Signs of flops, front-runners emerging at start of NFL seasonFriday, September 24, 2021
BY MARK ARCHER
The 2021/22 National Football League (NFL) season is in its early stages, but signs of the flops and front-runners are already emerging. There are seven teams yet to register a win, with the Indianapolis Colts the only team to start the season with two home defeats.
The New York Jets, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings have also not yet celebrated a victory, but the Lions and Vikings appear most likely to rise above these low-ranking units. The Jets and Jaguars appear to be on their usual low trajectory while the Falcons seem to be flailing after only two weeks into the season.
Week 3 will open with three teams from the National Football Conference (NFC) West sitting atop the NFL rankings with a 2-0 record — the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. Also, with the same record are the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and (surprisingly) the Las Vegas Raiders.
Buccaneers quarterback (QB) Tom Brady is still fun to watch. The 44-year-old QB is simply a master of his craft. He reads defences tactfully, manoeuvres pocket pressure like a ninja, possesses flawless mechanics and somehow seems sharper than ever. Brady has thrown for nine touchdowns in two weeks and is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down in his 21st season as a starter. The Buccaneers have averaged a league-leading 39.5 points so far and will travel for the first time this season to take on the undefeated Rams, who have scored an average 30.5 points but have allowed eight points less per game.
This will be the only matchup of 'undefeateds' this weekend, with Brady leading his troops into SoFi Stadium to take on the young talent of QB Matthew Stafford. Both teams have shown chinks in their armour, but it's hard not to be impressed by the way they've played in the early going. Tampa Bay go off as slight JustBet favourites but, while it's difficult to pick against Brady's offence, the Buccaneers have shown enough gaps that can be exploited by Stafford and company. This will be Brady's first-ever game in Los Angeles, and he is expected to come out swinging — cancel all other plans for Sunday afternoon and hang on for an explosion.
The Buffalo Bills were made to look ordinary in their week 1, 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers — and all their frustration came to bear on the Miami Dolphins last Sunday. The Buffalo defence was ruthlessly effective in the 35-0 win as they sacked Miami's QB Tua Tagovailoa twice in the game's opening drive, then knocked the QB out of the game with another crunching hit in Miami's second series. Their display of ferocity set the tone for a one-sided affair that righted the ship and reaffirmed Buffalo's standing as a genuine contender. They face the Washington Football Team at midday on Sunday and are expected to emerge 2-1 when the dust settles.
The Kansas City Chiefs looked all set to come out with a week 2 win as they matriculated down the field in the final minutes of last Sunday night's instant classic against the Baltimore Ravens, but a fumble by running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire caused a different ending to be written. QB Lamar Jackson and his offense held on to finish off the crushing 36-35 defeat, marking the first time the Chiefs have ever been defeated in September with QB Patrick Mahomes calling the plays. The Kansas City defence allowed too deep a hole from which to climb, but they welcome the Los Angeles Chargers into Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday and should find the going a bit easier.
Lamar Jackson reminded the football world on Sunday night that he is a former Most Valuable Player (MVP) with the comeback win, along with the Baltimore defence chipping in to shut out the Chiefs in the fourth quarter. The Ravens are back in business after losing in week 1 and will face a winless (but dangerous) Detroit Lions team at noon this Sunday. JustBet has the Ravens as favourite by a wide margin and there is no good reason to bet against that.
QB Aaron Rodgers was a no-show in the Green Bay Packers' embarrassing week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints — but things got up to speed last Monday night. Rodgers had four touchdown, passes — three to running back Aaron Jones (who had four touchdowns total). The Green Bay defence also stiffened, shutting out Detroit in the second half while forcing a pair of turnovers. The Packers appear to have recalibrated but face another big test on Sunday night against the undefeated 49ers. However, the 49ers had all their running backs injured in the week 2 win against the Philadelphia Eagles and will enter the game suspect, since the running attack is a major component of their offence a Green Bay win is predicted.
Head Coach Jon Gruden has the Las Vegas Raiders firing on all cylinders with impressive wins over the Ravens and Steelers, respectively, to start the season. The offence, led by QB Derek Carr, has lived up to its billing, but it's the defence that has registered its intention thus far. The team leads the NFL with QB pressures, and they have the Dolphins coming for a visit this Sunday afternoon, ripe for the picking. The starting QB for Miami must be having nightmares already, as this is not expected to end well. It wouldn't be wise to bet against the house in Vegas.
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Super Bowl LVI Champion
Kansas City Chiefs 5.60
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5.60
Buffalo Bills 11.00
Los Angeles Rams 11.00
San Francisco 49ers 12.00
Baltimore Ravens 14.00
Green Bay Packers 14.00
Cleveland Browns 15.00
Seattle Seahawks 20.00
Arizona Cardinals 25.00
*Only Top 10 odds shown (see website for full list)