Through two weeks, NFL has shown us how much we don't know
The beauty of the NFL is all the stuff we didn't see coming six weeks ago, but is now readily apparent just two games into the 2011 regular season. What if I told you in early August that...
• ...Cam Newton would throw for more yards in his first two NFL games than anybody who has ever played the game? Newton has 422 and 432 yards passing in his two starts, and the theory was that the lack of the NFL's offseason was really going to hinder his development as a quarterback. Was it really just the other day that Newton was in a legitimate competition with Jimmy Clausen for the Carolina starting job?
For comparison's sake, Johnny Unitas threw for 400-plus yards exactly once in his 18-year NFL career, the same as Fran Tarkenton, Len Dawson and Otto Graham. Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese and Troy Aikman -- just to name four more Hall of Fame QBs -- never reached the 400-yard plateau. Brett Favre, Jim Kelly and John Elway played a combined 47 seasons in the NFL, and they all had two career 400-yard games -- which Newton has matched in two weeks.
• ...Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick would toss a league-leading seven touchdown passes in the first two games of the season, which is more than Ben Roethlisberger (2), Eli Manning (2), Donovan McNabb (1) and Sam Bradford (1), combined? Oh, by the way, Fitzpatrick was a seventh-round pick by St. Louis in 2005. Those other four quarterbacks all went in the top 11 of their draft years, with all but Big Ben going either first or second overall.
• ...Defending AFC West champion Kansas City would be averaging a league-worst 5.0 points per game after two weeks, with the winless Chiefs allowing 44.5 points per game, also the 32nd-ranked showing? Kansas City's net point differential of minus-79 is almost twice as bad as the next closest team (Seattle, at minus-40). The Chiefs scored 22.9 points per game last season, with 20.4 points allowed on average.
Maybe Charlie Weis knew something the rest of us didn't. Looks like he got out of Dodge (Kansas) just in time.
• ...Rex Grossman would be 2-0 as Washington's starting quarterback, while Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler -- three QBs he either played behind or were replaced by in Chicago and Washington -- would be a combined 2-4 so far this season? Grossman's 90.6 passer rating is better than Orton's (85.4), Cutler's (84.1), and McNabb's (71.3), so take that, Rex-haters.
• ...Four last-place teams from 2010 would be at least tied for first in their division after two weeks, with 2-0s in Washington, Buffalo, Detroit and Houston all fitting that bill? Those four teams have combined for just two playoff trips since the start of the 2000 season (and both belonged to the Redskins).
On the flip side, three division champions from 2010 already look doomed to lost seasons and reside in last place at 0-2: Indianapolis, Kansas City and Seattle. Those three have been outscored thus far by a combined 207-53. The only defending division champion to start 2-0 this season is New England in the AFC East.
And here are a few more random thoughts before we close the book on Week 2...
• Wow, what a difference a Manning can make. At least in Cleveland. The Browns have started the season 1-1, which is probably what most folks expected when the schedule came out this spring. But then again, not really. Raise your hand if you had Cleveland losing at home to the Bengals and their Andy Dalton-Bruce Gradkowski quarterback tandem in Week 1, but then winning convincingly on the road at Indy in Week 2. Anyone?
• He's doing it again. How long until Eagles coach Andy Reid quietly lets it be known that Philly backup quarterback Mike Kafka can be had next offseason for the low, low price of a first-round pick? (But he'll settle for a second, with hopes that somebody will take the bait and make another A.J. Feeley, Donovan McNabb, or Kevin Kolb-like trade with him).
• So, we're staring down Week 3 of the regular season, and there's still no Terrell Owens or Tiki Barber signings in sight. Why no calls for them? Their agents assured us this offseason that there would be calls, and suitors. What a shocking development that nobody thinks those two are worth the headache.
• It's early, yes, but so far it looks like the Saints' latest flirtation with a Heisman-winning running back will be closer to their Ricky Williams and Reggie Bush experiences than their George Rogers experience. Mark Ingram has a modest 91 yards on 27 carries thus far (3.4 average), with a long gain of 12 yards. He doesn't have a reception, but he did lose a fumble on Sunday against the Bears.
• The Dolphins losing at home has become the closest thing to a lock as exists in the NFL. Miami dropped home games to the Patriots and Texans in the span of seven days to start this season, and the Dolphins have now lost 11 of their past 12 games in front of their frustrated and fed-up fans.
After going 27 seasons without a losing record at home from 1977 to 2003, Miami at home since 2004 has gone 23-36 (including a playoff loss in 2008), for a .390 winning percentage. No wonder Sunday's attendance for the loss to Houston was only 51,032 in South Florida.
• I'm starting to think it just doesn't pay to coach in the AFC West. Josh McDaniels won his first six games in Denver in 2009, then dropped 17 of his next 22 and got canned 12 games into 2010.
Oakland's Tom Cable led the Raiders to their first non-losing season in eight years in 2010, but 8-8 wasn't enough, and Cable got the boot in January.
And now it's Todd Haley's turn on the hot seat in Kansas City. Haley went 4-12 in his rookie season of 2009, and then his Chiefs were the turnaround team of last year, going 10-6 and winning the AFC West. But that was then, this is now. Haley's Chiefs lost their last two games of last year, and have started disastrously at 0-2 this year. In Kansas City's last four games, it has been out-scored 150-27, and the buzzards appear to be circling amid rumors and reports of tension between Haley and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.
Whoever thought the Chargers' Norv Turner would appear the bastion of stability and job security in San Diego?
• Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco led the quarterback class of 2008, and that's been the standard of excellence among recent QB crops. But we might be seeing the 2009 class change some opinions on that front this year. Detroit's Matthew Stafford (first overall), the Jets' Mark Sanchez (fifth) and Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman (17th) all went in the first round, and the three are a combined 5-1 as starters this season, with the only loss being a head-to-head matchup between Stafford and Freeman (won by Detroit). Ryan and Flacco are just 2-2, with both the Falcons and Ravens quarterbacks having turned in one shaky showing each.
• There are people in league circles who have always felt that Reggie Wayne was considered among the league's elite receivers partly due to his good fortune of playing with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Well, here's Wayne chance to prove those doubters wrong. Wayne has seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Colts, and he's caught at least 100 passes in three of the past four years.
But so far, so good without Manning. Wayne has 11 receptions for 172 yards and a touchdown in Indy's first two games, and that's a pace that would see him finish with 88 receptions for 1,376 yards, and eight touchdowns, with a 15.6-yard average catch (the second-highest of his 11-year NFL career).
• It seems like it has been forever since the league's two West divisions were anything but the weak link in their respective conferences, and I don't think we're going to see that trend change in 2011. Neither West division features a 2-0 team, and three of the league's seven 0-2 starts were authored by teams in the West (Seattle, St. Louis and Kansas City).
San Diego and Oakland could wage an interesting season-long battle for supremacy in the AFC West, but the NFC West is looking every bit the ugly duckling contest that it was last year, when the 7-9 Seahawks became the first division champ in NFL history with a losing record. The NFC West looks so weak that even at 0-2, I still like the Rams to win the division. And that's despite the fact that 17 teams have started 0-2 in the past two seasons, and none have made the playoffs.