NFL Analysis: AFC Powers Look Shaky Early

The Denver Broncos might be looking good, as they’re off to a 2-0 start and both wins coming in blowout fashion over respected opponents. The same can’t be said of the other three AFC teams won division titles in 2012. It’s not that New England, Baltimore and Houston aren’t winning—they’re a combined 5-1 with the only loss being the Ravens’ opening night defeat in Denver—but the way the three teams won in Week 2 left their coaching staffs with plenty to still be concerned about.

New England 13 NY Jets 10: This was an ugly game, and I’m not at all proud to say that I watched this Thursday night affair in the rain. The fact I had picked the Jets to lose in my “loser pool” was the only thing keeping me with it.

Those of us who believe that the quarterback—at least great ones—make receivers, learned that every theory eventually runs into an extreme that can’t support it. With the entire New England receiving corps either injured, gone via free agency or in jail, Tom Brady ended up subpar numbers on a night he played reasonably well. Brady was 19/39 for 185 yards, with drops and miscommunications being the big part of the night.

The Patriots are going to get Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back, and Bill Belichik can feel good about his defense—they played pretty well last week in Buffalo and forced Geno Smith into three fourth-quarter interceptions in this game. But the product in Foxboro right now is far from what we’re used to seeing.

Baltimore 14 Cleveland 6: The Ravens trailed this game 6-0 in the second half. They did not run the ball effectively and ended up seeing Ray Rice taken off the field with a hip flexor. Joe Flacco was mediocre, at 22/33 for 211 yards. The pass protection was mediocre. Baltimore got off the hook by overwhelming Cleveland’s incompetent offensive line. Daryl Smith led a pass rush that got five sacks, 12 QB hits and kept the Browns out of the end zone.

The good news here? Last season Baltimore turned in a very shaky outing in an early season home win over Cleveland and it didn’t stop them from a victory parade in February. For the time being, John Harbaugh has to deal with the fact his post-Ray Lewis team has yet to play a good game.

Houston 30 Tennessee 24 (OT): I’m not sure that we should be too hard on the Texans. Tennessee did win in Pittsburgh last week, and while that doesn’t mean what it used, it’s possible the Titans won’t be that bad. Nonetheless, while Houston is 2-0, the narrow come-from-behind escapes have to at least raise an eyebrow. Houston trailed San Diego by 21 points in the fourth quarter of Week 1, and they were down 24-16 in this game with five minutes to play before forcing overtime and then winning.

The Texan defense did not stop the run, with Chris Johnson going for 119 yards. Matt Schaub played very poorly, at 26/48 for 298 yards and a couple interceptions. Arian Foster was pedestrian, at 19 rushes/79 yards. All are causes for concern.

On the flip side, both of Houston’s wins might be over teams that are better than advertised. And let’s not overlook the emergence of DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver. An offense that long has needed someone to distract attention from Andre Johnson got it on Sunday when Hopkins not only had 7 catches for 117 yards, but he made some outstanding big ones late, including the overtime score to seal the win.

More NFL Analysis On Week 2
Seattle’s Win Over San Francisco More About Sloppiness
Is The AFC West This Good Or The NFC East This Bad
Final Week 2 Wrap-Up