By Conor Harrington,
Sports Business Writer
Two weeks into the NFL season, the Jets and Giants sit at a combined 0-4 having only scored four touchdowns between them. Both sit in sole possession of last place in their divisions. While the Jets were expected to struggle all season and never catch up to the New England Patriots, the Giants had aspirations of a division crown or wild card berth.
The season is far from over, but in a division with the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, the Giants will need to aggressively pick up the pace on offense if they want to play in January of February.
The team has only managed a meager total of 13 points in two games. The biggest issue has been the protection of Eli Manning, who is on pace to get sacked a record amount. Third-year left tackle Ereck Flowers has taken much of the criticism, having allowed three sacks in the Giants’ Monday night loss against the Lions. Manning has not had much time in the pocket, and unless this changes, it could be a long season for Big Blue.
The Jets came into the season projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. Fans are already looking forward to the 2018 Draft, where the team is hoping to be able to select Sam D’Arnold, the quarterback from USC.
The team chose to give 37 year-old journeyman Josh McCown the starting role to start the season, over the likes of Christian Hackenberg, a second-round pick in 2016.
The team has also parted ways with their two best receivers from last season: Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, as well as losing Quincy Enunwa to a season-ending injury. Despite a solid defense with some exciting young pieces, the team is 0-2, with losses on the road to Buffalo and the Raiders.
Currently the Jets offense is ranked 31st in the league, and does not show any signs of improving down the road.
Speaking of the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champs were stunned at home in the first game of the season by the Kansas City Chiefs, before rebounding to win their second game against the New Orleans Saints. Tom Brady managed to throw for almost 200 yards and 3 touchdowns more in week 2 than he did in week 1. The Chiefs, meanwhile, got a win against the Eagles in their second game and through the first eighth of the season have been the most impressive team in the AFC. Rookie Kareem Hunt has already scored five touchdowns this season and has been one of the most explosive and exciting players to watch this season.
Other teams that have performed strongly in the AFC thus far are the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, and Oakland Raiders. The Ravens and Steelers are division rivals who are using tenacious defensive performances to smother opposition offenses and leave stadiums with a win. The Raiders and their pass-heavy offense enable them to outscore opponents at will, while their division rival Broncos have a combination of elite defense with strong receivers to be able to either put up 42 points a week or hold their opponents to 7 points a week.
In the NFC, the teams that have excelled include the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons, fresh off a NFC championship, have shown off their mix of MVP level offense and stingy defense, as they have dispatched the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. For the Lions, Matthew Stafford is making an early case for his own MVP trophy as he has already thrown for six touchdowns to lead his team to win over the Arizona Cardinals and Giants.
With the Falcons and Lions playing this weekend, we’ll be able to get a clearer picture of who is the strongest team in the conference so far. As for the Buccaneers, they have only played one game, but their defense swallowed up any offensive momentum the Bears may have had until allowing a consolation touchdown in the final minutes. They also have a fast-paced entertaining offense which can be lights out if their defense has a rough outing.
And if there are great teams, there are also terrible teams. The Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers have each yet to score a touchdown. The Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans (who are 1-1), and the Seattle Seahawks (also 1-1) each only have one. The New Orleans Saints defense has already allowed 65 points through two games, the Colts have allowed 62, and the Jets have allowed 66. Despite each team having only played two games this season, the NFL landscape is already taking shape.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 26th print edition.
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