The Top Week 2 NFL Storylines: Frank Reich, Russell Wilson and the Return of the Patriots?
There's already a lot to digest just two weeks into the season
With the finals whistles blown in the year’s first and last Monday Night Football doubleheader, the second of 18 weeks of regular-season NFL action is in the books. While we can’t get to everything — like Tom Brady’s new practice schedule — here are four of the top Week 2 NFL storylines to appear over the course of the season’s second slate of 16 games and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.
Buy: Frank Reich’s seat in Indy is getting hot
After making former kicker Rodrigo Blankenship the scapegoat after he missed a game-winning kick in Houston in Week 1 that resulted in a 20-20 tie with the Texans, the Indianapolis Colts had every reason in the world to show up for a Week 2 game against the team that eliminated them from playoff contention last season.
Instead, the Colts no-showed against the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field and left Jacksonville with a 24-0 loss to a team that has won just four times in their last 19 games. As Indy fans know too well, two of those victories have come over the Colts and fifth-year head coach Frank Reich and it is time to start asking why.
Now presiding over an 0-1-1 team that was the odds-on favorite to win the AFC South before the season kicked off, Reich is 37-29-1 overall with two playoff appearances and his lone playoff win came with Andrew Luck under center. Luck is long gone and Reich now has former MVP Matt Ryan at quarterback, a position that was substantially weaker last season when Indy was rolling with Philadelphia castoff Carson Wentz.
Despite the upgrade at quarterback, the Colts appear to have taken a step back to start the season and Reich, who called Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars “pathetic,” has got to start taking some of the blame for Indianapolis’ start to the season and Indy being the only team that failed to score a single point in Week 2. The problems were not just related to Indy’s offense, which allowed pressure on 40% of Ryan’s 35 dropbacks on Sunday, as an Indianapolis defense that produced 33 takeaways in 2021, second-most in the NFL, has just one through two games.
Ryan, obviously, did not handle the aforementioned pressure well as he completed 16-of-30 passes for 195 yards while being sacked five times and now has a single touchdown and four interceptions on the season. (The Colts were missing two of their best offensive weapons as Michael Pittman was out with a hip injury and Alec Pierce was sitting due to a concussion.) Despite the 37-year-old’s ineffectiveness, the Colts don’t really have a better option and, after going with three starting quarterbacks over the past three seasons, making a change at the position may not matter much as long as Reich is the one running the show.
“We’ll evaluate everything,” Reich admitted after the game. “Coaches, players. I get evaluated. Everybody gets evaluated. I don’t feel it was a lack of motivation. I just feel like it’s a lack of — we got outcoached and we got outplayed.”
Reich would be wise to reverse that trend or his warm seat is set to get scalding, It won’t be easy to keep it cool with the Kansas City Chiefs on tap for Week 3.
Sell: Mitch Trubisky is keeping his job in Pittsburgh
Playing his first regular-season game at home as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback, Mitchell “Don’t Call Me Mitch” Trubisky completed 21-of-33 pass attempts for 168 yards, a touchdown and an interception while rushing once for seven yards during Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the Patriots.
Consistently relying on his first read and frequently failing to get the ball downfield to a talented receiving corps composed of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and George Pickens as well as tight end Pat Freiermuth in favor of checking the ball down to Najee Harris, Trubisky was held under 200 yards passing for the second straight week and does not appear to be the upgrade to Ben Roethlisberger many believed he would be entering this season.
Now facing a short week with the Steelers set to face the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football that will drop one of the AFC North rivals to 1-2 on the season, Trubisky may also be facing his final start of the season for Pittsburgh as he’s given the Steelers little reason to stick with him as the team’s starting quarterback.
A backup to Josh Allen in Buffalo last season after four years of starting for the Bears, the 2017 second-overall pick is mobile in the pocket but has not progressed enough as a passer to make him a true dual-threat. Signed to a two-year contract, Trubisky was always destined to eventually be a backup in Pittsburgh as the team used a first-round pick on former Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett in April’s draft. That being the case, the Steelers might as well pull the cord on Trubisky sooner rather than later and see if their rookie quarterback has what it takes to be Roethlisberger’s real replacement.
