down a score aided the Falcons but they took full advantage of the great field position to score what turned out to be the decisive touchdown.
What must be an area of concern for the Falcons must be the defense. Atlanta are giving up almost 30 points a game and if they are to challenge for the division then this has to be improved. A lack of pass rush, and a struggle to defend the pass will be their downfall.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Arizona Cardinals
Everything that went well for the Bucs in week 1 disintegrated quickly in the desert against a Cardinals team still smarting from their week 1 loss against the Patriots. Forcing Arizona to punt on their opening drive, the Bucs moved the ball well before Winston tested out Patrick Peterson as he picked off a deep ball intended for Mike Evans. From this moment on, the game spiralled out of control as Winston threw another interception and fumbled the ball before the end of the 2nd quarter which resulted in a 24-0 score line at half time.
Pass rusher, Robert Ayers, left the game early due to an ankle injury, Doug Martin didn’t last the first quarter due to a hamstring injury and blocking Tight End Luke Stocker also left the game early and it was effectively game over by half-time. The Bucs did eventually score at the start of the third quarter with an impressive drive, however, an interception on a tipped pass returned for a TD by the Cardinals soon killed any thoughts the Bucs had of getting back in to the game.
Not many Tampa fans would have expected a win in the desert, however, it is the manner of the defeat which will hurt. Reports of a lackadaisical approach to midweek training after the week 1 win is alarming as are the list of injuries but with the Rams visiting Tampa for the home opener on Sunday, the Bucs have an opportunity to get back on track this weekend.
San Francisco 49ers v Carolina Panthers
After a sore loss against the Broncos in week 1, the Panthers were always going to be favourites against the 49-ers and so it turned out in an ultimately straightforward but occasionally sloppy performance by last years SB finalists.
The Panthers turned the ball over 4 times (3 fumbles and 1 interception). which must be a concern despite the score line. What may be a bigger concern is the loss of Jonathan Stewart with a hamstring injury although Fozzy Whittaker stepped in and still managed a 100 yard game. Newton’s first pass of the day was tipped and intercepted but he looked comfortable after that and with his 4 throws for touchdowns, he became the franchises leading passer surpasses Jake Delhomme’s tally.
Kelvin Benjamin maintained his great start to the season with a double touchdown display as he looks to get back to his best after last year’s injury. Benjamin’s return gives opposing defences a further headache when trying to work out how to stop the Panthers. What may give the opposition hope is that for a while, this game was relatively close and the Panthers do appear to be giving up some big plays on defense.
Up next for the Panthers is a much sterner test in Charlotte against the Vikings.
New Orleans Saints v New York Giants
The Saints start the season 0-2 after a loss against the Giants. There was much anticipation of a high scoring affair as thoughts drifted to last year’s 101 point thriller in the SuperDome. Sadly, this did not materialise as this game was more of a slow burner especially in the first half which the Giants edged 7-3. The Giants were on top for the first half after an flurry of punts by both teams in the 1st quarter, however, 3 fumbles prevented the Giants from taking advantage of their play. In fact it was the Saints who should have ended the first half in front but a blocked field goal returned for a demoralising touchdown late in the 2nd half consigned New Orleans to a half time deficit.
After last weeks blistering display, Brandin Cooks had a subdued day but with Drew Brees at QB, the Saints can never be ruled out and Brees squared the game up in the 4th when he connected with Willie Snead for TD. After sharing field goals, Manning led the Giants down the field on the final drive for a game winning field goal as time expired.
The Saints will be kicking themselves after this loss. As well as having a blocked field goal returned for a TD, they also won the turnover count 3-0 but could not take full advantage. Next up is a visit from divisional rivals the Falcons for a win or bust game in New Orleans.
My week 2 predictions were:
Well 3 out of 4 keeps me well above 50% and there can’t be many who expected the Falcons to beat the Raiders after week 1.
My week 3 predictions are:
Bucs Win (against Rams)
Falcons Loss (against Saints)
Panthers Win (against Vikings)
Saints Win (against Falcons)