Another week of the NFL season has arrived. Week one brought us overhyped teams crumbling, rookies shining in their debuts and the demise of several highly ranked teams of the past decade. The second week won’t answer every question, but it could better predict the outcome of the year.
Overreactions are a massive part of football. So are storylines that follow the opening weekend. Everyone wants to see their team succeed and hope they won’t be pounding back their sixth drink before halftime. Other franchises are just hoping their failures early won’t affect them down the line.
With the second week of the season officially here, let’s dive around the league and see what the top storylines every NFL fan should follow are.
Is the Jameis Winston era about to end?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought in Bruce Arians for one specific reason: fix Jameis Winston. Since he “ate the W,” the former top pick has gone 4-12 as the team’s starter and is trending closer towards bust status.
It’s looking like Winston will be Arians first real failure. Perhaps even the great quarterback whisperer can’t even fix his mistakes under center.
Can Bruce Arians save Jameis Winston in Tampa? @AnezSez says Winston is who we thought he was and Bruce Arians can't save him.
Do you agree? pic.twitter.com/1LhUXCzwSG
— ESPN 580 (@ESPNOrlando) September 11, 2019
With the Bucs set for Thursday’s action against the Carolina Panthers, Winston will need to show improvement. After a three-interception game against San Francisco, his leash is tight, and Arians might consider making a switch under center. Ryan Griffin isn’t going to help pick up wins, but he could help the team inch closer to drafting a new quarterback.
The Panthers allowed 30 points to the Los Angeles Rams last week. Last season, Tampa was a top-three offense even with Winston under center. Another start like Sunday is likely the beginning of the end for Winston in Pewter.
Man the cannons Bucs fans, it could be a long season ahead.
Are the Detroit Lions & Arizona Cardinals both good or just equally bad?
Like a majority of fans, the Lions seemed to believe they’d start the season off 1-0. The Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray air-raid era was free-falling with fans looking to eject before the start of the fourth quarter.
Then the No.1 pick shined late, scored a pair of touchdowns and brought the game to overtime. Neither offense could find a rhythm heading towards the end zone, leading the to the game ending in a tie. Also, is anyone else ok with games not ending in ties?
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 11, 2019
No, just me? Ok, moving on then.
Both teams play in fierce divisions, meaning every loss is another step closer to early elimination. The Cardinals will have a chance to duplicate their fourth-quarter success when they face the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.
Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford will have the opportunity to prove the offense could be their saving grace against the injured-plagued Los Angeles Chargers. If both teams look competitive against these top-ranked defenses, perhaps it plays into their long-term favor.
The problem with ties is we can’t see which team is better. That, or we found out that both rosters are equally horrible and in for a long season.
Are the Jacksonville Jaguars still contenders with Gardner Minshew?
All bets down in Duval County were on Nick Foles to lead the Jaguars back to the NFL postseason. The Super Bowl 52 MVP’s era ended as soon as it began. Following his first career touchdown in the blue and teal, Foles suffered a broken clavicle, forcing him to the injured reserve.
One of two things will happen now with Jacksonville once Foles returns. They’ll be an eliminated team, or they’ll be contending for a playoff spot under rookie Gardner Minshew. Either way, neither really works in his favor for this season.
Meet the new QB in Duval: @GardnerMinshew5.
— NFL (@NFL) September 9, 2019
The sixth-round pick entered the game in the second quarter actually looked great under center. Going 22 of 25 for 275 yards with two touchdowns, Minshew’s only mistake came in the fourth quarter as the Jags were looking for garbage points. But before you crown Minshew the next Day Prescott, that was against Kansas City’s defense who last year finished 31st overall.
Jacksonville will take on rival Houston for their first road game. The Texans defense struggled late against New Orleans and couldn’t add pressure to the backfield. Should the Jags defense struggle again, it could rely on Minshew’s shoulders to keep the offense pushing forward.
Defenses had zero film on the rookie last week. Houston now has some. This will at least give fans a better look on what is to come down Jacksonville this season.
Who is the fake contender; Cleveland Browns or New York Jets?
Expectations were high for both teams to improve in 2019. John Dorsey kept Baker Mayfield‘s offensive coordinator as head coach and added multiple weapons including Odell Beckham Jr. to his receiving corps. New York gave Sam Darnold numerous new weapons and spent big-time bucks on defensive players such as C.J. Mosley.
You can pay all the money in the world, and it can do nothing. Both teams suffered losses Sunday and have the chance to go 0-2 to begin their promising seasons. One of them will for sure being starting that way since they play each other Sunday.
Both offenses struggled against quality defenses in Buffalo and Tennessee. Both defensive units, however, had different outcomes. New York was able to create four turnovers against Josh Allen with Cleveland made Marcus Mariota look like an MVP quarterback.
