Wednesday September 21st, 2011

The Steelers answered questions about their defense emphatically in Week 2. (

We're just two weeks into the NFL regular season and already 25 of 32 teams have at least one loss. Nine 1-0 teams followed their opening-week wins with defeat.

If that doesn't teach us to avoid jumping to conclusions because of one game, nothing will.

And yet ... a lot of things that played out in Week 1 looked like the real deal. Did Week 2 teach us any differently? It's time to play NFL fact or fiction.

Week 1 assumption: Pittsburgh's 'D' is over the hill

Week 2 verdict: Fiction

The Steelers needed a bounce-back showing in Week 2 after opening their season with a horrible effort in Baltimore. They got it by dominating the Seahawks in every facet of the game, en route to a 24-0 win.

Pittsburgh's defense, whose eulogy was written after the Ravens rolled up 35 points, sacked Tarvaris Jackson five times and registered one of the easier shutouts you'll see in the NFL.

The truth is that Pittsburgh's 'D' caught a bit of a break playing Seattle -- it's not going to dominate like that every week. But the Steelers certainly are better than what they showed in Week 1.

Week 1 assumption: The Colts are doomed without Peyton Manning

Week 2 verdict: Fact

Losing at Houston is one thing. Getting physically dominated at home by Cleveland is quite another.

The Colts thrust themselves into the early lead in the 2012 No. 1 draft pick sweepstakes with an underwhelming 27-19 loss to the Browns in Indianapolis Sunday. The most troubling thing about Indy's start is that while Kerry Collins has been a huge step down from Manning, the team looks subpar at almost every position.

Week 1 assumption: Philadelphia is unstoppable

Week 2 verdict: Fiction (with a disclaimer)

Let's be honest here: If Michael Vick hadn't gotten hurt Sunday night, the Eagles probably would be 2-0 right now with a win over Atlanta. But Vick did go down, and the NFL's "Dream Team" lost its shot at a perfect season early.

The bigger takeaway from the Falcons' rally was that the Eagles' vaunted defense has some work to do. Trailing 31-21 in the fourth quarter, Atlanta moved the ball at will for a pair of touchdowns.

Week 1 assumption: Everyone underestimated Cam Newton

Week 2 verdict: Fact

True, Newton threw three interceptions against the Packers Sunday, at least two of which could have -- and probably should have -- been avoided. Newton still threw for 432 yards, giving him a whopping 854 yards passing two games into his rookie season.

For a quarterback who entered the league carrying major questions about his ability to throw the ball, that's a pretty solid start.

The four turnovers Newton has committed and Carolina's 0-2 start leave something to be desired, but Newton looks like the real deal.

Week 1 assumption: The Lions are legit

Week 2 verdict: Fact

Heading into Week 15 last season, the Lions hadn't won on the road in 26 tries and hadn't pulled off back-to-back victories since 2007. My, how things change.

Just two weeks into the 2011 season, Detroit already has a road win under its belt (and is favored for another Sunday at Minnesota) and has a chance to start 3-0 for the first time since 1980. The Lions earned a hard-fought win in Tampa Bay in Week 1, then turned around and absolutely demolished Kansas City last Sunday.

With Matthew Stafford healthy and an improving defense, Detroit could be in the playoff mix all season long.

Week 1 assumption: Tim Tebow will be starting soon

Week 2 verdict: Fiction (probably)

Kyle Orton took heat from the home fans throughout Denver's Week 1 loss to Oakland, even hearing sustained chants calling for Tebow to be put into the game. But Broncos coach John Fox said that he wouldn't make a QB change simply to appease the crowd.

Fox stuck by that, too, riding Orton throughout a Week 2 win over Cincinnati. Denver plays at Tennessee and Green Bay, then hosts San Diego prior to its Week 6 bye. If Orton can somehow keep this team afloat -- think a 2-3 overall record or better -- there's a good chance Fox sticks with him and tries to run off some wins.

Week 1 assumption: Chris Johnson's holdout hurt his game

Week 2 verdict: Fact

The man known as CJ2K, thanks to his 2,000-yard rushing performance in 2009, missed the entire preseason while angling for a new contract. He said he'd be ready to go for the start of the year; the Titans coaches said they'd have to ease him back in.

Turns out, the coaches had it nailed. Johnson gained just 24 yards on nine carries in Week 1, then followed that up with a 24-carry, 53-yard performance in Week 2. So far, he's at 77 total yards and a 2.3 yards-per-carry average.

That's the 107th-best YPC average in the league and behind names like Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Colt McCoy.

Suffice it to say, Johnson has not yet lived up to his new contract.

Week 1 assumption: This is the year of the quarterback

Week 2 verdict: Fact

We saw more passing yards in the NFL's opening weekend than any weekend ever before in the league's history -- that included a 900-plus-yard combined performance by Tom Brady and Chad Henne in a Monday night affair.

Week 2 didn't get to the ludicrous nearly 7,900 yards passing Week 1 had, but nine quarterbacks still topped the 300-yard mark. And two, Brady and Newton, crossed the 400-yard plateau for the second consecutive week. The Rams also started utilizing an up-tempo offense that looked eerily similar to what New England used against Miami in that Week 1 shootout, while up-and-coming teams like the Lions and Bills just keep putting points on the board. Quarterbacks are being given more control than maybe ever before in NFL offenses, and the results for the most part have been eye-popping.

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