There’s little reason for the Steelers not to switch from a quarterback who has completed 59% of his passes for 362 yards in two games to a player who spent four years as Pitt’s starting quarterback and ended his final college season with 47 touchdowns and 4,319 pass yards. With Pittsburgh slated to have extra time to prepare for Week 4 and a soft matchup against the Jets after playing on TNF, the timing couldn’t be better for the Steelers to pick Pickett as their starter.
Buy: The Broncos are having major buyer’s remorse
Playing at home for the first time this season following a Week 1 loss that was highlighted by new head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s ridiculous decision to attempt a 64-yard field goal instead of letting Russell Wilson try to make a play, the Denver Broncos were in prime position to get back on track against the hapless Houston Texans.
Instead, the Broncos came out flat as Wilson was 9-of-23 for 116 yards and an interception through three quarters and Denver actually trailed 9-6 at the start of the game’s final frame. Wilson was able to throw a touchdown and lead the team for a field goal in the fourth and Denver’s defense was stout enough to keep the Texans from scoring again as the Broncos held on for a 16-9 win, but it was a fairly dismal performance and has to have Denver’s ownership questioning some of the franchise’s offseason moves.
Handed a $245 million contract after the Broncos traded three players, two first-round picks and two second-round picks to acquire him from the Seahawks, 33-year-old Wilson has struggled mightily through the first two weeks of the season and is playing more like the underwhelming 2021 version of himself than the superstar quarterback he was during the majority of his time in Seattle.
Booed by his home fans at Empower Field at Mile High while completing 14-of-31 passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception overall on Sunday afternoon, Wilson opened as the seventh favorite to win NFL MVP, but is now listed on PointsBet as a 40/1 longshot after just two games. It appears those who backed Wilson before the season started won’t be cashing in on their bets and that the Broncos should also be very concerned about the return they’ll be getting on their $245-million investment into Wilson.
Hackett, who looked overmatched in Week 2 following his struggles in Week 1, isn’t helping matters, but Russ needs to be much, much better moving forward if he wants to prove he can still cook. Through two games, Wilson just looks cooked.
Sell: The Patriots are back in any way, shape or form
Flirting with going 0-2 under Bill Belichick for the first time since 2001 when Tom Brady was still a backup quarterback, the Patriots were able to escape from Pittsburgh with a 17-14 win over the Steelers. With the victory, the Patriots are now 1-1 on the season and 13-4 overall against Pittsburgh since Belichick came to New England.
In the NFL, a win is a win and the Patriots will certainly take it, but the victory was somewhat of a hollow one for the Patriots as New England needed a muffed punt by Pittsburgh punt returner Gunner Olszewski that led to a touchdown as well as a ridiculous catch by Nelson Agholor at the end of the second quarter for another score to eke out the W.
Shaky for the second straight week after playing relatively well during his 2021 rookie season, New England quarterback Mac Jones appears to have regressed thus far in his second professional season and no longer has longtime Patriot offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to rely on for guidance or helpful play calls. With Jones in charge, everything on the offensive side of the ball seems to be a struggle for the Patriots and the only thing New England can really hang its hat on is a solid running game.
If the Patriots get out to a lead, they can run the ball and kill the clock to protect as they did to close out Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh. But if the Patriots get behind as they likely will playing against teams that are better on offense than the Steelers, New England will have major problems catching up as they have struggled to score points with Jones at quarterback and have topped 25 points or more just eight times in his 20 games under center.
The former Alabama quarterback, who has a career completion percentage of 67% and has thrown 24 touchdowns to go along with 15 interceptions, is not a problem as he is able to take what opposing defenses give him and generally makes good decisions with the football. But he’s also not a solution who can singlehandedly make things happen on his own and get the Patriots into the end zone when the odds are stacked against him.
Jones, like the Patriots as a team, is good, but he’s not good enough to make them anything even close to a contender. Until that changes, the Patriots will remain where they were before Brady: stuck in the middle.
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