Who Fed It And Who Ate It: 2019 Week 2
Week 2 normally holds importance for teams because of teams either trying to maintain momentum to go to 2-0 or bounce back to avoid going 0-2. However, two key injuries may significantly alter the complexion of both conference hierarchies. But we begin as we did last time, as...
The Miami Dolphins were once again the recipient of the Ass Kicking of the Week, this time by the New England Patriots by virtue of a 43-0 shutout Oh, this might get old for Phins fans real quick. While the second consecutive dismantling may be old hat for a squad in tank mode, their opposition this past week is more noteworthy. The New England Patriots, the team you love to hate, the Team of the Millennial Generation, has put on a display these two opening weeks of the NFL season. They have a point differential of 76 to 3(!). That is one of the best starts to a season in league history. Just when it seems that the defending Super Bowl and reigning 3 time AFC champions can't get any hotter, they turn on another burner. But there will be one tidbit to watch. The Pats signed noted malcontent and generational receiving talent in WR Antonio Brown on a one year contract with a team option for a second. Brown has been the center of a chaotic offseason, and that may continue through the fall as he is the target of a league investigation as he finds himself as a defendant in a civil lawsuit accusing Brown of sexual assault on multiple occasions. Under head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots have welcomed troubled players into the fold, but those issues were strictly limited to the sport, such as those limited in skill or labeled locker room cancers. They rarely sign or retain players whose problems extend to everyday life, and reports came out later by sources within the Patriots organization stated that Brown would not have been signed had they known about his pending lawsuit. Combine that with Brown's recent penchant for erratic behavior (consider his final two years with the Pittsburgh Steelers), and that makes this particular relationship worth keeping an eye on as the campaign progresses. If the Steelers game where the Pats won by 30 and Brown wasn't even dressed is any indicator, Mr. Big Chest AKA AB is a luxury. So how long is Brown's leash going to be? We'll find out soon enough.
The New Orleans Saints have lost QB Drew Brees for around six weeks due to a thumb ligament injury Injuries are a constant in the NFL, with the loss of a quarterback being the most disruptive. But when a veritable ironman goes down, who also happens to be not only a future Hall of Fame inductee, but is also the most accurate passer in NFL history, that change is a seismic shift in the NFC landscape. Brees suffered a ligament tear on the thumb of his throwing hand, his worst injury since his shoulder separation in 2005. The ligament will require surgery, with Brees projected to be out six weeks. For the Saints, if this injury had to happen, at least their leader has the chance to come back for the second half of the season. In a surreal irony, Brees will have Teddy Bridgewater fill in as the starter, with Bridgewater losing his starting job in Minnesota due to his scary knee injury that not only cost him essentially two seasons, but may have threatened his life at the time. Bridgewater will not be expected to be a Brees clone, but head coach Sean Payton will need to retool the offense to play to Bridgewater's strengths. While the change of signal callers in the Big Easy would spell doom for many teams, the Saints may be able to tread water and stay in the NFC South hunt. How? Because the rest of the division isn't scaring anyone. Atlanta? The Falcons are readjusting to a new offense under coordinator Dirk Koetter and have looked underwhelming. Carolina? QB Cam Newton has been short circuited by a foot injury that has hampered his performance and the rest of the Panthers haven't picked up the slack. Tampa Bay? New head coach Bruce Arians is still working with Jameis Winston, whose decision making is still an albatross around the Buccaneers' collective necks. If Bridgewater can play within his abilities and ingratiate himself into the offense to keep New Orleans competitive, the Saints can still make a push in November and December once Brees returns. If anything else, thanks to Brees' age (40), the Saints will get a preview of the post-Brees era. Both the front office and fans will get a long look to see if they are ready for it.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost QB Ben Roethlisberger for the rest of the season due to an elbow injury Consider this the official end of the Killer B's Era in Steeler football. Yes, it was already fitted with a toe tag when Antonio Brown was shipped to Oakland for 2 Day 3 picks and when RB Le'Veon Bell signed with the New York Jets as a free agent. But the loss of Roethlisberger for the balance of the 2019 campaign just puts an exclamation point on it. The 15 year veteran possibly tore his ulnar collateral ligament (stated as such because an accurate diagnosis of his injury has not been made public) sometime in the second quarter of Pittsburgh's game against the Seattle Seahawks. Roethlisberger will undergo surgery to repair his elbow, which landed him on Injured Reserved, thus ending his season. Speculation has arisen that Roethlisberger will retire, but he has refuted that, saying in a statement that he looks forward to taking the field in 2020 in perfect health. That's nearly a year away, and we still have 2019 to go. But unlike the Saints losing Drew Brees, the loss of Roethlisberger blows the AFC North race wide open. Why? Because the Steel City Stalwarts are often the measuring stick of the division. Their long term stability makes them a contender in the division, even in down years. With Roethlisberger gone, each team can stake and claim for the division title. The Baltimore Ravens are 2-0, QB Lamar Jackson has been spectacular, and are the early leaders in the race. The preseason favorites, the Cleveland Browns, are sitting at 1-1, still trying to jell as a team, and break their 20 year stigma as a league laughingstock. The Cincinnati Bengals have limped to a cellar worthy 0-2, but they gave the Seahawks all they could handle in the CLink, one of the league's toughest road environments. Cincy could turn it around, especially if their new offense under head coach Zac Taylor gets clicking. But all is not lost for the Steelers, as second year understudy Mason Rudolph looked good after being thrust into action against an aggressive Seahawks defense. Rudolph is a near Roethlisberger physical clone (6' 5", 235 pounds), so the biggest modification offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner will need to do is account for his lack of experience while playing to the young man's strengths. The talent may be less than a year ago for the Steelers, but since Rudolph never played with those guys, maybe it may work to his advantage since this is the only team he's played with. Roethlisberger is getting long in the tooth (37), and the Steelers will need to use this time to see if Rudolph is the future of the franchise or if he is a limited caretaker under center. With that veteran presence gone, we'll find out just what type of team this signature NFL franchise really has.