Both teams have quality pieces and young quarterbacks on the roster. All it could take is one false move for someone to claim the victory. But if Cleveland fails under Mayfield or New York can’t find a rhythm under Darnold, that could be a sign for the season ahead.
Either way, one team is going to be closer towards the bottom of the barrel of the rankings.
Will Mitchell Trubisky rebound following a horrendous start?
The standard rule when judging NFL prospects is to give them three years before labeling them a bust. Well, it’s year three for Mitchell Trubisky and his first start has him trending towards bustville.
— GMFB (@gmfb) September 11, 2019
In the NFL opener on Thursday night, Trubisky made several strong throws to salvage what could have been the worst start by a consistent starting quarterback in recent memory. Throwing for 228 yards, the former No.2 pick played just like the bodily fluid will use that number to reference. Even against an improved Green Bay Packers defense, that doesn’t justify the missed throws and inaccuracies that led to the team failing to make it to the end zone.
The Chicago Bears will face the Denver Broncos, giving Trubisky a chance for redemption. The defense is still one of the top units while his receiving corp is expected to be stronger this season. Trubiksy doesn’t have to be a stellar quarterback to pick up victories. Even average play will suffice thanks to the production on the other side of the ball.
But if he struggles again, the Bears are in trouble. Ryan Pace had a chance to draft both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017. They look like consistent members of the MVP conversations while Trubisky is just hoping to improve. A loss in Denver could have the franchise potentially looking again to the draft for a “franchise” quarterback soon.
Is Josh Allen more than a comeback kid?
If Buffalo Bills fans just look at the fourth quarter of Sunday’s outing, they’d be happy that Josh Allen is their quarterback. Going 8 of 10 for 102 yards and scoring a pair touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference, Buffalo led the charge to come back and pick up the victory over AFC rival Jets.
The problem is there are four quarters in a football game. Allen shined in one and struggled through three. That’s going to be concerning for fans until he proves otherwise.
The New York Giants defense allowed nearly 500 yards of offense against the Dallas Cowboys. Looking to rebound against Buffalo, Allen will have a chance to show improved mechanics and stronger throws to help start Buffalo off on the right note. After four turnovers in the first half against the Jets, the young signal-caller will need to start hot if he wants to look the part of a franchise quarterback.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 8, 2019
Although he’s already a proven leader, teams want wins, especially under center. Allen can be vocal, but consistency will raise concerns about his ability to lead a team to victories that don’t involve him coming from behind. While the Giants are bad, anything can happen in the NFL.
And if Allen is leading another comeback, he probably is the reason they’re in that position to begin with.
How will Kansas City replace Tyreek Hill’s production?
The Chiefs found success against the Jaguars without the help of Tyreek Hill. The speedy receiver would leave early with a shoulder injury after catching two passes for 16 yards. Now, Kansas City will be without their top target for several weeks as the team further evaluates his injury.
With Hill likely out for several weeks or longer, Patrick Mahomes will need to find another weapon to connect with on the deep ball. Sammy Watkins shined against Jacksonville with his No.1 potential 198-yard outing. Meanwhile, Mecole Hardman was added as a potential replacement for Hill thanks to his blazing speed at Georgia.
Sammy Watkins is decimating the Jags 🤯
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 8, 2019
The good news for Kansas City is their arsenal is loaded with or without Hill. Hardman could take some time to adjust to NFL speed, putting pressure on veterans like DeMarcus Robinson or Byron Pringle to step in the passing game. Should Hill miss extended time, this could limit Mahomes’ deep ball, trusting more on his accuracy in the short game.
But it’s the Chiefs, it’s Mahomes, and they’re playing Oakland. It probably won’t matter.
Is this Dak Prescott’s final game under his rookie contract?
Anyone who doesn’t believe Dak Prescott isn’t getting paid by Dallas soon is crazy. The fourth-year starter wowed AT&T Stadium by shredding the Giants’ defense and throwing for over 400 yards.
Dallas will travel to Washington with hopes of duplicating similar success. If Prescott leads another charge through the air, how much longer until Jerry Jones opens his wallet and pays his franchise quarterback the contract he deserves.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) September 11, 2019
One of the biggest arguments against paying Prescott was Ezekiel Elliott‘s production on offense. He played second fiddle to his quarterback despite receiving a $90 million extension earlier that week. With second-year receiver Michael Gallup looking like a star and Amari Cooper regaining his rookie confidence, the Cowboys could have one of the more dynamic offenses in football this year.
Should Prescott regress, it’ll be easier for Jones to wait and justify a new contract. If he plays up to that speed again, the production’s going to play into the quarterback’s favor. Prescott has earned a new contract, but the price has been an issue.
It won’t be with another strong performance. And Jones knows that extension is coming right around the corner and won’t cheap.
Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.